TIGERS 10, YANKEES 6
Miguel Cabrera broke a 4-4 tie in the seventh with a two-run home run that sparked a five-run inning as Detroit overcame what was once a 4-1 deficit to down New York on Saturday at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, FL.
Cabrera’s fourth homer of the spring came off Cody Eppley (0-2), who failed to retire any of the five batters he faced in the frame and he was charged with all five runs.
Right-hander Darin Downs (1-0) pitched a scoreless inning in the top of the seventh to get credit for the victory.
Andy Pettitte started the game for the Yankees and he pitched well until he was tagged for three runs in the fifth inning. He ended up giving up four runs on eight hits and one walk while striking out five in 6 1/3 innings.
The Yankees broke out on top on the strength of an RBI single by Eduardo Nunez in the third inning, a solo home run from Ben Francisco – one of two home runs he hit on the day – and a two-run double in the fifth inning off the bat of Kevin Youkilis.
With the loss the Yankees dropped to 11-17 this spring. The Tigers improved to 16-11.
- Francisco’s solo shot in the fourth and two-run blast in the eighth were his first two home runs of the spring. Francisco, 31, may be a non-roster player but he is very quickly pushing his way into the outfield picture as part of a potential platoon with the lefty swinging Brennan Boesch. Francisco is hitting a sizzling .350 on the spring.
- Pettitte pitched much better than his final line indicated. He was in command and looking like he was in midseason form in the first four innings. Discounting the bad inning, Pettitte gave up one run on four hits and one walk while striking out five. Pettitte, 40, said after the game he felt good about the outing and that he just got too many pitches up in that three-run third.
- Youkilis snapped a small slump over the past week to drive in two big runs with his double with two out in the fifth inning off Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez. Youkilis now has eight RBIs this spring, which is second on the team behind outfielder Melky Mesa, who has 10.
- Eppley had one of those days he would like to forget. The sidewinding right-hander came into the game for Pettitte with one out in the sixth and proceeded to give up a single to Torii Hunter, the homer to Cabrera, a single to Quintin Berry, an RBI double to Victor Martinez and a RBI single to Matt Tuiasosopo before being removed from the game by manager Joe Girardi. Eppley is 0-2 with a 14.29 this spring. However, he likely still will make the 25-man roster.
- On a day when the Yankees scored six runs on 14 hits, designated hitter Travis Hafner – once again – contributed nothing to the attack. Hafner, 35, was 0-for-3 and did not get a ball out of the infield. He is hitting .118 on the spring and may end up being a huge bust. Perhaps signing free agent Jim Thome would have made more sense.
Derek Jeter grounded out in each of his four at-bats in a minor-league game played against the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Triple-A affiliate at the Yankees’ spring complex in Tampa. Jeter did not run hard on his surgically repaired left ankle but Jeter remains confident he will be able to be ready to play on Opening Day. . . . It was made official on Saturday: The Yankees announced they have signed right-hander Chien-Ming Wang to minor-league contract. Wang, 32, won 55 games over a four-year span with the Yankees, including two seasons in which he won 19 games. He was 6-6 with a 4.94 in 21 games with Washington Nationals last season. . . . Vidal Nuno has opened eyes this spring enough to be in the running for a spot in the bullpen, according to general manager Brian Cashman. With left-handed specialist Clay Rapada recovering from bursitis in his throwing shoulder, Nuno has a shot to make the 25-man roster. The 25-year-old lefty is 1-1 with a 0.68 ERA this spring. . . . Boesch was examined by a team doctor on Saturday and his sore left ribcage checked out fine. Girardi said Boesch could return to the lineup on Tuesday or Wednesday.
The Yankees return to George M. Steinbrenner Field to play host to the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday.
Right-hander Adam Warren will start for the Yankees and he will be opposed by right-hander Jeremy Hellickson.
Game-time will be 1:05 EDT and the game will be telecast locally by the YES Network and nationally by the MLB Network.
YANKEES 9, TWINS 7
As the old saying goes, what a difference a day makes. After managing just one hit at home on Thursday against the Twins the Yankees finally found their way to the bat rack on the road in Fort Myers, FL, and got a measure of payback on Friday.
Robinson Cano drove home two runs and Ben Francisco broke a 5-5 tie in the eighth inning with an RBI single as New York collected 14 hits to down Minnesota in front of a record paid crowd of 8,366 at Ed Hammond Stadium.
Cano, playing in just his second game back with the Yankees after returning as the Most Valuable Player for the World Baseball Classic champion Dominican Republic team, was the designated hitter and was 1-for-2 with an RBI double and a sacrifice fly.
Francisco’s RBI single off Tyler Robertson (0-2) in the eighth came as part of a four-run inning that put the game out of reach.
Ivan Nova started for the Yankees and surrendered five runs (four earned) on seven hits and a walk over 5 1/3 innings. Justin Morneau and Ryan Doumit hit back-to-back home runs off Nova as part of three-run second inning.
Jim Miller gave up no runs on one hit and a walk in 1 1/3 innings to earn credit for the victory. Despite giving up a solo home run to Dan Rohlfing in the ninth inning, Kelvin Perez was credited with a save.
The Yankees’ Grapefruit League ledger is now at 11-16. The Twins are 12-13.
- Having a red-hot and contract-driven Cano back in the lineup is already paying big dividends for the Yankees. With all the losses to free agency and injury, Cano remains the biggest and best threat the Yankees have. Along with winning the MVP in the WBC, Cano is hitting a torrid .318 for the Yankees this spring. This could be the year he breaks out in a big, big way.
- Very quietly Francisco is having a big spring. He was hitting .333 for the Cleveland Indians when he arrived and he is continuing to hit well for the Yankees. With Juan Rivera seemingly a lock to play first in the absence of Mark Teixeira, Francisco figures to make the team as part of a platoon with the lefty-swinging Brennan Boesch in a corner outfield spot.
- Ronnier Mustelier is also knocking on the door to make the team as a third baseman and outfielder. Mustelier, 28, was 3-for-4 including a two-run double in the the Yankees’ four-run eighth inning. The Cuban defector is hitting ,313 on the spring after he hit a combined .314 with 15 home runs and 69 RBIs at two minor-league stops last season.
- It just seems the Yankees get good pitching when they don’t score runs and when they do score runs they don’t get good pitching. This one of those days they scored and could not shut the other team down. The Yankees relinquished 2-0, 4-3 and 5-4 leads before scoring four runs in the eighth and then later gave up single runs in the eighth and ninth. This is perhaps a byproduct of the fact that Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Cody Eppley and Joba Chamberlain rarely pitch on the road and Boone Logan is just back from a sore elbow.
- Nova struggled for the second straight outing. In his last two starts, Nova has given up nine runs (eight earned) on 13 hits and two walks in 10 1/3 innings. Both David Phelps and Nova have struggled of late and they remain pretty even in their battle for the fifth starter’s spot.
- Sloppy fielding continues to plague the Yankees this spring. The team committed three errors and they all had some impact on the score. Melky Mesa bobbled a single off the bat of Wilkin Ramirez in the second that led to a run scoring later the inning. In addition, after Nova fielded a ball of the bat of Ray Olmedo in the fourth, he looked back Doumit at third and threw to Rivera at first for the second out. However, Doumit broke for home and Rivera air-mailed the throw over Chris Stewart’s head to allow Doumit to score. In the eighth, Dan Johnson misplayed a routine throw to first that later allowed another unearned run to score.
Derek Jeter tested his inflamed left ankle at a workout at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Friday and said that if it were up to him he would playing now. Jeter took ground balls and participated in batting practice with no issues with the ankle other than some mild soreness. The Yankees announced a day earlier that Jeter would not play in any more Grapefruit League games in order to preserve the team’s ability to backdate his stint on the disabled list so he could return as early as April 6, if it were necessary. The Yankees still believe Jeter can open the season with the team on April 1. . . . Of course, it is not Yankees camp without another injury. Boesch rode the team bus to Fort Myers but had to be scratched from the game with a sore left ribcage. Manager Joe Girardi said Boesch likely will not play again until Tuesday. . . . In more injury news, left-handed relief specialist Clay Rapada likely will begin the season on the 15-day disabled list with bursitis in his left shoulder. Rapada, 32, did throw 15 fastballs from a mound on Friday but he still says he will need to be able to pitch effectively for several days in a row to help the team. Rapada says he is close to being ready but it will not be at the start of the season. . . . Meanwhile fellow walking wounded right-hander Phil Hughes allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits over three innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Class-A West Virginia club on Friday. Hughes was not sharp in his 57-pitch outing but he said he was just glad to be back on the mound after missing most of the spring with a bulging disk in his upper back. It seems likely Hughes will open the season on the disabled list and he will miss at least one start. . . . Jon Heyman reported on Friday that the Yankees have agreed to terms on a minor-league contract with former Yankees starter Chien-Ming Wang. The 32-year-old right-hander, won 55 games in four seasons with the Yankees before a series of foot and shoulder injuries derailed his career. He was 6-6 with a 4.94 ERA in 21 games with the Washington Nationals last season. Wang drew interest from major-league teams after he threw 12 shutout innings in two starts for the Chinese Taipei team in the WBC.
The Yankees will travel to Lakeland, FL, on Saturday to play the Detroit Tigers.
Left-hander Andy Pettitte will make his second start of the spring for the Yankees. The Tigers will counter right-hander Anibal Sanchez.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will not be telecast.
YANKEES 4, RED SOX 0
TAMPA – With all the dark clouds that seem to be swirling around the Yankees’ spring training camp – both literal and figurative – the skies always seem to part widely to allow in bright sunshine when they beat their most bitter rival. That is exactly what happened on Wednesday.
Left-handed camp sensation Vidal Nuno tossed five scoreless innings while the Yankees sent nine men to the plate in a four-run second inning against Felix Doubront as New York shut out the punchless Bostonians at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Nuno (1-1) is a 25-year-old pitcher who was released by the Cleveland Indians and discovered by team scouts pitching for the Washington Wild of an independent league. And all he has done this spring is throw up zeros, including five shutout innings against the Yankees when he was loaned to the World Baseball Classic champion Dominican Republic team for an exhibition game on March 6.
On Wednesday he did the same to Red Sox with a five-pitch assortment including a fastball, curveball, slider, cutter and changeup. Nuno allowed just two hits and a walk while he struck out one in a sparkling 63-pitch outing.
Meanwhile, the Yankees’ offense got to Doubront in the second inning.
Juan Rivera opened the frame with a single and newly acquired outfielder Ben Francisco doubled him to third. Jayson Nix scored Rivera on a sacrifice fly and Chris Stewart followed with an RBI single to score Francisco.
Thomas Neal and Melky Mesa each singled to load the bases and Doubront then dug a deeper hole for himself by uncorking a wild pitch to allow Stewart to score.
Brett Gardner drew a walk to reload the bases and Eduardo Nunez closed out the scoring another sacrifice fly to plate Neal.
Five Yankee relievers combined to hold the Red Sox scoreless in the final four innings, limiting them to just two hits and no walks.
The victory improved the Yankees’ spring record to 10-15. The Red Sox fell to 13-12.
- As impressive as Nuno has been this spring with his tidy 0.68 ERA, it is unlikely he will make the team’s Opening Day roster. Nuno is considered a starting pitcher and the Yankees have six starters ahead of him. There is a very slim possibility he could be used as a second left-hander out of the bullpen while Clay Rapada recovers from bursitis in his left shoulder. But the Yankees seem to be learning toward using Josh Spence in that role. Believe me, though, Nuno has made an impression and will get a chance with the big club at some point in 2013.
- The Yankees’ four-run second inning is pretty much how the Yankees will have to do a lot of their scoring in the regular season. They scored three of their four runs on a wild pitch and two sac flies. Such is life without power for the Yankees in 2013.
- Francisco has been a doubles-hitting fool this spring between his stint with the Indians and the Yankees. His double against Doubront in the second was his eighth double of the spring and those doubles account for all but three of his 11 hits. He is hitting a cool .333 and he likely will make the team a platoon corner outfielder.
- Perhaps Kevin Youkilis was too jazzed up facing his former team. He was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and he failed to get a ball out of the infield. Youkilis drew a lot of “Youk” calls from the paid crowd of 10,801 but it seemed most of them were from Yankee fans while Red Sox fans booed or were silent.
The game was played amid a solid blanket of heavy clouds but it could not compare with the gloomy news about shortstop Derek Jeter. After feeling soreness in his surgically repaired left ankle on Tuesday, Jeter was a late scratch from a game against the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater, FL. Jeter downplayed the soreness, saying it was something doctors told him to expect. But Jeter’s availability for Opening Day is now in question after he was administered an anti-inflammatory injection on Wednesday. General manager Brian Cashman said the soreness in Jeter’s left ankle is not serious but that he might have to open the season on the disabled list. If that is the case, Nunez would start the season at shortstop. . . . Ace left-hander CC Sabathia threw 92 pitches on Wednesday against a minor-league lineup at the team’s complex in Tampa. Sabathia is scheduled to open the season April 1 against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. . . . Former Yankee right-hander Chien-Ming Wang worked out for the team at the team’s complex on Wednesday. Wang, 32, is a free agent who is drawing interest from a number of major-league teams after he pitched for Taiwan in the WBC. Cashman said the team has no vacancies in the rotation but they would be willing to offer Wang a minor-league deal to pitch at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
The Yankees will stay at home to play host to the Minnesota Twins on Thursday.
Right-hander David Phelps will continue his quest to make the rotation in his sixth start of the spring. He will be opposed by right-hander Liam Hendricks.
The Yankees will also welcome back WBC Most Valuable Player and All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano back to the lineup.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
BLUE JAYS 7, YANKEES 5
Edwin Encarnacion hit two home runs and drove in four runs and J.P. Arencibia added a two-run shot of his own as Toronto laid out the heavy lumber to defeat New York in a Grapefruit League game on Wednesday at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin, FL.
Veteran right-hander Carlos Villanueva (1-0) pitched two innings of scoreless relief to get credit for the victory. Freddy Garcia (1-1), who left the game with a hand injury in the fourth inning, took the loss. Jim Hoey pitched a scoreless ninth to earn a save.
Arencibia’s home run in the fourth inning off reliever Corey Wade broke a 1-1 tie and the Blue Jays tacked on four more runs in the fifth off rookie left-hander Manny Banuelos, keyed by a three-run home run by Encarnacion. The Yankees mounted a four-run rally in the seventh inning but fell short to lose their fourth straight exhibition game.
The Yankees’ spring ledger is now 5-8. The Jays have now won eight straight games and are 10-2.
- Curtis Granderson was 2-for-3 in the game and stroked a two-out RBI double in the third inning off starter Henderson Alvarez to score Derek Jeter to tie the score at 1-1. Granderson is hitting .316 on the spring and is one of the few Yankee regulars who is producing offense of late.
- After looking absolutely outmatched by Boston pitching Tuesday night, Doug Bernier stroked a two-run double off Blue Jays reliever Anthony Carreno in the seventh inning. Dewayne Wise then followed with a two-run single to bring the Yankees to within 7-5 before the rally fizzled. Bernier, 31, and Wise, 33, are the longest of longshots to make the Yankee roster this spring.
- D.J. Mitchell, another one of the “Fabulous Five” ticketed to make up the starting rotation at Triple A turned in three spectacular innings of relief. Mitchell did not give up a run, a hit or a walk and fanned four batters. Mitchell, 24, pitched at Clemson and is considered to be a great ground-ball pitcher with excellent control. His future with the Yankees could involve a move to the bullpen at the major-league level.
- Garcia’s outing was cut short by a hand injury but he did not pitch as effectively in this start. He was nicked for a solo home run by Encarnacion in the second inning and he gave up four hits and a walk in his three-plus innings of work. Of course, Wade entered the game and gave the two-run home run to Arencibia after Garcia was struck by Encarnacion’s hard grounder up the middle on the fingers of his right hand ended up skewing Garcia’s ERA higher.
- Banuelos, who turned 21 on Tuesday, just had one of those days he could not throw a strike. Of the eight batters he faced, Banuelos threw a first-pitch strike only to the last hitter he faced. He also fell behind every hitter he faced until the final batter (Arencibia) to end the inning. It is not easy to pitch effectively when you are behind in the count to every hitter and the Blue Jays made him pay. Banuelos was ticketed for Triple A anyway so he can just chalk up this outing as a learning experience. Banuelos must learn to command his secondary pitches.
- I hate to beat a dead horse but Raul Ibanez was 0-for-3 and he is hitting .083 this spring. After dealing with the struggles of Jorge Posada at designated hitter last season the Yankees might not be worried yet. But they better have a plausible Plan B if Ibanez does not shake his batting woes when the bell rings to open the season.
As usual with the Yankees on the road, the Blue Jays welcomed 5,509 fans to the game on Wednesday, their largest crowd of the spring. . . . X-rays taken on Garcia’s right hand indicated no broken bones. Garcia’s right thumb and the tip of his index finger were swollen and it is unclear of Garcia will miss his next spring start. . . . Meanwhile, All-Star reliever David Robertson was able to run on a treadmill for 30 minutes and he will resume pitching off a mound this weekend. Robertson suffered a bone bruise on his right foot while slipping on a step at his home last week. . . . Veteran outfielder Nick Swisher left Wednesday’s game in the fifth inning with tightness in his left groin. The injury does not appear to be serious and Swisher is listed as day-to-day.
For the next two days the Yankees will embark on a home-and-away set with the Washington Nationals starting Viera, FL.
The Yankees are scheduled to pitch 23-year-old right-hander Michael Pineda, who has been plagued by a lack of velocity on his fastball this spring. He will be making his third start. Pineda will be opposed by an old friend, Chien-Ming Wang. The 31-year-old right-hander and former Yankee star will be making his second start of the spring and he is 1-0 with 9.00 ERA.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network.
With the advent of the free-agent signing season coming, the New York Yankees obviously are in the market for some starting pitching help. We have already detailed the Yankees’ likely interest in the Rangers’ C.J. Wilson, Japanese star Yu Darvish and longtime White Sox ace Mark Buerhle. But what if the best laid plans of general manager Brian Cashman do not work out as planned and the Yankees sign none of those players? What if they are unable to make a trade for a starter? Let’s see if there is a creditable Plan C if free agents and trades are unavailable. This is a two-part report. The first part deals with the Yankees options at the major-league level. Part two will deal with their minor-league options.
PART 1: POTENTIAL MAJOR LEAGUE OPTIONS
Last winter, the Yankees struck out on Cliff Lee, Andy Pettitte retired and the Yankees decided to make smaller moves to patch their starting rotation holes.
They signed a pair of veteran free agents, Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia.
Most baseball observers were underwhelmed by those moves. But a strange thing happened as spring training unfolded.
Colon, 38, actually started pitching a lot like he did during his 2005 Cy Young Award-winning season with the Angels. Though he did not initially earn a rotation spot out of spring training, his work in the bullpen was so exceptional that he was placed in the rotation on April 20 in place of an injured Phil Hughes.
Colon not only won his first two starts, he was pitching impeccably. Of his first nine starts, he was 4-2 with a 3.10 ERA and he had thrown seven quality starts.
However, the other end of Colon’s saga played out in that ninth start on June 11 against Cleveland.
The Yankees were not happy when Colon reported to spring training well over his listed weight of 265 pounds. But they overlooked it when Colon threw so well during spring training. They put him in the bullpen largely because of concerns about the fact he had not thrown more than 99 innings in any season since 2005.
Well, Father Time has a way of penalizing overweight players in the middle of their success. That is what happened to Colon when he strained his right hamstring covering first base. Colon won the game but landed on the 15-day disabled list. He ended up missing three weeks.
Colon won his return start against the Mets on July 2 by pitching six shutout innings but then lost his next two outings. He then ran off a stretch of four quality starts in his next five outings to run his record to 8-6 with a 3.31 ERA as of Aug. 11. But, from that point on, Colon would struggle so badly he would not only lose a spot in the playoff rotation; he also was left off the playoff roster altogether.
In his last eight starts, he did not win a single game. He also gave up 28 runs over the last 44 2/3 innings (a 5.84 ERA) and he did not look anything like the Colon who was probably the Yankees’ second-best starter behind CC Sabathia in mid-August. But after 110 innings, Colon’s stuff went south quicker than a Kim Kardashian marriage.
The prospects of the Yankees re-signing the veteran right-hander are very slim. In addition to his age, Colon will never be able to slim down enough to make the Yankees want to take a chance on him again. Colon’s only hope is to catch with another club and pitch out of the bullpen. His days as a starter look to be over.
On the other hand, Garcia did not really pitch exceptionally well in the spring. Of course, the 34-year-old right-hander had a habit of not pitching well in the spring. So Garcia was kept as the team’s No. 5 starter despite a less than stellar spring.
Much like Colon, Garcia started out hot by winning his first two starts by throwing 12 innings of shutout baseball in those two games.
While Colon was doing it with his mid-90s fastball, Garcia could have been clocked on his pitches with a sundial.
Yet, Garcia was effective in putting away hitters with a devastating slow split-finger fastball. It may not have looked as impressive as Sabathia or Mariano Rivera blowing ptches by hitters but it was nevertheless effective. Garcia was able to keep the Yankees in almost every game he pitched.
On Aug. 7, Garcia made his 20th start of the season at Fenway Park, giving up one run in five innings a no-decision victory. At the point, Garcia was 10-7 with a 3.09 ERA. Then a mishap with a knife at home cost him a trip to the disabled list with a deep cut to a finger on his pitching hand.
He came back on Aug 29 to beat the Orioles with his 15th quality start in his first 21 starts of the season. But September proved to a cruel month for the pitcher nicknamed “Chief.”
Of his four starts that month, only his final start – six innings of shutout baseball over the Red Sox at Yankees Stadium – was a good start. He was 1-1 with a 7.36 ERA in September but he did finish the season 12-8 with a 3.62 ERA and he earned the third spot in the Yankees’ postseason rotation against the Tigers.
Unfortunately, Garcia did not pitch well in that start. He gave up three runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings in a loss to Justin Verlander and the Tigers.
If the Yankees are to advance in the playoffs in 2012, it would seem they would have improve their pitching enough that they would not need a Colon or Garcia in their rotation. But if the Yankees fail to land a top-flight free agent or get a decent starter via a trade, you could very well see Garcia re-signed.
Garcia stands out as a very possible Plan C.
But there are many options the Yankees can look to within the organization. After all, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova both are products of the Yankees’ minor-league system and they are being counted upon as two member of the starting rotation next season.
Hughes followed up a 18-8 season in 2010 with an injury-plagued 2011 campaign where he was 5-5 with a 5.79 ERA.
Hughes, 25, arrived at spring training with a strange lack of velocity on his fastball. As the spring unfolded in was obvious that there was something wrong with Hughes. After three ill-fated starts and a 13.94 ERA, Hughes was placed on the disabled list with weakness in his right shoulder.
He returned in July and showed flashes of his old self. Through Aug. 25, he made seven starts and he gave up more than two earned runs in only one of them.
But in back-to-back starts against Oakland and Boston, Hughes surrendered 12 earned runs in 8 1/3 innings. However, few fans remeber that his last two starts against Baltimore and Seatlle were both quality starts before he was placed in the bullpen due to recurring back spasms.
if Hughes is able to regain the form that made him an 18-game winner in 2010, the Yankees will be very lucky. Hughes is still the poster boy for Cashman’s renewed emphasis to develop pitchers in the Yankees’ farm system rather than trading good young prospects away for pitchers well past their prime.
The Cashman strategy also worked in Nova’s case. But it was quite by accident.
Nova’s minor-league numbers showed ability but it hardly screamed out that he was an star pitcher. He had good stuff but he was hardly a Stephen Strasburg who will blow you away with velocity. Nope, Nova is more like Chien-Ming Wang, another Yankees pitching prospect Cashman helped develop into success in the majors.
Nova relied on the groundball outs to get by in the majors. Who would have guessed it would have took him so far in 2011?
Nova pitched so well in spring training he forced manager Joe Girardi to use him in rotation at the expense of Colon.
In his first three starts, Nova was 1-1 and he lost a game in relief the Blue Jays to go 1-2 with a 7.63 ERA. A more impatient team might have given up on Nova and shipped him back to the minors but with Hughes injured they still needed the 24-year-old right-hander.
After winning his next two starts, Nova was blasted on May 12 by the Kansas City Royals, of all teams, for 10 hits and eight runs (four earned) in three innings. He was 3-3 with a 4.70 ERA.
From that point on, Nova only lost one more game the entire season when he gave up two earned runs in six innings on June 3 to the Angels in Anaheim, CA. Nova was 13-1 with a 3.40 after that outing against the Royals. That also included a stint of one month when Nova was sent down in July when Hughes retuned to the rotation.
Yes, the Yankees actually sent a pitcher to the minor leagues who ended up with a 16-4 record and 3.70 ERA and who became the team’s second-best starter behind Sabathia by the time the playoffs rolled around.
Nova actually starred in the playoffs with his amazing start in Game 1 (which actually was a relief appearance) in which he limited the Tigers to just two runs on four hits in 6 1/3 innings. He also started Game 5, but was obviously pitching injured when he gave up two first-inning home runs after a regular season in which he given up just 13 in 165 1/3 innings.
Nova left, the Tigers scored only one more run and we all know the Yankees failed to get the big hit the rest of the way and lost. It would have been nice to have seen what would have happened if Nova were healthy that day. But the Yankees can take comfort that Nova will return and he looks like he will be a successful pitcher for many years to come.
He will never be an ace. But he is plenty good enough to win.
But, if the Yankees fail at Plan A (signing a free agent), Plan B (trading for a starter) and Plan C (signing a veteran retread like Garcia). What will they do? Is there a Plan D?
In other words, are there any pitchers the Yankees can count on to come up like Hughes or Nova to fill a void in the rotation in 2012. The answer is, thanks to Cashman and the scouting department, is yes.
We will discuss the options in the second part.
NEXT: MINOR-LEAGUE OPTIONS