Phelps Stumbles As Twins Humble Hapless Yanks

GAME 26

TWINS 6, YANKEES 1

TAMPA  –  When Robinson Cano returned from the World Baseball Classic to the Yankees’ clubhouse at George M. Steinbrenner Field he must have looked around and said to himself  “Who are these guys?” Cano and “those guys” then proceeded on Thursday to lose to a team of nobodies on the Twins.

Drew Butera hit a bases-clearing double as part of a five-run fourth inning and Liam Hendriks gave up one unearned run in four innings of one-hit baseball as Minnesota embarrassed New York in front of a paid crowd of 10,698.

Phelps (2-3), who is vying to be the fifth starter this spring, could not locate any of his pitches and he was hammered for six hits, he walked three and he struck out six in 3 2/3 innings until he was mercifully removed from the game by manager Joe Girardi.

Hendriks (2-1) gave up the Yankees’ lone run in the fourth inning when Cano picked up the team’s first hit with a single. After Kevin Youkilis walked, left-fielder Joe Benson misplayed Travis Hafner’s opposite field fly ball to allow Cano to score.

With the loss the Yankees are now 10-16 in Grapefruit League play. The Twins, minus Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, improved to 12-12.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Cano returned to the lineup and was 1-for-2 with a run scored. He better get used to being the team’s lone contributor this season because that was the only hit the Yankees picked up in the entire game.
  • Mariano Rivera gave up a leadoff single in the fifth inning and then he got serious and struck out Benson, Butera and Pedro Florimon in succession to end the inning. It may be comforting for Yankee fans to Rivera in the closer’s role for one last season. It is hard to see how he will have many games to save the way the team is playing now.
  • One would guess that in only getting one hit that the players are now well rested and ready to get a few more hits on Friday.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • In his first four starts, Phelps was sailing along with a 2.37 ERA. In his last two starts, he has given up nine runs on 13 hits and four walks in 8 2/3 innings. His battle to unseat Ivan Nova as the No. 5 starter appears to be in great jeopardy at the moment.
  • Players always say when they don’t hit a certain pitcher that you have to “tip your cap to them.” Well, the Yankees have been tipping their cap to a lot of ordinary pitchers this spring. Hendriks was 1-8 with a 5.59 ERA in 16 starts with the Twins last season. Cole De Vries and Pedro Hernandez no-hit them over the final five innings. The sad thing is the Yankees were playing what will be most of their Opening Day lineup if Derek Jeter starts the season on the disabled list.
  • In addition to his shoddy pitching, Phelps did not help himself with a pair of poor pickoff throws. He was charged with just one error because the other error was charged to Cano. But Phelps allowed the Twins to force him into making a lot of mistakes and he paid for them.

BOMBER BANTER

General manager Brian Cashman said Thursday that Jeter will not play in any more spring training games to allow the team to be able to backdate him to the earliest date should he be placed on the disabled list to start the season. Jeter will play in minor-league games so the team could have him available for an April 6 game against the Detroit Tigers. Jeter is recovering from surgery to repair a fractured left ankle and he suffered a setback this week which required him to receive cortisone injection to alleviate soreness in the ankle. The Yankees are still hopeful Jeter will be able to play on Opening Day.

ON DECK

The Yankees will a complete a home-and-home short series against the Twins with a road visit to Fort Myers, FL, on Friday.

Nova, who is 1-0 with a 3.21 ERA his four spring starts, will pitch for the Yankees. He will be opposed by the world famous Vance Worley, who figures to be the Twins’ Opening Day starter. If Worley no-hits the Yankees it will be time for Yankee fans to panic.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. and the game will not be broadcast. That could spare the Yankees a lot of public embarrassment.

 

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