YANKEES 14, RED SOX 5
If you could draw up the perfect scenario for the Yankees for Thursday’s rubber game against the Red Sox it played out to perfection on the field. For the Red Sox they did about everything wrong a team can do in a game to embarrass themselves in front of national television audience on the MLB Network and a paid crowd of 37.356 at Fenway Park.
CC Sabathia gave up two runs over six innings, Mark Teixeira blasted his first home run of the season and rookie sensation Yangervis Solarte collected two hits and drove in four runs as New York pummeled Boston to win for the fifth time in seven games against their heated rival.
Of course, the Yankees had a lot of help in addition to the 14 hits they pounded out. The Red Sox defense committed an alarming season-high five errors and a passed ball and five pitchers combined to issue 12 walks and throw three wild pitches.
I thought it was Cowboy Up and not Down.
Sabathia (3-2) yielded only three hits, walked three and struck out eight batters to even his season record against the Red Sox at 1-1. He left after six innings with a comfortable 7-2 lead.
The Yankees, meanwhile, jumped all over left-hander Felix Doubront (1-3) for seven runs (three earned) on six hits and two walks while he struck out one in 2 2/3 innings.
Alfonso Soriano got the Yankees on the board in the first inning with a two-out RBI double to score Carlos Beltran.
Solarte added a two-run double in the second inning and he later scored on a wild pitch by Doubront.
Teixeira opened the third inning with a home run that landed on the top railing of the Green Monster. Later in the inning, Brian Roberts and Jacoby Ellsbury added RBI singles that finally chased Doubront with the Yankees leading 7-0.
After the Red Sox scored a pair of runs in the third on a sacrifice fly off the bat of David Ortiz and a two-out RBI double by Jonny Gomes, the Yankees blew the game wide open by hammering left-hander Craig Breslow for five runs on four hits, an error and two walks as they sent 11 men to the plate in the seventh inning.
Solarte keyed the inning with a bases-loaded single that scored two runs. Ellsbury followed by lacing an RBI double and Derek Jeter added two-run single. By the time the dust had settled on another cold and blustery evening, the Yankees were leading 12-2.
With the victory, the Yankees improved their season ledger to 13-9 and they lead the American League East by 1 1/2 games over the second-place Baltimore Orioles. The Red Sox dropped to 10-13 and they are in the basement of the division, 3 1/2 games behind the Yankees.
- You can rail about Sabathia’s lost velocity all you want but tonight’s game showed exactly what he can accomplish when he gets the run support. Sabathia used his fastball on both corners of the plate and kept the Red Sox off balance with his slider and change-up. To prove how off-balance the Red Sox were five of Sabathia’s strikeouts came looking.
- Teixeira’s return to the lineup was supposed to be bad news for Solarte because he was playing third base while starting third baseman Kelly Johnson played first in Teixera’s absence. But manager Joe Girardi elected to start the switch-hitting Solarte against the lefty Doubront and he responded with a double, a single, a walk, scoring two runs and driving in four. This despite the fact he did not have a hit in his previous 12 at-bats. Solarte is hitting .310 with nine extra-base hits and he is tied with Beltran for the team lead with 13 RBIs.
- Ellsbury weathered constant booing throughout the three-game series but he left his former team and their infantile fans with a parting gift on Thursday. He was 3-for-6 with a run scored and three RBIs. In the series, Ellsbury battered Boston pitching for 5-for-15 (.333) with three doubles, a triple, three runs scored and five RBIs. Guess he told those fans where to shove those boos.
OK. Jeter did commit a bad fielding error and rookie Shane Greene was shelled for three runs (all unearned) in his major-league debut. But those are mere quibbles. This team rallied after last night’s John Farrell-induced loss to make the Red Sox like a team not even worthy to be on the same field. That is something very special and there is nothing negative in that.
An apologetic Michael Pineda admitted to using pine tar in Wednesday’s game and he told reporters on Thursday that he was not appealing his 10-game suspension, which started immediately. With an off day scheduled for April 28, Pineda actually could miss only one start and be available to pitch on May 5 against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, CA. The Yankees will have to play the next 10 days with a 24-man roster during Pineda’s suspension. . . . The Yankees made some roster moves on Thursday in the wake of Pineda’s suspension. They signed right-hander Bruce Billings to a major-league contract and recalled Greene from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and they optioned infielder Dean Anna and right-hander Preston Claiborne to Scranton. . . . The Yankees announced that right-hander Ivan Nova will undergo Tommy John surgery on Tuesday in Birmingham, AL. Dr. James Andrews will repair a partial tear in the ulnar collateral ligament of Nova’s right elbow. It will require 12 to 18 months of rehab before Nova can come back. In a corresponding roster move, the Yankees transferred Nova from the 15-day to the 60-day disabled list.
The Yankees fresh off there rump-kicking of the Red Sox head home to open a three-game weekend series with the Angels.
Hiroki Kuroda (2-1, 4.07 ERA) will open the series for the Yankees. Kuroda gave up three runs on seven hits and two walks in 5 2/3 innings in a no-decision in which the Yankees lost to the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday. He is 3-2 with a 2.26 ERA in six career starts against the Angels.
Left-hander C.J. Wilson (2-2, 4.21 ERA) will start for the Angels. Wilson was hammered for seven hits and he walked three while surrendering four runs (three earned) in five innings in a loss to the Detroit Tigers on Saturday. He has a career ERA of 2.58 in 38 1/3 innings against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.
RED SOX 5, YANKEES 1
What is about the Yankees and pine-tar incidents? But, to be even more to the point, does anyone see the hypocrisy within the two?
Michael Pineda (2-2) was ejected on Wednesday in the bottom of the second inning by home-plate umpire Gerry Davis for having a foreign substance, Davis said it was pine tar, on his neck. New York, trailing 2-0 at the time, went on to lose to John Lackey (3-2) and Boston in front of a national television audience and a paid crowd of 37,015 at Fenway Park.
The most famous pine-tar incident in Yankee history dates back to July 24, 1983 when George Brett of the Kansas City Royals connected for a two-run home run off Rich “Goose” Gossage with two outs in the ninth inning to turn a 4-3 deficit into a 5-4 lead.
Manager Billy Martin correctly pointed out to home-plate umpire Tim McClelland that Brett’s bat had pine tar within 17 inches from the top in violation of baseball’s rules. McClelland agreed and called Brett out, which set the stage of the famous scene where Brett stormed out of the dugout to confront the umpiring crew and he even bumped into a few.
I have been harboring this question since 1983 but why wasn’t Brett ejected and fined for that outburst? Odd.
Anyway, American League president Lee MacPhail sided with the Royals and their protest of the game and he made the teams play out the bottom of the ninth inning with the Royals ahead 5-4.
He basically was saying that the rule was correctly applied but that pine tar did not have any effect in helping Brett hit the home run.
Now some 31 years later, every baseball manager and pitcher will tell you that pine tar has no effect in a pitcher’s ability to throw a baseball. It simply provides an opportunity for a pitcher to gain a better grip on the ball. So if we are to invoke the “MacPhail Doctrine” to this case than Major League Baseball should reinstate Pineda from his ejection and order the Yankees and Red Sox to resume that game from that point he was ejected, right?
There is a definite double standard at play here.
I am not saying that Pineda was not naive to believe that the pine tar was not visible. But we have to accept his reasoning that after throwing a number of pitches out of the strike zone on a cold and windy night (gusts up into the mid-30s) that he was afraid he might hit somebody and injure them.
If pine tar made Pineda’s slider dive like a majestic eagle and made hitters look like Little League bench players, than I would be on the side of the ejection and the 10-game suspension he was handed. But, absent that, I think we should just replay that game as McPhail would have ordered if he were still in charge.
Red Sox manager John Farrell has now been put into a very dicey situation. The reason is that two of his pitchers, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, are widely known around the league for using pine tar when they are pitching. Buchholz was caught in a very widely publicized incident last season dipping his fingers to his left arm to get a better grip on the baseball.
The Yankees will be ready and waiting to have the umpires undress those pitchers down their jock straps should they suspect they are doing the same thing. So you may want to be careful and that phrase you reap what you sow comes to mind.
Of course, cheating and the Red Sox are pretty much synonymous. They just get better P.R.
David Ortiz was caught doing steroids but he is the Red Sox model held up to the kids in the community. He claimed that some doctor in the Dominican Republic gave him a shot and he did not know what it was. Huh?
Does anyone but me think it is extremely odd that in 2003 Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek and outfielder Trot Nixon hit their career highs in home runs? Varitek hit 25 and Nixon hit 28. In 2004, baseball instituted a new drug testing procedure and Nixon never hit more than 13 home runs in a season after that. Varitek’s power “faded’ suddenly also.
Sports Illustrated actually ran a story indicating that it was well known that both Varitek and Nixon were doing steroids but they were never named in any investigation or listed as failing any drug test.
But the only real reason they were not caught was they were fortunate that nobody in the clubhouse that witnessed it came forward to snitch on them.
So the Red Sox maintain this huge halo around them that seems to suggest that none of their players ever would consider cheating to gain an advantage on the field.
Now that they have fired the first salvo in 2014 at Pineda and the Yankees we will just see where that halo ends up by the end of this season. I am not really sure it will remain so high above their heads.
The Yankees will try to win their second series against the Red Sox on Thursday.
CC Sabathia (2-2, 5.19 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees coming off his best outing of the season. Sabathia held the Tampa Bay Rays to two runs (one earned) in seven innings to even his record on Thursday. He lost his start to the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on April 11 after blanking them over the first five innings.
Left-hander Felix Doubront (1-2, 5.48 ERA) will throw for the Red Sox. Doubront allowed two runs on five hits and two walks and seven strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings but did not get a decision against the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday.
Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 3, RED SOX 2
Carlos Beltran has wanted to be a Yankee for a long time. At age 36, he is finally getting the chance to wear pinstripes and he is loving every minute of it.
Beltran slugged a two-run home run and collected three hits overall to back the solid pitching of Ivan Nova as New York held on to beat Boston on Sunday to win the home weekend series three games to one.
As rivalries go, this one is the greatest in sports. There have been many memorable games over the years and this one – played in front of a paid Yankee Stadium crowd of 46,081 and a national television audience – was pretty eventful for an early April contest.
Nova (2-1) entered the game with a 8.68 ERA but he weathered some early problems to pitch into the eighth inning.
His mound opponent, Felix Doubront, posted an ERA of 9.00 and he did not make it out of the third inning of his last start. Yet, Doubront pitched into the seventh inning.
How this pair of starters made it that far was a testament to their toughness and some very odd things, which usually occur when these two teams meet.
Doubront started out as if he would not last the first inning after Beltran laced a one-out single to left and Jacoby Ellsbury lined a double into the right-field corner. Alfonso Soriano then lofted a sure-fire sacrifice fly into center.
But Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. fired the ball to third base and Ryan Roberts tagged a sliding Ellsbury before Beltran could cross the plate with the run.
The Red Sox then literally took aim at Nova with two out in the second inning.
Roberts singled and Bradley followed with ball that caromed off Nova’s foot for a single. Jonathan Herrera then scored Roberts with a lined single that narrowly missed Nova’s head. Grady Sizemore then came through with the fourth straight single off Nova but left-fielder Brett Gardner threw Bradley out at the plate.
The Yankees then took the lead in the third inning when Gardner stroked a one-out single and Beltran followed with the 361st home run of his career, a lined shot that landed in the first row in the left-field bleachers.
The Yankees padded their lead in the fourth when Doubront opened the frame by walking Brian McCann and Yangervis Solarte. After Solarte was retired on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Kelly Johnson, Francisco Cervelli hit a ball to Roberts that he turned into a double play.
Cervelli stumbled through about a half-dozen steps past first base and fell holding the back of his right leg.
Manager Joe Girardi challenged the out call at first base by umpire Bob Davidson as Cervelli was helped off the field with an obviously severe pull in his right hamstring.
Meanwhile, television replays indicated Cervelli touched first base before the ball hit first baseman Mike Napoli’s glove, which allowed McCann to score the Yankees’ third run without the benefit of a hit. The umpires reversed the out call.
Red Sox manager John Farrell stormed out onto the field to protest the reversal and immediately was ejected from the game by Davidson. Managers are not allowed to argue calls that have been overturned.
Nova, meanwhile, settled in and pitched well. He only allowed a leadoff home run in the sixth inning to Napoli, which drew the Bosox to within a run at 3-2. He exited with one out in the eighth having given up two runs on eight hits, no walks and four strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings.
The Yankee bullpen then turned the game into an adventure.
Matt Thornton replaced Nova to face David Ortiz and Ortiz laced a deep drive that would have hit the top of the auxiliary scoreboard for a sure double. However, Ichiro Suzuki, who only entered the game as the right-fielder when Cervelli left the game, leapt and caught the ball before it reached the wall.
David Phelps then replaced Thornton and he ended up yielding a double to Napoli, a walk to Daniel Nava and hit A.J. Pierzynski with a pitch to load the bases. He then got locked into a tense eight-pitch battle with pinch-hitter Mike Carp that – luckily for Phelps and the Yankees – ended with Carp swinging and missing to end the threat.
Shawn Kelley pitched a perfect ninth, striking out two batters, to earn his third save in three opportunities.
Doubront (2-1) was tagged with loss, giving up three runs on seven hits and three walks while he fanned three in 6 2/3 innings.
The victory gives the Yankees a 7-6 record on the young season. The Red Sox dropped to 5-8.
- Beltran has always been a big-stage performer throughout his career and his 3-for-4 night substantiated that reputation. In his past six games, Beltran is 11-for-26 (.423) with three home runs and six RBIs. This is the production the Yankees were expecting when they signed Beltran as free agent to the three-year contract after Robinson Cano signed with the Seattle Mariners.
- Nova always has been a captive to his pitches working. When they are not working he gets lit up like a roman candle. When they are working he can be very good. His stuff was working on Sunday and he was able to hold the Red Sox to just the one run on three hits over his last 5 1/3 innings.
- Suzuki’s catch on Ortiz’s deep drive was set up by Cervelli’s injury. Suzuki entered the game as a pinch-runner for Cervelli in fourth and he was placed in right-field. That moved right-fielder Beltran to first base, a position he has never played in 17 major-league seasons. If Beltran had been in right it is likely that drive would have not been caught. It truly was a game saver. For a 40-year-old player, Suzuki can still flash some leather.
- It appears the Yankees’ issues with injuries that beset them in 2013 seem to have cropped up again early in 2014. The Yankees are already without first baseman Mark Teixeira, closer David Robertson and backup infielder Brendan Ryan. All three are on the disabled list. They played Sunday’s game with shortstop Derek Jeter nursing a mild quad injury and second baseman Brian Roberts out with a back injury. The loss of Cervelli left the team with no other bench players and no backup catcher. McCann took a ball off the fingers of his right index finger catching in the eighth inning and Solarte took an inadvertent shot to the groin from Napoli as he was running out a grounder in the sixth. Fortunately, both players were able to stay in the game. The Yankees will need to add some depth to their roster in a hurry.
Cervelli was taken for an MRI after he left the game but it is certainty that he will be placed on the 15-day disabled list. The Yankees are expected to recall catcher Austin Romine from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to replace Cervelli on the roster. . . . Jeter said he felt his right quadriceps tighten up in Friday’s game against the Red Sox. He already was scheduled for a day off on Saturday but Girardi opted to hold Jeter out a second day. Jeter was not scheduled to have any tests and he is expected to play to play on Tuesday. . . . Roberts is listed as day-to-day after he experienced some lower-back soreness. A precautionary MRI came back negative but it is not clear when Roberts will be able to play.
The Yankees will finally get their first day off of the season and it is a good thing with all of their walking wounded. They will open a two-game home series with the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday.
Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (1-0, 3.21 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Tanaka struck out 10 batters in seven innings against the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday. But he had to settle for a no-decision.
Right-hander Jason Hammel (2-0, 2.63 ERA) will start for the Cubs. Hammel gave up three runs on three hits (all homers) and struck out six in seven innings as he defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by MY9.
“I’ve seen all the movie stars
In their fancy cars and their limousines
Been high in the Rockies under the evergreens
But I know what I’m needing
And I don’t want to waste more time
I’m in a New York state of mind”
– Billy Joel
YANKEES 7, RED SOX 4
Ever since Georgia native Brian McCann left the Atlanta Braves to sign as a free agent with the Yankees the team’s fans have been waiting to see just how special this seven-time All-Star catcher can be. On Saturday they got a pretty good idea just how good.
McCann hit a pair of home runs and drove in three runs and the Yankees pounded out five homers in all as New York shelled John Lackey and Boston in front of a paid crowd of 48, 572 at Yankee Stadium.
Both of McCann’s homers came off Lackey (2-1), who ended up yielding a career-high four home runs. McCann, who entered the game hitting .162 in the midst of a 1-for-17 slump, hit a solo shot off Lackey in the fourth and a two-run shot in the sixth.
Carlos Beltran blasted a two-run shot of his own in the first inning and Alfonso Soriano followed McCann’s round-tripper in the fourth with a solo shot of his own. It is the first time the Yankees have gone back-to-back in home runs since June 6 last season when Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira did it.
Kelly Johnson added a solo homer off reliever Burke Badenhop in the eighth inning.
The power-driven run support worked to the benefit of Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda (2-1), who throughout his major-league career has not really been accustomed to getting so much offense.
Kuroda yielded only a two-run home run to A.J. Pierzynski in the second inning through his first six innings of work. However, a pair of walks sandwiched around a strikeout in the seventh brought David Ortiz to the plate and manager Joe Girardi replaced Kuroda with left-hander Matt Thornton.
Thornton struck out Ortiz for the second out but he then hit Mike Napoli with an 0-1 pitch and Mike Carp followed with a two-run single. Both runs were charged to Kuroda so he ended the day being charged with four runs on six hits and three walks while struck out five in 6 1/3 innings.
The Yankees, meanwhile, really put the wood to Lackey, who entered the game 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA. Lackey yielded six runs on 10 hits and no walks while he fanned six batters.
The Red Sox actually missed what might have been a golden chance to tie the game in the seventh after Thornton gave up the two-run single to Carp that made the score 6-4. A boneheaded decision by manager John Farrell ended up costing the Red Sox dearly.
With Napoli on third, Carp at first and Xander Bogaerts at the plate with an 0-2 count against right-hander Dellin Betances, Farrell – for some reason that escapes baseball logic – sent the slow-footed Carp (two career steals) to second. McCann rounded out his great afternoon by catching Betances’ high fastball and throwing Carp out easily at second base to end the inning.
Adam Warren pitched a perfect eighth and Shawn Kelley hurled a perfect ninth to preserve the victory. Kelley earned his second save in two opportunities this season subbing for David Robertson as the closer.
- Though McCann was only 6-for-37 with six singles it was only a matter of time before he was going to start hitting. Unfortunately for Lackey and the Red Sox it came on Saturday. McCann’s 2-for-4 day raised his average to .195. True, McCann’s swing is perfect for the short right-field porch. But neither of his two blasts were cheapies. The one hit to right in the fourth landed in the second deck and the one in the sixth was hit to deep right-center.
- Carp’s two-run single ruined what what was a great performance by Kuroda despite the fact that he was having trouble with his curveball. Kuroda adjusted, however, and he has now pitched three excellent games to start the season. The 3.86 ERA is deceiving. He is pitching much better than that.
- Beltran was 2-for-4 with a homer and a double, two runs scored and two RBIs. With Mark Teixeira out of the lineup the No. 4 (Beltran), No. 5 (McCann) and No. 6 (Soriano) hitters combined to hit four home runs and drive in six of the seven runs. That is very good production from the power slots.
How can you say anything negative when you pound out five home runs, score seven runs and collect 14 hits to back some excellent pitching by Kuroda? The bullpen, despite the one slip by Thornton, did its job and the Yankees can’t end the four-game series with Bosox with anything less than a tie.
Major League Baseball admitted its replay system made a mistake after a challenge lodged by Farrell in the eighth inning. With Yangervis Solarte on first and one out, Dean Anna laced a ball to the right-field wall. Daniel Nava fielded the ball and threw to second base, where Bogaerts held the tag on Anna as he tried to stand up on the base. A replay showing Anna’s right foot briefly came off the base as the tag was applied was not made available to the representatives in New York, who upheld the original safe call by umpire Ron Kulpa. However, Brett Gardner and Brian Roberts were retired and Solarte and Anna were stranded anyway. . . . Girardi elected to sit shortstop Derek Jeter and play Anna at shortstop for Saturday’s day game following Friday’s night game. It was Jeter’s second day off this season and his first at home. . . . Teixeira told reporters on Saturday that he is targeting a return to the lineup against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, FL, on April 20, the first day on which he ca be activated from the disabled list. Teixeira, 34, is recovering from a mild strain of his right hamstring.
The Yankees can take the series against their much-hated rival on Sunday with a victory.
Right-hander Ivan Nova (1-1, 8.68 ERA) will get the call for the Yankees. Nova was tagged for seven runs on 10 hits in only 3 2/3 innings against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday.
His mound opponent will be left-hander Felix Doubront (1-1, 9.00 ERA). Doubront gave up five runs on six hits and three walks in 2 2/3 innings against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday. He is 3-2 with a 4.17 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 8:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be televised nationally by ESPN (or as it is otherwise known, the Red Sox Promotional Network).
The American League East is a division loaded with talent. It consists of a world champion, a playoff team, the winningest franchise in baseball history and two power-laden clubs with some pitching. Of those five teams it is possible that three teams could claim playoff spots. Let’s look into the magic ball and see what we can predict. In no particular order let’s look at the teams:
NEW YORK YANKEES
After an injury-marred 2013 season managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner loosened the pursestrings and allowed general manager Brian Cashman to throw out nearly $500 million to free agents. That brought in the best available pitching free agent in Masahiro Tanaka, the best in catcher available in Brian McCann, two All-Star outfielders in Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, a left-hander for the bullpen in Matt Thornton and two important infielders in Kelly Johnson and Brian Roberts.
Needless to say the Yankees are not planning on winning 85 games and missing the playoffs as they did in 2013.
Added to what the Yankees already had, this team is loaded for a playoff run. The rotation is five deep with CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, Tanaka and the sensational return of Michael Pineda this spring has the other teams in the division worried. Only the Tampa Bay Rays can boast a rotation close to this and they only have four healthy starters at the moment.
The bullpen is missing Mariano Rivera and no one will tell you that David Robertson will make anyone forget the greatest closer in history. But no one can believe he can’t do as well as Rafael Soriano did in 2012. The rest of the bullpen has undergone a makeover because of the loss of Boone Logan and Joba Chamberlain. Shawn Kelley and Thornton will handle the late-inning work. The addition of 6-foot-8 rookie Dellin Betances is going to give the bullpen depth because Betances might have the best stuff of the group.
Add to this corps three starting pitchers shifted to the bullpen, David Phelps, Adam Warren and left-hander Vidal Nuno. Phelps and Warren are holdovers from last season and Nuno, 26, gives the Yankees a second lefty to go with Thornton.
The Yankees only need to hope that Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter return to form. They both missed virtually all of the 2013 season and both are being counted upon to help the offense. They also are hoping that Johnson can fill in for the suspended Alex Rodriguez and Roberts can fill the huge hole left by the childish and petulant departure of Robinson Cano. The Yankees issued Cano’s No. 24 to spring training invitee Scott Sizemore. That tells you what they think of Cano after he left.
Ellsbury will combine with Brett Gardner to provide speed and daring on the bases. McCann and Beltran will join Teixeira and last season’s acquisition Alfonso Soriano to give the Yankees a lot of power in the middle of the lineup. Johnson and Roberts can provide double-digits power as well at the bottom of the order.
The bench features the catcher many teams wanted this spring in Francisco Cervelli, All-Star outfielder Ichiro Suzuki and a pair of hot-hitting rookie infielders in Dean Anna and Yangervis Solarte. Slick-fielding shortstop Brendan Ryan starts the season on the disabled list with an upper-back injury.
Top to bottom the Yankees are loaded with talent, power, speed, a great rotation, a solid bullpen and a versatile bench. They will go a long way in deciding who wins the division and who ends up in the playoffs.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
The Rays are a product of a similar model that used to keep afloat the small-market Minnesota Twins. You try and keep a small corps of good young players together long enough to win until they start leaving via free agency. Of course, this method requires that you keep all the plates spinning at once for a long, long time.
If you don’t you lose.
The Rays were fortunate to keep left-hander David Price off the open market for a year. He will join left-hander Matt Moore and right-handers Alex Cobb and Chris Archer to provide the only rotation in the division that can rival the Yankees. Jeremy Hellickson begins the season on the disabled list but he has not been real effective when he has been healthy so I am not sure how his season will go.
The Rays dumped Fernando Rodney because he blew too many saves and was shaky in those he did save. Enter former Rays right-hander Grant Balfour, who was not signed by some other teams because of some medical questions. Balfour has only had one season as a closer and there is no guarantee the Rays can get another season out of him.
The rest of the bullpen is good. Balfour’s fellow senior citizen, Joel Peralta, is the setup man. He is joined by lefty Jake McGee and former closer Heath Bell. Right-handers Josh Lueke, Brandon Gomes and lefty long man Cesar Ramos round out a pretty solid corps.
The Rays are really lacking speed this season. Their only real base-stealing threat is Desmond Jennings, who is been doing a very bad imitation of Carl Crawford since he arrived.
Now the Rays are looking to generate lots of power with Evan Longoria and Will Myers in the middle of the lineup. The problem is Matt Joyce is coming off a disappointing season and he has not lived up to expectations at all. They also have to hope an aging Ben Zobrist can bounce back after a down 2013 campaign.
The additions of James Loney at first base and Yunel Escober at shortstop helped the offense and defense last season. They hope Ryan Hanigan can provide defense and leadership behind the plate this season.
As always, manager Joe Maddon will mix in spare parts like Sean Rodriguez, David DeJesus and Jose Molina. In addition, he will shift his defense to drive opponents nuts, But if the Rays should falter, Price will be on the trading block before the league deadline. If that happens, the Rays season is over.
In any event, this will be Price’s last year with the Rays and the Rays have to roll the dice they win the division this year. Otherwise, it’s lights out at Tropicana Field for their fan base of 7,500. If things don’t pick up at the gate the team could be headed elsewhere.
BOSTON RED SOX
Most Yankee fans forgot what happened in 2013 so we will leave it at that.
The Red Sox prospects for 2014 would seem to be bright. After all, they hope to have the same rotation they finished with back this year.
They are counting on Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Jake Peavy and Felix Doubront to be just as good in 2014. Problem is Lester is notch below what an ace should be. Look at most fantasy drafts this season and you will find Lester going in the middle rounds because of his high ERA and even higher walks-to-innings-pitched (WHIP) ratio.
Clay Buchholz also is going late in drafts because he has had a hard time staying healthy. His recurring back problems are not going away. He can only treat it to stay on track.
Lackey and Peavy are also on the north side of their usefulness. Both are crafty veteran pitchers and they will win their share on guile. But this group pales in comparison to the Rays and Yankees. That does not even take into account Doubront, who if you look as his 2013 numbers you wonder why the Red Sox like him so much.
To be sure, Koji Uehara was a miracle worker for them after the Bosox tried a number of unsuccessful closers since Jonathan Papelbon left years ago. But Uehara turns 39 on Wednesday and there is no net for him if he fails to do what he did late last season.
Boston does have lefty Andrew Miller and Junichi Tazawa back and they added Edward Mujica. But they do not have Craig Breslow at the start of the season and this bullpen is just a lot less deep than it was in 2013.
The same can be said for the starting lineup. Instead of bringing Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Daniel Nava off the bench they will have to play to fill holes when Ellsbury, Stephen Drew and Jarrod Saltalamacchia left the team.
Grady Sizemore actually beat out Bradley in center but the Red Sox know they can’t just run the oft-injured former All-Star out there every day. Bogarerts at short, Will Middlebrooks at third and center are unsettled positions with unknown quantities in them. A.J. Pierzynski takes over behind the plate and should be an offensive upgrade from Salty but teams are going to run wild on him on the bases.
The Red Sox just hope they can get another year out of fading DH David Ortiz, who at age 38 is well beyond borrowed time. He had a horrible spring and players at 38 do not get better. They fade.
The Red Sox will still revolve around Dustin Pedroia at second and they just hope that Shane Victorino (who begins the season injured), Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes, Mike Carp can still do what they did last season. But as we know it is hard to repeat as champion. The last team to do it was, well, the New York Yankees in 1998, 1999 and 2000. Red Sox Nation remembers that period of time.
So I do not think there is going to much in the way of magic at Fenway this season. It just not in the cards.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
The Jays are all about redemption.
They gave a fading infielder out of Pittsburgh Pirates and a disappointing third baseman out of the Cincinnati Reds a place on the team and they were rewarded with Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. Those two players form the most feared middle-of-the-order pair in baseball. Both could easily hit more than 40 homers apiece.
The Blue Jays even rehired manager John Gibbons even after they fired him three years ago.
So the Blue Jays were the cool team to pick in 2013 after they added Melky Cabrera and Jose Reyes to what they already had in Adam Lind, Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasmus. But their recipe for success did not count on a complete meltdown of their starting rotation.
Ace R.A. Dickey pitched with a bad back, Brandon Morrow was also hurt and former ace Ricky Romero forgot completely how to pitch successfully. Last season was just not pretty for the Jays.
But they have renewed hope in 2014. Dickey is healthy again and Mark Buehrle can still eat up innings with his soft-tossing junk. Add to that a healthy Morrow and you have the makings of a staff, But the other two spots will go to Drew Hutchison, who at 23 hopes he can establish himself as a starter this year, and an old friend Dustin McGowan, who last pitched as a regular in the Jays rotation in 2008. he is now 32 and he is an expert in rehabs.
Now that is some reclamation project.
Casey Janssen fell into the closer role when Sergio Santos was injured and now both form a nice tandem at the end of the game. Lefty Brett Cecil and hard-throwing righty Steve Delabar make the Jays bullpen one of the best in the division this season.
But bullpens have a way of wearing down when the starters do not succeed and have to be taken out early. In the rough and tumble American League East, the Blue Jays rotation just lacks the ability to hang with the big boys.
There is no doubt their offense is impressive. They will hit their share of home runs. But they also will lose a lot of games by scores of 9-7 and 8-5 because of this shaky rotation.
Cashman pointed out this spring what was painfully obvious. The luck the Orioles used to make the playoffs in 2012 was bound to be paid for in 2013. Orioles manager Buck Showalter took offense. But the truth always hurts, Buck.
The Orioles did not win those one-run and extra-inning games they won in 2012 and they finished with the Yankees in a tie for third place in 2014.
It is hard to see how the Orioles make it much better in 2014 even with the addition of right-handers Ubaldo Jimenez and Bud Norris and outfielder Nelson Cruz.
The issue with the Orioles is the same as last season. The starters Jimenez, Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Wei-Yin Chen and Norris are all fine pitchers in their own right but who, for Pete’s sake, is the ace? And is that ace better than the pitchers they face routinely like David Price, Masahiro Tanaka, Clay Buchholz, R.A. Dickey or Matt Moore?
The answer is no and Showalter will learn that quickly.
Jimenez is just a middling starter and Norris just looked good compared to all the awful pitchers the Astros kept running out there. Neither make the Orioles much better.
The addition of Cruz is curious because the Orioles are loaded with offense in mega-power threat Chris Davis added to Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, and J.J. Hardy. Cruz adds to that power but it is hard to see how that helps keep runs of the board.
The Orioles bullpen also took a major hit when Jim Johnson left for Oakland and took the 101 saves he recorded for the O’s the past two seasons with him. The Orioles are asking journeyman right-hander Tommy Hunter to do a job he has never done before and close games.
They did not add much around him either. They still rely on right-hander Darren O’Day and left-hander Brian Matusz to set up. Getting to them may be an issue because none of the rest of Orioles bullpen is really proven.
So Showalter just has to hope that his team can score runs in droves night after night to cover for a weak pitching staff. The mix of this starting staff and bullpen may be the worst in the division because the Blue Jays actually boast a much stronger bullpen.
Showalter may be an excellent manager but he can’t turn cubic zirconium into diamonds. There just no magic left for the Orioles.
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1) NEW YORK YANKEES
2) TAMPA BAY RAYS
3) BOSTON RED SOX
4) TORONTO BLUE JAYS
5) BALTIMORE ORIOLES
I see a close race between the Rays and Yankees and both will easily make the playoffs. The Red Sox will not collapse but I do see them fading as the season progresses when their rotation routinely starts breaking down. The Blue Jays will win their share of games with their offense and bullpen. But there will be days when good pitching will beat good hitting. On those days the Blue Jays will lose. The same for the Orioles. If they do not average seven runs a game they are in a heap of trouble. No team can do that consistently enough and no one can in this tough division. They will fall to the basement with a loud thud. Sorry, Buck. The truth hurts, huh!
YANKEES 8, RED SOX 1
TAMPA – It was buzzing all day long at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Tuesday and the day ended for the Red Sox much like Irwin Allen’s 1978 disaster horror film “The Swarm.”
Michael Pineda turned in 4 1/3 innings of shutout baseball and Alfonso Soriano drove in four runs – three of them on his first home run of the spring – as New York made like busy little bees and unmercifully stung Boston in front of a sellout crowd of 11,032 and national television audience.
Pineda (2-0) made a serious pitch for the team’s No. 5 starter’s job by yielding just four hits, did not walk a batter and struck out five. The 25-year-old right-hander, who has not pitched in a regular-season major-league game since the 2011 season due to a torn labrum in his right shoulder that required surgery, threw 45 of his 60 pitches for strikes and now has 14 strikeouts in nine scoreless innings this spring.
Meanwhile, the Yankees bugged left-hander Felix Doubront (0-1) for 3 2/3 innings in which Doubront was tagged for seven runs on 10 hits and three walks.
The Yankees scored a single run in the first on a two-out RBI single by Soriano and they added four runs in the second inning, keyed by a two-run single Mark Teixeira.
With the Yankees up 5-0 with two out in the fourth, Carlos Beltran singled and Teixeira drew a walk, which ended Doubront’s afternoon. Soriano then laced right-hander Brandon Workman’s fourth delivery over the left-field wall to put the game out of reach at 8-0.
Amid the frenzy of the crowd when these two storied rivals meet there actually was a real buzz that caused a seven-minute delay of the game in the third inning.
A massive swarm of bees along the left-field line was first noticed by Red Sox left-fielder Mike Carp, who informed the umpiring crew. Groundskeepers took to the field armed with the bug spray cans to drive the swarm away so the game could resume.
“Not a big fan of bees flying around my head,” Carp said. “It’s just one of those things I’ve never seen happen – or, I’ve seen it happen, but it’s never happened to me. I’m sure they’ll get their laughs on ESPN tonight.”
Boston’s lone run of the game came in the seventh inning off right-hander David Herndon. Jonathan Herrera scored Corey Brown on an RBI single.
The Yankees raised their Grapefruit League record to 11-9-2. The Red Sox fell to 8-11.
- For all intents and purposes, Pineda has won the No. 5 starting job even if manager Joe Girardi is not ready to make it official. Girardi said a decision would not be made until Sunday, which coincidentally is the day Pineda is scheduled to make his next start. I have said from the beginning of spring training that if Pineda was healthy he would get the job because David Phelps and Adam Warren are capable of working out of the bullpen and Pineda is not. In addition, Vidal Nuno has more value as a starter at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he can summoned should there be an injury to a starter during the season.
- Soriano spent the first two weeks of the spring trying to regain his strength after a long battle with a persistent flu. It seems he is rounding back into form because he hit the ball hard all day long. Soriano will be a key member of the team because he provides 30-homer power from the right side of the plate.
- Brett Gardner and Francisco Cervelli both continued their hot hitting of late. Gardner was 3-for-4 with two runs scored and he has raised his spring average to .313. Meanwhile, Cervelli is hitting like he is possessed. He was 2-for-3 on Tuesday and he is batting an even .500 on the spring. I am not sure a fire extinguisher would cool him off.
Hmmm! It was a beautiful sunny day, Pineda was absolutely dazzling, the Red Sox No. 5 starter Doubront was shelled and we got to see the Bosox get swarmed by thousands of bees. How could there be anything negative in any of that?
Starting center-fielder and former Red Sox Jacoby Ellsbury was held out the lineup on Tuesday due to tightness in his right calf. Girardi said that Ellsbury will be held out of games scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday also. Though the injury is not considered serious, the Yankees want to make sure the injury has healed completely before Ellsbury returns to game action. . . . Girardi said that right-hander Masahiro Tanaka will make his next start on Saturday when the Yankees travel to Fort Myers, FL, to face the Minnesota Twins. . . . Outfielder Mason Williams, the teams’ No. 2 rated prospect, was among 12 players cut from the squad beforeafter Tuesday’s game. Outfielder Ramon Flores was optioned to Triple A while the others were reassigned to minor-league camp. The other players are: pitchers Bruce Billings, Robert Coello, Brian Gordon and Chase Whitley; catcher Francisco Arcia and Pete O’Brien; infielders Corban Joseph and Jose Pirela; and outfielders Williams and Tyler Austin.
The Yankees will travel to Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, FL, on Wednesday to take on the Atlanta Braves.
Right-hander Ivan Nova (1-1, 5.40 ERA) will make the start for the Yankees. Former Braves catcher Brian McCann will head a group of players including Derek Jeter, Beltran, Gardner and Soriano that will make the trip.
The Braves will counter with right-hander David Hale (0-1, 4.50 ERA).
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by MLB Radio.
YANKEES VS. PIRATES (CANCELED RAIN)
The New York Yankees’ exhibition game scheduled against the Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, FL, was canceled on Monday due to rain.
The Pirates placed the tarp on the field 30 minutes before the scheduled 1:05 p.m. EDT start time and they opted to cancel the game 40 minutes later because of weather reports indicating an advancing storm that was expected to cover the Florida Gulf Coast the rest of the day.
The Yankees were scheduled to start right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (1-0, 6.48 ERA), who was coming off a start last Wednesday against the Detroit Tigers in which he was raked for six runs on 10 hits in 3 2/3 innings.
Right-hander Stolmy Pimentel (1-0, 0.00 ERA) was the scheduled starter for the Pirates.
With most of the Yankees’ starters returning from the Legends Series in Panama this weekend, the Yankees only brought three starters: second baseman Brian Roberts, first baseman Mark Teixeira and catcher Brian McCann on the trip to Bradenton.
The Yankees split the two-game series against the Miami Marlins at Rod Carew Stadium in Panama City, Panama. They were no-hit by a combination of four Marlins pitchers on Saturday en route to a 5-0 defeat. Brad Hand (2-0) pitched five perfect innings to get credit for the victory. Adam Warren (1-1) gave up a run on two hits while fanning six in 4 1/3 innings to take the loss. CC Sabathia got himself and the Yankees back on track on Sunday by pitching five hitless innings as the Yankees got even with the Marlins for a 7-0 victory. Sabathia struck out five and evened his record to 1-1. Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (0-1) was tagged with the loss. Francisco Cervelli and Yangervis Solarte led the offense with three hits apiece and catching prospect Gary Sanchez added a solo home run. The Yankees improved their Grapefruit League record to 10-9-2. The Marlins fell to 11-6. . . . The Legends Series was a chance for the Yankees to honor retired closer Mariano Rivera in his native country and most of the proceeds from the series will go to Rivera’s foundation.
The Yankees will return to George M. Steinbrenner Field on Tuesday to play their fiercest rival in the Boston Red Sox.
Right-hander Michael Pineda (1-0, 0.00 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Yankees coming off two shaky outings. The Yankees are also expected to play most of their starters in this game. However, former Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury will not play due to tightness in his right calf.
The Red Sox will counter with left-hander Felix Doubront (0-0, 0.00 ERA). The Red Sox are scheduled to bring Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Jonny Gomes, Mike Carp and David Ross.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by ESPN and locally by the YES Network.