NATIONALS 8, YANKEES 2
Stephen Strasburg held the Yankees to one run on six hits in 5 1/3 innings and Bryce Harper stroked an RBI triple to spark a three-run first inning as Washington downed New York on Friday at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL.
Strasburg (2-1) walked one and struck out six to get credit for the victory.
Left-hander CC Sabathia (0-3) yielded three runs on three hits and two walks in the first inning. But Sabathia recovered and ended up yielding no runs on just two hits and a walk in his remaining 4 1/3 innings of work.
Mike Carp hit a three-run home run in the seventh inning off right-hander Nick Goody to put the game out of reach.
The Yankees completed their Grapefruit League schedule with a 16-16-1 record.
- At first glance Sabathia’s 0-3 record and 8.10 ERA this spring is a bit alarming. However, Sabathia was a totally different pitcher after the first inning. He retired 12 of the final 15 batters he faced, striking out two. At least it is something to build upon for his next scheduled start on April 9 at Yankee Stadium against the Toronto Blue Jays.
- It also should not surprise anyone that the two Yankee RBIs against the Nationals came from Chase Headley and Rob Refsnyder. Headley laced a two-out RBI double into the right-center gap off Strasburg in the fourth inning. Refsnyder added a two-out RBI double of his own in the ninth inning. Headley led all of the Yankee roster players in batting this spring with a .321 average and he drove in eight runs. Refsnyder led all players with 16 or more at-bats in hitting for a .372 average.
- The Yankees did not play well at all in the final week of the spring. They entered the week 15-12 and ended up 16-16. The major reason why was they did not hit well as a team. That pretty much was an ongoing theme of the spring. In their four losses this week they scored five runs on just 15 hits. You can’t sugarcoat it. This team is just dreadful offensively.
- One of the biggest culprits this spring was Brett Gardner. The 31-year-old outfielder was 9-for-56 (.161) with no homers, three RBIs and 16 strikeouts. The odd thing is that Gardner was coming off his best season in terms of homers (17) and RBIs (53).
- With such bullpen stalwarts as David Robertson, Shawn Kelley and David Phelps gone and Adam Warren being moved into the rotation due to the injury to Chris Capuano, it stood to reason the bullpen might need time to gel. But it is a source of concern leaving camp because Dellin Betances (6.14 ERA), Chasen Shreve (4.67), David Carpenter (4.70) and Chris Martin (4.50) all had some shaky moments this spring.
Because of the struggles of Betances, manager Joe Girardi again on Friday refused to name a closer. It is looking as if the right-handed Betances and left-hander Andrew Miller will share the role and will be used depending on specific ninth inning matchups. “I really think that if you do it that way and as long as you’re prepared, it has a chance to be advantageous to you,” Girardi told reporters. . . . Right-hander Ivan Nova threw a 45-pitch bullpen session on Friday without any setbacks. Nova, 27, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, will remain in Florida to continue his rehab and is expected to be able to return sometime in June. . . . In a bit of a surprise, Slade Heathcott was named on Friday as the winner of the James P. Dawson Award as the the Yankees’ outstanding rookie of the spring, Heathcott, 24, was 11-for-31 (.355) with a homer and seven RBIs in 21 games. I think Refsnyder was a much better hitter and should have won the award.
The Yankees are now in Washington, DC, for the final exhibition game on Saturday against Nationals at Nationals Park.
Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi will start for the Yankees after going 1-1 with 0.66 ERA in four games (three starts) this spring.
The Nationals will start right-hander Doug Fister, who was 0-0 with 7.02 ERA in five spring starts.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast for free on MLB.com.
TWINS 3, YANKEES 1
Eduardo Escobar doubled and homered and left-hander Tommy Milone held the Yankees to one run over six innings as Minnesota edged New York on Tuesday at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, FL.
Escobar stroked a two-out double off Masahiro Tanaka (1-2) in the third inning and scored on Chris Herrmann’s RBI single to stake the Twins to a 1-0 lead. After the Yankees tied the score in the fourth on Ramon Flores’ two out single scoring Chris Young, Eric Fryer followed a one-out double by Adam Walker II and a Shane Robinson single with an RBI single in the bottom of the inning that gave the Twins a lead they would not relinquish.
Escobar added a solo home run off Tanaka to lead off the fifth inning, his fifth homer of the spring.
Meanwhile. Milone (1-1), who is slated to be the Twins’ fifth starter, controlled the Yankees on four hits and two walks while he struck out five batters in his longest outing of the spring.
With the loss the Yankees’ Grapefruit League record dropped to 15-13.
- Although Flores is just 9-for-40 (.225) this spring, he has made those few hits count. He was 2-for-4 on Tuesday with two singles and he drove in the team’s lone score of the day. To prove how weak the Yankees’ offense has been this spring, Flores leads the team in RBIs with eight. Flores, 24, is ticketed for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre but he likely would be the first outfielder called up should the Yankees have an injury at that position.
- Right-handed reliever Chris Martin, 28, entered play on Tuesday with 0-1 record and a 5.63 ERA in nine spring appearances. But he looked impressive after relieving Tanaka with one out in the fifth inning. He retired all five batters he faced and fanned two in an outing that took only 22 pitches – 17 for strikes. It impressed manager Joe Girardi, who told reporters that the former Rockie showed a “good downhill angle, good breaking ball – really good.”
- Brett Gardner has not had a very good spring but he was 1-for-2 with a single and a walk. However, he was the only Yankees’ projected starter who made the trip. The Twins played a night game on Monday and used only two starters in their lineup. It used to be a unwritten agreement by teams in Florida that they would bring at least three starters to exhibition games. The home team usually played most of its starters. That somehow has gone by the wayside all this spring. I honestly believe people who are paying good money for spring training tickets are getting ripped off. I believe I am going to have to write a letter to the new commissioner about it. If you have time, you do the same.
- Tanaka was raked pretty good in what was his last tuneup before opening the season on April 6 at Yankee Stadium again the Toronto Blue Jays. Tanaka gave up three runs on six hits and no walks while struck out just one in 4 1/3 innings. Half the hits were for extra bases. I will tell you a dirty little secret the Yankees are not telling you. Much like Dellin Betances, Tanaka has pitched with less velocity this spring. He has averaged around 89 miles per hour, but has been able to get up to about 93 mph on occasion. It is not a real worry because Tanaka is more of a “pitcher” than just a “thrower,” but it may explain why he got hit a bit on Tuesday.
- Milone entered the game with an 0-1 record and a 4.50 ERA but the Yankees managed to make him look like Cliff Lee. Of course, with all but one the Yankees’ starters back in Tampa, FL, that was likely going to be the result. To show you how bad the lineup was, Austin Romine, who was just 4-for-25 (.160) entering the contest, was batting fifth. As expected, Romine was 1-for-3 with a strikeout and is now hitting . 143.
Shortstop Didi Gregorius is experiencing some swelling in his left wrist and likely will not play on Wednesday as expected, Girardi told reporters on Tuesday. Gregorius injured the wrist diving for a ground ball in the second inning of Saturday’s 10-2 loss at home against the Baltimore Orioles. He left the game in the fifth inning to undergo X-rays and an MRI, which showed there was no structural damage to the wrist. Gregorius is 12-for-40 (.300) this spring. . . . Center-fielder Jacoby Ellsbury was 2-for-5 in a minor-league game in Tampa on Tuesday and he likely will return to the Yankees’ lineup on Wednesday. Ellsbury has been sidelined since March 15 with a strained oblique.
The Yankees will return to George M. Steinbrenner Field on Wednesday to play host to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Right-hander Chase Whitley, who is 0-0 with a 0.79 ERA in six appearances (one start) will open the game for the Yankees. Whitley is among a group of relievers trying to nail down one of two bullpen spots.
The Rays have elected not to pitch any of their regular starters against a division rival either. Instead they will open with left-handed reliever Jordan Norberto, who is 1-0 with a 4.82 ERA in six appearances.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast live on the YES Network and on a delayed basis by the MLB Network at midnight on Thursday.
YANKEES 7, ASTROS 0
KISSIMMEE – Chase Headley pounded out three hits, including his third home run of the spring, and drove in three runs to support Nathan’s Eovaldi’s strong 4 2/3 innings of shutout baseball as New York blanked Houston on Sunday at Osceola County Stadium.
Headley got the Yankees’ offense started against right-hander Scott Feldman (0-2) with a two-out solo home run in the third inning that hit the top of the right-field field wall and bounced over. He later broke the game wide open in the sixth with a two-out, bases-loaded single off right-hander James Hoyt that drove in two runs to cap a four-run rally and extend the Yankees’ lead to 7-0.
Meanwhile, newly acquired right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (1-1) continued a string of impressive appearances this spring by shutting down the Astros on just three hits. He did not walk a batter and he fanned five.
For the Yankees it was their second consecutive road shutout of the spring. On Friday, the Yankees defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 10-0 in a game called in the sixth inning due to rain.
With the victory the Yankees improved their Grapefruit League record to 15-12.
The Yankees have historically leaned towards trading away young pitchers and acquiring veteran pitchers on the north side of 30.
There are many examples of young pitchers the Yankees traded before they became stars like Jose Rijo, Doug Drabek, Ted Lilly and Ian Kennedy. Just this winter the Yankees traded David Phelps and Shane Greene. It is just something for which Yankee fans have grown accustomed.
The script got flipped, however, when veteran infielder Martin Prado and Phelps were packaged to the Miami Marlins in a trade for first baseman and outfielder Garrett Jones, Eovaldi, a 25-year-old right-hander, and a promising 22-year-old right-hander Domingo German.
Basketball coaches always say that you can’t teach size and baseball managers say accordingly that you can’t teach a pitcher velocity. Eovaldi has a gifted right arm that possesses outstanding velocity. His fastball can reach as high as 98 miles per hour.
In fact, FanGraphs.com ranked Eovaldi’s fastball as the fourth highest in velocity last season among major-league pitchers. The oddity was Eovaldi led all National League pitchers in hits allowed (223) and he only managed 142 strikeouts in 199 2/3 innings.
His 6-14 record and 4.37 ERA also would have you scratching your head after you saw that sizzling heater of his.
So Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild did some tinkering with Eovaldi’s fastball and his secondary pitches this spring to bring his hits allowed down and raise his strikeout totals. In short, they want him to take the next step in being a dominant pitcher.
After Sunday’s sterling effort, it appears that Eovaldi – with Rothschild’s help – is doing just that. In Eovaldi’s four spring appearances (three starts) he is 1-1 with a team-best 0.66 ERA. He has yielded just one run on 10 hits with no walks and 14 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings.
If you add a potentially dominant Eovaldi to 26-year-old right-hander Masahiro Tanaka and 26-year-old right-hander Michael Pineda then you might have an excellent trio of young starters to build a team around.
But don’t just take my word on Eovaldi. You can hear it from a fellow graduate of his from Alvin High School in Alvin, TX, who was watching Eovaldi on Sunday in his role as an executive advisor to the Astros – some guy named Nolan Ryan.
“I haven’t watched him in person, only on television, but I’ve followed him ever since he’s been in high school,” Ryan told reporters. “I really think that the better part of his career is still ahead of him.”
The Yankees might just have something special in this young Eovaldi. And the best part is he is not 34 years old and past his prime.
- I really ripped this team for how bad they looked on Saturday at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL, against the Baltimore Orioles in a 10-2 loss. But they bounced back nicely on Sunday and scored seven runs and collected 11 hits and drew seven walks. But he oddity this spring is that the Yankees are 8-5-1 and have outscored their opponents 77-44 on the road while they are 7-7 and have been outscored 64-46 at home. This may be because the young players have been doing most of the hitting this spring and they are playing more on the road.
- In addition to Headley’s three hits, the Yankees got another stellar effort at the plate from Rob Refsnyder. The 24-year-old second baseman was 2-for-3 with two doubles and two runs scored and an RBI. Refsnyder is now 12-for-35 (.343) with five doubles, one home run and five RBIs. He is ticketed for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and he does need to get better in the field, but this young player has all the makings of a great hitter.
- Esmil Rogers, 29, may have blown his opportunity to be the team’s No. 5 starter this spring. But he still has some value in the bullpen. Rogers looked sharp in retiring all five batters he faced and he fanned two of them.
I will not nitpick this one. If you toss shutout ball and score seven runs there is not much there to fix.
Alex Rodriguez made his major-league debut as a first baseman on Sunday and handled three chances flawlessly in his three innings of work. Manager Joe Girardi envisions Rodriguez as potential fill-in at first base behind starter Mark Teixeira and Jones. “Catching the ball, I’m not worried about that. I’d think he’d be pretty good around the bag, even scooping, because you get a lot of those hot shots at third base,” Girardi told reporters. . . . Teixeira suffered a right knee contusion on Sunday playing in a minor-league game at the Yankees’ complex in Tampa. Teixeira left the game immediately and was limping afterward. But he told reporters that he was “fine.” . . . Shortstop Didi Gregorius received treatment and said there was improvement in his strained left wrist that he sustained in Saturday’s game against the Orioles. Gregorius said he is sure he will be ready to play on Opening Day. . . . The Yankees released right-hander Scott Baker but they hope to re-sign him to a new minor-league contract. Baker, 33, originally was signed to a deal that would have forced the Yankees to pay him a retention bonus. The Yankees would like Baker to sign a minor-league deal without the bonus. That is the same basis they re-signed right-hander Jared Burton on Sunday. Burton, 33, had been released three days ago. He only pitched in four games this spring because he suffered a strained lat. In addition to the Burton signing, the Yankees also optioned right-hander Bryan Mitchell to Scranton and sent right-hander Kyle Davies to minor-league camp. The team also optioned outfielder Ramon Flores to Triple-A and re-assigned catchers Francisco Arcia and Kyle Higashioka, infielders Cole Figueroa and Jonathan Galvez, outfielder Slade Heathcott, left-hander Jacob Lindgren and right-hander Nick Rumbelow to minor-league camp.
The Yankees will take the day off on Monday before resuming their final week of spring training games on Tuesday at CenturyLink Sports Complex in Fort Myers, FL, as the Yankees play the Minnesota Twins.
Tanaka will make what will be his final spring appearance before he opens the season on April 6 at Yankee Stadium against the Toronto Blue Jays. Tanaka is 1-1 with a 1.74 ERA in his three spring starts.
The Twins will counter with left-hander Tommy Milone, who is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA in four starts.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the MLB Network.
ORIOLES 10, YANKEES 2
Alejandro De Aza hit a three-run home run to cap a five-run second inning off Scott Baker and Baltimore cruised to victory over New York on Saturday at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL.
Meanwhile, right-hander Orioles starter Tyler Wilson (1-0), making his first start of the spring, held the Yankees to a single hit over four scoreless innings to get credit for the victory.
Baker (0-1), who was starting in place of CC Sabathia so the Orioles could not get an early look at him, yielded five runs on five hits and no walks and struck out three in two innings.
The Yankees’ lone runs came on solo home runs from Stephen Drew in the fifth inning and Alex Rodriguez in the seventh, his third homer of the spring.
With the loss the Yankees are 14-12 in Grapefruit League play.
Nothing. The Yankees managed just three hits all day and the pitching was pretty atrocious. After watching this one I almost expected they would post a message on the scoreboard saying “No actual Yankees were harmed during this massacre.”
- When the Yankees made the switch of starters from Sabathia to Baker, I was pleased because Sabathia has been getting hit pretty hard. Baker, on the other hand, had been very sharp in his previous two outings. But Baker had no command and it looked as if the O’s were taking batting practice off him. This outing pretty much takes Baker out of any consideration for a spot on the roster and it could jeopardize his chances of even pitching for the Yankees at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
- It is fairly obvious that Dellin Betances is not the Dellin Betances we remember from 2014. The Orioles nicked him for a run on one hit and one walk in his one inning of work. He has been unable to deliver a 1-2-3 inning this spring and his ERA has now ballooned to 7.11. It is not time to panic yet but if it continues the Yankees are in big trouble at the end of their bullpen.
- Brett Gardner, Chase Headley, Mark Teixeira and Chris Young combined to go 0-for-12 in the game and they were a major reason why the Yankees looked as if they were sleepwalking through this game. Lack of offense has been a big issue all spring and it does not seem to be getting any better.
If the game itself was not bad news enough, the Yankees might have lost starting shortstop Didi Gregorious for some time after he sprained his left wrist in the second inning. Gregorius, 25, injured himself diving unsuccessfully for a ball off the bat of Everth Cabrera. He stayed in the game but was replaced by Nick Noonan in the fifth inning after Gregorius told manager Joe Girardi that he felt pain in the wrist on a check swings. X-rays were negative and he will get the next three days off . . . . Though Baker had a bad day, Sabathia was not spared either. The 34-year-old left-hander was shelled for four runs on five hits including a pair of home runs in a 69-pitch outing against minor leaguers on Saturday at the team’s complex in Tampa. . . . Rob Refsnyder and Luis Severino were honored on Saturday as the winners of the 2014 Kevin Lawn Award and the team’s Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year, respectively. Refsnyder, 24, split last season between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton and batted .318 with 14 homers and 63 RBIs. Severino, 21, was a combined 6-5 with a 2.46 ERA in 24 starts at Class-A Charleston, Class-Tampa and Trenton. Severino led all Yankees minor-league pitchers with 127 strikeouts and was selected to participate in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game.
The Yankees will travel to Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, FL, on Sunday to play the Houston Astros.
Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi will make his third start and his fourth appearance of the spring. Eovaldi, 25, is 0-1 with a 1.00 ERA.
The Astros will counter with veteran right-hander Scott Feldman, who is 0-1 with 10.13 ERA in three starts this spring. With that 10.13 ERA, Feldman must be looking forward to facing the Yankees because they might make him look like Felix Hernandez.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast on MLB Radio via KBME in Houston.
YANKEES 10, PHILLIES 0 (CALLED IN SIXTH – RAIN)
Michael Pineda tossed five scoreless innings and the Yankees erupted for seven runs in the fifth inning as New York blanked Philadelphia in a rain-shortened contest on Friday at Bright House Field in Clearwater, FL.
Pineda (2-0) looked impressive in limiting the Phils to five hits, he walked none and fanned five batters. The five shutout innings lowered Pineda’s spring ERA to 1.32.
The Yankees’ offense, meanwhile, jumped on left-hander Jake Diekman (0-1) for seven runs on six hits and a walk in just one-third of inning to put the game away in the fifth. The key blows in the inning were a two-run single by Stephen Drew, who was 3-for-3 in the game, and a two-run double off the bat of Chris Young.
The Yankees added three more runs in the sixth inning off right-hander Hector Neris and all three runs came on a bases-loaded double by Tyler Austin.
The game was played delayed 35 minutes by rain and finally was called with one out in the top of the sixth.
The victory improved the Yankees’ Grapefruit League mark to 14-11.
When it came time for the Yankees to settle upon a second baseman after Brian Roberts failed to produce last season, the Yankees decided against looking for the pedigree and instead went to the rescue shelter.
They traded infielder Kelly Johnson to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for a shortstop, Drew. You read that right. The Yankees traded for a shortstop to play second base.
Drew had been a shortstop his entire professional career, which started in 2005. He became the starting shortstop for the Arizona Diamondbacks at the end of the 2006 season and he stayed in that role through 2012.
Drew’s best season was in 2008 when he batted a career-high .291 with 21 homers and drove in 67 runs for the D-backs. Much like his older brother J.D., Drew came out of the minors tagged as a future star. After all, he was the team’s first selection and the 15th overall in the 2004 draft.
Though Drew had some fine seasons with the bat and he was a pretty steady fielder, stardom somehow eluded him and the D-backs traded him to the Oakland Athletics in 2012 in his free-agent year.
But he ended up signing a free-agent contract with the Red Sox in 2013 and he had a throwback season at the plate. He batted .253 with 13 homers and 67 RBIs and he ended up collecting a championship ring in the process.
But Drew’s fortunes went from penthouse to outhouse quickly when Drew refused the Red Sox’ qualifying offer and then ended up sitting out all of the winter, spring training and the early portion of the 2014 season without a place to play.
Drew finally relented and signed with the Red Sox at a huge discount. But without any spring training, Drew was basically thrown into the fray cold and it showed. He batted .176 with four home runs and 11 RBIs until the Red Sox made the deal with the Yankees for Drew.
The 32-year-old Georgia native did not fare much better with the Yankees, batting .150 with three homers and 15 RBIs in 46 games, most of them (34) at an unfamiliar second base.
Rather than cut Drew loose and look for another second baseman, the Yankees signed him this winter to a one-year, $5 million deal. But the onus on Drew is to produce with the bat quickly or be replaced by up-and-coming second base prospects Jose Pirela and Rob Refsnyder, who have both hit extremely well this spring.
Manager Joe Girardi ended the speculation early and stated that Drew was the team’s starting second baseman. But Drew has foundered at the plate and he was hitting just .167 going into Friday’s contest.
Drew has been changing his mechanics with new hitting coach Jeff Pentland. It may be starting to pay off.
Drew had a double and two singles, scored a run and drove in two. The good day at the plate raised his spring average to .231. It is not much yet, but it is a start.
The 2015 season will begin soon and there will be no player more scrutinized than Drew. He is no stranger to pressure and expectations. But this challenge may be the biggest he has to overcome in a long time.
- Pineda, 26, has simply been the most impressive starter the Yankees have this spring. That includes Masahiro Tanaka. Pineda has been absolutely unhittable this spring and he is showing the same great control. One scout said that Pineda has been the best starter he has seen in Florida this spring. Look for a big season from the right-hander if he can stay healthy.
- Young, 31, has been real hot lately with the bat. In his past four games Young is 4-for-13 (.308) with two doubles, two homers and five RBIs. Young provides the team with solid right-handed power and a reliable outfielder who can play all three positions. He is going to be very helpful coming off the bench this season.
- Alex Rodriguez was 1-for-2 in the game and now is batting .303 on the spring. The 39-year-old infielder has proven that he has not been overmatched at the plate. Though he might not be the A-Rod of 2007 when he was the American League Most Valuable Player, he has proven that he can be a productive contributor for the Yankees. They will need his right-hand power in 2015.
When your pitcher shuts out the opposition and your offense scores 10 runs there can be nothing to nitpick about. This was an impressive victory.
As expected, Girardi named Tanaka as the team’s Opening Day starter on Friday. Tanaka, 26, will be followed by Pineda, CC Sabathia and Nathan Eovaldi. The team’s fifth starter will be named later this weekend and it is expected to be right-hander Adam Warren. It will be the first time in six seasons that Sabathia has not drawn the opening assignment. . . . The Yankees said on Friday that Rodriguez will play first base for five innings in Sunday’s exhibition game against the Houston Astros in Kissimmee, FL. Girardi envisions Rodriguez as a potential third option at first behind Mark Teixeira and Garett Jones. “I’m excited,” Rodriguez told reporters. “I told Joe to really keep a close eye on me. He said he will.”
The Yankees will return to George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL on Saturday to host the Baltimore Orioles.
There was a switch in plans and Sabathia will start in a minor-league game instead of giving the Orioles a peak at him. In his place, non-roster right-hander Scott Baker will draw the start. Baker, 33, is 0-0 with a 4.32 ERA in three games this spring.
Baker will be opposed by right-hander Bud Norris, who is 0-3 with a 9.26 ERA in four spring starts.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
RAYS 6, YANKEES 5
Desmond Jennings led off the sixth inning with a home run and the Rays later added a run that frame on a wild pitch uncorked by right-hander Chris Martin as Tampa rolled to victory over New York on Thursday at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, FL.
Right-hander Brad Boxberger (1-1) yielded a run in seventh inning on an RBI double off the bat of Didi Gregorius but still got credit for the victory. Khan Martinez also yielded a run in his two-thirds of an inning in the ninth but was credited with the save.
Martin (0-1) took the loss.
The Yankees’ Grapefruit League record dropped to 13-11.
Going into Thursday’s contest Yankees starter Adam Warren had the No. 5 starting job pretty much locked up.
It is always a good think to have the team’s general manager say as much.
“I think there’s a predictable favorite. I guess that’s as far as I can go on that one,” Brian Cashman told reporters on Wednesday. “Right now, if we had to make a decision today, I think we all know what that decision would be. There’s a Secretariat right now in this race for me that’s got a number of lengths ahead of the field.”
Cashman, without saying it, was actually saying that Warren was the clear favorite. After Thursday’s start that has not changed.
Warren surrendered a run on four hits and a walk with five strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings against the Rays. The lone blemish was a solo home run off the bat of Evan Longoria.
The 27-year-old right-hander entered the spring having started only three major-league games and none of them were last season as he was 3-6 with a 2.97 ERA in 69 relief appearances.
But the former University of North Carolina star pitched as a starter in all 90 of his minor-league games and was 28-25 with a 3.71 ERA. The Yankees merely shifted one of the better minor-league starters to the bullpen out of necessity in 2013 and Warren helped solidify the bullpen last season.
Circumstances changed on March 11 when No. 5 starter Chris Capuano, 36, strained his right quad covering first base on the second batter he faced in an exhibition game against the Boston Red Sox at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
The Yankees had been auditioning Warren and several others as candidates to be a potential sixth starter because the Yankees play 30 games in 31 days in late April and early May. With Capuano out at least a month and likely more, the audition purpose was altered to become the fifth starter.
Warren clearly has been the best among Esmil Rogers, Chase Whitley, Scott Baker and Bryan Mitchell. He is now 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA in five starts and he has recorded 11 strikeouts while issuing just one walk in 16 2/3 innings.
The Yankees are expected to make a final decision this weekend after manager Joe Girardi discusses it with pitching coach Larry Rothschild and the rest of his staff. But if Warren does not get the nod it would be real shocker.
Now Warren just has endure constant ribbing is he has been getting from his teammates who now insist on calling him Secretariat. For Warren it is minor cross to bear.
- Ramon Flores was a hero earlier this week with his walk-off three-run homer in the ninth that defeated the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday. On Thursday, Flores was building on that success. He started in right-field and was 2-for-4 with a single and a double, scored a run and drove in two runs. Flores is only 7-for-33 (.212) but he has made his hits count because he has two home runs and seven RBIs, which leads the team this spring.
- Gregorius also was 2-for-4 with a single, a double and an RBI. Since March 18, Gregorius has been a real tear, going 9-for-20 (.450) with three doubles, two triples and three RBIs. That has raised his spring average to .308 and that does not even take into account his magnificent defense throughout March. The 25-year-old shortstop is following in the footsteps of a legend but he is handling the pressure very well.
- Jake Cave, 22, got into the game late and added another RBI single to his spring resume. The young outfielder is leading the Yankee regulars with 10 or more at-bats with a .462 average (6-for-13) with a homer and six RBIs. Cave is ticketed for Double-A Trenton along with fellow prospect Aaron Judge. But you may be hearing more about him very, very soon. He can flat-out hit.
- The biggest issue besides the lack of offense out most of the regulars this spring has been some disappointing pitching out of the bullpen. On Thursday, Jose Ramirez was one of the culprits. He was touched for two runs on three hits and a walk in just 1 1/3 innings of work. The 25-year-old former starter now has a 5.40 ERA on the spring. Though the Dominican right-hander has a gifted arm he has dropped from top prospect status because of recurring injuries and inconsistency.
- Martin, 28, was also tagged pretty good by the Rays, giving up two runs on two hits despite ending up striking out the side in his inning of work. The former Colorado Rockies right-hander has wonderful backstory, having been out of baseball after suffering a severe shoulder injury in college and discovering he could pitch again some years later in a hardware store parking lot. However, he has a 6.14 ERA and he is going to have to improve if he wants a minor-league assignment with the team.
- Garrett Jones was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts on Thursday and now is in a huge hitting funk. He is 1-for-13 with five strikeouts in his past four games. He is now 7-for-40 (.175) on the spring and likely has lost a chance to claim the primary designated hitter role from Alex Rodriguez, who is batting .290 this spring.
Jacoby Ellsbury participated in hitting off a tee and took some swings from soft tosses on Thursday at the Yankees spring complex in Tampa, FL. Ellsbury, who has been sidelined since March 15 with a mild right oblique strain, says he believes he will be ready to play on Opening Day. Girardi said that if Ellsbury can play in an exhibition game by March 31 he will start the season in center-field. . . . The Yankees on Thursday decided to unconditionally release right-hander Jared Burton. The 33-year-old right-hander had not pitched since March 17 with a strained lat. He allowed no runs on two hits with no walks and two strikeouts in four innings over four appearances.
The Yankees will take the short trip to Bright House Field in Clearwater, FL, for their fifth and final contest this spring against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Right-hander Michael Pineda will start for the Yankees. Pineda is 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in three spring starts. He is slotted to be the Yankees’ No. 2 starter to start the season.
The Phillies will counter with top pitching prospect Aaron Nola. The right-hander was the team’s No. 1 selection in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft and he could possibly end up on the Phillies’ 25-man roster this season.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m EDT and the game will be broadcast on a delayed basis on Saturday at 6 a.m. by the MLB Network.
NOTE: A word of warning if you do plan to attend this game. There is a 50 percent chance of rain in Clearwater during the early-afternoon hours on Friday.
METS 7, YANKEES 2
Juan Lagares stroked a two-run homer and John Mayberry Jr. added a solo shot of his own as the Mets completed a sweep of their home-and-away with the Yankees on Wednesday at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL.
Right-hander Rafael Montero (1-0) held the Yankees to one run on three hits and no walks while he struck out four in four innings of work to get credit for the victory.
Masahiro Tanaka (1-1) took the loss yielding three runs (two earned) on four hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings. He threw 49 of his 57 pitches for strikes.
Of more concern to the Yankees was that the two pitchers being considered as the team’s closer, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller, combined to give up two runs on three hits in two-thirds of an inning.
With the loss the Yankees’ spring record dropped to 13-10.
At one time, Andrew Bailey, 30, was considered as one of the best young relievers in baseball.
He burst onto the scene in 2009 with the Oakland Athletics recording 26 saves in 30 opportunities with a 1.84 ERA. As a result, Bailey was named American League Rookie of the Year.
In his three seasons with Oakland, he saved 75 games and it looked as if Bailey would join the elite club of good young closers like Craig Kimbrel of the Atlanta Braves.
However, injuries have plagued the 6-foot-3, 240-pound right-hander since the Boston Red Sox traded for him as a their choice to replace Jonathan Papelbon as the team’s closer.
He had surgery on his right thumb before the 2012 season and ended up a disappointing 1-1 with a 7.04 ERA. Bailey was a bit better in 2013. He was 3-1 with a 3.77 ERA but he was only able to save six out of 13 chances before succumbing to major right shoulder surgery in July.
The Red Sox decided rather than pay him in 2014 they opted not to tender him an offer and released him.
The Yankees signed him last winter to a one-year deal with a option, knowing Bailey would not be able to pitch at all in 2014. Now perhaps the Yankees’ patience with Bailey will pay off.
Held back early in the spring, the Voorhees, New Jersey native has made three appearances, including a scoreless inning of work against the Mets on Wednesday.
Bailey has no record with 0.00 ERA in those outings. He has given up two hits and a walk with four strikeouts in three innings. If Bailey continues to look good the Yankees might have found some experienced bullpen help.
Given the struggles of Betances and Miller, Bailey also possibly could be shifted back into a closer’s role down the road. Of course, the Yankees could also allow him to build up his arm strength and stamina at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
If Bailey continues to progress he possibly could make a big impact on the team’s bullpen in 2015. the only question is what his role might be.
- Despite the fact he got knocked around a bit Tanaka was still impressive in outing on Wednesday. Tanaka told reporters through an interpreter after the game that he was working on throwing his two-seam fast ball more. That pitch was the one the Mets were whacking all over the park. His splitter and slider were devastating enough to strike out seven. So give Tanaka a mulligan for this outing.
- While a lot of the regulars have been struggling at the plate, Chase Headley has not been one of them. Headley had another good day at the plate – going 2-for-3 and driving in one of the Yankees’ two runs with a two-out RBI double in the third inning. Headley is now 12-for-38 (.316) overall with two homers and four RBIs. He has been a real surprise this spring.
- Betances, 26, has been plagued all spring with reduced velocity on his fastball and he has been paying a dear price for it. In his past four outings, Betances has yielded single runs in each on six hits and two walks in just 3 1/3 innings. Even more telling is that he has only four strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings this spring. It is looking more and more that Betances will not be named as the team’s closer.
- Miller, 29, has been slightly better although he was ineffective on Wednesday. Miller is 0-0 with a 2.84 ERA and he has fanned eight in 6 1/3 innings. If the decision had to be made today, manager Joe Girardi likely would name Miller as the closer. But keep in mind that Miller has never been closer either and has just one career save.
- It is one step forward and two steps back for Brett Gardner this spring. He was 0-3 with two strikeouts against the Mets and he is batting a woeful .140 this spring. With Jacoby Ellsbury out Gardner has been batting leadoff and he has not succeeded in getting on consistently at all.
The Yankees will travel to Port Charlotte, FL, on Thursday to take on the Tampa Bay Rays.
Right-hander Adam Warren (2-0 with a 2.77 ERA in his four starts) will have a chance to lock up the No. 5 starting spot with a good outing.
The Rays will counter with right-handed reliever Kevin Jepsen, who has no record and a 1.80 ERA in five relief appearances this spring.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast on a delayed basis by MLB Network on Friday at 9 a.m.