Tagged: Double-A Trenton

Tanaka Goes Route As Yankees Cool Jays Again

GAME 115

YANKEES 4, BLUE JAYS 1

Going into Saturday’s game at Rogers Centre the New York Yankees knew they would be without both right-hander Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller because they had both pitched in the previous two games the team won. So the question was: Who would close for the Yankees?

Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka provided the answer. He would.

Tanaka threw his first complete game of the season and Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira both hit solo home runs as New York knocked off Toronto for the second straight day and extended their American League East lead over the Blue Jays to 1 1/2 games.

Tanaka (9-5) held the powerful Blue Jays to one run on just five hits and three walks while struck out eight batters in a sparkling 112-pitch outing. It was Tanaka’s first victory of the season over the Blue Jays in three starts.

“Up to this point, I think today was one of the most important games that I’ve pitched in,” Tanaka told reporters through an interpreter. “My mindset was, I wanted to go as deep into the game as possible. I was really satisfied that I was able to do that.”

Beltran, who was the big hero in Friday’s 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the Blue Jays with a pinch-hit three-run home run in the eighth inning, got the Yankees’ offense rolling right away against right-hander Marco Estrada (10-7).

With two out in the first inning, Beltran lined a 3-2 fastball into the right-field bleachers for his 12th home run of the season.

Meanwhile, Tanaka looked every bit the $155-million ace the Yankees signed as free agent last season through the first four innings until he temporarily lost command of the strike zone in the fifth.

Ryan Goins drew a leadoff four-pitch walk and Ben Revere followed it with a hard-hit single to left. Tanaka then walked Troy Tulowitzki on four pitches to load the bases with no outs.

Josh Donaldson scored Goins with a sacrifice fly to left but Tanaka was able to wriggle out of further trouble by striking out Jose Bautista swinging and retiring Edwin Encarnacion on a infield popup.

He did not allow another hit except a two-out single by Encarnacion in the eighth inning.

Estrada, at the same time, recovered from the first-inning to hold the Yankees to just one hit  –  a one-out triple by Jacoby Ellsbury in the third  –  until there were two outs in the sixth inning.

Teixeira entered the day struggling in August, batting .182 during the month and 2-for-21 (.095) in his past five games. But he was able to connect on a 1-0 fastball and hit it into the second deck down the right-field line for his 31st home run of the season.

Teixeira’s tie-breaking home run was all Tanaka really would need but Teixeira also added a one-out RBI single in the eighth off right-hander LaTroy Hawkins after Beltran had doubled off the top of the wall in right-center.

Ellsbury closed out the scoring in the ninth with an one-out RBI single off left-hander Aaron Loup.

“Right now, the most important thing is winning,” Beltran told reporters. “It doesn’t matter how we win, we just have to go out there with the mentality of not being able to think of our personal numbers, what we’re doing. We have to think about how we can win this ballgame. Right now, we’re doing good.”

Another sellout crowd of 46,630 saw the Yankees win their third straight game after they had lost the previous five games. Their season record is now 64-51. The Blue Jays dropped to 64-54.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Tanaka, 26, has been somewhat disappointing this season between stretches of inconsistency and a stint on the disabled list. But on Saturday he looked every bit the ace pitcher the Yankees wanted him to be. Despite the three walks, Tanaka kept Toronto’s hitters off-balance by using his slider more than usual and not giving them fastballs in the strike zone. Tulowitzki, Donaldson and Bautista were a combined 1-for-8 with two strikeouts and only two balls reached the outfield.
  • Beltran’s hot month of August continued on Saturday as he was 2-for-3 with a walk, a double, a home run, two runs scored and one RBI. He now has a hitting streak of 10 games and he is 12-for-32 (.375) with four homers and seven RBIs in that stretch. He is now batting .271 on the season.
  • Teixeira’s home run and two RBIs were his first of each since he homered in the first game of the series against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 7. He ended his day 2-for-4 with a run scored and he drove in the tie-breaking run and added a key insurance run. Despite the slump Teixeira is batting .261 with 31 homers and 79 RBIs this season.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

I would really have to nitpick to find a downside to this game. After losing in 10 innings 2-1 to the Blue Jays on Aug. 7 on a Bautista home run, Bautista said the Blue Jays did more than beat the Yankees. They made a “statement.” Well, after losing the first two games of this series I wonder what has become of Bautista’s “statement?” You may want to put a lot of ketchup on that serving of crow, Jose!

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees bolstered their bullpen on Saturday by recalling right-hander Caleb Catham from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and designating left-hander Chris Capuano for assignment for a second time. Cotham, 27, will be beginning his third stint with the Yankees this season. In 31 games between Double-A Trenton and Scranton, Cotham is 6-2 with a 1.89 ERA and two saves. Capuano, 36, had not appeared in a game since the Yankees selected his contract from Scranton on Aug. 12. He was 0-4 with a 6.97 ERA in 16 games (four starts) with the Yankees.  . . .  Rookie Greg Bird started at first base on Saturday to allow Teixeira to serve as the designated hitter and he singled with two out in the eighth inning off Hawkins for his first Major-League hit. In the sixth inning, Bird, 22, hit a mammoth drive into the right-field seats, which would have been a two-run home run. But it was ruled a foul ball and a review of the play confirmed the call.  . . .  Right-hander Ivan Nova will make his next start despite soreness in right ring finger. Nova, 28, thought he had fractured the finger after he attempted to grab a come-backer off the bat of Tulowitzki in the third inning of Friday’s 4-3 victory over the Blue Jays. Nova still was able to pitch seven innings and got credit for his fifth victory of the season.

ON DECK

After being swept by the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium last weekend the Yankees will have a chance to return the favor to the Blue Jays on Sunday.

Rookie right-hander Luis Severino (0-1, 2.45 ERA) will make his third career start for the Yankees. Severino, 21, has not yielded more than two runs or pitched less than five innings in his first two starts. However, he is still seeking his first Major-League victory.

The Blue Jays will counter with right-hander Drew Hutchison (11-2, 5.26 ERA). Judging by the ERA you can tell that Hutchison, 24, is living off the run support the Blue Jays are providing him. In five starts in July, Hutchison recorded a 6.93 ERA and yet he was 1-1 in those starts.

Game-time will be 1:07 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.

 

Yanks Explode To 5-Game End Skid, Down Tribe

GAME 113

YANKEES 8, INDIANS 6

As it has been for most of the season, if the New York Yankees are in a hitting slump all they have to is start right-hander Nathan Eovaldi to break them out it. That is just what happened on Thursday night at Progressive Field.

Brian McCann blasted a three-run homer and Brett Gardner had three hits and drove in three runs to back Eovaldi as New York ended a poorly timed five-game losing streak with a victory over Cleveland.

McCann’s 20th home run of the season came with two out in the first inning off right-hander Trevor Bauer (9-9) and scored Jacoby Ellsbury and Gardner, who have both struggled to get on base throughout the Yankees latest skid.

They added a run on a solo home run by Stephen Drew with one out in the second inning.

Eovaldi (12-2) did not pitch sharply but he was the beneficiary of the same run support he has been getting all season. The Yankees average just over seven runs per start for Eovaldi.

The Yankees finally chased Bauer in the fourth inning on a leadoff single by Didi Gregorius, an RBI double by Drew and a one-out double by Gardner.

Bauer was charged with six runs on seven hits and two walks while he fanned one in 3 1/3 innings.

The Indians managed to hang close by scoring two runs in both the third and six innings off Eovaldi.

Michael Brantley hit a sacrifice fly in the third to score the Indians’ first run and Carlos Santana followed with an RBI single to halve the Yankees’ lead to 4-2.

Former Yankee farmhand Abraham Almonte stroked an RBI double in the sixth and Lonnie Chisenhall ended Eovaldi ‘s night with an RBI single one out later to bring the Indians to within two runs at 6-4.

Eovaldi yielded four runs on seven hits and three walks and struck out four batters in 5 1/3 innings to win his eighth game in a row and he now is undefeated in his past 10 starts.

Right-hander Adam Warren rescued Eovaldi by coming on the sixth inning and inducing an inning-ending double play off the bat of Giovanny Urshela.

The Yankees added solo run in both the sixth and eighth innings and they came on RBI singles by Gardner.

The Indians hung close by scoring a run off left-hander Justin Wilson when right-hander Dellin Betances uncorked a wild pitch with the bases loaded and two out in the seventh inning. But Betances got out of the jam by striking out Almonte swinging.

The Indians added a run in the ninth off left-hander Andrew Miller on a two-out RBI single by Yan Gomes. But Miller struck out Chisenhall looking to record his 24th save after blowing his hist first save of the season against the Indians on Tuesday.

With the victory the Yankees improved their season record to 62-51. They are a half-game behind the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East. The Indians fell to 53-60.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • America may run on Dunkin’ but the Yankees run on Ellsbury and Gardner. After the both of them stinking it up for a week, the pair reached base in a combined 7 times in 10 plate appearances. Gardner was 3-for-4 with a walk, a run scored and three RBIs. Ellsbury was 2-for-4 with a walk and a run scored.
  • McCann’s 20th home run puts him in rare company. He becomes only the fifth catcher since 1900 to hit 20 or more home runs in nine straight seasons. The other four are Yogi Berra, Mike Piazza, Gary Carter and Johnny Bench. The home run was McCann’s eighth on the road this season. He is now batting .242 with 20 homers and 69 RBIs on the season.
  • Drew entered the game batting .190 but managed to go 2-for-3 with a homer, four runs scored and two RBIs. Drew’s home run was his second of the series against the Indians and his 15th of the season, which leads all second baseman in the American League.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Eovaldi once again got hurt by his high pitch count. Between inconsistency in throwing strikes and the Indians putting 10 base-runners on against him in 5 1/3 innings, he was not able to either allow the bullpen to rest or to keep the Indians from getting back into the game. It does not matter now but it could hurt a lot in a potential playoff game.
  • Alex Rodriguez is swinging at a lot of pitches out of the strike zone and it shows that he is pressing. Rodriguez was 0-for-4 with a walk and he struck once and hit into a double play in another at-bat. In his past six games, Rodriguez is 2-for-25 (.080) with six strikeouts. His season average has dipped to .268.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees on Thursday optioned right-hander Nick Goody to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and selected the contract of first baseman Greg Bird. Bird, 22, was batting a combined .277 with 12 homers and 52 RBIs between Double-A Trenton and Scranton. Bird made his Major-League debut on Thursday starting at first base in place of a resting Mark Teixeira and he was 0-for-5 with two strikeouts.  . . .  Right-hander Michael Pineda is scheduled to make his first rehab start on Sunday for Trenton and he hopes to make it back into the rotation before Sept. 1. Pineda was placed on the disabled list since July 30 with a right flexor forearm muscle strain. He is 9-7 with a 3.97 ERA in 19 starts this season.

ON DECK

Because of their home meltdown against the Blue Jays last weekend the Yankees open a very important three-game weekend road series at Rogers Centre starting on Friday.

Right-hander Ivan Nova (4-4, 3.42 ERA) will start the opener for the Yankees. Nova won three games in a row and stymied the Blue Jays for five innings before surrendering a grand slam to Justin Smoak in the sixth on Saturday.

Left-hander David Price (11-4, 2.35 ERA) will pitch for the Blue Jays. Price shut out the Yankees on three hits and three walks while striking out seven in a victory against the Saturday.

Game-time will be 7:07 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

McCann Keys 9-Run Seventh As Yanks Rip Bosox

GAME 105

YANKEES 13, RED FLOPS 3

Despite the fact it is August and the Yankees were facing the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday there seemed to be a subdued dynamic borne out of two teams headed in decidedly different directions, The Yankees have been shooting upward while the Red Flops are just playing out the string of what has been a disastrous season.

That scenario played out as the Yankees turned a 4-3 lead into a 13-3 rout in just one inning.

Brian McCann hit a three-run home run as part of a nine-run inning and drove in four runs and Masahiro Tanaka won his eighth game as New York showed its immense superiority over Boston in front of 48,522 happy fans and a national television audience.

For the Yankees it marked the seventh time this season they have scored 13 or more runs and there are three teams tied for the next most at three. They also have outscored their opposition 59-17 in their past four victories.

Until the seventh inning, the Yankees’ right-hander Tanaka and rookie left-hander Henry Owens were locked into a close battle in Owens’ Major-League debut.

The Yankees took an early lead against Owens (0-1) in the first inning on a one-out single by Chris Young, a walk to Alex Rodriguez and an RBI single by Mark Teixeira.

Tanaka threw four strong innings, yielding only a double by Mike Napoli with two out in the second inning when Young allowed the ball to drop thinking center-fielder Jacoby Ellsbury would catch it.

But in the fifth, Tanaka allowed a one-double to Napoli and a bunt single by Alejandro De Aza. Rookie Blake Swihart followed with an RBI single and Jackie Bradley Jr. plated De Aza on a sacrifice fly.

Owens, meanwhile, sailed into the sixth inning having retired 14 of the next 15 hitters and the past 12 in a row after Teixeira’s first-inning RBI single.

But Young opened the sixth with a single to left and Rodriguez doubled to the left-center. Red Flops manager John Farrell, who ended up not exactly celebrating much of his 53rd birthday, removed Owens in favor of left-hander Robbie Ross Jr.

But Teixeira greeted Ross with an RBI single up the middle to score Young and McCann followed with a RBI double off the wall in right-center. Carlos Beltan gave the Yankees an additional run on an RBI groundout.

Owens was charged with three runs on five hits and one walk with five strikeouts in five-plus innings.

The Red Flops did draw to within one run when Pablo Sandoval opened the seventh with a home run off Tanaka, which ended his evening.

Tanaka (8-4) was charged with three runs on five hits and one walk with three strikeouts in six-plus innings to notch his fourth victory in his past five starts.

Justin Wilson came on to retire one batter before rookie Rusney Castillo singled and stole second on a 1-1 pitch to Bradley that was called a strike.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi opted to replaced the lefty Wilson with the right-handed Dellin Betances against the lefty-swinging Bradley in the middle of the at-bat. But Betances uncorked a wild pitch to allow Castillo to reach third and he ended up walking Bradley.

However, Betances struck out Brock Holt to preserve the 4-3 lead and keep Girardi from being raked over the coals in the media.

The Yankees then went to work by sending 13 batters to the plate off right-hander Jean Machi, left-hander Craig Breslow and right-hander Alexi Ogando.

It all started with a careless throwing error on shortstop Xander Bogaerts that allowed Ellsbury to reach first. Young drew a walk and Rodriguez chased Machi with an RBI single that extended the Yankees’ lead to 5-3.

McCann then blew the game wide open with a long three-run blast into the right-field bleachers off Breslow for his 18th home run of the season. But the Yankees were not satisfied with beating their rivals; they wanted to humiliate them.

Beltran doubled into the gap in right-center and Chase Headley scored him with a double of his own. One out later, Brendan Ryan walked and Ellsbury singled to drive in Headley.

Farrell replaced Breslow with Ogando to face the righty-swininging Young but Young delivered a three-run homer, his 13th of the season, that landed well into the left-field bleachers to make it 13-3.

By drilling the Red Flops the Yankees improved their season mark to 60-45 and they lead the second-place Toronto Blue Jays by 5 1/2 games in the American League East. The Red Flops fell to a dismal 47-60 mark and they are 14 games back in last place.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • McCann was 2-for-5 with a single, a home run, one run scored and four RBIs. McCann is simply a different player at home. He is batting .298 with 11 home runs and 34 RBIs at Yankee Stadium and he is hitting a lousy .218 with six homers and 27 RBIs on the road. His low road average is one reason he is hitting just .252 on the season.
  • Teixeira entered the day having homered four times in his past five games but against the Red Flops he settled for a pair RBI singles. His 2-for-5 night raised his season average to a season-high .268 with 29 home runs and 76 RBIs.
  • Young has been the unsung hero of this team as the fourth outfielder. He is hammering left-handers to the tune of .371 but his 13th home run and his three RBIs came off a right-handed pitcher in Ogando. In limited play, Young is batting .268 with 13 homers and 36 RBIs. For that reason we might want to overlook the fielding mistake he made in the second inning.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

Watching the Yankees scored nine runs (eight earned) off the Red Flops bullpen was just pleasing to see. Many pundits predicted disaster for the Yankees this season and chose the Red Sox to win the division. It would be nice to gather up all that excrement they spewed and have them eat it all.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees made only one trade-deadline deal and that was to acquire outfielder Dustin Ackley from the Seattle Mariners. Five days later, Ackley is on the 15-day disabled list. The Yankees placed the 27-year-old veteran on the DL on Tuesday with a right lumbar back strain that will sideline him until at least early September. Ackley said the injury did not occur when he was with the Mariners and that he first felt the pain in his back on Friday in Chicago. An MRI showed a herniated disk and he was given an epidural to relieve the discomfort. To replace Ackley on the roster the Yankees recalled right-hander Caleb Cotham from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  . . .  The Yankees announced on Tuesday that outfielder Mason Williams will undergo season-ending shoulder surgery. William, 23, hurt his right shoulder diving back into first base in a game against the Tigers in Detroit on June 19. The surgery is scheduled for Friday. Williams batted .286 with a home run and three RBIs in eight games with the Yankees.

ON DECK

With one thrashing out of the way, the Yankees would like to demolish the Red Flops again on Wednesday.

They have their No. 1 pitching prospect, right-hander Luis Severino, scheduled to make his Major-League debut in starting this game. Severino, 21, was quickly promoted from Double-A Trenton to Triple-A Scranton and he has been dominating there in his 11 starts. He was 7-0 with a microscopic 1.91 ERA.

The Red Flops will counter with right-handed knuckleballer Steven Wright (4-4, 453 ERA). The 30-year-old right-hander is coming off a two-run, six-hit effort in seven innings on Friday in which he defeated Chris Sale and the Chicago White Sox.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by ESPN and locally by the YES Network.

 

Yankees Rally Past Twins On A-Rod’s 3 Home Runs

GAME 96

YANKEES 8, TWINS 5

There are certain baseball sluggers than fans flock to see do magical things at the plate whether they loved them or hated them. Players like Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and, yes, even Alex Rodriguez. The 40-year-old designated hitter had one of those historic nights you would have wanted to see at Target Field in Minneapolis on Saturday.

With the Yankees trailing 5-0, Rodriguez proceeded to hit three long blasts  –  his final home run tying the game in the top of the ninth  –  and John Ryan Murphy later added a tie-breaking three-run shot in the same inning off All-Star closer Glen Perkins as New York pulled victory out of the jaws of defeat on a stunned Minnesota team.

Rodriguez’s three home runs in a game marked the fifth time in his career he has done it and  –  two days shy of his 40th birthday  –  he also became the fifth oldest player in Major-League history to hit three home runs in a game behind Stan Musial (41, 229 days), Jason Giambi (40, 131 days), Jackson (40, 125 days) and Ruth (40, 108 days).

His first home run was a solo shot into the left-field bleachers off left-hander Tommy Milone with two out in the fourth inning. That was the only hit the Yankees could muster off Milone in the first six innings.

After losing to the Twins 10-1 on Friday, the Yankees were looking at a possible potential sweep of the series by the Twins on Sunday after managing just two runs in the first 15 innings of the series.

But the Yankees turned the game (and possibly the series) around after the Twins had loaded the bases with out the benefit of a hit of a hit off left-hander CC Sabathia after two were out in the sixth inning. Sabathia walked Kurt Suzuki, hit Danny Santana with a pitch and then walked Brian Dozier.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi replaced Sabathia with right-hander Adam Warren, who managed to work into a 3-2 count on Aaron Hicks. His 3-2 pitch was called a strike by home-plate umpire Jeff Nelson.

Twins rookie manager Paul Molitor argued the call so vehemently that Nelson ejected him from the game.

The Yankees then opened the seventh with a leadoff single by Chris Young and Rodriguez followed by depositing Milone’s 1-1 pitch into the center-field bleachers for a two-run homer.

Mark Teixeira then doubled and left-hander Brian Duensing was summoned to replace Milone. Carlos Beltran launched a deep line drive to center that advanced Teixeira to third and Chase Headley scored Teixeira on a sacrifice fly.

Trailing 5-4 in the ninth, Rodriguez launched Perkins’ first offering into the center-field bleachers for his third home run of the night and 23rd of the season to tie the game.

Perkins (0-2) closed out the American League’s 6-3 victory in the 2015 All-Star Game and had blown only one save this season prior to Saturday. He carried a 1.37 ERA and a American-League-leading 29 saves into the contest.

With one out and Carlos Beltran at first after an out call at first base by umpire Tom Woodring was overturned to negate a double play, Headley laced a single to center to advance Beltran to third. Murphy, who entered the game with one career homer and none in 81 at-bats this season, sent a long drive into the center-field bleachers for a three-run home run to complete the improbable eight-run comeback.

Warren (6-5) pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings of relief to earn the victory. Left-hander Andrew Miller pitched a perfect ninth inning to notch his 23rd save in 23 chances this season.

The Twins took an early 2-0 lead on Sabathia and the Yankees when the light-hitting Hicks followed a leadoff single by Dozier with only his fourth home run of the season.

Hicks created more trouble in the third with a leadoff bloop single to center. One out later, rookie slugger Miguel Sano rolled a ball against the shift to the right side for an infield single. Torii Hunter then cranked an opposite-field homer to right to give the Twins their seemingly insurmountable 5-0 margin.

The victory improved the Yankees’ season mark to 54-42 and they are 5 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East. The Twins dropped to 52-45.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • These are the games that stoke legends and Rodriguez’s magical night drew the Yankees back from the depths of despair. His numbers defy explanation after missing most of the past two seasons. He is batting .277 with 23 homers and 58 RBIs. If anyone saw this coming you are a better man than me. He and Mark Teixeira have combined to hit 47 homers and drive in 123 runs with 66 games left in the season.
  • The Yankees were more than content to go to the bottom of the ninth with a tie score but Murphy’s home run provided a three-run margin. Give Murphy, 24, credit for putting up a tough battle with a good closer. Backup catchers are paid to play good defense and give the starter a rest. If they provide anything offensively it is a bonus and Murphy is now hitting .271 with a homer and eight RBIs in his 23 starts.
  • Sabathia may have yielded five runs on six hits and three walks in 5 2/3 innings. But give him credit for this: From the moment Hunter cranked his 16th homer of the season, Sabathia, Warren and Miller held the Twins to just one hit (a two-out single by Suzuki in the eighth) the rest of the game. If the pitching did not keep the Twins off the board the Yankees likely would not have won.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The Yankees pretty much were sleepwalking through this series until the seventh inning on Saturday. They had just one hit in the first six innings and ended the night with 10. In fact, they outhit the Twins 10 to 7. Phil Hughes shut them out for seven innings on Friday and Milone held them to one run in six until he finally unraveled in the seventh. That is embarrassing.
  • Michael Pineda and Sabathia combined to yield 10 runs on 14 hits and three walks in 10 2/3 innings the past two nights. That is an 8.44 ERA. Starting pitching had been a strong suit of the Yankees 9-2 run up until Friday. The starters have to keep the Yankees in the game in order for them to unleash their strong bullpen.

BOMBER BANTER

Girardi told reporters on Saturday that the Yankees will not pitch Masahiro Tanaka on Tuesday against the Texas Rangers in order to give the 26-year-old right-hander an extra day of rest. The Yankees likely will start either Warren or left-hander Chris Capuano and give each pitcher about 50 pitches. Girardi said top pitching prospect Luis Severino and right-hander Bryan Mitchell, who are both pitching at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, are not viable options. The right-handed Severino pitched on Friday and Mitchell pitched on Saturday. Tanaka will start against the Rangers on Wednesday because the team is managing his innings in the wake of his partially torn elbow ligament that sidelined him for two months last season.  . . .  The Yankees signed right-hander Nick Goody to a Major-League contract and called him up from Scranton to add a fresh arm to the bullpen. In order to get Goody on the 25-man roster right-hander Branden Pinder was sent back to Scranton and to get him on the 40-man roster the team designated for assignment infielder Gregorio Petit. Goody, 24, has a 1.35 ERA in five appearances at Scranton after being promoted from Double-A Trenton. Pinder, 26, had a 2.92 ERA in 11 appearances with the Yankees this season. Petit, 30, hit .167 with no homers and five RBIs in 42 at-bats with the Yankees.

ON DECK

The Yankees will now look to build upon their miracle comeback victory to win the three-game series with the Twins on Sunday.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (9-2, 4.43 ERA) will start the finale. Eovaldi, 25, gave up two runs on four hits and three walks with four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings in a game the Yankees eventually won against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday. He has never faced the Twins.

Eovaldi will be opposed by right-hander Kyle Gibson (8-7, 3.19 ERA). Gibson, 27, was shelled for six runs on 10 hits and one walk with six strikeouts in five-plus innings against the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday.

Game-time will be 2:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.

 

McCann Spurs Win But Yankees Put Tanaka On DL

GAME 21

YANKEES 4, RAYS 2

The baseball diamond is usually the proving ground but sometimes events off the field greatly overshadow what occurs in between the lines. Tuesday was one of those days.

While the New York thoroughly frustrated Tampa Bay and got two doubles and three RBIs from Brian McCann to run their season record against the Rays to 5-0, the team learned that ace starter Masahiro Tanaka was placed on the 15-day disabled list.

Tanaka, 26, is experiencing tendinitis in his right wrist and tightness in his right forearm and Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the right-hander will not throw for at least seven to 10 days and will miss a month at a minimum.

For the Yankees this is a major blow to a rotation that helped push the team into first place in the American League East. Tanaka, who felt the discomfort a day after pitching a bullpen session on Sunday and reported it to the team on Tuesday, becomes the third Yankee starter on the disabled list along with left-hander Chris Capuano and right-hander Ivan Nova.

Cashman told reporters that Tanaka’s current injury is unrelated to the partial tear in his ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow he sustained last July.

“It has nothing to do with my elbow, so that’s something that’s out of the question for me,” Tanaka told reporters through an interpreter.

Tanaka is 2-1 with a 3.22 ERA in four starts.

As for the game, the Yankees used right-hander Chase Whitley (1-0) as a spot starter ostensibly to give Tanaka an extra day of rest and he kept wriggling out jams so well over his five innings that he earned a victory.

The Yankees spotted him an early 2-0 lead in the first inning as Jacoby Ellsbury used his speed to manufacture a run. He singled off starter Jake Odorizzi (2-2), stole second and advanced to third when catcher Rene Rivera’s throw to get him at second trickled into center-field.

Brett Gardner then scored him on an infield groundout.

Mark Teixeira followed Gardner with a double and McCann, who entered the game 6-for-15 (.400) with two home runs in his career against Odorizzi, touched him for an RBI double to score Teixeira.

The Rays halved the lead in the third inning after Steven Souza Jr. worked a one-out walk and scored on a RBI double by Asdrubal Cabrera.

But the Yankees added two more runs in the fifth on an infield single by Ellsbury, a single by Gardner that advanced Ellsbury to third and, after Gardner stole second, McCann scored both of them one out later on an opposite-field double.

Odorizzi was charged with four runs on nine hits and no walks with four strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.

Whitley only pitched one perfect inning  –  the first. But he was able to keep the Rays from getting any closer by escaping trouble Houdini style.

In the second, the Rays loaded the bases with one out but Whitley retired Tim Beckham on a shallow fly ball to left and Rivera hit into a force out.

In the third after Cabrera’s RBI double, Whitley uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Cabrera to take third. However, Whitley struck out both Evan Longoria and James Loney to end the threat.

In the fourth the Rays got a one-out double from Kevin Kiermaier but Whitley retired Beckham on a groundout and he struck out Rivera.

Whitley gave up just one run on six hits and one walk with six strikeouts in five innings of work.

The Rays did add a run in the sixth off left-hander Chasen Shreve on a leadoff walk to Loney and a RBI triple to Logan Forsythe. But Shreve did strike out Kiermaier before he gave way to right-hander Esmil Rogers.

Keeping with the theme of the evening, Rogers stranded Forsythe at third by striking out Beckham and getting Rivera on a groundout.

The Rays were a pathetic 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position an left 10 men on base.

Right-hander Chris Martin pitched the ninth inning because Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller had been used in the past two games and he ended up pitching a scoreless frame to earn his first career major-league save.

With the victory the Yankees improved their season record to 13-8 and the Rays fell to 11-10 and they are two games back in the division tied with the Boston Red Sox.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Whitley’s start does not appear as if it will be a singular event with Tanaka on the disabled list. Although the right-hander allowed one run and seven base-runners in five innings, he battled through 93 pitches to hand the lead over to the bullpen. Whitley made 12 starts for the Yankees last season and eventually was shifted to the bullpen. He ended the season 4-3 with a 5.23 ERA. But he had an excellent spring (0-1, 1.17 ERA in seven games  –  two of them starts) and he was 2-0 with 2.12 ERA in three starts with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
  • McCann has been like a one-man wrecking crew against the Rays and Odorizzi this season. In his past three starts against the Rays, McCann is 7-for-12 (.583) a home run, a triple, two doubles and three singles with six RBIs. In his two starts against Odorizzi this season, McCann is 5-for-6 (.833) with a triple and two doubles and five RBIs.
  • Ellsbury was 3-for-4 with two stolen bases and two runs scored in the game. Since April 18, Ellsbury is 14-for-39 (.359) with a homer, three RBIs and nine runs scored. He also has stolen five bases. The 10-game hot streak has raised his average from .256 to .308.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

On a night when a call-up from the minors pitches five solid innings and the bullpen protects the lead with its four top pitchers (Betances, Miller, David Carpenter and Justin Wilson) unavailable to pitch, you can’t really complain about much. The Yankees are 10-2 since they began the season 3-6. Enough said.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees optioned backup infielder Gregorio Petit to Scranton on Tuesday in order to make room on the roster for Whitley. Petit, 29, was 5-for-24 (.208) with no home runs and five RBIs in 13 games. That temporarily leaves the Yankees with 13 pitchers but they will have to make a roster move to replace. Infielder Jose Pirela, who suffered a concussion late in spring training was just sent out to Double-A Trenton on a rehab assignment and veteran Brendan Ryan has not resumed baseball activities after suffering a calf strain late in the spring. That means the Yankees would have to move somebody off the 40-man roster if they want call up another middle infielder.

ON DECK

The Yankees will try to sweep the Rays for the second time this season on Wednesday.

Right-hander Michael Pineda (3-0, 3.86 ERA), who was originally scheduled to open the Red Sox series on Friday, will now replace Tanaka for this start. Pineda, 26, yielded just one run on five hits with no walks and seven strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings on Friday against the New York Mets. He defeated the Rays on April 19.

Left-hander Drew Smyly (0-0, 3.86) will make his second start for the Rays after coming off the disabled list. Smyly, 25, gave up two runs on four hits with no walks in 4 2/3 innings in a no decision against the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday.

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

 

Drew’s Pinch-Hit Grand Slam Clips Orioles’ Wings

GAME 7

YANKEES 6, ORIOLES 5

Yankees manager Joe Girardi was forced to replace Brett Gardner in the lineup with the bases loaded and two out in the seventh inning on Monday so he called upon Stephen Drew. The 31-year-old infielder made Girardi look like a genius when he won the game with a pinch-hit grand slam.

Drew’s home run came on a 3-1 count off right-hander Tommy Hunter and it turned a 4-2 deficit into a 6-4 Yankee lead as New York held on to edge Baltimore at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

The Orioles had just taken a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth when Adam Jones victimized right-hander Michael Pineda with a two-out, two-run home run.

But the Yankees managed to load the bases against Hunter (0-2) on a single by Chris Young, a walk to John Ryan Murphy and an infield single by Jacoby Ellsbury.

Gardner was due up but his right wrist was swollen after being hit by a pitch in the first inning by Orioles left-hander Wei-Yin Chen. So Girardi sent Drew up to pinch-hit and the result was the 11th pinch-hit grand slam in team history.

Pineda (1-0) yielded five runs on nine hits with no walks and nine strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings to earn the victory despite not looking as sharp as he did in his first start. Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller held the Orioles scoreless the rest of the way with Miller earning his second save of the season.

The Yankees took an early 1-0 lead on the O’s with two out in the second inning when Young cracked his second home run of the season off Chen.

The Orioles quickly answered with two runs in the bottom of the frame on consecutive one-out RBI doubles by Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop.

But the Yankees were able to tie the game up with two out in the fourth when Mark Teixeira took Chen deep for his third home run of the season.

With the game 6-4 in the seventh, the Orioles loaded the bases with a pair of hits off Pineda and another off Betances. Alejandro De Aza then hit a potential double-play ball to Drew but Didi Gregorius’ throw to first was wide of the bag and it allowed Machado to score to draw the Orioles to within a run.

However, Betances was able to end the threat with a bases-loaded strikeout of Chris Davis, who struck out in all of his four at-bats.

With the victory the Yankees improved to 3-4. The Orioles are also 3-4.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Drew entered the game 3-for-20 (.150) but he had homered and driven in two runs in Sunday’s 14-4 thrashing of the Boston Red Sox. Drew is coming off his worst season as a professional and the Yankees are hoping he can bounce back this season. His grand slam goes a long way towards proving he could be on the road back.
  • Teixeira might be on the same road back also after hitting three home runs in his first six games of the season. In 2011, Teixeira hit 39 home runs and drove in 111 runs. But since then the 35-year-old first baseman has been plagued by injuries. After going on a gluten-free, non-dairy diet this offseason, Teixeira looks fit and his early results look real good.
  • Miller entered the game with one out in the eighth and ended up striking out three batters to earn a five-out save. Miller helped carry the Orioles into the playoffs last season but on Monday he used his patented slider to make them look bad. Given Betances’ shaky outings, Miller looks like he has a solid grip on closing duties for now.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Carlos Beltran was 0-for-4, including hitting into a double play and a strikeout. He is batting .143 early this season. The 38-year-old outfielder is coming off a injury-marred 2014 campaign and the Yankees need him to return to the form that saw him hit .296 with 24 home runs and 84 RBIs for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2013.
  • Gregorius was also 0-for-4 and is batting .130 on the season. The Yankees are hoping that the 25-year-old shortstop can develop as offensive threat this season. His defensive skills are excellent but he has looked a bit shaky in the field early. But his biggest problem has been base-running gaffes. The Yankees can afford to be patient with him though.
  • Betances walked two batters and gave up two hits in his one inning of work. He was lucky he was able to get Davis to strike out with bases loaded in the seventh but he needed help in the eighth when Jones singled to open the inning. Murphy threw out Jones attempting to steal, one of two base-runners he cut down attempting to steal. Betances promptly walked Travis Snider and Girardi was forced to pull him early in favor of Miller.

BOMBER BANTER

Gardner is listed as day-to-day but he likely will miss at least one game with a bruised right wrist. X-rays on Gardner’s wrist were negative. Gardner, 31, was hit almost in the same spot in Wednesday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays.  . . .  In yet another bullpen move in the wake of Friday’s marathon 19-inning 6-5 loss to the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees on Monday recalled right-hander Joel De La Cruz from Double-A Trenton and designated for assignment right-hander Kyle Davies. Cruz, 25, was 7-9 with a 4.44 ERA in 28 games (22 starts) with Trenton and Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre last season. Davies, 31, pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings on Sunday against the Red Sox. It was his first appearance in a major-league game since 2011.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their three-game series with the Orioles on Tuesday.

Veteran left-hander CC Sabathia gets the start for the Yankees. Sabathia gave up five runs (four earned) on eight hits but did strike out eight batters in a loss to the Blue Jays on Thursday.

The Orioles will counter with right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, who surrendered a run on three hits and five walks in 5 2/3 innings in a loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

Yankees Poised To Finish Third In A.L. East

With spring training in their rear-view mirror and the 2015 season about to start, the question is where will the New York Yankees finish in the American League East. The Yankees have failed to make the playoffs the past two seasons and many experts believe it will be three. But with the additions the Yankees made could they possibly have a surprise in store. Here is how I project it.

NEW YORK YANKEES

First of all, let’s admit that this is not your father’s A.L. East. There is NO dominant team in the division and there is not much separation between any of the five teams in terms of talent.

That said, the Yankees come into 2015 building around the foundation they began with their half-billion dollar investment last winter with the signings of outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, catcher Brian McCann and right-handed pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.

Those free agents were added to the holdovers in shortstop Derek Jeter, first baseman Mark Teixeira, outfielder Brett Gardner and left-hander CC Sabathia.

General manager Brian Cashman actually started the rebuilding process for 2015 last summer by retaining a number of players they acquired around the trade deadline or later such as third baseman Chase Headley, second baseman Stephen Drew, outfielder Chris Young and left-hander Chris Capuano.

With the retirement of Jeter, the loss of free-agent closer David Robertson and right-hander’s Hiroki Kuroda’s decision to end his career pitching in his native Japan, Cashman was forced to shuffle the deck by using young pitchers like right-handers David Phelps and Shane Greene and left-hander Manny Banuelos to bring in right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, backup first baseman and outfielder Garrett Jones, starting shortstop Didi Gregorius and relievers David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve.

Cashman also used cash to lure free-agent left-hander Andrew Miller to bolster the bullpen around rookie sensation Dellin Betances.

The result is a team that features a starting lineup of eight players ranging in age from 31 to Alex Rodriguez at 39. The former starting third baseman is returning from a year-long performance-enhancing drug suspension to become the team’s designated hitter.

Only Gregarious at age 25 is considered young.

However, the rotation features a 26-year-old in Tanaka, a 26-year-old in Michael Pineda and a 25-year-old in Eovaldi. A spring injury to 36-year-old Capuano has thrust 27-year-old Adam Warren into the No. 5 slot. So the only pitcher over 27 in the Yankees rotation is Sabathia, who is 34. When is the last time you could say that about the Yankees’ rotation?

The bullpen will center around Betances, 26, and Miller, 28, who are  –  at least for now  –  going share the closing duties. If both pitch as they have up to now, it will be a very good shutdown pair because neither have been hit hard by righties or lefties.

The concern will be with the setup spots. Warren is in the rotation so the Yankees will be counting on the right-handed Carpenter, 29, and left-handed Justin Wilson, 27, who was acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates with Cashman using the team’s catching surplus to deal away Francisco Cervelli.

If Carpenter and Wilson are successful, the bullpen will have a chance to be very good. If they fail, it could be a long season. Warren’s shift back to the bullpen with the return of both Capuano and right-hander Ivan Nova from Tommy John surgery in June can only be a big plus for the group.

Esmil Rogers, 29, will handle long relief. Shreve, 24, gives Girardi a third left-hander and 6-foot-8 right-hander Chris Martin has 95-mile-per-hour stuff that moves on an extreme downward plane. This trio looks solid and give Girardi credit for being a master of managing bullpens.

All spring long the Yankees struggled to score runs. It was not too much different from the way the offense struggled last season.

A pair of speed demons  –  Ellsbury and Gardner  –  are stacked on top of the lineup. The idea is to get them on base as much as possible and let them use their speed to get into scoring position for the middle of the lineup.

Both combined to steal 60 bases in what both players admittedly could call an off year. So they hope they can top 80 this season.

The whole strategy rests upon the middle of the order bouncing back from injuries and off years in 2015.

The third batter, Beltran, incurred painful bone chips in his right elbow and ended up posting the worst numbers of his career.

The cleanup hitter, Teixiera, was still limited by a sore right wrist and other injuries and posted only 22 home runs.

Although the fifth hitter, McCann, did crack 23 home runs and drive 78 runs, he only batted .232. So the Yankees would like him to hit closer to his career .272 average this season.

That is plenty of firepower but it seems like a fragile situation counting on Beltran, who will be 38 on April 24 and Teixeira, who will be 35 on April 11.

Behind McCann may be the one diamond-in-the-rough player who is primed for  huge season in Headley, 30, who hit 31 homers and drove in 115 runs for the San Diego Padres in 2012. Back issues have hampered him for the past two seasons but he seems healthy now.

He batted .305 with three homers and eight RBIs this spring and the former Gold Glove winner has been flashing some serious leather at third base.

It is unclear how much A-Rod will contribute from the DH spot. Rodriguez has not played more than 138 games since his Most Valuable Player season in 2007. Hip surgeries, nagging other ailments and the drug suspension have teamed with Father Time to make him an unknown quantity.

This spring, Rodriguez batted .267 with three homers and four RBIs and he did not look overmatched at the plate. But it is hard to know what A-Rod will provide until the bells rings on the regular season.

Nowhere did the Yankees look more vulnerable last season than at second base. After Robinson Cano took his power, his .300 average and his Gold Glove defensive skills to Seattle, the Yankees tried veteran Brian Roberts at the position.

But his batting and fielding skills eroded over four seasons of injuries and the Yankees cut him loose in July in favor of Drew, who had never played second base in the pro baseball. Drew also was dealing with a season-long hitting slump that saw him bat only .162 between the Boston Red Sox and the Yankees.

Drew started this spring very slowly but emerged to bat over .470 in the final three weeks with three home runs. Drew has been working with the Yankees’ new hitting coach Jeff Petland and it seems to have been paying some dividends. The Yankees would settle for Drew batting .250 or so with 15 homers and 65 RBIs this season. Those had been norms for Drew in his previous seasons.

Though it was sad to see the 20-year era of Jeter’s career at shortstop come to an end, the Yankees are very hopeful they have an emerging star in the making in Gregorius.

What fans immediately saw this spring is that Gregorius has outstanding range, great hands and an powerful and accurate arm. The Yankees believe his defense will be upgrade since Jeter’s range had been so limited the past several years.

Jeter batted .256 in his final season and the Yankees hope that Gregorius can possibly top that average this season largely batting ninth. When Gregorius was in Arizona, manager Kirk Gibson benched him against left-handers because he has batted only .150 in his career against them.

But the Yankees allowed him to hit against left-handers this spring and Gregorius did not seem to look bad against them. So, for now, Girardi is content with playing his young shortstop every day.

The bench is solid and features power-hitting right-hander Young and power-hitting left-hander Jones. Young, 31, had an exceptional spring and he brings athleticism to all three outfield spots he plays and a potential deadly bat against left-handed pitching.

Jones, 33, hit 15 homers for the Miami Marlins last season and he seems to have the perfect swing for Yankee Stadium. Jones will primarily back up Teixeira at first and he can also play the corner outfield spots, if needed.

Backup infielder Brendan Ryan, 33, had a spring he would rather forget. First, he was delayed at the start with a back injury he sustained lifting weights. After he returned, Ryan ended up pulling a right calf muscle last week and he will start the season on the disabled list.

Ryan brings a slick glove to second, shortstop and third base  –  although short is where he really shines in the field. But he can’t hit a lick. He has no power and he is a career .234 hitter.

The Yankees obtained infielder Gregorio Petit from the Houston Astros in exchange for cash in the last week of the spring. So Petit, 30, will assume Ryan’s role despite having played on only 62 major-league games with the Oakland Athletics and the Astros. He has batted .278 in just 151 at-bats. He will be a stopgap until Ryan is healthy again.

John Ryan Murphy, 23, managed to hold off a challenge from veteran Austin Romine this spring to remain the backup to McCann. Murphy batted .284 with a homer and nine RBIs in 32 games last season and the Yankees rave about his defense behind the plate.

But the biggest secret the Yankees are carrying with them now lies in the young players they were able to showcase this spring. For the first time in a very long time the Yankees have a number of very good prospects and some positional depth at the minor-league level that could be factors this season.

But the promise is even brighter longer term.

Right-handed starters Luis Severino and Domingo German (obtained in the trade for Phelps and Martin Prado) and left-handed starter Ian Clarkin along with left-handed reliever Jacob Lindgren and right-handed relievers Nick Rumbelow and Jose Ramirez are in the pipeline and moving quickly to the majors.

Second basemen Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela tore the cover off the ball this spring and their presence at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is just a taste of what is the horizon with outfielders Slade Heathcott and Ramon Flores also knocking on the door.

Right-hander Chase Whitley, 25, had a 1.17 ERA this spring and he still not crack the bullpen. You have to figure he is going to get a call-up to the 25-man roster at some point. Keep an eye also on Bryan Mitchell, who will be 24 this month. Mitchell drew rave reviews when he fanned Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez back-to-back in a five-inning effort in a split-squad game in Lakeland, FL, on April 2.

At Double-A Trenton will be prospects such as outfielder Aaron Judge and first baseman Greg Bird, both of whom looked undaunted by major-league pitching this spring.

Catching prospect Gary Sanchez, 23, is also not too far away from contributing in the major leagues.

Though Yankee fans and the Yankee front office never has shown much patience with its young prospects in the past, this group might just force the front office to use them and perhaps the revolving door of signing aging free agents will finally end.

Should the Yankees falter as what so many experts are predicting this season. The young players who are on the way could be a foundation to build around, It is there to see. It is just up to Cashman and the Yankee front office not to screw it up.

Here now is my brief assessment of the other four teams in the division and my prediction for the order of finish in 2015.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

This is a team that ran away with this division last season. But it is hard to see them as a “great” team.

Their ace is a very pedestrian Chris Tillman. Their offense lost outfielders Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis. They also are likely to be without Matt Wieters to start the season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Ditto for shortstop J.J. Hardy, who has left shoulder injury.

With all that they still have Adam Jones, Manny Machado and they are really hoping that Chris Davis recovers his home-run stroke.

Though Tillman is not a true ace they do have Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzales and Bud Norris to form a solid foursome. The bullpen with closer Zach Britton and setup guys Darren O’Day and Tommy Hunter is top notch.

They also have one of the best managers in baseball in Buck Showalter. So in Baltimore there is hope the O’s can repeat.

A lot depends on how new outfielders Alejandro De Aza and Travis Snider do to make up for the losses of Cruz and Markakis.

BOSTON RED SOX

This team flopped in 2014 and yet many are picking them to win the title in 2015.

Most of that is based on their offense. To Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Mike Napoli, the Red Sox have added Hanley Ramirez, Mookie Betts and Pablo Sandoval.

They are also hoping for better seasons and health from Xander Bogaerts and Shane Victorino.

However, it is hard to look at the rotation and see anything but potential disaster.

Clay Buchholz was 8-11 with a 6.34 ERA and is considered the ace. Rick Porcello did have a 15-13 record and a 3.43 ERA with the Tigers. But Justin Masterson was 7-9 with a 5.88 with the Cleveland Indians and the St. Louis Cardinals.

Lefty Wade Miley was 8-12 with a 4.34 ERA for the Arizona Diamondbacks. A better offense will help him but he is not anything close to Jon Lester, who the Red Sox traded last season and were unable to re-sign as a free agent.

No. 5 starter Joe Kelly (6-4, 4.20 ERA with the Cardinals) starts the season on the disabled list with right bicep injury. In addition, closer Koji Uehara, who just turned 40, is also on the disabled list with a hamstring injury so Edward Mujica and his 49 career saves are it for now.

There is no doubt that the Red Sox will be capable of scoring runs. The question is will it be enough runs to cover a pitching staff and an underbelly of a bullpen that could really exploited?

Add that up to the fact that catcher Christian Vazquez is out for the season to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and you have enough doubts about the Red Sox to make it unlikely they are a good choice to win this division.

The Toronto Blue Jays tried this approach last season and it did not work.

TAMPA BAY RAYS

This team seemingly lost everything so quickly that their home radio station, WDAE, is not very enthusiastic about them.

Manager Joe Maddon and his screwy ideas that seem to work on shifting is gone. General manager Andrew Friedman, who introduced sabermetrics and advanced scouting techniques to the organization that built this team, is also gone.

The team’s best pitcher in David Price was traded last season and now is pitching for the Detroit Tigers. Their second-best pitcher, Matt Moore, is not expected back until June because he is recovering from Tommy John surgery.

This spring they incurred injuries to their best remaining pitcher Alex Cobb. Their closer, Jake McGee, will miss the first month.

They also traded away offensive contributors such as Wil Myers, Ben Zobrist, Yunel Escobar and Matt Joyce.

The team’s offense can be wrapped up in third baseman Evan Longoria and a lot of hope and praying.

They are counting on production out of rookie outfielder Steven Souza Jr., who batted .130 this spring and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who the Indians discarded saying he could not play shortstop and he was not the hitter he was in 2011 (25 home runs and 92 RBIs).

They are still hoping that Desmond Jennings just shows one little spark of the long-departed Carl Crawford. But it is not looking like it will happen.

This could amount to one of the weakest hitting teams in baseball in 2015 and it could be worse without Maddon running the show.

Granted, Cobb, Moore, Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi could form a solid rotation when they are all healthy. The question is can the Rays tread water long enough to see that happen?

Though McGee, Grant Balfour and Brad Boxberger form a solid trio at the back of the bullpen, the Rays are counting on a pair of former failed relievers in Kevin Jepsen and Ernesto Frieri to help out in the middle innings.

They also do not have a decent lefty beyond McGee. Ouch!

After many years of dealing with their obnoxious cowbell-ringing fans  –  all of about 7,000 of them a game  –  it appears that the bloom is off the rose and the cowbells will eventually fall silent this season unless there is some sort of miracle new manager Kevin Cash can create.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

This was the sexy choice to win the division in 2014. Funny thing is, I would have selected them to win this season if young right-hander Marcus Stroman did suffer knee injury that will force him to miss the entire season.

Stroman would have formed a nice 1-2 punch with right-hander Drew Hutchison, who at 24 has progressed so much as a pitcher he is starting on Opening Day ahead of Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey and veteran Mark Buehrle.

To that they have added a pair of young pitchers in left-hander Daniel Norris and right-hander Aaron Sanchez, who looked to be the team’s closer in waiting until the team opted to use him as a starter instead.

The bullpen is untested but it has closer Brett Cecil. There is a lot untested pitchers in the mix behind him but 20-year-old Miguel Castro may end being something special as he gets his feet wet in the majors.

Like the Red Sox, the Blue Jays never have to worry about scoring runs. Add to the thundering power of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion the bat of third baseman Josh Donaldson, who hit 29 home runs and drove in 98 runs for the Athletics in their cavernous ballpark.

You would think Donaldson will love the Rogers Centre.

Though the Jays will miss line-drive machine Melky Cabrera, they still have Jose Reyes and they have also added catcher Russell Martin, who can hit 20 homers and run a pitching staff like a pitching coach.

So there is a lot to like.

The question is after losing Adam Lind and Colby Rasmus the Blue Jays are trotting a pair of young outfielders in Dalton Pompey (center) and Kevin Pillar (left). Much of what the Blue Jays do will revolve around what they do.

They also have a new second baseman in Devon Travis.

It is hard to pick a team to win with so many new players in the lineup like Pillar, Pompey and Travis. This team is carrying six rookies!

But the real test of how the Blue Jays do in 2015 will hinge on its pitching staff. Stroman was a much bigger loss than I think the Blue Jays can overcome.

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH

1) BALTIMORE ORIOLES (92-70)

2) TORONTO BLUE JAYS (86-76)

3) NEW YORK YANKEES (84-78)

4) BOSTON RED SOX (80-82)

5) TAMPA BAY RAYS (76-86)  Hello Montreal!

The Orioles will fall back to the pack but not enough to make much difference. The Blue Jays actually could have won it with Stroman, but now they will fall short and they will not win the wildcard either. I was tempted to pick the Yankees for second because Tanaka, Pineda and Eovaldi are all primed for excellent seasons. But the offense this spring was woefully lacking and it looks as if they will lose a lot of 4-3 and 3-2 games unless make a deal for a young slugger like Giancarlo Stanton. The Yankees just do not have that stud in the middle of the order and it will hurt. The Red Sox will be the Red Flops mainly because their pitching is not as good as people believe it is. Their bullpen also is much weaker without Miller. About all that the “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval is good for is twining with Ortiz to advertise for a doughnut shop. Ramirez is talented but he also is moody and can give up when things are not going well. Ask the Marlins and Dodgers. As for the Rays, their collapse could not have come at a worse time for them when attendance and TV viewership is dropping. The owner wants to have a new stadium built despite the fact that they are tied to dumpy and ugly Tropicana Field for many more years. That is why it is inevitable that the team will be sold and shifted to another city like Montreal soon. Tre bien!

Orioles Stick A Fork In Baker To Skewer Yankees

GAME 27

ORIOLES 10, YANKEES 2

Alejandro De Aza hit a three-run home run to cap a five-run second inning off Scott Baker and Baltimore cruised to victory over New York on Saturday at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL.

Meanwhile, right-hander Orioles starter Tyler Wilson (1-0), making his first start of the spring, held the Yankees to a single hit over four scoreless innings to get credit for the victory.

Baker (0-1), who was starting in place of CC Sabathia so the Orioles could not get an early look at him, yielded five runs on five hits and no walks and struck out three in two innings.

The Yankees’ lone runs came on solo home runs from Stephen Drew in the fifth inning and Alex Rodriguez in the seventh, his third homer of the spring.

With the loss the Yankees are 14-12 in Grapefruit League play.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

Nothing. The Yankees managed just three hits all day and the pitching was pretty atrocious. After watching this one I almost expected they would post a message on the scoreboard saying “No actual Yankees were harmed during this massacre.”

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • When the Yankees made the switch of starters from Sabathia to Baker, I was pleased because Sabathia has been getting hit pretty hard. Baker, on the other hand, had been very sharp in his previous two outings. But Baker had no command and it looked as if the O’s were taking batting practice off him. This outing pretty much takes Baker out of any consideration for a spot on the roster and it could jeopardize his chances of even pitching for the Yankees at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
  • It is fairly obvious that Dellin Betances is not the Dellin Betances we remember from 2014. The Orioles nicked him for a run on one hit and one walk in his one inning of work. He has been unable to deliver a 1-2-3 inning this spring and his ERA has now ballooned to 7.11. It is not time to panic yet but if it continues the Yankees are in big trouble at the end of their bullpen.
  • Brett Gardner, Chase Headley, Mark Teixeira and Chris Young combined to go 0-for-12 in the game and they were a major reason why the Yankees looked as if they were sleepwalking through this game. Lack of offense has been a big issue all spring and it does not seem to be getting any better.

BOMBER BANTER

If the game itself was not bad news enough, the Yankees might have lost starting shortstop Didi Gregorious for some time after he sprained his left wrist in the second inning. Gregorius, 25, injured himself diving unsuccessfully for a ball off the bat of Everth Cabrera. He stayed in the game but was replaced by Nick Noonan in the fifth inning after Gregorius told manager Joe Girardi that he felt pain in the wrist on a check swings. X-rays were negative and he will get the next three days off .  . . .  Though Baker had a bad day, Sabathia was not spared either. The 34-year-old left-hander was shelled for four runs on five hits including a pair of home runs in a 69-pitch outing against minor leaguers on Saturday at the team’s complex in Tampa.  . . .  Rob Refsnyder and Luis Severino were honored on Saturday as the winners of the 2014 Kevin Lawn Award and the team’s Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year, respectively. Refsnyder, 24, split last season between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton and batted .318 with 14 homers and 63 RBIs. Severino, 21, was a combined 6-5 with a 2.46 ERA in 24 starts at Class-A Charleston, Class-Tampa and Trenton. Severino led all Yankees minor-league pitchers with 127 strikeouts and was selected to participate in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game.

ON DECK

The Yankees will travel to Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, FL, on Sunday to play the Houston Astros.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi will make his third start and his fourth appearance of the spring. Eovaldi, 25, is 0-1 with a 1.00 ERA.

The Astros will counter with veteran right-hander Scott Feldman, who is 0-1 with 10.13 ERA in three starts this spring. With that 10.13 ERA, Feldman must be looking forward to facing the Yankees because they might make him look like Felix Hernandez.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast on MLB Radio via KBME in Houston.

 

Jennings’ Homer Allows Rays To Shade Yankees

GAME 25

RAYS 6, YANKEES 5

Desmond Jennings led off the sixth inning with a home run and the Rays later added a run that frame on a wild pitch uncorked by right-hander Chris Martin as Tampa rolled to victory over New York on Thursday at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, FL.

Right-hander Brad Boxberger (1-1) yielded a run in seventh inning on an RBI double off the bat of Didi Gregorius but still got credit for the victory. Khan Martinez also yielded a run in his two-thirds of an inning in the ninth but was credited with the save.

Martin (0-1) took the loss.

The Yankees’ Grapefruit League record dropped to 13-11.

FIELD FOCUS

Going into Thursday’s contest Yankees starter Adam Warren had the No. 5 starting job pretty much locked up.

It is always a good think to have the team’s general manager say as much.

“I think there’s a predictable favorite. I guess that’s as far as I can go on that one,” Brian Cashman told reporters on Wednesday. “Right now, if we had to make a decision today, I think we all know what that decision would be. There’s a Secretariat right now in this race for me that’s got a number of lengths ahead of the field.”

Cashman, without saying it, was actually saying that Warren was the clear favorite. After Thursday’s start that has not changed.

Warren surrendered a run on four hits and a walk with five strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings against the Rays. The lone blemish was a solo home run off the bat of Evan Longoria.

The 27-year-old right-hander entered the spring having started only three major-league games and none of them were last season as he was 3-6 with a 2.97 ERA in 69 relief appearances.

But the former University of North Carolina star pitched as a starter in all 90 of his minor-league games and was 28-25 with a 3.71 ERA. The Yankees merely shifted one of the better minor-league starters to the bullpen out of necessity in 2013 and Warren helped solidify the bullpen last season.

Circumstances changed on March 11 when No. 5 starter Chris Capuano, 36, strained his right quad covering first base on the second batter he faced in an exhibition game against the Boston Red Sox at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

The Yankees had been auditioning Warren and several others as candidates to be a potential sixth starter because the Yankees play 30 games in 31 days in late April and early May. With Capuano out at least a month and likely more, the audition purpose was altered to become the fifth starter.

Warren clearly has been the best among Esmil Rogers, Chase Whitley, Scott Baker and Bryan Mitchell. He is now 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA in five starts and he has recorded 11 strikeouts while issuing just one walk in 16 2/3 innings.

The Yankees are expected to make a final decision this weekend after manager Joe Girardi discusses it with pitching coach Larry Rothschild and the rest of his staff. But if Warren does not get the nod it would be real shocker.

Now Warren just has endure constant ribbing is he has been getting from his teammates who now insist on calling him Secretariat. For Warren it is minor cross to bear.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Ramon Flores was a hero earlier this week with his walk-off three-run homer in the ninth that defeated the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday. On Thursday, Flores was building on that success. He started in right-field and was 2-for-4 with a single and a double, scored a run and drove in two runs. Flores is only 7-for-33 (.212) but he has made his hits count because he has two home runs and seven RBIs, which leads the team this spring.
  • Gregorius also was 2-for-4 with a single, a double and an RBI. Since March 18, Gregorius has been a real tear, going 9-for-20 (.450) with three doubles, two triples and three RBIs. That has raised his spring average to .308 and that does not even take into account his magnificent defense throughout March. The 25-year-old shortstop is following in the footsteps of a legend but he is handling the pressure very well.
  • Jake Cave, 22, got into the game late and added another RBI single to his spring resume. The young outfielder is leading the Yankee regulars with 10 or more at-bats with a .462 average (6-for-13) with a homer and six RBIs. Cave is ticketed for Double-A Trenton along with fellow prospect Aaron Judge. But you may be hearing more about him very, very soon. He can flat-out hit.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The biggest issue besides the lack of offense out most of the regulars this spring has been some disappointing pitching out of the bullpen. On Thursday, Jose Ramirez was one of the culprits. He was touched for two runs on three hits and a walk in just 1 1/3 innings of work. The 25-year-old former starter now has a 5.40 ERA on the spring. Though the Dominican right-hander has a gifted arm he has dropped from top prospect status because of recurring injuries and inconsistency.
  • Martin, 28, was also tagged pretty good by the Rays, giving up two runs on two hits despite ending up striking out the side in his inning of work. The former Colorado Rockies right-hander has wonderful backstory, having been out of baseball after suffering a severe shoulder injury in college and discovering he could pitch again some years later in a hardware store parking lot. However, he has a 6.14 ERA and he is going to have to improve if he wants a minor-league assignment with the team.
  • Garrett Jones was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts on Thursday and now is in a huge hitting funk. He is 1-for-13 with five strikeouts in his past four games. He is now 7-for-40 (.175) on the spring and likely has lost a chance to claim the primary designated hitter role from Alex Rodriguez, who is batting .290 this spring.

BOMBER BANTER

Jacoby Ellsbury participated in hitting off a tee and took some swings from soft tosses on Thursday at the Yankees spring complex in Tampa, FL. Ellsbury, who has been sidelined since March 15 with a mild right oblique strain, says he believes he will be ready to play on Opening Day. Girardi said that if Ellsbury can play in an exhibition game by March 31 he will start the season in center-field.  . . .  The Yankees on Thursday decided to unconditionally release right-hander Jared Burton. The 33-year-old right-hander had not pitched since March 17 with a strained lat. He allowed no runs on two hits with no walks and two strikeouts in four innings over four appearances.

ON DECK

The Yankees will take the short trip to Bright House Field in Clearwater, FL, for their fifth and final contest this spring against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Right-hander Michael Pineda will start for the Yankees. Pineda is 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in three spring starts. He is slotted to be the Yankees’ No. 2 starter to start the season.

The Phillies will counter with top pitching prospect Aaron Nola. The right-hander was the team’s No. 1 selection in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft and he could possibly end up on the Phillies’ 25-man roster this season.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m EDT and the game will be broadcast on a delayed basis on Saturday at 6 a.m. by the MLB Network.

NOTE: A word of warning if you do plan to attend this game. There is a 50 percent chance of rain in Clearwater during the early-afternoon hours on Friday. 

 

Flores’ Walk-Off Blast Propels Yanks Over Tigers

GAME 23

YANKEES 9, TIGERS 8

In a pattern that is all to familiar the “Baby Bombers” once again snatched victory from the jaws of defeat on Tuesday.

Ramon Flores laced a three-run homer just barely over the right-field wall in the bottom of the ninth inning to bring New York all the way back from an 8-2 deficit to a walk-off victory over Detroit at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa.

Flores, with the Tigers one pitch away from victory, connected on an inside fastball off right-hander Rafael Dolis (0-2) for his second home run of the spring to cap a four-run rally in the final frame.

Trailing 8-5, Aaron Judge started the rally by drawing a walk and stealing second base. John Ryan Murphy followed with a one-out RBI single.

Ali Castillo drew a two-out walk and Flores sent what was left of the crowd of 10,921 happy with his game-winning shot.

Diego Moreno (1-0) pitched a scoreless ninth to get credit for the victory.

The Yankees improved their Grapefruit League record to 13-9.

FIELD FOCUS

When discussing the Yankees talented young players it is as if Flores is an afterthought.

That is probably because the 5-foot-10, 190-pound outfielder is not blessed with tremendous power (36 career home runs in the minors) or blazing speed (59 stolen bases). His career minor-league average is a rather ordinary .271.

But somehow when you put it all together Flores remains a viable young prospect at 22. (He will turn 23 on Thursday.)

His dramatic home run against the Tigers on Tuesday is not real surprising in that Flores has two home runs and five RBIs this spring despite the fact he is hitting just .172 (5-for-29).

Flores was considered one of the hottest prospects in the Yankees’ organization after his 2012 season as he hit a combined .303 with seven home runs and 41 RBIs in 132 between Class-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton.

But he has been kind of running in place since then. He batted just .260 at Trenton in 2013 and had an injury-plagued season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2014.

Though he will not make the 25-man roster this spring, Flores remains a pretty important player for the Yankees heading in the 2015 season. The reason is that should any of the Yankees’ outfielders sustain an injury, Flores likely would one of the first players the Yankees would look to call up.

That suits Flores just fine. He would love to get a chance to prove what he can do in the majors. He really opened some eyes on Tuesday.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Give the young Yankees credit for bringing the Yankees back from a 8-2 deficit as the game entered the bottom of the seventh. The Yankees managed to bat around against left-hander Kyle Ryan and the Tigers. Chris Young doubled, Didi Gregorius slashed an RBI double and Slade Heathcott was hit by a pitch. Jonathan Galvez drew a walk to load the bases. Francisco Arcia drove in a run with a RBI groundout and after, another walk loaded the bases, Kyle Higashioka drew a bases-loaded walk off right-hander Buck Farmer, who had replaced Ryan. This three-run rally set up the game-winning rally in the ninth.
  • Gregorius’ RBI double in the seventh came off a left-hander. The knock on Gregorius is that he was incapable of hitting lefties. But manager Joe Girardi is giving Gregorius the chance to prove he can hit them. Thus far, the 25-year-old shortstop is 4-for-13 (.308) against left-handers this spring and he is (5-for-20) .250 against right-handers. It is now appearing that Girardi will not use a platoon of Gregorius and Brendan Ryan at shortstop.
  • Brett Gardner took a more aggressive approach on the bases on Tuesday and he ended up with his first two stolen bases of the spring. However, Gardner was also cut down in the first inning trying to take third on a fly ball off the bat of Chase Headley. Center-fielder Anthony Gose stunned Gardner on a perfect throw to Nick Castellanos at third for a double play.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Esmil Rogers was making his last start as a contender for the No. 5 starter position and things did not go well for the 29-year-old right-hander. He was tagged for six runs (one earned) on five hits and two walks with two strikeouts in three innings. The reason only one run was earned was due to his own error in the second inning on high chopper off the bat of Jose Iglesias. That opened the floodgates to a two-run single by Ian Kinsler and a two-run double by J.D. Martinez.
  • Stephen Drew actually did get a single in the fourth inning off starter Anibal Sanchez, which is wonderful because Drew entered the contest batting .161. But Drew either is crazy or he was not paying attention when Gose cut down Gardner. Trying to stretch the single into a double, Drew ended up a dead duck at second on a perfect throw from Gose. It was not a very bright play, Drew.

ON DECK

The Yankees will play host on Wednesday to the New York Mets.

Masahiro Tanaka will start his third contest of the spring. He is 1-0 with 0.00 ERA. His positioning also has him lined up to open the season for the Yankees on April 6 at Yankee Stadium against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Mets will counter by starting right-hander Rafael Montero, who is 0-0 with a 5.40 ERA in two appearances this spring. This will be his first start.

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