YANKEES 3, BRAVES 2
With all the Bronx, the Yankee front office and the coaches having completely chewed off their fingernails all winter worrying about Masahiro Tanaka’s right elbow they can now relax. The Japanese right-hander made his spring debut on Thursday and he looked just fine – really.
Tanaka pitched two perfect dominant innings and Jake Cave’s RBI ground-rule double and Nick Noonan’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of seventh inning propelled New York to a come-from-behind victory over Atlanta at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL.
The Yankees entered the seventh trailing 2-1. With one out and pinch-runners Jonathan Galvez and Jose Pirela on second and first, respectively, Cave laced long double to center that plated Galvez to tie the game at 2-2. Noonan followed with a sacrifice fly to left that scored Pirela from third with the go-ahead run.
Left-hander Justin Wilson (1-0) pitched a perfect seventh inning and recorded two strikeouts to get credit for the victory. Braves right-hander Tyrell Jenkins (0-1) was saddled with the loss. Right-hander Wilking Rodriguez pitched a scoreless ninth and earned a save.
The Yankees improved their Grapefruit League record to 6-4.
Tanaka, 26, looked every bit the same pitcher who was 13-5 with a 2.77 ERA in 20 starts last season. It did not take the Braves too long to see it.
He retired Andrelton Simmons and Alberto Callaspo on routine grounders and struck out Freddie Freeman looking on a pitch that Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez disputed so vehemently that he was ejected from the game after the first pitch of the bottom of the inning by home-plate umpire Dan Iassogna.
Tanaka then opened the second by fanning Jonny Gomes and inducing groundball outs from Christian Bethancourt and Chris Johnson. And that was Tanaka’s evening.
All told he threw only 19 pitches, 15 of them for strikes and he threw first-pitch strikes to four of the six batters. He was so efficient he had to go the bullpen to throw enough pitches to get up the 35 he had been allotted.
“Overall, I think it was good,” Tanaka told reporters through an interpreter. “Probably the best part is that I was able to get first-pitch strikes a whole lot tonight.”
He was clocked as high 94 miles per hour on his fastball and he stayed within 88 to 91 most of the outing. He drew raves from his catcher, Brian McCann.
“He looked great, kind of picking up right where he left off last year,” McCann told reporters. “His sinker tonight was what impressed me the most. He had good downward action on it. His split was there, and he had a couple of quick innings. He was putting the ball where he wanted.”
Manager Joe Girardi now feels relieved to have his ace pass his first test of the elbow.
“You want to get all your starters out there and try to get them going,” Girardi told reporters. “You can’t spend your time worrying about what might be. You just approach every day, you know what you have, and you go forward.”
Tanaka also was glad to have his first outing out of the way.
“I feel better right now,” he told reporters. “I’ve had the time to prepare myself up to this point. It has gone well thus far.”
Now all of Yankee Universe can exhale. The team’s ace is just fine – really.
- The concern about Didi Gregorius has not been his glove or arm because both have been sensational. The real issue has been his bat but Gregorius ripped a leadoff triple into left-center off Braves starter Shelby Miller. The 25-year-old shortstop later scored on a fielder’s choice groundout by Brett Gardner to give the team a 1-0 lead.
- After getting shelled for three runs on six hits in the first inning by the Houston Astros in Kissimmee, FL, on Saturday in his spring debut, non-roster invitee Scott Baker pitched two perfect innings before giving up a one-out double to Bethancourt and two-RBI single to Todd Cunningham in the fifth. Baker, 33, now has a chance to stick with the Yankees due to the right quad injury of left-hander Chris Capuano, who will sidelined for a month.
- Cave, 22, is very quietly have a great spring training. The speedy outfielder is 5-for-9 (.556) with a double and home run and four RBIs. Cave advanced from Class-A Tampa to Double-A Trenton in 2014 and batted a combined .294 with seven homers and 42 RBIs in 132 games.
- Right-hander David Carpenter looked a little shaky in his one inning work against his former teammates. Carpenter was tagged for a pair of singles by Pedro Ciriaco and Simmons to begin the sixth. Callaspo followed with a sac fly to score Ciriaco from third. Carpenter, 29, and left-hander Chasen Shreve were acquired over the winter in exchange for former Yankees No. 1 pitching prospect Manny Banuelos. Carpenter figures to be the primary setup man in the bullpen for Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances.
- I am always being reminded that it is early but Stephen Drew keeps extending his hitting woes. He was 0-for-2 on Thursday and is 1-for-13 (.077) this far. Drew likely will break camp as the team’s starting second baseman. But after he hit a combined .162 with the Boston Red Sox and the Yankees last season he better get going with the bat sooner rather than later.
With the bad news about Capuano’s injury it is about time the Yankees got some good news about their starters. Along with Tanaka’s successful debut the Yankees were encouraged by left-hander CC Sabathia’s 29-pitch simulated session earlier in the day. Sabathia, 34, said he has not felt any pain in his surgically repaired right knee and thinks he is ready to take the next step of starting in an exhibition game. That could come as soon as next Tuesday at home against the Toronto Blue Jays or in Lake Buena Vista, FL, on Wednesday against the Braves.
The Yankees will make their only trip of the spring to Fort Myers, FL, on Friday to face the Red Sox at JetBlue Park.
Right-hander Adam Warren will make his third start of the spring for the Yankees. Warren, 27. has no record and has a 1.80 ERA.
McCann will play along with Garrett Jones, Chris Young and John Ryan Murphy.
The Red Sox will counter with right-hander Rick Porcello, 26, who was acquired from the Detroit Tigers and is 0-0 and with 0.00 ERA after one outing.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will broadcast by the MLB Network.
With the first pitch of the Grapefruit League season on Saturday the Yankees are preparing for the game and the rest of the spring schedule. Here is some news, views and notes from Florida regarding the Yankees:
Manager Joe Girardi has chosen right-hander David Phelps to open the spring schedule on Saturday against the Atlanta Braves at Champions Field in Lake Buena Vista, FL.
Phelps, 26, is coming off a rookie season in which he was 4-4 with a 3.34 ERA in 33 games, 11 of those were starts. Phelps is competing this spring with Ivan Nova for the team’s No. 5 starter spot.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has scheduled left-hander Paul Maholm to pitch against Phelps. The game will begin at 1:05 p.m. EST and there are still tickets available through Ticketmaster.
The Yankees will open their home spring schedule at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Sunday against an American League East rival in the Toronto Blue Jays. This will be a split squad for the Blue Jays.
Girardi has named rookie right-hander Adam Warren to start for the Yankees. Warren, 26, was 7-8 with a 3.71 ERA in 26 starts last season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons has selected veteran left-hander J.A. Happ to pitch for the visitors.
The YES Network will broadcast the spring home opener against the Blue Jays beginning at 1:05 p.m. EST.
LACK OF STARS
If you are planning to attend spring training to see the Yankees at Steinbrenner Field and throughout their road schedule, be advised that this spring you will not see whole lot of Yankee stars.
Alex Rodriguez is recovering from hip surgery and is not even in Florida. He is rehabilitating in New York and and is not expected to attend any games.
Derek Jeter is just in the early stages of his recovery from surgery from a fractured left ankle he suffered in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers. Although Jeter has made assurances he will be ready for Opening Day it is unlikely he will play much in the early stages of the spring schedule.
Mark Teixeira will be playing for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic and will not return until the team is eliminated. In addition, Robinson Cano is playing for his home Dominican Republic team in the classic and he will not be around much.
Just feel lucky that catcher Francisco Cervelli reneged on his plan to play for Team Italy and Andy Pettitte also declined an invitation from Team USA.
In addition to the World Baseball Classic, fans will also have to navigate around a series of split-squad games. The Yankees will split their squads twice this spring.
On Feb. 28, the Yankees will play at home against the Houston Astros while playing a road game against Blue Jays. On March 16, the Yankees will host the Philadelphia Phillies will a road squad will face the Braves.
In addition, opposing teams will send a total of three split squads to Tampa, FL, to face the Yankees: The Blue Jays on Saturday, the Orioles on Feb. 27 and the Tigers on March 2. So do not expect to see many stars from the opposing teams on those dates either.
So just get used to watching a lot of Ronnier Musteller, Zoilo Almonte and Addison Maruszak this spring and feel lucky if you can get a autograph from Preston Claiborne.
Can you tell I am not much of a fan of the World Baseball Classic? Thanks, Bud Selig!
Thanks to the MLB Network and ESPN the Yankees will have a total of 22 games in Florida broadcast on national television this spring and a 23rd game against the Washington Nationals from Washington, DC, will be broadcast on March 29 by the MLB Network.
To open the spring schedule, the MLB Network will pick up the YES Network broadcast of the Yankees against the Blue Jays on Sunday. That will be among the nine games that will be broadcast live while the others will be shown on tape delay by the MLB Network.
The Yankees’ home contest against the Boston Red Sox will be broadcast live on March 20 by ESPN.
So if you can’t come to Florida or you can’t get a ticket for a spring game, the game will come to you on television.
HUGHES TO IT
The first injury of spring belongs to right-handed starter Phil Hughes, Hughes, 27, reported pain in his upper back just below his shoulder blade on Monday after he participated in a drill covering first base. The injury is not considered as serious but he will be sidelined for several days.
Hughes was 16-13 with a 4.23 ERA last season and he can become a free agent after the 2013 season.
Hughes saw a doctor on Tuesday and he is hoping to be able to resume workouts within a few days.
- Musteller got the attention of Phelps by rocketing a line drive right at him on Tuesday. Phelps was able to get out of the way but was shaken a bit. Musteller, 28, hit a combined .314 with 15 homers and 69 RBIs in 114 games between Double-A Trenton and Scranton last season. Musteller is listed as a non-roster outfielder but has experience as an infielder as well. “He’s a good hitter,” Phelps said. “He can swing it.”
Girardi is still mulling over whether to move Curtis Granderson to left in order to play Brett Gardner in center this season. Girardi said he has not made up his mind but he said if he does make the move it likely would come early in spring in order to allow Granderson to get used to playing in left. “I think Curtis has done a good job for us,” Girardi said. “The question for us to sit here and stew over is, ‘If you flip-flop them, does it make you better defensively?’ That’s what we have to figure out.”
Highly touted right-handed reliever Mark Montgomery resumed throwing on Tuesday. He had been sidelined for a short time due to back spasms. Montgomery, 23, is considered the team’s best reliever prospect after going a combined 7-2 with a 1.54 ERA and 15 saves Advanced-A Tampa and Trenton.
YANKEES 6, BRAVES 4
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez took out starter Mike Minor with one out in the eighth inning nursing a 4-0 lead after Derek Jeter singled and Minor had reached 100 pitches. In what looked to be a minor move at the time turned into a major catastrophe for the Braves.
Lefty reliever Jonny Venters faced the next four batters and he could not retire a single one.
Alex Rodriguez made him pay with an historic grand slam home run and, two batters later, Nick Swisher smashed a game-winning two-run shot of his own as New York got up off the mat and laid the heavy lumber to the Atlanta bullpen on Tuesday for a dramatic 6-4 comeback victory at Turner Field.
The miracle comeback was the Yankees’ fifth victory in a row and their 10th in their last 12 games, propelling the team into first place in the American League East with a 36-25 mark – the best record in the AL.
Rodriguez’s grand slam was the 23rd of his career and it ties him with former Yankee legend Lou Gehrig for first place on the all-time list.
Venters set the stage for Rodriguez and Swisher by giving up a single to Curtis Granderson, which advanced Jeter to second. Venters then walked Mark Teixeira to load the bases.
Falling behind Rodriguez 3-0, Venters threw a called strike and Rodriguez fouled off two more pitches before he connected with the low fastball and drove it out on a line about two rows into the left-field bleachers with a frozen rope you could hung all the Yankees’ laundry on for Rodriguez’s 10th home run of the season and the 639th of his career.
A stunned Turner Field crowd of 41,452 was now staring at a scoreboard that read Yankees 4, Braves 4.
Venters then allowed Cano to fist a single into center and he was serenaded with a cascade of boos as he was replaced by right-hander Cory Gearrin.
Swisher greeted Gearrin by smacking a 1-0 change-up into the bleachers in right-center for his 10th home run of the season and the Yankees had their first lead of the game. Previously, the Braves had been 27-0 this season when leading after seven innings.
In Gehrig’s legendary speech at Yankee Stadium he said, “Today, I am the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.” After this comeback victory, CC Sabathia should say the same thing.
Sabathia (8-3) got credit for a victory he frankly did not deserve.
Sabathia was rocked for three runs in the first inning, keyed by a bases-clearing double by Matt Diaz. The Braves loaded the bases on him again in the seventh and pushed another run across on an RBI groundout by Jason Heyward.
In seven innings of work, Sabathia fought to command his fastball and gave up four runs on 10 hits and and two walks and he struck six batters.
Minor, meanwhile, shut out the Yankees on five hits and one walk and he struck out four in 7 1/3 innings. Many Braves fans are wondering now if Gonzalez perhaps may have taken him out just a bit too soon.
Once the Yankees took the lead, manager Joe Girardi chose to use lefty Clay Rapada for the eighth and he pitched a scoreless frame. Then Rafael Soriano, who blew his last save opportunity on Sunday against the Mets and who also was nursing a blister on right index finger, came in to pitch the ninth.
He set Martin Prado, Brian McCann and Dan Uggla down in order, striking out McCann and Uggla swinging, to earn his 10th save in 11 tries.
The Yankees have clinched the three-game series by winning the first two games and they are now 8-2 at Turner Field.
- Rodriguez’s historic grand slam was also a meaningful blast for the Yankees. The home run erased Minor’s 7 1/3 innings of shutout baseball and set the stage for the come-from-behind victory. It was Rodriguez’s first multiple-RBI game since June 1 and his first home run since June 3 and both of those events came in the same series against the Tigers in Detroit.
- Swisher’s blast off Gearrin was only his second home run of the month. Swisher also became the sixth Yankee to hit at least 10 home runs this season. Russell Martin has nine. His two RBIs give him 39 on the season, which still is the most on the team.
- Give Rapada and Soriano credit for shutting down the Braves in the final two innings. The bullpen was short because Boone Logan and Cory Wade were not really available and only Freddy Garcia and David Phelps could pitch for any length of time. But the pair shut out the Braves over the last two innings with no hits, one walk and they struck out three.
- The Yankees were 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position and that one hit was Rodriguez’s grand slam. There is reason why they are last in the American League with RISP. But they are not really paying much of a price now because they use the home run to cover that weakness. But if they don’t improve soon it will bite them.
- Sabathia has really been shaky his last two starts. He has given up nine runs (seven earned) on 17 hits and three walks and struck out 18 in 14 innings. Sabathia’s problem has falling behind and hitters are teeing off on him when he has to throw a strike. Still, he is 8-3 with a 3.80 ERA on the season.
- Here is the reason why Gonzalez may have made a big mistake in taking out Minor when he did. Up to that point, Teixeira, Rodriguez and Cano were a combined 0-for-8 against him. Teixeira drew a first-inning walk and that was pretty much it for the heart of the lineup until the eighth.
Closer Mariano Rivera had surgery on Tuesday to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee but there was no repairable damage to his meniscus. That was cited as great news by the Yankees. Rivera suffered the injury on May 3 in Kansas City, however, he had to postpone the surgery until a blot clot in his right calf was dissolved by medication. The surgery was performed in New York by the Mets’ team physician, Dr. David Altchek. Rivera will miss the rest of the season but he said he will pitch for the Yankees in 2013. . . . All-Star setup man David Robertson pitched a scoreless inning for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday. He will rejoin the Yankees in Atlanta on Wednesday but he will not be activated until the Yankees open a weekend series on Friday with the Nationals in Washington. Robertson has missed just about one month with a left oblique strain.
The Yankees will have an opportunity to sweep their second consecutive three-game series against the Braves on Wednesday.
Veteran right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (5-6, 3.46) will start for the Yankees. He is coming off a one-hit, seven-inning gem against the Mets although he had to leave with a bruised left foot. Kuroda is 2-0 with 0.82 ERA in his last three starts. He is 1-4 with a 2.10 ERA against the Braves.
Veteran right-hander Tim Hudson (4-2, 3.83) will oppose Kuroda. He shut out the Marlins last Tuesday but required three extra days to rest a sore left ankle. He is 1-3 with a 3.78 ERA in his career against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by ESPN and locally by the YES Network.
The New York Yankees lost their ace starting pitcher, later they lost their 3-1 lead in the game, then their furious ninth inning rally fell short on Sunday but they may have not lost to the Florida Marlins 6-5 — not just yet anyway.
“We’re going to file an incident report, and all that,” umpire Jeff Kellogg told MLB.com. “The protest is over the pitcher should have been removed from the game, or the pitch should not have counted. That’s the protest. Either or. One or the other should have happened.
“It goes to the league, and they will review everything. They will make a determination after that.”