Results tagged ‘ Orioles ’
YANKEES 4, ASTROS 4 (10 Innings)
TAMPA - Chris Stewart’s two-out RBI single scored Travis Hafner to key a three-run rally in the sixth that drew the Yankees into a 4-4 tie as New York and Houston played 10 innings to a draw on Tuesday in front of a paid crowd of 10,631 at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
The Yankees trailed 4-0 after the Astros scored three runs in the first inning and a single tally in the fourth off a less-than-sharp CC Sabathia. The ace left-hander was touched for four runs on six hits and three walks in five innings of work.
Meanwhile, Astros right-hander Brad Peacock held the Yankees scoreless until Brett Gardner delivered a two-out, three-run triple to score Eduardo Nunez in the fifth inning. Peacock only surrendered the one run on two hits and two walks in his five innings of work.
The Yankees rallied for the tie against Astros left-hander Wesley Wright and right-hander C.J. Fick in the sixth. Kevin Youkilis followed a leadoff single by Robinson Cano with an RBI double that halved the Astros’ lead to 4-2.
After a Hafner single and an error by Astros right-fielder Brandon Barnes that allowed Hafner to take second, newly acquired outfielder Vernon Wells scored Youkilis on an infield groundout. Stewart then followed three batters later with his RBI single that scored Hafner, however, Astros left-fielder Chris Carter threw out Wells at home plate attempting to score the tie-breaking run.
The Yankees remain 12-17 this spring. The Astros are 13-14.
- After a bit of slump in the middle of spring training, Gardner lately has been much better at the plate. He was 2-for-3 in the game and he is now hitting a solid .310 on the spring. As long as Derek Jeter is recovering from his fractured left ankle, Gardner likely will remain the team’s leadoff hitter.
- Youkilis is proving to be a valuable run producer in the cleanup spot. His RBI single on Tuesday gives him a team-leading 13 RBIs this spring. Discounting his 0-for-9 start, Youkilis is hitting .333 (12-for-36) with five home runs and 13 RBIs. Though Yankee fans were loathe to cheer him earlier there have been a lot of “Youk” cheers being heard around the stadium these past few weeks.
- Five relievers, including Marino Rivera, David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan and Vidal Nuno, held Houston scoreless on four hits and one walk in the final five innings. Although the Yankees have struggled to score runs this spring, the core the bullpen has been excellent and looks to be ready for the regular season.
- It would seem alarming that Sabathia would be knocked around by a team made up of mostly Triple-A players. But temperatures at game-time were in the mid-50s with a 15 mile-per-hour breeze that made it seem much cooler. Most Yankee fans realize that Sabathia is a warm-weather pitcher and I would not be too concerned about this poor tuneup for his Opening Day start on April 1 against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium.
- Though he is still hitting .306 on the spring, Ichiro Suzuki was 0-for-4 on Tuesday and he has not been as productive at the plate lately. Pitchers are feeding him a steady diet of breaking pitches and Suzuki has been popping up and rolling out weakly on them. I would not be too concerned about the 39-year-old former Most Valuable Player either.
- Hafner must have read the tea leaves about the Yankees’ latest signings and decided he better get busy with the bat. He was 3-for-4 on Tuesday but his batting average is at .195. The Yankees might very well release him early in the regular season if he fails to produce some power and run production.
The Wells trade rumors proved to be true and he played in his first game on Tuesday, going 0-for-3 with an RBI. He was acquired from the Los Angeles Angels for low-level prospects Exicardo Cayones and Kramer Sneed and cash considerations. Wells, 34, is now expected to be the team’s starting left-fielder to begin the season. The Yankees agreed to paid $13 million of his $42 million contract, all of it coming this season. Wells hit .230 with 11 home runs and 29 RBIs in only 77 games last season with the Angels. He is a career .273 hitter with 259 major-league home runs and he won three Gold Glove awards as a center-fielder with the Toronto Blue Jays. . . . The Yankees also signed veteran first baseman Lyle Overbay to a minor-league contract on Tuesday and they plan to give him a three-day audition to win the first base job. Overbay was released by the Boston Red Sox earlier on Tuesday. Overbay, 36, hit .214 with the Bosox with no home runs and seven RBIs this spring. With starting first baseman Mark Teixeira expected to miss at least a month and a half with a partially torn tendon sheath in his right wrist, the Yankees have looked at outfielder Juan Rivera and corner infielder Dan Johnson as possible replacements. However, Johnson is hitting .063 (2-for-32). . . . Jeter said Tuesday he is disappointed that he will not open the season as the team’s starting shortstop for the first time since the 2001 season. Jeter will be placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactively so that he could return as early as April 6. However, he has been idle since encountering recurring soreness in his surgically repaired left ankle. He will receive more treatment at the team’s spring complex in Tampa, FL, but it is unclear when he will be able to resume workouts. . . . Manager Joe Girardi confirmed on Wednesday that right-hander Phil Hughes will open the season on the 15-day disabled list. Hughes, 26, has not pitched in a single Grapefruit League because of a bulging disk in his upper back. Hughes could be activated as soon as April 6, however, a more realistic date for his return would be April 11. Hughes did pitch three innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Class-A West Virginia team last week and the Yankees will keep him in Tampa until he builds up his arm in order to be able to make a start.
The Yankees travel to Sarasota, FL, to face the Baltimore Orioles in their final road game of the Grapefruit League season.
Right-hander David Phelps (2-3, 3.97 ERA) will be making his seventh start of the spring. Right-hander Jair Jurrjens will start for the Orioles.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. and the game will be telecast live by the MLB Network.
PHILLIES 4, YANKEES 3
Domonic Brown blasted a solo home run with one out in the seventh inning and three batters later Tommy Joseph followed with a two-run shot off right-hander Zach Nuding as Philadelphia rallied from a 3-1 deficit to defeat New York on Tuesday at Bright House Field in Clearwater, FL.
Despite the fact he was tagged by a two-run home run from catcher J.R. Murphy in the top of the seventh inning, Zach Miner (1-0) was credited with the victory. Jeremy Horst escaped a two-on, two-out jam in the ninth to earn a save. Nuding (0-1) was charged with the loss.
The Yankees behind s strong start from right-hander Jose Ramirez kept the Philiies scoreless and with only one hit until the sixth inning when Kevin Frandsen stroked a two-out double off Jim Miller to score Jimmy Rollins with their first run and tied the score 1-1.
The Yankees scored in the first inning on a one-out single by Ichiro Suzuki – one of his three hits in the game – and Mark Teixeira followed a Suzuki stolen base with a RBI double to right.
The Yankees are 1-3 on the young Grapefruit League season while the Phillies won their first game after an 0-3 start.
- Other than a walk to Ryan Howard in the second inning, Ramirez was perfect in his spring debut. The 23-year-old right-hander was 7-6 with an excellent 3.19 ERA in 18 starts for High-A Tampa last season with 94 strikeouts in 98 2/3 innings. He is worth keeping an eye on in the future because he throws an excellent change-up and slider. Manager Joe Girardi was raving about him after the game.
- Suzuki’s 3-for-3 afternoon gives him a .667 average in the early spring. He slapped one single to the opposite field in left and two up the middle. He also looked amazingly spry for his 39 years in stealing a base in the first inning to set up Teixeira’s RBI double.
- Both relievers David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain made their spring debuts and they each threw a scoreless inning. Chamberlain looked especially sharp in striking out the first two batters he faced.
- Though Austin Romine is trying to make the team and Gary Sanchez is a several years away, Murphy is a minor-league catcher the Yankees believe is being overlooked. He drew some notice for himself on Tuesday by stroking a 400-foot home run to center in the seventh and he added a 400-foot double off the centerfield fence in the ninth. Murphy had a disappointing season in 2012 in hitting a combined .248 with nine home runs and 44 RBIs in 110 games between Tampa and Double-A Trenton.
- Nuding, 23, was obviously a little out of his element on Tuesday. With one out he missed his location on a fastball and Brown made him pay with a mammoth 450-foot blast. Then with two out he gave up a double to Cody Asche and the game-winning homer to Joseph. Nuding was 8-3 with a 3.89 ERA at Tampa last season.
- Miller, 30, looked shaky in his second outing of the spring. The two-out double by Frandsen followed a walk to Rollins. Miller was 2-1 with 2.89 ERA in 49 2/3 innings in 33 appearances with the Oakland Athletics last season. He is a longshot to make the team but could provide veteran depth at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
- The Yankees, once again, had no trouble getting runners on base. They had at least one hit in every inning and ended up with 12 in the game. But they only scored three runs because they did not get a hit that would break the game open. It also did not help they hit into three double plays and committed a batter interference to kill another rally.
Soon Girardi is going to insist his players stay in hyperbaric chambers after games. Third baseman Kevin Youkilis was scratched from Tuesday’s lineup for precautionary reasons with a sore left oblique. Youkilis, 33, will not require any tests but will re-evaluated in a couple of days. Youkilis said he felt a pain just above his left hip. He thought that it was not serious and said if it were a regular season game he would have been able to play. . . . General manager Brian Cashman said the team has no interest in bringing former outfielder Johnny Damon to compete as a potential replacement to the injured Curtis Granderson. Cashman said he no longer sees Damon as a full-time outfielder and he believes that the answer to left-field could be in-house between Matt Diaz, Juan Rivera, Melky Mesa, Zoilo Almonte and Ronnier Mustelier. . . . Phil Hughes, who is recovering from a bulging disk in his upper back, continued his aquatic rehab at the Yankees’ minor-league complex on Tuesday and continues to progress, Girardi said. Hughes is expected to resume throwing in about a week.
The Yankees return back home to George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL, to face a Baltimore Orioles split squad.
Young left-hander Nik Turley will get the start for the Yankees. Turley, 23, who is compared to Andy Pettitte, was 9-5 with a 2.89 ERA in 21 starts between at Tampa. He will be opposed by veteran right-hander Jake Arrieta.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EST and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network and on tape delay at 2 a.m. on Thursday by the MLB Network.
ORIOLES 5, YANKEES 1
Brian Roberts doubled twice and scored two runs and left-hander Brian Matusz pitched two scoreless innings as Baltimore defeated New York in front of a crowd of 7,335 at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, FL.
Roberts’ doubles sparked the Orioles to an early 2-0 lead. He stroked a one-out double in the first, advanced to third on a balk and scored on a two-out RBI single from Adam Jones. Roberts slapped another one-out double in the third and scored on an RBI single by Nick Markakis.
Matusz (1-0) gave up two hits to the first two batters he faced but retired the next five to earn the victory. Left-hander Vidal Nuno (0-1) took the loss despite the fact that five of the six batters he retired struck out looking, including Markakis, Matt Wieters, Chris Davis, Conor Jackson and Manny Machado.
The Yankees’ scored their lone run in the ninth inning on a walk and stolen base by Corban Joseph and an RIBI single by Walter Ibarra. The run broke a string of 19 consecutive scoreless innings for the Yankees.
The Yankees fell to 1-2 in Grapefruit League play while the Orioles are 3-0.
- Leadoff hitter Brett Gardner was 3-for-3 with three singles and second batter Jayson Nix collected two singles in three at-bats. The rest of the Yankees were 3-for-28 (.107). Gardner, who missed virtually all of the 2012 season with a right elbow injury, is hitting .667 in the early going. Nix is hitting .750 in the two games he has played.
- Though Nuno was touched for Roberts’ double and Jones’ RBI single, he certainly looked impressive in striking out five batters in his two innings of work. Nuno, 24, was signed by the Yankees last winter off the independent Washington Wild roster and he’s been dominating minor-league hitters ever since. At Double-A Trenton Nidal was 9-5 with a 2.45 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 114 innings in 20 starts last season. Since he has learned a change-up he being tabbed as an older version of Manny Banuelos, who will miss the 2013 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
- Josh Spence, a 25-year-old Australian left-hander, was the only Yankee hurler to pitch a perfect 1-2-3 inning and that was in the ninth. The Yankees claimed Spence off waivers from the San Diego Padres in early November after he was 4-2 with a 4.20 ERA 31 games at Triple-A Tucson.
- For the second straight day the Yankees’ offense was pretty much missing in action. If Ibarra had not driven in Joseph in the final frame the Yankees would have been 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position in their last two games.
- If Matt Diaz and Juan Rivera are seeking to stake a claim to replace Curtis Granderson as the team’s starting left-fielder as he recovers from a broken right forearm they have got to do better than they did on Monday. Diaz was 0-for-3 and stranded six base-runners. He hit into a double play and did not get a ball out the infield. Rivera also was 0-for-3 including a strikeout.
- Before you get too angry at the Yankees’ pitching staff for giving up five runs just remember that pitchers such as Nuno, Bryan Mitchell, Corey Black, Shane Greene, Ryan Pope, Kelvin Perez and Spence are not battling for roster spots. They are all headed back to the minors. The Orioles, in contrast, threw veterans like Matusz, Tommy Hunter, Pedro Strop and Mark Hendrickson.
With the Yankees looking to replace Granderson, veteran outfielder Johnny Damon told ESPN Radio’s Michael Kay that he would be interested in returning to the Yankees if he got a call to come to spring training. Damon, 39, said he is willing to fill in for Granderson for the six weeks he will miss, he would play for the minimum salary and would need about three or four weeks to get in shape. Asked about the possibility of bringing Damon to camp, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said, “We will focus on what we have at this time.” . . . Mariano Rivera threw 32 pitches in a live batting-practice session on Monday, and CC Sabathia threw batting practice to hitters for the first time this spring as the rehabbing hurlers continue prepare for Opening Day. . . . Manager Joe Girardi said that outfield prospects Tyler Austin and Slade Heathcott will not be considered to open the season in New York. . . . Yankees outfielder Melky Mesa said that even after Granderson’s injury, he still plans to leave camp to play for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. Bench coach Tony Pena will be managing the Dominican squad.
The Yankees will travel to Clrawater, FL, on Tuesday to take on the Philadelphia Phillies.
Hot prospect right-hander Jose Ramirez will draw the start for the Yankees. He will be opposed by veteran right-hander Kyle Kendrick.
The Yankees will send Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, Kevin Youkilis and Travis Hafner to play in the game. Relievers Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson are also scheduled to make the spring debuts.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EST and the game will be broadcast live on the MLB Network.
BLUE JAYS 2, YANKEES 0
TAMPA - A dark cloud hung over the Yankees before spring training even began as they lost third baseman Alex Rodriguez for half the season due to hip surgery. They opened their home exhibition season on Sunday under a blanket of gloomy dark clouds that hung over George M. Steinbrenner Field throughout the game.
But that was nothing compared to the dark cloud casting a pall over the team upon learning that starting outfielder Curtis Granderson would be lost to the team until mid-May with a fractured right forearm after he was struck by J.A. Happ breaking ball in his very first at-bat of the spring in the first inning.
While the business of spring training will continue manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman will be tasked with trying to find a way to replace Granderson’s 43 home runs on a team that is already missing 109 home runs from last season’s squad.
The game was pretty much academic. The result did not matter.
Emilio Bonifacio followed an Anthony Gose triple with an RBI single in the third inning and Sean Ochinko doubled in a run in the eighth while the Yankees pounded out 11 hits but went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and left 13 runners on base as Toronto blanked New York in front of a crowd of 10,184.
Happ (1-0) gave up three hits in two innings but got credit for the victory. Cody Eppley (0-1) took the loss. Rich Thompson pitched a scoreless ninth to earn a save.
- As far as we know no other Yankee starters were injured in the contest.
- Kevin Youkilis made his debut in pinstripes and came within about 10 feet of a grand slam home run in the first inning but Jays outfielder Ryan Langerhans made a running catch on the warning track. Youkilis also slapped a screaming line drive to third with two on and two out in the third that was caught by Brett Lawrie. In his final at-bat, Youkilis led off the sixth by sending a drive to the warning track in center that was run down by Gose. That pretty much defined the Yankees’ day.
- Robinson Cano followed his home run on Saturday with three line drives but he ended up with just one hit because his old pal Melky Cabrera robbed him of a hit in the first with a sliding catch.
- Adam Warren, 25, started the game and pitched two scoreless and hitless innings. Warren looked sharp with his location and fanned two batters. Though Warren is ticketed for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, he could be factor later in the season if does well this spring.
- Eppley proved why he is a specialist used primarily against right-handers. After striking out the right-handed-hitting Lance Zawadzki, left-handed-hitting Gose tripled and the left-handed-hitting Bonifacio singled him in. Eppley showed why he is exposed as a pitcher when he has to face lefties.
- Though Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki were on base after three of their six plate appearances neither of them stole a base. Suzuki did attempt a steal in the third inning with Cano up but Cano fouled the pitch off. Neither made another attempt to steal. It would seem that as home run hitters are dropping like flies for the Yankees that running the bases a lot would be a good idea.
- This game had the look of the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers. No home runs, plenty of chances with runners on base but no big hit came. This might be a repeating scenario and we will have to watch it closely this spring.
Derek Jeter is targeting March 10 for his first spring training action as he recovers from surgery on his fractured left ankle, Cashman said on Sunday. Jeter ran for the first on the infield at Steinbrenner Field on Saturday and he hopes to begin spring play as a designated hitter with an eye on being ready to start at shortstop at home on Opening Day on April 1 against the Boston Red Sox. . . . With Granderson out of action for 10 weeks the immediate outlook would dictate that non-roster outfielders Juan Rivera and Matt Diaz may now be vying for a starting outfield spot. The Yankees do have minor-league outfielders Zoilo Almonte and Melky Mesa on the 40-man roster but the Yankees may not elect to use either as starters, Almonte has not played above Double-A Trenton. Cashman could also look to engineer a trade but it is pretty clear the Yankees do not want to add much to the current payroll and other teams are going to drive hard bargain because they know the Yankees might be a bit desperate. Not making an offer for the Washington Nationals’ outfielder/first baseman Michael Morse is looking like a real bad move now. He was traded to the Seattle Mariners instead.
The Yankees head to Sarasota, FL, on Monday to face the Baltimore Orioles.
Left-hander Vidal Nuno, 24, will get the start for the Yankees. The Orioles are scheduled to start left-hander Brian Matusz.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EST and the game will be telecast nationally on tape-delay at 9 p.m. by MLB Network.
With the first pitch of the Grapefruit League season on Saturday the Yankees are preparing for the game and the rest of the spring schedule. Here is some news, views and notes from Florida regarding the Yankees:
Manager Joe Girardi has chosen right-hander David Phelps to open the spring schedule on Saturday against the Atlanta Braves at Champions Field in Lake Buena Vista, FL.
Phelps, 26, is coming off a rookie season in which he was 4-4 with a 3.34 ERA in 33 games, 11 of those were starts. Phelps is competing this spring with Ivan Nova for the team’s No. 5 starter spot.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has scheduled left-hander Paul Maholm to pitch against Phelps. The game will begin at 1:05 p.m. EST and there are still tickets available through Ticketmaster.
The Yankees will open their home spring schedule at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Sunday against an American League East rival in the Toronto Blue Jays. This will be a split squad for the Blue Jays.
Girardi has named rookie right-hander Adam Warren to start for the Yankees. Warren, 26, was 7-8 with a 3.71 ERA in 26 starts last season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons has selected veteran left-hander J.A. Happ to pitch for the visitors.
The YES Network will broadcast the spring home opener against the Blue Jays beginning at 1:05 p.m. EST.
LACK OF STARS
If you are planning to attend spring training to see the Yankees at Steinbrenner Field and throughout their road schedule, be advised that this spring you will not see whole lot of Yankee stars.
Alex Rodriguez is recovering from hip surgery and is not even in Florida. He is rehabilitating in New York and and is not expected to attend any games.
Derek Jeter is just in the early stages of his recovery from surgery from a fractured left ankle he suffered in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers. Although Jeter has made assurances he will be ready for Opening Day it is unlikely he will play much in the early stages of the spring schedule.
Mark Teixeira will be playing for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic and will not return until the team is eliminated. In addition, Robinson Cano is playing for his home Dominican Republic team in the classic and he will not be around much.
Just feel lucky that catcher Francisco Cervelli reneged on his plan to play for Team Italy and Andy Pettitte also declined an invitation from Team USA.
In addition to the World Baseball Classic, fans will also have to navigate around a series of split-squad games. The Yankees will split their squads twice this spring.
On Feb. 28, the Yankees will play at home against the Houston Astros while playing a road game against Blue Jays. On March 16, the Yankees will host the Philadelphia Phillies will a road squad will face the Braves.
In addition, opposing teams will send a total of three split squads to Tampa, FL, to face the Yankees: The Blue Jays on Saturday, the Orioles on Feb. 27 and the Tigers on March 2. So do not expect to see many stars from the opposing teams on those dates either.
So just get used to watching a lot of Ronnier Musteller, Zoilo Almonte and Addison Maruszak this spring and feel lucky if you can get a autograph from Preston Claiborne.
Can you tell I am not much of a fan of the World Baseball Classic? Thanks, Bud Selig!
Thanks to the MLB Network and ESPN the Yankees will have a total of 22 games in Florida broadcast on national television this spring and a 23rd game against the Washington Nationals from Washington, DC, will be broadcast on March 29 by the MLB Network.
To open the spring schedule, the MLB Network will pick up the YES Network broadcast of the Yankees against the Blue Jays on Sunday. That will be among the nine games that will be broadcast live while the others will be shown on tape delay by the MLB Network.
The Yankees’ home contest against the Boston Red Sox will be broadcast live on March 20 by ESPN.
So if you can’t come to Florida or you can’t get a ticket for a spring game, the game will come to you on television.
HUGHES TO IT
The first injury of spring belongs to right-handed starter Phil Hughes, Hughes, 27, reported pain in his upper back just below his shoulder blade on Monday after he participated in a drill covering first base. The injury is not considered as serious but he will be sidelined for several days.
Hughes was 16-13 with a 4.23 ERA last season and he can become a free agent after the 2013 season.
Hughes saw a doctor on Tuesday and he is hoping to be able to resume workouts within a few days.
- Musteller got the attention of Phelps by rocketing a line drive right at him on Tuesday. Phelps was able to get out of the way but was shaken a bit. Musteller, 28, hit a combined .314 with 15 homers and 69 RBIs in 114 games between Double-A Trenton and Scranton last season. Musteller is listed as a non-roster outfielder but has experience as an infielder as well. “He’s a good hitter,” Phelps said. “He can swing it.”
Girardi is still mulling over whether to move Curtis Granderson to left in order to play Brett Gardner in center this season. Girardi said he has not made up his mind but he said if he does make the move it likely would come early in spring in order to allow Granderson to get used to playing in left. ”I think Curtis has done a good job for us,” Girardi said. “The question for us to sit here and stew over is, ‘If you flip-flop them, does it make you better defensively?’ That’s what we have to figure out.”
Highly touted right-handed reliever Mark Montgomery resumed throwing on Tuesday. He had been sidelined for a short time due to back spasms. Montgomery, 23, is considered the team’s best reliever prospect after going a combined 7-2 with a 1.54 ERA and 15 saves Advanced-A Tampa and Trenton.
The New York Yankees will enter spring training with a virtually set starting rotation. That is a luxury among major-league clubs but there are some concerns about the staff and how effective it will be. Let’s examine each starter individually in a five-part series.
HIROKI KURODA (16-11, 3.32 ERA)
When the Yankees decided to sign right-hander Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year, $10 million free-agent contract there were a lot of naysayers voicing a litany of concerns about the 37-year-old right-hander.
After all, in his four seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Kuroda was 41-46 and only posted one season above .500 in victories – an injury-plagued 2009 season when he was 8-7 in just 20 starts. Though he posted excellent ERAs in those four saesons (3.73, 3.376, 3.39 and 3.07) the conventional wisdom was coming over from the National League to the designated hitter in the American League would see his ERA explode.
The skeptics also pointed out that Kuroda would struggle in the competitive A.L. East.
You won’t hear those arguments anymore. Kuroda silenced his critics with his best season since he left Japan in 2008. He was absolutely brilliant from mid-May through August. Even though his ERA took a big hit in September he finished the season after Sept. 1 with a 4-1 record.
Y0u could even make a case that Kuroda’s season was better than CC Sabathia’s because Kuroda was healthy throughout and he even was more consistent than the Yankees’ left-handed ace.
Kuroda ended up setting carer major-league highs in victories, innings pitched and strikeouts. Kuroda emerged as the team’s No. 2 starter and he earned it by pitching deep into games and baffling hitters with a wide assortment of breaking pitches that offset his 90-mph plus fastball.
After getting blasted early and often in the first month, Kuroda made some adjustments and then never looked back. It was really no surprise when general manager Brian Cashman decided to sign Kuroda for another one-year deal but this time for $15 million.
Kuroda certainly earned the raise.
The veteran from Osaka, Japan made two starts in the playoffs for the Yankees and both were brilliant. However, Kuroda did not get any run support in either start and was 0-1 despite a sparkling 2.81 ERA.
In the American League Division Series against the Baltimore Orioles, Kuroda gave up just two runs on five hits and one walk in 8 1/3 innings but did not earn a decision. Then he gave up three runs on five hits and no walks and struck out 11 in 7 2/3 innings against the Detroit Tigers in the American League Division Series but lost because the Yankees did not score him a single run.
There are higher hopes for 2013, which is why Kuroda elected to re-sign with the Yankees.
“I am very grateful for all of the interest and all of the offers that I received from the various teams that courted me,” Kuroda said when he signed. “It was a tough decision for me to make, but at the end of the day, I wanted to try to win a championship with the teammates that I went to battle with last season.”
This season does figure to be a battle for the Yankees because the teams in the A.L. East appear to be stronger while the Yankees lost a lot of offensive firepower when Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, Raul Ibanez, Eric Chavez and Andruw Jones left the team as free agents, taking 94 home runs with them.
Kuroda will have to adjust to a less explosive team that might score a lot fewer runs. Of course, that is not unlike Kuroda’s seasons with the Dodgers when he received very poor run support and was a major reason why his season records there were below .500.
Kuroda gradually earned the trust of manager Joe Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild by limiting his pitch counts so he could last deeper into games. With a bullpen that was missing Mariano Rivera and Joba Chamberalain for most of the season, Kuroda’s stamina in games was very much welcome.
Kuroda also won over skeptical Yankee fans, who were absolutely stunned a National League pitcher could have success with the Yankees after the team had suffered through the likes of Javier Vazquez and Carl Pavano in previous seasons.
Kuroda will have to adjust this season without his favorite catcher in Martin. Martin, who caught Kuroda in his first three seasons with the Dodgers, elected to take his shin guards and his bat to the Pittsburgh Pirates. But that issue does not seem to be too great because both Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli have caught Kuroda since he became a Yankee.
The only real obstacle may be for Kuroda to stay on the mound long enough to allow the Yankees to get a lead for him in the late innings. With less firepower it also figures the Yankees will be in a lot of close games. That could mean a lot more no decisions for Kuroda.
Though Yankee fans would prefer to see a rotation made up of young hard-throwing starters, Kuroda allows the Yankees to buy time to let their young pitchers such as Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova and David Phelps to develop and also allows Michael Pineda, Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances to rebound from injuries and ineffectiveness.
That is not a bad tradeoff if Kuroda can duplicate his 2012 season. The Yankees will just be hoping for anything close to what he produced for them last season.
One thing is certain: With Kuroda pundits can no longer say the Yankees’ rotation is Sabathia and four other guys. Kuroda is just that good.
NEXT: ANDY PETTITTE
The New York Yankees will enter spring training with a virtually set starting rotation. That is a luxury among major league clubs but there are some concerns about the staff and how effective it will be. Let’s examine each starter individually in a five-part series that begins now.
CC SABATHIA (15-6, 3.38 ERA)
When the Yankees signed CC Sabathia in 2009 it was the purpose of establishing him the team’s ace. After four seasons in pinstripes there is no doubt that Sabathia has lived up to the obligation that went along with it.
In those four seasons, Sabathia has started 129 games and his cumulative record is 74-29, a .718 winning percentage. He also posted a 7-2 record in the postseason for the Yankees and he was a huge part of the Yankees’ 27th world championship in 2009.
He enters the 2013 season as the team’s unquestioned ace. But there are concerns.
The 6-foot-7, 290-pound left-hander at age 32 is entering a phase of his career where his physical conditioning and the soundness of his arm are paramount concerns.
Sabathia succumbed late last season to a groin injury and elbow soreness. That limited him to 200 innings after he had logged more than 230 innings in his three previous seasons.
Though Sabathia pitched the Yankees into the American League Championship Series by defeating the Baltimore Orioles twice in his two starts in the American League Division Series, he did not fare well in his only start against the Tigers. He gave up six runs (five earned) on 11 hits and two walks in just 3 2/3 innings as the Yankees were swept in the series.
Sabathia underwent surgery Oct. 26 to have a bone spur removed from his left elbow. The procedure was successful and Sabathia is expected to have no problems starting the season with the Yankees.
But manager Joe Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild plan to be very cautious with their ace in spring training.
Sabathia has resumed throwing after rehabbing three days a week at Yankee Stadium and two days a week in New York City after the surgery. Sabathia says he is feeling fine: “My flexibility is coming back. Hopefully, there are no delays between now and spring training, so I should be ready to go.”
The major concern with Sabathia has always been his girth. His weight has been a cause for alarm with the Yankees in the past. Added weight puts more strain on the knees and the groin and could have the effect causing arm problems as a player gets older.
So the Yankees will have to keep a close eye on Sabathia’s recovery from the elbow surgery, his weight and his conditioning heading into 2013. They will hope their veteran ace will have no setbacks and he can return to being the anchor of the Yankees’ rotation.
Of course, if you had asked general manager Brian Cashman in 2009 he would have hoped that the signing of Sabathia would had given the Yankees an opportunity to develop starting pitchers in their own system who could either augment Sabathia or even challenge him to be the team’s ace.
That process was started but not without some setbacks.
Phil Hughes, 26, showed a lot of promise as a setup man for Mariano Rivera in 2009 and as a starter in 2010. But right shoulder weakness in 2011 short-circuited his advancement. He was 16-13 with a 4.23 ERA last season but the Yankees no longer see him as a potential ace.
Ivan Nova, 26, was awesome in 2011 as a rookie when he was 16-4 and a 3.70 ERA but he regressed badly in 2012 (12-8 with a 5.02 ERA). He gave up 28 home runs in 170 1/3 innings. There are no guarantees he will be able to hold onto his spot in the rotation this spring.
David Phelps, 26, emerged last season as a potential starter, going 4-4 with a 3.34 ERA in a combination bullpen and spot starter role. Phelps will be competing with Nova for a spot this spring.
But the real disappointment has been the shoulder injury suffered by newly acquired right-hander Michael Pineda, 24, and the concerns about the team’s two top pitching prospects Manny Banuelos,21, and Dellin Betances, 24.
Pineda underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum and he hopes to be ready for spring training. But the Yankees are going to be very cautious with him. It seems likely Pineda will end up in extended spring training and the Yankees will evaluate his progress before sending him out for a minor-league rehab assignment. Pineda probably will not contribute to the Yankees until 2014.
Banuelos was the team’s No.1 prospect last season but he injured his left elbow at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season. After the Yankees downplayed the injury for months, Banuelos ended up undergoing Tommy John surgery and he will not pitch at all this season.
Betances struggled at Scranton with his command and was so bad he was shipped back to Double-A Trenton. He was not much better there. Betances has had issues at 6-foot-8 with repeating his delivery and his wildness has left his former prospect status in question entering 2013.
The disappointments have left Cashman no choice but to sign veterans like 37-year-old right-hander Hiroki Kuroda and 40-year-old left-hander Andy Pettitte to fill out a rotation that Cashman hoped would be much, much younger and filled with some talented hard-throwing youngsters.
While the Yankees continue to watch the progress of Hughes, Nova and Phelps and they pray for rebounds from Pineda, Banuelos and Betances, Sabathia remains the unquestioned king of the Yankee starters.
Based on his past success, there is no reason to doubt that if Sabathia is healthy and remains that way throughout the season, Sabathia will be successful. Sabathia is far from the young flamethrower he started out as with the Cleveland Indians in his rookie season in 2001.
Sabathia is much smarter now and has an wide assortment of pitches to get hitters out. He also has the uncanny ability to adjust his game plan on the fly to drop a pitch that is not working for one that will. He battles from the opening bell and he takes great pride in aiming to finish every game he starts.
That is one reason why the Yankees had no qualms about avoiding Sabathia opting out of his contract last season and they signed him to a $25 million contract extension through 2016 with a vesting option of another $25 million for 2017 if he remains healthy.
So the Yankees could have Sabathia in their rotation for five more years. Hopefully, by that time the Yankees will have surrounded him with a bevy of talented homegrown starters they brought up through their system. For Cashman it is all about continuing to buy time until that day comes.
Sabathia is a nice investment in the Yankees’ future. Though he paid amazing dividends so far, 2013 figures to be more of a challenge. The reason is the offense, particularly the team’s power, took a major hit when players who accounted for 94 of team’s home runs left as free agents.
That means the home run will not be as prominent weapon and the pitching staff is perhaps going to have to deal with a bit fewer runs in offensive support. Sabathia’s highest ERA with the Yankees was the 3.38 ERA he posted last season. That compares to his 3.37 ERA in his first season with the team.
So if there is any pitcher who can deal with fewer runs it would appear to be Sabathia. He is just going to have to limit the other team as much as he can and perhaps accept a few more no decisions.
The Yankees are lucky the big left-hander is just the competitive starter the team needs at the top of the rotation. As long as Sabathia is healthy he will give the team his best.
And his best is just about as good as it gets.
NEXT: HIROKI KURODA
Happy New Year to all my fellow fans. I recently posted a three-part series looking at the Yankees from their pitching, their bullpen and starting lineup. Now I intend to zero in on a look at them from a position-by-position standpoint. With spring training mere weeks away it seems an appropriate time to do this. Enjoy!
LEFTFIELD – BRETT GARDNER (7 Rs, 0 HRs, 3 RBIs, .323 BA, 2 SB)
Luck has always seemed to turn its back on Brett Gardner.
When he won a job in the Yankees’ outfield in 2009, he seemed to add a new dimension to the offense with his speed. But that season was cut short (108 games) due to a severe thumb injury he suffered sliding into base on a steal attempt.
He has always shown great promise to produce a season in which he would could hit close to .300, steal 60 bases and score tons of runs hitting in front of the Yankees’ powerful home run hitters.
He hit .277 in 2010 and stole 47 bases but he regressed a bit in 2011, when he hit .259 and stole 49 bases. A wrist injury contributed a lot to his hitting woes but surgery on the wrist appeared to have him primed for a big season in 2012.
He was hitting .321 in the 11th game of the season when he hustled in for a sinking line drive in a game against the Minnesota Twins at Yankee Stadium on April 17. Gardner dove for the ball and caught it but paid dearly by suffering a right elbow injury that landed him on the disabled list. In that game, Gardner hit two doubles, drew two walks, scored three runs, stole a base and drove in a run.
Unfortunately, Gardner would have only three more at-bats the rest of the season and they would come in the Yankees’ final series of the season against the Boston Red Sox.
In between, Gardner would have to suffer a series of stops and starts in his rehab that would baffle the Yankees’ medical staff and elbow specialists alike.
Gardner would rehab the elbow and then show enough progress for a minor-league rehab assignment. However, on two occasions last season Gardner had to shelve his rehab because of recurring pain in the elbow. Finally, Gardner underwent surgery, which ostensibly ended his season.
But the Yankees did see an opportunity to get Gardner ready to play in the playoffs as a potential pinch-runner and late-inning defensive replacement in the outfield. Gardner entered two games in the American League Division Series against the Baltimore Orioles as a defensive replacement and he was 0-for-8 with two stolen bases in three games in the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers.
But, when you add it all up, basically Gardner 2012 season was just wasted.
Gardner, 29, enters 2013 with a clean bill of health on his surgically repaired elbow. That was pretty much confirmed when Gardner was allowed to hit late in the season and in the playoffs. Hopefully he will be able to return to the same durable player who played in 159 games in 2011.
The Yankees hope so because with Gardner hurt and Eduardo Nunez sent back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the Yankees running game in 2012 was virtually non-existent until the Yankees acquired Ichiro Suzuki in a trade with the Seattle Mariners in June.
Gardner and Nunez had combined to steal 71 bases in 2011. Last season, in limited play, they stole only 13. The team leader was Suzuki with 14 despite the fact he played in just 67 games with the Yankees.
There is no doubt Gardner and 137 career steals were really missed by a Yankees’ team that had trouble scoring runs in every way except by hitting homers. Gardner provided the speed the Yankees needed and the base-running ability to make other teams make mistakes on pickoff attempts and throws.
The Yankees will have an opportunity to field a roster in 2013 that includes, Gardner, Nunez and Suzuki. They also could possibly get double-digit steals from Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson.
So the Yankees, minus power threats such as Nick Swisher, Raul Ibanez, Andruw, Jones, Russell Martin and Eric Chavez and with Alex Rodriguez out until at least June with a hip injury may have to remake their attack next season around stealing and taking extra bases to make up for the what they lack in power.
That may not be a bad thing considering the “waiting for the home run” approach did not work out so well once the playoffs began. Manager Joe Girardi has always favored a National League-style attack of getting runners on base and moving them aggressively around the bases.
But last season Gardner’s injury and Nunez’s demotion altered the attack to a power-only approach with a veteran-laden roster of players who were not fleet afoot.
Ibanez and Jones pretty much took over for Gardner in left field. Ibanez, 40, and Jones, 34, combined to hit 33 home runs and drive in 96 runs but they only combined to steal three bases and all of those were from the older Ibanez.
Neither Ibanez or Jones could match Gardner’s range and fielding prowess, despite the fact Jones won 10 Gold Gloves when he was a young star with the Atlanta Braves. This is where Gardner was truly missed.
There are scouts who believe that Gardner should have won a Gold Glove in 2011. It instead was awarded to Alex Gordon of the Kansas City Royals. Gardner has superior range, better instincts and a better arm than Gordon.
He had seven assists and he deterred a lot of base-runners rounding third for heading for home because he threw out 12 runners in his first season in 2009.
In fact, Gardner is so well thought of as a defensive outfielder that the Yankees are toying with the idea of moving him to centerfield this season and moving Granderson to left. Though Granderson does have excellent speed and he plays hard, the Yankees are not happy about how he tends to get late jumps and misreads fly balls.
Girardi is low-keying this idea but do not be surprised to see Gardner playing center this spring on the days Granderson is not. It also would not surprise me if Granderson plays some in left under the guise that the team “wants to see” rookie Melky Mesa in center.
Then Girardi likely will make an announcement late in the spring that Gardner and Granderson will switch. He would do this in order to make sure Granderson’s feelings aren’t damaged and he can probably justify it by saying leftfield is just as important to cover than center in Yankee Stadium, which is true.
Though speed and defense are constants in Gardner’s game, he still has some warts, too.
His bat can be erratic. Pitchers love to overpower him with hard stuff up and try to tie him up inside because of his past wrist issues. So instead of hitting line drives, Gardner hits weak pops and grounders.
Gardner also, for all his blinding speed, has never really developed into a very good bunter.
Gardner’s bunting is still a work in progress, which is hard to believe for a player who has played a combined seven major- and minor-league seasons. Juan Pierre practices bunting every day and he is the most accomplished bunter in the major leagues. If Gardner is not doing it than why not? And if he is practicing every day why is he not getting better?
Those are fair questions.
The other maddening part of Gardner’s game is that he does not have an aggressive nature on the bases. Gardner loves to wait for the right pitch and the right jump before taking a base. It sometimes rankles the hitters who are up when he is on because he just waits and wait and waits.
It is admirable that Gardner does not want to get thrown out but base-stealers have to have a riverboat gambler approach to it or they lose the intimidation factor on the bases. Rickey Henderson had the attitude that no one could throw him out. If you did manage to get him, he would dare you to do it again.
Gardner is much more passive and it shows. The Yankees will need him to develop that attitude and perhaps Suzuki could be of some help to him with it.
Even with these weaknesses in his game, Gardner is still going to be very important to the Yankees in 2013. Having him healthy will give the Yankees a genuine 50-plus base-stealing threat and a superb defensive outfielder roaming the vast expanses of Yankee Stadium.
After suffering through a frustrating year with that nagging elbow injury, Gardner seems primed for a big season. For Yankee fans often it is when you are sorely missed that fans take a better appreciation for what you do. My guess is they are going to really appreciate what Gardner gives them this season – if he can just stay healthy.
Happy New Year to all my fellow fans. I recently posted a three-part series looking at the Yankees from their pitching, their bullpen and starting lineup. Now I intend to zero in on a look at them from a position-by-position standpoint. With spring training mere weeks away it seems an appropriate time to do this. Enjoy!
FIRST BASE – MARK TEIXEIRA (24 HRs, 84 RBIs, .251 BA)
The one thing you could count on every season from Mark Teixeira was 30 or more home runs and 100 or more runs driven in. He had, after all, done it in eight consecutive seasons when the 2012 season began.
But for the first time since his rookie season with the Texas Rangers in 2003, Teixeira failed to reach those totals for the New York Yankees. A pulled calf muscle that limited him to only four at-bats in September took away any hope that Teixeira had to extend the streak.
It was hardly the season Teixeira had envisioned for himself after taking a lot of criticism for batting .256 in 2010 and a career-low .248 in 2011. Teixeira had pledged that he try to go back to hitting to “all fields” instead of the pull-happy approach he had developed with that inviting short porch in right-field at Yankee Stadium.
He even said he might bunt against the exaggerated shifts teams had employed against him when he was batting left-handed.
That never happened, however.
In fact, once Teixeira got off to another one of his annual slow starts in April (three home runs, 12 RBIs and a .244 average), he abandoned the “all fields” idea altogether and just hit. There is no doubt he would have likely reached 30 home runs and 100 RBIs had not suffered the injury, but Teixeira decision was also directed to Yankee fans.
He basically was telling them he was not going to be hitter that hit a combined .306 with the Rangers and the Atlanta Braves in 2007 and .308 with the Braves and Los Angeles Angels in 2008. He even was not going to be the player that hit .292 in his first season with the Yankees.
Nope. If Teixeira was to be the productive hitter the Yankees wanted him to be Yankee fans would just have to settle for .250 batting averages from now on. That is just going to be the way it is.
Teixeira, 32, is reaching the same stage Jason Giambi did after his Most Valuable Player season with the Oakland Athletics in 2001 when he hit .342 with 38 home runs and 138 RBIs.
Giambi hit .314 with 41 home runs and 122 RBIs in 2002 in his first season with the Yankees. Then his batting averages fell off a cliff to .250, .208 (in an injury-racked 2004 season), .271, .253, .236 and .247.
Teixeira is headed to similar fate and, though it does not make Yankee fans happy, it appears they will have to accept it because Teixeira has another four years on the eight-year, $180 million contract he signed with the team in 2009.
Yankee Stadium has actually become somewhat of ”The Killing Fields” for Teixeira. He hit just .218 with 12 home runs and 33 RBIs in 2012 while he hit .277 with 12 home runs and 51 RBIs on the road. That does not bode well looking ahead to 2013.
Teixeira is also having problems hitting right-handers. He hit only .239 against them last season while he hit .269 against lefties. That also does not look good when you consider he will bat a lot more left-handed than he will right-handed because of the dearth of quality left-hand pitching in baseball.
Like most of the Yankees last season, Teixeira also failed to hit well with runners in scoring position (.230) and with two outs in an inning (.190).
Unlike Giambi, however, Teixeira actually can play a little a defense and that is putting it mildly.
Teixeira is the gold standard of fielding first basemen. Last season he collected his fifth Gold Glove Award and his third since joining the Yankees. But the real story is how he won the award.
Teixeira committed just one error in 1,055 total chances for a fielding percentage of .999, which broke a Yankee record of .998 established by Don Mattingly in 1994 (two errors in 989 total chances). In fact, Teixeira’s .999 mark was the tenth best fielding mark recorded in the modern era (after 1900).
So to say Teixeira can play a little first base is like saying Jimi Hendrix could play a little guitar. Teixeira is simply the best fielding first baseman of his generation and there aren’t as many who are close.
Tex combines the range of the former third baseman he was and catlike reflexes that allow him to stop line drives and grounders that other first baseman would have left on the board as doubles down the line. Combine that with the fact that Teixeira saves his fellow Yankee infielders numerous errors by scooping and snagging poor throws to first, you have pretty much summed up what makes Teixeira special with the glove.
Here is another statistic for you: Teixeira committed 10 errors with the Rangers in 2004. In all of his major-league seasons since, Teixeira has not committed more than five errors. In his four seasons with the Yankees he has not committed more than four. Any way you slice it, Teixeira is very special as a fielder.
The biggest concern about Teixeira in 2013 has nothing to do with Teixeira himself. It has to do with who will back him at the position this season.
When Teixeira was injured last season, the Yankees had the luxury of being able to slide Nick Swisher in from right field or they could used veteran Eric Chavez if they needed another left-handed bat.
They will not have that ability this season. The Yankees elected to let Swisher sign a free-agent contract with the Cleveland Indians and Chavez opted to sign with the Arizona Diamondbacks. So the Yankees find themselves very thin at first base.
Of course, Teixeira has been somewhat durable throughout his career. He has played less than 145 games only twice in nine seasons. Last season was one of those.
Still, Yankee fans would feel more comfortable if the Yankees had someone like Swisher (24 home runs, 93 RBIs, .272 BA) or Chavez (16 HRs, 37 RBIs, .281 BA) playing behind Teixeira just in case they are needed.
For now Yankee fans have to hope that the acquisition off waivers of Cleveland Indians utility man Russ Canzler is the answer.
Canzler, 26, had three home runs, drove in 11 runs and hit .269 in just 98 at-bats in September with the Indians in 2012.
The right-handed Canzler can play first base, left field and serve as a designated hitter for the Yankees. He does have power in that he hit 22 home runs and drove in 79 runs in 130 games with Triple-A Columbus before being called by the Indians as a late-season addition to the roster.
Though Canzler did lead the International League in doubles (36) as well as home runs and RBIs, he is still a far cry for a proven veteran backup at first like Swisher and Chavez.
General manager Brian Cashman may still be looking to find a veteran to come into camp and bolster the bench.
Slick-fielding Casey Kotchman, 29, and Lyle Overbay, 36, are still available on the free-agent market. Of course, so are former Yankees Giambi, 41, and Nick Johnson, 34, but they are real longshots.
The Yankees also might look to the trade route. The point is don’t expect Canzler to be handed the backup job. He will have competition.
Of course, that competition will not be forthcoming from the Yankees’ minor-league system.
Steve Pearce, 29, came up for a brief period with the Yankees last season and hit .160 with one home run and four RBIs in 25 at-bats after he was released by the Houston Astros and he hit .318 with 11 home runs and 30 RBIs at Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre.
He signed a free-agent contract with the Baltimore Orioles for 2013.
Russell Branyan, 37, was invited to spring training in 2012 by the Yankees as a non-roster invitee but a back injury shelved him throughout camp and he played in only 36 games last season, hitting .309 with 11 home runs and 39 RBIs with Scranton.
However, Russell and his muscle bat have taken their act to spring camp with the Angels in 2013.
Addison Maruszak, 26, hit .276 with 16 home runs and 59 RBIs in 117 games at Double-A Trenton. Maruszak, a right-hand hitter, split time at first base with Luke Murton, 26, a left-hand hitter who hit .249 with 25 home runs and 68 RBIs in 126 games.
Though Murton led the Yankees’ minor leaguers in home runs, his and Maruszak’s advanced age at the Double-A level do not make them future prospects for the Yankees.
Kyle Roller, 24, hit .266 with 18 home runs and 85 RBIs in 121 games at Class-A Tampa in the Florida State League. He is perhaps worth watching in 2013 but he does not carry a high prospect label and he is several years away from helping the Yankees at the major-league level.
Because the Yankees do not have a proven major-league backup to Teixeira and their minor-league talent is severely lacking at first base, the position ranks as one of the weakest on the roster. Cashman is aware of this and it would seem to be a priority in the coming weeks to shore up the position before camp opens.
Nonetheless, the Yankees are lucky to have a durable starter in Teixeira to man the position. If he can be forgiven for hitting .250, his 30-plus home runs and 100-plus RBIs will be vital to the Yankees’ success in 2013. His glove actually is an even bigger asset.
Teixeira will likely bat between third and fifth in the Yankee lineup and with the loss of power hitters such as Swisher, Chavez, Raul Ibanez and Russell Martin and Alex Rodriguez on the shelf for at least half the season, Teixeira is a vital piece to the Yankee puzzle in 2013. Let’s hope he can stay healthy.
There is not much behind him on the depth chart.
NEXT: LEFT FIELD
Happy New Year to all my fellow fans. I recently posted a three-part series looking at the Yankees from their pitching, their bullpen and starting lineup. Now I intend to zero in on a look at them from a position-by-position standpoint. With spring training mere weeks away it seems an appropriate time to do this. Enjoy!
SHORTSTOP – DEREK JETER (99 R, 15 HRs, 58 RBIs, .316 BA, 9 SB)
To say that Derek Jeter is the living, breathing embodiment of all of what the New York Yankees is about is pretty obvious.
Jeter has been the face of the franchise since he was a rookie in 1996 and, at age 38, he still plays with the same youthful enthusiasm and holds an appreciation for the game he loves so dearly.
This season Jeter does not have to overcome the whispers that he is a washed up player on the downside of a brilliant career. He collected a major-league-best 216 hits last season and his batting average was actually three points higher than his career average of .313.
After a 2010 season in which he hit .270 and he spent the first half of the 2011 languishing around .250, Jeter rediscovered his “old stroke” while rehabbing a calf injury over the All-Star break and he has not stopped hitting since. The whispers about his age have been muted.
In fact, he was the team’s Most Valuable Player in 2012.
Of course, age not only brings wisdom. It also invites nagging injuries and Jeter had a brush with that reality during the Yankees’ pennant push in 2012. A deep bruise on his left ankle had him hobbling most of the latter stages of the season. Perhaps he should have sat out a week but Jeter insisted on playing to help his team win the division.
Then he led them to a victory in five games in the American League Division Series over the Baltimore Orioles by hitting a robust .364.
He had high hopes of leading them to a victory in the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers but the noble team captain fractured his ankle in the 12th inning of the game of the series and the Yankees went down in flames in four straight games to the Motor City Kitties.
Jeter had surgery on the ankle in October and Jeter will need four to five months to recover from the procedure. That puts his participation in spring training in question. Manager Joe Girardi said that he will not count out his 13-time All-Star shortstop from playing on Opening Day.
Jeter is reportedly in Tampa, FL, but he is keeping weight off his ankle. So a lot of Jeter’s preparation and conditioning work for the 2013 season will be delayed. That likely means you will not see much of Jeter during the exhibition season, which begins on Feb. 23.
The Yankees obviously will take a very cautious approach with Jeter throughout the spring. If it were any other player, you would doubt he would be ready for the opening bell. But Jeter has a way of surprising Yankee fans.
The question will be what kind of season will Jeter have? Will he continue to hit as he did in last season or will he regress to what he did in 2010?
Much of that answer rides on how healthy Jeter will be and how healthy he can remain for the 162-game schedule. Yankee fans know enough about Jeter to know that if he is 100 percent and he can stay healthy that he likely will come very close to his 2012 numbers.
Jeter spent most of the season as the team’s leadoff hitter, a role he pretty much has held for the past four seasons. Though he never again will approach his career high of 34 stolen bases in 2006, Jeter remains one of the smartest base-runners in the game.
He rarely gets picked off, thrown out stealing or fails to take an extra base when he can. His instincts are impeccable and he can steal a base when he asked to do so.
The biggest question Jeter will face in 2013 will come in the field even though Jeter has won five Gold Gloves in his career. Range for a 38-year-old shortstop is already a question. The larger question is will the ankle injury cut down his range further?
The Yankees won’t know until they see how Jeter plays in the field this season. Two things are in Jeter’s favor, however.
First, as a veteran who knows where to play the hitters, Jeter is able to get to balls a more inexperienced shortstop might not anticipate. The second thing is that Jeter rarely makes careless errors on the balls he does reach. In 133 starts at shortstop last season, Jeter committed only 10 errors, two less than he committed in 2011 in 121 starts.
His .980 fielding percentage was four points above his career mark. So Jeter is no slouch in the field despite his shortcomings with his range.
One thing will be clear during spring training, Yankee fans will see a lot of Eduardo Nunez at the position.
Nunez, 25, would be considered the heir apparent to Jeter if Jeter did not have two seasons left on his contract with the Yankees. After all, in 180 major-league games Nunez has a .272 average with seven home runs and 48 RBIs and 38 stolen bases.
As a right-hand batter Nunez has a line-drive stroke that finds the gaps and he can run like the wind on the bases. The Yankees think he could start for a lot of teams at shortstop because of his bat and his athleticism. But there is huge caveat here.
Nunez has been unable to harness his skills in the field. There is no doubt Nunez has superior range to any shortstop the Yankees have had in recent memory. But Nunez also is inclined to make careless fielding and throwing errors, hence his nickname among Yankee fans as “Eduardo Scissorhands.”
He began the 2012 season as the Yankees’ backup infielder. But after committing a series of baffling errors at third base in early May, Girardi and the front office elected to ship Nunez back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre with the idea of returning him to exclusively at shortstop.
Nunez, however, was unable to hone his skills much because he landed on the disabled list for a huge chunk of the season with a right hand injury.
The reason the Yankees still have him on the roster is they would need him if Jeter were somehow unable to return for the first part of the season or if he suffered some sort of setback in his rehab.
Nunez could open 2013 as the starting shortstop and then could remain as a right-hand designated hitter and backup middle infielder for the Yankees because his bat and his speed could be desperately needed on a team that has much less power than it had in 2012.
Nunez actually led the Yankees in steals for much of the season, even though he was sent out in May, until Alex Rodriguez and Ichiro Suzuki passed him for the team lead in September. That is how bad the Yankees fell off in stolen bases in 2012. Nunez ended up with 17 stolen bases in just 44 games.
Over a full season, Nunez could easily reach 30 to 40 bases and Girardi might see a lot of value in that.
The Yankees also have veteran infielder Jayson Nix to play shortstop.
Nix was signed as a minor-league free-agent and invited to spring training last season. He hit well over .300 in the spring and impressed the team enough to get an assignment to Scranton. When Nunez was shipped out, Nix was pressed into service and he had a solid season.
Nix, 30, hit .243 with four home runs and 18 RBIs and filled in well at second, third and short. He also played some outfield. Though Nix will never wow you with his bat or his glove, he also does not make careless mistakes in the field either. He committed only four errors in the 52 games he started last season.
Nix was designated for assignment by the Yankees on Nov. 30 to make room on the 40-man roster for reliever Mariano Rivera, who was re-signed to a one-year contract. But Nix agreed that of he was not picked up by another team he would accept assignment to Scranton.
So Nix will be invited to spring training with the same opportunity he was offered last season. He will have a leg up on Nunez because Nix can play third and Nunez likely will not be used there again.
There is a chance that if Jeter proves he is healthy and Nix has a good spring that Nunez could be packaged in a deal for players the Yankees might need for the roster. The Yankees are looking for a backup corner infielder to replace Eric Chavez, who signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Nunez may be the best trade bait the Yankees have right now.
In the minor leagues, the Yankees have a trio of middle infielders who are among their Top 20 prospects, however, only one of them has reached Double-A Trenton. So help at this position is years away.
Jose Pirela, 23, was signed as shortstop but has played all over the diamond. The 5-foot-10, 191-pounder out of Venezuela hit .293 with eight home runs and 33 RBIs in 82 games at Trenton last season. He has line-drive power and only average speed. He is now being thought of as a potential middle-infield backup at the major-league level.
Angelo Gumbs, 20, was also signed as shortstop out of high school in Southern California but he played his first two seasons as a second baseman. The team’s No. 8 prospect hit .272 with seven home runs, 33 RBIs and 26 stolen bases in 67 games at Class-A Charleston last season. An elbow injury he suffered in June shelved him for the rest of the season.
Gumbs is very raw but he does show promise as a hitter and he plays with an all-out style scouts love.
Austin Aune, 19, is a pure shortstop who hit .273 with a home run and 20 RBIs while stealing six bases in 39 games at Class-A Tampa in the Gulf Coast League. Aune is a potential five-tool player out of Texas who bats left-handed with plus power. He has good range and a great arm at short but the former two-sport star who spurned Texas Christian to sign with Yankees may end up as an outfielder at some point.
The Yankees know their future at the position is a long way off. The immediate concern is getting their captain and their leader Jeter healthy for the coming season. Though 38-year-olds tend to take longer to heal, Jeter is more than capable of making a full recovery in time for the start of the season.
The Yankees are lucky to Nunez available to play until Jeter is ready. Nix provides even more insurance at this position.
Shortstop does not to be appear to be a major concern. The only way it would is if Jeter has a major setback and Nunez is traded. A season with Nix starting at short would be disaster. The Yankees still need Jeter as much as Jeter needs them.
NEXT: SECOND BASE