YANKEES 3, BRAVES (SS) 0
TAMPA – Just when it looked like the Yankees were looking so bad pitching, hitting and fielding they would not win another Grapefruit League game the stars aligned and everything went right for a change.
The Yankees got two-out RBI hits from Nick Swisher and Melky Mesa, Freddy (The Chief) Garcia and five other Yankee pitchers blanked the Braves on just five hits and the defense played flawlessly as New York downed an Atlanta split squad on sun-plashed Friday afternoon at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Garcia (1-0) looked sharp in his three innings of work, giving up a hit and a walk and striking out two using his assortment of split-finger fastballs, change-ups and sliders. Garcia threw only 33 pitches and 20 of them were strikes as he took s huge step forward in his battle for a spot in the starting rotation.
Julio Teheran (0-1) took the loss, giving up one run on three hits and one walk and he struck out three batters. Tehetan gave up six home runs in just two innings in his last outing against the Detroit Tigers on Sunday. So even though he lost he probably felt a lot better about this performance.
The Yankees scored a run in the first after first baseman Freddie Freeman could not a complete a double play on a grounder off the bat of Robinson Cano. It allowed Derek Jeter to reach second and Swisher made the Braves pay for the bobble when he laced a double off the base of the left-field wall, allowing Jeter to coast home.
The Yankees added a run off Braves right-hander Cristhian Martinez in the fifth when Jeter drew a one-out walk and advanced to third on a single by Curtis Granderson. Cano then lofted a sacrifice fly to medium center-field to score Jeter.
The Yankees final run came in the seventh with two out. Doug Bernier hit a looping fly into right-center off Braves reliever Adam Russell and he hustled it into a double. Mesa followed with a broken-bat looper to right that dropped in score Bernier and cap the Yankees scoring.
The Yankees improved their spring ledger to 3-4. The Braves dropped to 1-6.
- Garcia appeared as if he were toying with the young Brave hitters – taking a little off this and adding a bit to that, Garcia pretty much used his entire arsenal. He looked excellent in doing so, keeping the Braves off balance through all three innings. This is not good news for Phil Hughes, who must step up his game in order to stay in the running for a starting spot.
- The Yankees’ No. 1 minor-league prospect, 20-year-old lefty Manny Banuelos, tossed a very impressive two innings. He gave up two hits, walked none and struck out three. He struck out Jose Constanza looking with two out and Brandon Hicks at second base in the fifth and he fanned Freddie Freeman on foul-tipped check-swing with Michael Bourn on second and two out in the sixth. Banuelos has drawn nothing but raves since he arrived at camp.
- Rafael Soriano needed just nine pitches to retire the Braves in order in the fourth inning. Soriano has looked sharp in both of his appearances this spring.
- Catcher Russell Martin turned in a gem of a defensive play in the third inning. Leading off the inning, Bourn dropped a bunt down to the left in front of home plate. Martin uncoiled out of his crouch, pounced on the ball, stopped on a dime and threw out Bourn at first.
- I hate to complain on a day when the Yankees did play well but Chris Dickerson had a day to forget as the designated hitter. With one out in the second inning and Martin at third base , Dickerson struck out swinging. In the fourth inning, with two out and Martin at second he struck out looking.
- In that same fourth inning, Eric Chavez committed a bad base-running blunder that cost the Yankees. He doubled to lead off the frame but he was thrown out trying to advance to third on a Martin grounder to shortstop Tyler Pastornicky. The baseball rule states that you do not advance if the ball is in front of you.
- The Yankees were 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position. That is OK when the pitching is good but the Yankees need to get better in these situations so they can be competitive when their pitching is not so good.
After a shutout victory the Yankees got even better news concerning All-Star reliever David Robertson. Tests on Robertson’s right foot indicate he only has a bone bruise and his walking boot will be removed on Sunday. Robertson injured his foot on Wednesday at his home when he slipped on a step carrying some empty boxes. After an initial scan showed some cause for concern, Robertson made two trips to a Tampa hospital on Thursday for X-rays, a CT scan, an MRI and a weight-bearing X-ray on his injured foot. All the tests showed a simple bone bruise. Manager Joe Girardi called the diagnosis “as good as it gets for us.” Robertson will likely miss about a week before he can resume getting ready for th 2012 season. . . . Eduardo Nunez also got some good news on Friday. A CT scan on his bruised right hand was negative. Nunez reported some discomfort in his hand when he took batting practice on Thursday. Nunez was injured when he was struck on the hand on a pitch from the Phillies’ Austin Hyatt on Monday. He will not play on Saturday and is listed as day-to-day. . . . Meanwhile, catcher Austin Romine and first baseman and DH Russell Branyan remain sidelined with back inflammation. There is no timetable for them to play in spring exhibition games.
After playing host to the Braves, the Yankees will visit the Braves at Lake Buena Vista, FL., on Saturday.
The Yankees are scheduled to start 23-year-old right-hander Michael Pineda. He will be making his second spring start. Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Brett Gardner and Raul Ibanez will make the trip for the Yankees.
The Braves will start right-hander Jair Jurrjens.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EST and the game will not be telecast.