Results tagged ‘ Orioles ’

Yankees, Rays Look To Be Class Of Tough A.L. East

The American League East is a division loaded with talent. It consists of a world champion, a playoff team, the winningest franchise in baseball history and two power-laden clubs with some pitching. Of those five teams it is possible that three teams could claim playoff spots. Let’s look into the magic ball and see what we can predict. In no particular order let’s look at the teams:

NEW YORK YANKEES

After an injury-marred 2013 season managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner loosened the pursestrings and allowed general manager Brian Cashman to throw out nearly $500 million to free agents. That brought in the best available pitching free agent in Masahiro Tanaka, the best in catcher available in Brian McCann, two All-Star outfielders in Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, a left-hander for the bullpen in Matt Thornton and two important infielders in Kelly Johnson and Brian Roberts.

Needless to say the Yankees are not planning on winning 85 games and missing the playoffs as they did in 2013.

Added to what the Yankees already had, this team is loaded for a playoff run. The rotation is five deep with CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, Tanaka and the sensational return of Michael Pineda this spring has the other teams in the division worried. Only the Tampa Bay Rays can boast a rotation close to this and they only have four healthy starters at the moment.

The bullpen is missing Mariano Rivera and no one will tell you that David Robertson will make anyone forget the greatest closer in history. But no one can believe he can’t do as well as Rafael Soriano did in 2012. The rest of the bullpen has undergone a makeover because of the loss of Boone Logan and Joba Chamberlain. Shawn Kelley and Thornton will handle the late-inning work. The addition of 6-foot-8 rookie Dellin Betances is going to give the bullpen depth because Betances might have the best stuff of the group.

Add to this corps three starting pitchers shifted to the bullpen, David Phelps, Adam Warren and left-hander Vidal Nuno. Phelps and Warren are holdovers from last season and Nuno, 26, gives the Yankees a second lefty to go with Thornton.

The Yankees only need to hope that Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter return to form. They both missed virtually all of the 2013 season and both are being counted upon to help the offense. They also are hoping that Johnson can fill in for the suspended Alex Rodriguez and Roberts can fill the huge hole left by the childish and petulant departure of Robinson Cano. The Yankees issued Cano’s No. 24 to spring training invitee Scott Sizemore. That tells you what they think of Cano after he left.

Ellsbury will combine with Brett Gardner to provide speed and daring on the bases. McCann and Beltran will join Teixeira and last season’s acquisition Alfonso Soriano to give the Yankees a lot of power in the middle of the lineup. Johnson and Roberts can provide double-digits power as well at the bottom of the order.

The bench features the catcher many teams wanted this spring in Francisco Cervelli, All-Star outfielder Ichiro Suzuki and a pair of hot-hitting rookie infielders in Dean Anna and Yangervis Solarte. Slick-fielding shortstop Brendan Ryan starts the season on the disabled list with an upper-back injury.

Top to bottom the Yankees are loaded with talent, power, speed, a great rotation, a solid bullpen and a versatile bench. They will go a long way in deciding who wins the division and who ends up in the playoffs.

TAMPA BAY RAYS

The Rays are a product of a similar model that used to keep afloat the small-market Minnesota Twins. You try and keep a small corps of good young players together long enough to win until they start leaving via free agency. Of course, this method requires that you keep all the plates spinning at once for a long, long time.

If you don’t you lose.

The Rays were fortunate to keep left-hander David Price off the open market for a year. He will join left-hander Matt Moore and right-handers Alex Cobb and Chris Archer to provide the only rotation in the division that can rival the Yankees. Jeremy Hellickson begins the season on the disabled list but he has not been real effective when he has been healthy so I am not sure how his season will go.

The Rays dumped Fernando Rodney because he blew too many saves and was shaky in those he did save. Enter former Rays right-hander Grant Balfour, who was not signed by some other teams because of some medical questions. Balfour has only had one season as a closer and there is no guarantee the Rays can get another season out of him.

The rest of the bullpen is good. Balfour’s fellow senior citizen, Joel Peralta, is the setup man. He is joined by lefty Jake McGee and former closer Heath Bell. Right-handers Josh Lueke, Brandon Gomes and lefty long man Cesar Ramos round out a pretty solid corps.

The Rays are really lacking speed this season. Their only real base-stealing threat is Desmond Jennings, who is been doing a very bad imitation of Carl Crawford since he arrived.

Now the Rays are looking to generate lots of power with Evan Longoria and Will Myers in the middle of the lineup. The problem is Matt Joyce is coming off a disappointing season and he has not lived up to expectations at all. They also have to hope an aging Ben Zobrist can bounce back after a down 2013 campaign.

The additions of James Loney at first base and Yunel Escober at shortstop helped the offense and defense last season. They hope Ryan Hanigan can provide defense and leadership behind the plate this season.

As always, manager Joe Maddon will mix in spare parts like Sean Rodriguez, David DeJesus and Jose Molina. In addition, he will shift his defense to drive opponents nuts, But if the Rays should falter, Price will be on the trading block before the league deadline. If that happens, the Rays season is over.

In any event, this will be Price’s last year with the Rays and the Rays have to roll the dice they win the division this year. Otherwise, it’s lights out at Tropicana Field for their fan base of 7,500. If things don’t pick up at the gate the team could be headed elsewhere.

BOSTON RED SOX

Most Yankee fans forgot what happened in 2013 so we will leave it at that.

The Red Sox prospects for 2014 would seem to be bright. After all, they hope to have the same rotation they finished with back this year.

They are counting on Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Jake Peavy and Felix Doubront to be just as good in 2014. Problem is Lester is notch below what an ace should be. Look at most fantasy drafts this season and you will find Lester going in the middle rounds because of his high ERA and even higher walks-to-innings-pitched (WHIP) ratio.

Clay Buchholz also is going late in drafts because he has had a hard time staying healthy. His recurring back problems are not going away. He can only treat it to stay on track.

Lackey and Peavy are also on the north side of their usefulness. Both are crafty veteran pitchers and they will win their share on guile. But this group pales in comparison to the Rays and Yankees. That does not even take into account Doubront, who if you look as his 2013 numbers you wonder why the Red Sox like him so much.

To be sure, Koji Uehara was a miracle worker for them after the Bosox tried a number of unsuccessful closers since Jonathan Papelbon left years ago. But Uehara turns 39 on Wednesday and there is no net for him if he fails to do what he did late last season.

Boston does have lefty Andrew Miller and Junichi Tazawa back and they added Edward Mujica. But they do not have Craig Breslow at the start of the season and this bullpen is just a lot less deep than it was in 2013.

The same can be said for the starting lineup. Instead of bringing Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Daniel Nava off the bench they will have to play to fill holes when Ellsbury, Stephen Drew and Jarrod Saltalamacchia left the team.

Grady Sizemore actually beat out Bradley in center but the Red Sox know they can’t just run the oft-injured former All-Star out there every day. Bogarerts at short, Will Middlebrooks at third and center are unsettled positions with unknown quantities in them. A.J. Pierzynski takes over behind the plate and should be an offensive upgrade from Salty but teams are going to run wild on him on the bases.

The Red Sox just hope they can get another year out of fading DH David Ortiz, who at age 38 is well beyond borrowed time. He had a horrible spring and players at 38 do not get better. They fade.

The Red Sox will still revolve around Dustin Pedroia at second and they just hope that Shane Victorino (who begins the season injured), Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes, Mike Carp can still do what they did last season. But as we know it is hard to repeat as champion. The last team to do it was, well, the New York Yankees in 1998, 1999 and 2000. Red Sox Nation remembers that period of time.

So I do not think there is going to much in the way of magic at Fenway this season. It just not in the cards.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

The Jays are all about redemption.

They gave a fading infielder out of Pittsburgh Pirates and a disappointing third baseman out of the Cincinnati Reds a place on the team and they were rewarded with Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. Those two players form the most feared middle-of-the-order pair in baseball. Both could easily hit more than 40 homers apiece.

The Blue Jays even rehired manager John Gibbons even after they fired him three years ago.

So the Blue Jays were the cool team to pick in 2013 after they added Melky Cabrera and Jose Reyes to what they already had in Adam Lind, Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasmus. But their recipe for success did not count on a complete meltdown of their starting rotation.

Ace R.A. Dickey pitched with a bad back, Brandon Morrow was also hurt and former ace Ricky Romero forgot completely how to pitch successfully. Last season was just not pretty for the Jays.

But they have renewed hope in 2014. Dickey is healthy again and Mark Buehrle can still eat up innings with his soft-tossing junk. Add to that a healthy Morrow and you have the makings of a staff, But the other two spots will go to Drew Hutchison, who at 23 hopes he can establish himself as a starter this year, and an old friend Dustin McGowan, who last pitched as a regular in the Jays rotation in 2008. he is now 32 and he is an expert in rehabs.

Now that is some reclamation project.

Casey Janssen fell into the closer role when Sergio Santos was injured and now both form a nice tandem at the end of the game. Lefty Brett Cecil and hard-throwing righty Steve Delabar make the Jays bullpen one of the best in the division this season.

But bullpens have a way of wearing down when the starters do not succeed and have to be taken out early. In the rough and tumble American League East, the Blue Jays rotation just lacks the ability to hang with the big boys.

There is no doubt their offense is impressive. They will hit their share of home runs. But they also will lose a lot of games by scores of 9-7 and 8-5 because of this shaky rotation.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Cashman pointed out this spring what was painfully obvious. The luck the Orioles used to make the playoffs in 2012 was bound to be paid for in 2013. Orioles manager Buck Showalter took offense. But the truth always hurts, Buck.

The Orioles did not win those one-run and extra-inning games they won in 2012 and they finished with the Yankees in a tie for third place in 2014.

It is hard to see how the Orioles make it much better in 2014 even with the addition of right-handers Ubaldo Jimenez and Bud Norris and outfielder Nelson Cruz.

The issue with the Orioles is the same as last season. The starters Jimenez, Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Wei-Yin Chen and Norris are all fine pitchers in their own right but who, for Pete’s sake, is the ace? And is that ace better than the pitchers they face routinely like David Price, Masahiro Tanaka, Clay Buchholz, R.A. Dickey or Matt Moore?

The answer is no and Showalter will learn that quickly.

Jimenez is just a middling starter and Norris just looked good compared to all the awful pitchers the Astros kept running out there. Neither make the Orioles much better.

The addition of Cruz is curious because the Orioles are loaded with offense in mega-power threat Chris Davis added to Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, and J.J. Hardy. Cruz adds to that power but it is hard to see how that helps keep runs of the board.

The Orioles bullpen also took a major hit when Jim Johnson left for Oakland and took the 101 saves he recorded for the O’s the past two seasons with him. The Orioles are asking journeyman right-hander Tommy Hunter to do a job he has never done before and close games.

They did not add much around him either. They still rely on right-hander Darren O’Day and left-hander Brian Matusz to set up. Getting to them may be an issue because none of the rest of Orioles bullpen is really proven.

So Showalter just has to hope that his team can score runs in droves night after night to cover for a weak pitching staff. The mix of this starting staff and bullpen may be the worst in the division because the Blue Jays actually boast a much stronger bullpen.

Showalter may be an excellent manager but he can’t turn cubic zirconium into diamonds. There just no magic left for the Orioles.

 

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH

 

1) NEW YORK YANKEES

2) TAMPA BAY RAYS 

3) BOSTON RED SOX

4) TORONTO BLUE JAYS

5) BALTIMORE ORIOLES

 

I see a close race between the Rays and Yankees and both will easily make the playoffs. The Red Sox will not collapse but I do see them fading as the season progresses when their rotation routinely starts breaking down. The Blue Jays will win their share of games with their offense and bullpen. But there will be days when good pitching will beat good hitting. On those days the Blue Jays will lose. The same for the Orioles. If they do not average seven runs a game they are in a heap of trouble. No team can do that consistently enough and no one can in this tough division. They will fall to the basement with a loud thud. Sorry, Buck. The truth hurts, huh!

 

 

Jeter’s Farewell Game Washed Out By Downpour

GAME 32

YANKEES VS. MARLINS (CANCELED – RAIN)

TAMPA - What was to be the final spring training appearance as a player at George M. Steinbrenner Field for Derek Jeter was washed away on Saturday by deluge of heavy rain that forced the game to be canceled.

A foreboding forecast that included an 80 percent chance of rain with thunderstorms likely and a tornado watch put into effect until 5 p.m. EDT pretty much doomed the game before it even had a chance to begin.

Right-hander Ivan Nova was scheduled to pitch against Marlins right-hander Tom Koehler. Both pitchers warmed up as the grounds crew removed the tarp. Later, the starting position players from both teams began to warm up.

However, both teams agreed to cancel the game, which ended spring training for them.

The only bit of good news as the Yankees were able to show a special video tribute to Jeter and call him out to present him with the key to the City of Tampa before the game. He was surrounded by participants of his charitable Turn Two organization. He received a standing ovation from those who braved the inclement conditions.

The Yankees ended their Grapefruit League schedule with a 17-12-2 record.

BOMBER BANTER

The shockwaves reverberated around the ballpark on Saturday when the Yankees announced that infielder Yangervis Solarte was selected for the final roster spot and Edurado Nunez was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. On the surface, it was not really a surprise. Solarte, 26, came out of nowhere as a free-agent signee out the Texas Rangers’ organization invited to spring training. The 26-year-old switch-hitter batted .429 with two homers and nine RBIs in 24 games. Nunez, also 26, hit .265 with a homer and four RBIs in 19 games. Manager Joe Girardi said he looks at infielder Dean Anna as the primary backup to Jeter at shortstop, though he also can play second and third. Solarte, on the other hand, is being looked at as the primary backup at second and third, although shortstop has been his best position. Nunez left the clubhouse without comment.  . . .  Right-hander Masohiro Tanaka was selected on Saturday as the recipient of the James P. Dawson Award as the team’s outstanding rookie of the spring. Tanaka, 25, was 2-0 with a 2.14 ERA and struck out 26 batters in 21 innings.  Tanaka will make his major-league debut on April 4 in Toronto against the Blue Jays.  . . .  Girardi said the lineup he was going to play against the Marlins on Saturday would be the lineup with which he will begin the season. It had Jacoby Ellsbury hitting leadoff with Jeter, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Mark Teixeira, Alfonso Soriano, Brett Gardner, Kelly Johnson and Brian Roberts to follow. Girardi is electing to use Gardner in the seventh spot instead of ninth as was originally thought.

ON DECK

The Yankees will begin the 2014 season on Tuesday in Houston as part of a three-game series at Minute Maid Park.

Left-hander CC Sabathia (3-1, 1.29 ERA) will make his sixth consecutive Opening Day start for the Yankees and his 10th straight overall.

He will be opposed by former Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles right-hander Scott Feldman (0-2, 5.40 ERA).

Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

Kuroda Good, Tanaka Great As Yanks Zip Marlins

GAME 31

YANKEES 3, MARLINS 0

TAMPA - Most times in spring training everything is pretty much mundane and downright dull. But for anyone who saw Hiroki Kuroda and Masahiro Tanaka pitch against the Marlins on Friday it was mesmerizing and electric.

The Japanese right-handers combined to shut out Miami on six hits with no walks and 14 – count them, 14 – strikeouts as New York rolled to victory in front of a paid crowd of 10,581 at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

As good as Kuroda was in his three innings of work in his final tuneup before his first start on April 2 against the Astros in Houston, Tanaka was even better.

Kuroda yielded three hits and fanned four but Tanaka (2-0) went six innings, gave up six hits but he struck out 10 Marlins in what was his best outing of the spring. Of his 82 pitches, Tanaka threw 60 strikes.

The Yankees, meanwhile, initially had troubles of their own with Marlins starter Kevin Slowey. The veteran right-hander pitched three perfect innings against the Yankees, striking out two.

This is the same Marlins pitching staff that no-hit the Yankees in the first game of the Legends Series in Panama City, Panama for a 5-0 victory on March 15. Carlos Marmol, Dan Jennings, A.J. Ramos and Michael Dunn followed Slowey with four additional no-hit innings until the Yankees touched Marlins closer Steve Cishek for two runs on three hits in the eighth inning.

The Yankees actually scored an unearned run off Marmol in the fourth inning, taking advantage of an error, some wildness from Marmol and Brett Gardner’s speed.

Gardner reached on a fielding error by shortstop Donovan Solano. Gardner stole second and later swiped third. After Marmol walked Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira to load the bases, Gardner scored on a groundout off the bat of Brian McCann.

That run held up until the Yankees added to their lead in the seventh on a leadoff double by Kelly Johnson, an RBI single by Brian Roberts and they capped the inning with an RBI single by Yangervis Solarte to score Antoan Richardson, who was pinch-running for Roberts.

With the victory the Yankees improved their spring training record to 17-12-2. The Marlins fell to 18-12.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Both Kuroda and Tanaka were absolutely dominant against the Marlins. Kuroda, 39, ends the spring with a 1-0 record and a 4.76 ERA. The ERA is a bit deceiving since he only had one bad outing. Tanaka, on the other hand, was every bit as good as advertised. He ended his spring 2-0 with a 2.14 ERA with 26 strikeouts and only three walks in 21 innings. Batters hit a mere .190 off him. For those who said the Yankees rotation was not good enough to contend in 2014 better think again.
  • Leave it to Gardner to break up a pitcher’s duel by reaching on an error and stealing two bases to get the Yankees on the board without the benefit of a hit. Gardner’s .386 spring on-base percentage proves how valuable he will be batting ninth in the lineup this season. Look for a banner year from the speedy Gardner this season.
  • Johnson is not going to hit 30 homers and drive in 120 runs like Alex Rodriguez. But Johnson did average 21 homers and 67 RBIs in his three previous seasons as a starter. The Yankees will take that and – just remember this  - A-Rod has not approached 30 homers and 120 RBIs since 2010. Johnson is hitting .267 with a home run and seven RBIs this spring.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

Other than the fact the Yankees can’t seem to get many hits off the Marlins there is not much negative to say after Tanaka was so sensational.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees filled out the roles in the bullpen by awarding spots to right-hander Dellin Betances and left-hander Vidal Nuno. Betances, 26, had no record and a 0.73 ERA with 11 strikeouts and four walks in 12 1/3 innings over 10 games. Nuno, 26, had no record with a 3.38 ERA in 8 innings over four appearances (two of them starts). They will join closer David Robertson and set-up men right-hander Shawn Kelley and left-hander Matt Thornton. Right-handers David Phelps and Adam Warren also were shifted to the bullpen after they lost the battle for the No. 5 starting spot to Michael Pineda.  . . .  The Yankees informed infielder Dean Anna, 27, that he has made the team as a backup infielder and they will decide the final roster spot between utility infielders Eduardo Nunez and Solarte on Saturday. Anna was acquired in a winter trade with the San Diego Padres after he won the Pacific Coast League batting title in 2013 with a .331 average. Anna hit .262 and drove in four runs in 22 games this spring. A back injury that sidelined infielder Brendan Ryan since March 4 opened the door for Anna to make the team. Ryan will start the season on the 15-day disabled list.  . . .  Jacoby Ellsbury went 2-for-5 with an infield single in six innings in a minor-league game on Friday. Ellsbury, 30, told reporters that he has recovered from a strained right calf and he is ready to start the season with the Yankees.  . . .  The Yankees announced on Friday that they have re-signed right-hander Alfredo Aceves to a minor-league contract. Aceves, 31, opted out of his contract with the Baltimore Orioles earlier in the day after being told he would not make the team’s roster. Aceves will report to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and will be used there as a starting pitcher.

ON DECK

The Yankees will conclude their Grapefruit League schedule on Saturday against the Marlins at home.

Right-hander Ivan Nova (2-1, 3.66 ERA) will start for the Yankees in what also will be Jeter’s final appearance as a player at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

The Marlins will start right-hander Tom Koehler (1-1, 1.50 ERA).

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.

Transmission of this report was delayed due to technical difficulties.

 

 

 

 

CC Tosses 7 Scoreless As Yanks Win 6th Straight

GAME 25

YANKEES 4, PIRATES 0

TAMPA - After CC Sabathia ended the 2013 season with a disappointing 14-13 record and 4.78 ERA he vowed he would be better in 2014. Judging by his past two spring starts, he is well on his way to delivering on that promise.

Sabathia (2-1) threw seven shutout innings and fanned seven Pirates as New York went on to blank Pittsburgh 4-0 on Friday in front of a paid crowd of 10,890 at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

The slimmed-down left-hander gave up only four hits and a walk while stretching his current scoreless inning streak to 13. In his past two starts, Sabathia has yielded no runs on four hits and one walk while striking out 12 in 12 innings.

The Yankees handed Sabathia all the runs he really needed in the first two innings against right-hander Edinson Volquez (0-3).

Brian McCann started it with a two-out RBI double in the first and Carlos Beltran later scored on a wild pitch. Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter each delivered RBI groundouts in the second as the Yankees touched Volquez for four runs on five hits and two walks in five innings.

The Yankees backed Sabathia’s strong outing with four double plays and two of them came from McCann.

The seven-time All-Star catcher nailed Josh Harrison attempting to steal as Andrew McCutchen struck out in the first. Then in the third inning he did it again as Harrison struck out and he threw out Robert Andino.

The Yankees have now won six consecutive Grapefruit League contests and they outscored their opponents 36-7, with three of the victories coming via shutout.

The Yankees’ spring record is now 14-9-2. The Pirates fell to 11-9.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Sabathia arrived in camp more than 30 pounds slimmer and determined to regain his ace status despite reduced velocity on his fastball. This spring he has sort of reinvented himself much like Andy Pettitte had to do when he lost velocity on his fastball. For those who were ready to shovel dirt on Sabathia’s career may be in for a huge surprise. Sabathia has always been more of a pitcher than a thrower so he can adapt at age 33.
  • When McCann signed a free-agent contract the Yankees knew they were getting one of the best hitting catchers in baseball. Though he is solid defensively, the weakest part of his game has been his throwing. On Friday, he looked every bit as good as Russell Martin and Chris Stewart. McCann’s spring batting average is now .235, but that is misleading. Even McCann’s outs are hit hard and the ball jumps off his bat. The Yankees might have found the perfect successor to Jorge Posada.
  • Very quietly Brian Roberts has been getting better this spring. After a slow start, he is hitting .290 with his 1-for-3 night on Friday. Roberts has to prove he can remain healthy but his last season like that was 2009 with the Baltimore Orioles. That year all Roberts did was score 110 runs, blast 16 home runs, drive in 79 runs, hit 56 doubles, steal 30 bases and bat .283. The Yankees don’t expect that kind of production but don’t be surprised if he gets near those numbers.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

The Yankees have had their best week of the spring. The pitching has been magnificent. The starting lineup is beginning to hit and even the defense and the bullpen have been good. No need to dwell on any negatives here.

BOMBER BANTER

Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury tested his sore right calf on Friday by running on grass and he possibly could return to action as early as Tuesday. That would give Ellsbury five games before the season begins on April 1 in Houston. Ellsbury was the only starter not in the lineup on Friday.  . . .  Jeter played seven innings on Friday despite the fact he fouled two balls off his surgically repaired left ankle. Jeter told reporters after the game that he was fine. He said the ankle was sore but he hopes to be ready to play on Sunday. Jeter was not scheduled to play on Saturday.  . . .  MRIs taken on backup infielder Brendan Ryan indicate a pinched nerve in his upper back and it is almost certain that he will begin the season on the disabled list. Ryan has not played in a game since March 4. He was scheduled to start on Thursday in Fort Myers against the Boston Red Sox. But during infield drills, Ryan’s upper back stiffened and he had to be scratched. To replace Ryan on the roster, manager Joe Girardi told reporters that he will pick two players from among Eduardo Nunez, Dean Anna and Yangervis Solarte.  . . .  Prior to the start of the game on Friday the Yankees infielder Greg Bird and right-handed pitcher Shane Greene were named winners of the 2013 Kevin Lawn Award as the Yankees’ minor-league “Player of the Year” and “Pitcher of the Year,” respectively. Bird, 21, batted .288 with 36 doubles, 20 home runs and 84 RBIs in 130 games with the Class-A Charleston RiverDogs. Greene, 25, played for both Class-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton, posting a 12-10 record with a 3.38 ERA over 27 appearances (26 starts).  . . .  Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins threw out the ceremonial first pitch for Friday’s game. Marino threw a strike to Posada, who is in camp as a special instructor.

ON DECK

The Yankees make the long trek to Fort Myers on Saturday to face the Minnesota Twins at Hammond Stadium.

The Yankees have selected Masahiro Tanaka (0-0, 1.93 ERA) to make his third start of the spring. Gardner, Francisco Cervelli and Kelly Johnson are expected to make the trip.

The Twins will counter with right-hander Kevin Correia (1-1, 6.00 ERA).

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network.

 

Nuno Stars But O’s Edge ‘Watered-Down’ Yankees

GAME 18

ORIOLES 2, YANKEES (SS) 1

Jonathan Schoop scored pinch-runner Jemile Weeks on a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning to break a 1-1 tie as Baltimore edged a New York split squad on Saturday at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, FL.

Non-roster outfielder Delmon Young opened the seventh with a double of right-hander Mark Montgomery (0-1). Weeks pinch-ran for Young and stole third to set up Schoop’s scoring fly ball.

Korean right-hander Suk-min Yoon (1-0) pitched a scoreless inning of relief in his first major-league appearance to get credit for the victory. Evan Meek pitched the ninth inning to earn his second save of the spring.

With most of the Yankees’ best players either in Panama participating in the two-game Legends Series or resting at the team’s spring complex in Tampa, FL, the Yankees – who brought 13 players who were not on their 40-man roster or who were not invited to spring training – scored their lone run of the game on a leadoff homer in the sixth inning by Francisco Arcia off Orioles starter Chris Tillman.

Tillman had held the Yankees scoreless on two hits and two walks and struck out five in five innings before Arcia’s blast chased him from the game.

The Yankees, meanwhile, got four strong innings of shutout baseball from 26-year-old left-hander Vidal Nuno. Nuno yielded only a hit and a walk while he fanned three batters against an Orioles lineup that included starters Nick Markakis, J.J. Hardy, Nelson Cruz and Chris Davis.

Unfortunately for the Yankees, the Orioles tied the score with two out in the sixth when Davis launched his third home run of the spring off right-hander Danny Burawa.

The Yankees’ Grapefruit League record slipped to 8-8-2. The Orioles improved their record to 10-5.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Nuno made a strong case for the fifth spot in the rotation with his effort on Saturday. Nuno threw 38 of his 59 pitches for strikes and only reached three-ball counts on three hitters. Nuno spotted his fastball well and mixed in his off-speed pitches more to keep the Orioles off-balance. Though Michael Pineda is expected to get the No. 5 spot, Nuno showed he deserves some consideration. His spring ERA is now down to 1.50.
  • Brian Roberts was one of the few starters to make the trip and he had a great day against his former teammates. Roberts was 2-for-3 and he also contributed a fine defensive play in the sixth inning to rob Cruz of a single. Roberts, 36, may not be Robinson Cano but he is a fine second baseman as long as he can stay healthy.
  • Ramon Flores was 2-for-3 on Saturday, including a double and single. Flores, 21, is hitting only .217 this spring but, after a season where he hit .260 with six homers and 55 RBIs in 136 games at Double-A Trenton, he will have a chance to develop this season at Triple A.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • It may be time for Ichiro Suzuki to admit that his days in baseball are waning. He was 0-for-3 on Saturday and he is 3-for-24 (.125) this spring with only three singles and two RBIs. He has not really stung the ball much this spring either. Though the Yankees might be open to trade Suzuki, it is hard to see if there would be any suitors for his services. Suzuki is in the final year of two-year contract with the Yankees and he is slated to be the fifth outfielder this season.
  • After getting off to a quick start with the bat this spring, Austin Romine has been slumping of late. Romine, 25, batted cleanup and was 0-for-2 with a walk on Saturday. He is 5-for-25 (.200) with no RBIs in 11 games. Though Romine is a superior defensive catcher, his weak bat makes it almost certain that Francisco Cervelli will win the backup catching job. Romine likely will be sent to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
  • Burawa learned a valuable pitching lesson on Saturday. With two out in the sixth, Davis came up the plate for his last at-bat with his team trailing 1-0. Obviously Davis was thinking about hitting a home run to tie it. Burawa, 25, opted to pitch aggressively to Davis instead of making him hit pitches out of the strike zone. His 1-1 fastball was thigh high and Davis drove it deep to left-center and over the wall. If he had walked Davis, Burawa would then have pitched to Steve Pearce, a journeyman who had four homers last season. Davis hit 53. Duh!

ON DECK

The Yankees split squad returns to George M. Steinbrenner Field on Sunday to play host to the Atlanta Braves.

Free-agent right-hander Masahiro Tanaka will make his second start of the spring for the Yankees. Catcher Brian McCann and Mark Teixeira are also scheduled to play in the game.

McCann’s former team will start right-hander Julio Teheran. Brothers Justin and B.J. Upton, Jason Heyward and Andrelton Simmons are scheduled to make the trip for the Braves.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network and MLB Radio through WFAN (660-AM/99.1-FM).

 

Twins Use Dunkers And Bloops To Overtake Yanks

GAME 17

TWINS 7, YANKEES 3

TAMPA - Eric Farris hit a dying-quail bloop single just over Mark Teixeira’s head for a two-run double with one out in the sixth inning to break a 3-3 tie as Minnesota stormed back from an early 3-1 deficit to defeat New York on Friday at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Farris’ lucky dunker came off reliever Manny Banuelos (0-1), who had loaded the bases with no outs on a leadoff bloop single and a pair of walks. The 23-year-old left-hander was charged with four runs on two hits and two walks in one-third of an inning in only his second spring appearance.

Twins left-hander Caleb Thielbar (1-0) pitched a scoreless inning of relief to get credit for the victory.

The Yankees greeted Twins starter Kyle Gibson with three runs in the first inning, keyed by an RBI double by Brian Roberts, and RBI single by Teixeira and an RBI groundout off the bat of Eduardo Nunez.

The Twins scored a run in the first inning and added another in the third off Yankees starter David Phelps.

Chris Colabello slapped a two-out RBI single in the first to score Aaron Hicks. Two innings later, Brian Dozier led off with a solo home run to left.

Phelps, who is still vying for the No. 5 starter position, yielded two runs on five hits and a walk while he fanned four batters in four innings.

The Twins tied the game in the fifth off right-hander David Herndon on a leadoff walk and stolen base by Dozier and an RBI single by Colabello.

The Yankees’ Grapefruit League record is now 8-7-2. The Twins are 6-7.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • It is always a good sign when Teixeira drives in a run. Though Teixeira is hitting only .167 on the spring, he is having no lingering issues after undergoing wrist surgery and looks to be ready to go for the regular season. The Yankees definitely need his power and production, not to mention his Gold Glove at first base.
  • Roberts is also showing signs of coming around with the bat. He was 1-for-3 with a double, a run scored and an RBI in the game. Roberts is only hitting .150 but he will be the Yankees’ starting second baseman and the Yankees plan to use the switch-hitter every day despite his past injury problems.
  • Dellin Betances has been the talk of camp and he pitched splendidly again on Friday. He pitched a perfect 1 2/3 innings with two strikeouts and he remains unsecured upon on the spring. If the 25-year-old right-hander is not on the 25-man roster leaving Tampa it will be a crime.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The Yankees rapped out three hits in the first inning off Gibson and then they decided to take the rest of the afternoon off. The Yankees did not manage to get a hit for the rest of the contest against Gibson, Thielbar, Sean Gilmartin, Ryan Pressly and Aaron Thompson. Are these Twins no-name pitchers that good or are the Yankees’ hitters just that bad?
  • Don’t get down on Banuelos too much. He was not hit hard. Both hits were bleeders. Remember that Banuelos missed most of 2012 and all of 2013 following Tommy John surgery. The Yankees need for him to pitch and build up his arm strength. The results may be ugly now but the young lefty deserves a chance to fulfill his promise with a full season at Triple A.

BOMBER BANTER

Nunez had to leave the game in the fifth inning after he was kicked above in the left knee on a unnecessary takeout slide by Colabello. Wilkin Ramirez hit a high-hop grounder to Nunez at short while Colabello was advancing from first and Nunez took the play himself by stepping on second. Colabello then leg-whipped Nunez even though the ball was not hit hard enough to turn a double play.  Nunez was checked out by the Yankees’ medical staff and Nunez said he was fine.

ON DECK

The Yankees will be in two faraway locations on Saturday. A contingent of players are in a Panama to play against the Miami Marlins in two games called the Legend Series and reunite with future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Yankees will travel to Sarasota to take on the Baltimore Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium.

Left-hander Vidal Nuno will be making his second spring start for the Yankees. The Orioles will counter with right-hander Chris Tillman.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast live by the MLB Network.

In Panama, Adam Warren will start for the Yankees and Brad Hand will pitch for the Marlins.

Game-time will be 9:05 p.m. EDT and there will be no television or radio broadcast of the game.

 

Pineda, Gardner Help Yankees Whitewash O’s

GAME 15

YANKEES (SS) 6, ORIOLES 0

TAMPA - Michael Pineda pitched 2 2/3 shutout innings in his first start of the spring and Brett Gardner collected two hits, scored two runs and drove in another as a New York split squad blanked Baltimore on Thursday at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Pineda (1-0) yielded three hits, a walk and struck out five in a performance marked by both brilliance and some inconsistency. Pineda reached three-ball counts on five batters.

Meanwhile, the Yankees jumped on Orioles starter Bud Norris (0-1) for a single run in the first and a pair of runs in the second.

Carlos Beltran singled in Gardner in the first and Gardner doubled in Zoilo Almonte in the second. A Norris throwing error trying to nail Gardner at third ended up allowing Gardner to score to give the Yankees an early 3-0 lead.

The Yankees added a run in the fifth on an RBI single by Alfonso Soriano off reliever Kevin Gausman.

The Yankees improved their Grapefruit League record to 8-5-2. The Orioles fell to 9-5.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Pineda was far from sharp but still showed signs he can definitely handle the No. 5 spot in the rotation. You can pin the inconsistency to his two years of rust. The five strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings shows he has good stuff. He will just have to harness it.
  • Gardner hit the ball hard three times and he is now batting .304 on the spring. The Yankees can’t wait to see how Gardner works out of the ninth spot this season with Jacoby Ellsbury leading off.
  • Almonte followed up his two-run, game-tying home run in the ninth on Wednesday with a double and a single on Thursday. Almonte will not make the roster but will be a call away at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The Yankees hoped that Russ Canzler might have a place on the roster with his power and his ability to play both corner infield and corner outfield spots. Canzler, though, was 0-for-3 on Thursday and struck out swinging each time. He is hitting .158.
  • After showing some early promise, Dean Anna is cooling off. He was 0-for-3 on Thursday and he is hitting .316.

The On Deck feature will be in the next post.

 

Almonte’s Homer In 9th Lets Yankees Salvage Tie

GAME 14

YANKEES 7, TIGERS 7 (10 INNINGS)

TAMPA - The Tigers got four strong innings out of right-hander Anibal Sanchez and they pounded Hiroki Kuroda for six runs but New York rallied late to pull into a 7-7 tie after 10 innings at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Wednesday.

Sanchez gave up one run on three hits, did not walk a batter while striking out three.

Meanwhile, Kuroda was tagged for six runs on 10 hits and no walks in 3 2/3 innings.

The Tigers onslaught was led by Nick Castellanos, who smacked a two-run double to key a four-run first, and Trevor Crowe, who added a two-run double in the third inning.

The Yankees got a pair of solo home runs from backup catcher Francisco Cervelli, who connected for one in the third inning off Sanchez and one off reliever Evan Reed in the fifth.

The Yankees scored three runs in the eighth off reliever Ian Krol, keyed by a two-run bases-loaded ground-rule double by Zelous Wheeler.

Zoilo Almonte tied the game in the ninth with a two-run homer off Jose Ortega.

Neither team scored in the 10th inning and the game ended in a tie.

The Yankees’ spring record is now 7-5-2. The Tigers are 7-6-1.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Cervelli is having a breakout spring and he has virtually locked up the backup catching job over Austin Romine and John Ryan Murphy. Cervelli is out of options anyway. So it will be an easy call for the Yankees unless they opt to trade Cervelli.
  • Give the youngsters some credit for rallying late to tie the game. They did the same thing on Sunday against the Rays. Almonte is buried behind a bunch of veterans and free agents but the Yankees feel he will benefit from a full season at Triple A after being rushed to the majors last season.
  • The relievers held the Tigers to one unearned run on three hits over the last 6 1/3 innings to allow the Yankees to come back. Shawn Kelley looked particularly good, pitching a perfect frame in the fifth.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Kuroda downplayed his poor outing but it was frustrating because CC Sabathia struggled so much the day before against the Nationals. Kuroda just could not keep his pitches down and I am not sure it is anything to worry about. Of course, if it happens again we might worry more.
  • Ichiro Suzuki, Derek Jeter, Carlos Beltran and Brian Roberts were a combined 0-for-12 with five strikeouts. We need offense from these guys. They need to pick it up soon.

ON DECK

The Yankees will play a pair of games on Thursday.

Right-hander Michael Pineda will start at home as the Yankees play host to the Baltimore Orioles.

Meanwhile, Ivan Nova will start against the Philadelphia Phillies at Bright House Field in Clearwater, FL.

Both games are at 1:05 p.m. EDT.

The YES Network will broadcast the home game locally. There is no scheduled broadcast of the road contest.

 

Orioles Score Two In Seventh To Rally Past Yanks

GAME 7

ORIOLES 3, YANKEES 2

TAMPA - Quintin Berry stroked an RBI single to tie the game and Julio Borbon later followed with an RBI groundout in the seventh inning as Baltimore rallied to defeat New York in an exhibition game on Tuesday at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Brad Brach (1-0) pitched an inning of scoreless relief to get credit for the victory. Brock Huntzinger pitched a perfect ninth inning to earn a save.

Right-hander Chase Whitley (0-2) was tagged with the loss.

The Yankees scored both their runs with two out in the second inning against Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen. Francisco Cervelli blasted a solo home run and, after back-to-back singles by Brendan Ryan and Russ Canzler, Yangervis Solarte delivered an RBI single to score Ryan.

The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Yankees and dropped their Grapefruit League record to 4-3. The Orioles improved to 3-2.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Cervelli celebrated his 28th birthday a day early with his first home run of the spring. Cervelli was 1-for-2 with a walk and is now 4-for-9 (.556) early this spring. Cervelli is the leading candidate in the backup catching competition between Austin Romine, John Ryan Murphy and himself.
  • Solarte entered the contest 6-for-7 (.857) with two home runs and five RBIs. The 26-year-old minor-league free-agent utility infielder came through again on Tuesday with an RBI single in the second inning. Though Solarte’s odds of making the team are real long, he is drawing attention with his bat, his glove and his hustle this spring.
  • Chris Leroux, a 29-year-old Canadian right-hander, pitched two perfect innings of relief with a pair of strikeouts. Leroux has pitched in 63 major-league games with the Miami Marlins and Pittsburgh Pirates with a 1-2 record and a 5.56 ERA. He is a non-roster invitee to camp.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Yankees starter David Phelps was not as sharp as he would have liked on Tuesday. He gave up a run on five hits and a walk with two strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings. However, Phelps did wriggle out of trouble in the first two innings before surrendering a leadoff triple to David Lough and an RBI groundout by Jemile Weeks in the third. Phelps got out of a two-on and nobody out situation in the first by getting Delmon Young to hit into double play and inducing Steve Clavenger to hit into a groundout in the first. He escaped the same two on and no out situation in the second by retiring Francisco Peguero, Berry and Cord Phelps in order.
  • Whitley, 24, is having a lot of trouble in the early going. Whitley came into camp with a 3-2 record and 3.06 ERA in 29 games at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season. He has been tagged for six runs on six hits and three walks in innings. He is 0-2 with a 18.00 ERA.
  • Derek Jeter started the game as designated hitter and went 0-2, including bouncing into his third double play.  The Yankee captain is 0-for-9. He may not be panicking but he is not really happy with his early performance at the plate. Jeter has yet to hit a solid line drive.

ON DECK

The Yankees travel to Port Charlotte, FL, on Wednesday to face the Tampa Bay Rays for the first time this spring.

Right-hander Adam Warren, 26, will make his second start of the spring for the Yankees.

Left-hander Cesar Ramos will start for the Rays.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EST and the game will be broadcast by MLB Radio.

The publishing of this report was delayed by technical difficulties.

 

Super Nova Dominates Nats As Yankees Roll On

GAME 6

YANKEES 4, NATIONALS 2

From July 5 to the end of the 2013 season, Ivan Nova was 7-4 with a 2.59 ERA in his last 15 starts. That same dominant right-handed pitcher showed up on Monday at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Nova (1-0) pitched three hitless shutout innings to set the tone for New York’s Grapefruit League victory over Washington.

The 6-foot-4, 225-pound right-hander threw 30 of his 35 pitches for strikes and struck out four in just his second outing of the spring.

The Yankees backed Nova with a four-run second-inning uprising off Nationals left-hander Ross Detwiler (0-1), keyed by RBI hits by Kelly Johnson, Ichiro Suzuki and Corban Joseph as the Yankees claimed their fourth straight exhibition victory.

Brian Roberts and Francisco Cervelli opened the frame with back-to-back singles. Johnson then followed with a bloop double to left that scored Roberts.

Suzuki extended the rally when Nationals shortstop Zach Walters fielded his slow roller and threw wildly to first, allowing both Cervelli and Johnson to score.

After Zoilo Almonte laced a double to right, Joseph plated Suzuki with the final run of the inning with a solid single to right.

New closer David Robertson made his first appearance of the spring in relief of Nova in the fourth and pitched around hitting Danny Espinosa with his second pitch by retiring Tyler Moore on a double-play grounder and getting Scott Hairston on a flyout to left.

The Nationals scored their two runs on a solo home run by Walters off right-hander Shawn Kelley in the fifth and on a fielding error in the sixth by Derek Jeter on a ground ball off the bat of Espinosa that allowed Eury Perez to score with right-hander Danny Burawa on the mound.

Right-hander Jim Miller pitched a perfect ninth inning to get credit for a save.

The Yankees are 4-2 in early spring play while the Nationals fell to 3-1.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • I have said for a very long time and it does bear repeating that Nova IS the Yankee starter with the best overall stuff. His mid-90s fastball and crackling curveball were on full display on Monday. When Nova commands his pitches he is as nasty and dominant as any pitcher the Yankees have. After suffering through a horrible 2012 season in which he was 12-8 with a 5.02 ERA and sustaining an early bout of forearm tendinitis last season, Nova has been everything the Yankees had hoped he would be when he was 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA in his rookie season. If he pitches this season as he did on Monday he could have a very good record in 2014.
  • Johnson, 32, is settling in nicely with the Yankees as the team’s primary third baseman this season. Johnson averaged 24 home runs and 61 RBIs from 2010 through 2012. Last season with the Tampa Bay Rays, Johnson hit 16 home runs and drove in 52 runs in only 118 games. The Yankees think the lefty swinging Johnson can produce as much for the Yankees while Alex Rodriguez sits out his season-long suspension.
  • Cervelli, 28, went 2-for-3 with a single, a double and run scored. Cervelli is 4-for-7 (.571) in early spring action and it seems he is determined not to lose the backup catching spot to Austin Romine or John Ryan Murphy this spring. One thing in Cervelli’s favor is that he is out of options and the team would lose him if he did not win the job.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The infield defense this spring has not been as crisp as it could be. Of course, with Gold Glove first baseman Mark Teixeira yet to play in a game and with the free-agent loss of Robinson Cano at second that is to be expected. The main offenders have been Joseph and Addison Maruszak. Maruszak has committed three errors and Joseph has committed two, including one at first base on Monday. The Yankees committed a franchise-record low of errors last season. It would be nice of they get close to that again in 2014.
  • There is nothing to be alarmed about yet, but Jeter is 0-for-7 in the three games he has played this spring. I would be alarmed if it stretched into another week or so. But the good news is the Yankee captain is moving without discomfort or a limp due to his surgically repaired left ankle.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees had football legend Joe Namath throw out the first pitch for Monday’s game. Namath, the 70-year-old former great of the New York Jets and a Hall of Fame quarterback, wore a Yankee jersey with his iconic No. 12 as he escorted manager Joe Girardi to exchange the lineup card at home plate and he spent the rest of the day next to Girardi in the Yankees’ dugout as a “co-manager.”  . . .  Teixeira took some swings on Monday against left-hander Manny Banuelos and right-hander Jose Campos. Teixeira reported no issues with his surgically repaired right wrist. He hopes to take some more swings on Tuesday leading up to his first game action either Thursday or Friday.  . . .  Andy Pettitte was in camp on Monday as a special guest instructor but he made a point to insist that he not going to come out of retirement this time.

ON DECK

The Yankees will play there first night game of the spring at home playing host to the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday.

Right-hander David Phelps will make his second start of the spring for the Yankees. Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran will start in the outfield and Jeter will also be in the lineup as the designated hitter.

The Orioles will counter with left-hander Wei-Yin Chen, who was 7-7 with a 4.07 ERA in 23 starts with the O’s last season.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EST and the game will be broadcast live nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

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