YANKEES (SS) 4, PHILLIES 1
Didi Gregorius capped a three-run inning in the fourth with an RBI double and made a sensational play in the field in the first as a New York split squad downed Philadelphia on a damp and rainy day at Bright House Field in Clearwater, FL.
Rookie right-hander Bryan Mitchell set the tone for the Yankees’ pitchers by facing the minimum in two innings. Jaron Long (1-0), the son of former hitting coach Kevin Long, took over for Mitchell and pitched a scoreless third to get credit for the victory. Branden Pinder did not give up a run in the final two innings to earn a save.
The Yankees batted around in the fourth off losing pitcher Michael Nesseth (0-1).
Mark Teixeira singled to begin the inning and Greg Bird followed with an RBI double to score Kyle Roller, who pinch-ran for Teixiera. One out later, Ramon Flores plated Bird with a single. Two batters later, Gregorius scored Aaron Judge with a ringing double off the wall in right-center.
The Yankees added a run in the sixth on an RBI single by Nick Noonan.
The Phillies scored their lone run when Xavier Paul led off the seventh with a home run off the first offering from right-hander Mark Montgomery.
Replacing a legend is not easy but Gregorius does not see himself as replacing Derek Jeter. He says that he is playing the same position Jeter did.
But he is not going to try to be Jeter. He is just going to be the best Gregorius he can be.
That was on display on Friday when speedy Odubel Herrera, who stole three bases in an exhibition game against the Yankees on Wednesday, slapped a high hopper to Gregorius’ left to start the game.
Aware of Herrera’s speed, Gregorius quickly gloved the ball, did a 360-degree spin behind the bag and fired a strike to Teixeira at first to beat Herrera by a step. Then, after a Freddy Galvis single, Mitchell fielded a Grady Sizemore comebacker, whirled to throw to Gregorius covering second and the 25-year-old shortstop lost the grip on the ball.
After recovering the ball, Gregorius fired quickly to first to nip Sizemore on what was a nifty recovery to save the double play.
Yankee fans realize though Jeter won five Gold Gloves in his storied career that his range over the past few seasons was not that good. Watching Gregorius glide to his right and to his left makes this new shortstop very dynamic.
His skills are going to be very obvious. Defense is no problem.
But when Gregorius added the RBI double in the fourth, it gave manager Joe Girardi a sign that just maybe there may be a bonus if Gregorius’ offense improves.
For now, it is only spring training. There will be time to develop that offense. It will just take a little time and a little patience. But get used to seeing Didi’s plays on ESPN pretty frequently. He is that good.
- Yankee pitchers Mitchell, Long, Nick Goody, Matt Tracy, Montgomery and Pinder held the Phillies to only four hits. They struck out four and walked two. Mitchell, 23, made his major-league debut last season and he was impressive in his two innings. Mitchell has an outside shot at making the team as a reliever but more likely will go to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre as a starter and be available as a emergency starter should the Yankees require one.
- The Yankees succeeded with a very balanced offense. They rapped out 10 hits in the game and no player collected more than one. Phillies pitchers made things harder for themselves by issuing six walks.
- Bird continues to impress with the bat. The 22-year-old power-hitting first baseman broke open the scoring with a double in the fourth and he is hitting .429 in the early going. With Teixeira entrenched at first for a few more years the Yankees can afford to allow the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Bird develop as a hitter. He batted .271 with 14 homers and 43 RBIs in 102 games in two minor-league stops last season.
- The only real negative was that the Yankees struck out 11 times in the game. Top catching prospect Gary Sanchez, 22, went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.
The features BOMBER BANTER and ON DECK will be included in the next post.