Tagged: Brett Marshall

Yank Rookies Nuno, Warren Hang Zeros On Tribe

GAME 38

YANKEES 7, INDIANS 0

To borrow from the sage philosopher Forrest Gump, the 2013 version of the New York Yankees are like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get.

Rookie left-hander Vidal Nuno pitched five very impressive shutout innings in his first major-league start and the Yankees sent 10-men to the plate in a six-run seventh inning as New York hung up a goose egg on Cleveland to split a doubleheader at Progressive Field on Monday.

Nuno (1-0) held the Tribe to just three hits and three walks while he struck out three batters in what was only his second major-league appearance.

All the more impressive was that Nuno pitched with only a run in support of his effort and that came in the first inning on some sloppy infield play by the Indians.

Jayson Nix stroked a one-out single off right-hander Trevor Bauer (1-2) and Robinson Cano rolled what could have been a double-play ball to Carlos Santana at first base. However, Santana was unable to field it cleanly and then threw behind Bauer covering first for an error that allowed Nix to advance to third.

Vernon Wells then hit what also could have been an inning-ending double play ball to Asdrubal Cabrera at short. Cabrera flipped to second to retire Cano but Mike Aviles’ relay tailed wide of first as Nix scored an unearned run.

But Nuno made that run hold up through five innings when he left after having thrown 89 pitches, 14 more than manager Joe Girardi set as his original limit.

With the bullpen depleted because of the unavailability of setup man David Robertson and closer Mariano Rivera, Girardi turned to rookie Adam Warren. The 26-year-old right-hander responded with four innings of shutout relief to earn his first major-league save.

Warren gave up just two hits, did not walk a batter and he struck out four.

Meanwhile, the Yankees chased Bauer and left-hander Nick Hagadone in the seventh with a six-run explosion that turned what was a nail-biter into a laugher.

Rookie catcher Austin Romine keyed the rally by following a leadoff double by rookie Corban Joseph with a one-out RBI double that sent Bauer to the showers.

Two batters later, Nix scored Romine with a bloop single to shallow right-field off Hagadone following a walk to Brett Gardner.

Wells added a two-out RBI single and Lyle Overbay capped the six-run rally with a two-run double to the wall in right-center.

Despite the loss in the first game, the Yankees have now won seven of their past eight games and they improved their season ledger to 24-14. They remain a full game ahead of the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. The Indians fell to 21-16.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • It was a great game for a pair of Scranton RailRiders pitchers. Nuno and Warren combined to give up no runs on five hits and three walks in nine innings. Nuno, 25, was a 48th round draft in 2009 of the Indians and was released after the 2010 season. The Yankees spotted him pitching for the independent Frontier League’s Washington Wild Things in 2011 and signed him. He recorded a 2.10 ERA in two seasons in stints from Class A to Double A before winning the James P. Dawson Award this spring as the team’s top rookie this spring.
  • Warren surprisingly won a spot in the bullpen as a middle reliever despite an 0-2 record and a 8.15 ERA in spring training. But Warren is now 1-0 with a 1.45 ERA in 18 2/3 innings covering seven appearances. He has yielded only three runs on 14 hits and six walks while striking out 15 batters.
  • Wells and Overbay both drove in a pair of runs in the game as “The Replacements” continue to produce with a lot of the Yankees’ star players on the disabled list. Wells is hitting .299 with nine home runs and 22 RBIs. Overbay is hitting .252 with six home runs and 22 RBIs.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

Nothing to complain about here because the Yankees won with two rookie pitchers combining for a shutout and they played the game with two rookies (Joseph and Romine) and what amounts to the team’s fourth-string shortstop in 30-year-old journeyman Alberto Gonzalez in the lineup.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees on Monday optioned outfielder Brennan Boesch to Scranton and promoted right-hander Brett Marshall from the RailRiders to bolster the bullpen for the second game of the doubleheader against the Indians. Boesch, 27, was 1-for-4 after starting in right-field in the first game and he was hitting .209 with two home runs and five RBIs in 43 at-bats over 20 games. Marshall, 22, was 2-2 with a 4.60 ERA in six starts with Scranton.  . . .  After the second game the Yankees optioned Joseph back to Scranton. The 24-year-old rookie infielder was a combined 1-for-6 in the two games. His double in the seventh inning started the Yankees’ six-run explosion and the hit was his first in the major leagues.

ON DECK

The Yankees will be home on Tuesday to open a homestand beginning with a three-game series against the Seattle Mariners.

Lefty ace CC Sabathia (4-3, 3.23 ERA) will get the ball in the opener for the Yankees. Sabathia pitched four shutout innings against the Colorado Rockies on Thursday and he was in line for a victory. However, a two-hour rain delay forced him to end his outing early. Sabathia is 12-4 with a 2.46 ERa in his career against Seattle.

The Mariners will counter with their ace right-hander Felix Hernandez (5-2, 1.53 ERA). Hernandez has given up just three earned runs over his past fiver starts. He is 8-5 with a 3.08 ERA lifetime against the Yankees and 4-1 with a 1.13 ERA at Yankee Stadium.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.

 

Yankees Eclipse Rays Behind Three-Run Eighth

GAME 17

YANKEES 3, RAYS 1

Ivan Nova and Alex Cobb set the tone for the afternoon by matching zeros early and the Bobby Wilson’s two-run single in the top of the eighth inning helped allow the Yankees break through in this pitchers’ duel as New York downed Tampa Bay on Tuesday at Charlotte Sports Complex In Port Charlotte, FL.

Nova, who is vying along with David Phelps for the No. 5 starting spot for the Yankees, tossed four shutout innings and gave up four hits while striking out two batters.  His mound opponent, Cobb, pitched five shutout innings and gave up two hits and struck out six.

The game remained scoreless until the eighth when the Yankees got a leadoff single from Francisco Cervelli and a one-out single from Thomas Neal off Dane De La Rosa (0-1). Slade Heathcott followed with a potential double-play ball that Rays shortstop Hak-Ju Lee botched for an error that allowed Walter Ibarra – pinch-running for Cervelli – to score the game’s first run.

Wilson then followed with a sharp single to left to score Neal and Heathcott.

The Rays scored an unearned run in the bottom of the inning off right-hander Brett Marshall (1-0), which broke the Yankees’ 25-inning scoreless streak. However, the Yankees still have not given up an earned run in 27 innings and they have allowed only two earned runs over their last 41 innings.

Matt Tracy pitched a scoreless ninth to earn a save.

With the victory, their third in a row, the Yankees improved their spring ledger to 6-11. The Rays fell to 11-7.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Though Nova held the Rays scoreless he needed a lot of help from his defense to do it. Melky Mesa made a outstanding back-handed grab at the wall in center off Rays leadoff hitter Desmond Jennings in the first inning. In addition, Nova had to wriggle out of a major jam in the fourth. Kelly Johnson laced a single to right that Zoilo Almonte bobbled to allow Johnson to reach second. Johnson then advanced to third on a Leslie Anderson single. But Ryan Roberts lined out to third baseman Jayson Nix, Cervelli threw out Anderson as he attempted to take second and Nova struck out Sean Rodriguez swinging to end the threat.
  • In addition to throwing out Anderson in the fourth, Cervelli also threw out Mike Fontenot attempting to take second in the first. In both cases, Cervelli partially blocked pitches in the dirt and threw out both runners because they thought the ball had rolled to the backstop. Cervelli is solidifying his candidacy for the starting catching spot with his defense and throwing.
  • Neal, 25, was 2-for-3 in the game and has quietly raised his spring average to .333 with a homer and three RBIs. Neal was signed as a free agent out the Cleveland Indians organization and he is a non-roster invitee to camp. He has virtually no chance of making the 25-man roster but he could be valuable as a future call-up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The Yankees continue to commit errors in bunches. They were charged with three but only Ronnier Mustelier’s error in the eighth hurt. The other errors were charged to shortstop Eduardo Nunez and Almonte. For Nunez it is only his second error of the spring and both have been on throws.
  • Travis Hafner continues to struggle mightily at the plate this spring. Hafner was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and all came looking. Hafner is hitting .167 with no homers, one RBI and seven strikeouts thus far in spring. It is true that Raul Ibanez struggled through spring training in 2012 and ended up having a great season for the Yankees. But Hafner is either be pressing or may be taking things for granted since he has a major-league contract.
  • Though Mesa is playing excellent defense and he has been hitting for power this spring, he is in a bit of a hitting funk. He was 0-for-4 in the game is his spring average has dipped to .194. Even with all that, Mesa has a great chance to make the team as a spare outfielder because he is such a great defensive outfielder.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees’ decision to sign veteran outfielder Ben Francisco does not bode well for the hopes of non-roster invitee Matt Diaz. Francisco, 31, will make his first start in left-field with the Yankees on Wednesday. Diaz, 35, is hitting only .190 with no homers and two RBIs  Francisco, meanwhile, was hitting .400 with six doubles for the Indians when he requested his release so he could sign with the Yankees.

ON DECK

The Yankees will play host host to the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Fans who plan to attend the game will see two important debuts. Left-hander Andy Pettitte will make his first start of the spring and Derek Jeter is expected to shortstop for the first time.

The Phillies will start left-hander Cliff Lee.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast live by the YES Network and on tape delay by the MLB Network.

 

Youkilis Homers As Yankees Deal Shutout To Cards

GAME 16

YANKEES 4, CARDINALS 0

TAMPA  –  The New York Yankees have seem to hit upon a great strategy to be successful in 2013 without most all of the power they had last season: Just shut out the opposition.

Kevin Youkilis hit his first home run as a Yankee and drove in two runs while Hiroki Kuroda dazzled the Cardinals with his split-finger fastball to rack up six strikeouts in four shutout innings as New York won its second consecutive game via the shutout by beating St. Louis on Monday at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Youkilis, 33, put the Yankees on the board in the fourth inning with a high-arcing blast off the scoreboard in left-center off Cardinals starter Lance Lynn (1-2). He added an RBI sacrifice fly to score Brett Gardner in the sixth inning off Seth Maness, who the Yankees touched up for three runs on four hits and a walk in 1 1/3 innings.

Meanwhile, Kuruda (1-1) held the Cardinals off the board including stranding Shane Robinson at third base with one out by striking out James Romak and Pete Kozma to end the third inning. Kuroda, 38, threw 42 of his 63 pitches for strikes (66%) to lower his spring ERA to 1.59.

Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson, Dellin Betances and Shawn Kelley combined to pitch five shutout innings to extend the Yankees’ spring scoreless streak to 18 innings and the Yankee pitchers have only given up two runs over their last 30 innings this spring.

With the victory, the Yankees have now won two consecutive spring training games for the first time and improved their spring ledger to 5-11. The Cardinals dropped to 8-7.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • While the offense has struggled through most of the spring, the Yankees’ starting pitching actually has been quite good. Kuroda, David Phelps and Ivan Nova have combined to give up six runs (three earned) on 20 hits and five walks in 24 2/3 innings over eight starts. That is an ERA of 1.09 and a Walks-to-Innings-Pitched Ratio (WHIP) of 1.01. That is without CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte having pitched an inning yet.
  • Youkilis got off to a slow start this spring, going 0-for-9 before delivering his first hit on Sunday against the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin. In his last two games, Youkilis is 2-for-4 with a home run, a double, a run scored and two RBIs. In addition, Youkilis played his first spring game at first base and flashed some Gold Glove-quality leather on a few plays there.
  • Betances, 24, pitched two scoreless innings and gave up one hit and no walks. After being rated the team’s No. 2 prospect last season, the 6-foot-8, 260-pound right-hander is now trying to reinvent himself as a relief pitcher. If his performance on Monday is any indication, the Yankees might have found him a niche in which he can succeed after a terrible season in the minors in 2012. Betances was a combined 6-9 with a 6.44 ERA between Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Double-A Trenton, where he was demoted late last season. Betances walked 99 batters in 131 1/3 innings.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • This is real picky point since the Yankees did win the game but the team was 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. That just means they could have put the game way but failed to do so. Other than Youkilis’ two RBIs the Yankees scored runs in the seventh on a hit baseman and a walk with the bases loaded. So the 1927 Yankees they are not.

BOMBER BANTER

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman confirmed on Monday that the team has reached out to first baseman Derrek Lee and third baseman Scott Rolen to see if they would have any interest in playing for the Yankees this season. Cashman also said he would be interested in talking with recently retired third baseman Chipper Jones. The Yankees are in the market for a corner infielder while first baseman Mark Teixeira recovers from a strained left wrist. Jones shot the down the speculation about himself saying that he is “happy with life as a bad golfer.”  . . .  The Yankees announced on Monday that they have signed veteran outfielder Ben Francisco to a minor-league contract and he will have a chance to earn a roster spot with the team this spring. Francisco, 31, requested and was granted his unconditional release by the Cleveland Indians on Monday so he could sign with the Yankees. Francisco is a career .257 hitter over six seasons with the Indians, Phillies, Blue Jays, Astros and Rays.  . . .  Austin Romine’s bid to win the starting catching job this spring has come to an end. Romine 24, option was among 11 roster moves the Yankees made after Monday’s game. Romine, left-hander Francisco Rondon and right-handers Betances and Brett Marshall were optioned to Triple-A. Left-handers Manny Banuelos and Nik Turley, right-hander Jose Ramirez, and outfielder Ramon Flores were optioned to Double-A Trenton, while right-hander Chase Whitley, catcher J.R. Murphy and infielder Luke Murton were re-assigned to minor-league camp.  The Yankees have 52 players left in camp.  . . .  Derek Jeter said on Monday that he believes he is ready to play shortstop for the first time this spring. Manager Joe Girardi said he possibly could play Jeter for four or five innings.  . . .  Right-hander Phil Hughes threw 26 pitches in a bullpen session on Monday and came out of it saying he was pain free. Hughes, 26, who has been sidelined since Feb. 18 with a bulging disk in his upper back, said he is still on target to be ready to pitch by Opening Day on April 1.

ON DECK

The Yankees will travel to Port Charlotte, FL, to face the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday.

Right-hander Ivan Nova, 26, will make his third start of the spring for the Yankees. He will be opposed by right-hander Alex Cobb.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and there will be no telecast of the game.

 

2 Yankee Errors Hand Cardinals Walk-Off Victory

GAME 12

CARDINALS  7, YANKEES 6

I am fully aware that the players the Yankees are playing this spring are not the players who who will be playing for the team on April 1. But these players seem to have a great knack for snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory.

After the Yankees took a two-run lead in the top of the ninth inning, right-hander Kelvin Perez served up a two-run homer to Kolten Wong.  Then Zoilo Almonte and Dan Johnson committed a pair of errors that allowed Adron Chambers to single in the winning run off left-hander Josh Spence as St. Louis came from behind to down New York in walk-off fashion on Thursday at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, FL.

Despite the fact he gave up an RBI single to Ramon Flores and an RBI double to J.R. Murphy in the top of ninth, Edward Mujica (1-0) was credited with a victory. Perez (0-1) was saddled with the loss.

Although he was not as sharp as his first outing, right-hander Ivan Nova started for the Yankees and threw three innings, giving up one run on three hits and a walk and striking out two.

The Yankees’ Grapefruit League record slipped to 3-9. The Cardinals are now 6-5.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Francisco Cervelli continues to shine this spring. Inserted as the designated hitter and batting fourth – that is not a typo – Cervelli was 1-for- 2 with a walk, a stolen base and an RBI single. Cervelli is hitting a respectable .286 this spring and is showing off a fine arm behind the plate having nailed 5 of 6 attempted base-stealers. 
  • Cervelli’s catching competition did not let him get too far ahead of them. Chris Stewart stroked a one-out ground-rule double in the sixth and is hitting .308 so far. Rookie backstop Austin Romine entered the game in the seventh and ripped an RBi single that tied the game in the eighth. Romine is also hitting .286.
  • Matt Tracy, a 24-year-old left-hander, was the only Yankee pitcher not to surrender a run or hit. He pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning. It was Tracy’s first outing this spring and it came against his hometown team. Tracy was born in St. Louis.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Johnson is in competition with Juan Rivera for taking Mark Teixeira’s place at first base while he is out for the next 10 weeks. He is already proving he is not even in Teixeira’s league as a fielder. Johnson’s botch of a routing grounder followed Almonte’s drop of a routine fly ball. Both errors cost the Yankees the game. The question is when will manager Joe Girardi start laying down the law on the rash of errors this spring?
  • Brett Marshall came in after Nova in the fourth and recorded two shutout innings. Unfortunately he pitched four innings. Marshall was tagged for a solo home run in the fifth by Pete Kozma and a two-run blast in the seventh by Daniel Descaiso. Those two players have combined to hit a total of seven major-league homer runs. Marshall, 22, is still considered one the Yankees’ best young minor-league starters.
  • Brett Gardner took a rare 0-for-3  with a strikeout and a walk. The leadoff walk in the first inning was erased quickly when Gardner was picked off first base by starting pitcher Joe Kelly. Even with the 0-for-3 day Gardner is still hitting .500 this spring.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees have scheduled a news conference for 10 a.m. Saturday at George M. Steinbrenner Field where future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera is expected to announce his plans to retire at the end of the 2013 season. Rivera, 43, was hinting that he was planning to retire after the 2012 season but he suffered a knee injury in May that required surgery and he missed the rest of the season. Rivera is also scheduled to make his 2013 spring debut the same day when the Yankees play host to the Atlanta Braves.  . . .  In a conference call with reporters on Thursday, Teixeira expressed relief that his injured right wrist will not require surgery and is hopeful that he can come back to play by mid-May or sooner. Teixeira suffered a strained right wrist swinging a weighted bat in Arizona prior to a World Baseball Classic exhibition game against the Chicago White Sox.  . . .  Shortstop Derek Jeter has been cleared by the Yankees’ medical staff to begin full baseball activities. It is unclear when Jeter will be able to play in a spring training game.  . . .  The Yankees’ infirmary is in need of a major expansion. Girardi said Thursday that left-hander Clay Rapada has been shut down indefinitely with bursitis in his left shoulder. He joins Boone Logan (sore left elbow) and David Robertson (sore right shoulder) on the sidelines while starting right-hander Phil Hughes is rehabbing a bulging disk in his upper back.

ON DECK

The Yankees are staying in Jupiter overnight so they can play an exhibition on Friday against the Miami Marlins.

Right-hander Adam Warren will start for the Yankees. He will be opposed by Nathan Eovaldi.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EST and the game will not be telecast.

 

Almonte, Cano Go Deep As Yankees Chop Braves

GAME 1

YANKEES 8, BRAVES 3

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL  –  Zoilo Almonte smacked a two-run opposite field home run in the third inning and Robinson Cano added a solo opposite-field shot in the fifth inning as New York opened its 2013 Grapefruit League schedule on Saturday with a victory over Atlanta at Champion Field.

David Phelps (1-0) threw two scoreless innings to pick up the victory. Jordan Walden (0-1) took the loss.

Almonte’s home run touched off a four-run inning aided by two Braves errors, a wild pitch and a passed ball. The Braves did narrow the score to 5-3 in the sixth inning on a two-run homer by Evan Gattis, however, the Yankees put the game away in the seventh with a three-run rally keyed by a bases-loaded two-out, two-run single by Austin Romine.

The Yankees are 1-0 while the Braves fell to 0-2.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Almonte, 23, made an immediate first impression on manager Joe Girardi with his big home run in the third inning. The switch-hitting outfielder hit 21 home runs last season with Double-A Trenton. Almonte also showed off a terrific arm by throwing out Reed Johnson at third base after he fielded a Freddie Freeman single in the first inning. 
  • Francisco Cervelli, 27, flashed some superior glove work behind the plate by blocking several pitches in the dirt and he helped out Phelps by throwing out Todd Cunningham attempting to steal second base with a perfect peg to Cano in the second inning. Cervelli is battling Chris Stewart and Austin Romine for the starting catching job this spring.
  • Though Phelps, 26, gave up three hits in his two innings of work and he was aided by the throws from Almonte and Cervelli, he still did look sharp. He threw 18 strikes out of his 24 pitches. He also threw first-pitch strikes to seven of the eight batters he faced. Phelps is competing with Ivan Nova for the No. 5 starting spot.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Brett Marshall struggled a bit in his second inning of work. He walked Dan Uggla, surrendered a double to Gattis and Uggla scored on a groundout off the bat of Chris Johnson. Marshall, 22, was 13-7 with a 3.52 ERA at Trenton last season and was the organization’s best minor-league starter. But the right-hander still needs to work on his command.
  • Mikey O’Brien gave up a leadoff single to Freeman and then a one-out homer to Gattis. O’Brien, who will turn 23 on March 3, was a combined 9-8 with a 3.87 ERA between High-A Tampa and Trenton. He also needs a bit of work on command.
  • Corban Joseph committed a fielding error in the third inning on a hard-hit ball off the bat of Christian Bethancourt. But Marshall was able to get out of the inning without giving up a run. Joseph, 24, is primarily a second baseman but he also is being tried out at third this spring.

BOMBER BANTER

Derek Jeter ran on the infield dirt at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL, for the first time since breaking his left ankle last October. “He ran the bases a bit, slowly,” Girardi said. “He’s at least outside, doing some running, so that’s good.” Jeter has said that he expects to ready to play on Opening Day on April 1 against the Boston Red Sox. In the meantime, Nunez will play shortstop most of the spring and Jeter will be eased into the lineup as a designated hitter.

ON DECK

The Yankees will open their 2013 home Grapefruit League schedule with a contest against a Toronto Blue Jays split squad.

Right-hander Adam Warren, 26, will start for the Yankees. He was 7-8 with a 3.71 ERA in 26 starts with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season. The Jays will start veteran left-hander J.A. Happ.

New acquisitions third baseman Kevin Youkilis and designated hitter Travis Hafner are scheduled to make their debuts with the team.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EST and the game will be broadcast locally by the YES Network and nationally by the MLB Network.

 

Gardner’s Shift Becomes Yanks’ Center Of Attention

Well, the worst-kept secret through the New York Yankees’ rumor mill became a reality on Thursday. Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner will be swapping outfield positions this spring.

Manager Joe Girardi said that Granderson will play left and Gardner will play center this spring in an “experiment” to gauge if the move will improve the Yankees’ defense. Of course, Girardi always has the prerogative to change his mind and switch them back, but it doubtful that will be the case.

Gardner, 29, has provided the Yankees with Gold Glove-quality defense in left-field – when healthy – since the 2009 season.

Granderson, 31, acquired in a trade with the Detroit Tigers before the 2010 season, has played center-field, at times, shakily. Granderson does not make instinctive reads on balls and loses some. He also takes strange routes to balls and he has to rely a lot on his speed to make up for his mistakes.

The Yankees also have asked him to get his vision checked on a few occasions.

So the move of Gardner to center was almost inevitable and it looks like it could become permanent.

Granderson also is playing in the last year of his four-year contract and it is no secret that the Yankees are not looking to keep him by signing him to multiyear extension. So it makes sense to make the shift now because it is whole lot easier to find a quality player who can play left than it is to find someone with the skills to play good defense in center.

The Yankees are actually quite fortunate that they have three starting outfielders who are capable of playing center, which includes Ichiro Suzuki, 39. Not many teams can say that.

However, there is a big difference from saying someone is capable of playing center than it is to say that someone is better off playing the corner positions. The Seattle Mariners made that decision some years ago with Suzuki because Franklin Gutierrez had more range in center and Suzuki’s arm was perfect for right.

The Yankees are just making a similar decision with Granderson.

With all the talk this offseason that the Yankees offense took a major hit with the departures of Nick Swisher, Raul Ibanez, Russell Martin, Eric Chavez and Andruw Jones, it would seem that there would be a premium be placed on pitching and defense this season.

Moving Gardner does that and the Yankees actually boast in Granderson, Gardner and Suzuki one of the best fielding outfields in baseball. They have good speed, range and excellent arms. A good defensive outfield should pay off on preventing a few runs here and there from crossing the plate as the season unfolds.

Managers love it, pitchers love it and the fans will be happy too.

“I have a pretty good idea how they react in center and left, and they do a pretty good job. I just want to see if it improves or stays the same or what happens,” Girardi said. “More, in a sense, how they play individually, but how the tandem works together with covering from right-center all the way over.”

Granderson still considers himself a centerfielder but said that he is good with the move. He said he would have more of an issue if he was benched entirely. Moving to left seems to be a better option than that and so he will play the good soldier.

Gardner has always considered himself a centerfielder. But when he came up in 2009, Melky Cabrera was already entrenched in center. Granderson’s arrival in 2010 pretty much meant he would stay in left since Granderson had not played left since 2007, and only then to play just a handful of games there.

So 2013 is Gardner’s year to shine in center.

But that does not mean Granderson is unimportant in left. Because of the amount of real estate in left-center at Yankee Stadium, leftfielders must possess the range and the ability to cut balls off in the alleys. Granderson can do that and that is why it should not really much of an issue come late May.

The novelty will wear off and there will be other things to talk about.

But the bottom line here is that the Yankees are making a move that is a positive step for the team’s defense and it is going to work out well for both players.

NEWS AND NOTES

  • The Yankees will open their spring schedule on Saturday against the Atlanta Braves at Champion Field at Lake Buena Vista, FL. Right-hander David Phelps, 26, will start for the Yankees and he is expected to pitch two innings. Veteran left-hander Paul Maholm will pitch for the Braves. The game will start at 1:05 p.m. EST and the game will be broadcast on MLB Radio only.
  • Girardi also announced that first baseman Mark Teixeira, second baseman Robinson Cano and shortstop Eduardo Nunez will make the trip. In addition, catchers Francisco Cervelli and Austin Romine will play with Cervelli getting the starting nod. After Phelps, right-handers Brett Marshall, Mike O’Brien, Kelvin Perez, Branden Pinder and Chase Whitley and left-hander Nik Turley are scheduled to pitch.
  • Girardi announced that after Adam Warren starts the Yankees home spring opener against a Toronto Blue Jays split squad on Sunday that left-hander Vidal Nuno and right-hander Jose Ramirez will start the next two games.
  • Phil Hughes, 26, continues to feel better in his recovery from a bulging disk in his upper back. Hughes is taking anti-inflammatory medication and expects to be able to advance to working out in a pool in several days. He hopes to be able to return to action within two weeks.
  • Alex Rodriguez issued a statement through his spokesman Thursday saying he is working out twice a day in New York in his recovery from hip surgery under the supervision of Dr. Bryan Kelly and trainer Pete Draovitch. Rodriguez is targeting a return to the team at midseason. Kelly performed Rodriguez’s two-hour operation in January at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.
  • For those of you planning to attend Saturday’s game at Disney’s Wide World Sports complex along with me you will not have to pay a dime for parking. That is the best part of seeing games here. But most of the stadium gets a pretty good dose of sun so you will need to lather on the sunblock.
  • The Disney staff is generally accorded to be the best in customer service but last season I was not feeling it. Before the game began I was snapping photos of the Yankees during batting practice when a Disney attendant barked at me for being a section over behind home plate. It was more than an hour before the game and no one was sitting there. Huh? Much later I chose to leave the hot sun and watch the game from the standing-room section behind home plate. Another Disney attendant came up to me and yelled at me for – of all the most serious transgressions – having my right foot a half-inch over the line painted on the floor behind the section. I understand if you put your foot all the way over the line they have to stop the game and remove you for interfering with play. Geesh!

 

Yankees To Feature Pat Hand Of Starters In 2013

This is the first of a three-part series on how the New York Yankees’ 2013 roster is shaping up this winter. There will be some changes and we will look at the starting pitching, the bullpen and the starting lineup to see what those changes might involve. This is:

PART1: STARTING PITCHING

Meat cleaver or scalpel?

That is the choice every Major League Baseball general manager ponders over the winter with respect to how to deal with their 2013 rosters.

Teams like the Miami Marlins may believe the meat cleaver approach is the way to go while teams like the Los Angeles Angels are looking to add a piece here and cut out a small piece there with a gentle scalpel.

The New York Yankees and general manager Brian Cashman pretty much have the choice made for them by payroll commitments that restrain what they can or can’t do. Long-term contracts handed out to C.C. Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter plus potential free agency down the road for Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano kind of limits what Cashman can do to repair what needs fixing.

Of course, the criticism of some Yankee fans that the team needs to “get younger” is being counterbalanced by those long-term deals and the signing of veterans like Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki.

Some factors have already played out. Catcher Russell Martin has signed a more lucrative multiyear deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates and it is a certainty that right-fielder Nick Swisher will not return.

We also know that Rodriguez, once again, will be unavailable to play a full season for the Yankees. Hip surgery scheduled for January will shelve the 37-year-old veteran until June at the earliest. That will mean Rodriguez has failed to play a full season with the team since 2007.

So what will Cashman do to address the needs of the team? Let’s look at the roster and see what the Yankees have and what they may need.

STARTING PITCHING

There is a huge debate about the Yankee starting pitchers. Though the Yankees won the American League East with Sabathia, Kuroda, Pettitte, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova, there are those who believe it is not strong enough to carry the team to the team’s 28th championship.

Obviously, Cashman disagrees because he re-signed Pettitte and Kuroda. One reason he may have felt it necessary to sign a 37-year-old right-hander and 40-year-old left-hander was because Kuroda and Pettitte pitched well in 2012. Kuroda posted a career-best 16 victories with a 3.32 ERA. Pettitte was 5-4 with a 2.87 ERA in his 12 starts in a season abbreviated by a broken ankle.

Cashman sees Sabathia, Kuroda and Pettitte as the core of the starting staff.

Hughes regained the form that saw him go 18-8 with a 4.19 ERA in 2010. He was 16-13 with a 4.23 ERA. Though he has won 34 games in his first two seasons as a starter and he is only 26 years old, Yankee fans want him to be more consistent. Unfortunately, Hughes is basically a fastball-curveball pitcher lacking a quality third pitch. So without a quality third pitch, Hughes will pretty much stay on the tract he currently is on.

Nova, however, has possibly the best stuff of the staff. When his fastball, curve and slider are right he can be downright nasty. But after an impressive 2011 rookie season that saw him go 16-4 with a 3.40 ERA, Nova took a step backwards in 2012.

Nova was 12-9 with a 5.02 ERA and he gave up a whopping 28 home runs and hitters hit a ridiculously high .288 against him. But the Yankees are not ready to give up on Nova at age 25. Nova still has the capability of being the same guy who was the team’s No. 2 starter in his rookie season. Why demote a guy who is 28-13 in his first major-league 55 starts?

The Yankees also have a insurance policy behind their top five with rookie right-hander David Phelps.

Phelps earned his way on to the team as a long reliever after being named the team’s top pitcher in the minor leagues in 2011 and the best rookie pitcher on the team last spring. He then drew raves for his work out of the bullpen and as spot starter, finishing the season with a 4-4 record and 3.34 ERA in 33 appearances (11 starts). At age 26, Phelps has a future as a starter.

Cashman may add a starter or two to the mix this winter but it is likely they will be along the lines of the Freddy Garcia scrap-heap variety. Yankee fans are dreaming if they are thinking Cashman is going to obtain Justin Verlander or David Price in a trade.

Of course, the prospects for this staff would have been better if Cashman’s major deal of 2012 did not blow up in his face.

The Yankees traded a power-hitting catcher compared as a hitter to Mike Piazza and Manny Ramirez in 22-year-old Jesus Montero to the Seattle Mariners for 23-year-old right-hander Michael Pineda after he posted a 9-10 record with a 3.34 ERA in 2011. Because Montero was such a heralded young prospect, much was expected of Pineda when he arrived at spring training last February.

However, it was pretty apparent that he came to camp severely overweight and the velocity he showed on his fastball in 2011 was missing. After six starts this spring and he was raked like last winter’s leaves to the tune of a 5.68 ERA it became that there was something wrong.

As it turns out, Pineda was forced to undergo arthroscopic surgery for a torn labrum in his right shoulder and he missed all of 2012. Pineda is progressing in his rehab and he hopes to be able to pitch this spring. However, the Yankees are not really counting on Pineda to be able to claim a starting spot this spring. He probably will continue to rehab at the team’s spring complex in Tampa, FL, until he is ready to pitch in a lengthy rehab assignment in the minors.

Pineda could be a big boost to the staff at midseason or he could end up working out in a full season in the minors in order to compete for a starting role in 2014.

The Yankees boasted in 2012 the team’s best minor-league pitching depth they have had in many years. Phelps was among five pitchers the Yankees believed were just on the cusp of possible stardom at the Triple-A level.

Though Phelps succeeded, D.J. Mitchell was traded late in 2012 to the Mariners as the Yankees did with Hector Noesi as part of the Pineda deal. Adam Warren struggled in his only major-league start though he remains a potential starter for the team at age 25.

But the team’s two top pitching prospects had disastrous campaigns in 2012.

Manny Banuelos, 21, made only six starts at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before being shut down with a left elbow injury. He ended up having to undergo Tommy John surgery and he will miss all of the 2013 season.

Meanwhile, Delin Betances, a 24-year-old right-hander, pitched so poorly at Scranton (3-5, 6.39 ERA) he had to be demoted to Double-A Trenton and he was not much better there (3-4, 6.51 ERA). Betances has been unable to harness his control in the minors and he needs to show some significant improvement in 2013 to maintain his prospect status.

The Yankees do have a number of pitchers that could have a long-range impact on the team.

Brett Marshall, 22, was 13-7 with a 3.52 ERA at Trenton in 2012. Though the right-hander has not been labeled as a top prospect, he is similar to Phelps in that he has succeeded at each level he has pitched. He was the Yankees’ best minor league pitcher in 2012.

Lefty Nik Turley, 23, is a tall strike-throwing machine who was 9-5 with a 2.89 ERA at Class-A Tampa. Righty Jose A. Ramirez, 22, was 7-6 with a 3.19 ERA at Tampa. Jose Campos, 20, was acquired along with Pineda in the Montero deal and he could be a real gem.

Campos was 3-0 with a 4.01 ERA in five starts for Class-A Charleston before the right-hander had to be shut down with a minor elbow injury. Campos led the Northwest League in ERA and strikeouts in 2011 and he may end up being more valuable in the long term that Pineda. The Yankees will be watching his progress closely in 2013.

Cashman and the Yankees seem to have a matrimonial allegiance to their pitching staff these days. They pledged their devotion to each other to remain in sickness and in health for as both retain their jobs. But in baseball, there are short honeymoons. The problem will manifest itself if the staff does not do its part.

The Yankees’ pledge to reduce payroll makes it hard for this team to spend a large amount of money on a Plan B. So the Yankees have to really hope that what they have on hand is enough.

NEXT: THE BULLPEN

 

Yankee Rotation Started Team’s First-Half Surge

The New York Yankees have reached the halfway mark of the season and they are comfortably in first place in the American League East. This is despite some injuries to some keep players such as Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Michael Pineda, Brett Gardner and Joba Chamberlain. As we do every year, let’s look at the individual components of the team and issue grades for the first half.  

STARTING PITCHERS

CC SABATHIA (9-3, 3.45 ERA)

HIROKI KURODA (8-7, 3.17 ERA)

PHIL HUGHES (9-6, 4.29 ERA)

IVAN NOVA (9-3, 4.05 ERA)

ANDY PETTITTE (3-3, 3.22 ERA)

When the New York Yankees were assembling their starting pitchers for the 2012 season they decided to stay away from high-priced free agents like C.J. Wilson and Yu Darvish and when they inquired about potential trades they stayed away from teams that were asking too much in return for pitchers like Mark Buerhle, Gio Gonzalez and Matt Garza.

Their first order of business was make sure CC Sabathia was not going to opt out of his contract. He didn’t and the Yankees rewarded their ace with a very lucrative extension to the contract he signed in the winter of 2009.

With that accomplished they decided to offer a 2012 contract to Freddy Garcia, who impressed the Yankees by recording a 12-8 record and a 3.62 ERA in his first season in pinstripes.

They then bolstered their rotation even further by trading mega-prospect Jesus Montero and right-hander Hector Noesi to the Seattle Mariners in return from rookie sensation Michael Pineda and 19-year-old right-hander Jose Campos.

They then signed former Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Hiroki Kuroda to one-year, $10 million contract.

The Yankees knew that they needed some additional starters to buy time for five young minor-league starters to develop. Trading for Pineda and signing Kuroda would allow the Yankees to continue the development of 21-year-old left-hander Manny Banuelos, 24-year-old right-hander Dellin Betances, 25-year-old right-hander Adam Warren, 25-year-old right-hander D.J. Mitchell and 25-year-old right-hander David Phelps.

The Yankees hoped that rookie right-hander Ivan Nova would continue to develop after a season in which he was 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA and they were hopeful 26-year-old right-hander Phil Hughes had put his issues with weakness in his right shoulder behind him and was healthy for the 2012 season.

But, spring training proved to be a little more topsy-turvy than manager Joe Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild would have hoped.

Pineda, 23, showed up in camp about 20 pounds overweight and as the spring unfolded he was not reaching the mid-90s velocity he exhibited in the first half of the 2011 season. Though publicly the Yankees were saying they were not concerned, privately they were wondering if they had made a terrible mistake in trading away a great prospect in Montero for sore-armed Pineda.

Late in spring training, Pineda came off the mound in a game in which he was shelled by the Phillies complaining of a sore right shoulder. An MRI indicated a partially torn labrum and Pineda would have surgery and miss the entire 2012 season. Oops!

That left the Yankees with five healthy pitchers for five slots. However, Andy Pettitte, who retired after the 2010 season, decided this spring that he wanted to make a comeback and the Yankees were more than willing to accommodate him. He stayed behind at the Yankees’ complex in Tampa, FL, to get in shape for a return sometime in early May.

Now the Yankees had six pitchers and five spots available. But Girardi was confident things would work out on their own. Little did he know that his rotation would end up in tatters in April.

In his four April starts, Garcia was 0-2 with a 12.51 ERA. Garcia’s fastball, which he used to be able to reach the low 90s with was topping out at about 86 miles per hour. That made him fodder for major-league hitters who were willing to wait for something in the strike zone to whack. And Garcia ended up taking some major whackings.

Hughes was 1-3 with a 7.88 ERA in his four April starts and the Yankees possibly were thinking of either shifting him to the bullpen, sending him to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre or trading him altogether. It was as if the Yankees had finally reached a point with Hughes that they were willing to give up on him.

Nova was hit really hard in the spring and when the season started there was major concerns about his effectiveness. The funny thing was Nova was 3-0 in April but his ERA was 5.18. Ouch!

Kuroda was getting lit up also. American League East teams found his off-speed stuff worth teeing off on, but Kuroda mixed in a few impressive starts to record an inconsistent 2-3 mark with a 3.69 ERA.

Sabathia, meanwhile, was a lot like Nova. He was 3-0 but his ERA was elevated at 4.58. But, then again, Sabathia has been known to start slow and get hot as the weather warms. So there were no real concerns with him.

Pettitte, meanwhile, returned to the Yankees on May 13 for a start against the Mariners. Garcia was banished to the bullpen to make room for the 40-year-old left-hander.

The week after May 13 also seems to coincide with the resurgence of the pitching staff. Every starter seemed to pull things together and harness their stuff to begin a long winning streak. The starting pitching was strong enough to overcome what was an inconsistent offense that could only hit home runs and not hit with runners in scoring position.

Pettitte seemed to light a spark under Hughes and Nova. Kuroda seemed to make the adjustments he needed to make pitching in the American League for the first time and Sabathia got hot like the weather.

Pettitte was 3-3 with a 3.22 ERA in his nine starts through June 27 when a hard-hit ball off the bat of Casey Kotchman of the Cleveland Indians struck Pettitte just above his left ankle and fractured his tibia. As a result, Pettitte will miss about two months. But the Yankees are hopeful he will be able to pitch down the stretch enough to be ready for the playoffs.

It is a shame but the staff that Pettitte inspired has really not missed a beat since he was placed on the disabled list.

Since May 25, Nova is 6-1 with a 2.98 ERA in nine starts. Since May 6, Hughes is 8-3 with a 3.46 ERA in 12 starts. Since May 27, Kuroda is 5-1 with a 2.47 ERA in eight starts.

Sabathia is 6-3 with a 2.89 since May 4. But Sabathia had to be placed on the 15-day disabled list for the first time since the 2007 season on June 25 due to a slight strain in his left groin. He missed two starts leading up the All-Star break but is expected to be activated on July 17 for a start at home against the Toronto Blue Jays.

In Pettitte’s place, the Yankees have discovered a starter with almost an equal ability to mix pitches and speeds to keep batters off balance. He is Garcia. Yep, that same Garcia that took  thrashing in April.

The man who was abruptly banished to the bullpen found his old fastball velocity and the difference in his results on the mound have been like night and day.

In his two starts in place of Pettitte, Garcia is 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA. The Yankees can certainly live with that until Pettitte returns sometime in late August.

Though the Yankees were criticized for not signing any high-priced free-agent pitchers or trading for some, the Yankees have been patient with what they have and it has paid dividends.

On May 21, the Yankees took a 6-0 walloping from the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium and it dropped their season record to 21-21, which found them tied for last place in the American League East with the Boston Red Sox. They trailed the first-place Tampa Bay Rays by 5 1/2 games.

The Yankees reached the 81-game mark with a 4-3 victory over the Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL, to improve their season record to 49-32. Their 28-11 surge since May 21 gave them a .718 winning percentage over that 39-game stretch and put them in first place in the division by 5 games over the second-place Baltimore Orioles.

The biggest reason the Yankees were able to surge into first place was the strength of their starting rotation, which not only held opponents hitters down but they also pitched deep into games. That ended up helping the bullpen shine in closing out games in the late innings because they were not needed as much as they were in April.

The combined record of the starters at the 81-game mark is 40-24. Their team ERA of 3.73 is fourth in the American League.

With the second half to go, Girardi and Rothschild have to keep this momentum from the starters going while preparing them for the playoffs. At this moment it appears that the Yankees will have a good chance to have four pitchers (Sabathia, Hughes, Nova and Kuroda) win 16 games or more. That would make the staff formidable come the playoffs.

Add to that the most successful starter in modern playoff history in Pettitte, than you have the makings of a strong group heading into the postseason.

MIDSEASON GRADES:

SABATHIA: B

KURODA: B

HUGHES: B-

NOVA: B-

PETTITTE: I (Incomplete)

GARCIA: I (Incomplete)

BACKUPS

DAVID PHELPS (0-1, 2.08 ERA in 3 starts)

ADAM WARREN (0-0, 23.14 ERA in 1 start)

The Yankees dipped into their minor-league quintet of young starters at Triple-A to make some fill-in starts.

Phelps made two starts in early May in place of Garcia while the Yankees were still waiting for Pettitte to make his 2012 debut. Meanwhile, Warren and Phelps filled in one start apiece for Sabathia just before the All-Star break.

Phelps actually pitched quite well overall in his three starts and he shows some long-term promise as starter for the future. His only negative was that his pitch count got the better of him in all three starts and he was not able to complete five full innings in any one of them.

Earlier in the season, Phelps spent most of the season with the Yankees as a long man out the bullpen and he was 1-3 with a 3.05 ERA overall in 41 1/3 innings over 15 appearances.

But after his start for the Yankees on the Fourth of July against the Rays, the Yankees sent him Double-A Trenton to stretch him out as a starter. So if anything should happen to any of the Yankees five current starters, Phelps would likely be first in line as a replacement.

Warren, however, had a disastrous major-league debut on June 29 at Yankee Stadium against the Chicago White Sox. As a result we are not likely to see Warren the rest of the season.

He is 5-6 with a 4.19 ERA in 16 starts at Scranton this season.

MIDSEASON GRADES:

PHELPS: B+

WARREN: I (Incomplete)

In addition to Phelps and Warren, the Yankees have also called up Mitchell and he is currently on the 25-man roster as a long reliever.

Mitchell is 0-0 with a 2.45 ERA in just 3 2/3 innings covering three appearances. Mitchell’s main calling card is his sinking fastball that allows him to induce a lot of groundball outs.

He was 5-4 with a 5.36 ERA in 14 starts at Scranton this season. The Yankees still consider him a starter but he actually may have more value at the major-league level as a reliever. The Yankees liken him to former Yankee sinker specialist Ramiro Mendoza.

The two biggest jewels in the Yankees’ minor-league system are Banuelos and Betances. Banuelos entered 2012 as the No. 1 prospect and Betances was listed at No. 2. However, neither has distinguished himself at Scranton.

Banuelos was 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA in six starts before being placed on the disabled list with a left elbow injury. Fortunately for the Yankees, an MRI showed no structural damage to the elbow, but the team is being extremely cautious with their top pitching prospect.

Betances, meanwhile, was 3-5 with an ugly 6.39 ERA at Triple-A in 16 starts before being demoted back to Double-A Trenton. He is 0-1 with an 0.75 ERA there in two starts.

Both pitchers have plus fastballs and they both project to top of the rotation starters in the major leagues. But they both share a problem with harnessing their stuff. Betances walked 69 batters in 74 2/3 innings at Scranton and Banuelos walked nearly five batters every nine innings last season.

The Yankees best pitcher at Triple-A is 39-year-old right-hander Ramon Ortiz. The Dominican is 6-3 with a 2.94 ERA in 16 starts. Though at age 39 he would fit right in with the Yankees’ roster, Ortiz is with his 12th different organization and the Yankees likely would feel more comfortable using Phelps or Mitchell.

Campos, 19, led the Northwest League in strikeouts and ERA last season and the Yankees were excited to get him as part of the deal that brought them Pineda.

Campos was 3-0 with a 4.01 ERA with 26 strikeouts in 24 2/3 innings before also being shelved with an elbow injury. Like Banuelos, the Yankees are saying the injury is not serious, but Campos is in Tampa rehabbing at a slow pace.

The Yankees most successful minor-league pitcher this season is 22-year-old right-hander Brett Marshall, who is 9-3 with a 3.17 ERA in 17 starts with Double-A Trenton. Marshall is not a fireballer like Banuelos or Betances (he has just 61 strikeouts in 91 1/3 innings).

After Tommy John surgery Marshall has found that the movement on his pitches is more important than velocity. He is on track to make it to the Yankees within the next two or three years.

OVERALL POSITION GRADE: B

The much-maligned Yankee rotation has been the biggest factor in the Yankees re-awakening after May 21 and their current comfortable lead in their division.

Veterans Sabathia and Kuroda have mixed well with young guns Hughes and Nova to make this one of the best rotations in baseball.

The addition of Pettitte boosted the staff in May and Kuroda, Hughes and Nova immediately started erasing Yankee fans memories about how awful they were in April. When Pettitte returns the Yankees will have the best No. 1 through No. 5 rotation in baseball.

In the meantime, Garcia has fixed his velocity problem an he appears to be pitching to his 2011 form based on his most recent two starts.

With Phelps in the wings it is doubtful the Yankees will make a trade-deadline move to get an additional starter.

Though I continue to see fellow bloggers and Yankee fans insist the Yankees should make an effort to trade for Matt Cain or Cole Hamels, managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner has maintained the Yankees are determined to cut payroll by 2014.

If the Yankees passed on Wilson, Darvish, Buerhle, Gonzalez and Garza before there is no reason to think they will add to the team’s payroll by trading for a high-priced starter at the end of the month. The Yankees think they can win with what they have and it is doubtful they will add anyone significant at the deadline.

Those dyed-in-the-wool Yankee lovers can start crying now. It just is not going to happen.

 

Laird’s Walk-Off Sac Fly In 10th Boosts Yankees

GAME 15

YANKEES 4, NATIONALS 3 (10 Innings)

TAMPA – When you have a team struggling to get on base and score runs it is never too late push a run across – even if it is the 10th inning.

Brandon Laird lofted a sacrifice fly in the 10th inning to score Justin Maxwell with the game-winning run as New York swept it two-game home-and-away set with Washington at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Friday.

The Yankees, very much like Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With the Wind,” depended greatly on “the kindness of strangers.”

Nationals right-hander Atahualpa Severino started his stint in the 10th by walking Maxwell. Pinch-hitter Melky Mesa followed by hitting a routine grounder that was misplayed by Nationals third baseman Mark Teahen, allowing Maxwell to advance to third. One out later, Laird launched a fly ball to right field that plated Maxwell with the deciding tally.

Right-hander Chase Whitley (1-0) pitched a scoreless top of the 10th to gain credit for the victory. Severino (0-1) took the loss.

The game featured a matchup of lefties in CC Sabathia for the Yankees and newly acquired Gio Gonzalez for the Nationals. However, Sabathia struggled with his command and he left after just three innings on the south end of a 3-1 deficit.

Sabathia gave up three runs on six hits and a walk while he fanned two. Gonzalez gave up a run on three hits and three walks and struck out six in 3 1/3 innings.

The Yankees managed to tie the game in the fifth inning off reliever Craig Stammen on a leadoff single by Doug Bernier and a two-out, two-run home run to deep left by Alex Rodriguez, his first home run this spring since he homered on the first pitch he saw by Roy Halladay of the Phillies on March 3.

With the victory the Yankees improved their spring record to 7-8. The Nationals fell to 5-7.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • With the battle of lefties going on most of the buzz in the sellout crowd of 10,982 was about another left-hander entirely. The news 39-year-old Andy Pettitte had elected to come out of retirement and sign a $2.5 million minor-league contract with the Yankees spread like wildfire through the Yankee faithful on hand. I would consider adding a pitcher to your roster who has 240 major-league victories (203 of them with the Yankees) has got to be considered a positive development.
  • Though the Yankee regulars struck out so much they could have put out a wildfire, it was nice to see Rodriguez connect for a huge two-run home run in the fifth inning. The Yankees, if you can believe this, have only hit a total of five home runs in the first 15 games this spring. Hopefully, this may signal an end to the power outage.
  • Though Sabathia struggled, Phil Hughes turned in a very sharp four innings of work in relief. Hughes, who is still competing with a group of pitchers that now will include Pettitte for a starting spot, held the Nationals scoreless on three hits, did not walk a batter and he struck three. Hughes is showing no signs of the right shoulder fatigue that plagued him last season.
  • Robinson Cano doubled to the opposite field in the first inning off Gonzalez to score Curtis Granderson from first base to draw the Yankees to within a run at 2-1. Cano is off to a very slow start this spring and is hitting .190.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Sabathia admitted after the game his fastball was “all over the place” and it cost him early. The Nationals loaded the bases to start the game on a double, single and a walk. They pushed across a run on a double-play grounder off the bat of Wilson Ramos. But they added a second run in the same frame on an RBI double by Jesus Flores. Steve Lombardozzi then touched Sabathia with a leadoff home run in the third inning to give the Nationals a 3-1 lead.
  • Strikeouts, strikeouts, strikeouts. The Yankees struck out 14 times in the game. Raul Ibanez, Francisco Cervelli and Bill Hall fanned two times each. Considering the fact that the Yankees won the game after collecting just five hits in the game you would have to say they were lucky to have won at all. The pitching of Hughes was the big key. The question is when are the Yankees going to wake up and start hitting?
  • Ibanez was 0-for-2 with a walk and fanned twice and he is now hitting .077. Yankee fans are getting a bit impatient with Ibanez considering he is replacing retired Yankee icon Jorge Posada at designated hitter and because the Yankees chose to sign him instead of a pair of former popular Yankees in Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui.

BOMBER BANTER

Injuries have cropped up all over the place and it is now an epidemic in Yankee camp. Derek Jeter missed the game Friday and will not play again until Tuesday due to a tender left calf. The Yankees were quick to point out that they do not consider the injury serious and that is not the same calf that forced Jeter to the disabled list for three weeks last season.  . . .  Meanwhile, Nick Swisher and Russell Martin were held out of action with strained left groins. Swisher could return to the lineup on Saturday but Martin will be shelved for a couple of days.  . . .  Those walking wounded join the ranks of Eduardo Nunez (bruised right hand), Ramiro Pena (sprained right ankle) and David Robertson (bone bruise of right foot) who are also out of action.  . . .  The Yankees made their first cuts of the spring on Friday, re-assigning 14 players to minor-league camp, including top pitching prospect Manny Banuelos. Banuelos was among seven pitchers sent out. The others were Dan Burawa, Brett Marshall, Adam Miller, Ryan Pope, Graham Stoneburner and Whitley. The other cuts included catchers Gary Sanchez, J.R. Murphy and Kyle Higashioka, infielders David Adams and Corban Joseph and outfielders Zoilo Almonte and Mesa.

ON DECK

The Yankees will host the Houston Astros for the second time this spring on Saturday at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Scheduled to start for the Yankees will be 37-year-old right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, who will be making his third start of the spring. Kuroda is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA and he was displeased with his last start.

The Astros are expected to start right-hander Bud Norris.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

Yankee Reserves Come Up Big To Beat Nationals

GAME 14

YANKEES 8, NATIONALS 5

During a time when a lot of the starters are struggling with hitting this spring the non-roster and minor-league players who dominated the Yankees’ lineup on Thursday were the ones who came up big.

Bill Hall drove in two runs with a double in the third inning and New York’s spring reserves scored four runs in the seventh inning off Washington’s John Lannan en route to a Grapefruit League victory over the Nationals at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, FL.

Brett Marshall (1-0) got credit for the victory in relief. Lannan (0-1) gave up six runs (four earned) on seven hits and a walk in four innings and he ended up taking the loss. Adam Warren retired the last batter and picked up a save.

The Yankees mounted a 13-hit attack led two hits by Hall and Justin Maxwell and Hall and Jose Gil each drove in two runs.

There were two significant injuries incurred during the game. Nationals starter and former Yankee right-hander Chien-Ming Wang had to leave the game in the third inning with a strained right hamstring after he lost his balance fielding a Russell Martin grounder and stumbled awkwardly over the first-base bag.

In the fourth inning, Yankee shortstop Ramiro Pena left after spraining his right ankle as he slid into second base on an unsuccessful steal attempt.

The Yankees snapped a three-game losing streak and improved their spring record to 6-8. The Nationals are 5-6.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • The Yankees were losing 3-2 with Lannan beginning his third inning of work in the sixth when the Yankees greeted him with five consecutive hits. Jayson Nix singled, stole second and scored the tying run on a RBI single by Gil. Doug Bernier advanced Gil to third on a bunt single and Maxwell scored Gil on a single to left. J.R. Murphy followed with a single to right to score Bernier. Maxwell then scored the fourth run of the inning on a fielder’s choice grounder off the bat of Zoilo Almonte. Nix is the only player involved in the rally who had started the game.
  • The Yankee reserves turned the game into a rout with two more runs in the seventh. Brandon Laird, who reached base on an error by shortstop Andres Blanco, scored on a passed ball by catcher Jhontan Solano. Dewayne Wise, who doubled in the inning, later scored on a sacrifice fly by Gil, giving the Yankees an 8-3 lead.
  • Michael Pineda made his third start of the spring and there were some mixed results. Pineda pitched 3 2/3 innings and gave up two runs on four hits and a walk while he fanned four batters. The good news was that Pineda was able to throw about 10 change-ups and his slider was virtually unhittable. The velocity on his fastball, however, reached only 91 miles per hour, down considerably from his 2011 average of 94.5, which ranked fifth in the majors. The Yankees refuse to talk about it, but the lack of velocity has to be a concern at this stage of spring training.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Three of the left-handers competing to become a potential second lefty in the bullpen pitched in the game and none of them were exactly sharp. Clay Rapada did not give up a run in 1 1/3 innings and has a 0.00 ERA this spring. However, he walked two and gave up a hit before inducing Chad Tracy to ground out with the bases loaded in the fifth.
  • Juan Cedeno opened the sixth by issuing a leadoff walk to Adam LaRoche and Jayson Werth followed with a double. Then with one out, Steve Lombardozzi hit a sacrifice fly to score LaRoche.
  • Michael O’Connor opened the ninth with a 8-5 lead and promptly issued a leadoff walk to Roger Bernadina and one-out single to Mark Teahan to bring the tying run to the plate. After O’Connor retired Tracy on a grounder to advance Bernadina and Teahan, manager Joe Girardi summoned Warren to close out the game.

BOMBER BANTER

With Eduardo Nunez still nursing a bruised right hand for the past 10 days, the injury to Pena is not good news. Pena said he hopes to miss only two or three days by Girardi said he is not so sure about that. No tests are planned on the ankle and Pena will be re-evaluated in Tampa, FL., on Friday.   . . .  It appears doubtful that veteran right-hander Fraddy Garcia will be able to pitch in his next scheduled start because of a bruised right thumb and index finger.  Garcia was struck on the hand on a grounder off the bat of Edwin Encarnacion of the Blue Jays in the fourth inning of a game on Wednesday. The Yankees think Garcia just has a bad bruise and they do not believe the injury is serious.

ON DECK

The Yankees will complete a two-game home-and-away series with the Nationals at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Friday.

Ace left-hander CC Sabathia is scheduled to pitch for the Yankees. He will be making his third start of the spring. The Nationals will start former Oakland left-hander Gio Gonzalez, who has not given up a run in his two previous appearances spanning seven innings.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network on tape delay and locally live by the YES Network.