YANKEES 8, RED SOX 1
TAMPA – It was buzzing all day long at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Tuesday and the day ended for the Red Sox much like Irwin Allen’s 1978 disaster horror film “The Swarm.”
Michael Pineda turned in 4 1/3 innings of shutout baseball and Alfonso Soriano drove in four runs – three of them on his first home run of the spring – as New York made like busy little bees and unmercifully stung Boston in front of a sellout crowd of 11,032 and national television audience.
Pineda (2-0) made a serious pitch for the team’s No. 5 starter’s job by yielding just four hits, did not walk a batter and struck out five. The 25-year-old right-hander, who has not pitched in a regular-season major-league game since the 2011 season due to a torn labrum in his right shoulder that required surgery, threw 45 of his 60 pitches for strikes and now has 14 strikeouts in nine scoreless innings this spring.
Meanwhile, the Yankees bugged left-hander Felix Doubront (0-1) for 3 2/3 innings in which Doubront was tagged for seven runs on 10 hits and three walks.
The Yankees scored a single run in the first on a two-out RBI single by Soriano and they added four runs in the second inning, keyed by a two-run single Mark Teixeira.
With the Yankees up 5-0 with two out in the fourth, Carlos Beltran singled and Teixeira drew a walk, which ended Doubront’s afternoon. Soriano then laced right-hander Brandon Workman’s fourth delivery over the left-field wall to put the game out of reach at 8-0.
Amid the frenzy of the crowd when these two storied rivals meet there actually was a real buzz that caused a seven-minute delay of the game in the third inning.
A massive swarm of bees along the left-field line was first noticed by Red Sox left-fielder Mike Carp, who informed the umpiring crew. Groundskeepers took to the field armed with the bug spray cans to drive the swarm away so the game could resume.
“Not a big fan of bees flying around my head,” Carp said. “It’s just one of those things I’ve never seen happen – or, I’ve seen it happen, but it’s never happened to me. I’m sure they’ll get their laughs on ESPN tonight.”
Boston’s lone run of the game came in the seventh inning off right-hander David Herndon. Jonathan Herrera scored Corey Brown on an RBI single.
The Yankees raised their Grapefruit League record to 11-9-2. The Red Sox fell to 8-11.
- For all intents and purposes, Pineda has won the No. 5 starting job even if manager Joe Girardi is not ready to make it official. Girardi said a decision would not be made until Sunday, which coincidentally is the day Pineda is scheduled to make his next start. I have said from the beginning of spring training that if Pineda was healthy he would get the job because David Phelps and Adam Warren are capable of working out of the bullpen and Pineda is not. In addition, Vidal Nuno has more value as a starter at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he can summoned should there be an injury to a starter during the season.
- Soriano spent the first two weeks of the spring trying to regain his strength after a long battle with a persistent flu. It seems he is rounding back into form because he hit the ball hard all day long. Soriano will be a key member of the team because he provides 30-homer power from the right side of the plate.
- Brett Gardner and Francisco Cervelli both continued their hot hitting of late. Gardner was 3-for-4 with two runs scored and he has raised his spring average to .313. Meanwhile, Cervelli is hitting like he is possessed. He was 2-for-3 on Tuesday and he is batting an even .500 on the spring. I am not sure a fire extinguisher would cool him off.
Hmmm! It was a beautiful sunny day, Pineda was absolutely dazzling, the Red Sox No. 5 starter Doubront was shelled and we got to see the Bosox get swarmed by thousands of bees. How could there be anything negative in any of that?
Starting center-fielder and former Red Sox Jacoby Ellsbury was held out the lineup on Tuesday due to tightness in his right calf. Girardi said that Ellsbury will be held out of games scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday also. Though the injury is not considered serious, the Yankees want to make sure the injury has healed completely before Ellsbury returns to game action. . . . Girardi said that right-hander Masahiro Tanaka will make his next start on Saturday when the Yankees travel to Fort Myers, FL, to face the Minnesota Twins. . . . Outfielder Mason Williams, the teams’ No. 2 rated prospect, was among 12 players cut from the squad beforeafter Tuesday’s game. Outfielder Ramon Flores was optioned to Triple A while the others were reassigned to minor-league camp. The other players are: pitchers Bruce Billings, Robert Coello, Brian Gordon and Chase Whitley; catcher Francisco Arcia and Pete O’Brien; infielders Corban Joseph and Jose Pirela; and outfielders Williams and Tyler Austin.
The Yankees will travel to Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, FL, on Wednesday to take on the Atlanta Braves.
Right-hander Ivan Nova (1-1, 5.40 ERA) will make the start for the Yankees. Former Braves catcher Brian McCann will head a group of players including Derek Jeter, Beltran, Gardner and Soriano that will make the trip.
The Braves will counter with right-hander David Hale (0-1, 4.50 ERA).
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by MLB Radio.
YANKEES 4, NATIONALS 2
From July 5 to the end of the 2013 season, Ivan Nova was 7-4 with a 2.59 ERA in his last 15 starts. That same dominant right-handed pitcher showed up on Monday at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Nova (1-0) pitched three hitless shutout innings to set the tone for New York’s Grapefruit League victory over Washington.
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound right-hander threw 30 of his 35 pitches for strikes and struck out four in just his second outing of the spring.
The Yankees backed Nova with a four-run second-inning uprising off Nationals left-hander Ross Detwiler (0-1), keyed by RBI hits by Kelly Johnson, Ichiro Suzuki and Corban Joseph as the Yankees claimed their fourth straight exhibition victory.
Brian Roberts and Francisco Cervelli opened the frame with back-to-back singles. Johnson then followed with a bloop double to left that scored Roberts.
Suzuki extended the rally when Nationals shortstop Zach Walters fielded his slow roller and threw wildly to first, allowing both Cervelli and Johnson to score.
After Zoilo Almonte laced a double to right, Joseph plated Suzuki with the final run of the inning with a solid single to right.
New closer David Robertson made his first appearance of the spring in relief of Nova in the fourth and pitched around hitting Danny Espinosa with his second pitch by retiring Tyler Moore on a double-play grounder and getting Scott Hairston on a flyout to left.
The Nationals scored their two runs on a solo home run by Walters off right-hander Shawn Kelley in the fifth and on a fielding error in the sixth by Derek Jeter on a ground ball off the bat of Espinosa that allowed Eury Perez to score with right-hander Danny Burawa on the mound.
Right-hander Jim Miller pitched a perfect ninth inning to get credit for a save.
The Yankees are 4-2 in early spring play while the Nationals fell to 3-1.
- I have said for a very long time and it does bear repeating that Nova IS the Yankee starter with the best overall stuff. His mid-90s fastball and crackling curveball were on full display on Monday. When Nova commands his pitches he is as nasty and dominant as any pitcher the Yankees have. After suffering through a horrible 2012 season in which he was 12-8 with a 5.02 ERA and sustaining an early bout of forearm tendinitis last season, Nova has been everything the Yankees had hoped he would be when he was 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA in his rookie season. If he pitches this season as he did on Monday he could have a very good record in 2014.
- Johnson, 32, is settling in nicely with the Yankees as the team’s primary third baseman this season. Johnson averaged 24 home runs and 61 RBIs from 2010 through 2012. Last season with the Tampa Bay Rays, Johnson hit 16 home runs and drove in 52 runs in only 118 games. The Yankees think the lefty swinging Johnson can produce as much for the Yankees while Alex Rodriguez sits out his season-long suspension.
- Cervelli, 28, went 2-for-3 with a single, a double and run scored. Cervelli is 4-for-7 (.571) in early spring action and it seems he is determined not to lose the backup catching spot to Austin Romine or John Ryan Murphy this spring. One thing in Cervelli’s favor is that he is out of options and the team would lose him if he did not win the job.
- The infield defense this spring has not been as crisp as it could be. Of course, with Gold Glove first baseman Mark Teixeira yet to play in a game and with the free-agent loss of Robinson Cano at second that is to be expected. The main offenders have been Joseph and Addison Maruszak. Maruszak has committed three errors and Joseph has committed two, including one at first base on Monday. The Yankees committed a franchise-record low of errors last season. It would be nice of they get close to that again in 2014.
- There is nothing to be alarmed about yet, but Jeter is 0-for-7 in the three games he has played this spring. I would be alarmed if it stretched into another week or so. But the good news is the Yankee captain is moving without discomfort or a limp due to his surgically repaired left ankle.
The Yankees had football legend Joe Namath throw out the first pitch for Monday’s game. Namath, the 70-year-old former great of the New York Jets and a Hall of Fame quarterback, wore a Yankee jersey with his iconic No. 12 as he escorted manager Joe Girardi to exchange the lineup card at home plate and he spent the rest of the day next to Girardi in the Yankees’ dugout as a “co-manager.” . . . Teixeira took some swings on Monday against left-hander Manny Banuelos and right-hander Jose Campos. Teixeira reported no issues with his surgically repaired right wrist. He hopes to take some more swings on Tuesday leading up to his first game action either Thursday or Friday. . . . Andy Pettitte was in camp on Monday as a special guest instructor but he made a point to insist that he not going to come out of retirement this time.
The Yankees will play there first night game of the spring at home playing host to the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday.
Right-hander David Phelps will make his second start of the spring for the Yankees. Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran will start in the outfield and Jeter will also be in the lineup as the designated hitter.
The Orioles will counter with left-hander Wei-Yin Chen, who was 7-7 with a 4.07 ERA in 23 starts with the O’s last season.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EST and the game will be broadcast live nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 8, BLUE JAYS 2
During the course of the 2013 season the nickname Bronx Bombers did not fit at all. This spring training training it looks like the moniker definitely applies.
Eduardo Nunez, Carlos Beltran and John Ryan Murphy each connected for home runs on Sunday as New York pounded Toronto at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin, FL.
Nunez unloaded for a two-run homer to left-field off right-hander Todd Redmond and Beltran followed with his first home run as a Yankee and of the spring to give the Yankees a 4-1 lead.
Murphy’s blast came in the eighth inning off right-hander Neil Wagner after leadoff singles by Antoan Richardson and Yangervis Solarte that extended the Yankees to their final 8-2 margin.
Minor-league right-hander Bryan Mitchell (1-0) gave up two hits, no walks and struck out three batters in his two innings of relief to get credit for the victory. Redmond (1-1) was saddled with the loss.
The Yankees have now won their past three Grapefruit League contests and are 3-2. The Blue Jays have the same record.
- There is no doubt that the catching position currently is the strongest position on the Yankee roster and Murphy’s three-run blast on Sunday added to the group’s impressive spring. Brian McCann, Francisco Cervelli, Kevin Romine, Gary Sanchez, Francisco Arcia and Murphy are a combined 12-for-32 (.375) at the plate with three homers and eight RBIs. Perennial All-Star McCann, obviously, will be the starter. But a real competition has erupted between Cervelli, Romine and Murphy for the backup spot. Sanchez and Arcia are heading back for minor-league seasoning.
- Nunez’s home run proved to be the game-winner and it came at a good time for the 26-year-old infielder. Nunez is battling to be part of a platoon at third base with Kelly Johnson. The problem for Nunez is his shaky fielding and the fact that 27-year-old Dean Anna is playing like he does not want to go back to the minor leagues. Anna played third base on Sunday while Nunez played short and Anna went 1-for-2 with an RBI single in the second inning. Anna is hitting .375 in the early going and he has been impressive in the field.
- Solarte, 26, and Adonis Garcia, 28, also have been impressive this spring. Solarte, who can play second, short and third, added another two hits in two at-bats on Sunday and he is 6-for-7 (.857) with two home runs and five RBIs. Garcia, who can play third base and the outfield, was 3-for-4 with two runs scored on Sunday and he is 5-for-8 (.625) with two RBIs. Neither seems to have a shot to make the Opening Day roster, of course. But they are opening a lot of eyes with their play.
Nunez and Corban Joseph committed errors and the pitchers gave up 10 hits but that would really be nitpicking. There is not much to complain about when the team gets three big home runs and wins by six.
Fresh off his much ballyhooed major-league debut on Saturday, Masahiro Tanaka learned from manager Joe Girardi on Sunday that he will make his next start on Thursday against the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater, FL. Tanaka, 25, threw two scoreless innings against the Phils, yielding two hits, no walks and striking out three. . . . Mark Teixiera will make his first start of the spring on Thursday or Friday, Girardi told reporters on Sunday. The 34-year-old first baseman is coming off surgery to repair his right wrist and he is working back into the lineup slowly. . . . Meanwhile, outfielder/designated hitter Alfonso Soriano probably will not make his spring debut until early next week due to a very bad case of the flu. Soriano was scheduled to play on Sunday but he told trainers he was still feeling dizzy and weak. . . . The long awaited spring debut of right-hander Michael Pineda is scheduled for Friday. Pineda, 25, pitched two innings of a simulated game in Tampa, FL, on Sunday. Girardi plans to use Pineda for three innings in relief of Hiroki Kuroda against the Detroit Tigers at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Pineda is in the four-man mix for the last spot available in the Yankees’ rotation. He has not pitched in the major leagues since 2011, having missed two full seasons recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum.
The Yankees return home to Tampa to play a contest on Monday against the Washington Nationals.
Right-hander Ivan Nova will make his second appearance of the spring while shortstop Derek Jeter, outfielder Brett Gardner, second baseman Brian Roberts and McCann are all expected to start.
The Nationals will counter with 27-year-old left-hander Ross Detwiler, who was 2-7 with 4.04 ERA in 13 starts with the Nationals last season. He is battling right-hander Tanner Roark, who also is slated to pitch on Monday, for the No. 5 spot in the team’s rotation.
Game-time will 1:05 p.m. EST and the game will be broadcast live nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 4, PHILLIES 0
TAMPA – It is not often that CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Derek Jeter get overshadowed around the Yankees’ spring-training complex in Tampa, FL. But Masahiro Tanaka did just that on Saturday at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Tanaka, making his much anticipated major-league debut, entered the contest in the fifth inning and pitched two scoreless frames as New York shut out the Philadelphia Phillies in front of a paid crowd of 10,934.
Tanaka, 25, gave up a sharp single to Darin Ruf on a 0-2 pitch to begin his outing. But he then retired Cody Asche and Cameron Rupp on fly balls and struck out Cesar Hernandez on a 3-2 fastball. In the sixth, the Japanese right-hander fanned Ben Revere on an 0-2 splitter, gave up a bloop single to Ronny Cedeno, struck out Dominic Brown and he finished up by retiring Kelly Dugan on a shallow fly ball.
“I was nervous, but it was a really good nervous,” Tanaka told reporters through an interpreter. “It’s the first time that the batters faced me. It’ll probably be a little bit different the next time around.”
Tanaka said he was happy to have his first game under his belt.
With all the buzz about the $155 million free-agent Tanaka, a slimmed down Sabathia actually started the game and set the tone for the day by completing two shutout innings, yielding two singles, striking out one and walking none. His fastball reached as high as 88 miles per hour.
Sabathia lost about 30 pounds during the offseason but incorporated a strength program to build up muscle mass so he could remain strong after a disappointing 2013 season in which he was 14-13 with a 4.78 ERA.
Kuroda followed Sabathia and also threw two scoreless frames, surrendering just a bunt single while fanning two and walking none.
Jeter started his second game of the spring and was 0-for-2 with a walk and a run scored. But his main highlight was a well-turned double play in the third inning behind Kuroda. After Hernandez reached first on a bunt, Jeter grabbed a sinking drive off the bat of Revere on a short hop, tagged out Hernandez and then flipped the ball to Corban Joseph at first to double up Revere.
The Yankees backed the Yankees’ excellent pitching with some timely offense.
They broke through in fourth inning off Cuban defector and right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, who also was making his major-league debut after signing a three-year, $12 million contract with the Phillies.
Gonzalez, however, was done in by his lack of command on his pitches.
He opened the frame by walking Francisco Cervelli and Kelly Johnson. Ichiro Suzuki then followed with an opposite field high-hopper that bounced off the glove of Asche and rolled into left-field. Cervelli scored easily putting the Yankees on the board.
The Yankees added another run in the fifth off right-hander Kevin Munson.
Jeter reached first on a throwing error by Asche and he advanced to second on a walk drawn by Brian McCann. After Brian Roberts erased McCann on a force play at second, Cervelli slapped a single to left to score Jeter.
The Yankees closed out the scoring in the seventh inning when rookie outfielder Adonis Garcia laced a two-out, bases-loaded single off left-hander Jeremy Horst to drive in Dean Anna and John Ryan Murphy.
Kuroda (1-0) got credit for the victory. Gonzalez (0-1) was saddled with the loss.
The Yankees evened their Grapefruit League record to 2-2. The Phillies fell to 1-3.
- The Yankees have to feel good about the 60 percent of their starting rotation that pitched on Saturday. They combined to shut out the Phillies on five hits, no walks and six strikeouts. Tanaka’s debut drew high praise from the Phillies. “He’s going to be a tough pitcher,” Revere told reporters. “I guarantee that.” Rupp was left perplexed. “I have absolutely no idea what the first pitch he threw me was,” he told reporters. Ruf looked bad swinging and missing at the offering. Cervelli indicated that he called seven different pitches for Tanaka and that he intentionally did not call for many splitters, which is regarded as Tanaka’s best pitch.
- McCann is off to a fast start with the bat and was impressive again on Saturday as the team’s designated hitter. With two out in the first inning, McCann laced a double off the wall in left-center off Phillies starter David Buchanan. The Phillies then chose to avoid pitching to him the rest of the day. Gonzalez walked him with two out to load the bases in the third. McCann then drew a walk from Munson with Jeter on first and no outs in the fifth. McCann is 3-for-5 with a homer, a double and two RBIs in early action.
- Anna, who was acquired in a deal with the San Diego Padres, was mainly coveted for his bat after he led the Pacific Coast League in batting with a .331 average with nine homers and 73 RBIs. To be sure, the 27-year-old infielder is hitting .333 early but he really shined on Saturday with a great play at shortstop in the seventh inning. Anna dove to his right in the outfield grass to stop a hot ground ball off the bat of Ruf, sprang to his feet and threw him out by a step. Of course, he then booted a much easier chance against the next batter, Asche. This young man could make his way onto the Yankees roster at some point this season.
When your top three starters throw shutout baseball for six innings and you win the game it is hard to find anything negative to say. So I won’t.
Sabathia downplayed his velocity when he was informed he topped out at 88 mph. “My fastball is what it is. If it gets better, it will,” Sabathia told reporters. “If it’s not, it won’t. I can pitch. I’m fine. As long as I’m healthy, I’ll be good.” Manager Joe Girardi said Sabathia’s velocity does not concern him. “I thought he looked good,” Girardi told reporters. . . . Outfielder and designated hitter Alfonso Soriano has missed their first five days of spring with the flu. But the team learned on Saturday that he is still not ready to play. Soriano was originally scheduled to play on Sunday but he will be held out until he is 100 percent. Soriano said he is at about 80 percent.
The Yankees will make their first trip to Dunedin, FL, on Sunday to play the Toronto Blue Jays.
Left-hander Vidal Nuno, who started an exhibition against Florida State University on Tuesday, will make his second start of the spring for the Yankees. Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran will head up the continent making the trip.
The Blue Jays will counter with right-hander Esmil Rogers, who was 5-9 with a 4.77 ERA in 44 games (20 of them starts) in 2013.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EST and the game will be delay broadcast by the MLB Network at 8 p.m. EST.
Spring training is here!
We are days away from the New York Yankees’ spring home opener and camp is already abuzz about Derek Jeter’s final season, the anticipation of seeing Japanese star right-hander Masahiro Tanaka and the new boatload of free agents the team signed like Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran.
But before the games begin I have picked five players to watch this spring. They are not necessarily big names but they do bear watching because of how they will affect the makeup of the Yankees’ 25-man roster that will open the season.
In reverse order of importance, here are the five:
NO. 5 – DEAN ANNA, 27, INFIELDER
The name may not be familiar because Anna played for the San Diego Padres’ Triple-A affiliate in Tucson and he batted .331 with nine homers and 73 RBIs in 132 games. The Yankees acquired Anna in a trade with the Padres for minor-league right-hander Ben Paulus. Anna is primarily a second baseman but he also has logged time at shortstop, third base and the corner outfield spots in his pro career. That versatility makes him potentially valuable to the Yankees if he can hit anywhere near his .286 minor-league career average. Anna will be battling Brendan Ryan, Eduardo Nunez and Scott Sizemore for a backup infielding spot on the roster. His acquisition shows the Yankees do not have much faith in the development of Corban Joseph and David Adams was released after he flopped in his brief major-league trial last season. With injury-plagued veteran second baseman Brian Roberts as the starter and with Kelly Johnson the primary starter at third base with the suspension of Alex Rodriguez, Anna could back up at both positions. He has the bat to produce and his glove is more than adequate. If Anna impresses the Yankees, Nunez could be packaged in a deal to strengthen the bullpen or bench. If Anna fails to make the roster, he will be sent to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he will be phone call away should any of the infielders get injured during the season. Watch him closely.
NO. 4 – PRESTON CLAIBORNE, 26, RIGHT-HANDED RELIEVER
Claiborne was recalled from Scranton and made his major-league debut on May 5. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound right-hander made an immediate impression on manager Joe Girardi by not walking a single batter in his first 14 appearances. If you want to get on Girardi’s good side you don’t walk batters. Claiborne did that and also impressed everyone with his effectiveness out of the bullpen. By Aug. 9, Claiborne was 0-1 with a 2.13 ERA and a Walks-to-Innings-Pitched Ratio (WHIP) of 1.08 in 33 games. The Texas native, who was nicknamed “Little Joba,” for his resemblance to Joba Chamberlain had actually supplanted his namesake in the bullpen pecking order. However, a roster numbers crunch forced the Yankees to send Claiborne back and forth from the Bronx to Scranton five times in a 10-day period in August. Claiborne was not the same the rest of the season. In his final 11 appearances, Claiborne was 0-1 with a 7.71 ERA and a WHIP of 2.00. With the retirement of Mariano Rivera and the free-agent losses of Chamberlain and left-hander Boone Logan, Claiborne will get a chance to prove he belongs in the big leagues. If he does and pitches as he did initially in 2013, the Yankees might have a stronger bullpen than the experts imagine. Claiborne has the ability. It is just a matter of doing well this spring,
NO. 3 – RUSS CANZLER, 27, INFIELDER/OUTFIELDER
Canzler actually was acquired by the Yankees last winter but was designated for assignment before the exhibition season started because the team had signed designated hitter Travis Hafner. Canzler instead was picked up by the Baltimore Orioles, sent to their Triple-A affiliate and then traded late in the season to the Pittsburgh Pirates. In his two minor-league stops, Canzler batted .252 with 12 home runs and 52 RBIs in 125 games. Canzler’s value is that he is capable of playing both infield corner spots as well as both corner outfield spots. Last season he started 42 games at first, 13 at third and 16 in the outfield. He even started one game at second base. But Canzler’s calling card is power. The right-handed hitter has 118 career home runs in the minors. The reason he intrigues the Yankees is because the current depth chart lists Johnson as the primary backup to Mark Teixeira at first base. Teixeira is coming off surgery on his right wrist after playing in only 15 games last season. The Yankees could stand to have a player who can play the position. Johnson has only made two major-league starts at first. So Canzler could make the roster if he has an impressive spring. That would allow him to platoon with Johnson at third and back up Teixeira at first and he could even log some time in the outfield, if needed. The odds of Canzler making it are slim. But he bears watching.
NO. 2 – CESAR CABRAL, 25, LEFT-HANDED RELIEVER
Bad luck forced this 2012 Rule V draft pick from the Kansas City Royals via the Boston Red Sox to delay his major-league debut. Cabral came into camp in 2012 as a candidate to be a lefty specialist out the bullpen. Throughout the spring, Cabral battled Clay Rapada until the 6-foot-3, 250-pound Dominican fractured his elbow in his final appearance of the spring. He did not pitch at all in 2012 and he missed the early stages of the 2013 season while rehabbing the injury. But once he got started, Cabral got rolling. In three minor-league stops he was 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA. That does not look impressive but he struck out 43 batters in 36 2/3 innings. That got him a September call-up to the Yankees. Cabral took advantage of the opportunity by going 0-0 with a 2.45 ERA and six strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings in eight games. Lefties hit .125 off him. Girardi was very impressed and Cabral enters the spring with an excellent chance of making the team as a lefty specialist. The other lefties on the team’s 40-man roster are starters and the two non-roster invitee lefties, Fred Lewis and Francisco Rondon, are huge longshots to make the roster. Cabral is worth watching because he has 376 career strikeouts in 383 2/3 innings in the minors. With the bevy of strong left-handed hitters such as David Ortiz, Prince Fielder and our old buddy Robinson Cano around, it helps to have a effective lefty who can get them out. Cabral could be that guy for the Yankees.
NO. 1 – MICHAEL PINEDA, 25, RIGHT-HANDED STARTER
This selection was really a no-brainer. Since the Yankees elected to trade promising prospect Jesus Montero and right-hander Hector Noesi to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Pineda and right-hander Jose Campos in 2012, the anticipation of seeing what Pineda could do has been palpable. After he made the American League All-Star team and was 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA in his rookie season in Seattle, the Yankees could not wait to see this 6-foot-7, 260-pound righty bring out his best. Unfortunately, Pineda showed up to camp overweight in 2012 and he did not pitch well during the exhibition season. His velocity was down and he was getting hit hard. It ended with a shellacking from the Philadephia Phillies in his last start of the spring and Pineda admitted after the game his right shoulder was sore. That led to surgery to repair a partially torn labrum. Pineda, as a result, missed the entire 2012 season and he was not ready to answer the bell at the start of the 2013 season either. Pineda made three stops in the minors last season with hopes of receiving a call back to the majors in September. He was 2-1 with a 3.32 ERA with 41 strikeouts in 40 2/3 innings in 10 starts. But minor soreness in the surgically repaired shoulder ended his season. With the retirement of Andy Pettitte and the free-agent loss of Phil Hughes, the Yankees want Pineda to earn the No. 5 spot in the rotation. They figure it is about time he produce something. Pineda will battle right-handers David Phelps and Adam Warren and left-hander Vidal Nuno for the spot. But the smart money is on Pineda. His velocity may not be what it was but the Yankees think he can be effective. We will soon find out how effective Pineda can be.
With pitchers and catchers due to report in less than two weeks (Feb. 14) and the full squad coming in on Feb. 19, the New York Yankees have invited a total of 26 players to spring training.
Nine players have been signed to minor-league deals including right-hander Bruce Billings, infielder Russ Canzler, right-hander Robert Coello, right-hander Brian Gordon, right-hander Chris Leroux, outfielder Antoan Richardson, infielder Scott Sizemore, infielder Yangervis Solarte and infielder Zelous Wheeler.
Canzler (29 games), Coello (28), Sizemore (160) and Leroux (63) all have previous major-league experience. In addition, left-hander Matt Daley, infielder Corban Joseph and right-hander Jim Miller also received invites after spending time with the Yankees last season.
Among the position players with major-league experience, the infielders Canzler, Sizemore and Joseph will get opportunities to actually make the squad this spring.
If Canzler’s name is familiar it is because he was on the Yankees’ original spring training roster last season before he was designated for assignment to clear a roster spot for Travis Hafner. Canzler, 27, was then picked up by the Baltimore Orioles and he was later sent to their Triple A affiliate in Norfolk.
He was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 13 and spent the rest of the season at Triple-A Indianapolis. Combined at the two stops, Canzler hit .252 with 12 home runs and 62 RBIs in 125 games.
Canzler is valuable utility player in that he can play both corner infield and outfield spots.
In his 29 games in the majors, he is a .271 hitter with three home runs and 12 RBIs.
The Yankees see the 6-foot-2 right-handed power hitter as a possible platoon at third base with left-handed-hitting Kelly Johnson and a fill-in for Mark Teixeira at first-base. The fact Canzler also can play the outfield would be a definite bonus.
Sizemore, 29, on the other hand, is primarily a second baseman who figures to be in line as a backup infielder at second, shortstop and third base.
The right-handed-hitting Sizemore, a product of the Detroit Tigers’ minor-league system, was dealt to the Oakland Athletics in 2011. In 160 games, Sizemore has hit .238 with 14 homers and 60 RBIs.
Sizemore elected to become a free agent this winter after knee injuries limited him to just two games since 2011.
Joseph, 25, is product of the Yankees’ minor-league system and he made his major-league debut with the Yankees on May 13 during a doubleheader with the Cleveland Indians. Sizemore was 1-for-6 in the two games.
Primarily a second baseman, the lefty-swinging rookie can also play third base.
In 47 games at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Joseph hit only .239 with six homers and 19 RBIs. He was placed on the disabled list on May 31 and missed the remainder of the season with a right shoulder injury that required surgery.
With Brian Roberts entrenched at second and Johnson penciled in at third, Joseph’s chances of making the major-league roster in 2014 are virtually nil. The Yankees also have veteran backups such as Brendan Ryan and Eduardo Nunez ahead of him as well as second base prospects Dean Anna and Jose Pirela knocking on the door.
Of the pitchers, Miller has the best shot to make the team after spending most of the 2013 season at Triple A, where he was 3-5 with a 3.55 ERA and six saves in nine chances in 43 games.
In one game with the Yankees, Miller, 31, had a 20.25 ERA in 1 1/3 innings. Miller also has pitched for the Orioles, the Colorado Rockies and the A’s in his career.
The list of 26 invitees also includes outfielder Mason Williams, right-hander Danny Burawa, outfielder Tyler Austin, right-hander Chase Whitley and left-hander Fred Lewis. All five were selected by the Yankees during the 2010 First-Year Player Draft.
Williams, 22, is the team’s No. 2 prospect, and Austin, 22, is the team’s No. 3 prospect.
The organization’s Minor-League Pitcher of the Year in 2012, right-handed reliever Mark Montgomery, also was invited.
The other invitees include: Catchers Pete O’Brien, Francisco Arcia and Jose Gil; outfielder Adonis Garcia; infielder Pirela; right-handers Yoshinori Tateyama and David Herndon; and left-hander Francisco Rondon.
The 26 invitees brings the number of players invited to camp to 66, which is 18 fewer than in 2014. Among the 26 players are 13 pitchers, three catchers, six infielders and four outfielders.
Abbott: Nicknames, nicknames. Now, on the . . . team we have Who’s on first, What’s on second, I Don’t Know is on third –
Costello: That’s what I want to find out. I want you to tell me the names of the fellows on the . . . team.
Abbott: I’m telling you. Who’s on first, What’s on second, I Don’t Know is on third –
The classic Lou Costello and Bud Abbott comedy sketch is a perfect metaphor for the 2014 Yankees. Because it is beginning to look like What’s on second and I Don’t Know is on third.
The angry free-agent departure of Robinson Cano and the looming suspension hovering over the head of Alex Rodriguez have those two spots in a bit of limbo now.
The Yankees pretty much were prepared for the suspension of A-Rod but they were not really expecting Cano to get in a tizzy over the contract offered to outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury and leave like a spoiled child. But general manager Brian Cashman has had to deal with these situations since he became general manager in 1998.
He does not panic. He moves on.
When second baseman Omar Infante elected to sign with the Kansas City Royals for four years and $30 million on Dec. 17, Cashman turned to two-time All-Star second baseman Brian Roberts to fill the void for the Yankees.
At the moment, news reports indicate, the Yankees are close to signing Roberts, 36, to a one-year deal worth about $2 million plus incentives. If Roberts does indeed sign he likely would become the Yankees’ primary starting second baseman for the 2014 season.
When Cano left for the Seattle Mariners, Cashman said that all players are replaceable. But he added that some were harder to replace than others. Cano certainly falls into that latter category.
It is not easy to replace a player who hit .314 with 27 home runs and 107 RBIs and played Gold Glove-quality defense. Putting it succinctly, how do replace the team’s best second baseman in history? The answer, of course, is that you don’t.
Even if the Yankees had signed Infante, it would not have been the same. Infante, 32, hit .318 with 10 home runs and 51 RBIs for the Detroit Tigers last season but he is not even close to Cano in ability. So with Infante off the board, Roberts becomes the Yankees No. 1 target.
The question with Roberts is at his age does he have anything left? Another question is can he remain healthy?
After the Yankees disastrous 2013 campaign when even Cashman himself broke his leg skydiving at a charity event, making sure their players can answer the bell to start the 2014 season and have confidence they can finish it would have to be a top priority.
Roberts does not instill a lot of that confidence.
From 2007 through 2009, Roberts was among the top second basemen in baseball, averaging .290 with 120 stolen bases and playing in 157 games a season. But much like A-Rod, staying on the field since 2010 has been a challenge for the former Baltimore Orioles star.
He has played in only 192 games since the 2010 season due to a variety of injuries with the most serious being a concussion that shelved him for portions of two seasons.
Roberts played in 77 games for the O’s last season, batting .249 with eight home runs and 39 RBIs.
Because Roberts is a switch-hitter, the Yankees would likely use him as their primary second baseman because free agent infielder Kelly Johnson has the ability to play third base and he could be used there should Rodriguez have to face a suspension covering all of the 2014 season.
Johnson, 31, bats left-handed and he figures in as more as a potential platoon third baseman with the Yankees also looking to possibly re-sign free-agent Mark Reynolds. Johnson also could back up Roberts at second, as could shortstops Brendan Ryan and Eduardo Nunez.
The disarray at second and third is odd for a Yankee team that has boasted an infield of Mark Teixeira at first, Cano at second, Derek Jeter at short and Rodriguez at third since the 2009 season. But injuries and off-field troubles for Rodriguez and the recent departure of Cano have thrown this once powerful part of the team for a loop.
Teixeira and Jeter are both coming off serious injuries and they hope to be ready to play sometime during spring training in order to begin the season. Rodriguez missed all but 44 games last season recovering from hip surgery last January and has played in 138 games or less since the 2007 season.
Adding the injury-prone Roberts does not seem to make much sense. But he might be healthiest among the other three at this point.
In addition to Roberts, the Yankees are also talking with former All-Star infielder Michael Young, 37, who is capable of playing all four infield positions.
Young hit a combined .279 with eight home runs and 46 RBIs for the Philadelphia Phillies and the Los Angeles Dodgers last season. He is a right-handed hitter who primarily is considered a third baseman. The Yankees would not sign Reynolds if Young decides to sign.
But the signing of Roberts would not preclude the team from also signing Young, who would platoon with Johnson at third base in the absence of Rodriguez.
So Roberts looks to be more a Plan A signing while Young and Reynolds are more of a Plan B after the Yankees get a ruling from the arbitrator who is deciding Rodriguez’s appeal of his 211-game suspension for his alleged role in the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drug scandal.
The hearing was concluded in mid-November with the players’ association seeking to overturn or reduce Rodriguez’s suspension handed down by Major League Baseball and Commissioner Bud Selig last summer. Rodriguez actually stormed out of the hearing in a huff on Nov. 20 when arbitrator Frederic Horowicz ruled that Selig did not have to testify in front of Rodriguez’s attorneys.
Rodriguez said, at that time, that the issue of his suspension likely would end up in a federal court.
Horowicz is expected to issue his ruling some time in January.
In the meantime, the Yankees have kept a public posture of saying that they expect Rodriguez, 38, to be their starting third baseman on Opening Day. But privately they have to be ready to fill the position should Rodriguez be suspended for the entire 2014 season.
That is why they signed Johnson and why they remain interested in Young and Reynolds.
One thing is certain, however: The Yankees would be better off with Rodriguez’s diminished bat in the lineup than without it.
Rodriguez hit .244 with seven home runs and 19 RBIs in 44 games last season and was hampered the final month of the season with tightness in his left hamstring. But it was a far cry better than the production they got from Jayson Nix, Nunez, Corban Joseph, David Adams, Chris Nelson and Luis Cruz.
Reynolds, 30, did hit .236 with six home runs and 19 RBIs in 36 games but he was also needed at first base in a platoon with Lyle Overbay and he is not considered to be as adept fielding at third base as he is at first.
So when the Yankees say “I Don’t Know” is playing third they really mean it.
To be sure, the Yankees have shored up the team’s offense by signing catcher Brian McCann, outfielders Carlos Beltran and Ellsbury and trading last season for outfielder Alfonso Soriano. They also are shoring up the rotation by re-signing Hiroki Kuroda and looking to sign 25-year-old Japanese pitching star Masahiro Tanaka, who has been posted by the Rakuten Golden Eagles.
But around the horn of the infield there are question marks everywhere.
Those question marks all have answers. But none of them appear to be answerable in the short term. What was once a Yankee strength appears to be a possible weakness.
Of course, should Teixeira show up in spring training hitting home runs and Jeter starts running the bases and fielding his position without any pronounced limp, the rest of the infield troubles can be overcome with some hard work.
Roberts could be the answer at second and there are worse things than having a platoon at third until Rodriguez is able to return.
Yankee fans are not accustomed to it. But they might just have to get used to it. Things just look like they will be in a state of flux for a good while.