YANKEES 3, BRAVES 2
With all the Bronx, the Yankee front office and the coaches having completely chewed off their fingernails all winter worrying about Masahiro Tanaka’s right elbow they can now relax. The Japanese right-hander made his spring debut on Thursday and he looked just fine – really.
Tanaka pitched two perfect dominant innings and Jake Cave’s RBI ground-rule double and Nick Noonan’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of seventh inning propelled New York to a come-from-behind victory over Atlanta at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL.
The Yankees entered the seventh trailing 2-1. With one out and pinch-runners Jonathan Galvez and Jose Pirela on second and first, respectively, Cave laced long double to center that plated Galvez to tie the game at 2-2. Noonan followed with a sacrifice fly to left that scored Pirela from third with the go-ahead run.
Left-hander Justin Wilson (1-0) pitched a perfect seventh inning and recorded two strikeouts to get credit for the victory. Braves right-hander Tyrell Jenkins (0-1) was saddled with the loss. Right-hander Wilking Rodriguez pitched a scoreless ninth and earned a save.
The Yankees improved their Grapefruit League record to 6-4.
Tanaka, 26, looked every bit the same pitcher who was 13-5 with a 2.77 ERA in 20 starts last season. It did not take the Braves too long to see it.
He retired Andrelton Simmons and Alberto Callaspo on routine grounders and struck out Freddie Freeman looking on a pitch that Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez disputed so vehemently that he was ejected from the game after the first pitch of the bottom of the inning by home-plate umpire Dan Iassogna.
Tanaka then opened the second by fanning Jonny Gomes and inducing groundball outs from Christian Bethancourt and Chris Johnson. And that was Tanaka’s evening.
All told he threw only 19 pitches, 15 of them for strikes and he threw first-pitch strikes to four of the six batters. He was so efficient he had to go the bullpen to throw enough pitches to get up the 35 he had been allotted.
“Overall, I think it was good,” Tanaka told reporters through an interpreter. “Probably the best part is that I was able to get first-pitch strikes a whole lot tonight.”
He was clocked as high 94 miles per hour on his fastball and he stayed within 88 to 91 most of the outing. He drew raves from his catcher, Brian McCann.
“He looked great, kind of picking up right where he left off last year,” McCann told reporters. “His sinker tonight was what impressed me the most. He had good downward action on it. His split was there, and he had a couple of quick innings. He was putting the ball where he wanted.”
Manager Joe Girardi now feels relieved to have his ace pass his first test of the elbow.
“You want to get all your starters out there and try to get them going,” Girardi told reporters. “You can’t spend your time worrying about what might be. You just approach every day, you know what you have, and you go forward.”
Tanaka also was glad to have his first outing out of the way.
“I feel better right now,” he told reporters. “I’ve had the time to prepare myself up to this point. It has gone well thus far.”
Now all of Yankee Universe can exhale. The team’s ace is just fine – really.
- The concern about Didi Gregorius has not been his glove or arm because both have been sensational. The real issue has been his bat but Gregorius ripped a leadoff triple into left-center off Braves starter Shelby Miller. The 25-year-old shortstop later scored on a fielder’s choice groundout by Brett Gardner to give the team a 1-0 lead.
- After getting shelled for three runs on six hits in the first inning by the Houston Astros in Kissimmee, FL, on Saturday in his spring debut, non-roster invitee Scott Baker pitched two perfect innings before giving up a one-out double to Bethancourt and two-RBI single to Todd Cunningham in the fifth. Baker, 33, now has a chance to stick with the Yankees due to the right quad injury of left-hander Chris Capuano, who will sidelined for a month.
- Cave, 22, is very quietly have a great spring training. The speedy outfielder is 5-for-9 (.556) with a double and home run and four RBIs. Cave advanced from Class-A Tampa to Double-A Trenton in 2014 and batted a combined .294 with seven homers and 42 RBIs in 132 games.
- Right-hander David Carpenter looked a little shaky in his one inning work against his former teammates. Carpenter was tagged for a pair of singles by Pedro Ciriaco and Simmons to begin the sixth. Callaspo followed with a sac fly to score Ciriaco from third. Carpenter, 29, and left-hander Chasen Shreve were acquired over the winter in exchange for former Yankees No. 1 pitching prospect Manny Banuelos. Carpenter figures to be the primary setup man in the bullpen for Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances.
- I am always being reminded that it is early but Stephen Drew keeps extending his hitting woes. He was 0-for-2 on Thursday and is 1-for-13 (.077) this far. Drew likely will break camp as the team’s starting second baseman. But after he hit a combined .162 with the Boston Red Sox and the Yankees last season he better get going with the bat sooner rather than later.
With the bad news about Capuano’s injury it is about time the Yankees got some good news about their starters. Along with Tanaka’s successful debut the Yankees were encouraged by left-hander CC Sabathia’s 29-pitch simulated session earlier in the day. Sabathia, 34, said he has not felt any pain in his surgically repaired right knee and thinks he is ready to take the next step of starting in an exhibition game. That could come as soon as next Tuesday at home against the Toronto Blue Jays or in Lake Buena Vista, FL, on Wednesday against the Braves.
The Yankees will make their only trip of the spring to Fort Myers, FL, on Friday to face the Red Sox at JetBlue Park.
Right-hander Adam Warren will make his third start of the spring for the Yankees. Warren, 27. has no record and has a 1.80 ERA.
McCann will play along with Garrett Jones, Chris Young and John Ryan Murphy.
The Red Sox will counter with right-hander Rick Porcello, 26, who was acquired from the Detroit Tigers and is 0-0 and with 0.00 ERA after one outing.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will broadcast by the MLB Network.
BRAVES 2, YANKEES 1
TAMPA – To the Yankees and their fans, the tradition and history of the team is almost as important than the future direction of the franchise. On Saturday, the current legends of the team and the promise of the future were on proud display on Saturday at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera, fresh from a morning news conference to announce that 2013 will be his final season in pinstripes, and team captain Derek Jeter, rehabbing from offseason surgery to his left ankle, both made triumphant spring training debuts.
As a metaphor for the future, 23-year-old right-hander Jose Ramirez threw four shutout innings against the Braves, yielding just one hit and striking out four batters.
However, as a reminder of the team’s present, the Yankees’ offense could not match its excellent pitching and they fell to Atlanta for their fourth consecutive spring training defeat.
Rivera, 43, spurred the crowd of 10,973 to its feet as he trotted to the mound in the fifth inning serenaded by his personal anthem “Enter Sandman.”
It did not take the master long to establish his signature cutter as Dan Uggla hit a weak infield popup and Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson were caught looking in only 15 pitches. The gathered throng shot to its feet again as one of their heroes strode off the mound and tipped his cap just before he entered the dugout.
Their other “Golden Boy,” Jeter, wasted no time after his standing ovation as he stepped into the batter’s box in the first inning. He sent the initial offering from left-hander Mike Minor between the shortstop Tyler Pastornicky and the third baseman Francisco in left-field. Though Jeter’s gait appeared to be somewhat labored. It did not make a difference to the fans who cheered the captain they love so dearly.
In a spring marked by injury after injury, disappointment and mounting losses, the fans were just happy to have No. 2 and No. 42 back on the field.
Minor matched Ramirez with four shutout innings of his own. He gave up three hits and two walks.
The Braves scored their first run in the seventh inning on a one-out triple by Pastornicky and a two-out bloop RBI single to center by Uggla. They added an insurance run in the ninth on a Jordan Schaffer double and Schaffer later scored on a sac fly off the bat of Jordan Parraz.
That run proved significant because the Yankees ended a 19-inning spring scoring drought against the Braves that dates back to the team’s spring opener on Feb. 23. Thomas Neal scored Bobby Wilson on a groundout off reliever Alex Wood.
Anthony Vavaro (1-0) pitched a perfect sixth inning to get credit for the victory. Wood pitched two innings to earn his second spring save. Left-hander Francisco Rondon took the loss for the Yankees.
The punchless Yankees are now 3-11 this spring. The Braves improved to 8-8.
- Of all the young pitchers, it’s Ramirez, 23, who’s looked the best. He’s gotten two starts and has pitched a total of shutout nine innings allowing four hits with one walk and five strikeouts. “He’s been great,” manager Joe Girardi said. “The kid has thrown the ball really well. He’s throwing strikes. He’s got an outstanding changeup. His slider is a work in progress. He spots his fastball with velocity. He’s had an outstanding spring.”
- Ichiro Suzuki was 2-for-3 and a stolen base on Saturday. He is hitting .450 for the spring. It is just too bad that nobody in the No. 3, No. 4 or No. 5 spots can get enough going at the plate to score him. I bet Girardi is counting the days until mid-May when Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira are expected back. Until then it is not much of an offense. It is just plain offensive is what it is.
- Ronnier Mustelier may be built like a tank but he proved on Saturday that he can run when he stroked a two-out triple to right-center in the seventh. Mustelier, 28, is hitting a robust .375 this spring and Girardi even tried him out at third base on Saturday. Mustelier was moved to the outfield because he seems to be better there. But if he could play third well enough the Yankees might keep him because of his potent bat.
- Surprise! The Yankees were 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position on Saturday. It is apparent that the team’s downfall in the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers has not been rectified. They are going to have to do better when the season starts.
- Matt Diaz and Juan Rivera, two players who are likely going to make the team and are being counted upon in the absence of Granderson and Teixeira, were a combined 0-for-6 on Saturday. Rivera is hitting a respectable .273 but Diaz is struggling, hitting just .222.
- Left-handed designated hitter Travis Hafner was 0-for- 2 and he’s hitting .167. It may not yet be time to panic but you may want to keep the Xanax handy.
Right-handers Phil Hughes, David Robertson and David Aardsma threw bullpen sessions on Saturday and all three reported feeling fine afterward. “All good news,” Girardi said. “Maybe the worm has turned.” . . . After the game right-handers Tom Kahnle and Kelvin Perez were optioned to minor-league camp.
The Yankees hope to seek a better result on Sunday on the road against the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin, FL.
Right-hander David Phelps will make his fourth start of the spring for the Yankees. He will be opposed by J.A. Happ.
Game-time will be at 1:05 EDT and the game will be telecast on tape delay by the MLB Network at 3 a.m. on Monday.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
YANKEES 6, ASTROS 3
Major-league pitchers like to look at the batting averages of the hitters they will face in an upcoming game and Astros pitcher Bud Norris must have relished seeing that Robinson Cano was batting .190 as of Saturday.
Unfortunately for Norris, Cano connected on an 0-2 pitch with two out in the second inning and launched a tape-measure three-run home run over the picnic pavilion in right-field to help New York to defeat Houston in a Grapefruit League game at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
The Yankees led 2-0 beginning the second inning and Norris retired the first two batters before he walked Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson. Cano then made him pay for his wildness with a mammoth blast that stretched the Yankees’ lead to 5-0.
Hiroki Kuroda (1-1), making his third start of the spring, turned his most impressive performance to date, giving up just one run on three hits, no walks and he struck out two over his four innings of work. Right-hander Dellin Betances worked a scoreless ninth inning to earn a save.
Norris (1-1) was tagged with the loss after giving up five runs on five hits and four walks in just three innings of work.
Granderson stroked an RBI double to score Gardner with the game’s first run and Andruw Jones added a two-RBI single in the same frame to score Granderson. The Yankees final run came on a solo home run off the bat of Bill Hall in the seventh inning.
With the victory the Yankees evened their spring record at 8-8, The Astros, meanwhile, fell to 7-7.
- It can’t be good news to pitchers that Cano is getting hot. In his last two games, Cano is 2-for-6 with a double and home run and four RBIs. He has raised his spring average over the Mendoza Line at .208.
- Kuroda looked extremely sharp in his four innings of work. Despite the fact he gave up a pair of doubles to J.D. Martinez and Chris Johnson in the fourth, Kuroda showed excellent command of all of his pitches. Kuroda threw 59 pitches and 39 were strikes (66 percent).
- Although a lot of the Yankees have been struggling in the first two weeks of spring games, Granderson is not among that group. He walked and doubled, scored two runs and drove in another on Saturday. He is hitting a sizzling .333 on the spring and it looks like he is ready to start 2012 like he left off in his career year in 2011.
- Mariano Rivera continues to amaze at age 42. He hit the first batter he faced but he still needed just eight pitches to retire the side in the fifth inning. Rivera struck out Brett Wallace on three pitches and then retired Marwin Gonzalez on a double-play grounder. Rivera has not given up an earned run in spring training since the spring of 2008. Amazing!
- Raul Ibanez did draw a walk in the first inning but finished the day 0-for-2 and his spring average has now dipped to a polar-capped .077. Ibanez seems to be just missing good pitches in the strike zone and a bit slow on fastballs. There is still time for him to recover. But Ibanez seems anxious at the plate.
- What a difference a spring makes. Last season Jorge Vazquez tore the cover off the ball and he hit .412. He followed up on that with 32 home runs and 93 RBIs in only 118 games at Triple- A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. However, Vazquez can’t buy a hit this spring and is hitting an anemic .059.
- Boone Logan struggled for the first time this spring. He gave up two runs on three hits in the eighth inning. Logan had looked sharp in his previous four outings.
Although most all of the Yankees seem to be willing to welcome back Andy Pettitte with open arms, it does not appear right-hander Freddy Garcia is as thrilled as they are. Garcia, who was signed to a one-year contract before the Yankees traded for Michael Pineda and signed Kuroda as a free agent, is trying to win a job in the rotation and now finds Pettitte on his way back also. When asked if the Pettitte signing was good for the team, Garcia said “I don’t know, man. Ask the people. I don’t know. I guess.” . . . Eduardo Nunez (bruised right hand) retunred to the starting lineup and was 1-for 2 in his four innings of work against the Astros on Saturday. Nunez was struck on the right hand by a pitch from Austin Hyatt of the Phillies on March 5. . . . Nick Swisher (left groin), Russell Martin (left groin) and Derek Jeter (left calf) all were held of action on Saturday but they could return to action on Tuesday.
The Yankees will travel to Sarasota, FL., on Sunday night for a contest against a split squad of the Baltimore Orioles.
The Yankees’ scheduled starter will be right-hander Ivan Nova, who will be making his fourth start of the spring. Nova is 0-1 with a 6.23 ERA but pitched four scoreless innings against the Red Sox last Tuesday.
The Orioles are scheduled to start right-hander Alfredo Simon, who will be making his second spring start. He has not given up a run in five innings of work.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network.