Tagged: Cy Young Award

Young’s Homer Boosts Yankees Past Nationals

GAME 34

YANKEES 4, NATIONALS 3

Chris Young blasted a two-run homer in the eighth inning off Nationals closer Drew Storen to propel New York to a come-from-behind victory over Washington on Saturday at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.

Young’s third home run of the spring, which all came off the Nationals, followed a one-out single by Didi Gregorius.

Storen (0-1), who has been hampered all spring with blister on his right foot, took the loss.

David Carpenter (2-0) pitched one-third of an inning in the seventh to get credit for the victory. Right-hander Dellin Betances earned a save by striking out the side in the ninth despite making things interesting by yielding a single and a walk in between.

The Yankees concluded their exhibition season with a 17-16-1 record.

FIELD FOCUS

Chris Martin pitched a perfect inning of relief in sixth with two strikeouts. Just the fact he is even pitching on a major-league roster is a miracle in and of itself.

Martin was named a member of manager Joe Girardi’s seven-man bullpen on Friday. But there was a time the 6-foot-8 right-hander was just a regular working stiff at an appliance warehouse.

Down in Arlington, TX, Martin was loading 650-pound refrigerators onto dollies for delivery. The only doubleheaders Martin knew were the shifts he previously worked at the lawn and garden section at Lowe’s warehouse and then evenings at UPS.

Before all this Martin, 27, was drafted as a senior from Arlington High School by the Detroit Tigers in 18th round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft. Instead of signing Martin opted to attend McLennan Community College in Waco, TX.

That following year, the tall right-hander was chosen in the 21st round by the Colorado Rockies. Again, Martin opted to stay in school.

However, that fall, Martin severely injured his shoulder. On the advice of Dr. Keith Meister, the team physician for the Texas Rangers, Martin tried resting the shoulder. But with the pain too great, Martin underwent surgery in 2007 to repair the labrum and release the shoulder capsule.

When the shoulder healed, Martin tried out with the Fort Worth Cats of the United Baseball League. When the shoulder still didn’t feel right, Martin quit baseball and went to work at Lowe’s and then at night with UPS for the insurance benefits.

Martin later caught up with former Arlington alum Jordan Bostwick, who graduated a year after Martin. Bostwick urged Martin to come to work for him at Texas Appliance in Arlington.

In June 2010, Bostwick broke out a left-handed catcher’s mitt during a lunch break and had Martin play catch with him. Martin’s pitches busted the seams off the mitt and nearly broke Bostwick’s right thumb.

More importantly, Martin informed Bostwick his shoulder felt really good.

Soon Martin signed a contract for $800 a month with the Grand Prairie Airhogs, an independent team operated by former major-league slugger Pete Incaviglia.

The radar readings of Marin’s pitches were hitting 95 miles per hour. Martin went on to a 4-0 record with a 1.95 ERA in 13 games with the Airhogs.

Incaviglia called the Boston Red Sox on behalf of Martin and the Red Sox signed him for $1,100 a month after a tryout arranged at Martin’s expense in Fort Myers, FL. After stops in Class-A Greenville and Salem, Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket, Martin was dealt to the Rockies in December 2013.

Martin made his major-league debut with the Rockies against the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 26 of last year.

He ended up with an ERA of 6.89 in 16 games with the Rockies before his contract was purchased for $75,000 by the Yankees in January.

Martin was among a large group of non-roster pitchers trying to making the Yankees’ bullpen this spring. At best, he was a long-shot. He ended spring training on Saturday with a 0-1 record and 4.09 ERA in 11 appearances. But the Yankees were enamored more by his 18 strikeouts with only one walk.

So Martin now will have a chance to open the season in the major leagues in 2015. It does not appear he will be making those shifts to load refrigerators in Texas anymore.

Instead he will be living out a dream that looked to be over just a short time ago.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Despite the fact starter Nathan Eovaldi gave up three runs on three hits in the first inning, he settled in nicely afterwards. Eovaldi, 25, held the Nats to just one hit over the next four frames. In five innings, Eovaldi struck out six while walking three. He ended his spring with a 1-1 record with a 1.93 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings.
  • Stephen Drew ruined right-hander Doug Fister’s six-inning outing by lashing a two-out, two-run home run in the fifth inning to draw the Yankees to within a run of the Nationals at 3-2. It was Drew’s third homer of the spring and he ended up batting .259 with three homers and nine RBIs. On March 12, Drew was hitting .077. From then on he was 16-for-34 (.471).
  • Betances earned a save by striking out the side in the ninth. But he also yielded a one-out single to Reed Johnson and a one-out walk to Pedro Severino. Betances topped out at 95 mph on the radar gun, which is still a bit off the 97 mph he was throwing at last season.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The offense is still pretty inconsistent. The Yankees did not get their first hit until the fourth inning and they managed just six hits overall. Fortunately, home runs by Drew and Young bailed them out. The Yankees got great pitching from Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Eovaldi and Adam Warren this spring. It would a shame not to give those guys the support they deserve.
  • Alex Rodriguez started at designated hitter and batted seventh in the game. But A-Rod probably would like to forget about it because Fister fanned him twice and reliever Craig Stammen did it once  –  all three strikeouts came on sharp curveballs.
  • Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner set the table exactly as Girardi would have liked in the fourth when Ellsbury reached after being hit by a pitch from Fister. Gardner followed with a sharp single to left. But Carlos Beltran grounded into a force play and Mark Teixiera rapped into a 4-6-3 double play. The RBI guys are paid to produce and Beltran and Teixeira must do it consistently if the Yankees are to contend at all.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees elected to retain John Ryan Murphy as their backup catcher to Brian McCann as they designated for assignment Austin Romine on Saturday. Murphy came off the bench in seventh inning to catch and was 0-for-1 to end the spring with a .238 average. Romine was 6-for-35 (.171) with 10 strikeouts. Romine was out of options so now any team may claim him. If he is not claimed he would remain with the Yankees and be sent to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  . . .  In other roster moves, the Yankees added backup infielder Gregorio Petit to the 25-man roster and they placed infielder Brendan Ryan (calf strain), left-hander Chris Capuano (quad strain) and right-hander Ivan Nova (Tommy John surgery) on the 15-day disabled list. Infielder Jose Pirela was placed on the 7-day concussion DL.

ON DECK

The Yankees will rest on Sunday and prepare to open the season on Monday at Yankee Stadium against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Tanaka, 26, will start for the Yankees after ending up 1-2 with a 3.07 ERA in four spring starts. It is the first time since 2008 that a pitcher other than CC Sabathia has started the season for the Yankees.

Right-hander Drew Hutchison will pitch for the Blue Jays. Hutchison, 24, was 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA in four spring outings. He surprisingly won the starting assignment over former Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey and veteran left-hander Mark Buehrle.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by ESPN and locally by the YES Network.

 

Yankees’ Starters Talented But Health Big Issue

With the opening of the New York Yankees spring training camp in Tampa, FL, we will now look at each position on the team to assess their chances in 2015. After a disappointing 2014 season with a roster riddled with significant injuries the Yankees have reshuffled the deck with a lot of fresh faces to join some old ones. Let’s look at them.

STARTING ROTATION

No. 1 – Masahiro Tanaka, 26 (13-5, 2.77 ERA in 20 starts)

No. 2 – Michael Pineda, 26 (5-5, 1.89 ERA in 13 starts)

No. 3 – CC Sabathia, 34 (3-4, 5.28 ERA in 8 starts)

No. 4 – Nathan Eovaldi, 25 (6-14, 4.37 ERA in 33 starts)

No. 5 – Chris Capuano, 36 (2-3, 4.25 in 12 starts)

The Yankees began the 2014 season with a rotation of Tanaka, Pineda, Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova. At one point last season, Kuroda was the only one of the five still pitching.

In fact, the then-39-year-old veteran made 32 starts and was 11-9 with a 3.71 ERA for a team that struggled to finish six games over .500. Unfortunately, after pitching three seasons with the Yankees, Kuroda elected to exit Major League Baseball and go back to his native Japan to finish up his career.

That leaves a 2015 rotation steeped in talent and great possibilities. However, it also is a quintet laden with big question marks.

The Yankees made quite a splash last season with the signing of the Japanese star right-hander Tanaka to a seven-year, $155-million contract on Jan. 23. Tanaka was coming off a dream season in Japan where he was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA for the Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2013.

The Yankees saw Tanaka as a potential ace and they were hoping that his eight-pitch assortment including a world-class strikeout pitch in his split-finger fastball would translate to the American game.

After a spring training in which he was 2-0 with a 2.14 ERA in five games, Tanaka hit the ground running and never really stopped. On June 17, Tanaka was 11-1 with a sparkling 1.99 ERA.

Ther was talk of a Cy Young Award and a Rookie of the Year Award buzzing around him until . . .

After losing three of his next three starts, Tanaka complained of pain in his valuable right elbow. Because Tanaka came to the United States after logging 1,315 innings since the age of 18 in Japan, he did come to the Yankees with some very inherent risks.

The Yankees discovered he had a partial tear in ulnar collateral ligament and left the choice to Tanaka whether to have surgery to repair it and likely miss two full seasons or rehab the small tear and hope that it healed on its own.

Tanaka chose the latter and came back to make two starts in September. Despite the fact he was shelled for seven runs (five earned) in 1 2/3 innings in his final start, Tanaka and the Yankees were encouraged enough to stay committed on not having Tommy John surgery.

So with two spring bullpen sessions under his belt, Tanaka has assured the Yankees and the media that his elbow is fine and he expects no further problems. To outside observers, however, Tanaka’s elbow is a ticking time bomb that can explode at any moment, especially for a pitcher who throws a splitter with so much torque on his elbow.

But the Yankees are willing to take that chance so that they can have their ace on the mound for 2015.

If he is right and he remains healthy the Yankees will have one of the best pitchers in the major leagues. Tanaka has proven to be the consummate pitcher capable of even changing his game plan if pitches are not working or batters change their approach.

Last season, pitching against the Twins at Target Field, Tanaka noticed that the Twins were laying off his split-finger pitch and it was causing him to get into some deep counts. So Tanaka switched gears and went to his slider, a pitch that he could throw for strikes. Tanaka ended up winning the game.

So Tanaka is far from just a thrower and his cerebral approach along with his stuff make him a very formidable foe for hitters. If the Yankees are to make any noise in the American League East they will need Tanaka at the top of the rotation pitching just as he did in 2014.

If patience is a virtue than the Yankees have it spades when it comes to Pineda.

The 6-foot-7, 290-pound right-hander was obtained in a much ballyhooed deal between the Yankees and Seattle in 2012 that sent the Yankees No. 1 prospect, catcher Jesus Montero, to the Mariners.

However, in his final start of the spring in 2012, Pineda complained of shoulder pain. He ended up undergoing season-ending surgery on the shoulder and he was only was able to make 10 minor-league rehab starts in 2013.

So the Yankees wanted to see what a healthy Pineda could do in 2014. Very quickly they learned he could do quite a lot. In spring training, Pineda was 2-1 with a 1.20 ERA in four games with 16 Ks in 15 innings.

The Yankees could not wait to see what he could do with a full season. However, after going 2-1 with a 1.00 ERA in his first three starts, Pineda decided to tempt fate once too many times by placing a glob of pine tar on his neck in a game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on April 23.

He was ejected from the game in the second inning and he was suspended for 10 days by Major League Baseball. In what only could be called “Pineda Luck,” while preparing for his first start after the suspension, Pineda strained the teres major muscle behind his right shoulder and he was placed on the 60-day disabled list. He would not return to the Yankees until Sept. 5.

In his final five starts, Pineda was 2-2 with an even more sparkling 1.62 ERA. So the Yankees open spring camp thinking they have a second top-drawer starter in Pineda IF ONLY he can stay healthy and off suspension.

It is obvious the talent is there. Pineda exhibits absolutely spotless control: He walked only seven batters in 76 1/3 innings and he only gave up 56 hits. How he lost five games is amazing but very understandable considering how weak the Yankees offense was last season.

With a full season under his belt in 2015, Pineda may take the next step into the elite class of pitchers and he forms a very tough one-two pitching punch with Tanaka.

At this point, the rest of the rotation takes a decided turn to the worse.

Sabathia, the team’s former ace, is coming off two consecutive very bad seasons.

In 2013, Sabathia saw his record slip from 15-6 in 2012 to 14-13 and his ERA exploded from 3.28 to 4.78. After pitching 200-plus innings for six consecutive seasons since 2007, Sabathia discovered he was losing velocity, which negated the effectiveness of his change-up.

He vowed to be better in 2014. He would somehow transition into a finesse pitcher capable of winning on guile instead on pure power as he had throughout his career.

He was 3-1 with 1.29 ERA in five spring starts so the early results looked encouraging. But when the regular season started the whole thing came crashing down on Sabathia.

He was 3-3 with a 5.11 ERA in April. He then made two very poor starts in May and that was all for Sabathia for the rest of the season. Swelling in his right knee forced him to the disabled list and after breaking down in a second rehab start on July 2, Sabathia finally called 2014 quits.

Yankee team doctors discovered that Sabathia had a degenerative condition in his right knee and underwent arthroscopic debridement surgery in July. Doctors also shaved out a bone spur.

Though Sabathia dodged a more invasive and career-threatening microfracture surgery, he will always have some pain in the knee because he has no cartilage between the bones. So Sabathia enters 2015 as one big fat question mark, literally.

Sabathia, claiming that he was too light the past two seasons, elected to come to camp 10 pounds heavier this spring. Sabathia said he expects to pitch this season between 295 and 305 pounds. Last season, he reported weighing 275 pounds.

It would seem to be counterintuitive for a pitcher coming off knee surgery with no cartilage in his knee would add weight. But Dr. Christopher Ahmad, the Yankees’ team physician, cleared him for the weight and manager Joe Girardi said it will not be an issue in camp.

Sabathia vows he wants to make at least 30 starts in 2015 and after his first bullpen session he said he already feels stronger than he has the past two seasons. But the jury on Sabathia remains out.

Just two seasons ago the Yankees provided Sabathia a six-year, $142 million deal. In retrospect, that deal is looking pretty disastrous now because it is doubtful that Sabathia will ever reclaim his status as the team’s ace.

The even larger question is can he adapt and become a the finesse pitcher he thinks he can? The left-hander sounds all the right chords but the results so far have be awful. So no one on the Yankees’ staff has more to prove that Sabathia in 2015.

With Kuroda unavailable the Yankees could have gone in a lot of different directions to replace him in 2015.

After all they did have young pitchers such as David Phelps, Adam Warren and Shane Greene on the roster. In addition, Brandon McCarthy pitched well for the team after he was acquired from the Diamondbacks last July.

However, the Yankees did not opt for Plan A, Plan B, Plan C or Plan D. They dealt Phelps and Greene away in separate trades and they allowed McCarthy to sign a four-year, $48 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

They are now on Plan E as in Eovaldi, who the Yankees obtained along with infielder/outfielder Garrett Jones for infielder Martin Prado and Phelps.

The right-hander features a sizzling fastball that averages 95.7 mph. However, even with that hard fastball Eovaldi led the National League in hits allowed (223) and he recorded only 142 strikeouts.

The problem according to the Yankees: He needs to develop his secondary pitches  –  his splitter, slider and change-up. The thought is that if Eovaldi does that the sky is the limit for him as a pitcher.

“We’ve talked about developing his repertoire and having him establish confidence in all his pitches in all the counts,” Girardi told reporters. “It’s one thing to have three or four pitches, but it’s another thing to have the confidence to throw them at any time.”

So spring training will be an opportunity for pitching coach Larry Rothschild to refine the diamond in the ruff in Eovaldi and 2015 will be a proving ground to see how the pupil progresses with the lessons he is taught.

Eovaldi did throw 199 2/3 innings last season for a very weak Marlins team. Perhaps some improved offense from the Yankees combined with the refinements Eovaldi is making will translate into success for him in 2015.

The Yankees opted to bring back the veteran left-hander Capuano after he made 12 starts with the team last season.

Capuano was designated for assignment by the Boston Red Sox on July 25 and he was signed to a minor-league contract on July 4 by the Colorado Rockies. After making two minor-league starts, the Yankees acquired him from the Rockies in exchange for cash considerations.

Capuano debuted on July 28 and he finished with a 2-3 mark with a 4.25 ERA.

Having a second left-hander in the rotation is advantageous for the Yankees, particularly at home with so many teams wanting to load up on left-handed batters to exploit the short right-field porch in Yankee Stadium.

The problem is left-handers hit .321 with a .942 OPS against Capuano last season. So he is going to have to work on that this spring.

Capuano has not started 33 games in a season since 2012, But if he can keep his ERA to his career mark of 4.28 the Yankees will be satisfied.

The Yankees also enter 2015 with a bit of a problem. The Yankees have a stretch at the end of April and the beginning of May where they are scheduled to play 30 games in 31 days.

In addition, they have Tanaka, Pineda and Sabathia coming off injury-shortened seasons n 2014. So Giradi and Rothschild are planning to use a six-man rotation this spring and they may extend it into the regular season to ease the strain on their staff through that 30-game stretch in May.

As a result right-hander Warren, 27, looks to be in the best position to fill that role for the Yankees. Warren was 3-6 with a 2.97 ERA in 69 games last season, all of them in relief.

But Warren has been a starter throughout his minor-league career and he is well-suited to slip back into the bullpen when he is no longer needed.

Warren was one of the strengths of the bullpen last season and he seems to have settled into the role Phelps once held.

It would not be the Yankees unless they entered a season with one of their starting  pitchers rehabbing something and that is the case with the 28-year-old right-hander Nova, who ended up on the disabled list after four starts after he suffered a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament on his right elbow.

After undergoing Tommy John surgery on April 29 last year, Nova will be unavailable to the Yankees until late May or early June, barring any unforeseen setbacks. However, it is unclear how effective Nova can be.

The Merriam-Webster definition of the word nova is “a star that suddenly increases its light output tremendously and then fades away to its former obscurity in a few months or years.” That could apply to the veteran from the Dominican Republic.

Nova burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2011 with a 16-4 record and a 3.70 ERA. However, in 2012, Nova regressed and finished 12-8 with a 5.02 ERA with 28 home runs allowed in 170 1/3 innings.

He then bounced back from an injury in 2013 to become the Yankees’ best pitcher down the stretch. He ended the season 9-6 with an excellent 3.10 ERA.

So 2014 was supposed to be Nova’s chance to build as a starter. But it ended early after the elbow flared up with a 2-2 record and a 8.27 ERA.

The Yankees are hopeful that Nova will be able to step into the rotation in late May or so. The reality is that it usually takes pitchers some time to find the feel for the pitches and trust that the repaired elbow will hold up.

Nova had developed a devastating curveball that just had batters shaking their heads. He also was able to throw his fastball in the mid-90s with good control. If that Nova is able to contribute to the Yankees in 2015 they may be able to shift Capuano to the bullpen and the rotation will look a lot better.

But Nova remains a big question mark for now.

The Yankees have options beyond these seven starters but there is a huge drop in quality also.

Chase Whitley, 25, made 12 starts for the Yankees last season. After going 3-0 with a 2.56 ERA in his first seven starts he collapsed. He was 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in his last five starts.

However, he did pitch six innings of shutout baseball on seven hits on July 22 at home against Texas in his final start but still was shifted to the bullpen, where he ended the season.

It is unlikely that Whitley will start once the season opens but he could be a valuable swing man in the bullpen who is available to make a spot start if needed. Whitley has very good numbers as a reliever in the minors and the Yankees feel he is going to be an integral part of their revamped bullpen.

There also is Esmil Rogers, a 29-year-old right-hander signed as a free agent after he was designated for assignment by the Toronto Blue Jays on July 27. He made his debut with the Yankees on Aug. 4 and finished 2-0 with a 4.66 ERA.

Rogers was a failed starter with the Blue Jays before being shifted to the bullpen in 2014 and he seems more suited for that role. But he struggled with the Yankees in September with a 7.84 ERA.

Blessed with immense talent, Rogers just has not been able to put it all together yet at the major-league level and time is beginning to run out.

Another starter candidate is right-hander Bryan Mitchell, 23, who came up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in August and pitched in three games, one of them as a starter.

Mitchell was 0-1 with a 2.45 ERA in 11 innings. He was a combined 6-7 with a 4.37 ERA at Double-A Trenton and Scranton.

Yankee insiders compare Mitchell’s build and stuff to that of A.J. Burnett because he possesses a power fastball that reaches the mid-90s and a power curveball that hits at 84 mph. Mitchell has also added a cutter but his change-up needs work.

If Mitchell can harness the command of his pitches he could be something special. He is ranked as the team’s No. 20 prospect.

If the Yankees have one pitcher coming to camp as a non-roster player that I can’t wait to see it is 21-year-old right-hander Luis Severino, the team’s top rated prospect in 2015.

Signed out of the Dominican Republic in July 2012, Severino began 2013 as a complete unknown quantity and finished it as the top right-handed pitching prospect in the system.

Though only 6-feet and 195 pounds, Severino showed uncommon strength to post a 4-2 record with a 2.45 ERA and 53 Ks in 44 innings between two rookie league teams.

He topped that in 2014 by sailing through three different teams, making it all the way to Trenton and he did not look overmatched at any of those stops.

After posting a 3-2 record with a 2.79 ERA at Class-A Charleston (SC) in 14 starts, Severino was promoted to Class-A Tampa. All he did there was go 1-1 with a sparkling 1.31 ERA in four starts.

So the Yankees sent him on to Trenton, where he was 2-2 with a 2.52 ERA in six starts. Over the course of 113 1/3 innings in his three stops, Severino punched out 127 batters.

To say he looks like the real deal is putting it mildly. He was chosen to participate in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game and he has become the organization’s No. 1 prospect, period.

Severino’s fastball reaches up to 98 mph and has a natural sink at the low end of his velocity (94 mph). Severino also features a hard slider and a change-up that both have the potential to be big weapons for him.

The Yankees would love to see what he can do this spring but they are going to be deliberate and cautious with his development. But there is no doubt that Severino is on a fast-track to the major leagues and he could be in the rotation as regularly as soon as 2016.

Book it: Severino is a star in the making!

Just behind Severino is left-hander Ian Clarkin, 20, who was selected in the first round (33rd pick) by the Yankees in 2013 First-Year Player Draft.

Clarkin recorded a 4-3 mark with a 3.13 ERA in stops at Charleston and Tampa using his 90-94 mph fastball mixed in with a 12-to-6 curveball and a change-up. The youngster also shows a lot of polish for a prep pitcher and the Yankees hope to have him ready for the majors by 2017.

He is ranked as the team’s fourth best prospect.

The Yankees also have very high hopes for No. 7 prospect Domingo German, 22, another player signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Miami Marlins in 2009.

The 6-foot-2, 175-pound right-hander posted a breakout season in 2014 at Class-A Greensboro, going 9-3 with a 2.48 ERA in 25 starts. He also was selected to pitch in the SiriusXM Futures Game and then the Marlins packaged him with Eovaldi and Jones in the deal for Prado and Phelps.

German excels at command and scouts rave about his touch already on his breaking pitches. He features a power sinking fastball along with a above-average change-up. Right now his slider needs more break but he is developing it.

The Yankees also expect to see him around 2017.

These three gems have Yankee fans very excited and with good reason.

OVERALL POSITION ANALYSIS: AVERAGE

Though I truly believe that Tanaka and Pineda will not only be healthy all season but they will actually be among the best starters in the American League, the other three spots in the rotation have some question marks.

Even after surgery, Sabathia’s right knee could be a recurring problem for him and I fail to see the added weight will help it. But if Sabathia can remain healthy all season, eat innings and keep his ERA in 4.25 area the Yankees could settle for that.

Eovaldi was a real gamble. His arm, no doubt, is a good one. The question is can he finally put it all together to become a winning pitcher? Rothschild has had some success grooming young pitchers and if he gets Eovaldi untracked he should have his salary doubled.

The veteran left-hander Capuano is up there in age and he obviously is a placeholder while Nova rehabs his surgically repaired elbow. The problem with Capuano is can he pitch well enough to keep the Yankees in games.

Years ago the Yankees scoured the scrap heap for Freddy Garcia. Now it is Capuano in the same role. Let’s hope it works out.

The Yankees also have Warren if they need a sixth starter in the early part of the season. Warren has been excellent as a reliever so there is no reason to believe he can’t be successful as a starter.

The Yankees hope to get Nova back and they also have Whitley, Rogers and Mitchell who are capable of starting. Mitchell has the most upside of the bunch because Whitley is more suited to relief and Rogers has been too inconsistent to be considered much of a help at this point.

The future of the Yankees’ starting rotation is looking quite bright with Severino, Clarkin and German coming off sparkling 2014 campaigns. This is one area the team that looks much stronger.

The temptation is for Yankee fans to want Severino on the roster this season. But the Yankees are taking a very careful approach with him and it is going to pay off of them next season.

NEXT: BULLPEN

 

Bucs’ Late Rally Ruins Yanks’ Spring Home Opener

GAME 2

PIRATES 8, YANKEES 2

TAMPA – Mel Rojas Jr. blasted a three-run homer as part of a five-run eighth inning on Thursday as Pittsburgh spoiled New York’s Grapefruit League home opener at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Rojas’ home into the right-field bleachers came off losing pitcher Robert Coello (0-1). Matt Hague followed Rojas’ game-winner with a two-run single.

Reliever Yao-Hsun Yang (1-0) pitched a scoreless seventh inning to get credit for the victory.

Top outfield prospect Gregory Polanco cranked a solo home run in the first inning and former Yankee Chris Dickerson added an RBI single in the sixth inning for Pittsburgh.

The Yankees scored their first tally in the fifth inning when Francisco Cervelli slapped a leadoff single and Kelly Johnson scored him with a double to right-center. The Yankees then tied it an inning later when John Ryan Murphy stroked a two-out RBI single to score Adonis Garcia.

An announced crowd of 7,763 saw the spring debut of Derek Jeter, who was playing in his first major-league game since Sept. 7, 2013. Jeter played five innings and was 0-for-2 in the game, hitting into a double play and grounding out.

The Yankees are 0-2 on the spring with both losses coming to the Pirates.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Although he was tagged for Polanco’s homer in the first, David Phelps looked very sharp in his two innings of work. Phelps gave up two hits but fanned four batters, all looking, and walked none in his first outing of the spring. Phelps is trying to earn the No. 5 spot in the starting rotation and he fared well in throwing 20 of his 30 pitches for strikes.
  • Brett Gardner started in left-field and batted leadoff going 1-for-2 with a infield single and a walk. Though Jacoby Ellsbury will be the team’s leadoff hitter this season, Gardner looks primed for a good season batting ninth. Gardner was recently rewarded with a four-year, $52 million extension to his contract.
  • Johnson’s RBI double in the fifth inning opened the scoring for the Yankees. Though Johnson, 32, has primarily been a second baseman most in his career, he is expected to get the bulk of the starts at third base this season while Alex Rodriguez sits out his season-long suspension. Johnson batted .235 with 16 home runs and 52 RBIs in 116 games with the Tampa Bay Rays last season.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Coello was tagged for five runs on five hits and a walk in one-third of an inning. Coello, 29, was signed out of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ organization. He was 1-0 with a 4.58 ERA in 16 games at two minor-league stops before coming up to the Dodgers and going 2-2 with a 3.71 ERA in 16 games, all in relief. As he showed on Thursday, he has problems with command. In 36 2/3 innings of relief last seasons, Coello walked 19 batters.
  • The Yankees scored four runs in their first two innings against the Pirates on Wednesday. Since then they have scored two runs on eight hits in their past 16 innings. After hitting into two double plays on Wednesday, the Yankees hit into four more on Thursday.

BOMBER BANTER

After the game Jeter told reporters that he has not felt this good in a year and he was glad to get this first game out of the way. “I haven’t played in a game in quite some time,” Jeter said. “Today was the first time I’ve swung off of live pitching. It’s good to get the first game out of the way and get into a routine of playing games.” Jeter played in 17 games last season due to a series of leg injuries related to surgically repaired left ankle.  . . .  The Yankees opened their spring home schedule by playing in their regular-season home uniforms with the pinstripes. They also introduced a group of Yankee legends including Willie Randolph, Goose Gossage, Ron Guidry and David Wells. The George M. Steinbrenner High School Band also performed for the crowd.  . . .  The Yankees have two pitchers who are injured. Right-hander Francisco Rondon will be out for a couple of weeks with stiffness in his back. Right-hander Jose Ramirez also has been shut down and underwent MRIs on his back and oblique.

ON DECK

The Yankees will travel to Lakeland, FL, on Friday for a contest against the Detroit Tigers.

Right-hander Adam Warren will get the starting nod for the Yankees. Warren is in the four-man mix for the No. 5 starting spot. He was 3-2 with a 3.39 in 34 games with the Yankees last season.

Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran are scheduled to make the trip.

The Tigers will counter with American League Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, who was 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA last season.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EST and the game will be broadcast on MLB Radio via WXYT-AM in Detroit.

 

Sori Wins Another For Yanks On Ichiro’s Big Night

GAME 126

YANKEES 4, BLUE JAYS 2

It seemed like it was a night just like every other night for the New York Yankees on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium.

One of their future Hall of Fame players reached a rare milestone. Alfonso Soriano proved again why he is a godsend. The team lost another player for the rest of the season. And they continued to dominate the Toronto Blue Jays as they have all season.

On a night that Ichiro Suzuki collected his 4,000th hit as a professional, Soriano broke a 2-2 tie with two out in the bottom of the eighth inning with a two-run home run as New York ran its season record against Toronto to 11-1 with a victory in front of a paid crowd of 36,140.

Suzuki, who entered the game with 3,999 combined hits between Japan (1,278) and the majors (2,721), slapped a 1-1 offering from right-hander R.A. Dickey past third baseman Brett Lawrie into left-field in the first inning to join Pete Rose and Ty Cobb as the only three players who reached the 4,000-hit plateau in professional baseball.

The crowd immediately stood up to pay homage as the Yankee players and coaches streamed from the dugout to congratulate Suzuki on his achievement. The 39-year-old outfielder then tipped his batting helmet and bowed to the adoring crowd.

Once the game resumed, it became a battle of wills between the 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner in Dickey and a pair of young pitchers who the Yankees used only to give 41-year-old left-hander Andy Pettitte an extra day of rest in Adam Warren and David Huff.

The game was locked up into a 2-2 tie until the bottom of the eighth when Robinson Cano laced a 1-1 pitch from the knuckleball-tossing Dickey into right-field for a single. Soriano followed by blasting a belt-high 0-1 knuckler about 12 rows deep into the left-field bleachers for his 26th homer of the season and his ninth for the Yankees since he was acquired from the Chicago Cubs on July 26.

Huff (1-0), who pitched five innings of one-hit, no-run baseball in relief of Warren was credited with the victory.

Mariano Rivera pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his 37th save of the season.

Dickey (9-12) was saddled with a tough-luck loss despite giving up two runs on four hits and two walks over the first seven innings. Dickey ended up yielding four runs on six hits while he struck out in eight innings. He is the first Cy Young Award pitcher the Yankees have defeated twice in a season since Barry Zito of the Oakland Athletics in 2003.

The Blue Jays opened the scoring after there were two out in the second against Warren when Anthony Gose snuck a bouncing ball just under the glove of Cano into right-field. Gose stole second and scored on a single by Munenori Kawasaki.

The Yankees tied it in the bottom of the frame when Eduardo Nunez led off with a lined single to left. He stole second and reached third on a wild pitch charged to Dickey.

One out later, Dickey struck Jayson Nix in the left hand with a pitch and Nix removed himself from the game to have tests to determine the severity of the injury. The tests indicated that Nix sustained a fractured hand and he likely will miss the remainder of the regular season.

Mark Reynolds was inserted into the game to pinch-run for Nix.

Austin Romine then tied the game with a long sacrifice fly to the wall in left that scored Nunez easily.

The Yankees staked Warren to a 2-1 lead in the third inning when Cano laced a one-out double off the right-field wall and with two out Curtis Granderson slapped a 1-1 Dickey offering into right to score Cano.

Unfortunately, Warren could not hold the lead for long because the Blue Jays tied it back up in the fourth inning when light-hitting catcher Josh Thole smacked a 2-0 fastball off the back wall of the Yankees’ bullpen in right-center for his first home run of the season.

Warren left one batter later after giving up two runs on four hits and two walks while he fanned four batters over three-plus innings.

But Huff became the story by coming in and shutting the Blue Jays out over the next five innings. He only gave up a high-hop infield single to Lawrie as he led off the eighth inning. He walked four and struck out two before giving way to Rivera in the ninth.

The Yankees have now won four straight games and nine of their 10 of their past 13 games.

The team’s season record now stands at 67-59 and they are 6 1/2 games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox in the American League East. They are just four games back in the wild-card standings. The Blue Jays have now dropped all nine road games to the Yankees and are 57-70 on the season.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Soriano was the hottest player in baseball through a five-game stretch from Aug. 13 through Aug. 17 when he was 15-for-22 (.682) with five home runs and 18 RBIs. But he then went into a 0-for-17 tailspin that he broke with his two-run homer in the eighth. Soriano is hitting .260 with 26 home runs and 76 RBIs on the season. But he is hitting .284 with nine homers and 28 RBIs in just 24 games with the Yankees.
  • Cano looks to be on one of his patented late-season hitting tears. Cano was 2-for-4 with a double, a single and two runs scored on Wednesday. Since Aug. 5, Cano is 28-for-61 (.459) with two home runs and 11 RBIs. In that 16-game span he has failed to get a hit in only one game and he has raised his season average from .288 to a team-leading .310.
  • Huff, who turns 29 on Thursday, was picked up off waivers from the Cleveland Indians in May and he was 1-6 with a 3.84 ERA in 13 games (12 starts) at Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre when the Yankees selected his contract on Aug. 15 and placed him on the 25-man roster.  He gives the Yankees a left-handed option out of the bullpen and he looked impressive on Wednesday.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

It is hard to criticize Brett Gardner and Lyle Overbay for going a combined 0-for-7 in the game because Dickey’s knuckleball was dancing pretty good. The fact the Yankees have turned things around by winning four straight series is encouraging to a team that looked destined for fourth place in the division. Things are starting to look up.

BOMBER BANTER

Though it would seem with Nix going on the disabled list on Thursday, it is unlikely the Yankees will recall shortstop Derek Jeter just yet. Jeter is scheduled to begin a minor-league rehab assignment on Thursday with the Scranton RailRiders. Jeter, who is recovering from a mild strain in his right calf, will likely play two games and return to the team in St. Petersburg on Saturday for a game against the Tampa Bay Rays.  . . .  Suzuki’s 4,000th hit also gave him 2,722 in the United States, which ironically allowed him to pass Yankee legend Lou Gehrig on the all-time hits list. Suzuki said that although 4,000 hits means a lot to him he still would like to reach 3,000 hits in the major leagues.

ON DECK

The Yankees can sweep the four-game series and go 10-0 at home against the Blue Jays this season with a victory on Thursday.

Pettitte (8-9, 4.39 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Pettitte won his first game in more than month on Friday against the Red Sox allowing three unearned runs in 6 1/3 innings. He is 14-10 with a 4.66 ERA in the past 10 seasons against the Blue Jays.

The Blue Jays will start left-hander J.A. Happ (3-2, 4.93 ERA). Happ gave up two runs on five hits in 5 1/3 innings in a victory against the Rays on Sunday. He is 2-0 with a 5.16 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.

 

Cano Swats Two Homers As Phelps Handcuffs Jays

GAME 43

YANKEES 7, BLUE JAYS 2

Just ask any pitcher in baseball and they will tell you that the most dangerous hitter in any lineup is a great hitter who has been in the throes of a slump. Brandon Morrow could tell you a whole lot about what Robinson Cano did to him on Saturday.

Cano hit a pair of two-run home runs off Morrow and David Phelps gave up up just one run over seven innings as New York ran its season record against Toronto to 8-1 in front of a paid crowd of 45,557 at Yankee Stadium.

Cano followed a two-out RBI single by Brett Gardner off Morrow (1-3) in the third inning with a high looping line drive into the first row of the short porch in right-field that extended the Yankees’ lead to 3-0.

Two innings later he connected off Morrow again for a two-out, two-run shot that landed over the Yankees’ bullpen in right-center field. It was Cano’s second multi-homer game of the season and he now leads the team in batting average (.295), home runs (12) and RBIs (31).

Meanwhile, Phelps (2-2) held the power-laden Jays to six hits and three walks while he struck out eight batters in what was the longest start of his major-league career.

The Blue Jays only managed to score off Phelps in the fourth inning when Adam Lind laced a one-out double to center and Colby Rasmus lined a two-out single off the wall in right-field to score Lind to draw the Jays to within two runs at 3-1.

But Phelps frustrated the Blue Jays most of the day because they had a multiple scoring opportunities taken away from them. They ended the day 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

The Jays had two runners on and two out  with Lind at the plate in the first when Phelps picked off Jose Bautista at second base to end the inning.

Maicer Izturis and Emilio Bonifacio both reached first on singles to begin the third inning but Melky Cabrera was retired on a double play and Edwin Encarnacion struck out swinging.

Cabrera reached on a one-out double in the fifth but Bautista flew out and Encarnacion was retired on a diving stop of a hard grounder by Jayson Nix and a great scoop of a Nix’s throw by Lyle Overbay at first.

In stark contrast, the Yankees took advantage of some misplays by the Blue Jays.

Nix singled off Morrow to begin the third inning and rookie David Adams then hit a hot come-backer to Morrow. However, Morrow bobbled it and had to settle for throwing out Adams, allowing Nix to reach second. One out later Gardner drove him in with a single and Cano followed with the first of his two home runs.

After Cano had padded the Yankees’ lead to 5-1 in the fifth, David Robertson came on in the eighth in relief of Phelps and surrendered a one-out solo home run to Encarnacion.

But the Yankees put the game away in the bottom of the inning after Izturis committed a throwing error on a ball off the bat of Vernon Wells. Travis Hafner, who was starting his first game since May 13 due to soreness in his right shoulder, blasted a two-run home run down the line in right-field.

With the victory the Yankees improved their season record to 27-16 and they remain a game ahead of the second-place Boston Red Sox in the American League East. The Blue Jays fell to 17-26 and they are last in the division a staggering 10 games behind the Yankees.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Phelps is pitching as if he does not want to return to the bullpen. In his last two starts, Phelps has given up just two runs on 10 hits and eight walks while he has fanned 15 in 13 2/3 innings. That is an ERA of 1.32 despite the high walk total. It might be very hard for Ivan Nova (sore right triceps) to reclaim his starting spot when he is activated from the disabled list.
  • Cano entered play on Saturday in the midst of an eight-game slump where he was 6-for-32 (.188) with a home run and six RBIs. But he busted out of it in a big way against the Blue Jays by going 2-for-4 with two home runs, two runs scored and four RBIs. Cano did not hit his 12th home run last season until June 17, when the Yankees were playing their 65th game. So he is a month ahead of what was a career-best home run pace in 2012.
  • Hafner’s home run in the eighth was his seventh home run of the season and he has 20 RBIs. Hafner was bothered with soreness in what has been a chronic right shoulder for him and he was given a cortisone shot earlier in the week to relieve the pain. It appears the soreness is gone. The Yankees suffered a bit without his power presence in the lineup.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Adams was unable to extend his hitting steak since he was called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to four games. He was 0-for-3 with a strikeout and he did not get a ball past the infield.  Despite the unproductive afternoon, Adams is impressing the Yankees with his approach at the plate and his defense has been better than advertised.
  • Curtis Granderson came in hitting .364 but he was 0-for-4 on Saturday and his average dipped to .267. Granderson also misjudged Rasmus’ liner off the right-field wall in playing his very first major-league game in right-field. Manager Joe Girardi opted to rest Ichiro Suzuki and played Granderson in right to keep Gardner in center-field.
  • Robertson looked a little shaky in the eighth in giving up a home run to Encarnacion and a single J.P. Arencibia before he retired the last two hitters. It was first time Robertson has given up  a run since an appearance against the Houston Astros on May 30, a span of seven games.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees did some more roster shuffling on Saturday. The team acquired infielder Reid Brignac from the Colorado Rockies in return for cash considerations. To make room on the roster, the team designated for assignment infielder Alberto Gonzalez. Brignac, 27, is a career .228 hitter who is capable of playing second base, third base and shortstop. Brignac was batting .250 with one home run with Colorado when he was designated for assignment last week. Brignac also played  for the Tampa Bay Rays. General manager Brian Cashman said Brignac, a left-handed hitter, will platoon with both Adams at third and Nix at shortstop.  . . .  Joba Chamberlain (strained right oblique) played long toss on Saturday and soon will throw a bullpen session that likely will lead to a rehab assignment.

ON DECK

The Yankees can sweep the Blue Jays in their three-game series with a victory on Sunday.

Left-hander CC Sabathia (4-3, 3.19 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Sabathia gave up three runs (two earned) in 6 1/3 innings against the Mariners on Tuesday and did not get a decision. Sabathia is 14-4 with a 3.00 ERA lifetime against the Blue Jays.

For the second consecutive outing Sabathia will be facing off against a fellow Cy Young Award winner. The Blue Jays will be countering with 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner R.A.Dickey (3-5, 4.83 ERA). Dickey allowed two runs on six hits and two walks and he fanned 10 against the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday. He is 3-2 with a 3.25 ERA against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.

 

Yankees Sink Mariners After ‘King Felix’ Exits Early

GAME 39

YANKEES 4, MARINERS 3

The epic showdown between former American League Cy Young Award winners Felix Hernandez and CC Sabathia on Tuesday may have ended in what could be scored a draw. But the New York Yankees ended up victorious by virtue of a technical knockout of Hernandez.

Trailing 3-1 when “King Felix” abdicated the mound, New York rallied for three runs in the seventh inning off the Mariners’ bullpen to defeat Seattle in front of a paid crowd of 41,267 at Yankee Stadium.

Reliever Shawn Kelley (2-0) bailed Sabathia out of a jam in the top of the seventh with runners on first and third and one out by striking out Kelly Shoppach and retiring former Yankees’ 2012 playoffs legend Raul Ibanez on a flyout to get credit for the victory.

Mariano Rivera pitched a perfect ninth inning to earn his 624th career save and his 16th save in as many chances this season.

Mariners left-hander Charlie Furbush (0-2) was saddled with the loss.

Lyle Overbay, who in some way “caused” Hernandez to leave the game, and Robinson Cano keyed the crucial rally in the seventh.

Chris Nelson led off the frame with a bloop single to center off right-hander Yoervis Medina and advanced to second on a wild pitch. After Austin Romine struck out swinging, Mariners manager Eric Wedge summoned Furbush.

Brett Gardner drew a walk and Cano followed by lacing a 3-2 slider off the base of the wall in right-center to score Nelson and Gardner to tie the game at 3-3.

Wedge elected to have Furbush walk Vernon Wells intentionally but Furbush also ended up walking Curtis Granderson  –  who was activated from the 15-day disabled list and was playing in his first game of the season  –  to load the bases.

That brought up Overbay, who had stroked a two-out double off Hernandez in the sixth to plate the Yankees’ first run of the night. After working the count to 3-2, Overbay laced a line drive to deep center that easily scored Cano with what proved to be the game-winning run.

Hernandez had been in control against the Yankees much of the night. However, a misplay by Hernandez that led to a collision with Overbay in the fourth inning doomed him.

With one out and Wells on first, Overbay hit a bouncer that just eluded a dive by first baseman Kendrys Morales but the ball was gloved by second baseman Robert Andino, who double-clutched and threw to Morales at first base. However, Hernandez also came over to cover first and was standing in the baseline behind Morales when Overbay collided with him, striking the back of Hernandez’s left knee.

Though first-base umpire Alan Porter originally called Overbay out, the umpiring crew discussed the play, ruled Hernandez was guilty of obstruction and awarded first base to Overbay.

Hernandez noticeably limped and stretched out his back throughout the rest of his outing until he was removed after six innings. The 27-year-old ace yielded one run on five hits and two walks while he punched out eight batters.

The Mariners, meanwhile were able to build a 3-0 lead on Sabathia.

They scored an unearned run in the third when, with one out ,Overbay committed a fielding error on a ball off the bat of Michael Saunders. One out later, Kyle Seager ripped a double to the wall in right-center to score Saunders.

They padded their lead in the sixth when Shoppach slapped a first-pitch single to the opposite field in right and Ibanez, who hit three dramatic late-inning home runs for the Yankees during the 2012 playoffs, showed the fans what they were missing when he roped a two-run home run into the first row of the bleachers in right-field.

Sabathia left in the seventh having given up three runs (two earned) on a season-high 10 hits and two walks but he also fanned season-high 10 in 6 1/3 innings.

With the come-from-behind victory the Yankees are now 8-2 in one-run games this season.

The Yankees have also won seven of their past eight games and they improved their season record to 25-14. They also extended their lead over the second-place Baltimore Orioles to two games in the American League East. The Mariners are now 18-21.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Though Overbay committed his second error of the season and misplayed another ground ball by Ibanez that was ruled a single, his contributions at the plate have been huge all season. He was 1-for-2 with two RBIs and he is hitting .256 with six home runs and 24 RBIs. In fact, his RBI total is only one behind the team leader, Cano, who has 25.
  • Cano came through in the clutch against a left-hander on a night the Yankees ended up 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Cano was 2-for-3 with a run scored and two RBIs. The two hits pushed his season average back over the .300 mark at .306. He came in hitting .299.
  • Rivera remains perfect in saves this season and he needed only 11 pitches to close out the Mariners in the ninth. The Yankees bullpen trio of Kelley, David Robertson and Rivera held the M’s s off the board over the final 2 2/3 innings to extend the bullpen’s scoreless streak to 23 2/3 innings, which extends back to May 5.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Sabathia did not pitch well in this game. The Mariners had at least one base-runner on in every inning against him except the first inning. In the fourth they loaded the bases with two out, but Sabathia escaped the jam by fanning Saunders swinging.  Sabathia left in the seventh having thrown 112 pitches.
  • Granderson had a rough return to lineup having to face Hernandez. It showed. Granderson grounded into a double play in the first, struck out swinging in the fourth and hit into a fielder’s choice in the sixth. But he did draw a key walk in the seventh against Furbush that set up Overbay’s game-winning sac fly.
  • Romine also had a rough night. He was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and he is now hitting .071. Romine also misplayed a sacrifice bunt off the bat of Brendan Ryan in the eighth inning. Robertson earlier had walked pinch-hitter Dustin Ackley on four pitches to open the inning. Romine fielded the bunt and tried to throw out Ackley at second instead of taking the sure out at first. But Ackley beat the throw. Robertson escaped the jam by striking out Saunders and retiring pinch-hitter Justin Smoak on an unassisted double-play liner to shortstop Jayson Nix.

BOMBER BANTER

Granderson returned to the lineup since breaking his right forearm on his first at-bat of spring training on Feb. 24 and he batted fourth and played left-field. In order to get Granderson on the 25-man roster the Yankees optioned rookie left-hander Vidal Nuno to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre a day after he won his first major-league game in first major-league start by pitching five shutout innings against the Cleveland Indians.  . . .  It would not be the Yankees if on the same day they get one player back (Granderson) they possibly lost another for a period of time. Designated hitter Travis Hafner, 35, did not play in Tuesday’s game because of tendinitis in his chronic problem right shoulder. An MRI taken on the shoulder was negative but Hafner did receive a cortisone injection for the inflammation. He is listed as day-to-day.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their three-game home set against the Mariners on Wednesday.

Right-hander Phil Hughes (2-2, 4.43 ERA) will get the call for the Yankees. Hughes is coming off his second straight victory, but he gave up six runs on seven hits and two walks while he struck out three against the Kansas City Royals on Friday. Hughes is 4-2 with a 2.83 ERA against the M’s in his career.

Hughes will be opposed by right-hander Hasashi Iwakuma (4-1, 1.74 ERA). Iwakuma, 32, gave up two runs on four hits and punched out nine in seven innings in a victory over the Oakland Athletics on Friday. In his two starts against the Bronx Bombers last season he was 0-1 with a 3.60 ERA.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.

 

Overbay’s Homer Gives Yankees Sweep Over Jays

GAME 24

YANKEES 3, BLUE JAYS 2

Victories for the New York Yankees are beginning to become synonymous with death and the retirement of Jay Leno from “The Tonight Show.”  You know it is coming but you just don’t know when.

On Sunday, the Yankees were trailing the Toronto Blue Jays 2-1 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning and they had only managed to collect two hits against reigning National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey. But as they have done now in all four games against the Blue Jays, they found a way to win.

Travis Hafner led off the frame with a single and two outs later former Blue Jay Lyle Overbay connected for his third home run of the season as New York got up off the mat once again to defeat a frustrated Toronto team in front of a paid crowd of 36,872 at Yankee Stadium and national TV audience on TBS.

The victory was the Yankees’ fourth in a row, which tied a season high, and it was the first time the Yankees have swept the Blue Jays in a four game series at home since Sept. 18-21, 1995.

Boone Logan (1-1) pitched a scoreless seventh inning in relief of starter Phil Hughes to earn the victory.

David Robertson and Mariano Rivera pitched a perfect eighth and ninth innings, respectively. Rivera earned his ninth saves in as many tries this season.

Dickey (2-4) and Hughes were locked a pitcher’s duel and neither pitcher showed many signs of giving in.

The Yankees took an early 1-0 lead in the second inning when Brennan Boesch, who was starting in right to allow center-fielder Brett Gardner to get his first day off of the season, smacked a 1-2 knuckleball from Dickey into the first row of the bleachers in right for his third home run of the season.

But the Jays answered that run in the fourth when Edwin Encarnacion, Melky Cabrera and Adam Lind strung together three two-out, well-placed singles. Lind’s single scored Encarnacion to knot the score.

Toronto took their first lead in the sixth inning. Jose Bautista opened the frame with a double and two outs later the Yankees walked Lind intentionally in order to pitch to Maicer Izturis. But Izturis delivered an RBI double to score Bautista to give Dickey a lead but he was unable to hold it.

Dickey gave up three runs on four hits and a walk while he struck out four in seven innings.

Meanwhile, Hughes gave up two runs on seven hits and one walk and he fanned a season-high nine batters in six innings.

The Yankees are 9-1 this season in games decided by two runs or less.

With the victory the Yankees improved their season mark to 15-9. The reeling Blue Jays are 9-17 and are in last place in the American League East 9 1/2 games in back of the first-place Boston Red Sox.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Overbay’s home run ended a week-long slump for the veteran first baseman. He left Toronto hitting. 273 and was 1-for-17 (.059) in his last five games, largely because he has been forced to play against left-handed pitching in the absence of Kevin Youkilis. But Overbay was 2-for-3 against Dickey, including his game-winning home run. 
  • Hughes has pitched some great baseball in his last three starts but is not getting credit for it because his team is not scoring him runs when he is on the mound. In Hughes’ last three starts he has surrendered six earned runs on 19 hits and three walks while he struck out 21 in 20 innings. That is an ERA of 2.70 and a WHIP of 1.10.  Hughes has lowered his ERA from 10.69 after his first two starts to 4.67.
  • After being rested for a game, Robertson and Rivera both looked sharp in their outings on Sunday. Combined they needed only 17 pitches to record the final three outs. Robertson is 1-0 with a 2.79 ERA and nine strikeouts in 9 2/3 innings this season. Rivera is 0-0 with a 1.80 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 10 innings.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Ichiro Suzuki, Robinson Cano and Vernon Wells were a combined 0-for-10 with two walks from the top three spots in the order on Sunday. They just could not do anything with Dickey’s knuckleball. They only hit three balls out in the infield. The Yankees were fortunate to win a game without contributions from Cano and Wells.
  • Chris Stewart also had a horrible day at the plate. He was 0-for-2 with two strikeouts and both of those strikeouts came against Dickey. Stewart is hitting .267 on the season but he is a major step down from the offense the Yankees were getting with Francisco Cervelli, who will be out at six weeks with a fractured right hand.
  • Aside from Boesch’s home run, the Yankees put only two men on base against Dickey in the first six innings. Once again it is members of “The Replacements” (Boesch, Hafner and Overbay) who bailed the team out in the seventh inning.

BOMBER BANTER

After making in his first start in six on Saturday, Youkilis had to be held of Sunday’s game with tightness in his lower back. Youkilis will undergo an MRI on Monday to determine the cause of the pain. The Yankees had considered placing Youkilis on teh disabled list on Saturday but the veteran corner infielder played and was 0-for-3 with a walk and a run scored.

ON DECK

With a four-game sweep in hand the Yankees will begin a three-game series on Monday with the newest member of the American League, the Houston Astros.

Former Astro left-hander Andy Pettitte (3-1, 2.22 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Though Pettitte struck out 10 batters against the Tampa Bay Rays he was saddled with his first loss of the season on Wednesday. Pettitte, 40, is 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA in his only start against Houston in his career.

The Astros will counter with right-hander Lucas Harrell (2-2, 4.08 ERA). Harrell held the Seattle Mariners to one run on six hits in seven innings on Wednesday, his best outing of the season. Harrell has no record and no ERA in limited action against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.

 

Hafner Helps Limping Yanks Take Bite Out Of Jays

GAME 23

YANKEES 5, BLUE JAYS 4

The New York Yankees season is looking like the scene in the 1975 film classic “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” when the Black Knight insisted on continuing his sword fight with the Green Knight despite having no limbs left and saying “I will bite your leg off.” The only difference is that the injury-riddled Yankees have a lot of bite left in them.

The Yankees’ knight in shining armor on Saturday was Travis Hafner and his bat was mightier than the sharpest sword. Hafner was given a rare start against a left-hander and proved to manager Joe Girardi he should have been starting against lefties all along.

Hafner blasted a three-run home in the fourth inning that drew the Yankees into a 3-3 tie and he added an RBI triple in the seventh inning that broke a 4-4 tie as New York defeated Toronto for a third straight game in front of a paid crowd of 40,258 at Yankee Stadium.

Despite not having his best stuff, CC Sabathia (4-2) pitched eight innings to win a fourth game in April for the first time in his 10 major-league seasons.

The Blue Jays opened a 1-0 lead on Sabathia by pushing a run across in the third on infield groundout by Rajai Davis following a one-out single by Maicer Izturis and a double by Emilio Bonifacio.

They added a run in the fourth on a leadoff home run by Jose Bautista.

Edwin Encarnacion followed Bautista’s home run with a single and he advanced to second on an infield groundout by J.P. Arencibia. He then advanced to third on a passed ball by Chris Stewart, who was playing in his first game as the new starting catcher replacing Francisco Cervelli.

Brett Lawrie then lofted a fly ball to medium right that Ichiro Suzuki caught and Suzuki fired a strike to home plate in time to nail Encarnacion, however, Stewart dropped the ball as he applied the tag, giving the Blue Jays a 3-0 lead.

The Yankees were able to get to left-hander J.A. Happ in the bottom of fourth when Vernon Wells and Kevin Youkilis, playing in his first game in a week, opened the frame by drawing walks. Hafner then launched a 2-1 fastball into the Yankees’ bullpen in right-center field for his sixth home run of the season.

Unfortunately, Sabathia coughed up another home run to begin the sixth inning when Lawrie connected for an opposite-field shot to right-center.

But Sabathia battled and did not allow a base-runner after the home run, retiring the final nine hitters he faced.

Meanwhile, the Yankees were able to rally in the seventh inning when Robinson Cano slapped a one-out double into right-field off right-hander Esmil Rogers (1-2) and Wells followed with an RBI single to center to score Cano with the tying run.

One out later, Jays manager John Gibbons replaced Rogers with left-hander Brett Cecil. Hafner, who was 0-for-11 lifetime off Cecil, then launched a fly ball to center that ticked off Davis’ glove at the wall in center-field for an RBI triple that scored Wells with the go-ahead run.

The injury-riddled Yankees also were without their two top relievers in David Robertson and Mariano Rivera because Girardi did not want to use them in a third consecutive game. So Girardi instead used Joba Chamberalin to close out the game in the ninth.

Despite giving up a one-out infield singles to both Izturis and Bonifacio, Chamberlain was able to retire Davis and Melky Cabrera for his first major-league save since the 2010 season.

With their third victory in a row the Yankees improved their season record to 14-9. The Blue Jays have sunk to 9-16.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • With Ben Francisco hitting a miserable .103, Girardi elected to start Hafner against a left-hander and it paid off big-time. Hafner was 2-for-4 with a home run and four RBIs and he is now hitting .309 with six home runs and 14 RBIs. His 14 RBIs are now second on the club behind Cano’s 17. 
  • Wells was 1-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored as he continues his assault on his former team. Wells is 13-for-29 (.448) with three home runs and six RBIs in six games against the Blue Jays this season. For the Yankees, Wells is hitting .309 with six home runs and 12 RBIs.
  • Cano is also continuing his hot streak. He was 2-for-4 with a run scored on Saturday and is 28-for-72 (.389) with seven homers and 17 RBIs since April 8.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Stewart is kind of a mixed bag as a starting catcher. Though he threw out two base-stealers on Friday he has committed two passed balls in consecutive games and his dropping of Suzuki’s perfect peg to home plate to get Encarnacion in the fourth inning was inexcusable. It hurt Suzuki and Sabathia and it cost the team a run. He better have thanked Hafner after the game for bailing him out.
  • I hate to pick on Youkilis but he returned to the lineup in the midst of a slump and he was the only starter without a hit in the game. He is now 3-for-31 (.097) in his last eight starts. In addition, Youkilis is just 1-for-21 against left-handers this season! You would think Youkilis would be smashing lefties but he is not. He needs to start doing it and soon.
  • Sabathia gave up four runs (three earned) on nine hits and no walks while he struck out four in eight innings. Though he won the game, Sabathia looked very pedestrian at times. He also has given up five home runs in last two starts and that is very much not like the veteran ace left-hander.

BOMBER BANTER

Cervelli was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a broken right hand on Saturday and rookie catcher Austin Romine was recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to replace him on the roster. Cervelli underwent successful surgery on his hand on Saturday and he is will miss a minimum of six weeks. Romine was 14-for-42 (.333) with a home run and four RBIs in 14 games with Scranton. Girardi said he will play matchups in deciding between Stewart and Romine as starters.  . . .  The Yankees also placed right-hander Ivan Nova on the 15-day disabled list with inflammation in his right triceps. Nova, who was 1-1 with a 6.48 ERA in four starts, was replaced on the roster by left-hander Vidal Nuno, who was the rookie sensation of spring training. Nuno was 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA in four starts at Scranton and he will join Boone Logan as a second left-hander in the bullpen. Girardi said David Phelps will replace Nova in the starting rotation. Because Nuno was not on the 40-man roster the Yankees were forced to shift Derek Jeter to the 60-day disabled list in order to call him up.

ON DECK

The Yankees will go for a very rare four-game sweep of their home series against the Blue Jays on Sunday.

Right-hander Phil Hughes (0-2, 5.14 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Hughes pitched seven innings of two-run baseball against the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday but he did not get a decision. He is 5-5 with a 5.03 ERA lifetime against Toronto.

Hughes will be opposed by reigning National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey (2-3, 4.66 ERA). Despite tightness in his upper neck and back, Dickey is 2-1 with a 2.45 ERA in his last three starts. He is 3-1 with a 3.13 ERA against the Yankees in his career.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by TBS and locally by the YES Network.

 

 

CC Outguns Verlander As Yankees Blank Tigers

GAME 6

YANKEES 7, TIGERS 0

After being outscored 16-7 and outhit 26-12 in the first two games and having to face the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner in Sunday’s series finale, the Yankees countered that by throwing a former Cy Young Award winner of their own. The result was the polar opposite of what happened in the first two games.

CC Sabathia shut out the Tigers on just four hits in seven innings to outduel Justin Verlander and the Yankees busted loose for seven runs and 13 hits as New York salvaged the third game of the series to whitewash Detroit in front of a paid crowd of 39,829 at Comerica Park.

Sabathia (1-1) put the controversy surrounding the reduced velocity on his pitches by showing excellent command of his fastball and changeup to prevent any Tiger baserunner to get past second base. Sabathia also improved his career record against the Tigers to 19-12.

Meanwhile, Sabathia received some welcome run support from a pair of unlikely run producers in the second inning.

Picking on a less-than-sharp Verlander (1-1) with one out and Ichiro Suzuki on first, Francisco Cervelli laced a line-drive double to the wall in left-center to score Suzuki with the game’s first run. One out later, Jayson Nix, who was subbing at shortstop for Eduardo Nunez, who was subbing for Derek Jeter, cranked a fat changeup into the first row of bleachers in left-field to give the Yankees an early 3-0 lead.

It was a lead that Sabathia refused to relinquish to a deep power-laden lineup that had destroyed the Yankees the past two games.

Sabathia ended his afternoon having walked three and striking out four. It was hardly a dominant outing but it did best Verlander, who left after 7 1/3 innings having surrendered seven hits and two walks while striking out four.

The Yankees then added a pair of runs in both the eighth and ninth innings off left-hander Phil Coke and right-hander Octavio Dotel, respectively.

Suzuki touched Coke with a run-scoring fly ball in the eighth and Cervelli followed with a lined RBI single to center.

Red-hot Kevin Youkilis capped the scoring with one out in the ninth off Dotel by lacing a two-run single.

David Robertson pitched a scoreless eighth and Mariano Rivera tossed a scoreless ninth to allow the Yankees to complete the shutout of the Tigers and salvage the series finale.

The Yankees’ season record improves to 2-4. The Tigers fell to 3-3.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Sabathia hovered mostly in the 88-91 mile-per-hour range on Sunday but it was good enough to keep the Tigers at bay. The Tigers 3, 4 and 5 hitters  –  Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez  –  were a combined 0-for-9 with two strikeouts off Sabathia. More importantly Sabathia quieted the critics who ripped him after his Opening Day loss to the Boston Red Sox.
  • Nix entered the game 0-for-7 with five strikeouts but he broke out of it in a big way against Verlander and Dotel. He was 3-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBIs. Nix was pleased because he has not had much success against Verlander in the past. “It’s great. It feels really good,” Nix said. “I haven’t had a whole lot of success off him. He is who he is, you know?”
  • With Nix batting ninth, Cervelli held up his end batting seventh. He was 2-for-4 with two big RBIs. That raised Cervelli’s early-season batting average to .308.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

Every starter had at least one hit except Lyle Overbay (0-for-4), Sabathia pitched with great precision to shut down a powerful lineup and the team did not commit an error in the field. That is a reason not to dwell on any negatives in what has been a rough week for the team.

BOMBER BANTER

Nunez was unable to get back into the starting lineup on Sunday but he was able to pinch-run for Travis Hafner in the eighth inning and he scored a run. Nunez has been hampered the past two games because of a bruised right bicep he sustained when he was hit by a pitch from Tigers right-hander Doug Fister on Friday. Nunez tried to swing a bat and throw on Sunday but his right arm was still sore. He is still listed as day-to-day.  . . .  Most experts figured the Yankees would not succeed with a bunch of aging newcomers and journeymen starting or filling in for injured starters. But Youkilis, Hafner, Overbay, Vernon Wells, Ben Francisco and Brennan Boesch were a combined 22-for-75 (.293) with four homers and 12 RBIs in the Yankees’ first five games.

ON DECK 

The Yankees boarded a flight for Cleveland late Sunday and will open a three-game series against the Indians on Monday.

Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (0-1, 13.50 ERA) recovered from a bruised right middle finger he suffered in the second inning of his first start against the Bosox on Wednesday and will pitch for the Yankees. Kuroda is 1-1 with a 2.40 ERA in his two career starts against the Indians.

The Indians will counter with right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez (0-0, 1.50 ERA). Jimenez allowed one run on three hits, walked two and struck six in six innings in his season debut against the Blue Jays in Toronto on Wednesday. He is 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 4:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

Tigers Take Out Claws On Hughes, Yanks’ Bullpen

GAME 5

TIGERS 8, YANKEES 4

The Yankees might be decimated by injuries but manager Joe Girardi figures that in the five seasons he has managed the team that he can always count on his strong bullpen. That is until now.

For a second straight day in Detroit the bullpen imploded in the late innings as Detroit downed New York on a chilly, windy day in front of a paid crowd of 42,453 at Comerica Park.

Phil Hughes (0-1) held the Tigers to one unearned run over the first four innings in his first start of the season after missing all of spring training with a bulging disk in his upper back. However, the Tigers broke a 1-1 tie by batting around against Hughes, Boone Logan and David Phelps, scoring four runs on six hits in the fifth inning.

The injury-depleted Yankee offense responded in the top of the sixth against starter Max Scherzer (1-0) and reliever Al Alburquerque   –  taking advantage of four walks  –  scoring three runs Travis Hafner ended Scherzer’s day with an RBI single and Lyle Overbay slapped a hanging slider from Alburquerque for a two-run double.

The Yankees could have scored more runs but after Vernon Wells was initially called safe at first base by umpire Brian O’Nora on a potential line-drive double play off the bat of Brennan Boesch, but home-plate umpire and crew chief Jerry Layne overruled the call.

The Yankees’ real downfall actually began in the bottom of the sixth when Phelps remained in the game.

Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter opened the frame with singles and Miguel Cabrera drew a walk to load the bases. Prince Fielder scored Jackson on a fielder’s choice grounder and Andy Dirks later scored Hunter on a two-out RBI single.

Dirks added a run in the bottom of the eighth on an sacrifice fly that scored Cabrera off Joba Chamberlain, who helped Cabrera reach third by walking Fielder after Cabrera had singled and then uncorking a wild pitch to allow Cabrera to reach third.

The Yankees’ bullpen has now pitched 20 innings in the first five games and they have given up 18 runs (17 earned) on 28 hits and 12 walks for an ERA of 7.65 and a WHIP of 2.00.

Wit the loss the Yankees drop to 1-4. The Tigers are 3-2.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Vernon Wells drew the Yankees even with a solo home run to left-field leading off the second inning. It was his second home run of the season and Wells is showing that he rediscovered the stroke that saw him hit 32 home runs and drive in 106 runs in 2006 when he was an All-Star outfielder with the Toronto Blue Jays.
  • Overbay is proving to a valuable pickup as well. In the first five games, Overbay, 35, was 2-for-4 in the game and is hitting .267 with a pair of two-out, two-run hits this week and he is fielding first base flawlessly in place of 2013 Gold Glove winner Mark Teixeira.
  • Though he had a horrible spring, Hafner is also picking it up as the season starts. He was 1-for-3 with an RBI and he is hitting .313. I guess you have to give general manager Brian Cashman credit for picking up some key replacements for the Yankees’ depleted lineup. They seem to be paying early dividends.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The Yankee bullpen has been a shambles in the early going and it is the real reason why the Yankees are 1-4. Granted, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova and Hughes did not pitch far enough into the first starts but the bullpen has to do much better than it is doing now. The odd thing is that it not just one guy. One day it is Cody Eppley, the next it is Joba Chamberlain and the day after that it is Shawn Kelley. They have to pitch better, period!
  • Brett Gardner is 0-for-8 in the first two games of the series and that kind of kills the offense a bit when he can’t get on base to use his legs and disrupt the pitcher. He is hitting .150 and the Yankees need for him to get going with the bat like he did in spring training. Gardner did make a diving catch on a sinking liner off the bat of Victor Martinez that saved two runs in the third inning. So his defense is still great.
  • Phelps was excellent last season as a spot starter and reliever but he was awful on Saturday. He gave up two runs on six hits and a walk in 2 2/3 innings of work. His ERA has ballooned to 6.75 and it is hard to figure out why quality pitchers like him in the bullpen are failing.

BOMBER BANTER

A day after being struck in the right arm by a pitch from Tigers right-hander Doug Fister, Eduardo Nunez was held out Saturday’s game. But Nunez said it is possible that he could return to the lineup on Sunday. Nunez was helped off the field in the fourth inning but X-rays showed only a bruised right bicep. Jayson Nix started at shortstop on Saturday and was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and he committed an error in the first inning that led to the Tigers scoring an unearned run.  . . .  Derek Jeter fielded 41 ground balls hit directly to him, took some batting practice and played long toss on Saturday at the team’s minor-league complex in Tampa, FL. Jeter, 38, has been trying to recover from off-season surgery on a fractured left ankle. After suffering a setback in his rehab on March 23 the Yankees have not established a timetable for his return.  . . .  When the Yankees activated Hughes from the 15-day disabled list on Saturday they optioned right-hander Eppley to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

ON DECK

The Yankees will try to salvage the final game of the series against the Tigers on Sunday.

If so, they are going to need for ace left-hander CC Sabathia (0-1, 7.20 ERA) to pitch better than he did in his first start. Sabathia allowed four runs in five innings in a loss against the Red Sox. He is 18-12 with a 4.43 ERA in his career against the Tigers.

He will be opposed by American League Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander (1-0, 0.00 ERA). Verlander pitched five shutout innings against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field to earn his first Opening Day victory in six tries. He is 5-4 with a 3.74 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 1:08 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by TBS and locally by the YES Network.