Tagged: Doug Bernier

Jeter Bests Shortcomings To Have Banner Season

The New York Yankees have reached the end of the regular season as champions of the American League East and they have the best record in the league. It was not easy but they are now ready for the playoffs. It is time to look at the players that got them there and give them grades for the season.

SHORTSTOP – DEREK JETER (15 HRs, 58 RBIs, .316 BA, 99 Runs, 9 SB)

There are just some people who are fortunate enough to have everything go their way in life.  They have a dream job, they make a good amount of money and they date all the beautiful women.

That is Derek Jeter and his 2012 season was something he can brag about.

In 2010, he suffered through a subpar campaign in which he hit .270 and he looked like he was nearing the end at age 36. In the first half of 2011, it got much worse.

Jeter was struggling with a no-stride batting approach that batting coach Kevin Long suggested. He abandoned it and his average tumbled even more. Then he suffered a calf injury that landed him on the disabled list.

He went to Tampa,FL, to rehab the injury and then took the time to work with his old batting coach Gary Dembo to rediscover his old swing. All Jeter did after rejoining the Yankees was hit .336 the rest of the way and it re-established his credentials as one of the best singles hitters of his generation.

But as the 2012 season began there were still those that doubted Jeter could maintain the stroke that got him 3,000 hits and had him at a lifetime batting average of .313.

In the first half, Jeter was able to keep that pace by hitting .303. It seemed every day he was passing players like Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken on the all-time hits list. He also was driving the ball well enough to hit seven home runs and drive in 25 runs from the leadoff spot.

The only negatives is that he scored only 42 runs and stole six bases. The runs total had a lot to do with the fact the Yankees were the worst team in baseball at hitting with runners in scoring position. The stolen base total had more to do with Jeter turning 38.

He stole 30 bases in 2009 but is pretty obvious that Jeter has to choose his spots more carefully now. The good thing is that Jeter realizes it and does not get thrown out on the bases trying to prove he can. He is much smarter than that.

Jeter made the All-Star team as the starting shortstop and he actually earned it rather than getting the nod simply because of his reputation.

You would think Jeter might have slowed down a bit in the second half. Instead, he just got better.

He raised his overall average 10 points, hit eight home runs, drove in 33 runs and scored 57 runs to come within a single run of scoring 100.

Jeter had scored at least 100 runs in 13 of his 17 full seasons in the majors. But the fact he missed had more to do with the flux in the batting order behind with injuries to Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira and the inconsistency of the team’s hitting with runners in scoring position.

Jeter’s numbers this season are unprecedented for shortstops his age. There are few shortstops who are in baseball at that age. There are fewer who actually able to start. And Jeter is the only one who has actually led the major leagues in hits with 216.

That is Jeter’s second highest total of hits in his career. He had 219 hits in his magical 1999 season when he hit .349 with 24 home runs and 102 RBIs when he was 25.

Jeter is not 25 any more and he will never approach those gaudy power numbers of 1999. But the Yankees can live with the 2012 numbers.

“The Captain” is not quite ready to take his commission and retire. Why should he?

The only area where Jeter does show his age, besides stealing bases, is in the field. But even there, Jeter can still make the plays with amazing precision.

Jeter only committed 10 errors this season, two less than he committed in 2011. He also did that with much more chances because he was on the disabled list for about a month last season.

I know the sabermetricians out there use Jeter as their favorite whipping post because of his reduced range in the field. That is true. Jeter is no longer able to range far to his right and he maybe lets a few balls get through he used to reach easily. But he still plays the position at a high degree of skill.

His five Gold Glove awards do not lie.

It goes back to that old argument of do you want a steady hand at shortstop who may not have much range or do you want a shortstop with the range of half the Earth who too often throws the ball into the seats? Given this choice I would take Jeter every time. That is the choice manager Joe Girardi has made when critics have suggested Eduardo Nunez should play shortstop.

Girardi knows better and the fans who sit along the first-base line at Yankee Stadium thank him for it.

The only comparison to Jeter I can make is Ozzie Smith, who played at a very high level with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1992 at age 38. He hit .295 and stole 43 bases.

“The Wizard” is in the Hall of Fame and Jeter is going to join him someday. Special players to do special things and Jeter and Smith are as special as it gets at the shortstop position.

Smith is the best fielder I have seen at the position and Jeter is, by far, the best pure hitter of them all.

MIDSEASON GRADE: A-

SECOND-HALF GRADE: A

OVERALL GRADE: A

BACKUP – JAYSON NIX (4 HRs, 18 RBIs, .243 BA)

Nix was discussed in detail in my post grading Robinson Cano.

He spent most of the season as Jeter’s backup at short after Nunez was demoted for treating the baseball like it was a hand grenade.

Nix started 15 games at shortstop and committed only one error. He was steady with the glove and he contributed well with the bat, too.

Nix, 30, will never come close to being the athlete Nunez, 25, is. Nunez is faster, a better hitter and he has much better range in the field. But you also know Nix will make the pays in the field and he will not hurt you when he plays.

Nix, however, will miss the early part of the playoffs with a left hip flexor injury. So Nunez will be Jeter’s backup at shortstop for now.

The Yankees have high hopes he can be the future of the Yankees at shortstop. But he is a work in progress.

He was making an alarming number of errors when the Yankees demoted him in May. Girardi said they were hurting Nunez’s development by making him a utility infielder and said the team will try to keep him at shortstop.

That should help Nunez, who is more comfortable there. Nunez is a very good line-drive hitter with excellent speed and he helps balance the Yankees’ lefty-laden lineup. If he can just harness the fielding aspects of the game he could become a very good player at short.

MIDSEASON GRADE: C

SECOND-HALF GRADE: C

OVERALL GRADE: C

Nunez played in only 38 games at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre due to a nagging right thumb injury so Ramiro Pena ended up playing the most there. However, after Pena was recalled on Sept. 1 a calf injury to Teixeira forced the Yankees to bring in Steve Pearce to back up at first and Pena was designated for assignment.

The Yankees also played veteran Doug Bernier at Scranton but he is career journeyman without any prospect of remaining with the Yankees except as a future coach.

The Yankees do have a potential star in 20-year-old Austin Aune, who hit .273 with one home run and 20 RBIs in the Gulf Coast League. Aune is a lefty hitter with a potential power bat and has good range and a great arm at shortstop. But scouts believe Aune might have to move to center-field at some point to maximize his speed and arm.

Cito Culver, 19, appears to be a bust as the team’s No. 1 choice in 2010. He hit just .215 in 122 games at Class-A Charleston.

OVERALL POSITION GRADE: A

Jeter has always been an intangibles player. He is given credit for playing the game smart with his positioning and his knowledge of the game is second to none. But when he hits like he did this season, it is something special to watch.

When a career .313 hitter leads the majors in hits and bats .316 at age 38, you have to tip your cap to the abilities of a player like this.

Will he do it again in 2013? Who can say for sure?

All you have to do is watch Jeter in the playoffs because that has been his playground for 17 seasons. Jeter is a career .307 hitter in the playoffs.

So the big stage is not something he ever has dodged. As far as the Yankees are concerned, the Yankees will go as far as No. 2 takes them.

 

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Mets’ Davis Hits Walk-Off Blast To Nip Baby Yanks

GAME 32

METS 7, YANKEES 6

They may be two teams that play in the same city and they may be headed in completely opposite directions in 2012 but on Tuesday they renewed a spring ritual they had ignored for 16 years.

Mets staring first baseman Ike Davis homered with one out in the ninth inning off a 21-year-old right-hander who pitched in the Sally League last season in Mark Montgomery as the Mets broke a 6-6 tie and won a Grapefruit League game in walk-off fashion against a lot of minor-league Yankees at Digital Domain Park in Port St. Lucie, FL.

Justin Hampson (1-0) pitched two-thirds of a scoreless inning in the top of the ninth to get credit for the victory.

The Yankees trailed 5-0 after three innings as the Mets folded, spindled and mutilated Yankees right-hander Ivan Nova.

But the Yankees rallied with a solo home run from Nick Swisher in the fouth inning and a five-run sixth inning in which they sent 10 batters to the plate and mustered seven hits against Mets left-hander Jonathan Niese to take a 6-5 lead.

Doug Bernier’s single to left to score J.R. Murphy tied the game and Chris Dickerson followed with a RBI single of his own to score Abraham Almonte with the lead run.

The Mets then tied it back up in the bottom of the sixth on an RBI single by Justin Turner.

The Yankees’ spring ledger dropped to 17-12 while the Mets completed their spring with a 9-19 record.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Swisher was 2-for-3 with a home run and a double. Despite being nagged for two weeks with a sore left groin, Swisher has recovered physically and is hitting a red-hot .345 this spring. Swisher hopes to avoid the horrendous two-month slump with which he began the 2011 season.
  • David Phelps and D.J. Mitchell both came on in relief in the game auditioning for a potential long-relief role in the bullpen. Phelps pitched a scoreless 1 1/3 innings, giving up a hit, no walks and striking out two batters. Mitchell pitched innings, giving up one on two hits and one walk and he fanned one. Adam Warren also is in the running despite giving up six runs on 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings to the Astros on Saturday.
  • Bernier was 2-for-3 in the game with an RBI and is hitting .361 this spring. With Derek Jeter, Eduardo Nunez and Ramiro Pena ahead of him on the depth chart he will not make the Yankees. However, the 30-year-old veteran may stay in the Yankees organization and become a coach or minor-league instructor. Someday Bernier might make a very good manager.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • It is hard to sugarcoat it and I won’t. Ivan Nova flat-out stunk up the city of Port St. Lucie. He was tagged for five runs on eight hits, two walks and two hit batters in only 2 2/3 innings of what you really could not call work. Nova’s command of his fastball was nonexistent and he was leaving his breaking pitches up in the zone to get whacked all over the park. He gave up three runs on five hits in the first inning and it did not get much better after that. Nova ends spring training with a 8.06 ERA. If he pitches like this in the regular season then we can’t see Andy Pettitte come back soon enough.
  • The Yankees only brought two starters, Swisher and Brett Gardner, to this game so it is hard to criticize much. But Gardner did not exactly set the world ablaze this spring. He was 0-for-3 on Tuesday and that lowered his spring average to .204. Gardner also showed an inability to get some bunts down this spring. How long will it take him to learn this skill to take advantage of his speed?

BOMBER BANTER

Manager Joe Girardi seeemingly can’t make up his mind about Pettitte pitching in a Grapefruit League game. Girardi first said no. Then he dangled a possibility that Pettitte would pitch an inning on Tuesday. Now Girardi thinks Pettitte might pitch an inning in the Yankees’ spring finale on Wednesday. Girardi said he wants to talk to Pettitte to see how he feels before he decides to use him.  . . .  Alright, Yankee fans make your plans to watch the Bombers win their 28th world title in 2012. Kentucky won the NCAA basketball championship on Monday. In the Wildcats’ previous six championship seasons (1949, 1951, 1958, 1978, 1996 and 1998) the Yankees have won the World Series.  So shall we start printing those World Series tickets now?  . . .  After Wednesday’s finale the Yankees have a 5 p.m. deadline to cut the roster to 25 players. It appears Mitchell, Phelps or Warren will earn a spot in the bullpen (However, Warren is longshot because he is not on the 40-man roster). Clay Rapada seems to have a spot in the bullpen won with his excellent spring. The only other business is to determine what the team will do with Bill Hall, Jayson Nix and Dewayne Wise. Plus, the Yankees have to determine what to do with Justin Maxwell, who is out of options and can only go back to the minors if he clears waivers. But after the hot spring Maxwell had that is very unlikely.

ON DECK

The Yankees will finish what has been an eventful and successful spring camp on Wednesday against the Mets at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Freddy Garcia, who is sporting a 2.92 ERA in his four spring starts, is expected to pitch for the Yankees. The Mets will counter with right-hander Dillon Gee.

Game-time will be 12:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

Yankees Strand 10 To Settle For Tie With Tigers

GAME 24

YANKEES 1, TIGERS 1 (10 INNINGS)

TAMPA – Derek Jeter led off the bottom of the first inning with his first home run of the spring. Little did the Yankees know but that would be the only run they would score all day against the Tigers.

New York stranded 10 runners over 10 innings and had to settle for a tie with a Detroit split squad on Sunday in a Grapefruit League contest played at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL.

Yankees right-hander Michael Pineda recorded one of his best outings of the spring, giving up one run on five hits and two walks in five innings of work. But the Yankees did not give him much in the way of support.

The Yankees collected only five hits but they got some help from six walks and two hit batters to put plenty of runners on base to take the lead in the game. But much like the Game 5 loss of the American League Division Series against the Tigers, the Yankees could not collect a big hit with runners in scoring position. They were 0-for-10 with RISP in the game.

Meanwhile, relievers Mariano Rivera, Rafael Soriano, David Roberston, Clay Rapada and Manny Delcarmen each turned in a scoreless inning of relief against the Tigers to keep the game knotted.

Jeter’s home run in the first came off Tigers left-hander and starter Duane Below.

The Tigers tied it in the third inning when Danny Worth drew a leadoff walk and Ramon Santiago delivered a one-out RBI triple.

The Yankees remain 13-9 with two ties this spring. They have not lost a game in their last 11 spring contests. The Tigers are 14-4.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • In Jeter’s second game back after being shelved by a tight left calf, he delivered a home run to right and double to left-center. Jeter is quietly hitting .348 this spring and the best news is he is driving the ball with authority and not squeezing weak grounders through the infield. Those who might have written Jeter’s baseball obituary at age 37 might have been a bit premature.
  • Pineda struggled at times in keeping the Tigers off base but he only gave up the one run. After Santiago’s triple, he struck out the next two batters as part of stretch where Pineda fanned four of the last eight batters he retired. Pineda’s velocity also was consistently at 93 miles per hour during his outing.
  • Brett Gardner led an outfield that recorded three assists on Sunday that helped keep the Tigers from scoring more runs. With speedy Austin Jackson on second in the first inning, Alex Avila stroked a lined single to Gardner in left. Gardner charged the ball on the hop and gunned Jackson out at the plate with a perfect throw. In the eighth inning, new left-fielder Jayson Nix caught Brent Wyatt’s line drive and gunned down Dixon Machado after he failed to retouch second base on his way back to first. In the ninth, center-fielder Dewayne Wise caught a Ryan Strieby liner and doubled off Tony Plagman at second base.
  • Robertson returned to action for the first time since he bruised his right foot in an accident at his home on March 7 and he showed no ill effects from the injury. Robertson struck out a batter and he benefited from Machado’s poor base-running on Wyatt’s line drive to pitch a scoreless eighth inning. Robertson said he felt good and he hopes to build upon it with his next outing.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Despite Jeter’s good day there was one striking negative: In the fourth inning, Jeter rolled out to short with the bases loaded. He was a part of an offense that sputtered all day when they had chances to take the lead. In the fifth inning, right-hander Collin Balester walked three batters. But Curtis Granderson was nailed by Avila attempting to steal second and Russell Martin hit into a fielder’s choice after Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira drew two-out walks.
  • In the seventh, it was no better for the Yankees against Brayan Villarreal. Doug Bernier was hit by a pitch and stole second. Granderson then drew a walk. However, Robinson Cano hit into a double play. After Rodriguez was hit in the ribs with a pitch and left the game as a precaution, Teixeira grounded out to short to end that threat.
  • In the second inning, the Yankees had Texeira on third and Martin at second with one out. However, Eduardo Nunez struck out looking and Gardner bounced out to the pitcher and spoiled that effort. So it was obvious that there was a lot of frustration with the offense on Sunday.

BOMBER BANTER

Joba Chamberlain was released from St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, FL., on Sunday four days after he suffered an open dislocation of his right ankle in a trampoline accident. General manager Brian Cashman echoed manager Joe Girardi’s assessment that there was a possibility that Chamberlain could return to pitch this season. Chamberlain had Tommy John surgery last summer and was not expected back to the Yankees until June when the injury occurred last week. Chamberlain will wear a non-weight-bearing cast for six weeks and then will be fitted for a weight-bearing walking boot.  . . .  Although Rodriguez left the game Sunday after being struck in the left ribs on a pitch from Villarreal, Girardi said he expects Rodriguez being able to play on Tuesday.  . . .  Girardi also said he hopes to get Nick Swisher back into the lineup on Tuesday. Swisher has only had two at-bats since he injured his left groin on March 14.  . . .  After the game on Sunday, the Yankees optioned Ramiro Pena to Triple-A Empire State and reassigned outfielders Colin Curtis and Cole Garner, catcher Jose Gil and pitchers Kevin Whelan and Delcarmen to minor-league camp.

ON DECK

The Yankees are enjoying their second off-day of the spring on Monday. They will return to action at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Tuesday night against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Ace lefty CC Sabathia will make his fourth Grapefruit League start. The Blue Jays will start right-hander Kyle Drabek.

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

This report was delayed by technical difficulties.

 

Cano’s Hitting Backs Kuroda As Yankees Nip Phils

GAME 22

YANKEES 5, PHILLIES 3

Robinson Cano sparked a three-run first inning on Friday with an opposite-field two-run double and a New York split squad made the lead hold up behind the solid pitching of Hiroki Kuroda to defeat Philadelphia in a Grapefruit League contest at Bright House Field in Clearwater, FL.

The Yankees jumped on Phillies starter and eventual losing pitcher Vance Worley (1-2) early with a leadoff double by Brett Gardner and a bloop single by Francisco Cervelli that advanced Gardner to third. Cano then laced a double to the wall in left center to score both runners. Eric Chavez then capped the big inning with a RBI double to left that scored Cano.

Kuroda (2-1) gave up only one run on six hits and one walk and struck out three in his 5 2/3 innings of work to earn the victory. David Phelps gave up two runs in his 3 1/3 innings of relief to earn a save.

With the victory the Yankees are 7-1 with one tie in their last nine games. Their spring record stands at 12-9-1. The Phillies fell to 9-11.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Cano was 3-for-4 with two doubles, a run scored and two RBIs. He has raised his spring average to .243 and he looks to be on his way to another big season with the bat hitting in the No. 3 spot for the Yankees.
  • Kuroda looked very sharp against he a team he was very familiar with when he was pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Kuroda threw first-pitch strikes to 17 of the 24 batters he faced. Only six balls reached the outfield on him. Kuroda and CC Sabathia are the only two pitchers assured of spots in the rotation when the season starts.
  • Doug Bernier continues to shine at the plate. He was 2-for-4 with an RBI double and a bunt infield single. Bernier is hitting .385 and playing excellent defense despite the fact he has absolutely no a ghost of a chance to make the team. It would be tough for him with Derek Jeter, Eduardo Nunez and Ramiro Pena ahead of him.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The Yankees won but they could have put away the Phillies a lot easier had they not had three double plays turned against them. They had Worley on the ropes early but allowed him to escape further trouble after the first inning. The Yankees added single runs in the seventh inning off David Herndon and in the eighth inning off Eric Stutes.
  • Phelps allowed the Phillies to get back into the game by giving up an RBI single by Miguel Abreu in the seventh and a solo home run to Erik Kratz in the eighth before retiring the Phillies in order in the ninth. The two runs were the first earned runs Phekps has allowed this spring.
  • It is hard to evaluate this victory because the Phillies are reeling from injuries to Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. Starting third baseman Placido Polanco and catcher Carlos Ruiz also sat on Friday. The Phillies offense looks to be lacking and they are going to have to rely on their pitching to carry them. So the Yankees should not get too excited about winning this one.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees are reeling from the news Joba Chamberlain underwent surgery on his dislocated ankle on Thursday and will miss the remainder of the 2012 season. The 26-year-old right-hander has not pitched since June 5 and underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. He was rehabbing the elbow this spring and hoped to return to the Yankees sometime in June. However, on Thursday night he was playing with his son on a trampoline in the Tampa area and suffered an open dislocation of his right ankle, which means the bone was protruding through the skin. Chamberlain also, according to reports, lost a “life-threatening amount of blood” as a result of the injury. Chamberlain will remain hospitalized for a few days and it is unclear how far back this will push his return to the Yankees.  . . .  Andy Pettitte threw a live batting practice session and reported that he his left arm felt good afterwards. Pettitte threw 35 warmup tosses and 26 pitches to batters and two pitchouts during the session. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild called the session by the 39-year-old veteran “awesome.” Pettitte’s next hurdle will be to pitch a light bullpen session on Sunday. He hopes to be able to return to the major leagues in early May.  . . .  Manager Joe Girardi defended his decision to end Thursday’s game against the Red Sox in Fort Myers, FL., after Boston tied the game in the bottom of the ninth inning. Girardi said there was no communication from the umpires about the status of the Yankee pitchers. Girardi said he simply made the decision based on the status of his pitchers and it would have been acceptable to play an one extra half-inning if Boston manager Bobby Valentine had wanted Clayton Mortensen to throw. Valentine claimed Girardi’s decision not to play a 10th inning “was not courteous.” Considering the source (Valentine) I would not lose sleep over it.  . . .  Jeter returned to the lineup and played three innings of the split squad game in Tampa, FL., against the Twins. Jeter was 1-2 in the game. He had been sidelined for seven games with a strained left calf.

ON DECK

The Yankees are in Lakeland on Saturday playing the Detroit Tigers at 1:05 p.m. EDT.

The game is not being telecast.

 

Laird’s Walk-Off Sac Fly In 10th Boosts Yankees

GAME 15

YANKEES 4, NATIONALS 3 (10 Innings)

TAMPA – When you have a team struggling to get on base and score runs it is never too late push a run across – even if it is the 10th inning.

Brandon Laird lofted a sacrifice fly in the 10th inning to score Justin Maxwell with the game-winning run as New York swept it two-game home-and-away set with Washington at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Friday.

The Yankees, very much like Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With the Wind,” depended greatly on “the kindness of strangers.”

Nationals right-hander Atahualpa Severino started his stint in the 10th by walking Maxwell. Pinch-hitter Melky Mesa followed by hitting a routine grounder that was misplayed by Nationals third baseman Mark Teahen, allowing Maxwell to advance to third. One out later, Laird launched a fly ball to right field that plated Maxwell with the deciding tally.

Right-hander Chase Whitley (1-0) pitched a scoreless top of the 10th to gain credit for the victory. Severino (0-1) took the loss.

The game featured a matchup of lefties in CC Sabathia for the Yankees and newly acquired Gio Gonzalez for the Nationals. However, Sabathia struggled with his command and he left after just three innings on the south end of a 3-1 deficit.

Sabathia gave up three runs on six hits and a walk while he fanned two. Gonzalez gave up a run on three hits and three walks and struck out six in 3 1/3 innings.

The Yankees managed to tie the game in the fifth inning off reliever Craig Stammen on a leadoff single by Doug Bernier and a two-out, two-run home run to deep left by Alex Rodriguez, his first home run this spring since he homered on the first pitch he saw by Roy Halladay of the Phillies on March 3.

With the victory the Yankees improved their spring record to 7-8. The Nationals fell to 5-7.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • With the battle of lefties going on most of the buzz in the sellout crowd of 10,982 was about another left-hander entirely. The news 39-year-old Andy Pettitte had elected to come out of retirement and sign a $2.5 million minor-league contract with the Yankees spread like wildfire through the Yankee faithful on hand. I would consider adding a pitcher to your roster who has 240 major-league victories (203 of them with the Yankees) has got to be considered a positive development.
  • Though the Yankee regulars struck out so much they could have put out a wildfire, it was nice to see Rodriguez connect for a huge two-run home run in the fifth inning. The Yankees, if you can believe this, have only hit a total of five home runs in the first 15 games this spring. Hopefully, this may signal an end to the power outage.
  • Though Sabathia struggled, Phil Hughes turned in a very sharp four innings of work in relief. Hughes, who is still competing with a group of pitchers that now will include Pettitte for a starting spot, held the Nationals scoreless on three hits, did not walk a batter and he struck three. Hughes is showing no signs of the right shoulder fatigue that plagued him last season.
  • Robinson Cano doubled to the opposite field in the first inning off Gonzalez to score Curtis Granderson from first base to draw the Yankees to within a run at 2-1. Cano is off to a very slow start this spring and is hitting .190.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Sabathia admitted after the game his fastball was “all over the place” and it cost him early. The Nationals loaded the bases to start the game on a double, single and a walk. They pushed across a run on a double-play grounder off the bat of Wilson Ramos. But they added a second run in the same frame on an RBI double by Jesus Flores. Steve Lombardozzi then touched Sabathia with a leadoff home run in the third inning to give the Nationals a 3-1 lead.
  • Strikeouts, strikeouts, strikeouts. The Yankees struck out 14 times in the game. Raul Ibanez, Francisco Cervelli and Bill Hall fanned two times each. Considering the fact that the Yankees won the game after collecting just five hits in the game you would have to say they were lucky to have won at all. The pitching of Hughes was the big key. The question is when are the Yankees going to wake up and start hitting?
  • Ibanez was 0-for-2 with a walk and fanned twice and he is now hitting .077. Yankee fans are getting a bit impatient with Ibanez considering he is replacing retired Yankee icon Jorge Posada at designated hitter and because the Yankees chose to sign him instead of a pair of former popular Yankees in Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui.

BOMBER BANTER

Injuries have cropped up all over the place and it is now an epidemic in Yankee camp. Derek Jeter missed the game Friday and will not play again until Tuesday due to a tender left calf. The Yankees were quick to point out that they do not consider the injury serious and that is not the same calf that forced Jeter to the disabled list for three weeks last season.  . . .  Meanwhile, Nick Swisher and Russell Martin were held out of action with strained left groins. Swisher could return to the lineup on Saturday but Martin will be shelved for a couple of days.  . . .  Those walking wounded join the ranks of Eduardo Nunez (bruised right hand), Ramiro Pena (sprained right ankle) and David Robertson (bone bruise of right foot) who are also out of action.  . . .  The Yankees made their first cuts of the spring on Friday, re-assigning 14 players to minor-league camp, including top pitching prospect Manny Banuelos. Banuelos was among seven pitchers sent out. The others were Dan Burawa, Brett Marshall, Adam Miller, Ryan Pope, Graham Stoneburner and Whitley. The other cuts included catchers Gary Sanchez, J.R. Murphy and Kyle Higashioka, infielders David Adams and Corban Joseph and outfielders Zoilo Almonte and Mesa.

ON DECK

The Yankees will host the Houston Astros for the second time this spring on Saturday at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Scheduled to start for the Yankees will be 37-year-old right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, who will be making his third start of the spring. Kuroda is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA and he was displeased with his last start.

The Astros are expected to start right-hander Bud Norris.

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

 

Yankee Reserves Come Up Big To Beat Nationals

GAME 14

YANKEES 8, NATIONALS 5

During a time when a lot of the starters are struggling with hitting this spring the non-roster and minor-league players who dominated the Yankees’ lineup on Thursday were the ones who came up big.

Bill Hall drove in two runs with a double in the third inning and New York’s spring reserves scored four runs in the seventh inning off Washington’s John Lannan en route to a Grapefruit League victory over the Nationals at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, FL.

Brett Marshall (1-0) got credit for the victory in relief. Lannan (0-1) gave up six runs (four earned) on seven hits and a walk in four innings and he ended up taking the loss. Adam Warren retired the last batter and picked up a save.

The Yankees mounted a 13-hit attack led two hits by Hall and Justin Maxwell and Hall and Jose Gil each drove in two runs.

There were two significant injuries incurred during the game. Nationals starter and former Yankee right-hander Chien-Ming Wang had to leave the game in the third inning with a strained right hamstring after he lost his balance fielding a Russell Martin grounder and stumbled awkwardly over the first-base bag.

In the fourth inning, Yankee shortstop Ramiro Pena left after spraining his right ankle as he slid into second base on an unsuccessful steal attempt.

The Yankees snapped a three-game losing streak and improved their spring record to 6-8. The Nationals are 5-6.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • The Yankees were losing 3-2 with Lannan beginning his third inning of work in the sixth when the Yankees greeted him with five consecutive hits. Jayson Nix singled, stole second and scored the tying run on a RBI single by Gil. Doug Bernier advanced Gil to third on a bunt single and Maxwell scored Gil on a single to left. J.R. Murphy followed with a single to right to score Bernier. Maxwell then scored the fourth run of the inning on a fielder’s choice grounder off the bat of Zoilo Almonte. Nix is the only player involved in the rally who had started the game.
  • The Yankee reserves turned the game into a rout with two more runs in the seventh. Brandon Laird, who reached base on an error by shortstop Andres Blanco, scored on a passed ball by catcher Jhontan Solano. Dewayne Wise, who doubled in the inning, later scored on a sacrifice fly by Gil, giving the Yankees an 8-3 lead.
  • Michael Pineda made his third start of the spring and there were some mixed results. Pineda pitched 3 2/3 innings and gave up two runs on four hits and a walk while he fanned four batters. The good news was that Pineda was able to throw about 10 change-ups and his slider was virtually unhittable. The velocity on his fastball, however, reached only 91 miles per hour, down considerably from his 2011 average of 94.5, which ranked fifth in the majors. The Yankees refuse to talk about it, but the lack of velocity has to be a concern at this stage of spring training.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Three of the left-handers competing to become a potential second lefty in the bullpen pitched in the game and none of them were exactly sharp. Clay Rapada did not give up a run in 1 1/3 innings and has a 0.00 ERA this spring. However, he walked two and gave up a hit before inducing Chad Tracy to ground out with the bases loaded in the fifth.
  • Juan Cedeno opened the sixth by issuing a leadoff walk to Adam LaRoche and Jayson Werth followed with a double. Then with one out, Steve Lombardozzi hit a sacrifice fly to score LaRoche.
  • Michael O’Connor opened the ninth with a 8-5 lead and promptly issued a leadoff walk to Roger Bernadina and one-out single to Mark Teahan to bring the tying run to the plate. After O’Connor retired Tracy on a grounder to advance Bernadina and Teahan, manager Joe Girardi summoned Warren to close out the game.

BOMBER BANTER

With Eduardo Nunez still nursing a bruised right hand for the past 10 days, the injury to Pena is not good news. Pena said he hopes to miss only two or three days by Girardi said he is not so sure about that. No tests are planned on the ankle and Pena will be re-evaluated in Tampa, FL., on Friday.   . . .  It appears doubtful that veteran right-hander Fraddy Garcia will be able to pitch in his next scheduled start because of a bruised right thumb and index finger.  Garcia was struck on the hand on a grounder off the bat of Edwin Encarnacion of the Blue Jays in the fourth inning of a game on Wednesday. The Yankees think Garcia just has a bad bruise and they do not believe the injury is serious.

ON DECK

The Yankees will complete a two-game home-and-away series with the Nationals at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Friday.

Ace left-hander CC Sabathia is scheduled to pitch for the Yankees. He will be making his third start of the spring. The Nationals will start former Oakland left-hander Gio Gonzalez, who has not given up a run in his two previous appearances spanning seven innings.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network on tape delay and locally live by the YES Network.

 

Blue Jays Break Out Long Ball To Down Yankees

GAME 13

BLUE JAYS 7, YANKEES 5

Edwin Encarnacion hit two home runs and drove in four runs and J.P. Arencibia added a two-run shot of his own as Toronto laid out the heavy lumber to defeat New York in a Grapefruit League game on Wednesday at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin, FL.

Veteran right-hander Carlos Villanueva (1-0) pitched two innings of scoreless relief to get credit for the victory. Freddy Garcia (1-1), who left the game with a hand injury in the fourth inning, took the loss. Jim Hoey pitched a scoreless ninth to earn a save.

Arencibia’s home run in the fourth inning off reliever Corey Wade broke a 1-1 tie and the Blue Jays tacked on four more runs in the fifth off rookie left-hander Manny Banuelos, keyed by a three-run home run by Encarnacion. The Yankees mounted a four-run rally in the seventh inning but fell short to lose their fourth straight exhibition game.

The Yankees’ spring ledger is now 5-8. The Jays have now won eight straight games and are 10-2.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Curtis Granderson was 2-for-3 in the game and stroked a two-out RBI double in the third inning off starter Henderson Alvarez to score Derek Jeter to tie the score at 1-1. Granderson is hitting .316 on the spring and is one of the few Yankee regulars who is producing offense of late.
  • After looking absolutely outmatched by Boston pitching Tuesday night, Doug Bernier stroked a two-run double off Blue Jays reliever Anthony Carreno in the seventh inning. Dewayne Wise then followed with a two-run single to bring the Yankees to within 7-5 before the rally fizzled. Bernier, 31, and Wise, 33, are the longest of longshots to make the Yankee roster this spring.
  • D.J. Mitchell, another one of the “Fabulous Five” ticketed to make up the starting rotation at Triple A turned in three spectacular innings of relief. Mitchell did not give up a run, a hit or a walk and fanned four batters. Mitchell, 24, pitched at Clemson and is considered to be a great ground-ball pitcher with excellent control. His future with the Yankees could involve a move to the bullpen at the major-league level.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Garcia’s outing was cut short by a hand injury but he did not pitch as effectively in this start. He was nicked for a solo home run by Encarnacion in the second inning and he gave up four hits and a walk in his three-plus innings of work. Of course, Wade entered the game and gave the two-run home run to Arencibia after Garcia was struck by Encarnacion’s hard grounder up the middle on the fingers of his right hand ended up skewing Garcia’s ERA higher.
  • Banuelos, who turned 21 on Tuesday, just had one of those days he could not throw a strike. Of the eight batters he faced, Banuelos threw a first-pitch strike only to the last hitter he faced. He also fell behind every hitter he faced until the final batter (Arencibia) to end the inning. It is not easy to pitch effectively when you are behind in the count to every hitter and the Blue Jays made him pay. Banuelos was ticketed for Triple A anyway so he can just chalk up this outing as a learning experience. Banuelos must learn to command his secondary pitches.
  • I hate to beat a dead horse but Raul Ibanez was 0-for-3 and he is hitting .083 this spring. After dealing with the struggles of Jorge Posada at designated hitter last season the Yankees might not be worried yet. But they better have a plausible Plan B if Ibanez does not shake his batting woes when the bell rings to open the season.

BOMBER BANTER

As usual with the Yankees on the road, the Blue Jays welcomed 5,509 fans to the game on Wednesday, their largest crowd of the spring.  . . .  X-rays taken on Garcia’s right hand indicated no broken bones. Garcia’s right thumb and the tip of his index finger were swollen and it is unclear of Garcia will miss his next spring start.  . . .  Meanwhile, All-Star reliever David Robertson was able to run on a treadmill for 30 minutes and he will resume pitching off a mound this weekend. Robertson suffered a bone bruise on his right foot while slipping on a step at his home last week.  . . .   Veteran outfielder Nick Swisher left Wednesday’s game in the fifth inning with tightness in his left groin. The injury does not appear to be serious and Swisher is listed as day-to-day.

ON DECK

For the next two days the Yankees will embark on a home-and-away set with the Washington Nationals starting Viera, FL.

The Yankees are scheduled to pitch 23-year-old right-hander Michael Pineda, who has been plagued by a lack of velocity on his fastball this spring. He will be making his third start. Pineda will be opposed by an old friend, Chien-Ming Wang. The 31-year-old right-hander and former Yankee star will be making his second start of the spring and he is 1-0 with 9.00 ERA.

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