YANKEES 9, RAYS 0
“I’ve been there. I know that (Masahiro) Tanaka is probably at 65 percent. He might be better than a young kid rushed up from the minor leagues, but in the end, it’s going to come back to bite them. I think Tanaka is not committed to his pitches. Tanaka is a guy who’s aggressive in the strike zone and attacks the strike zone. He doesn’t look like he’s attacking the strike zone.”
– Supreme pitching expert Pedro Martinez on April 10
Flash forward to Saturday and I think Martinez may want to season his steaming plate of crow liberally with some salsa because he is going to have to eat his words.
Tanaka held the Rays to just two hits in a brilliant seven-inning performance to outduel Jake Odorizzi as New York went on to score seven runs in the seventh inning to thoroughly humiliate Tampa Bay at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL.
So dominant was Tanaka (2-1) that after he allowed a leadoff single to David DeJesus in the first inning, he did not allow another hit until Logan Forsythe led off the sixth inning with a double. In retiring 15 batters in a row, Tanaka struck out six of them and only three balls made it into the outfield.
Oh, by the way, after Forsythe’s double, Tanaka fanned Rene Rivera and DeJesus and retired Steven Souza Jr. on a groundout.
Tanaka walked none and ended up with eight strikeouts on only 85 pitches (60 of them were strikes). It was as if the Japanese right-hander was telling Martinez that he doesn’t know what he is talking about.
By the looks of Tanaka on this evening, he looks as dominant as he ever was in his rookie season last year when he was 13-5 with a 2.77 ERA.
Odorizzi (2-1) entered the game with a 0.61 ERA in 14 2/3 innings over two starts and he pitched that way for the first five innings of the game. He matched Tanaka pitch-by-by-pitch in allowing only three hits and fanning seven in that span.
However, the sixth inning proved to be his undoing when he issued back-to-back one-out walks to Brett Gardner and Alex Rodriguez. One batter later, Brian McCann, who entered the game 5-for-10 with two homers off Odorizzi and was 2-for-2 against him at that point, spanked a hanging change-up to deep right-field.
The ball caromed off the very top of the yellow home-run line and rolled back into shallow right-field for a two-run triple for McCann, only the fourth triple of his career.
Buoyed by the 2-0 lead, the Yankees opened the seventh with a single by Chase Headley, which promptly chased Odorizzi.
Stephen Drew greeted left-hander C.J. Riefenhauser with a fly ball that fell out of the glove of Souza for a double. Gregorio Petit scored Headley with a sacrifice fly. Jacob Ellsbury singled and Gardner scored Drew with an opposite-field single to make it 4-0.
Right-hander Grant Balfour replaced Riefenhauser and he immediately issued a walk to Rodriguez to load the bases and Mark Teixeira scored Ellsbury with a sacrifice fly.
Balfour then hit McCann with a pitch to reload the bases and Chris Young ripped a 2-2 slider into the left-field bleachers for a grand slam home run, his third homer of the season, which put the game out of reach at 9-0.
Odorizzi was charged with three runs on five hits and two walks while he struck out nine in 6-plus innings.
With the victory the Yankees already clinched the three-game series and improved to 5-6. The Rays dropped to 6-6.
- Tanaka’s velocity was there. The command was there. He looked like, well, Tanaka. Perhaps this will finally shut up all the critics and naysayers who have been dogging out the Yankees all season like FOX Sports play-by-play man Joe Buck and everybody who works for the Red Sox Sports Network in Bristol, CT, also known as ESPN. Tanaka got advice not to have Tommy John surgery by FOUR of the best orthopedic experts in the country and he is fine. Now please shut up about him being one pitch away from oblivion. Please!
- McCann’s dominance over Odorizzi is just amazing. He is now 8-for-13 with two homers, a triple and two doubles. McCann ended up 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored. He came into the game batting .179 and ended up raising his average to .250. I said it many times but the Yankees need production from Teixeira, McCann, Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran. It appears after a slow start they may be getting it.
- Young was only in the lineup because Beltran was benched with a bad head cold and he ended up with the big blast that put the icing on drubbing of the Rays. In limited play, Young is batting .276 with three home runs and eight RBIs. The 31-year-old veteran was practically run out of Citi Field by the front office of the New York Mets last season but he has resurrected what was a pretty promising career with the Yankees. Young also made a fine running catch in right-field in the fifth inning on a drive off the bat of Desmond Jennings.
What is there to complain about? I could say that the Yankees failed to score 10 runs or they did not get to Odorizzi soon enough. But the fact is Tanaka pitched like the ace he is and the Yankees got a shutout to win their first season series. They are making the Rays look like the old Devil Rays they used to beat up on for all those years.
Beltran, 37, likely will sit out the weekend with that bad cold, Girardi said on Saturday. “He’s got that bad congestion, a bad cold that’s kind of been going around our team,” Girardi told reporters. “He sounds really bad. He was bad yesterday and he’s worse today.” Young started for him in right-field and he did a great job of filling in for him. . . . As I predicted in Friday’s post, Girardi opted to move the red-hot Rodriguez into the No. 3 spot in the order on Saturday and he ended up with a no-contact evening. A-Rod walked twice and struck out three times. Rodriguez was 3-for-4 with two homers and four RBIs while batting seventh against the Rays on Friday. . . . Also as predicted, Girardi decided to sit struggling shortstop Didi Gregorius on Saturday. Girardi shifted Stephen Drew to shortstop and started Petit at second base. Petit, 30, was 0-for-3 with a sac fly RBI. Gregorius, 25, is batting .152 and has been somewhat shaky in the field and on the bases.
The Yankees will look to sweep the shell-shocked Rays on Sunday.
Right-hander Michael Pineda (1-0, 5.11 ERA) will pitch for the Yankees. He is coming off a victory on Monday against the Baltimore Orioles despite yielding five runs on nine hits with nine strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.
Pineda will be opposed by rookie right-hander Matt Andriese (0-0, 3.86 ERA). Andriese, 25, gave up two runs on five hits and one walk in 3 2/3 innings against the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday.
Game-time will be 1:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by WPIX.
YANKEES 1, METS 0
In the 1990 Western “Young Guns II,” Sheriff Kimbrel (Jerry Gardner) is asked to go after Billy the Kid (Emilio Estevez). His reply was classic. He said, “I’d rather drink turpentine and piss on a brushfire. I ain’t touchin’ this one.”
That is pretty much how the New York Mets’ hitters must have felt on Thursday as they were gunned down one by one by the New York Yankees’ own version of Young Guns.
Chase Whitley, Dellin Betances, Adam Warren and David Robertson, all who are products of the Yankees’ minor-league system, combined to shut out the Mets on three hits while striking out 14 batters as the Yankees earned a split of the 2014 Subway Series in front of a paid crowd of 40,133 at Citi Field in Flushing, N.Y.
Whitley, 24, made his major-league debut and threw 4 2/3 innings, yielding just two hits and two walks while fanning four batters. He even managed to pick up his first major-league hit in his first at-bat in the third inning against Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom, who also was making his major-league debut.
The Yankees managed to push across the only run of the game against deGrom in the seventh inning on a misplayed double-play grounder.
Mark Teixeira drew a one-out walk and Brian McCann followed by hitting a routine ground ball to second baseman Daniel Murphy, who gunned down Teixeira with a throw to third baseman David Wright. Wright, the third baseman who was playing shortstop in an extreme shift on McCann, threw the relay to first baseman Lucas Duda into the dirt and McCann was able to reach first base safely.
Alfonso Soriano then stroked a double into the gap in left-center that rolled to the wall and allowed the slow-footed McCann to score from first base for the first time in a game since the 2009 season.
Though deGrom (0-1) was tagged with the loss he pitched as brilliantly as Whitley. He gave up just the one run on four hits and two walks while he struck out six batters over seven innings.
Betances (2-0) relieved Whitley and he earned the victory in relief by retiring all seven batters he faced and he struck out the final six batters, four of them looking. Betances entered the game in the fifth with two on and two out but he escaped when he induced Eric Young Jr. to ground out.
Warren struck out two in the eighth but he left with pinch-runner Juan Lagares on third after a walk to pinch-hitter Bobby Abreu and Murphy on first after a single.
But Robertson came in to retire Wright on a ground out to end the threat. He then pitched perfect ninth with two strikeouts to earn his seventh save in seven chances this season.
The game marked the first time since Sept. 7, 2010 that two pitchers squared off in their major-league debuts since the Mets’ Dillon Gee, who coincidentally was replaced as the starter for this game by deGrom because a strained lat muscle landed him on the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday, faced off against Yunesky Maya of the Washington Nationals.
After giving up 21 runs on 24 hits in the two Subway Series games at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees held the Mets scoreless on seven hits and three walks with 22 strikeouts in their two victories at Citi Field. Masahiro Tanaka tossed his first major-league complete-game shutout on Wednesday, holding the Mets to just four hits while striking out eight.
With the victory the Yankees improved their season ledger to 21-19. They are in sole possession of second place in the American League East a half-game behind the first-place Baltimore Orioles. The Mets fell to 19-21.
- Whitley has found a niche as a starter this season after being mostly a relief pitcher in the minor leagues. Though his velocity hovers in the low 90-mile-per-hour range, Whitley was able to stymie the Mets by keeping his fastball, slider and change-up down. Wright struck out swinging in his three at-bats against Whitley, who was starting in place of the injured CC Sabathia.
- Betances is drawing raves from pundits who believe he could be a closer now. Betances threw 20 of 27 pitches for strikes in his dominant 2 1/3-inning outing. Betances has recorded 39 strikeouts out of the 67 batters he has retired this season. He lowered his ERA to 1.61 and batters are hitting a miserable .154 off of him.
- Soriano struck out in his first two at-bats but he doubled and singled to end the night 2-for-4. The Yankees are still waiting for Soriano to go off on one of his hot streaks as he did last season after the Yankees acquired him from the Chicago Cubs. Soriano is hitting . 248 with five homers and 16 RBIs.
The offense could have been better but the Yankees seem to always struggle against pitchers they have not seen before. But I will give them a mulligan because Whitley, Betances, Warren and Robertson were so brilliant. They dominated the Mets and made them look bad.
The Yankees placed outfielder Carlos Beltran, 37, on the 15-day disabled list with a bone spur on his right elbow. But Beltran told reporters that he still hopes to avoid having surgery, which could sideline him for six to eight weeks. Beltran first noticed the pain in his elbow when he was taking swings in the batting cage during Monday’s game against the Mets. Beltran had a cortisone injection and he hopes that will relieve the pain when he is eligible to be reinstated. To replace Beltran on the roster the Yankees purchased the contract of Whitley from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. To make room on the 40-man roster for Whitley the team activated right-hander Bruce Billings from the disabled list and designated him for assignment. . . . Thursday’s game was the final visit to Citi Field for Derek Jeter and the 39-year-old shortstop was awarded a subway tile mosaic with his No. 2 and featuring both Yankee and Met colors. The Mets also handed Jeter a check worth $222, 222. 22 for his Turn 2 Foundation.
The Yankees do not have far to go home to Yankee Stadium as they open a three-game weekend series with the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday.
Right-hander David Phelps (0-0, 4.09 ERA) will make his third start for the Yankees in place of right-hander Michael Pineda. Phelps yielded four runs on eight hits and three walks while striking out one in five innings in a no-decision against the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday.
Phelps will be opposed by veteran right-hander Edinson Volquez (1-3, 4.36 ERA). Volquez was tagged for three runs on four hits and four walks while fanning four in 4 2/3 innings in a no-decsion against the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 4, METS 0
Throughout Wednesday’s game at Citi Field in Flushing, NY, you could honestly hear crickets because the paid crowd of 35,577 and the bats of the New York Mets were silenced by a pitcher who is legend in the making.
Masahiro Tanaka, in only his eighth major-league start, shut out the Mets on just four hits in a masterpiece of a complete game as the Yankees snapped a six-game losing streak to the Mets in the Subway Series and also ended their current four-game skid.
Tanaka (6-0) did not walk a batter and struck out eight in an 114-pitch effort that extended his streak to 42 games without losing a regular-season start that dates back to Aug. 18, 2012 in the Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan. Tanaka even capped his night by getting his first major-league hit in the top of the ninth inning against right-hander Jose Valverde.
Yangervis Solarte and Mark Teixeira backed Tanaka with a pair of solo home runs and Brian Roberts hit a pair of triples to spoil the major-league debut of Mets right-hander Rafael Montero (0-1).
The Yankees broke through on Montero with two outs in the second inning when Montero issued a walk to Solarte and Roberts followed with a sinking line drive to left that Eric Young Jr. allowed to skip by him for a triple that scored Solarte.
Solarte, a 26-year-old rookie who entered the game leading the American League in batting with a .336 average, added to his own miraculous rookie season by lining his fourth home run of the season into the right-field bleachers with two out in the fourth inning.
Teixeira blasted his eighth home run of the season and his third in his past five games to pad the Yankees’ lead to 3-0.
Montero yielded three runs on five hits and two walks while he struck out three in six innings of work.
The Yankees “stole” a run with two out in the seventh inning off right-hander Carlos Torres when Brett Gardner narrowly beat out a infield single. He then stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch before scoring on a infield dribbler off the bat of Derek Jeter that he legged out for an RBI single.
But Tanaka appeared in such command that he really only needed one run.
The quote of the night came from Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy, who had on elf the four hits Tanaka gave up. He told reporters after the game:
“I knew what was coming and I could not hit it.”
Tanaka became the first Yankee rookie pitcher to throw a shutout since Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez did it on Sept. 14 1988 against the Boston Red Sox.
He also silenced a Mets offense that had pounded the Yankees for 21 runs on 24 hits the past two nights across town at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, NY.
“I think you could argue that he’s been as valuable as anyone on our team, with what he’s done so far this year,” manager Joe Girardi told reporters.
With the victory the Yankees improved to 20-19 and they are tied with the Red Sox for second place in the American League East, one half-game behind the first-place Baltimore Orioles. The Mets dropped to 19-20.
- Tanaka’s brilliance against the Mets was tied a lot to his pitch selection. He and catcher Brian McCann noticed that the Mets were not swinging much at Tanaka’s devastating split-finger fastball on two-strike counts so they used Tanaka’s slider and two-seam fastball instead. Tanaka’s shutout lowered his season ERA to 2.17 and he now has struck out 66 and walked seven in 58 innings. WOW!
- Solarte is long past just being lucky. This youngster is the real deal. His 1-for-3 night kept his average at .336 with four home runs and a team-leading 23 RBIs. “It’s become a running joke, pretty much, in our dugout about [Solarte being] the best player I’ve ever seen at this point,” Roberts told reporters. “It’s a great story. It’s fun to watch.”
- Roberts was actually shortchanged in his 2-for-4 night because he hit a blistering liner off Torres’ left wrist in the seventh and then hit a scalding liner to center in the ninth that was caught by Curtis Granderson. On May 1, Roberts was hitting .213. Since then he is 12-for-40 (.300), raising his season average to .243.
Tanaka pitched just like an ace should. He stopped a losing streak, gave the shell-shocked bullpen a rest and picked up a team that was scuffling to win lately. There is nothing to complain about.
CC Sabathia visited Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, AL, on Wednesday and the orthopedist found some “degenerative changes” in the left-hander’s troublesome right knee, general manager Brian Cashman told reporters. Sabathia was placed on the 15-day disabled list on May 11 and he later had fluid drained from the knee. Andrews has prescribed a cortisone and stem cell injection that will be administered on Thursday. Although there is no structural damage to the knee there still is no set timetable for Sabathia’s return. . . . Outfielder Carlos Beltran sat out Wednesday’s game after having a cortisone injection for a bone spur in his right elbow earlier this week. The Yankees will re-evaluate Beltran’s elbow in a few days. They are hoping the veteran can avoid having surgery.
The Yankees will complete their Subway Series with Mets on Thursday with a chance of earning a split.
The Yankees will call up right-hander Chase Whitley to make his major-league debut in place of Sabathia. Whitley, 24, is 3-2 with a 2.39 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 26 1/3 innings at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He has a career minor-league ERA of 2.64.
The Mets will counter with a rookie right-hander named Jacob deGrom, who also will be making his first start in the majors. DeGrom, 25, is 4-0 with a 2.58 ERA in seven starts at Triple-A Las Vegas. He will be starting in place of right-hander Dillon Gee, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a lat strain.
Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
For the Yankees, 2013 was pretty much a lost season and the biggest weakness on the team was in the outfield.
The projected outfield after the Yankees let right-fielder Nick Swisher sign a free-agent contract with the Cleveland Indians included Ichiro Suzuki, Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, only Gardner had a productive season.
Granderson, 32, was struck in the right arm on a pitch from Toronto Blue Jays left-hander Jay Happ in his first at-bat of spring training and he missed the first month and a half of the season.
He returned on May 14 and played in just eight games before suffering a fractured left knuckle on May 25 after being hit by a pitch by Tampa Bay Rays left-hander Cesar Ramos. He did not return until Aug. 2.
Granderson ended up his final season of a four-year contract with just seven home runs and 15 RBIs and a .229 batting average in 61 games. The Yankees opted not to make an offer to the outfielder and he signed with the crosstown New York Mets for 2014 season.
The Yankees, devoid of power they lost through free agency before the 2013 season, missed out on Granderson’s power that saw him slug a major-league best 84 home runs in the previous two seasons. But it is pretty safe to say that Granderson will not be hitting 40 home runs in spacious Citi Field and the Yankees will not miss the 364 strikeouts he compiled in the two seasons he hit the 84 home runs.
Granderson’s strikeout totals rose as his batting average dropped and the front office doubted his ability to play center-field by installing Gardner there in 2013.
Suzuki, 40, on the other hand, was perfectly healthy throughout the 2013 season. However, as the season wore on, Suzuki’s ability to get on base waned to the point that he ended up being benched for most of the final month of the season.
He hit a career-low .262 with seven homers and 35 RBIs and 20 stolen bases, which also was a career low. Although Suzuki is in the second year of a two-year contract he signed with the Yankees, his spot on the roster is now tenuous at best. The Yankees package him in a trade before spring training starts.
But it is safe to say that Suzuki’s days as a everyday player with the Yankees have come to an end.
On July 19, Suzuki was helping a team that was ravaged by injury, hitting a respectable .283. From that point on the former American League Most Valuable Player and perennial All-Star hit .198. Father Time looks have claimed what little magic was left in Suzuki’s bat.
That is a shame.
Gardner, 30, ended up coming off an injury-plagued 2012 season to have his best season in the majors. He hit .273 with eight homers and 52 RBIs and stole 24 bases for a team that finished out of the playoffs for only the second time in 18 seasons.
He also played Gold Glove-quality defense in center-field.
But, like many of his teammates, Gardner succumbed to a strained left oblique on Sept. 12 and he missed the rest of the season. Before spring training in 2014, Gardner looks to be a player without a position because of the Yankees’ decision to trade for left-fielder Alfonso Soriano in the middle of the 2013 season and the free-agent signings of center-fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and right-fielder Carlos Beltran.
Yankee general manager Brian Cashman and team president Randy Levine made it clear at the winter meetings that the team was not looking to trade Gardner. Levine said, the team “absolutely had no intention” trading the speedy outfielder.
But because the team has also said they will not carry a permanent designated hitter, Soriano looks to be the team’s left-fielder, leaving Gardner relegated to backup status. That would not seem to make much sense. However, the Yankees have had to make a lot of shifts to the outfield this offseason.
On Jan. 10, the Yankees designated for assignment veteran outfielder Vernon Wells, who was acquired in a late 2013 spring training trade with the Los Angeles Angels to replace the injured Granderson.
Wells, 35, looked like a godsend on May 15 when had 10 home runs, 23 RBIs and was batting .301. But the league caught up to Wells’ aggressive approach at the plate and he ended up with just two home runs and 27 RBIs and hit only .145 the rest of the season.
Like Suzuki, Wells ended up being benched most of the final month of the season. His future with the Yankees was in serious doubt and the Yankees have opted to cut him loose now so that he might be able to sign with another team.
Unlike Wells, Soriano, 38, was a true revelation when he donned the pinstripes on July 26 for the first time since 2003.
Soriano was hitting .254 with 17 home runs and 51 RBIs with the Chicago Cubs when he was acquired. From that time on, Soriano hit .256 with 17 home runs and and 50 RBIs in only 58 games with the Yankees.
His impact was almost immediate for a team missing Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. Soriano became the team’s cleanup hitter and he along with Robinson Cano gave the team a one-two punch the lineup had not had all season long.
On top of that, Soriano showed the Yankees he had improved as an outfielder. He committed only one error in the outfield for the Yankees and he made some pretty sparkling plays in the field for his old team. So enters 2014 as the team’s starting left-fielder.
The Yankees upgraded their outfield nicely by signing Ellsbury, 30, to a shockingly rich seven-year, $153 million contract that prompted Cano to pitch a temper tantrum and storm off to the Seattle Mariners.
Ellsbury is what the Yankees had hoped Gardner would be by this stage: A hitter who could get on base a lot and score a lot of runs by being daring and disruptive on the bases.
In 2013, Ellsbury hit .298 with nine homers and 35 RBIs while leading the American League with 52 stolen bases. Ellsbury is also an excellent defender, having won a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger award in 2011 when he hit .321 with 32 home runs and 105 RBIs.
Ellsbury has compiled 241 career stolen bases and has a career success rate of 84 percent. Gardner, in contrast, has 161 bags with a 81 percent success rate. The Yankees envision both being in the lineup and wreaking havoc on the basepaths. However, in order to do that they would have to find a spot for Gardner to play.
The Yankees determined pretty early that with Swisher having left last season and Suzuki on his last days as a player they needed to upgrade right-field and they did that by signing Beltran to a three-year, $45 million contract on Dec. 19.
Beltran, 36, hit .296 with 24 home runs and 84 RBIs with the National League champion St. Louis Cardinals in 2013. He also is a switch-hitter with a career average of .283 and 358 home runs and 1,327 RBIs. With Cano missing from the middle of the Yankees’ lineup Beltran will provide a powerful bat to replace him in 2014.
The trio of Beltran, Soriano and Teixeira could easily combine to hit 100 home runs for the Yankees in 2014, which would address one of their biggest shortcomings last season.
Though Beltran did win three Gold Glove awards from 2006 through 2008 with the New York Mets, knee injuries have cut down his ability to play center-field with the skill he used display. However, he is no slouch in right-field and he has an above-average arm.
So the Yankees’ quintet of Gardner, Ellsbury, Soriano, Beltran and Suzuki provide a nice mix of power and speed. They also provide superb defense.
The signings of Ellsbury and Beltran and the acquisition of Soriano are an admission that is painful for Cashman and the Yankee front office that the team’s minor-league outfield prospects are not progressing at a pace they would have wanted.
The Yankees entered 2013 with a handful of promising outfield prospects. But not many have stepped up and most were disappointments last season.
The team’s No. 2 prospect Mason Williams suffered a shoulder injury that cut short his season and he ended up hitting a combined .245 with four home runs and 28 RBIs with 15 stolen bases in 117 games between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton.
The 22-year-old speedster has the ability to become a smaller version of Bernie Williams with line-drive power, speed and a very good-fielding center-fielder. But he has to shake off the injuries that sidetracked him and accelerate his development in 2014.
The team’s No. 3 prospect, Tyler Austin, is also 22 and he also suffered some injury issues in 2013. A wrist injury cut his season short and he left the Arizona Fall League when it recurred.
Austin hit a combined .257 with six home runs and 40 RBIs in 83 games with Trenton. Austin is a converted infielder who has the ability to hit for average (He hit a combined .354 in 2011.). But it does not appear he will hit for a lot of power as you might expect from an outfielder.
He has the ability to be an above average fielding right-fielder and the Yankees hope he shows some real progress as a hitter in 2014.
The No. 7 prospect, 2009 top draft pick Slade Heathcott, has been a victim of his all-out style that periodically kept him off the field up until 2013.
Now he is starting to put it all together and he hit .261 with eight homers and 49 RBIs with 15 steals in 103 games at Trenton last season. Heathcott, 23, has a line-drive bat that could develop into power and is way above-average fielder with a plus arm.
The Yankees just hope he can remain healthy enough to progress to the majors.
The No. 6 prospect actually played in the majors last season due to the injuries the team sustained. Zoilo Almonte, 24, was actually rushed to the majors despite the fact he did not spend a full season above the Double-A level.
In 68 games at Triple-A Sranton/Wilkes-Barre, Almonte hit .297 with six home runs and 36 RBIs. He made his major-league debut on June 19 and he ended up hitting .236 with one home run and nine RBIs in 34 games with the Yankees.
Like most of the Yankees, he ended up on the 15-day disabled list on July 20 with a left ankle sprain. He was not activated until Sept. 9 and played sparingly the rest of the season. But the Yankees do believe he could turn into a solid run-producing outfielder.
Almonte is not a speedster and he will not win any Gold Gloves with his defense. But his bat could make him a solid starter or a real good fourth outfielder. The Yankees like the fact he is switch-hitter and they would like to see what he can do with a full season at Triple A.
His chances of making the roster are slim unless the Yankees choose to deal away Gardner or Suzuki.
Almonte’s Scranton teammate, Melky Mesa, also made his major-league debut with the Yankees last season. Mesa, batted .385 with no homers and one RBI in five games with the Yankees last season.
But Mesa, who will be 27 at the end of January, has pretty much played himself out of prospect status after hitting .261 with 13 home runs and 39 RBIs with 13 steals in 84 games with Scranton. His 112 strikeouts in .314 at-bats pretty much make him a right-handed hitting version of Granderson.
His power is and speed are special but those numbers come at the cost of a lot of swinging at air. Mesa is an above-average center-fielder who can run down flies with the best of them. But his all-or-nothing approach at the plate make him less likely to have much success at the major-league level.
These are the Yankees’ cream of the crop outfielders at this stage. With Beltran signed for three years and Ellsbury signed for seven there will be lots of time for them to develop in the minors.
In the meantime, Beltran and Ellsbury have elevated the quality of the outfield and there is plenty of depth with former starters Gardner and Suzuki considered as backups for the time being.
The combination of power and speed with quality defensive play makes this the strongest part of the Yankees’ roster in 2014. It could very well be one of the best outfields they have fielded in some time.
YANKEES 7, INDIANS 4
Though Andy Pettitte’s return from the disabled list on Monday was not exactly what he would have had in mind the New York Yankees got just what they were looking for from Mark Teixeira in his recent return to the lineup.
Teixeira cranked out a grand slam home run off Justin Masterson in the third inning and Brett Gardner added a two-out, two-run single in the sixth inning that broke a 4-4 tie as New York finally got its offense out of neutral to defeat Cleveland in front of a paid crowd of 40,007 at Yankee Stadium.
Teixeira’s home run, his first of the season, came after the Yankees loaded the bases on back-to-back singles by Reid Brignac and Austin Romine and a four-pitch walk of Gardner. After Robinson Cano hit into a force out of Brignac at home, Teixeira slapped a lined shot into the first row of the right-field bleachers to give the Yankees a 4-1 lead.
However, Pettitte found it difficult to hold the lead in the fifth inning. The 40-year-old left-hander, who had not started in 18 days due to a strain in his left trapezius muscle, gave up a lined double to Drew Stubbs and an infield single to Michael Bourn.
Mike Aviles scored Stubbs on a sacrifice fly to shallow center that Cano caught off balance and was unable to get a sliding Stubbs on his throw to home plate. Pettitte then gave up consecutive four-pitch walks to Nick Swisher and Mark Reynolds before Carlos Santana drove in two runs to tie it at 4-4 on hard-hit ball that ricocheted off the glove of third baseman David Adams and bounded into the stands for a ground-rule double.
That ended Pettitte’s night. He yielded four runs on seven hits and three walks while he fanned three batters over 83 pitches in 4 1/3 innings.
But the Yankees bailed out Pettitte by rallying the sixth inning off Masterson (8-4), who had defeated the Yankees on a 1-0 complete-game shutout on May 13.
Ichiro Suzuki led off the frame with a walk and he took second on a groundout off the bat of Adams. After Brignac struck out, Romine bounced a hard-hit grounder off Masterson’s right bicep for an infield single.
After Romine stole second, Gardner delivered a lined single up the middle to score Suzuki easily but Masterson probably cost himself a run by cutting off the throw to the plate by Bourn that likely would have beat Romine.
The Yankees finally chased Masterson in the seventh inning when Travis Hafner, who is mired a horrible batting slump like most of the Yankees, cranked out a one-out solo home run into the bleachers deep in right-center for his ninth home run of the season.
Masterson was charged with seven runs on nine hits and three walks while he struck out five in 6 1/3 innings.
Meanwhile, the Yankees relied on their bullpen to close out the game.
Shawn Kelley (3-0) pitched 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief to earn the victory.
Mariano Rivera, the last of the Yankees’ four relievers they employed in the game, pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his 20th save in 21 chances this season.
The victory for the Yankees halted a spell in which the Yankees had lost seven of their previous eight games. The Yankees are 32-25 on the season and they, along with the Baltimore Orioles, gained a half-game on the idle first-place Boston Red Sox in the American League East. Both teams are 2 1/2 games back in second place. The Indians are 30-27.
- Teixeira’s home run was a welcome site for manager Joe Girardi and the fans, who have seen this team struggle to score runs over the past two weeks. It was only the second hit of the season for the 33-year-old first baseman but it was a big one. Teixeira, who rarely shows much emotion on the field, actually pumped his right fist when he realized the ball had reached the seats.
- The bullpen of Kelley, Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson and Rivera shut down the Indians over the final 4 1/3 innings on one hit and two walks while they struck out five. Despite the fact the bullpen blew two 1-0 leads late to the New York Mets at Citi Field a week ago, the bullpen remains the strength of this team.
- Give Romine credit. Pressed into service because Chris Stewart is recovering from dizzy spells due to severe dehydration, Romine was 2-for-3 plus a sacrifice bunt and he scored two runs. He was .100 entering Sunday but in his past two starts he is 3-for-4 to raise his season average to .154.
- Pettitte looked rusty after 18 days of inactivity and it caught up to him with two outs in the fifth inning. The Yankees did not send Pettitte out for a rehab start and they limited his side sessions in the belief that it was too much work for the veteran left-hander. Pettitte was sharp early in the game so perhaps he just needs to regain some stamina to pitch longer into games.
- The Yankees opted to keep Adams on the roster and he failed to reward them in this game for their decision. He was 0-for-4 with a strikeout and he misplayed two balls in the game that could have been caught but were not scored as errors. Adams was hitting .324 on May 24 but is 5-for-31 (.161) since then and his average has dropped to .242.
When the Yankees activated Pettitte on Monday they opted to send outfielder Brennan Boesch back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and they started veteran first baseman Lyle Overbay in right-field. It was Overbay’s first major-league start in the outfield. He was 1-for-3 with a single and a walk at the plate and he fielded his position flawlessly before leaving the game in the eighth inning when Suzuki was shifted from left to right and Vernon Wells was inserted in left. . . . Stewart was available to play after missing two games due to dizziness. But after having tests at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital that were negative, Stewart said he is ready to play and is suffering no ill effects.
The Yankees will continue their three-game home set with the Indians on Tuesday.
Right-hander David Phelps (3-3, 4.65 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Phelps, 26, is coming off the worst outing of his career. He was tagged for five runs in just one-third of an inning against the Mets last Wednesday. Phelps was the loser in the 1-0 game Masterson won on May 13 in his only appearance against the Tribe.
Veteran left-hander Scott Kazmir (3-2, 5.13 ERA) will start for Cleveland. Kazmir is 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his past two starts. In 16 starts (17 games) against the Yankees, Kazmir is 7-6 with a 3.34 ERA.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 4, RED SOX 1
When you lose five straight games, your ace has not pitched up to his own high standards and you are facing your top rival and the first-place team in your division it is time for what the baseball pundits like to term it, “a statement game.” Well, CC Sabathia certainly made a very loud statement in the Bronx on Friday.
Sabathia (5-4), harnessing the command he had been lacking and displaying the confidence that seemed to have been shaken, struck out 10 batters and pitched into the eighth inning as New York welcomed back two of its many wounded warriors to the lineup in time to end a five-game skid by downing Boston in front of a paid crowd of 45,141 in Yankee Stadium.
Sabathia allowed six hits and did not walk a batter as he shut down the Red Sox until they scored a run in the seventh on a leadoff double by Dustin Pedroia and a one-out RBI double off the bat of Mike Napoli.
For Sabathia it was his first victory since he defeated the Toronto Blue Jays on April 27, a span of five starts. Sabathia has never failed to win a game over any stretch of six starts in his career.
Meanwhile, Kevin Youkilis returned as the team’s designated hitter after being sidelined with a lumbar spine strain since April 27 and Mark Teixeira started at first base for his first game of the season after he suffered a partially torn sheath in his right wrist in March.
Both contributed to the victory.
Teixeira drew a leadoff walk from Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester (6-2) in the second inning and scored the game’s first run when Vernon Wells followed with a double off the center-field wall and Jayson Nix drove in Teixeira with a single to left. Ichiro Suzuki followed with a two-run RBI single to score Wells to give Sabathia and the Yankees a 2-0 lead they would maintain the rest of the evening.
Youkilis got back into the swing of things by delivering a two-out RBI single in the fifth to score Suzuki.
The Yankees added a run in the bottom of the seventh when Suzuki and Chris Stewart reached on back-to-back singles that ended Lester’s evening. Red Sox manager Jon Farrell brought in left-hander Andrew Miller to face Brett Gardner and he greeted Miller with a single to left that scored Suzuki to restore the Yankees’ lead to three runs at 4-1.
Lester surrendered four runs on six hits and four walks while he struck out five in 6 1/3 innings on a evening in which he struggled mightily with his control.
David Robertson pitched a perfect two-thirds of an inning and Mariano Rivera, fresh off blowing his first save of the season on Tuesday at Citi Field to the New York Mets, gave up consecutive one-out singles to Pedroia and David Ortiz before striking out Napoli and retiring Stephen Drew on an easy roller back to Rivera to earn his 19th save of the season.
The victory was an important one, not only because it erased the team’s embarrassing five-game losing streak, but it also brought the Yankees to within a game of the first-place Red Sox the American League East. The Yankees are now 31-23 and the Bosox are 33-23.
- A team feeds off the energy of its ace and Sabathia finally looked the part on Friday. Though Sabathia credited improved command and aggressiveness, he also was throwing his fastball in the 92-94 mile-per-hour range for most of the night. This was Sabathia’s 17th game with at least 10 strikeouts with the Yankees but it also was his first such game without issuing a walk. It looks like the Yankees have their ace back.
- Suzuki started in right-field against the left-handed Lester because he has hit him well throughout his career and it paid off on Friday. Suzuki was 2-for-3 with two runs scored and an RBI. Very quietly Suzuki is starting to pick it up with the bat. In 10 of his past 11 starts, Suzuki has contributed at least one hit. He is 16-for-40 (.400) over that span but has no home runs and has driven in only the one run he collected on Friday.
- Gardner extended his hitting streak to eight games with his RBI single in the seventh inning. In the past eight games, Gardner is 10-for-32 (.313) with two home runs and five RBIs.
- The only real negative of the evening was some subpar base-running. Gardner was thrown out attempting to steal by catcher David Ross on a strike-’em-out-throw-’em-out double play after Robinson Cano struck out. Gardner has been caught stealing five times in 14 attempts, which gives him a lackluster 64 percent success rate for the season.
- Stewart had a major brain cramp in fifth inning. He was on first base with two out when Youkilis singled to left to score Suzuki. With Cano coming up to the plate and Stewart safely on second, Stewart somehow decided to try for third and left-fielder Daniel Nava threw him out at third base by about three feet to end the inning. That was just plain stupid.
- After collecting at least one hit in 10 of his first 11 starts, David Adams was 0-for-2 on Friday and he has no hits in his past four games. He is hitless in his past 13 at-bats lowering his batting average to .241. It appears opposing pitchers have decided to feed him a steady diet of breaking balls and any fastball they do throw is being placed out of the strike zone.
Manager Joe Girardi was ejected from the game in the fifth inning by second-base umpire Vic Carapazza after Girardi disputed that Drew was able to keep his left foot on the base to retire Adams after a wide throw from Lester on a ground ball off the bat of Suzuki. It was the first time Girardi or any member of the Yankees has been ejected from a game all season. Replays of the play indicated Carapazza got the call right. Girardi told reporters that he was just requesting Carapazza ask for help on the play and the umpire refused. . . . When the Yankees activated Youkilis from the 15-day disabled list and Teixeira from the 60-day DL on Friday they elected to send right-hander Ivan Nova and left-hander Vidal Nuno to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Nuno, 25, was 1-2 with a 2.25 ERA in five games (three starts). Nova, 26, is 2-1 with a 5.16 ERA in six games (four starts). The Yankees said Nova is being sent down to allow him start at Triple-A and be ready to start for the Yankees if they need him. Nova admitted he was uncomfortable pitching out of the bullpen after he lost his rotation spot to David Phelps.
The best rivalry in sports continues with the second game on Saturday.
Phil Hughes (2-3, 4.97 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. The 26-year-old right-hander has yielded only three runs in the 13 innings over his past two starts against the Baltimore Orioles and the Mets. Hughes was 3-1 with a 2.03 ERA last season against the Red Sox.
Hughes will be opposed by left-hander Felix Doubront (3-2, 5.29 ERA). Doubront gave up two runs on five hits and two walks while he struck out eight in six innings in a no-decision against the Cleveland Indians on Sunday. He was 1-1 with a 2.73 ERA against the Yankees last season.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by FOX Sports.
YANKEES 4, RAYS 3 (11 Innings)
Teams that win often seem to have this never-say-die attitude that carries them through difficult spots in games. The New York Yankees faced that in the ninth inning on Saturday when they were down 3-1 with two out and Tampa Bay Rays closer Fernando Rodney on the mound with a 3-2 count on Lyle Overbay.
The Rays were within one strike of victory but Overbay drew a crucial walk and the Yankees rallied to tie the score in the ninth and Overbay smacked a two-out solo home run in the 11th inning to give New York a dramatic come-from-behind victory over Tampa Bay in front of 25,874 at Tropicana Field.
After Overbay walked, Rodney was called for a balk that allowed Overbay to take second. Then pinch-hitter Brennan Boesch, who was just called up on Saturday to take the roster spot of injured outfielder Curtis Granderson, slapped an excuse-me-swing opposite-field double to left to score Overbay.
The Yankees then tied it when they were again down to their final strike as Brett Gardner poked a 1-2 pitch into centerfield that allowed Boesch to score just ahead of the throw of Desmond Jennings and the tag applied by catcher Jose Lobaton.
Rodney, who sported an 0.60 ERA and saved 48 games in 2012, has now blown a major-league-leading five saves this season and his ERA is 5.40.
Ivan Nova further frustrated the Rays in the 10th inning when he walked Ben Zobrist to load the bases with one out. But Nova escaped the jam by striking out James Loney swinging and retiring Matt Joyce on a routine grounder.
That set the stage for Overbay’s heroics in the 11th inning against right-hander Josh Lueke (0-2).
With two out and 1-0 count on him, Overbay drove an inside fastball deep into the rightfield bleachers for eighth home run of the season.
Mariano Rivera, showing a huge contrast between the teams’ two closers, came in the bottom of the 11th and he needed only nine pitches to strike out Lobaton swinging, getting Yunel Escobar on a routine groundout and fanning Jennings swinging to end the contest.
Rivera earned his 18th save in 18 chances this season.
The Yankees opened the scoring in the first inning off left-hander Matt Moore, who entered the game 8-0 with a 2.29 ERA.
Gardner opened the contest with a double in the rightfield corner and he scored two outs later on a lined single up the middle by Travis Hafner.
The Yankees held that lead until the Rays finally got to rookie left-hander Vidal Nuno in the fifth on a one-out double by Jose Molina and a two-out RBI double by Jennings to tie it at 1-1.
Moore left after six innings having given up five hits and two walks while he struck out a pair.
Nuno opened the seventh by giving up a leadoff single to Loney.
The usually reliable bullpen of the Yankees, however, was unable to keep the Rays from scoring a pair runs in the frame. Shawn Kelley yielded a double to the pinch-hitting Joyce and Boone Logan was unable to keep pinch-hitter Kelly Johnson from stroking an RBI single that scored Loney.
Joyce was able to score on a fielder’s choice when a ball off the bat of Escobar was fielded by Jayson Nix but catcher Austin Romine was unable to prevent Joyce from sliding home underneath his tag.
But, fortunately for the Yankees, they did not give up when they were down 3-1.
In fact, after having their American League record 19-game winning streak when they scored first in a game snapped in Baltimore on Tuesday, they were able to make it 20-1 behind Overbay’s remarkable at-bats in the ninth and the 11th.
With the victory the Yankees improved their season mark to 30-18 and they remain a full game ahead of the second-place Boston Red Sox in the American League East. The Rays not only have lost the three-game series but they dropped to 24-24, six games behind the Yankees in fourth place in the division.
- Overbay, 36, may be hitting only .255, but he is providing the Yankees with some quality at-bats, clutch hits and nearly flawless defense at first base. His eight home runs are tied for third on the club and his 28 RBIs are second on the team to Robinson Cano’s 34. It is going to be hard for Yankees to cut Overbay loose when Mark Teixeira returns but they may be forced into it.
- Nuno, 25, was absolutely brilliant in his second major-league start. He surrendered two runs on five hits and one walk while he struck out two over six innings. That means Nuno has given up just one run on eight hits and four walks while fanning five in 11 innings in those two starts. That is an ERA of 0.82.
- Gardner started the Yankees off with a leadoff double and he scored the Yankees’ first run in the first. In the ninth he delivered a key two-out RBI single that tied the game. Very quietly Gardner is beginning to pick up his offensive game. He has delivered at least one hit in eight of his past nine starts and he is 10-for-33 (.303) with a home run and five RBIs during that span. In fact, his two-run home run in the fourth inning was a key blow in Friday’s victory over the Rays.
- Kelley and Logan did not do their jobs in the seventh inning and it cost the Yankees two big runs. Kelley was unable to retire Joyce and Logan was victimized by the lefty-swininging Johnson. One run was charged to Nuno and the other was charged to Kelley. But both Kelley and Logan should be ashamed of themselves for the way they pitched.
- It is official: Vernon Wells is in a full-blown slump at the plate. He was 0-for-5 in the game and he did not get a ball out of the infield. He is also 0-for-10 in the series and he also has no hits in his past 11 at-bats. That has lowered his season average to .270 and it is falling fast.
The Yankees placed Granderson on the 15-day disabled list with a fractured knuckle on his left pinky finger and he is expected to be sidelined for at least four weeks. Boeach, 27, was recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he was hitting just .179. Boesch hit .209 with two homers and five RBIs in 20 games in his earlier stint with the Yankees. . . . The Yankees also on Saturday claimed right-hander David Huff off waivers from the Cleveland Indians. Huff, 28, made three relief appearances for the Indians, giving up five runs in three innings. He was 3-1 with a 4.07 ERA in nine games (two starts) with Triple-A Columbus. To make room on the 40-man roster, the Yankees designated for assignment left-hander Francisco Rondon. . . . Hiroki Kuroda completed a full bullpen session on Saturday and he said he believes he will have no problem making his next start on Tuesday at Citi Field against the New York Mets. Kuroda was struck in the right calf on Wednesday in a game against the Orioles. Meanwhile, David Phelps reported that his right forearm felt a little sore after he was struck by a ball off the bat of Zobrist in the eighth inning of Friday’s game against the Rays. Phelps is scheduled to pitch in Wednesday’s game against the Mets but that will depend if he is able to throw a bullpen session. . . . Left-hander Andy Pettitte (sore left trapezius muscle) said he felt fine after a bullpen session on Saturday and he expects to come off the 15-day disabled list on June 1, when he is eligible to be activated.
The Yankees will have their brooms out on Sunday for a potential sweep of the Rays at Tropicana Field.
Left-hander CC Sabathia (4-3, 3.43 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Sabathia settled for this third straight no-decision after allowing a one-run lead to slip away against the Orioles in the seventh inning on Monday. He is 10-10 with a 3.30 ERA lifetime against the Rays.
Sabathia will be opposed by right-hander Alex Cobb (5-2, 2.73 ERA). Cobb held the Toronto Blue Jays to one run on three hits in 6 1/3 innings for a victory. He is 2-1 with a 2.22 ERA in his career against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 1:40 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by TBS and locally by the YES Network.