Tagged: Andrew Brackman

Banuelos Tops List Of Six Young Yankee Starters

With the advent of the free-agent signing season coming, the New York Yankees obviously are in the market for some starting pitching help. We have already detailed the Yankees’ likely interest in the Rangers’ C.J. Wilson, Japanese star Yu Darvish and longtime White Sox ace Mark Buerhle. But what if the best laid plans of general manager Brian Cashman do not work out as planned and the Yankees sign none of those players? What if they are unable to make a trade for a starter? Let’s see if there is a creditable Plan C if free agents and trades are unavailable. This is a two-part report. The first part already dealt with the Yankees options at the major-league level. Part two will deal with their minor-league options.


Yankee history is littered with young pitchers they developed only to use as in trades for more experienced hitters or pitchers. For years the veteran pitchers the Yankees acquired fizzled and the young pitchers they let go later on helped other teams.

The list includes Jose Rijo, Doug Drabek, Al Leiter, Ted Lilly and look at the record Ian Kennedy posted with the Arizona Diamondbacks last season.

But general manager Brian Cashman would eventually like to end that history. The problem is with the Yankees always aiming their sights on winning the World Series it is hard to allow young pitchers develop at the major-league level as other teams might. Patience is a virtue that the Yankees have never shown with very many pitchers they have developed. That possibly could change soon.

The Yankees boast a collection of six pitchers who can potentially contribute as starters with the Yankees in 2012. They include: right-hander Hector Noesi, right-hander Adam Warren, right-hander D.J. Mitchell, right-hander David Phelps, right-hander Dellin Betances and left-hander Manny Banuelos.

Let’s look at each one and see if any of them have the potential to help the Yankees in 2012:


Noesi, 24, pitched most of the season in bullpen for the Yankees, logging 56 1/3 innings in 28 relief stints and two late-season spot starts. He was 2-2 with a 4.47 ERA. At Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, he was 1-1 with a 3.28 ERA in five starts.

Despite the fact he was needed to fill a spot in the bullpen in 2011, he is still considered a starter by the Yankees. He also comes into spring training with a leg up on the other five because he has the most major-league experience and manager Joe Girardi was comfortable using him out of the bullpen down the stretch.

Noesi’s main calling card is his exceptional control. But he did walk 3.5 batters per nine innings with the Yankees last season. He also gave up six home runs, which would translate to 24 in a 200-inning season. But Noesi was nevertheless effective enough as a middle-inning reliever to stay with the club.

Noesi was slow to reach the majors because he underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in 2007. But he rose like a meteor in the Yankees’ eyes because of his exceptional minor-league walk rate of 1.6 and an exceptional 2009 season with Double-A Trenton and Scranton. Last season, Noesi was considered a “second-tier” pitching prospect behind Betances, Banuelos and Andrew Brackman (who has since been released). Noesi has a nice 91-94 mph fastball and a decent curve and change-up. But his long-term pitching prospects with the Yankees are clouded because so many other pitchers in the organization have what is perceived to be better stuff.

So Noesi must enter spring training throwing strikes and proving he can get outs without having what would be considered strikeout stuff. If he exhibits any sign of wildness or a propensity to give up gopher balls in the spring, he is likely to be ticketed for Scranton again. But if injuries should crop up in the bullpen, Noesi could be offered a return engagement since he did not embarrass himself there in 2011.


Mitchell is also 24 and he put a pretty good season together at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2011. He was 13-9 with a 3.18 ERA and was the ace of the staff.

The 6-foot, 175-pound right-hander also struck out 112 batters and walked 63 in 161 1/3 innings. He is part of a trio of right-handers (along with Warren and Phelps) who were selected in the draft as college players. Mitchell attended Clemson and was selected in the 10th round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.

Mitchell has an excellent two-seam fastball, which translated into an impressive 62% ground-ball rate in the minors. He also has a smooth and controlled delivery. Scouts believe his two-seam fastball is enough of a weapon to get him and keep him in the major leagues. Mitchell can not only induce ground balls with his sinker, he can strike out batters with also.

Mitchell is still working on his secondary pitches and his curve has developed into a plus pitch, too. His four-seam fastball sits in the 91-93 mph range and he is even developing a cutter to use on left-handed batters. His change-up needs a lot of work.

Mitchell’s stuff is good enough to help the Yankees at some point but it is unclear whether that will come as a starter or as a reliever. Mitchell enters spring training as a longshot to make the Yankees’ starting rotation but he might be an excellent choice for a in-season call-up to fill in as a starter or reliever. He could actually benefit from another season at Triple-A to fully develop his secondary pitches.

There is a lot to like about Mitchell. It is just up to him to step up his game when he is given chances to pitch in spring training.


Unlike Mitchell, Warren has been on a fast-track to the major leagues despite the fact he is also 24.

Warren is a 6-foot-2, 210-pound right-hander the Yankees selected in the fourth round of the 2009 draft out of the University of North Carolina. Like Mitchell he spent all of the 2011 season at Scranton.

His record was nothing special at 6-8 but his ERA was 3.60 and he fanned 111 batters and walked 53 in 152 1/3 innings. Like Mitchell, Warren is a command and control pitcher who will not blow hitters away. He pitches in the 88-92 mph range and pounds the strike zone and changes speed on his pitches well.

He gets a lot of ground balls off his two-seam fastball and change-up but he needs work on some of his other secondary pitches like his curve and slider. Warren has pitched in high=pressure games at North Carolina and he has a competitive streak in him. The question becomes how high is Warren’s ceiling?

At this stage, Warren might make a nice No. 4 starter someday but he lacks the weapons to be considered anything more. He will get an honest look in spring training and you can’t help but root for a guy who flew under the radar for the past two seasons before his rise to Scranton last season.

The Yankees are hopeful he will be able to contribute down the road but Warren looks like a lock to spend the season back with Scranton.


If you ask Cashman about Phelps, his first reaction is a wide smile. Phelps, also 24, is one of those pitchers who has a habit of exceeding expectations.

Last season, Phelps began pitching at Double-A Trenton and was promoted quickly to Scranton. His combined numbers were a modest 7-7 with an eye-popping 2.99 ERA. Even more impressive was his 95 K’s and just 27 walks in 114 1/3 innings.

Phelps was selected by the Yankees in the 14th round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft out of Notre Dame. Phelps was written off by a lot of scouts after his junior season at Notre Dame did not measure up to his spectacular sophomore season in which he was 8-5 with a 1.88 ERA in 15 starts.

Phelps promptly became the ace of his rookie Staten Island team in 2008 and he has succeeded at every level he has pitched since. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound right-hander just exudes confidence on the mound and he attacks hitters despite not possessing an above-average fastball.

Phelps throws in the low 90s but has impeccable control, as the 27 walks he issued in 2011 indicate. What sets Phelps apart from Warren and Mitchell is his slider, which translated into a 7.51 K rate at Class-A Tampa. His pitches to contact and that also keeps his pitch count down.

His deceptive delivery actually makes his average fastball seem livelier than it actually is and Phelps is an absolute bulldog on the mound, brimming with confidence to throw any of his pitches in any count.

There are a lot of pitchers like Phelps in the minor leagues. Some make it to the majors and some don’t. The Yankees actually might motivate Phelps by betting that he won’t because Phelps is determined to prove doubters wrong and be successful in the major leagues. Don’t bet against him.

This spring training the Yankees hope to see that Phelps has improved his curve and change-up. The rest of the arsenal is there and Phelps already has the makeup any pitching coach would love all his pitchers to have. Phelps is the most likely of the three college right-handers who could be of help in 2012.

Of course, that could come as a starter or a reliever, given what the Yankees may need. Phelps has a chance, like Ivan Nova, to develop into a nice starter for the Yankees at some point. It is just a matter of time. But he will be a middle of the rotation guy, at best. But isn’t it there where the Yankees need the help?


He is Brooklyn boy, though at 6-foot-8 and 245 pounds, he is very large boy at age 23.

Betances was selected by the Yankees in the eight round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft despite the fact the velocity on his pitches dropped in his senior season at Grand Street Campus High School.

But the tall righty overcame that and some forearm tightness in his first minor-league season to pitch very well with Charleston in the South Atlantic League in 2008. Betances was 9-4 with a 3.87 ERA and 135 strikeouts in 115 1/3 innings. That caught the Yankees’ attention and he advanced to Class-A Tampa in 2009.

But Betances was shut down with elbow pain and ended up having elbow reinforcement surgery. But he overcame that and became one of the prize pitchers in the Yankees’ farm system with a 8-1 record and an eye-popping 1.77 ERA in 14 starts for Tampa. He struck out 88 batters in 71 innings.

I guess the elbow was fixed.

It was no surprise that a lot of Yankees wanted Betances to succeed in spring training in 2011. He and Banuelos had their every move documented for fans interested in seeing the two most prized pitching prospects in the organization. But it was a foregone conclusion that Betances would be sent to Double-A Trenton to work on his command and his secondary pitches.

Betances features gas. He can dial it up to 98 mph on his fastball but he throws in the mid-90s mostly. His height allows him to force a downward plane on his pitches so the Yankees want him to work on a two-seam fastball. He also features a power knuckle curve that could be a solid swing-and-miss pitch for him. He has pretty good command of the curve.

Betances’ weakness is his large frame. Much like CC Sabathia at a young age, Betances finds that it is hard to keep his balance in his delivery. When he flies open he is apt to miss with his pitches, fall behind in counts and either he gets hit or walks batters. Finding a consistent release point is a struggle for him.

Last season, Betances was a combined 4-9 with a 3.70 ERA between Trenton and Scranton. He struck out 142 in 126 1/3 innings. But he also walked 70.

Betances is a pitcher worth being patient with because he is a potential front-of-the-rotation pitcher. If he stays healthy and progresses in finding a way to repeat his delivery consistently he could one of the best pitchers the Yankees have developed in their minor-league system. He is that good.

He will get a long look in spring training but realistically it would be very surprising if Cashman would allow Betances to make the 2012 major-league roster. Betances really needs to put in a season at Triple-A honing his craft. If he was pitching for a team like Kansas City he could learn at the major-league level. But not with the Yankees.

Cashman believes in being cautious especially given Betances’ past elbow problems. Betances could be called up late in the 2012 season when the rosters expand. But set your clock on him for 2013. That is when he should get a shot to make the rotation.


At age 20, Banuelos is already a legend in smart Yankee circles.

The reason is that Banuelos’ promise is limitless and there is so much to like about the 5-foot-11, 155-pound left-hander.

Signed as a non-drafted free agent in March 2008 out of Vergelito, Mexico, Banuelos impressed the Yankee scout who signed him just when he was warming up with his brother before showing the scout what he could really do. The scout marveled at the ease in which the ball came out of Banuelos’ hand.

He advised the Yankees he needed to sign him quickly and the rest is history.

Banuelos features a fastball, a change-up and a curve. But the pitch that draws the most raves is actually the change-up because so few young pitchers ever truly master the pitch. Banuelos has a quality change-up that makes his fastball even more deadly. Betances has better velocity on his fastball. But because of Banuelos’ change-up his 92 mph fastball looks like it 100 mph compared to it.

Banuelos, unlike Betances, has a nice, free-and-easy motion that makes it easy for him repeat his delivery over and over again. That also means he can maintain control and Banuelos – at a tender age – has learned how to add and subtract his pitches. That makes him special and it also places him as the No. 1 pitching prospect in the Yankees’ farm system.

Last spring training, Banuelos was pressed into starting against the Red Sox in a spring training start in Tampa. The most impressive pitch Banuelos threw was a 3-2 change-up that absolutely stunned Jason Varitek. Varitek watched it glide over the plate, shook his head and walked back into the dugout stunned.

The legend of Banuelos was born.

There was some hope the Yankees might promote Banuelos to pitch out of the bullpen for the stretch drive, given their need for a second lefty. But Banuelos was just 6-7 with a 3.75 ERA and he struck out 125 and walked 71 in 129 2/3 innings between stints at Trenton and Scranton. The Yankees felt his control needed more refining before they could bring him up.

So Banuelos will get his chance to pitch a lot in spring training in 2012 but he is likely going to be ticketed for Scranton. (If you have some money to bet you might want to put it on Scranton winning the International League with its projected starters).

But do not bet against Banuelos making it up to the majors at some point in 2012 – as a starter or reliever. Make no mistake, Banuelos has a chance to be a very special pitcher for the Yankees and that is the reason Yankee fans absolutely buzz about him as much as they do about Jesus Montero.


The Yankees are well-stocked with pitchers just on the verge of making the major leagues as starters. You would think the Yankees would be looking to push a few into what is undoubtedly the biggest weakness on the team in 2012. But the Yankees are not a team who promote young pitchers and ask them to take them to a World Series.

The Yankees look for veterans and free agents who can buy them time to develop pitchers to either promote or trade.

At the moment, Mitchell, Noesi and Warren are the most advanced of the young pitchers in experience. However, they also are the pitchers with lower ceilings. One of them could surprise but they likely will either stay in Triple-A or be dealt or released down the line.

But Phelps, Betances and Banuelos are worth watching. They seem to have the ability, they know how to pitch and they are determined to make it to the major leagues. Phelps is loaded with heart, Banuelos is wise beyond his years and Betances looks like a budding right-handed version of Sabathia.

Though 2013 looks like the year they might reach the big stage, don’t be shocked if any one or all three of them pitch in some capacity for the Yankees in 2012.

Like the old saying goes: “You can never have enough pitching.”

Wilson, Darvish Top Yankees’ Winter Shopping List

With the disappointing loss to the Detroit Tigers in the American League Divisional Series a distant bad memory, the New York Yankees will look to reconstruct a championship caliber team for the 2012 season. To that end let’s look at what possible moves the Yankees might make to improve their roster. It might seem like a daunting task. But it sure could be worse. Think how tough a time the Boston Red Sox will have rebuilding without general manager Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona.

PART 1 – Starting Pitching

PRIORITY NO. 3 – Finding help with free agents or trades

Looking at the New York Yankees’ starting rotation you have the possible loss of CC Sabathia, the return of injured right-hander Phil Hughes, the return of severely underperforming and overpaid right-hander A.J. Burnett, the sophomore season for rookie surprise Ivan Nova and the likely release of free agents Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon.

Even if Sabathia somehow decides to re-sign with the Yankees, they will still likely need another starter to add behind the ace left-hander and Hughes, Burnett and Nova. So that begs the question: Will general manager Brian Cashman be looking to spend big bucks to add another starter or two to the Yankees for the 2012 season?

That seems likely given that the Yankees were so hellbent on signing left-hander Cliff Lee last winter. But Lee spurned a better contract offer to sign for less money to pitch with the Philadelphia Phillies. Despite the fact Lee thought he was joining a super rotation of Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt, the Phillies got no father than the Yankees did in the playoffs and Oswalt was allowed to become a free agent.

This season the Yankees obviously will be focused on getting Sabathia to remain in pinstripes. Sabathia has two days to decide to stay with the Yankees for the four years and $92 million left on his contract or opt out and look for a more lucrative deal. Most baseball insiders believe Sabathia, never being accused of being foolish, will opt out to seek a longer term on his contract and more money.

The Yankees, unlike their attitude when Alex Rodriguez opted out of his contract in 2008, are prepared to offer Sabathia a very lucrative six-year, $160 million contract modeled after the contract Lee signed with the Phillies. But Sabathia will have other suitors, including the Texas Rangers to increase the bidding price.

If the Yankees succeed in bringing Sabathia back into the fold, they will then turn their attention to acquiring a pitcher who they can slot in as a No. 2 or No. 3 starter.

TARGET NO. 1 – C.J. WILSON (16-7, 2.94 ERA)

Wilson is a 31-year-old left-hander who was the ace of the American League-champion Rangers. But unlike most 31-year-old starters, Wilson has only two seasons of throwing more than 200 innings behind him because he was a reliever in his previous five major-league seasons, all with the Rangers.

If the Yankees were to keep Sabathia and land Wilson it would a tremendous dual victory for the organization. They would have retained their ace and added a second left-hander to the rotation. In addition, it would be a double blow to the Rangers, who are not exactly swimming in starting pitchers who could pitch on the level of Sabathia and Wilson. Strengthening the Yankees while weakening the Rangers is a definite plus to a front office that is taken a great dislike in the Rangers’ front office over the past two years.

A rotation of Sabathia, Wilson, Hughes, Burnett and Nova does not sound all that bad when you add up their record from last season. That five (understanding that Hughes only pitched 74 2/3 innings) was a combined 67-35 with a 3.81 ERA.

Wilson will command a nice princely sum on the open market because he clearly is the best free-agent pitcher available this winter. In the past three season, the Yankees have not bid on pitchers like Halladay and John Lackey, preferring to either solve their problems from within or signing cheaper free agents like Colon and Garcia.

There is no doubt that Colon and Garcia helped the Yankees during the regular season. They were a liability at crunch time, however.

Colon was 6-4 with a 3.20 ERA and Garcia was 7-6 with a 3.13 ERA in the first half of the season. But in the second half, both pitchers struggled at times. Colon was 2-6 with a 4.96 ERA and Garcia was 5-2 with a 4.45 ERA. Colon pitched so badly he was not even placed on the active roster for the playoffs. Garcia pitched and lost Game 3 to the Tigers.

Neither Colon at age 38 or Garcia at age 35 figure to be back next season.

The Yankees also have a host of young pitching prospects like Manny Banuelos (20), Dellin Betances (23), David Phelps (25), D.J. Mitchell (24) and even Hector Noesi (24), who pitched out of the bullpen for the Yankees. Signing Wilson would give the Yankees an opportunity to bring those prospects along slowly. Banuelos and Betances are easily the most talented of the group and they could use a season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to fine-tune their electric stuff.

Of course, some of them can be used in trades if Cashman felt a need to make a deal for a bench player or a veteran pitcher.

TARGET NO. 2 – YU DARVISH (18-6, 1.44 ERA for the Nippon Ham Fighters)

Darvish is a 25-year-old right-hander who stands 6-foot-5 and weights 187 pounds. He is the Randy Johnson of Japan with 276 strikeouts in 232 innings this season.

Even more impressive is that he is 88-33 in his last six seasons with his highest ERA during that period of 2.89 in 2006 when he was just 19.

Darvish has requested that his team owner post his contract in order to make himself available as free agent in the United States. Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters owner Hiroji Okoso indicated his readiness to respect Yu Darvish’s decision earlier this month even though the Japanese baseball season has not concluded.

Darvish’s posting will make the posting of Daisuke Matsuzaka in the winter of 2007 look like a flea-market sale. Darvish is a much more gifted pitcher who challenges hitters with his mid-90s fastball and he has some dazzling breaking stuff to go with it. Darvish has also succeeded on the grand stage, being named as the MVP of Japan’s victory in the last World Baseball Classic.

The Yankees, who have been burned in the past with the signings of Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa, are nevertheless intrigued by Darvish. They have had a bevy of scouts in Japan clocking every fastball and monitoring the break on his curve. They see him as a potential ace in the major leagues.

But, if the Yankees are committed to re-signing Sabathia and they decide to make a long-term offer to Wilson, Darvish would be even out of reach of the Yankees deep pockets. The posting fee itself could be double the $100 million the Red Sox paid for Matsuzaka. Then the team that wins the posting must sign Darvish to a lucrative contract which might reach $150 million.

So it looks like Darvish would only come into the Yankees’ sights if they fail to keep Sabathia.

The Yankees would then have to pile their cash to sign Wilson and then offer a rich a posting fee to obtain the rights to sign Darvish. They could only afford that if Sabathia does not come back.

Darvish is Plan B if Sabathia leaves. If Sabathis stays, the Yankees likely will still look to sign Wilson and they will let Darvish go to another team with deep pockets like the Red Sox or Rangers.

TARGET NO. 3 – ROY OSWALT (9-10, 3.69 ERA)

Oswalt was injured in 2011 and he started only 23 games for the Phillies. He wasn’t bad as his ERA indicates.

But he also is 34 years old with 2,154 innings pitched in his major-league career. The Phillies chose to not keep him and he will be probably be the second-most sought after pitcher behind Wilson.

Oswalt is consummate pro with the ability to win at the major-league level with less stellar stuff then what he had in early days with Houston like 2005, when he was 20-12 with a 2.94 ERA and 184 strikeouts. Last season batters hit .280 off of him and he was forced to pitch out of a lot of jams.

Back issues forced him to miss all of July and he even considered retiring after this season. But he did throw four quality starts in his last seven appearances. But when it comes to signing Oswalt as a free agent, he is going to have to have doctors clear him to pitch in 2012 before he ever gets a contract offer.

The Yankees’ interest at this point of Oswalt’s career is unlikely. The Yankees would have to basically strike out on keeping Sabathia and signing either Wilson or Darvish before they would even consider making that move. Oswalt has pitched only in the National League and the Yankees have to be leery of guys like him and Javier Vazquez, who post low ERAs in the NL only to pitch with plus 5.00 ERAs in the American League.

Oswalt is the longest of longshots on the Yankees radar this winter. He has too much mileage, there are injury concerns and you have to consider he has not pitched in the AL.


With the Yankees, King Felix has been like Jonah’s whale. They try to reel him in but he slips through the nets every time.

Dealing with the Mariners in the past has not been pleasant. The Yankees attempted to deal for Lee when he was pitching for the Mariners in 2010. Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik induced Cashman to include Jesus Montero and Ivan Nova in a potential deal for Lee.

The Rangers, on the other hand, were offering a package including power-hitting first baseman Justin Smoak.

Zduriencik then got greedy and asked the Yankees to sweeten the pot by including minor-league shortstop Eduardo Nunez to the package. Cashman said no and Zduriencik went running back to the Rangers to accept the Smoak package. The fact that Smoak bombed badly for the M’s in 2011 gives Yankee fans a lot of pleasure.

The Yankees, in the long run, were better off hanging onto Montero, Nova and Nunez and all three have bright futures ahead of them in pinstripes.

Any deal involving Hernandez likely will start with Zduriencik requesting Montero, Nunez and either Betances or Banuelos or both. This would the cost of doing business with a team that is desperate to fill the seats with a creditable team building for the future. But the Yankees would be crazy to be locked into this madness unless they were real desperate to replace Sabathia and they had lost both Wilson and Darvish in free agency.

This would be their Plan C and it would have to make sense to Cashman to give up so much talent. But Hernandez is not even 25 yet. So if you are going to deal for an ace it might as well be a young one with talent like the King.

But I do not see this happening. The M’s are building a nice rotation of young pitchers and Hernandez is a big part of that. However, their offense is just dreadful and King Felix could bring a package of young hitters the Mariners could build around. Montero would be a special prize here.

But the odds of it happening are in the 500-1 range. Cashman knows Zduriencik practices legal extortion and Cashman may be unwilling to pay up.

NEXT: PART 2 – Relief Pitching

PRIORITY NO. 1 – Finding a second left-hander or two

Garcia’s Pitching, Granderson’s Hitting Overcomes Braves

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Freddy Garcia took another step toward nailing down a rotation spot by throwing three perfect innings and Curtis Granderson keyed a three-run third inning with a two-run triple as New York edged Atlanta on Tueday at Champion Stadium.
Garcia (1-0) struck out two and needed only 32 pitches (21 of them strikes) to retire al nine batters he faced. The four pitchers competing for the last two spots in the rotation (Garcia, Ivan Nova, Bartolo Colon and Sergio Mitre) have combined for a 0.45 ERA this spring.
Though he was very shaky, Romulo Sanchez got credit for a save in the ninth.
Braves starter Jair Jurrgens (0-1) was touched for six hits, two walks and four runs in four innings to take the loss.
Granderson was 2-for-3 with a run scored. The triple in the third drove in Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher with the Yankees’ firs two runs. He scored a batter later on Jorge Posada’s single to left.
The Yankees evened their spring record to 5-5-2. The Braves are 7-4.
  • Garcia was so efficient that he did not even reach his allotted pitch count. So he had to throw 20 pitches in the bullpen in order to complete his workout. Garcia showed great command and had all his pitches working.
  • Granderson is not so quietly having a great spring with the bat. He is 4-for-5 with a home run, a triple, four RBIs and four runs scored in just his last two games. He is hitting a sizzling .412. Hitting coach Kevin Long said Granderson has carried through with the late season adjustments Long made to his swing and the ball is jumping off his bat.
  • Eduardo Nunez is making life for Ramiro Pena very uncomfortable lately. Nunez was 2-for-2 and was hit by a pitch and he stole three bases against the Braves. Nunez has raised his spring batting average to .348. Pena had two hits on Tuesday but was thrown out attempting to steal twice.
  • Andrew Brackman made his spring debut after being sidelined by a slight groin strain. He pitched one inning, struck out one, walked one and was clocked at 96 miles per hour on his fastball. Brackman, the Yankees’ No. 1 pick in the 2007 draft, likely will begin the 2011 season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
  • Dellin Betances had his first bit of adversity this spring. He was tagged for a run in the first of two innings he pitched in relief of Garcia. Martin Prado tagged him for a leadoff double and Jordan Schafer singled him to third. However, Betances did get Braves star Chipper Jones to roll into a double play and he escaped the inning without giving up another run. He gave up three hits and a walk but he limited the damage to just the one run.
  • David Robertson and Jesus Montero struggled in the sixth inning. Robertson struck out Prado to begin the inning but Montero failed to keep the ball from rolling away and Prado just beat Montero’s throw to first. After two strikeouts, Prado stole second without a throw because Montero was unaware he was running and Robertson later walked Dan Uggla. While pitching to Eric Hinske, Robertson uncorked another wild pitch to move Prado and Uggla up a base. Hinske then singled in both runners on a fastball.
  • Sanchez started the ninth by walking Brandon Hicks, giving up a single to Jesus Sucre and an error by third baseman Bradley Suttle on a throw on a sacrifice bunt attempt by Matt Young left the bases loaded and the Yankees protecting a slim 5-3 lead. But Sanchez induced a double-play grounder that scored Hicks and, oddly, Jose Costanza ended the game by attempting a bunt and he popped out weakly to catcher Gustavo Molina to end the game.
Manager Joe Girardi was laughing with reporters over the so-called “Case of the Missing Keys” before the game. Girardi had taken a rental car to Sarasota, FL, on Monday night. But after the game he could not find the keys. Girardi said he handed the keys to Long so Long could retrieve his cap and never saw them again. Long insists he returned them. But Girardi could not find them, abandoned the rental car and angrily took the team bus back to Tampa. He was issued another car by the team’s traveling secretary to get to Lake Buena Vista and the traveling secretary now will have to deal with the rental agency about the rental still in Sarasota.  . . .   Outfielder Colin Curtis had his right arm in a sling and he is out indefinitely. Curtis jammed his shoulder making a diving catch in a game against the Astros in Kissimmee on Sunday.   . . .  Non-roster veteran infielder Rafael Belliard, who has been sidelined since Feb. 27 with a strained right calf is expected to be able to play in a game this week. Belliard is definitely in a tough situation battling Eric Chavez and Jorge Vazquez for a backup infield spot.
The Yankees will be back home on Wednesday and will face the Pittsburgh Pirates in a night game. The Yankees are expected to start Colon in his third start of the spring. Colon is the only one of the four starters battling for a rotation spot who has been scored upon. But that was just one run.
The Pirates are countering with veteran right-hander Kevin Correia.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EST and the game will not be broadcast.

Yankees Will Open Spring Slate With Tribute To Boss

The New York Yankees open their 2011 spring training schedule on Saturday against the Philadelphia Phillies at George M. Steinbrenner Field at 1:05 p.m. Here is a preview of the game and some early camp notes.
The Yankees will open their 2011 home spring training schedule with a salute to late owner George M. Steinbrenner, who died last July at the age of 80.
The team will honor their principal owner with the unveiling of a statute of the man erected outside the home-plate entrance. A video tribute to him will be shown on the left-field scoreboard and the marching band from George M. Steinbrenner High School from Lutz, FL, will perform.
Steinbrenner’s daughters will escort their mother Jean to home plate for the placement of rose to honor their father and the national anthem will be performed by Steinbrenner’s granddaughter Haley Swindal.
There also will be flyover by two F-16 Hornets from the Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, VA.
It is unclear whether Steinbrenner’s son will pay homage to those Yankee players who built “mansions” over the course of the 2010 season.
The Phillies have selected left-hander Cole Hamels to pitch their spring opener. Hamels was 12-11 with a 3.06 ERA last season. He will pitch two innings and will be followed by Vance Worley, Ryan Feieraband, Brian Schlitter and Mike Zagurski.
Manager Charlie Manuel also posted the lineup for the game:
1) Jimmy Rollins SS
2) Ross Gload DH
3) Raul Ibanez LF
4) Ryan Howard 1B
5) Ben Francisco CF
6) Domonic Brown RF
7) Jeff Larish 3B
8) Brian Schneider C
9) Wilson Valdez 2B
Second baseman Chase Utley will not play in the opener because of soreness in his legs and knees. Manuel said the problem is not serious and that Utley will be fine.
The Yankees will counter by pitching non-roster right-hander Bartolo Colon. Colon has not pitched in the major leagues since 2009 and is competing for a back-end rotation spot with the Yankees.
Manager Joe Girardi selected Colon, 37, to pitch the opener because he is coming off pitching in winter ball and is a bit further along than any of the other pitchers. He will pitch two innings up to a limit of 35 pitches.
Colon will followed to the mound by Joba Chamberlain, David Roberstson, David Phelps, Hector Noesi and Eric Wordekemper.
The Yankees also plan to open the spring home schedule with their regular starting lineup to face Hamels.
However, newly signed catcher Russell Martin will be held out of the contest as he continues to recover from surgery on his right knee. Francisco Cervelli will catch instead.
The game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and in the tri-state area by the YES Network.
Those Yankee fans hoping to let left-hander Cliff Lee how they feel about him will be out of luck, He will remain at the team’s complex at Bright House Network Field in Clearwater, FL. It is unclear if Lee will pitch Sunday at Bright House Network Field when the Phillies return the favor and host the Yankees.
Girardi has indicated that CC Sabathia will start Sunday’s game in Philadelphia and Sergio Mitre will follow on Monday at Lakeland against the Detroit Tigers. But plans for Tuesday and Wednesday have been switched.
Phil Hughes will start Tuesday’s game in Bradenton against the Pittsburgh Pirates and A.J. Burnett has been switched to pitch Wednesday at home Houston Astros. That would seem to indicate that Hughes is, for now, considered the No. 2 starter.
The Yankees will honor two minor leaguers before the March 19 game against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Infielder Eduardo Nunez and right-hander David Phelps will be presented with the 2010 Kevin Lawn awards, dedicated to Kevin O’Brien Lawn , the son of longtime vice president and chief of operations Jack Lawn, who passed away in 1999.
Nunez, 23, batted .289 with 55 runs, 25 doubles, three triples, four home runs, 50 RBIs and 23 stolen bases in 118 games at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2010. he also was a midseason and postseason International League All-Star.
Phelps, 24, cobined to go 10-2 with a 2.50 ERA and 141 strikeouts in 26 games with Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton in 2010.
Former No. 1 pick Andrew Brackman will be sidelined until next week with tightness in his groin.
The 6-foot-10 right-hander is scheduled to throw another bullpen session on Tuesday. But he will be unavailable to pitch in any of the early spring training games.
Brackman, 25, who the Yankees drafted in 2007 knowing he would be sidelined for a season to recover from Tommy John surgery, has been impressive with his command and velocity in early bullpen sessions at camp.