YANKEES 5, RED SOX 1
The Boston Red Sox came into Friday’s opener against the New York Yankees riding a four-game winning streak and hoping to elbow their way out of the cellar to get closer that the 5 1/2 games back they were in the American League East.
Instead they ran into right-hander Michael Pineda and they may have lost their ace pitcher to a serious elbow injury.
Pineda used his laser-like control to hold the Red Sox to one run over 6 2/3 innings and the Yankees took advantage of Clay Buchholz leaving the game in the fourth inning as New York downed Boston in front of a national TV audience at Fenway Park.
The Yankees won their third straight game and not only maintained their three-game lead over the Baltimore Orioles in the division but also dropped the last-place Red Sox to 6 1/2 games back.
Pineda (9-5) only gave up a solo home run to Mookie Betts with one out in the fifth inning to bring the Bosox to within three runs at 4-1. Pineda yielded one run on seven hits and no walks while he fanned six batters to record his first victory since he defeated the Miami Marlins 2-1 at Yankee Stadium on June 17.
Meanwhile, the Yankees took an early lead on Buchholz and the Red Sox with two out in the first inning when Alex Rodriguez blasted his 17th home run of the season over the Green Monster in left and onto Landsdowne Street.
Coming into the contest Rodriguez was 11-for-27 (.407) with two home runs in his career against Buchholz.
The Yankees added to their slim lead in the fourth in an inning that the Red Sox committed two errors while the Yankees batted around and scored three runs by getting only two balls into the outfield.
Brian McCann started the rally with a bloop single to shallow left-center. One out later, Didi Gregorius laced a double off the Green Monster in left to advance McCann to third.
After Buchholz delivered a ball to Stephen Drew to even the count at 1-1, the right-hander called his catcher Sandy Leon and later the team trainer to the mound. Without testing his right elbow, Buchholz left the game in favor of left-hander Robbie Ross Jr.
That is when the Red Sox fielding issues and the speed of both Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner came into play to allow the Yankees to extend their lead.
Drew hit a ball to first baseman Mike Napoli but the ball caromed away from him and Ross was unable to get his foot on the base to retire Drew for an error, which loaded the bases.
One out later, the Red Sox had an opportunity to end the inning but All-Star infielder Brock Holt bobbled a grounder off the bat of Ellsbury and he was unable to beat him with his throw to first.
Gardner then hit another routine ground ball to Napoli. But Gardner was able to slide head first into the bag before Ross could get his foot down for an RBI single. Ross then compounded the Red Sox problems by walking Rodriguez on a 3-2 pitch to force in a run.
Buchholz (7-7) ended up being charged with three runs (one earned) on six hits and no walks with three strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings.
He left the game in what was reported later by the team as tightness in his right elbow. He was scheduled to undergo an MRI late Friday to determine the severity of the injury but there was no report on what the results indicated.
The Yankees added a final run in the eighth inning off right-hander Matt Barnes and left-hander Craig Breslow. Barnes walked Chris Young and then hit Gregorius with a pitch. Breslow entered the game and managed to retire Young at third on a botched sacrifice bunt by Drew and Cole Figueroa on a weak popup. However, Ellsbury slapped a single to center to score Gregorius to extend the lead to 5-1.
The Yankees turned to their vaunted bullpen to close out the Red Sox and preserve the victory for Pineda.
Left-hander Justin Wilson, right-hander Dellin Betances and left-hander Andrew Miller held the Red Sox hitless over the final 2 1/3 innings to seal it.
With the victory the Yankees are now 47-39. The Red Sox fell to 41-46.
- Pineda managed to follow up an excellent pitching performance by Masahiro Tanaka against the Oakland Athletics on Thursday. The Yankees’ right-handed duo combined to give up just three runs (two earned) on nine hits and one walk with 12 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings. That is a 1.26 ERA and a 0.70 WHIP. If Pineda and Tanaka pitch like this on a consistent basis there is no team in the division that stay with the Yankees in the second half.
- Rodriguez added to his totals against Buchholz with the home run and a single he hit in the third inning. He is now 13-for-29 (.448) with three home runs in his career against the right-hander. Rodriguez was 2-for-4 with a walk, a run scored and two RBIs on the night. He is now batting .279 with 17 home runs and 49 RBIs on the season.
- Ellsbury came back to haunt his former team by going 1-for-5 with an RBI. But it was his and Gardner’s speed that set the stage for the three-run inning that sunk the Red Sox. Running out the error allowed the Yankees to load the bases and Gardner’s infield RBI single started the scoring. This is the toughest 1-2 hitting tandem in baseball, period.
Pineda was great. A-Rod got two big RBIs and the Yankees’ speed helped force some shoddy defense. If the Red Sox lose Buchholz for any length of time, which looks very likely at this point, they will have a very difficult time climbing out of the division cellar. How could things be any better for the Yankees?
Although third baseman Chase Headley ran in the outfield before the game Friday, the Yankees did not use him in the game. Manager Joe Girardi said it is possible that the Yankees could elect to rest Headley until after the All-Star break. Headley, 31, has missed the past three games with inflammation in his right calf. Figueroa started in his place on Friday and was 0-for-4. . . . Outfielder Carlos Beltran, 38, is scheduled to play a few minor league rehab games in Tampa, FL, during the All-Star break and he hopes to be able to return to the team on July 17 when the Yankees play host to the Seattle Mariners. Beltran was placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to July 1 with a left oblique strain. Beltran is hitting .260 with seven home runs and 30 RBIs in 66 games. . . . With the Red Sox scheduled to throw two left-handers this weekend, the Yankees are planning to recall rookie second baseman Rob Refsnyder from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Refsnyder, 24, is batting .290 with seven homers and 37 RBIs in 81 games with the RailRiders. Refsnyder bats right-handed and Drew, who bats left-handed, is hitting .182 with 12 homers and 25 RBIs in 78 games.
The Yankees will have a chance to win the three-game series against the Red Sox on Saturday.
Right-hander Ivan Nova (1-2, 2.65 ERA) will make his fourth start of the season for the Yankees. Nova, 28, surrendered three runs on six hits and three walks with one strikeout in five innings in a loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday.
The Red Sox will send left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez (4-2, 3.69 ERA) to the mound. Rodriguez gave up one run on six hits and two walks with eight strikeouts in five innings in a no-decision against the Houston Astros on Sunday.
Game-time will be 7:15 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by FOX Sports.
YANKEES 6, ATHLETICS 2
Masahiro Tanaka was well aware of the whispers after he went 0-2 with a 6.26 ERA in his past four starts. They were saying that he was not pitching well because of that slightly torn right elbow ligament.
On Thursday he got a chance to silence those naysayers and he did it in style.
Tanaka (5-3) pitched two-hit baseball over 7 2/3 innings and newly selected All-Star team replacement Brett Gardner homered while Jacoby Ellsbury added two RBIs as New York won the three-game series over Oakland in front of paid crowd of 40,084 at Yankee Stadium.
After Gardner hit his 10th home run with one out in the first inning to hand him an early 1-0 lead, Tanaka struggled in the second inning.
Josh Reddick reached on a rare catcher’s interference call on Brian McCann. Billy Butler followed with an RBI double to left that scored Reddick. Two outs later, Mark Canha plated Butler with an RBI double off the center-field wall.
Though the Athletics did not know it, Tanaka would then go on to retire the next 18 batters he faced without giving up a hit or a walk. Butler did reach first with one out in the fourth inning after striking out on a wild pitch.
So Tanaka ended his day being charged with two runs (one earned) on two hits and no walks and he struck out six in a masterful season-high 114-pitch performance.
The Yankees, meanwhile, were able to tie the game in the bottom of the third inning against right-hander Jesse Chavez.
Ellsbury drew a leadoff four-pitch walk and Gardner followed with a single to center as part of his three-hit day. Mark Teixeira then scored Ellsbury on a single up the middle for his 62nd RBI of the season, which leads the American League.
The Yankees took the lead for good in the fourth after Chavez issued Stephen Drew a one-out walk and Cole Figueroa, who was called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre earlier in the day, delivered one of his two doubles on the afternoon to advance Drew to third. Ellsbury then laced a two-run single to right to score Drew and Figueroa.
Chavez (4-2) surrendered four runs on seven hits and three walks with three strikeouts in five innings.
The Yankees added a pair of unearned runs in the eighth inning off right-hander Fernando Rodriguez.
Chris Young drew a one-out walk and Figueroa followed one out later with a ground-rule double to right. Both Young and Figueroa scored when Marcus Semien fielded Ellsbury’s ground ball but committed his major-league-leading 28th error of the season when first baseman Ike Davis was unable to catch his errant throw.
Left-hander Chasen Shreve and right-hander Adam Warren combined to throw 1 1/3 scoreless innings to close out the victory for Tanaka.
With the victory the Yankees are now 46-39 and they have opened up a three-game lead over the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. The A’s dropped to 39-49.
- Tanaka’s final start before the All-Star break was just what he needed to build upon after he missed more than a month with an arm injury unrelated to his elbow ligament tear. He is 5-3 with a 3.63 ERA in 11 starts. In order for the Yankees to maintain their lead in the division it will be important for Tanaka to pitch closer to the 13-5 and 2.77 ERA he recorded last season in 20 starts. I would not want to bet against him doing it after seeing him on Thursday.
- Ellsbury’s return to the lineup on Wednesday after being activated from the disabled list paid big dividends in this game. He and Gardner combined to go 4-for-9 with a walk, a home run, three singles, two runs scored and three RBIs. They reached base in seven of their 10 at-bats. Gardner was 3-for-5 and is now hitting .303 on the season. This speedy tandem is going to create a lot of havoc on the bases in the second half as long as they stay healthy.
- Figueroa, 28, was called up to play third base in the absence of Chase Headley, who has some minor inflammation in his right calf. All Figueroa did was go 2-for-4 with two doubles and he scored two runs in his first major-league game. Figueroa was hitting .317 with three homers and 36 RBIs in 77 games at Scranton.
Nothing negative here. The Yankees got a great effort from their ace right-hander and with Gardner and Ellsbury getting on base often it is going to be difficult for teams to keep the Yankees from scoring runs in bunches. The rest of the division better watch out.
In order for the team to call up Figueroa the Yankees sent Jose Pirela, 23, to Scranton. Pirela was hitting a disappointing .212 with one home run and four RBIs in 29 games. Pirela hit.305 at Scranton last season and batted a robust .370 this spring. But he has not found his stroke with the Yankees this season. In addition, the Yankees had to designate for assignment outfielder Taylor Dugas, 25, to make room on the 40-man roster for Figueroa. . . . In the fifth inning the public address announced that Gardner, 31, had been selected by Ned Yost of the Kansas City Royals – who is managing the American League All-Star team – to replace outfielder Alex Gordon of the Royals on the roster. Gordon suffered an injured groin in a game on Wednesday and will be sidelined for a minimum of six weeks. Gordon had been selected to start for the American League in the fan vote. For Gardner it was the first time he had been selected for the team. Gardner is batting .303 with 10 home runs and 40 RBIs this season.
The Yankees will open their final pre-All-Star Game series with their hated rival Boston Red Sox on Friday at Fenway Park.
Right-hander Michael Pineda (8-5, 3.79 ERA) will start the series for the Yankees. Pineda pitched a brilliant seven innings of shutout baseball. yielding only five hits and one walk while striking out 10 against the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday. He did not get a decision but the Yankees eventually won the game in the ninth inning.
Right-hander Clay Buchholz (7-6, 3.27 ERA) will start for the Red Sox. Buchholz threw nine innings of one-run baseball, giving up six hits, no walks and striking five in a complete-game victory over the Houston Astros on Saturday.
Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by WPIX.
YANKEES 14, RED SOX 4
Just when the fans and media were in panic mode the Yankees had a big surprise awaiting their hated rival on Sunday. After scoring only 17 runs in their first four games, the Yankees pounded the Red Sox for 14 runs and 16 hits.
Alex Rodriguez lashed a bases-clearing double and Chase Headley and Stephen Drew hit back-to-back home runs as New York pounded Boston’s Clay Buchholz for seven first-inning runs in a rout witnessed by a paid crowd of 43,019 at Yankee Stadium and a national TV audience.
Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (1-1) was the beneficiary as he yielded four runs (three earned) on four hits and three walks while he fanned four in five innings of work. Although Tanaka was far from dominant, he did manage to silence those who believed he was pitching hurt.
Meanwhile, the Yankees sent 10 batters to the plate against Buchholz (1-1), who entered the season as the Red Sox ace despite an 8-11 record and 5.34 ERA last season.
After the Red Sox scored three runs off Tanaka in the fourth inning, keyed by a two-run double off the bat of Xander Bogaerts, the Yankees chased Buchholz in the bottom of the frame with three runs of their own.
After Didi Gregorius and Jacoby Ellsbury reached on singles, Brett Gardner hit a two-run single up the middle to score both. After an infield hit by Carlos Beltran, the Yankees chased Buchholz on a sacrifice fly by Mark Teixeira that made it 10-3.
Buchholz was charged with 10 runs (nine earned) on nine hits and two walks with three strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings.
It was the worst beating a Red Sox starting pitcher has suffered from the Yankees in nearly 70 years. The last time the Yankees scored 10 runs off a Red Sox starter was against Dave “Boo” Ferriss on June 21, 1945.
With the victory the Yankees prevented a Red Sox sweep of the three-game series and improved their record to 2-4. The Red Sox are 4-2.
- Rodriguez was pinch-hit for in the eighth and ended up 1-for-2 with a double, two walks, a run scored and four RBIs. He is 6-for-20 (.300) on the season with a homer and a team-leading six RBIs. His three-run double in the first inning set the tone for the whole evening and it certainly appears that if he remains healthy he is primed for what could be an impressive comeback season.
- Headley was 3-for-5 with two singles, a homer, a run scored and three RBIs. He entered the game 3-for-22 (.136) and he already had committed two errors on the young season. But on Sunday he looked like the same player who won the Silver Slugger Award and the Gold Glove with the San Diego Padres in 2012 when he hit 31 homers and drove in 115 runs.
- Brian McCann homered to lead off the eighth inning off closer Edward Mujica to complete the scoring. It was McCann’s first home run of the season the 200th of his career. The shot was a line drive that scraped to the top of the wall in right-field but it still counts as a home run. He is now 4-for-11 (.364) in his past two starts.
The Yankees committed another error, had a runner caught stealing and had another doubled up running the bases but it really does not matter much in the end. Watching them bust out the heavy lumber to thrash their hated rival is never worth nitpicking over.
The Yankees on Sunday designated for assignment left-hander Matt Tracy and selected the contract of right-hander Kyle Davies from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Davies, 31, had not pitched in a major-league game since 2011 with the Kansas City Royals. Davies entered the game with two in the seventh and did not yield a run on three hits and no walks. Tracy, 26, pitched two innings in Saturday’s 8-4 defeat, giving three runs (none earned) on two hits and two walks and one strikeout. The Yankees were forced to make the moves to bolster their bullpen because of the 19-inning game they lost to the Red Sox 6-5 on early Saturday morning.
The Yankees will head out on their first road trip and the first stop is at Camden Yards to face the Baltimore Orioles on Monday.
Right-hander Michael Pineda will start for the Yankees. Pineda, 26, held the Toronto Blue Jays to two runs on six hits and one walk while he struck out six in six solid innings on Wednesday. However, Pineda did not get a decision though the Yankees rallied to win the game later.
Pineda will be opposed by left-hander Wei-Yin Chen, who did not get a decision either after giving up three runs on four hits and two walks in 4 1/3 innings against the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by ESPN and locally by WPIX.
RED SOX 8, YANKEES 4
Joe Kelly limited the Yankees to one run and one hit over seven innings and Boston took advantage New York’s fatigued bullpen to post a victory in front of a paid crowd of 46,678 at Yankee Stadium and a national television audience.
Kelly (1-0), who was just activated off the 15-day disabled list to make his first start for the Red Sox, yielded a leadoff single to Alex Rodriguez, issued a one-out walk to Garrett Jones and then uncorked a wild pitch to allow both runners to advance. Didi Gregarious then lofted a sacrifice fly to score Rodriguez.
Kelly retired the last 17 batters he faced.
Meanwhile, Adam Warren (0-1) was undone by some shaky Yankees defense and a pair of RBI singles by Daniel Nava. Warren, making only his fourth major-league start, was charged with two ones (one earned) on five hits and two walks with one strikeout in 5 1/3 innings.
The Red Sox then added to their lead in the seventh inning with three runs keyed by a two-run double off the bat of Dustin Pedroia against right-hander Chris Martin. They added more in the eighth on Brock Holt’s three-run double off left-hander Matt Tracy.
All the runs were unearned due to a costly error by third baseman Chase Headley. The Yankees committed three errors in the game and they now have eight on the season.
Tracy was recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in place of Chasen Shreve after Shreve was forced to throw 3 1/3 innings in Friday’s 19-inning marathon that the Red Sox won 6-5.
The Yankees did manage to cut the lead in half in the bottom of the eighth on a three-run home run by Chris Young off right-hander Alexi Ogando. It was Young’s first home run of the season.
The Yankees are now 1-4 on the young season and the Red Sox are 4-1.
- Give Young credit for the home run. The 31-year-old outfielder was starting in place of Jacoby Ellsbury, who manager Joe Girardi elected to rest along with first baseman Mark Teixeira, second baseman Stephen Drew and catcher Brian McCann. Young had a good spring and it appears that he will be a big help to the Yankees off the bench this season.
- One hit in seven innings against a pitcher who spent two weeks on the disabled list? In anybody’s book that is real bad and Girardi is scratching his head for answers. Management decided to fire long-time hitting coach Kevin Long and hired Jeff Pentland to get the offense untracked this season. It appears it was not Long’s fault. The problem rests with the hitters who are not producing. The Yankees are hitting .193 as a team. Ouch!
- The three errors also puzzle me because the defense was supposed to be a big strength. But if you look at the fact the Yankees were playing Rodriguez out of position at first, a backup second baseman and two reserve outfielders it can create problems. John Ryan Murphy has been a mess defensively behind the plate this season. In Saturday’s game he committed a throwing error and his second passed ball of the season. Poor fielding and mental errors in the field are killing this team.
- Carlos Beltran got a “half-day off” as the team’s designated hitter and ended up going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. He is batting .100 on the season and is one of the big reasons why the Yankees are sputtering on offense. The team needs him to hit and produce numbers to contend. If he doesn’t this team is not going very far at all.
The Yankees will try to salvage the third and final game of the series against the Red Sox on Sunday.
Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (0-1) will start for the Yankees off a lackluster debut on Monday in which he yielded five runs (four earned) on five hits and two walks in four innings against the Toronto Blue Jays. There are a lot of concerns about his reduced velocity.
The Red Sox will counter with right-hander Clay Buchholz (1-0), who pitched three-hit shutout baseball for seven innings to defeat the Philadelphia Phillies.
Game-time will be 8:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by ESPN.
With spring training in their rear-view mirror and the 2015 season about to start, the question is where will the New York Yankees finish in the American League East. The Yankees have failed to make the playoffs the past two seasons and many experts believe it will be three. But with the additions the Yankees made could they possibly have a surprise in store. Here is how I project it.
NEW YORK YANKEES
First of all, let’s admit that this is not your father’s A.L. East. There is NO dominant team in the division and there is not much separation between any of the five teams in terms of talent.
That said, the Yankees come into 2015 building around the foundation they began with their half-billion dollar investment last winter with the signings of outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, catcher Brian McCann and right-handed pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.
Those free agents were added to the holdovers in shortstop Derek Jeter, first baseman Mark Teixeira, outfielder Brett Gardner and left-hander CC Sabathia.
General manager Brian Cashman actually started the rebuilding process for 2015 last summer by retaining a number of players they acquired around the trade deadline or later such as third baseman Chase Headley, second baseman Stephen Drew, outfielder Chris Young and left-hander Chris Capuano.
With the retirement of Jeter, the loss of free-agent closer David Robertson and right-hander’s Hiroki Kuroda’s decision to end his career pitching in his native Japan, Cashman was forced to shuffle the deck by using young pitchers like right-handers David Phelps and Shane Greene and left-hander Manny Banuelos to bring in right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, backup first baseman and outfielder Garrett Jones, starting shortstop Didi Gregorius and relievers David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve.
Cashman also used cash to lure free-agent left-hander Andrew Miller to bolster the bullpen around rookie sensation Dellin Betances.
The result is a team that features a starting lineup of eight players ranging in age from 31 to Alex Rodriguez at 39. The former starting third baseman is returning from a year-long performance-enhancing drug suspension to become the team’s designated hitter.
Only Gregarious at age 25 is considered young.
However, the rotation features a 26-year-old in Tanaka, a 26-year-old in Michael Pineda and a 25-year-old in Eovaldi. A spring injury to 36-year-old Capuano has thrust 27-year-old Adam Warren into the No. 5 slot. So the only pitcher over 27 in the Yankees rotation is Sabathia, who is 34. When is the last time you could say that about the Yankees’ rotation?
The bullpen will center around Betances, 26, and Miller, 28, who are – at least for now – going share the closing duties. If both pitch as they have up to now, it will be a very good shutdown pair because neither have been hit hard by righties or lefties.
The concern will be with the setup spots. Warren is in the rotation so the Yankees will be counting on the right-handed Carpenter, 29, and left-handed Justin Wilson, 27, who was acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates with Cashman using the team’s catching surplus to deal away Francisco Cervelli.
If Carpenter and Wilson are successful, the bullpen will have a chance to be very good. If they fail, it could be a long season. Warren’s shift back to the bullpen with the return of both Capuano and right-hander Ivan Nova from Tommy John surgery in June can only be a big plus for the group.
Esmil Rogers, 29, will handle long relief. Shreve, 24, gives Girardi a third left-hander and 6-foot-8 right-hander Chris Martin has 95-mile-per-hour stuff that moves on an extreme downward plane. This trio looks solid and give Girardi credit for being a master of managing bullpens.
All spring long the Yankees struggled to score runs. It was not too much different from the way the offense struggled last season.
A pair of speed demons – Ellsbury and Gardner – are stacked on top of the lineup. The idea is to get them on base as much as possible and let them use their speed to get into scoring position for the middle of the lineup.
Both combined to steal 60 bases in what both players admittedly could call an off year. So they hope they can top 80 this season.
The whole strategy rests upon the middle of the order bouncing back from injuries and off years in 2015.
The third batter, Beltran, incurred painful bone chips in his right elbow and ended up posting the worst numbers of his career.
The cleanup hitter, Teixiera, was still limited by a sore right wrist and other injuries and posted only 22 home runs.
Although the fifth hitter, McCann, did crack 23 home runs and drive 78 runs, he only batted .232. So the Yankees would like him to hit closer to his career .272 average this season.
That is plenty of firepower but it seems like a fragile situation counting on Beltran, who will be 38 on April 24 and Teixeira, who will be 35 on April 11.
Behind McCann may be the one diamond-in-the-rough player who is primed for huge season in Headley, 30, who hit 31 homers and drove in 115 runs for the San Diego Padres in 2012. Back issues have hampered him for the past two seasons but he seems healthy now.
He batted .305 with three homers and eight RBIs this spring and the former Gold Glove winner has been flashing some serious leather at third base.
It is unclear how much A-Rod will contribute from the DH spot. Rodriguez has not played more than 138 games since his Most Valuable Player season in 2007. Hip surgeries, nagging other ailments and the drug suspension have teamed with Father Time to make him an unknown quantity.
This spring, Rodriguez batted .267 with three homers and four RBIs and he did not look overmatched at the plate. But it is hard to know what A-Rod will provide until the bells rings on the regular season.
Nowhere did the Yankees look more vulnerable last season than at second base. After Robinson Cano took his power, his .300 average and his Gold Glove defensive skills to Seattle, the Yankees tried veteran Brian Roberts at the position.
But his batting and fielding skills eroded over four seasons of injuries and the Yankees cut him loose in July in favor of Drew, who had never played second base in the pro baseball. Drew also was dealing with a season-long hitting slump that saw him bat only .162 between the Boston Red Sox and the Yankees.
Drew started this spring very slowly but emerged to bat over .470 in the final three weeks with three home runs. Drew has been working with the Yankees’ new hitting coach Jeff Petland and it seems to have been paying some dividends. The Yankees would settle for Drew batting .250 or so with 15 homers and 65 RBIs this season. Those had been norms for Drew in his previous seasons.
Though it was sad to see the 20-year era of Jeter’s career at shortstop come to an end, the Yankees are very hopeful they have an emerging star in the making in Gregorius.
What fans immediately saw this spring is that Gregorius has outstanding range, great hands and an powerful and accurate arm. The Yankees believe his defense will be upgrade since Jeter’s range had been so limited the past several years.
Jeter batted .256 in his final season and the Yankees hope that Gregorius can possibly top that average this season largely batting ninth. When Gregorius was in Arizona, manager Kirk Gibson benched him against left-handers because he has batted only .150 in his career against them.
But the Yankees allowed him to hit against left-handers this spring and Gregorius did not seem to look bad against them. So, for now, Girardi is content with playing his young shortstop every day.
The bench is solid and features power-hitting right-hander Young and power-hitting left-hander Jones. Young, 31, had an exceptional spring and he brings athleticism to all three outfield spots he plays and a potential deadly bat against left-handed pitching.
Jones, 33, hit 15 homers for the Miami Marlins last season and he seems to have the perfect swing for Yankee Stadium. Jones will primarily back up Teixeira at first and he can also play the corner outfield spots, if needed.
Backup infielder Brendan Ryan, 33, had a spring he would rather forget. First, he was delayed at the start with a back injury he sustained lifting weights. After he returned, Ryan ended up pulling a right calf muscle last week and he will start the season on the disabled list.
Ryan brings a slick glove to second, shortstop and third base – although short is where he really shines in the field. But he can’t hit a lick. He has no power and he is a career .234 hitter.
The Yankees obtained infielder Gregorio Petit from the Houston Astros in exchange for cash in the last week of the spring. So Petit, 30, will assume Ryan’s role despite having played on only 62 major-league games with the Oakland Athletics and the Astros. He has batted .278 in just 151 at-bats. He will be a stopgap until Ryan is healthy again.
John Ryan Murphy, 23, managed to hold off a challenge from veteran Austin Romine this spring to remain the backup to McCann. Murphy batted .284 with a homer and nine RBIs in 32 games last season and the Yankees rave about his defense behind the plate.
But the biggest secret the Yankees are carrying with them now lies in the young players they were able to showcase this spring. For the first time in a very long time the Yankees have a number of very good prospects and some positional depth at the minor-league level that could be factors this season.
But the promise is even brighter longer term.
Right-handed starters Luis Severino and Domingo German (obtained in the trade for Phelps and Martin Prado) and left-handed starter Ian Clarkin along with left-handed reliever Jacob Lindgren and right-handed relievers Nick Rumbelow and Jose Ramirez are in the pipeline and moving quickly to the majors.
Second basemen Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela tore the cover off the ball this spring and their presence at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is just a taste of what is the horizon with outfielders Slade Heathcott and Ramon Flores also knocking on the door.
Right-hander Chase Whitley, 25, had a 1.17 ERA this spring and he still not crack the bullpen. You have to figure he is going to get a call-up to the 25-man roster at some point. Keep an eye also on Bryan Mitchell, who will be 24 this month. Mitchell drew rave reviews when he fanned Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez back-to-back in a five-inning effort in a split-squad game in Lakeland, FL, on April 2.
At Double-A Trenton will be prospects such as outfielder Aaron Judge and first baseman Greg Bird, both of whom looked undaunted by major-league pitching this spring.
Catching prospect Gary Sanchez, 23, is also not too far away from contributing in the major leagues.
Though Yankee fans and the Yankee front office never has shown much patience with its young prospects in the past, this group might just force the front office to use them and perhaps the revolving door of signing aging free agents will finally end.
Should the Yankees falter as what so many experts are predicting this season. The young players who are on the way could be a foundation to build around, It is there to see. It is just up to Cashman and the Yankee front office not to screw it up.
Here now is my brief assessment of the other four teams in the division and my prediction for the order of finish in 2015.
This is a team that ran away with this division last season. But it is hard to see them as a “great” team.
Their ace is a very pedestrian Chris Tillman. Their offense lost outfielders Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis. They also are likely to be without Matt Wieters to start the season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Ditto for shortstop J.J. Hardy, who has left shoulder injury.
With all that they still have Adam Jones, Manny Machado and they are really hoping that Chris Davis recovers his home-run stroke.
Though Tillman is not a true ace they do have Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzales and Bud Norris to form a solid foursome. The bullpen with closer Zach Britton and setup guys Darren O’Day and Tommy Hunter is top notch.
They also have one of the best managers in baseball in Buck Showalter. So in Baltimore there is hope the O’s can repeat.
A lot depends on how new outfielders Alejandro De Aza and Travis Snider do to make up for the losses of Cruz and Markakis.
BOSTON RED SOX
This team flopped in 2014 and yet many are picking them to win the title in 2015.
Most of that is based on their offense. To Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Mike Napoli, the Red Sox have added Hanley Ramirez, Mookie Betts and Pablo Sandoval.
They are also hoping for better seasons and health from Xander Bogaerts and Shane Victorino.
However, it is hard to look at the rotation and see anything but potential disaster.
Clay Buchholz was 8-11 with a 6.34 ERA and is considered the ace. Rick Porcello did have a 15-13 record and a 3.43 ERA with the Tigers. But Justin Masterson was 7-9 with a 5.88 with the Cleveland Indians and the St. Louis Cardinals.
Lefty Wade Miley was 8-12 with a 4.34 ERA for the Arizona Diamondbacks. A better offense will help him but he is not anything close to Jon Lester, who the Red Sox traded last season and were unable to re-sign as a free agent.
No. 5 starter Joe Kelly (6-4, 4.20 ERA with the Cardinals) starts the season on the disabled list with right bicep injury. In addition, closer Koji Uehara, who just turned 40, is also on the disabled list with a hamstring injury so Edward Mujica and his 49 career saves are it for now.
There is no doubt that the Red Sox will be capable of scoring runs. The question is will it be enough runs to cover a pitching staff and an underbelly of a bullpen that could really exploited?
Add that up to the fact that catcher Christian Vazquez is out for the season to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and you have enough doubts about the Red Sox to make it unlikely they are a good choice to win this division.
The Toronto Blue Jays tried this approach last season and it did not work.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
This team seemingly lost everything so quickly that their home radio station, WDAE, is not very enthusiastic about them.
Manager Joe Maddon and his screwy ideas that seem to work on shifting is gone. General manager Andrew Friedman, who introduced sabermetrics and advanced scouting techniques to the organization that built this team, is also gone.
The team’s best pitcher in David Price was traded last season and now is pitching for the Detroit Tigers. Their second-best pitcher, Matt Moore, is not expected back until June because he is recovering from Tommy John surgery.
This spring they incurred injuries to their best remaining pitcher Alex Cobb. Their closer, Jake McGee, will miss the first month.
They also traded away offensive contributors such as Wil Myers, Ben Zobrist, Yunel Escobar and Matt Joyce.
The team’s offense can be wrapped up in third baseman Evan Longoria and a lot of hope and praying.
They are counting on production out of rookie outfielder Steven Souza Jr., who batted .130 this spring and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who the Indians discarded saying he could not play shortstop and he was not the hitter he was in 2011 (25 home runs and 92 RBIs).
They are still hoping that Desmond Jennings just shows one little spark of the long-departed Carl Crawford. But it is not looking like it will happen.
This could amount to one of the weakest hitting teams in baseball in 2015 and it could be worse without Maddon running the show.
Granted, Cobb, Moore, Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi could form a solid rotation when they are all healthy. The question is can the Rays tread water long enough to see that happen?
Though McGee, Grant Balfour and Brad Boxberger form a solid trio at the back of the bullpen, the Rays are counting on a pair of former failed relievers in Kevin Jepsen and Ernesto Frieri to help out in the middle innings.
They also do not have a decent lefty beyond McGee. Ouch!
After many years of dealing with their obnoxious cowbell-ringing fans – all of about 7,000 of them a game – it appears that the bloom is off the rose and the cowbells will eventually fall silent this season unless there is some sort of miracle new manager Kevin Cash can create.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
This was the sexy choice to win the division in 2014. Funny thing is, I would have selected them to win this season if young right-hander Marcus Stroman did suffer knee injury that will force him to miss the entire season.
Stroman would have formed a nice 1-2 punch with right-hander Drew Hutchison, who at 24 has progressed so much as a pitcher he is starting on Opening Day ahead of Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey and veteran Mark Buehrle.
To that they have added a pair of young pitchers in left-hander Daniel Norris and right-hander Aaron Sanchez, who looked to be the team’s closer in waiting until the team opted to use him as a starter instead.
The bullpen is untested but it has closer Brett Cecil. There is a lot untested pitchers in the mix behind him but 20-year-old Miguel Castro may end being something special as he gets his feet wet in the majors.
Like the Red Sox, the Blue Jays never have to worry about scoring runs. Add to the thundering power of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion the bat of third baseman Josh Donaldson, who hit 29 home runs and drove in 98 runs for the Athletics in their cavernous ballpark.
You would think Donaldson will love the Rogers Centre.
Though the Jays will miss line-drive machine Melky Cabrera, they still have Jose Reyes and they have also added catcher Russell Martin, who can hit 20 homers and run a pitching staff like a pitching coach.
So there is a lot to like.
The question is after losing Adam Lind and Colby Rasmus the Blue Jays are trotting a pair of young outfielders in Dalton Pompey (center) and Kevin Pillar (left). Much of what the Blue Jays do will revolve around what they do.
They also have a new second baseman in Devon Travis.
It is hard to pick a team to win with so many new players in the lineup like Pillar, Pompey and Travis. This team is carrying six rookies!
But the real test of how the Blue Jays do in 2015 will hinge on its pitching staff. Stroman was a much bigger loss than I think the Blue Jays can overcome.
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1) BALTIMORE ORIOLES (92-70)
2) TORONTO BLUE JAYS (86-76)
3) NEW YORK YANKEES (84-78)
4) BOSTON RED SOX (80-82)
5) TAMPA BAY RAYS (76-86) Hello Montreal!
The Orioles will fall back to the pack but not enough to make much difference. The Blue Jays actually could have won it with Stroman, but now they will fall short and they will not win the wildcard either. I was tempted to pick the Yankees for second because Tanaka, Pineda and Eovaldi are all primed for excellent seasons. But the offense this spring was woefully lacking and it looks as if they will lose a lot of 4-3 and 3-2 games unless make a deal for a young slugger like Giancarlo Stanton. The Yankees just do not have that stud in the middle of the order and it will hurt. The Red Sox will be the Red Flops mainly because their pitching is not as good as people believe it is. Their bullpen also is much weaker without Miller. About all that the “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval is good for is twining with Ortiz to advertise for a doughnut shop. Ramirez is talented but he also is moody and can give up when things are not going well. Ask the Marlins and Dodgers. As for the Rays, their collapse could not have come at a worse time for them when attendance and TV viewership is dropping. The owner wants to have a new stadium built despite the fact that they are tied to dumpy and ugly Tropicana Field for many more years. That is why it is inevitable that the team will be sold and shifted to another city like Montreal soon. Tre bien!
Is makin’ me late
Is keepin’ me waitin’ “
– By Carly Simon
YANKEES 4, RED SOX 1
The New York Yankees have bided their time for two years to see Michael Pineda pitch off the mound in Yankee Stadium in pinstripes and on Friday they finally got a front-row seat. Judging by the results of his outing it was well worth the wait.
Pineda (1-1) threw six-plus dazzling innings of one-run, four-hit baseball while striking out seven in his debut in the Bronx as New York struck the first blow against their hated rival Boston in front of paid crowd of 42, 821.
The 25-year-old Dominican right-hander did not give up a hit until Xander Bogaerts singled to lead off the fifth inning, he walked two and he threw 64 of his 94 pitches for strikes. The only run he surrendered was a leadoff home run to Daniel Nava in the seventh inning.
Meanwhile, the Yankees were able to score a pair of runs in the fourth and fifth innings against right-hander Clay Buchholz (0-1).
The Yankees used an error by third baseman Jonathan Herrera on Jacoby Ellsbury’s slow roller to lead off the fourth to score a pair of unearned runs. Carlos Beltran followed with a single through an exaggerated shift in right-center to advance Ellsbury to second.
Brian McCann, who entered the game hitting .152 and was hitless in his previous 14 at-bats, then delivered an RBI single down the right-field line to score Ellsbury.
Beltran advanced to third and scored on a double-play grounder off the bat of Alfonso Soriano.
The Yankees padded their 2-0 lead with one out in the fifth when Dean Anna, who was playing in order to allow second baseman Brian Roberts rest, hit his first major-league home run 15 rows deep into the right-field bleachers.
With two out, Derek Jeter laced a ground-rule double to right and Ellsbury, playing in his first game against the team for which he played for seven major-league seasons, slapped an opposite-field single to left to score Jeter.
Left-hander Cesar Cabral and David Phelps held the Red Sox hitless over the final three innings to preserve the victory.
Phelps pitched 2 1/3 innings of perfect relief while striking out three to earn his first major-league save.
But no one shined brighter than Pineda on this evening with a national television audience watching on the MLB Network.
The Yankees acquired Pineda and 19-year-old right-hander Jose Campos from the Seattle Mariners on Jan. 23, 2012 in exchange for catcher Jesus Montero, the Yankees’ No. 1 prospect, and right-hander Hector Noesi.
Pineda ended spring training in 2012 with a torn labrum in his right shoulder that required surgery. He missed all of the 2012 season and he only pitched 10 games in three minor-league stops in 2013 rehabbing after the surgery.
For the Yankees the wait was a long one but the on-field result could not have been much better if they scripted it.
With the victory the Yankees evened their season record to 5-5. The Red Sox fell to 4-6.
- On the heels of his tough-luck loss against the Toronto Blue Jays last Saturday, Pineda is looking like the best No. 5 starter in baseball. He has yielded two runs on nine hits and two walks while he has struck out 12 in his first 12 innings. His ERA is a team-best 1.50 among the starters and his WHIP is an amazing 0.92. Pineda’s slider looks devastating because all seven of his punch-outs on Thursday were swinging.
- As a seven-time All-Star, McCann is just too good a player to struggle with the bat for long. Perhaps his RBI hit Thursday will get him going. Although McCann is hitting .152, he only has struck out four times in 33 at-bats. So it only is only a matter of time before some opponents start paying the price.
- Phelps, 27, entered the game with a 9.62 ERA and he had given up three home runs in his first 3 1/3 innings this season. But Phelps came into the game with two outs in the seventh and retired seven Red Sox in a row to earn a save for a bullpen that had closer David Robertson on the disabled list and his replacement Shawn Kelley unavailable to pitch.
When your No. 5 starter is as dominant as Pineda was and you are getting a home run from the 25th man on the roster in Anna than you do not have much to complain about. That is especially true when the opponent you beat is the Red Sox. To me that is a, pardon the pun, a red-letter day.
Pineda, Cabral and Phelps saved the Yankees by pitching so well on Thursday. Manager Joe Girardi told reporters that Kelley would not pitch because he threw 30 pitches in the ninth inning when he gave up two runs in 5-3 loss the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday. Adam Warren, who had pitched in three of the previous four games, and Vidal Nuno also were unavailable. That left Girardi with left-handers Cabral and Matt Thornton and right-handers Phelps, Dellin Betances and rookie Shane Greene. . . . Ellsbury, 30, and Thornton, 37, will be presented their 2013 World Series rings by Red Sox manager John Farrell on Friday.
The Yankees will continue their four-game series with the Red Sox on Friday with a battle between the team’s aces.
Left-hander CC Sabathia (1-1, 7.50 ERA) will be on the mound for the Yankees. Sabathia yielded four runs on seven hits in six innings to defeat the Blue Jays on Sunday.
He will be opposed by left-hander Jon Lester (0-2, 2.51 ERA). Lester surrendered four runs (two earned) on seven hits and a walk in 7 1/3 innings against the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday.
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.
ORIOLES 5, YANKEES 4
With Mariano Rivera retired and his successor David Robertson on the disabled list the Yankees will admit that their bullpen is not as strong as it could be. Robertson’s replacement Shawn Kelley found out just how frustrating life can be pitching in the ninth inning.
Nick Markakis hit a bloop RBI single and Chris Davis later added a sacrifice fly off Kelley to break a 3-3 tie as Baltimore edged New York to win their three-game series in front of a paid crowd of 39,412 at Yankee Stadium.
The Orioles opened the ninth off Kelley(0-1) with a double off the bat of Ryan Flaherty and a bloop single by Jonathan Schoop. Markakis then muscled his single that scored Flaherty.
Delmon Young then dunked in another bloop single to load the bases and Davis smacked a deep fly ball to center that scored Schoop.
Brian Matusz pitched a scoreless two-thirds of an inning of relief to earn the victory. Tommy Hunter was credited with a save despite being tagged with a sacrifice fly off the bat of Brian Roberts that scored Alfonso Soriano, who doubled to lead off the frame.
The game actually was supposed to feature Japanese right-hander Masohiro Tanaka, who was making his debut at Yankee Stadium.
However, Schoop put a damper on that with two outs in the second inning.
With Matt Wieters on first and Flaherty at second, Schoop launched a 1-0 pitch high and deep down the left-field line for his first home run of the season and only the second of his career. That cast a huge hush over the crowd.
But the Yankees managed to recover against right-hander Miguel Gonzalez when Carlos Beltran led off the second inning with a his first home run as a Yankee and the 359th of his career, which pushed him past Yogi Berra on the all-time list.
Two batters later, Kelly Johnson hit his second home run in as many nights to make it 3-2.
Beltran also sparked the rally that tied the game in the fourth when he led off with a double, advanced to third on a flyout and scored on Soriano’s RBI groundout.
Although Tanaka gave up the three-run homer he ended up giving up seven hits and one walk but he frustrated the power-laden Orioles by striking out 10 batters, most of them on his signature split-finger fastball.
After striking out eight batters in Toronto in his first start, Tanaka became only the second pitcher in Yankee history to strike out at least eight batters in his first two games since Allen Russell did it in 1915.
With the defeat the Yankees fell under the .500 mark at 4-5. The Orioles have the same record.
- Tanaka, 25, may still be learning that No. 9 hitters in the major leagues are tougher than those in Japan but he still pitched a quality game. He threw 71 of his 101 pitches for strikes. Tanaka also struck out Young, Adam Jones and Nelson Cruz twice apiece and Markakis, Davis, Wieters and Schoop once.
- Beltran had himself a very nice breakout game in which he was 3-for-3 with a homer, a double, a single, two runs scored and and an RBI. With Brett Gardner on third and two outs in the eighth inning, Orioles manager Buck Showalter had Matusz walk Beltran intentionally in order to pitch to Brian McCann. McCann flied out to end the threat.
- Johnson was 2-for-4 with a homer, a single, a run scored and an RBI. He has now raised his early-season average to .280. The Yankees need Johnson to provide power in the absence of first baseman Mark Teixeira and Johnson is proving that he can do just that.
- McCann’s struggles at the plate continue though he did do better than the his 0-4 indicated. He had one hit taken away by the severe shift the Orioles employed with third baseman Schoop fielding his ground ball in shallow right and throwing him out. His flyout to center in the eighth just missed the warning track and was well struck. Nonetheless, McCann is hitting just .152 and his struggles are hurting the offense.
- After coming into the game as the Yankees’ hottest hitter, Jacoby Ellsbury was 0-for-4 in the game. In his defense, however, he lined out hard to left- and right-field in two of his at-bats. Ellsbury is still hitting a robust .364 and the Yankees seem to like him in the No. 3 spot with Teixeira out of the lineup.
- Kelley gave up two runs on four hits in a very ugly ninth inning but he was not hammered all over the yard. The Orioles benefitted from three consecutive singles by Schoop, Markakis and Young that sounded like they were hit with a wet newspaper. Two out them came on two-strike pitches and the 1-0 pitch Markakis hit was ankle high. The point is that you can blame the loss on Kelley but he did not pitch poorly. The Orioles were more lucky than good.
The Yankees elected to option catcher Austin Romine to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Wednesday and they recalled right-hander Shane Greene from the same club. Greene, 25, was the Yankees’ Minor-League Pitcher of the Year in 2013 after he was 12-10 with a 3.38 ERA. Though Greene is starting pitcher he will pitch out of the bullpen for the Yankees. The move gives the Yankees 13 pitchers and 12 position players. . . . Jones, the Orioles’ loud-mouth outfielder got touchy when reporters asked him about having to face Tanaka. “Why don’t you ask Tanaka about me?,” Jones bellowed. “I’m the one who’s been over here in the major leagues for a while. Congratulations, he did it over there. Don’t make it like he’s the dirtiest guy in the world. He was 24-0-in Japan . . . At the end of the day, we’ve got to judge it off major-league hitters, not the Japanese hitters. We’re a little bit better over here as hitters.” Tanaka struck out Jones the first two times he faced him.
The Yankees open a four-game home weekend series against the Boston Red Sox on Thursday.
Right-hander Michael Pineda (0-1, 1.50) will make his Yankee Stadium debut in pinstripes. After missing two full seasons, Pineda yielded one run on five hits with no walks while he fanned five in six innings in a loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday.
The Red Sox will start right-hander Clay Buchholz (0-0, 12.46 ERA), who was hammered for six runs on 13 hits in 4 1/3 innings against the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday. He has not fared well against the Yankees. He enters the game with an ERA of 5.32 against them.
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.