Tagged: David Aardsma

A.L. King Tigers Use Prince’s Power To Slay Yanks

GAME 4

TIGERS 8, YANKEES 3

In adventure tales you can usually bank on a heroic prince coming to the rescue just when he is needed. That pretty much sums up what happened for the Tigers in their 2013 home opener at Comerica Park in Detroit on Friday.

Prince Fielder blasted a pair of home runs  –  a three-run shot in the fifth that turned a 3-2 deficit into a 5-3 lead and a mammoth two-run blast in the seventh that put the game away  –  as Detroit picked up right where they left off in the American League Championship Series by drubbing New York in front of a paid crowd of 45,051.

Despite the fact that Tigers right-hander Doug Fister (1-0) was touched for three runs in the top of the fifth, keyed by a two-run home run off the bat of Kevin Youkilis that gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead, he was rescued by Fielder’s bat to get credit for the victory.

Fister gave up three runs on six hits, two walks, hit two batters and struck out two in five innings. Left-hander Drew Smyly pitched four perfect innings of relief to earn a save.

Yankees right-hander Ivan Nova (0-1) gave up four runs on five hits and two walks and struck out five batters in 4 2/3 innings. But the bullpen did him no favors because Boone Logan gave up Fielder’s home run in the fifth and Shawn Kelley was tagged by his home run in the seventh.

The Yankees’ early-season record is now 1-3. The Tigers are 2-2.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Youkilis blasted his first home run as a Yankee in the fifth inning after Fister had given up a one-out single to Robinson Cano that advanced Bret Gardner to third. While pitching to Youkilis, Fister uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Gardner to score and the Yankees halved the Tigers’ lead to 2-1. Then Youkilis connected on 3-1 fastball and he deposited the ball into the Tiger bullpen in left-center to give the Yankees a short-lived 3-2 lead.
  • David Robertson pitched a perfect eighth inning and need only needed four pitches to record three outs. He was the only Yankee hurler on the day who did not give up a hit or a run.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Nova shocked reporters after the game by saying he did not believe he pitched that poorly. Though he did keep the team in the game, Nova was hardly effective. He was in three-ball counts to nine of the 21 batters he faced and threw 96 pitches with only 53 being strikes (55 percent). Nova will be on a short leash if he continues to struggle like this.
  • Logan was brought in to the game specifically to face Fielder with two on and two out in the fifth and Fielder swatted his second pitch just over the wall in right to allow the Tigers to reclaim the lead. In a perfect world the Yankees would have a second left-hander because Logan is not a lefty specialist but the Yankees elected to release side-winding left-hander Clay Rapada.
  • Kelley, 29, not only gave up the two-run blast by Fielder that still might be orbiting Earth, but he also gave up a long solo blast to Alex Avila in the sixth. Kelley was selected by the Yankees over veteran David Aardsma because he is capable of pitching multiple innings. I guess the Yankees’ brain trust did not realize he also is capable of surrendering multiple homers in multiple innings.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees injury list grew on Friday when Eduardo Nunez was forced to leave the game in the fourth inning after being struck by a pitch from Fister. Nunez thought that he might have a broken his right arm but X-rays showed only a bruised right bicep and he is listed as day-to-day. Jayson Nix took over for Nunez at shortstop and was 0-for-2.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their three-game series in the Motor City on Saturday.

Originally, the Yankees were scheduled to start David Phelps. But the Yankees decided they will activate right-hander Phil Hughes from the 15-day disabled list and he will make the start instead. Hughes was sidelined during all of spring training with a bulging disk in his upper back. Hughes is 5-4 with a 4.22 ERA in his career against the Tigers.

The Tigers will send right-hander Max Scherzer to the mound. Scherzer was 16-7 with a 3.74 ERA in 2012. he is 3-1 with a 3.42 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 4:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by FOX Sports.

 

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Pettitte Turns In Vintage Outing To Unravel Bosox

GAME 3

YANKEES 4, RED SOX 2

Most major-league teams conduct “Turn-Back-The Clock” nights to feature vintage era teams. The New York Yankees held their own version of “Turn-Back-The-Clock” night on Thursday and they did it only with a 40-year-old starter and a 43-year-old reliever.

Andy Pettitte threw eight dominant innings of one-run ball and Mariano Rivera began his final season in Major League Baseball with his first save as New York recovered from an 0-2 start to the season to beat Boston in front of a paid crowd of 40,611 on another chilly night at Yankee Stadium.

Pettitte looked to be in vintage 1996 form, when he won 21 games for the Yankees. Using his patented style of peering over the edge of his glove, Pettitte (1-0) scattered eight hits, walked one and struck three while holding the hated Bosox scoreless through six innings.

Their lone score off Pettitte came with two out in the seventh inning when Will Middlebrooks punched an opposite-field single and Jackie Bradley Jr. plated him with a double high off the wall in right-center.

Much earlier in the game, the Yankees finally took their first lead of the season in the second inning when Travis Hafner led off the frame with a single off veteran right-hander Ryan Dempster (0-1). Two outs later, Eduardo Nunez blasted a ground-rule double in right-center and Lyle Overbay scored Hafner and Nunez with an opposite-field single to left-center.

Though the Yankees are missing a lot of power with Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez injured, the Yankees broke out the long-ball on Thursday from two of their least likely “Bronx Bombers.”

Brett Gardner led off the third inning with a first-pitch golf shot off Dempster that just scraped over the wall into the first row of the right-field bleachers for his first home run of the season and only the 16th of his career.

With the Yankees leading 3-1 in the bottom of the seventh, Francisco Cervelli touched off a mammoth shot to left-center on a 3-1 offering from reliever Clayton Mortensen for Cervelli’s first home run of the season and only the fifth of his career. The ball actually struck high off the wall in the Red Sox bullpen and nearly landed in the bleachers.

Pettitte left after eight innings and handed the ball to a familiar teammate, Rivera.

The future Hall-of-Fame closer did give up a leadoff walk to Dustin Pedroia and a one-out double down the left-field line by Jonny Gomes. Pedroia scored on a groundout by Middlebrooks but Rivera struck out Bradley looking to record the 609th save of his 19-season career.

It also was the 69th time that Rivera had saved a victory for Pettitte, which is tops in the majors since the statistic was first recorded in 1969.

Though the Red Sox won the series, the Yankees at least got a measure of payback to improve their record to 1-2.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • For those who thought Pettitte might be through at age 40, you are dead wrong. Though Pettitte did allow nine base-runners, he kept the ball in the ballpark and used three double plays to prevent the Red Sox from manufacturing any offense. Pettitte threw 64 of his 94 pitches for strikes (68 percent) and he never was seriously in much danger of losing his 3-0 lead.
  • Overbay, 35, came through with a huge two-out hit in the second inning and general manager Brian Cashman’s decision to sign him after the Bosox released him in the final week of spring training may prove to be a good move while the Yankees await Teixeira’s return from a torn tendon his right wrist.
  • Gardner and Cervelli showed that the Yankees do not always have to rely on “little ball” to win games. But don’t expect this pair to be piling up a lot of dingers this season. The Yankees won this game with good pitching, good defense and some opportunistic hitting.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • If the Yankees are going to have to rely on more of a running game this season it would nice if their top base-stealers would not get thrown out on the basepaths. Gardner was thrown out at second base in the first and Nunez was nabbed the same way in the sixth. Both of them were nailed by backup Red Sox catcher David Ross.
  • After his 3-for-4 night on Wednesday, the Red Sox made sure Vernon Wells did not get a fastball to hit on Thursday. Wells did not adjust and was 0-for-4 with a strikeout.
  • In this series the Red Sox trotted out a new shift on Robinson Cano in which they shifted third baseman Middlebrooks into short right-field. It evidently bothered Cano because he hit two balls right to Middlebrooks and was 0-for-3 with a walk and is hitting .091 after three games.

BOMBER BANTER

Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda told reporters on Thursday that he still is feeling discomfort in his bruised right middle finger but that he still hopes to be able to be ready for his next start in Cleveland on Monday. Kuroda was struck on the finger as he reached up to stop a hard line drive off the bat of Shane Victorino in the second inning and he later was forced to leave the game. Kuroda is scheduled to throw a bullpen session in Detroit on Friday and he will know then if he will be able to pitch.  . . .  Manager Joe Girardi changed the lineup to have Cano batting second and Kevin Youkilis batting third. Girardi said he decided to make the change to break up three left-handed hitters at the top of the lineup against Dempster.  . . .  The Yankees decided to give right-hander David Aardsma his unconditional release on Thursday. Aardsma, 31, had a 3.52 ERA this spring, but he was designated for assignment because the team preferred right-hander Shawn Kelley, who could offer multiple innings out the bullpen.

ON DECK

The Yankees travel to Detroit on Friday for the Tigers’ 2013 home opener.

Right-hander Ivan Nova (1-0, 4,19 ERA this spring) will start for the Yankees seeking redemption from a 2012 season in which he was 12-8 with a 5.02 ERA. In his short career, Nova is 0-1 with a 9.24 ERA against the Tigers.

He will  be opposed by right-hander Doug Fister (2-3, 5.68 ERA this spring), who pitched 6 1/3 innings of shutout baseball in Game 1 of the 2012 American League Championship Series against the Yankees. He is 1-2 with a 5.18 ERA versus the Yankees in the regular season.

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

 

Beating Nationals Boosts Yankees’ Hopes For 2013

GAME 33

YANKEES 4, NATIONALS 2

For nearly three hours on Friday Yankee fans saw their injury-riddled heroes play an exhibition game against a team that some believe might win the world championship in 2013 and what they learned is that this Yankee team just might measure up.

Andy Pettitte threw six strong innings, Kevin Youkilis homered and Mariano Rivera recorded the last three outs as New York defeated a powerful Washington team in front of a paid crowd of 38,161 at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.

Pettitte (2-0) was touched for two runs (one earned) on five hits and no walks while he struck out six batters.

Meanwhile the Yankees scored all of their four runs in the fourth inning off Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann (1-2).

Youkilis opened the frame with his sixth home run of the exhibition season. Travis Hafner followed with single and Vernon Wells doubled to left-center to move Hafner to third. One out later, Eduardo Nunez laced a two-run single.

The Yankees then added a run on a base-running mistake by Chris Stewart. The veteran catcher singled sharply to right, rounded first base too far and was caught in a rundown as Nunez reached third. When Nunez broke for home, Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa threw home to catcher Wilson Ramos. But the throw was too late and bounced off Ramos’ glove as Nunez scored.

The Nationals scored an unearned run in the bottom of the fourth when Youkilis committed a two-base throwing error on a ground ball off the bat of Ryan Zimmerman. One out later, Ian Desmond drove in Zimmerman on a single to center-field.

They added a run in the sixth when Zimmerman slapped a two-out double down the left-field line and Adam LaRoche slapped an RBI single to center.

Rivera, 43, followed Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson to the mound in the ninth and he needed only 10 pitches to dispatch the Nationals for his first spring save.

The Yankees exhibition season record improved to 14-18. The Nationals ended the season with the same mark.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Pettitte, 40, was masterful and totally in command throughout his six innings of work. What is more impressive was it came against what largely was the Nationals 2013 starting lineup and they led the majors last season with 98 victories. Anyone still want to make a case that Pettitte and the rest of  the Yankee starting rotation is too old and battered to be effective?
  • Nunez, 25, shone like a bright diamond in this game. Batting eighth, Nunez was 2-for-3 with a stolen base and two RBIs. His two-run single in the fourth proved to be game-winning hit. Though the Yankees seem to be at a disadvantage without their starting shortstop and captain, Derek Jeter, Nunez is proving to be capable replacement. He hit .293 on the spring and he looked much better in the field.
  • Teams can’t win division championships or go far in the playoffs without an excellent bullpen. The Yankees’ bullpen on Friday looked to be formidable with Chamberlain, Robertson and Rivera not surrendering a hit or walk in the final three innings.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Sloppy defense has been a problem for the Yankees all spring. Youkilis’ throwing error in the fourth cost the Yankees a run and was his fourth error of the spring, all of them coming at third base. I have said this before and it bears repeating: Youkilis is more skilled at first base than he is at third. 
  • Lyle Overbay made the team after a short three-day audition but he was not so helpful at the plate in this game. He was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and he did not get a ball out of the infield. Overbay did, however, have a pretty good game in the field. Though Overbay is not in Mark Teixeira’s class as a fielder, he is above average.
  • Ichiro Suzuki’s slump at the tail-end of the spring continues. He was 0-for-4 and grounded out weakly all four times. Suzuki’s spring batting average has fallen from a high of .462 on March 13 to .286. Over that span, Suzuki was 6-for-30 (.200). I don’t think fans have to worry about him too much. He is a career .322 hitter after all.

BOMBER BANTER

Teixeira, who is rehabbing a torn tendon sheath in his right wrist, told reporters on Friday that he is determined to return to the Yankees by early May. Teixeira was expected to miss eight to 10 weeks after he sustained the injury preparing for the World Baseball Classic in March. But Teixeira said he hopes to be back closer to eight weeks.  . . .  The Yankees officially confirmed on Friday that Overbay made the 25-man roster. In addition, veteran reliever David Aardsma was designated for assignment and right-hander Shawn Kelley was chosen to round out the bullpen.

PROJECTED 2013 YANKEE LINEUP (Not including players currently on the disabled list)

AGAINST RIGHT-HANDERS

  1. Brett Gardner CF
  2. Ichiro Suzuki RF
  3. Robinson Cano 2B
  4. Kevin Youkilis 3B
  5. Travis Hafner DH
  6. Vernon Wells LF
  7. Lyle Overbay 1B
  8. Eduardo Nunez SS
  9. Chris Stewart/Francisco Cervelli C

AGAINST LEFT-HANDERS

  1. Brett Gardner CF
  2. Ichiro Suzuki RF
  3. Robinson Cano 2B
  4. Kevin Youkilis 1B
  5. Vernon Wells LF
  6. Ben Francisco DH
  7. Eduardo Nunez SS
  8. Jayson Nix 3B
  9. Chris Stewart/Francisco Cervelli C

ON DECK

The Yankees will travel to West Point, NY, on Saturday as the team will end its exhibition schedule with a game against the Black Knights of Army.

Right-hander Adam Warren will start for the Yankees. Warren will open the 2013 season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Game-time will be at 2 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.

 

Kuroda Gets No Run Support As Bucs Edge Yanks

GAME 32

PIRATES 2, YANKEES 1

TAMPA  –  It is only fitting that on the final day of spring training in Florida that the Yankees would lose to the Pirates because of a lack of run support for a great outing by a starting pitcher.

Despite the fact that Hiroki Kuroda pitched six scoreless innings, striking out five batters, walking none and surrendering only an infield single, the Pirates scored two runs in the seventh inning as Pittsburgh went on to edge New York on Thursday in front of a paid crowd of 11,028 at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

The Yankees made Pirates rookie left-hander Jeff Locke look like Cliff Lee in his prime. Locke (3-1) shut out the Yankees for six innings, giving up four hits and no walks while striking out three.

Despite allowing an RBI double to Lyle Overbay in the ninth inning, Ethan Hollingsworth was credited with a save.

Boone Logan (0-1) was charged with the loss.

Logan walked pinch-hitter Travis Snider to open the seventh inning and Jose Tabata then lined a hard come-backer that struck Logan in the left hip and he reached base on the single.

Logan left the game as a precautionary measure and right-hander David Aardsma entered the game and uncorked a wild pitch and Francisco Cervelli threw the ball past Robinson Cano attempting to nab Tabata advancing to second. That allowed Snider to score.

One out later, pinch-hitter Jeff Larish singled in Tabata.

The Yankees completed Grapefruit League play with a 13-18 record. The Pirates ended up with the same record.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Kuroda ended spring training with his sharpest effort of the spring. He kept the Pirates off-balance all day mixing his 92-mile-per-hour fastball with his slider and split-finger fastball. The only hitter to reach base on him was Garrett Jones, who reached on a two-out infield single that Kuroda knocked down but could not pick up in time to throw out Jones. Kuroda threw an amazing 52 of his 69 pitches for strikes  –  a 75 percent strike rate.
  • Overbay cemented his position on the 25-man roster with his RBI double in the ninth inning. Overbay, 36, was given three days to make the team and he did it by going 5-for-11 (.455) in the three games he played. Overbay will open the season at first base and he will remain there until Mark Teixeira returns, which could be as soon as mid-May.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The Yankees were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position on Thursday. The Yankees’ biggest failure came when Cervelli blasted a one-out triple off the left-field wall. Ichiro Suzuki followed with a weak infield popup and Vernon Wells ended the threat with a routine flyout. Yankee fans complained last season when the team did not deliver hits with runners in scoring position and relied so much on the home run to win games. Well, now the team still does not hit with runners in scoring position and now doesn’t hit home runs either.
  • Aardsma appears to have blown his shot to win a bullpen spot with a weak showing on Thursday. He threw a wild pitch to set up one run and another scored on a RBI single. After he issued a two-walk to pinch-hitter Josh Harrison he was removed from the game by manager Joe Girardi. Aarsdma has a spring ERA of 3.52.
  • Wells finished the day 0-for-3 but he still hit .310 for the spring and he will begin the season as the Yankees’ starting left-fielder until Curtis Granderson returns to the team in mid-May. Granderson will play center and Brett Gardner will shift to left-field. Granderson’s broken right forearm prevented the Yankees from their experiment of flip-flopping Gardner and Granderson.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees reportedly have released Juan Rivera from his minor-league contract and the team has decided to keep Overbay and outfielders Ben Francisco and Brennan Boesch. Overbay likely will be in a platoon with reserve infielder Jayson Nix. Overbay will start at first against right-handers and against left-handers Kevin Youkilis could shift to first base and Nix can play third. With Wells starting in left and Travis Hafner as the designated hitter, Francisco and Boesch will mostly be bench players, although the Yankees could use Francisco as a right-handed DH against some left-handers.  . . .  Logan said after the game that his left hip was fine and he expects to be able to pitch again on Friday. That is one bullet the Yankees dodged.  . . .  It was no surprise that left-hander Vidal Nuno, 25, was named before the game on Thursday the recipient of the James P. Dawson Award as the Yankees’ top rookie of the spring. Nuno was 1-1 with 0.61 ERA in seven appearances. Nuno still has an outside chance to make the team as a second bullpen lefty behind Logan while Clay Rapada recovers from bursitis in his left shoulder. Nuno pitched at both Class-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton and was 10-6 with an organization-leading 2.54 ERA.

ON DECK

The Yankees are already in Washington D.C., and they will play an exhibition game against the Nationals on Friday.

Veteran left-hander Andy Pettitte (1-0, 4.82 ERA) will pitch for the Yankees. The Nationals will counter with right-hander Jordan Zimmermann (0-1, 5.40 ERA).

Game-time will be 2:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be televised locally by the YES Network and nationally by the MLB Network.

 

 

Yankees Repel Rays With Walk-Off Homer In 10th

GAME 28

YANKEES 7, TAMPA BAY 6 (10 Innings)

TAMPA  –  There are times when things may look its bleakest but a proud team decides it needs to make a statement. On Sunday the Yankees made a bold statement that they they will not go down without a pretty fierce fight.

Kevin Youkilis launched a pair of long-distance two-run home runs and Ronnier Mustelier cracked a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 10th inning as New York defeated Tampa Bay in a see-saw affair in front of a paid crowd of 10,894 at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Youkilis reclaimed the lead for the Yankees in the bottom of the eighth inning with his second home run of the game his fifth of the spring. However, the Rays rallied for a run in the top of the ninth to tie the game at 6-6 on an RBI double by Jake Hager off David Aardsma.

That set the stage for Mustelier’s fly-ball home run off a 3-2 offering from Josh Lueke (2-1) that just cleared in the wall in left-field.

Preston Claiborne (1-0) retired the only two batters he faced in the top of the 10th to gain credit for the victory.

The Yankees improved to 12-17 this spring. The Rays fell to 14-14.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • It appears that signing the Youkilis to replace Alex Rodriguez at third base while he recovers from hip surgery was about the smartest thing that general manager Brian Cashman accomplished this winter. With batting coach Kevin Long’s help, Youkilis has lowered his hands a bit and he’s making solid contact again. With his 2-for-4 day and two home runs, Youkilis now leads the team with five homers and 12 RBIs this spring and he is hitting .262.
  • Mustelier, 28, could not have picked a better time to hit his second home run of the spring. Though it appears his chances of making the team out of spring training are near zero, he is making a big impression on the front office with his .324 batting average.
  • Other than Aardsma, the Yankees bullpen was near flawless in the 5 1/3 innings they pitched. Vidal Nuno, Cody Eppley, Mariano Rivera, Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan, Josh Spence and Claiborne combined to give up no runs on five hits and three walks while striking out six batters.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Though Youkilis drove in four runs it ended up being a wash because his error on a ground ball off the bat of Jose Molina with a runner on third and two out in the fourth inning opened the floodgates for four unearned runs to score that inning. Youkilis won a Gold Glove with the Boston Red Sox as a first baseman in 2007. However, he is not as accomplished as a fielder at third.
  • Aardsma, 31, simply did not get the job done in the bottom of ninth inning. He issued a leadoff single by Ben Zobrist, Jason Bourgeois bunted him to second and Hager scored him with his double. Aardsma’s spring ERA is now to 3.86 and it is unclear if he will make the bullpen coming out spring training.
  • There was some bad base-running that cost the Yankees in the fifth inning. After one out, Eduardo Nunez singled but was thrown out attempting to steal by Molina because he got a bad jump off first. Than Ichiro Suzuki rolled a ball down the line in left and was thrown out because he rounded first too far allowing Matt Joyce to gun him down.

BOMBER BANTER

Derek Jeter reported that he was experiencing soreness again in his surgically repaired left ankle and the team has ordered him to rest for at least two days. Cashman said it is looking extremely unlikely that the 38-year-old shortstop will be available on Opening Day. The team likely will place him on the 15-day disabled retroactively so that he could be activated as soon as April 6.  . . .  Reports indicate that the Yankees and Angels are trying to work out a trade that would send outfielder Vernon Wells to the Yankees. Wells, 34, is a fifth outfielder with the Angels but he was hitting . 361 (13 for 36) with four homers and 11 RBis this spring. Wells has a no-trade clause in his contract but he reportedly would be willing to waive it to get more playing time. The big stumbling block is how much the Angels will pay of the $42 million left on Wells’ contract.

ON DECK

The Yankees will take their third day off of the spring on Monday. On Tuesday they will play host to the Houston Astros.

CC Sabathia will make his final spring tuneup before pitching for the Yankees on Opening Day on April 1. The Astros have not named a starter.

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

 

Jeter, Rivera Shine In Returns But Yankees Lose

GAME 14

BRAVES 2, YANKEES 1

TAMPA  –  To the Yankees and their fans, the tradition and history of the team is almost as important than the future direction of the franchise. On Saturday, the current legends of the team and the promise of the future were on proud display on Saturday at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera, fresh from a morning news conference to announce that 2013 will be his final season in pinstripes, and team captain Derek Jeter, rehabbing from offseason surgery to his left ankle, both made triumphant spring training debuts.

As a metaphor for the future, 23-year-old right-hander Jose Ramirez threw four shutout innings against the Braves, yielding just one hit and striking out four batters.

However, as a reminder of the team’s present, the Yankees’ offense could not match its excellent pitching and they fell to Atlanta for their fourth consecutive spring training defeat.

Rivera, 43, spurred the crowd of 10,973 to its feet as he trotted to the mound in the fifth inning serenaded by his personal anthem “Enter Sandman.”

It did not take the master long to establish his signature cutter as Dan Uggla hit a weak infield popup and Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson were caught looking in only 15 pitches. The gathered throng shot to its feet again as one of their heroes strode off the mound and tipped his cap just before he entered the dugout.

Their other “Golden Boy,” Jeter, wasted no time after his standing ovation as he stepped into the batter’s box in the first inning. He sent the initial offering from left-hander Mike Minor between the shortstop Tyler Pastornicky and the third baseman Francisco in left-field. Though Jeter’s gait appeared to be somewhat labored. It did not make a difference to the fans who cheered the captain they love so dearly.

In a spring marked by injury after injury, disappointment and mounting losses, the fans were just happy to have No. 2 and No. 42 back on the field.

Minor matched Ramirez with four shutout innings of his own. He gave up three hits and two walks.

The Braves scored their first run in the seventh inning on a one-out triple by Pastornicky and a two-out bloop RBI single to center by Uggla. They added an insurance run in the ninth on a Jordan Schaffer double and Schaffer later scored on a sac fly off the bat of Jordan Parraz.

That run proved significant because the Yankees ended a 19-inning spring scoring drought against the Braves that dates back to the team’s spring opener on Feb. 23. Thomas Neal scored Bobby Wilson on a groundout off reliever Alex Wood.

Anthony Vavaro (1-0) pitched a perfect sixth inning to get credit for the victory. Wood pitched two innings to earn his second spring save. Left-hander Francisco Rondon took the loss for the Yankees.

The punchless Yankees are now 3-11 this spring. The Braves improved to 8-8.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Of all the young pitchers, it’s Ramirez, 23, who’s looked the best. He’s gotten two starts and has pitched a total of shutout nine innings allowing four hits with one walk and five strikeouts. “He’s been great,” manager Joe Girardi said. “The kid has thrown the ball really well. He’s throwing strikes. He’s got an outstanding changeup. His slider is a work in progress. He spots his fastball with velocity. He’s had an outstanding spring.”
  • Ichiro Suzuki was 2-for-3 and a stolen base on Saturday. He is hitting .450 for the spring. It is just too bad that nobody in the No. 3, No. 4 or No. 5 spots can get enough going at the plate to score him. I bet Girardi is counting the days until mid-May when Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira are expected back. Until then it is not much of an offense. It is just plain offensive is what it is.
  • Ronnier Mustelier may be built like a tank but he proved on Saturday that he can run when he stroked a two-out triple to right-center in the seventh. Mustelier, 28, is hitting a robust .375 this spring and Girardi even tried him out at third base on Saturday. Mustelier was moved to the outfield because he seems to be better there. But if he could play third well enough the Yankees might keep him because of his potent bat.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Surprise! The Yankees were 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position on Saturday. It is apparent that the team’s downfall in the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers has not been rectified. They are going to have to do better when the season starts.
  • Matt Diaz and Juan Rivera, two players who are likely going to make the team and are being counted upon in the absence of Granderson and Teixeira, were a combined 0-for-6 on Saturday. Rivera is hitting a respectable .273 but Diaz is struggling, hitting just .222.
  • Left-handed designated hitter Travis Hafner was 0-for- 2 and he’s hitting .167. It may not yet be time to panic but you may want to keep the Xanax handy.

BOMBER BANTER

Right-handers Phil Hughes, David Robertson and David Aardsma threw bullpen sessions on Saturday and all three reported feeling fine afterward. “All good news,” Girardi said. “Maybe the worm has turned.”  . . .  After the game right-handers Tom Kahnle and Kelvin Perez were optioned to minor-league camp.

ON DECK

The Yankees hope to seek a better result on Sunday on the road against the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin, FL.

Right-hander David Phelps will make his fourth start of the spring for the Yankees. He will be opposed by J.A. Happ.

Game-time will be at 1:05 EDT and the game will be telecast on tape delay by the MLB Network at 3 a.m. on Monday.

 

Mo’s Return In 2013 Keeps Yanks’ Bullpen Strong

PART 2: THE BULLPEN:

The Yankees figured to have a strong bullpen as they entered the 2012 season. Perhaps the best in baseball.

Of course, having the best closer baseball has ever seen and will see in Mariano Rivera was a large part of that strength. However, in 2012 Rivera was not a big part of the team’s success.

Everybody remembers that day at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City last May when “Mo” tried to shag a ball he should not have and tore his MCL in his left knee. He later had surgery and missed the rest of the season.

But the Yankee bullpen was rescued by a fluke signing of Rafael Soriano in 2011 over the objections of general manager Brian Cashman. Nonetheless, the Yankee brass overruled Cashman and signed the former Tampa Bay Rays closer coming off a 2010 season in which he saved 45 games and a had a 1.73 ERA.

That deal looked wasted in 2011 when Soriano pitched in mediocrity and then injured his elbow before finishing with just two saves and a 4.12 ERA. He was baseball’s most expensive seventh inning pitcher in history.

In 2012, he saved the bullpen by stepping in for Rivera and notching 42 saves in 46 opportunities with a sparkling 2.26 ERA. Many thought that with Rivera gone that the Yankees would sink in the American League East. But Soriano proved them wrong.

It is no wonder that Soriano elected to opt out of his contract and seek a closer’s role of his own as a free agent. The Yankees might have panicked to find a suitable closer for 2013 had Rivera not decided to come back for one last hurrah.

Indications are Rivera will be ready to go when spring camps open in February. Rivera, 43, was 1-1 with a 2.16 ERA and five saves in six chances when he went down in 2012. In 2011, he was 1-2 with a 1.91 ERA and 44 saves in 49 opportunities. So as long as Rivera’s knee is sound, the Yankees will have no worries about their closer in 2013.

With Soriano gone, it would seem to be an issue if the Yankees did not have David Robertson, who was an American League All-Star selection in 2011 with a 4-0 record and 1.08 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 66 2/3 innings. In 2012, Robertson got off to a slow start with a ankle injury suffered in spring training.

He later had to be placed on the disabled list at midseason in May with an oblique strain. He simply was not the same pitcher early in the season as he was in 2011. But in the second half, Robertson flashed his old form. After a brief and unsuccessful trial as a closer he was shifted back to his eighth inning role and he flourished again.

He was 2-7 with a 2.67 ERA but he was finally his old self by late August and for the September stretch run. At age 27, Robertson becomes a very valuable pitcher for the Yankees with the departure of Soriano. Robertson will also have to adapt to close on days Rivera is unable to pitch. The Yankees do not seem worried about it though.

Behind these two hard-throwing relievers, the Yankees will seek to build another strong bullpen with a pair of similarly hard-throwing veterans in right-hander Joba Chamberlain and left-hander Boone Logan.

Chamberlain, 27, missed most of the 2011 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. He missed the start of the 2012 season after suffering a break of his right ankle in a trampoline accident in Tampa, FL.  He was 1-0 with a 4.35 ERA in 20 2/3 innings over 22 appearances late in the season.

He returns in 2013 without injury and seeking to regain the consistency he enjoyed in 2011 when he was 2-0 with a 2.83 ERA before he injured his elbow. If he does the Yankees will not miss Soriano at all. Chamberlain figures to be the logical choice to pitch most in the seventh inning. If he measures up to the challenge the Yankees’ bullpen will again be very strong.

Logan, 28, has been the unsung hero of this bullpen for a long time.

Sure he can be erratic at times. But he also has now put together three very good seasons with the Yankees. Miscast as a lefty specialist for two seasons, he was able to step out of that role in 2012 and post a pretty good season.

He was 7-2 with a 3.74 ERA and held opponents to a .234 batting average. The elevated ERA was largely due to the fact that he was pressed into service more than he had in the past and the additional innings caught up to him. He pitched in a league-high 80 games and manager Joe Girardi would like to cut that down to a more realistic 60 to 65 in 2013.

But with Chamberlain, Robertson and Rivera on the disabled list at one point last season, Logan pitched in a lot of games he would not have pitched in normally. A healthy bullpen should make him more effective as well as additional man to pitch in the seventh inning.

Girardi was able to cobble together a pair of specialists out of left-hander Clay Rapada and right-hander Cody Eppley and he was very pleased with the results he got from them.

Rapada, 31, was 3-0 with a 2.82 ERA. But against lefties he was plain nasty. They hit just .186 off him and he looks to have an inside track on keeping that role in 2013.

Eppley, who was picked up off waivers from the Texas Rangers early in 2012, turned into an effective pitcher against right-handers. He had a 1.93 ERA against righties and they hit just .227 against him. The 27-year-old veteran was 1-2 with a 3.33 ERA overall and he earned Girardi’s trust as the season progressed.

Depth in 2013 does not look to be an issue. There are a number of candidates to challenge for spots in 2013.

David Phelps, 26, is thought of primarily as a starter based on his success in the minor leagues. But he could settle into a long reliever/spot starter in 2013, the role he largely held in his rookie season as he compiled a 4-4 mark with a 3.34 ERA in 33 appearances (11 starts).

Phelps will get a chance to crack the 2013 starting rotation in the spring but he only likely will have a chance if there is an injury or Ivan Nova continues to pitch poorly. Long relief looks to be a good bet or he could be sent back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to keep him stretched out as a starter as an insurance policy on what is a veteran starting rotation.

The Yankees signed free-agent right-hander David Aardsma last season even though they knew he was recovering from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Aardsma, 30, saved 38 games in 2009 and 31 games in 2010 for the Seattle Mariners before he injured his elbow.

He pitched in only one game for the Yankees late last season but the Yankees saw enough renew his contract option for 2013. So Aardsma could very well win a spot in the Yankees bullpen this spring if he regains his hard-throwing dominant arsenal. Aardsma could be helpful both in the middle innings or as a late-inning option for Robertson and Rivera when they are unavailable to pitch.

The Yankees also have a veteran right-hander in Jim Miller, 30, who was 2-1 with a 2.59 ERA in 33 appearances with the Oakland Athletics last season. Miller oddly is tougher on lefties than he is on righties. Lefties hit just .136 off him in 2012 while righties solved him to the tune of .283. The Yankees will see how he fits in this spring.

Cesar Cabral, a 2012 Rule 5 draft acquisition, spent the entire season on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his left elbow as he was competing for the lefty specialist role with Rapada last spring. After compiling a 3-4 record and a 2.95 ERA in the minors 2011 with 70 strikeouts in 55 innings, Cabral will get a chance to display his power stuff this spring with a chance of supplanting Rapada or earning a spot as a third lefty in the bullpen. Cabral is only 23 and he has a high ceiling as a reliever.

The Yankees do have some interesting young reliever candidates in their minor-league system but most of them have to be considered as longshots to make the 2013 roster.

Chase Whitley, 23, was 9-5 with a 3.25 ERA at Scranton and the right-hander compiled a 1.07 WHIP in 80 1/3 innings over 41 games. The Yankees like his competitiveness though he does not appear to have closer stuff.

Right-hander Preston Claiborne, 24, pitched impressively enough at Double-A Trenton (2-2 with a 2.22 ERA in 30 games) to earn a promotion to Scranton, but he may need some more work. He was 4-0 with a 4.05 ERA in 20 games there. But the Yankees still like the tall Texan and he does have strikeout stuff (78 punchouts in 82 innings).

The most impressive young pitcher the Yankees have in the minors is 22-year-old right-hander Mark Montgomery. Montgomery began 2012 with the High-A Tampa Yankees, where he was 4-1 with a 1.34 ERA. He also struck out an unbelievable 61 batters in 40 1/3 innings.

He carried that power stuff to Trenton, where he was 3-1 with a 1.88 ERA in 15 games. He saved 15 games overall in 2012 and to say that Montgomery figures to be a long-range prospect as a future major-league closer would be putting it mildly. At 5-foot-11, 205 pounds, he may not seem like your typical closer. But neither was Robertson and look where he is now.

Montgomery’s progesss is worth watching in 2013.

The Yankees 2013 bullpen prospects, much like their starting staff, appears to be in pretty good shape and fairly set. I do not expect Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild to be begging Cashman for additional help here. Soriano walked out but with Rivera back for one last season and depth at the back end the Yankees’ bullpen should remain one of its strengths.

Girardi has been a master at building a bullpen and utilizing it in a proper way. Other than Logan, no one was really overused in 2012 and that should be the trend again in 2013.

Not many teams can boast a bullpen this good and this deep.

NEXT: STARTING LINEUP