YANKEES 4, NATIONALS 3 (10 Innings)
TAMPA – When you have a team struggling to get on base and score runs it is never too late push a run across – even if it is the 10th inning.
Brandon Laird lofted a sacrifice fly in the 10th inning to score Justin Maxwell with the game-winning run as New York swept it two-game home-and-away set with Washington at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Friday.
The Yankees, very much like Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With the Wind,” depended greatly on “the kindness of strangers.”
Nationals right-hander Atahualpa Severino started his stint in the 10th by walking Maxwell. Pinch-hitter Melky Mesa followed by hitting a routine grounder that was misplayed by Nationals third baseman Mark Teahen, allowing Maxwell to advance to third. One out later, Laird launched a fly ball to right field that plated Maxwell with the deciding tally.
Right-hander Chase Whitley (1-0) pitched a scoreless top of the 10th to gain credit for the victory. Severino (0-1) took the loss.
The game featured a matchup of lefties in CC Sabathia for the Yankees and newly acquired Gio Gonzalez for the Nationals. However, Sabathia struggled with his command and he left after just three innings on the south end of a 3-1 deficit.
Sabathia gave up three runs on six hits and a walk while he fanned two. Gonzalez gave up a run on three hits and three walks and struck out six in 3 1/3 innings.
The Yankees managed to tie the game in the fifth inning off reliever Craig Stammen on a leadoff single by Doug Bernier and a two-out, two-run home run to deep left by Alex Rodriguez, his first home run this spring since he homered on the first pitch he saw by Roy Halladay of the Phillies on March 3.
With the victory the Yankees improved their spring record to 7-8. The Nationals fell to 5-7.
- With the battle of lefties going on most of the buzz in the sellout crowd of 10,982 was about another left-hander entirely. The news 39-year-old Andy Pettitte had elected to come out of retirement and sign a $2.5 million minor-league contract with the Yankees spread like wildfire through the Yankee faithful on hand. I would consider adding a pitcher to your roster who has 240 major-league victories (203 of them with the Yankees) has got to be considered a positive development.
- Though the Yankee regulars struck out so much they could have put out a wildfire, it was nice to see Rodriguez connect for a huge two-run home run in the fifth inning. The Yankees, if you can believe this, have only hit a total of five home runs in the first 15 games this spring. Hopefully, this may signal an end to the power outage.
- Though Sabathia struggled, Phil Hughes turned in a very sharp four innings of work in relief. Hughes, who is still competing with a group of pitchers that now will include Pettitte for a starting spot, held the Nationals scoreless on three hits, did not walk a batter and he struck three. Hughes is showing no signs of the right shoulder fatigue that plagued him last season.
- Robinson Cano doubled to the opposite field in the first inning off Gonzalez to score Curtis Granderson from first base to draw the Yankees to within a run at 2-1. Cano is off to a very slow start this spring and is hitting .190.
- Sabathia admitted after the game his fastball was “all over the place” and it cost him early. The Nationals loaded the bases to start the game on a double, single and a walk. They pushed across a run on a double-play grounder off the bat of Wilson Ramos. But they added a second run in the same frame on an RBI double by Jesus Flores. Steve Lombardozzi then touched Sabathia with a leadoff home run in the third inning to give the Nationals a 3-1 lead.
- Strikeouts, strikeouts, strikeouts. The Yankees struck out 14 times in the game. Raul Ibanez, Francisco Cervelli and Bill Hall fanned two times each. Considering the fact that the Yankees won the game after collecting just five hits in the game you would have to say they were lucky to have won at all. The pitching of Hughes was the big key. The question is when are the Yankees going to wake up and start hitting?
- Ibanez was 0-for-2 with a walk and fanned twice and he is now hitting .077. Yankee fans are getting a bit impatient with Ibanez considering he is replacing retired Yankee icon Jorge Posada at designated hitter and because the Yankees chose to sign him instead of a pair of former popular Yankees in Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui.
Injuries have cropped up all over the place and it is now an epidemic in Yankee camp. Derek Jeter missed the game Friday and will not play again until Tuesday due to a tender left calf. The Yankees were quick to point out that they do not consider the injury serious and that is not the same calf that forced Jeter to the disabled list for three weeks last season. . . . Meanwhile, Nick Swisher and Russell Martin were held out of action with strained left groins. Swisher could return to the lineup on Saturday but Martin will be shelved for a couple of days. . . . Those walking wounded join the ranks of Eduardo Nunez (bruised right hand), Ramiro Pena (sprained right ankle) and David Robertson (bone bruise of right foot) who are also out of action. . . . The Yankees made their first cuts of the spring on Friday, re-assigning 14 players to minor-league camp, including top pitching prospect Manny Banuelos. Banuelos was among seven pitchers sent out. The others were Dan Burawa, Brett Marshall, Adam Miller, Ryan Pope, Graham Stoneburner and Whitley. The other cuts included catchers Gary Sanchez, J.R. Murphy and Kyle Higashioka, infielders David Adams and Corban Joseph and outfielders Zoilo Almonte and Mesa.
The Yankees will host the Houston Astros for the second time this spring on Saturday at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Scheduled to start for the Yankees will be 37-year-old right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, who will be making his third start of the spring. Kuroda is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA and he was displeased with his last start.
The Astros are expected to start right-hander Bud Norris.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
The New York Yankees will open the spring with an exhibition game against the University of South Florida on Friday.
Manager Joe Girardi is planning to have his starters get one at-bat or two and right-hander Adam Warren will be the starting pitcher for the Yankees.
Warren, 24, is a non-roster player who was 6-8 with a 3.60 ERA in 27 starts at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. With the Yankees’ rotation loaded with six pitchers vying for five spots, Warren is obviously headed back to Triple A.
But Warren hopes to leave a good impression this spring with hopes of in-season call to the major leagues as a starter or reliever.
Girardi also announced the pitchers who will follow Warren to the mound. They are: Brett Marshall, Dan Burawa, Juan Cedeno, Graham Stoneburner, Ryan Pope and Kevin Whelan. All of them are non-roster pitchers who were invited to spring training.
The game, which begins at 1:05 p.m. EST at George M. Steinbrenner Field, will benefit the University of South Florida baseball program.
The club has five players who have come up with injuries this spring.
Right-handed reliever Manny Delcarmen, another non-roster invitee, will miss four to five days with a slight strain of his right lat muscle.
Rookie catcher Austin Romine has been hobbled by inflammation in his back and the Yankees are being very cautious before letting him return to action.
First baseman and designated hitter Russell Branyan has been shelved with tightness in his back. Catcher Kyle Higashioka has been bothered with right shoulder soreness and right-handed reliever George Kontos has a slight oblique strain.
ALL EYES ON A.J.
Speaking of wounded, the Pittsburgh Pirates announced on Thursday that A.J. Burnett will undergo surgery in Pittsburgh on Friday after he suffered a fractured right orbital bone in his right eye in a bunting drill on Wednesday in Bradenton, Fl..
The Pirates do not have a timetable for his recovery at this time.
Burnett, 35, was acquired by the Pirates on Feb. 18 from the Yankees in return for two minor-league pitchers.
The Pirates scrapped Burnett’s scheduled start on Sunday and now face the likelihood with the setback in his spring preparation that he likely will not open the season on the team’s roster.
Burnett was injured while participating in the team’s bunting tournament. He fouled a ball from a pitching machine into his right-eye area and had to be immediately tended to by trainers.
On behalf of the Bottom of the Ninth blog and all the Yankee fans who still love and support A.J., we wish to express to A.J. and his family that we are are hoping the surgery goes well and he bounces back to pitch well for the Pirates this season.
Robinson Cano returned to camp in Tampa, FL, on Thursday after spending a few days in the Dominican Republic attending his grandmother’s funeral. She died of cancer at age 91. Cano will not play in a exhibition game until Sunday. . . . The Yankees’ annual team-building outing was held on Thursday at the Tampa Improv in Ybor City, FL. The team participated in improvisational skits and activities designed to loosen up the players and allow them to have some laughs together. Girardi said the trip was especially important for the young players in camp in helping them feel a part of the team. . . . Managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said Thursday that the team has a goal to lower payroll to $189 million over the next two years and the development of the team’s young pitchers would help toward that goal. He said the team’s current payroll is around $210 million.
The New York Yankees announced Wednesday the signing of 13 players to minor-league contracts and have issued invitations to 27 players to spring training.
Besides utility man Bill Hall, who was signed to a minor-league deal on Tuesday, the biggest name on the list was left-handed power hitter Russell Branyan, who was signed on Wednesday. Branyan could figure as a cheap solution to the designated hitter spot should the Yankees fail to reach agreement with Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui or Raul Ibanez.
Branyan, 36, played in 68 games last season with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Angels and hit .197 with five home runs and 14 RBIs. Branyan is capable of playing first base, third base and as a corner outfielder but has primarily been a DH or pinch-hitter. In his 14-year career, Branyan has 194 home runs, 467 RBIs and a .232 batting average.
Branyan also has the distinction of hitting two of the longest home runs in the short history of the new Yankee Stadium.
Among the other prominent veterans invited to spring training are former Red Sox right-hander Manny Delcarmen, former Red Sox left-hander Hideki Okajima and former Blue Jays outfielder Dewayne Wise.
Delcarmen, 29, was a combined 3-4 with a 4.99 ERA in 57 appearances with the Red Sox and Colorado Rockies. He will compete for a spot in a stacked and talented Yankee bullpen.
Meanwhile, the 36-year-old Okajima will have to compete with fellow Red Sox left-hander Cesar Cabral, 23, to join Boone Logan in the bullpen as a second left-hander. Okajima was 1-0 with a 4.32 ERA in just seven appearances with the Red Sox last season before he was sent to the team’s Triple-A affiliate in Pawtucket, where he spent the rest of the season before being released.
Wise, 33, is best known for his spectacular ninth-inning catch to preserve Mark Buerhle’s perfect game for the White Sox against the Tampa Bay Rays in 2009. Last season, Wise hit .202 with two home runs, seven RBIs and six stolen bases in 69 games with the Blue Jays and the Florida Marlins. Wise is considered an excellent fielder with good speed and he has the ability to play all three outfield spots.
Among the group of players also invited to spring training is the Yankees’ No. 1 prospect, left-handed starter Manny Banuelos. Banuelos, 20, will join the team’s No. 2 prospect, right-handed starter Dellin Betances, who already was on the 40-man roster. Naeither pitcher is expected to make the major-league club out of spring training but they could be factors later in the season.
In addition, the Yankees have also invited two star catcher prospects: Gary Sanchez, 19, and J.R. Murphy, 20. Sanchez, ranked as the team’s No. 3 prospect, and Murphy, is ranked No. 13, both require seasoning at the minor-league level but are considered excellent future catching prospects.
The other players who received invitations include:
Left-handed pitchers: Juan Cedeno, Mike O’Connor.
Right-handed pitchers: Daniel Burawa, Matt Daley, Adam Miller, Ryan Pope, Graham Stoneburner, Adam Warren, Kevin Whelan, Chase Whitley.
Catchers: Jose Gil, Kyle Higashioka, Gustavo Molina.
Infielders: Doug Bernier, Jayson Nix, Jorge Vazquez.
Outfielders: Colin Curtis, Cole Garner, Brett Marshall.