Veteran right-hander Adam Warren was named by manager Joe Girardi to start the New York Yankees’ spring opener on Tuesday against the Philadelphia Phillies at Bright House Field in Clearwater, FL.
Warren, 27, was 3-6 with a 2.97 ERA in 69 games (all in relief) last season. The Yankees, however, are auditioning a trio of pitchers (Warren, Esmil Rogers and rookie Bryan Mitchell) as potential sixth starters this spring.
Because the Yankees have starters Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia coming off injuries last season and they have a stretch of 30 games in 31 days in late April and early May, Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild are holding out the possibility of using six starters through that portion of the schedule.
Though Warren has only three career major-league starts, he started all 90 games he pitched in the minors and compiled a record of 28-25 with a 3.11 ERA in four seasons.
The Phillies have named veteran right-hander Jerome Williams as their starter in the opener. Williams, 33, is a journeyman right-hander who was 6-7 with 4.77 ERA in 37 games (11 of them starts) with the Houston Astros, Texas Rangers and the Phillies last season.
The Yankees will open the home spring training schedule on Wednesday at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL against the Phillies.
Girardi has named newly-acquired right-hander Nathan Eovaldi to start that game. Eovaldi, 25, was 6-14 with a 4.37 ERA in 33 starts with the Miami Marlins last season.
Eovaldi, first baseman/outfielder Garrett Jones and minor-league right-hander Domingo German were acquired by the Yankees from the Marlins on Dec. 19 in exchange for infielder Martin Prado and right-hander David Phelps.
The Phillies have scheduled veteran right-hander Aaron Harang to oppose Eovaldi. Harang, 36, was 12-12 with a 3.57 ERA in 33 starts with the Atlanta Braves last season.
The Phillies signed Harang to a one-year, $5 million contract as a free agent on Jan. 5.
The Yankees also announced that Rogers, 29, will pitch against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, FL. The right-hander was signed as free agent last August after going 0-0 with a 6.97 ERA in 16 relief appearances with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Rogers debuted for the Yankees on Aug. 4 and was 2-0 with a 4.68 ERA in 18 games with the Yankees, including one spot start.
The Pirates will counter with veteran left-hander Francisco Liriano, who was 7-10 with a 3.38 ERA in 29 starts with the Bucs last season.
The Yankees already have sustained their first official injury of the spring and it is to backup middle infielder Brendan Ryan. Ryan, 32, sustained a middle-back strain while lifting weights on Feb, 27. Ryan was examined by Dr. Daniel Murphy on Thursday and a subsequent MRI indicated the strain. Though the injury is not considered serious, Ryan will be restricted from all baseball activities for at least five days. Ryan suffered a cervical neck sprain last spring and was forced to start the season on the disabled list. He was activated by the Yankees on May 5 and batted .167 with no home runs and eight RBIs in 49 games last season. . . . It is not clear if infielder Alex Rodriguez will participate in the team’s intrasquad game scheduled for Monday at Tampa or the team’s first exhibition game against the Phillies on Tuesday. Girardi told reporters “I’m not sure yet.” Neither Rodriguez or Girardi have spoken about whether he is available to play. Rodriguez, 39, is coming off an injury-riddled 2013 season and was suspended by Major League Baseball for the 2014 season for using performance enhancing drugs. Asked if he is ready to play on Tuesday, Rodriguez told reporters “I’ll have to ask Joe first.” . . . The Phillies will be without starting second baseman Chase Utley for Tuesday’s game due to a sprained right ankle. Utley, 36, sprained his ankle in January and it has not fully recovered enough for him to play, the Phillies said. Manager Ryne Sandberg also would not indicate if Ryan Howard or any of the Phillies’ regulars would play Tuesday.
The Yankees will open their spring training schedule against the Phillies on Tuesday at 1:05 p.m. EST at Bright House Field.
The game will be broadcast at 9 p.m. EST on tape delay by the MLB Network.
ORIOLES 14, YANKEES 5
The definition of the astronomical term “nova” is a star that suddenly bursts into extreme brilliance and then gradually reduces in intensity. That is an apt description of Ivan Nova, whose talent can burn brighter than any Yankee pitcher and then just as vexing it can fade like he did on Tuesday.
Delmon Young and Matt Wieters each homered and drove in three runs apiece as Baltimore pounded out 20 hits to drub New York in front of paid crowd of 35,864 at Yankee Stadium.
Nova (1-1) was raked for seven runs on 10 hits and no walks while he struck out three in 3 2/3 innings. The Orioles also scored seven runs on eight hits and two walks in 3 1/3 innings off left-hander Vidal Nuno in what was Nuno’s worst outing in the major leagues.
Wei-Yin Chen (1-1) was credited with the victory although he was tagged for four runs on nine hits and no walks while he fanned three batters in five innings.
But the Orioles jumped on Nova early and often, scoring three runs in the first inning capped by a two-run home run by Adam Jones.
They added a single run in the second and chased Nova with three runs in the third highlighted by RBI singles by Young and Chris Davis.
The Orioles turned the game into a rout in the sixth when Young blasted a two-run off Nuno as part of a four-run inning, Nuno had entered the comest having yielded only five earned runs in his major-league career.
With the loss the Yankees’ season record fell to 4-4. The Orioles improved to 3-5.
- After a spring training in which he was slowed by the flu and starting the season 0-for-17, Alfonso Soriano is finally showing what he can do with his bat. Soriano was 2-for-4 with a double and his first home run of the season, which he hit leading off the fourth inning against Chen. In the past three games, Soriano is 5-for-10 (.500).
- Yangervis Solarte is quickly becoming the new darling of the Bronx after he went 2-for-4 with two doubles and a RBI on Tuesday. Solarte’s two doubles give him six on the season, which leads the major leagues. Solarte’s .458 average also ties him with Chase Utley of the Philadephia Phillies for the fourth best in the majors.
- Jacoby Ellsbury is on a tear of his own over the past five games. The 30-year-old outfielder was 3-for-4 with a double on Tuesday and is 12-for-22 (.636) since April 4. Unfortunately, Ellsbury has driven in only two runs in that span because nobody is getting in scoring position ahead of him.
- Nova’s talent is undeniable but he makes you want to tear your hair out when he pitches like he did on Tuesday. He threw 45 of his 61 pitches for strikes (74%), but the strikes he threw were nearly all belt high in the middle of the plate. The Orioles made him pay, too. In his two starts, Nova has yielded nine runs on 16 hits and five walks in in 9.1 innings. His ERA is 8.68 and the Yankees know he is better pitcher than that.
- Nuno, 27, also is capable of pitching better. He entered the sixth inning with the Yankees trailing 7-4 and he ended up getting shelled for four runs, which turned the game into a rout. Because this is the first time Nuno has taken a pounding you have to give him a pass. He has been very effective for the Yankees and the Yankees do need a good left-hander in the bullpen.
- Brian McCann continues to struggle at the plate. He was 0-for-4 on Tuesday with two pretty weak infield rollers of his bat. McCann is 5-for-29 (.172) with no homers and two RBIs in seven games this season. There is no need to panic but the Yankees do need him to pick it up with Mark Teixeira on the disabled list.
The Yankees recalled left-hander Cesar Cabral from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday to replace closer David Robertson, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained groin. Cabral, 25, pitched 9 1/3 innings of scoreless relief for the Yankees this spring but did not make the 25-man roster. Cabral pitched one-thrd of an inning on Tuesday, giving up a hit and a walk. . . . Manager Joe Girardi opted to use backup catcher Francisco Cervelli at first base on Tuesday. It was first time Cervelli had ever played first base in the major leagues. With Teixeira on the disabled list Girardi believes Cervelli can be a serviceable backup for Kelly Johnson at first base.
The Yankees can still salvage the three-game series with a victory on Wednesday against the Orioles.
Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (1-0, 2.57 ERA) will make his Yankee Stadium debut after he won his major-league debut on Friday against the Toronto Blue Jays. Tanaka gave up three runs (two earned) 0n six hits and no walks while he struck out eight in seven innings.
The Orioles will counter with right-hander Miguel Gonzalez (0-1, 18.90 ERA) was shelled for a career-high seven runs on nine hits and one walk in just 3 1/3 innings against the Detroit Tigers on Friday.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.
PHILLIES 6, YANKEES (SS) 2
Roberto Hernandez threw five perfect innings and the Phillies touched Ivan Nova for three runs in the third inning as Philadelphia downed a New York split squad on Thursday at Bright House Field in Clearwater, FL.
Hernandez (1-0) gave up a leadoff single to Scott Sizemore in the sixth and was removed the game.
Nova (1-1) yielded three runs on nine hits while he struck out five in five innings of work.
Ben Revere, Chase Utley, Marlon Byrd, Ryan Howard and Domonic Brown all singled off Nova in the third inning. Darin Ruf then doubled but Brown was thrown out at the plate by left-fielder Ramon Flores.
Jacoby Ellsbury hit a solo home run, his first with the Yankees, in the seventh and Francisco Cervelli added another run in the frame with an RBI single off left-hander Jeremy Horst.
The Yankees’ spring record fell to 8-6-2. The Phillies are now 4-10.
- Ellsbury has not had a good spring with the bat but his home run was a welcome site. The Yankees are counting on Ellsbury for batting average, power and speed at the top of the order this season.
- Cervelli’s hot spring continues. He has five RBIs and three of them have come in his last two games. The Yankees have pretty much given him the backup catching job. But he is earning it with his stellar play.
- Remember the name Bryan Mitchell. The 22-year-old right-hander pitched a perfect inning against the Phillies and struck out a pair. The Yankees think he could be a top of the rotation starter someday.
- Nova has now put together two very shaky starts in a row. In those starts he has yielded six runs on 17 hits in nine innings. That has raised his spring ERA to 5.40. It is not worth worrying about quite yet. But Nova could stand to work on being more consistent.
- The Yankees managed only four hits in the game, It is hard to believe the Yankees could not solve Hernandez, who was formerly known as Fausto Carmons, was 6-13 with a 4.89 ERA in 32 games (24 starts) with the Tampa Bay Rays last season.
The Yankees will play host to the Minnesota Twins at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Friday.
Right-hander David Phelps will start for the Yankees.
Right-hander Kyle Gibson will pitch for the Twins.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.
PHILLIES 4, YANKEES 1
CLEARWATER – One thing the Yankees are finding out this spring is it is pretty hard to score runs when you don’t get many hits. On Tuesday, they ended up with just two of them and they found that one run just was not enough to win.
Kyle Kendrick (1-2) gave up one unearned run on two hits and struck out three and Domonic Brown continued his own personal assault against Yankee pitching with a solo home run in the fourth inning as Philadelphia downed New York at Bright House Field.
Adam Warren (0-2) carried a 1-0 lead into the fourth inning but was tagged by Brown’s sixth home run of the spring (three of them have come against the Yankees) and a RBI double by Steven Lerud to score Laynce Nix.
The Phillies added single runs in the sixth on a RBI single by Michael Young off reliever Shawn Kelley and in the seventh on a solo home run off the bat of Ryan Howard against left-hander Josh Spence.
Warren ended up giving up two runs on seven hits and a walk and struck out two batters.
Chad Durbin pitched a scoreless ninth to earn a save.
With the loss the Yankees’ Grapefruit League record dropped to 9-15. The Phiilies improved to 11-12.
- Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki teamed up to set up the Yankees’ only score of the day. Gardner led off the fourth with a bunt single and he reached second on Kendrick’s throwing error attempting to throw him out at first. One out later Suzuki doubled to the gap in left-center to plate Gardner. Suzuki is hitting .382 this spring.
- Left-hander Boone Logan, 28, looked sharp in his first outing of the spring. Logan has been sidelined up to this point with soreness in his left elbow. Logan gave up a leadoff single to Chase Utley but then retired the side, including fanning lefty hitters Brown and Nix swinging to end the inning.
- David Aardsma also looked good in his one inning of work. He gave up no hits and struck out two. Aarsdma is making a strong case to make the Yankees’ bullpen this spring. After being hit early he has his spring ERA down to 3.60. Aardsma, 31, is a former Seattle Mariners closer who is returning to action after missing all of 2012 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
- Granted that Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira are injured. Plus Robinson Cano is busy in the final of the World Baseball Classic and Derek Jeter was scratched from the lineup as a precaution. But it is pretty sad when players like Gardner, Suzuki, Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner and Brennan Boesch can muster just two hits. That is just plain unacceptable.
- Warren was much better on Tuesday than he was in his last appearance against the Toronto Blue Jays on March 14 in Dunedin, FL. In that game Warren gave up eight runs on four hits and five walks in just 1 1/3 innings. But Warren still has trouble putting away hitters on two-strike counts and he gives up way too many hits.
- After looking sharp in his early appearances this spring, Kelley is beginning to struggle a bit. In his last two outings – both against the Phillies – he has given up four runs on seven hits and two walks in two innings of work. His spring ERA has ballooned to 5.40.
Jeter is trying to tamp down any panic that might be brewing over his decision not play shortstop on Tuesday after feeling stiffness in his surgically repaired left ankle. Jeter told reporters that he was told by his doctors that he would feel occasional stiffness and he just sat out as a precaution. An MRI and X-rays of the ankle were taken after the game and the MRI showed just mild inflammation around the ankle. Jeter is listed as day-to-day. . . . Right-hander Phil Hughes, who is recovering from a bulging disk in his upper back, pitched in a simulated game on Monday at the team’s camp in Tampa and his next action should come Saturday in a minor-league game. Hughes is hoping to be able to be ready to pitch in the first week of the season but he also could be forced to miss at least one start.
SPECIAL NOTE: I would like to thank my fellow Section 205 pal, Tim, for providing my son and me with tickets to Tuesday’s game at Bright House Field. Being able to see as many games live is essential for providing my readers with the information they desire about the Yankees. Thanks so much for the tickets and the support to my blog. It means a lot.
On Wednesday, the Yankees have a date with their arch-rivals, the Boston Red Sox, at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
The Yankees will start left-hander Vidal Nuno, 25, who is 0-1 with a 1.08 ERA in his four appearances this spring. He will be opposed by Red Sox left-hander Felix Doubront.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by ESPN and on tape-delay by the MLB Network.
YANKEES 5, PHILLIES 3
Robinson Cano sparked a three-run first inning on Friday with an opposite-field two-run double and a New York split squad made the lead hold up behind the solid pitching of Hiroki Kuroda to defeat Philadelphia in a Grapefruit League contest at Bright House Field in Clearwater, FL.
The Yankees jumped on Phillies starter and eventual losing pitcher Vance Worley (1-2) early with a leadoff double by Brett Gardner and a bloop single by Francisco Cervelli that advanced Gardner to third. Cano then laced a double to the wall in left center to score both runners. Eric Chavez then capped the big inning with a RBI double to left that scored Cano.
Kuroda (2-1) gave up only one run on six hits and one walk and struck out three in his 5 2/3 innings of work to earn the victory. David Phelps gave up two runs in his 3 1/3 innings of relief to earn a save.
With the victory the Yankees are 7-1 with one tie in their last nine games. Their spring record stands at 12-9-1. The Phillies fell to 9-11.
- Cano was 3-for-4 with two doubles, a run scored and two RBIs. He has raised his spring average to .243 and he looks to be on his way to another big season with the bat hitting in the No. 3 spot for the Yankees.
- Kuroda looked very sharp against he a team he was very familiar with when he was pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Kuroda threw first-pitch strikes to 17 of the 24 batters he faced. Only six balls reached the outfield on him. Kuroda and CC Sabathia are the only two pitchers assured of spots in the rotation when the season starts.
- Doug Bernier continues to shine at the plate. He was 2-for-4 with an RBI double and a bunt infield single. Bernier is hitting .385 and playing excellent defense despite the fact he has absolutely no a ghost of a chance to make the team. It would be tough for him with Derek Jeter, Eduardo Nunez and Ramiro Pena ahead of him.
- The Yankees won but they could have put away the Phillies a lot easier had they not had three double plays turned against them. They had Worley on the ropes early but allowed him to escape further trouble after the first inning. The Yankees added single runs in the seventh inning off David Herndon and in the eighth inning off Eric Stutes.
- Phelps allowed the Phillies to get back into the game by giving up an RBI single by Miguel Abreu in the seventh and a solo home run to Erik Kratz in the eighth before retiring the Phillies in order in the ninth. The two runs were the first earned runs Phekps has allowed this spring.
- It is hard to evaluate this victory because the Phillies are reeling from injuries to Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. Starting third baseman Placido Polanco and catcher Carlos Ruiz also sat on Friday. The Phillies offense looks to be lacking and they are going to have to rely on their pitching to carry them. So the Yankees should not get too excited about winning this one.
The Yankees are reeling from the news Joba Chamberlain underwent surgery on his dislocated ankle on Thursday and will miss the remainder of the 2012 season. The 26-year-old right-hander has not pitched since June 5 and underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. He was rehabbing the elbow this spring and hoped to return to the Yankees sometime in June. However, on Thursday night he was playing with his son on a trampoline in the Tampa area and suffered an open dislocation of his right ankle, which means the bone was protruding through the skin. Chamberlain also, according to reports, lost a “life-threatening amount of blood” as a result of the injury. Chamberlain will remain hospitalized for a few days and it is unclear how far back this will push his return to the Yankees. . . . Andy Pettitte threw a live batting practice session and reported that he his left arm felt good afterwards. Pettitte threw 35 warmup tosses and 26 pitches to batters and two pitchouts during the session. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild called the session by the 39-year-old veteran “awesome.” Pettitte’s next hurdle will be to pitch a light bullpen session on Sunday. He hopes to be able to return to the major leagues in early May. . . . Manager Joe Girardi defended his decision to end Thursday’s game against the Red Sox in Fort Myers, FL., after Boston tied the game in the bottom of the ninth inning. Girardi said there was no communication from the umpires about the status of the Yankee pitchers. Girardi said he simply made the decision based on the status of his pitchers and it would have been acceptable to play an one extra half-inning if Boston manager Bobby Valentine had wanted Clayton Mortensen to throw. Valentine claimed Girardi’s decision not to play a 10th inning “was not courteous.” Considering the source (Valentine) I would not lose sleep over it. . . . Jeter returned to the lineup and played three innings of the split squad game in Tampa, FL., against the Twins. Jeter was 1-2 in the game. He had been sidelined for seven games with a strained left calf.
The Yankees are in Lakeland on Saturday playing the Detroit Tigers at 1:05 p.m. EDT.
The game is not being telecast.
The New York Yankees got some game-condition work in on Friday with a 11-0 exhibition victory over the University of South Florida at George M. Steinbrenner Field at Tampa, FL.
Right-hander Adam Warren pitched two scoreless innings to pick up the victory. Warren, 24, gave up one hit and walked none while striking out two as part of a group of seven Yankee pitchers who limited the Bulls to four hits, no walks and struck out 10.
Manager Joe Girardi started all his regulars with the exception of second baseman Robinson Cano and catcher Russell Martin and the regulars were given only one or two at-bats.
Girardi was pleased with the hitting of outfielder Zoilo Almonte (2-for-2, two RBIs) and second baseman David Adams (1-for-2, one RBI). Outfielder Colin Curtis and Infielder Ramiro Pena added two hits apiece as the Yankees pounded out 14 hits against USF pitching.
The USF Bulls are coached by Lelo Prado, the brother-in-law of former Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez, currently a special assistant to general manager Brian Cashman. USF is in fourth place in the Big East standings with a 4-4 record.
The Yankees are 3-0 against USF in spring exhibitions by a combined score of 31-5. Proceeds from the game benefitted the USF baseball program.
Most of Friday’s news surrounded two former Yankees. Former Yankee right-hander A.J. Burnett underwent successful surgery to repair an injury to his right-eye orbital bone in Pittsburgh and the Pirates announced that he will miss about eight to 12 weeks. Bunrett sustained the injury fouling a bunt off his eye during a bunting contest at the Pirates spring training complex in Bradenton, FL. . . . Former Yankee catcher and designated hitter Jesus Montero took two foul shots off his jaw in the fifth inning of the Mariners’ spring Cactus League opener against the Oakland Athletics and had to be removed from the game. Up to that point, Montero, 22, was 1-for-3 at the plate with two runs and two RBIs in the game in Phoenix, AZ. The Mariners have already announced that Miguel Olivo will open the season as the team’s starting catcher and that Montero would be a candidate to DH and develop as a catcher as a backup to Olivo.
The Yankees will open their 33-game spring training schedule on Saturday against the Philadelphia Phillies at Bright House Field in Clearwater, FL. Ivan Nova, a 24-year-old right-hander who was 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA in his rookie season, will start for the Yankees. Girardi also said that Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, Cesar Cabral, Michael O’Connor and David Phelps will pitch for the Yankees. The starting outfield of Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher along with Martin will start for the Yankees.
The Phillies will counter by starting left-hander Cole Hamels, who was 14-9 with a 2.79 ERA for the Phillies last season. David Bush, Jonathan Papelbon, Dontrelle Willis, Raul Valdes, Chad Qualls and Mike Stutes are also slated to pitch. The Phiilies willl open their spring slate without three of the top regulars available to play on Saturday. First baseman Ryan Howard has an infection in his left Achilles tendon and has not reported to camp. Second baseman Chase Utley and third baseman Placido Polanco are also being held out of action by manager Charlie Manuel. Utley suffers from a chronic knee condition and Polanco is recovering from sports hernia surgery.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EST and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network.
We have reached the midpoint of the 2011 season for the New York Yankees. Despite the pundits dire predictions about their so-called “suspect” starting rotation, they have the second-best record in baseball and the best record in the American League. They finished the first half on a seven-game winning streak and they were 30-12 (.714) from May 17 to July 2, the best record in baseball. Now it is time to hand out our annual report cards for the players who built that record.
SECOND BASE – ROBINSON CANO (,292 BA, 14 HRS, 54 RBIs)
After Robinson Cano’s breakout season of 2010, it was hard to imagine how the 28-year-old second baseman could top it. He hit a team-best .319 with 29 home runs and 109 RBIs. He won both the Silver Slugger Award and a Gold Glove at his position.
How do you top that?
As Cano has witnessed in the team’s first 81 games. You don’t really.
Cano, however, remains the best hitter on the Yankees and the best second baseman in baseball. His first half pretty much proved it and he was voted to start his second straight All-Star Game. All this despite the fact his season was not quite as good as his season in 2010.
The funny thing about Cano is that he is still a superstar that is defining himself even though he is in his seventh season. Those batting titles he was predicted to win have not materialized. His fielding is still wonderful and effortless but fans and critics say he can do more. It is not easy to have all that talent and be able to shape it into what other people think it should be. Cano just seems to be content letting his bat and glove do the shaping and not worry about what people are thinking.
If you double his first half home run and RBI numbers, Cano is right in line with his 2010 numbers. His batting average is 16 points lower than 2010 but only 11 below his career .303 average. It is not hard to imagine that as the warm summer months unfold, Cano’s bat will catch fire as well. He has always been a better second-half hitter. There is nothing to suggest it won’t be the case this season.
There are those who believe, and I am among them, that Cano would actually be the ideal No. 3 hitter for this team. The reason is the No. 3 spot is always reserved for the team’s most feared hitter. Opposing managers will tell you they fear Cano more than any other hitter in the Yankees’ lineup.
It is because his swing is so effortless and the ball jumps so hard off his bat that he can turn a game with a key hit. Managers bring in lefties to neutralize him. But Cano merely hits them better than he does right-handers. Cano is hitting a ridiculous .347 against left-handers and a very pedestrian .270 against right-handers this season. So when you see a manager coming out to the mound to bring in a left-hander they are actually playing into Cano’s strength. Like a cobra, Cano can bite the best-laid of plans to get him out.
There have been clamors about his defense this season. The range is still there. He is also making the most difficult plays look easy. But Cano set a high standard last season by committing only three errors.
Much like his lofty hitting, the standard is hard to maintain. So Cano has made six errors and most of those came on routine plays.
That is the curse of being Cano. When the game is so easy to play it is sometimes easy to get bored with the perfection you play it. Cano sometimes does fall into that trap of looking lazy and disinterested. But it is not really true. Can’s defense is still as sterling as it ever was and it would be a crime of he did not collect another Gold Glove in 2011.
See the big question is that if Cano is not the best second baseman in baseball, who is? Dustin Pedroia? He’s hitting .278 with less power and production. Danny Espinosa of Washington has 15 home runs and Kelly Johnson of Arizona has 14. But they are both hitting south of ,244. Ian Kinsler of Texas and Chase Utley of Philadelphia have had off-seasons and have dealt with injuries. Dan Uggla of Atlanta has more power, but he is not a hitter for average and he is a butcher in the field with limited range.
Rickie Weeks of Milwaukee comes the closest to Cano’s physical gifts. He can run better than Cano. But he is not the fielder Cano is.
So the best thing Yankee fans can do is appreciate what Cano is and what he is providing. They are not likely to see a better second baseman in the history of the franchise. Think of him as an Alfonso Soriano who can field like Roberto Alomar and you get a measure of what Cano means to this team. If this team is to win it all in 2011, Cano will have be right in the middle of it — hitting and fielding.
He may not win that batting title this season. But I think Cano would gladly forego it for a championship ring.
Cano deserves an A- for his first half. The only knock is the .292 average, which I believe will be in the .300 range by season’s end, barring injury. They just do not come any better than Cano.
Here is another Cano trait: He is durable. He has started 79 of the team’s 81 games. Eduardo Nunez started the other two and you are less likely to see Nunez here than you will at short and third for two reasons. One is that it is not a position he is as suited to play. The other is he is needed more often to replace the older Jeter (37) at short and Rodriguez (35) at third. The Yankees also have Ramiro Pena on the roster to play second base.
Nunez starred as a hitter replacing Jeter at shortstop but still needs work in the field at age 24. But the fact he hit .339 in place of Jeter is not lost among manager Joe Girardi. It will be Girardi’s task to find places for Nunez to play so he can get his bat in the lineup more. The fact the team sent outfielder Chris Dickerson back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to make room on the roster for Jeter is one clue. Nunez might be seeing more time in the outfield in the second half.
Pena, 25, who is hitting .111, is the opposite of Nunez. He can play infield with the best of them but he won’t hit much. His real value is that he is the team’s best bunter and he can steal a base or two even though he is not as fast as Nunez.
At the minor-league level, the Yankees’ best second base prospect is Reegie Corona, a 25-year-old switch-hitter. However, Corona is on the 60-day disabled list with a broken arm suffered during the winter. He has a long way to go in his rehab and it just looks like a lost season for him.
Kevin Russo, 27, is playing second base in Scranton and he is hitting .278 with a home run and 28 RBIs. He is solid in the field but he is not the athlete Corona is and he is a long dropoff from Cano at the position. We likely will not see Russo unless something happens to Pena or Nunez.
FIRST HALF GRADES
OVERALL POSITION GRADE: A-
Cano is right where he should be in production and he should be better with his hitting and fielding in the second half. The Yankees rely on Cano for so much that he gets taken for granted at times. But managers, coaches and scouts from opposing teams think he is the most dangerous hitter in this lineup. That is a scary thought considering Rodriguez was “that guy” for so long and he still is pretty scary. Just enjoy the second half of watching Cano making everything look easy and helping lead this team to a division title and beyond.
It is almost assured Cano will do just that.
NEXT: THIRD BASE