Tagged: Hanley Ramirez

Ellsbury’s Blast Propels Yanks Over Former Team

GAME 106

YANKEES 2, RED SOX 1

With the series between the Yankees and Red Sox on the line in the seventh inning on Thursday it would stand to reason that the deciding hit would come from a former Red Sox star  –  and one that was coming into the series struggling at the plate.

Jacoby Ellsbury launched a 2-1 pitch from left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez into the second deck of the right-field stands to break a 1-1 tie and give New York a decisive series victory over rival Boston in front of a paid crowd of 48,608 at Yankee Stadium.

Ellsbury’s fifth home run of the season broke up a spirited and emotional pitcher’s duel between 35-year-old veteran left-hander CC Sabathia and the 22-year-old rookie Rodriguez.

The Yankees took a 1-0 lead in the third inning on a two-out single by Brett Gardner and an RBI double off the bat of Alex Rodriguez.

But the Red Sox broke through against Sabathia in the fifth on a one-out single by Ryan Hanigan, a costly two-out walk to Jackie Bradley Jr. and an RBI single by Rusney Castillo that just eluded shortstop Didi Gregorius enough to allow Hanigan to score.

The Red Sox extended the inning when Xander Bogaerts drew a four-pitch walk to reload the bases. But Sabathia bowed his neck and struck out David Ortiz swinging on a 1-2 fastball to leave the bases loaded. Sabathia punctuated the moment by shaking his fist and screaming as he left the mound.

Unfortunately, on a night where Sabathia displayed his best stuff in what has been a frustrating season for him, he was not able to get the victory. But he did hold the Red Sox to one run on just three hits with three walks and a season-high eight strikeouts in six innings.

“Hopefully, I can just keep building on this and take this into my next start, and give us a chance to win,” Sabathia told reporters.

Left-hander Justin Wilson (4-0) gave up a two-out single but struck out the side in the seventh to earn the victory in relief. The Yankees vaunted “Twin Towers,” right-hander Dellin Betances and left-hander Andrew Miller, threw a scoreless frame each to preserve the victory. Miller was credited with his 24th save in 24 chances this season.

Meanwhile, Rodriguez held the Yankees to one run until Ellsbury came to the plate with one out in the seventh and launched a massive blast into the bleachers to bite the team that had drafted him and for which he played seven seasons.

“It’s nice to put some good swings on balls and get results. Tonight for sure was a big hit, contributing to a win,” Ellsbury said.

Rodriguez was charged with two runs on six hits and two walks with five strikeouts in seven innings.

Sabathia’s emotion spilled over with one out in the fourth inning when home-plate umpire Rob Drake called a 2-2 pitch to Hanley Ramirez  –  Sabathia’s seventh pitch of the at-bat  –  a ball. Sabathia turned away from home plate visibly upset with the call.

Drake walked out to the mound and said something to Sabathia that angered him even more. After Sabathia retired both Ramirez and Mike Napoli on groundouts he shouted at Drake again as he walked to the dugout.

“I didn’t complain about one pitch all night, so for him to come out and tell me not to walk around the mound, it pissed me off,” Sabathia told reporters.

For the Red Sox it was another game and series loss that has been the story of their dismal season. Their offense is dreadful and their bullpen leaks more a bamboo roof. That is why they are playing out the string and the Yankees are planning to make a huge playoff run.

The Yankees ran their season record to 61-46 and they are 4 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East. The Red Sox are 48-61 and in last place in the division 14 games behind the Yankees.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Ellsbury’s average was .324 when he was injured on May 19. Going into this game he was 19-for-94 (.202) since then to lower his average to .277. But on Thursday, Ellsbury was 2-for-4, including his game-winning blast. If the Yankees are to succeed they need Ellsbury to get on base and create havoc with his speed.
  • Sabathia’s effort was just special to see unfold. Coming into the contest he was 4-8 with 5.54 ERA in his 20 starts. But his velocity and his slider were big reasons why he looked like his former ace self. “CC pitched great,” Ellsbury told reporters. “I thought his velocity was up, his location, showing emotion out there.”
  • I can never give too much credit to the Yankees’ bullpen. It has been the foundation of this team and they are deadly when the Yankees take a late lead as they did on Thursday. Wilson, Betances and Miller combined to strike out five of the last nine outs they recorded. They just give a team no hope to come back.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • After struggling to hit off a gimmick pitch like a knuckleball on Wednesday the Yankees struggled to get anything going again tonight. It may not be a sign of anything. But with a big series coming up it is a concern.

BOMBER BANTER

Brian McCann sat out a second straight game due to a strained right knee. McCann, according to manager Joe Girardi, is available to pinch-hit and he could catch in an emergency. But Girardi said McCann needs a few days to allow the injury to heal and he is still day-to-day. John Ryan Murphy started in McCann’s place and he was 0-for-3.

ON DECK

The Yankees will begin a huge three-game series with the hot Blue Jays on Friday at Yankee Stadium.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (11-2, 4.30 ERA) will open the series for the Yankees. Eovaldi has been just as hot as the Blue Jays, having won eight straight decisions including a 13-6 thrashing of the Chicago White Sox on Sunday. Eovaldi, 25, gave up three runs on seven hits and three walks with five strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.

The Yankees will face a knuckleball pitcher again. The Blue Jays will use right-hander R.A. Dickey (6-10, 4.06 ERA). Dickey, 40, shut out the Kansas City Royals on two hits and two walks with six strikeouts in seven innings on Sunday.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.

 

A-Rod Breaks Tie As Yankees Send Red Sox Reeling

GAME 88

YANKEES 8, RED SOX 6

Going into the All-Star break, the Yankees were looking to make a statement on Sunday against the rival Red Sox. Based on the results, it is clear that Boston will have a long way to go to overtake New York in the American League East.

Alex Rodriguez broke a 3-3 tie in the sixth inning with an RBI double as part of a three-run inning as New York took the best-of-three series over Boston in front of paid crowd of 37,283 at Fenway Park.

The Yankees improved their season record to 6-3 over the Red Sox (5-1 at Fenway Park) while extending their lead over them to 6 1/2 games.

Brett Gardner opened the critical inning with an infield single and Rodriguez, who had two home runs and three RBIs in the previous two contests, laced a 2-1 fastball from left-hander Wade Miley to the wall in left-center to score Gardner.

One out later, Chris Young chased Miley from the game with an RBI double high off the Green Monster in left. Chase Headley later added a two-out RBI double off the wall down the line in left off left-hander Tommy Layne to extend the Yankees’ lead to 6-3.

Miley (8-8) was charged with all three runs and he ended his day giving up six runs on seven hits with no walks and two strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (9-2) once again was the beneficiary of the run support. He held the Red Sox to three runs on seven hits and no walks with four strikeouts in five innings to win his fourth straight decision.

Eovaldi has not lost a game since June 16 in Miami against his former team, the Marlins, when he was knocked out of the game after yielding eight runs in two-thirds of an inning.

The Yankees, meanwhile, added to their lead in the top of the ninth inning when rookie second baseman Rob Refsnyder, in only his second major-league game, hit a two-run home run off right-hander Alexi Ogando. Two innings earlier, Refsnyder lined his first major-league hit to center off Layne.

It turned out that the Yankees needed that home run because the Red Sox managed to scored two unearned runs off left-hander Andrew Miller in the bottom of ninth thanks to a pair of errors by Brian McCann and Refsnyder.

It was McCann who actually got the Yankees’ offense started with one out in the second inning when he blasted a two-run opposite-field homer to left  –  his 14th of the season.

But Eovaldi was unable to hold it in the bottom of the third when he was victimized by a series of infield hits and seeing-eye singles as the Red Sox capitalized for three runs.

With Ryan Hanigan at second after an infield single and Mookie Betts at first on a ground single to right and one out, Xander Bogaerts rolled an RBI single to center. Pablo Sandoval laced an RBI single to right and Hanley Ramirez bounced another RBI single up the middle to give the Bosox the lead.

The Yankees tied it in the fifth after a leadoff double by McCann and single to center by Headley.

With Didi Gregorius at the plate Miley, according to home-plate umpire Angel Hernandez, made a movement towards home before attempting to pick off Headley at first. He ruled it a balk and McCann was waved in to score the tying run.

The Yankees reached the All-Star break with a record of 48-40 and they hold a 3 1/2-game lead over the second-place Tampa Bay Rays in the division. The last-place Red Sox ended the break at 42-47.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Yankee fans are seeing a torch passed to Refsnyder, 24. The rookie was called up after batting .290 at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and he likely will take over as the starting second baseman at some point in the second half. He was 2-for-4 with his first hit and first home run in only his second game. The only concern is that the former University of Arizona product was converted from the outfield and he is a work in progress on defense. But the kid can flat-out hit and he is the best second baseman the Yankees have had since Robinson Cano left after the 2013 season.
  • McCann brought his first half to a close in grand style going 2-for-4 with a double, a homer, two runs scored and two RBIs. McCann entered the day in a bit of a slump having gone only 6-for-40 (.150) since June 26. That dropped his average from a season-high .275 to .255. Despite the fact he deserved to be the starting catcher for the American League in the All-Star Game, the four days of rest may actually benefit him a lot more.
  • Eovaldi ends the first half as the team’s winningest starter despite the fact he has a high 4.50 ERA. The reason is the Yankees are averaging seven runs a game for him and he got six runs on Sunday. The 25-year-old right-hander with high-velocity heater is still working to refine his game but you have to give him and pitching coach Larry Rothschild credit for what they have done so far.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Miller had another shaky outing on Sunday. Of course, McCann’s throwing error and the other error charged to Refsnyder made it worse than it appeared. The second error should have been charged to Miller on his throw to second on a double-play ball that could have ended the game. Miller, 30, needs to get back into the groove he was in before he went on the disabled list on June 10 and cost him a month.
  • Gregorius was 0-for-4 and his batting average slipped back to .238. Though Gregorius has made great strides from his first month or so, he is still a very vexing player. In his first two at-bats on Sunday he saw two pitches. On this two pitches he hit a pair of weak flies to center. He also grounded out in the sixth to leave a man in scoring position. Aggressiveness is one thing but stupidity is another. Gregorius needs to learn patience at the plate to be successful. He has time to learn because he is only 25. Just be prepared to want to tear your hair out watching him flail at pitches out of the strike zone.

BOMBER BANTER

Manager Joe Girardi has set his rotation for the start of the second half of the season. Girardi told reporters on Sunday that right-hander Masahiro Tanaka will open the three-game home series against the Seattle Mariners on Friday. Right-hander Michael Pineda and left-hander CC Sabathia will follow him in that order. Eovaldi and right-hander Ivan Nova will pitch in that order in the home series against the Baltimore Orioles that begins on July 21.

ON DECK

The Yankees will rest for four days and resume their season Friday at home against the Mariners.

Tanaka (5-3, 3.63 ERA) will try to build on his past two starts as he opens the second half. In his last start, Tanaka yielded two runs (one earned) on just two hits with a walk and six strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings in a victory over the Oakland Athletics on Thursday.

The Mariners have not announced a starter because ace right-hander Felix Hernandez was selected to pitch in the All-Star Game.

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

 

Power Surge Allows Yankees To Sweep Red Sox

GAME 25

YANKEES 8, RED SOX 5

If ever there was a time to showcase your superiority over a hated rival and expose their weaknesses for the rest of the baseball world to see it would be on Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN in front of a national television audience. That is exactly what the Yankees did to the Red Sox at Fenway Park on Sunday.

Brett Gardner hit a three-run homer, Mark Teixeira blasted a two-run shot and Brian McCann drove in two runs with a double to lead an offensive onslaught that allowed New York to complete their first series sweep in Beantown since a five-game sweep on Aug. 18-21, 2006.

The red-hot Yankees have now won 10 of their past 12 games and they left the slumping Red Sox under .500 for the first time this season.

Behind Gardner, Teixeira and McCann the Yankees were able to build an 8-0 lead on the bewildered Bosox by the sixth inning, doing most of their damage against right-hander Joe Kelly.

With two out in the first inning and Gardner on first, Teixeira opened the scoring by launching his ninth home run of the season over the Green Monster in left-center off a Kelly slider.

Two innings later, the Yankees again struck with two out and Jacoby Ellsbury on second and Teixeira on first. McCann drove a 3-2 fastball to the wall in right-center to score both runners. Carlos Beltran followed an RBI double of his own.

Kelly (1-1), who had beaten right-hander Adam Warren and the Yankees on April 11 at Yankee Stadium by limiting them to just one hit in seven innings, finally was chased from the game with two out in the fifth.

He was charged with five runs on nine hits and no walks with three strikeouts. It was the eighth time in 25 games that the Red Sox have had a starting pitcher yield five or more runs, which is the worst mark in the majors.

Meanwhile, the Yankees were able to add three more runs in the sixth off left-hander Craig Breslow when Didi Gregorius and Ellsbury, who was 4-for-4 on the night, singled and Gardner followed with a his second home run of the season into right-center.

Gardner’s blow appeared to put the game completely out of reach. However, right-hander Warren tired in the sixth and Gardner’s home run ended up being the decisive blow in the contest.

Warren (2-1) had allowed the Red Sox only one hit and two walks through the first five innings and he appeared to be cruising after he retired the first two batters in the sixth.

But Dustin Pedroia singled and David Ortiz scored him from first on a double off the Green Monster. Warren then hit Hanley Ramirez on a 1-1 pitch and Ramirez threw down his bat in disgust believing Warren had thrown at him on purpose.

After Pablo Sandoval singled to score Ortiz, manager Joe Girardi replaced Warren with right-hander Esmil Rogers. Mike Napoli greeted Rogers by lifting a high-arcing fly ball that just reached the Green Monster seats to draw the Red Sox to within three runs at 8-5.

Despite pitching his best game of the season, Warren ended up being charged with four runs on four hits and two walks with two strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings. In his eight major-league starts Warren has yet to pitch six full innings in any them.

After Napoli’s homer Rogers walked Daniel Nava and Xander Bogaerts reached on an infield dribbler to bring up Blake Swihart as the potential tying run. But the rookie playing on only his second major-league game struck out to end the inning in which 10 men went to the plate for the Red Sox.

The game got a little chippy with one out in the top of the eighth inning when right-hander Edward Mujica drilled Ellsbury with a 3-0 pitch in the right thigh. Home-plate umpire Jeff Nelson quickly warned both benches.

The Yankees were able to keep the Red Sox from scoring the rest of the night on the strength of Rogers, Justin Wilson and David Carpenter over the next two innings. But the Red Sox decided to make left-hander Andrew Miller work some overtime to earn his 10th save.

Pinch-hitter Allen Craig drew a leadoff walk from Miller in the ninth before Bogaerts and Swihart struck out. But Mookie Betts also walked and Pedroia reached to load the bases on a throwing error by Chase Headley.

Miller then retired the potential winning run in Ortiz by getting him on a routine flyout. Miller has now extended his scoreless streak this season to 12 1/3 innings and he is perfect 10 for 10 in save chances.

The Yankees have run their season record to 16-9 and they have a three-game lead on the both the Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. The Red Sox are 12-13 and they are a full four games back in fourth place in the division.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Ellsbury entered the game on fire and he got even hotter on Sunday. He was 4-for-4 (all singles), a walk and was hit with a pitch. Oddly, he scored only one run and he did not drive in a run. But Ellsbury now has 19 hits in his past 40 at-bats (.475) to raise his season average to .351. He also has a six-game hitting streak.
  • Gardner really put a dagger in the Bosox the past two games. He drove in three of the team’s four runs in Saturday’s 4-2 victory and on Sunday he was 2-for-6 with a single, a homer, two stolen bases, two runs scored and three RBIs. He was 5-for-14 (.357) in the series with six RBIs.
  • Teixeira’s finally proved his surgically repaired right wrist is no longer an issue anymore with his ninth homer of the season that he drove to the opposite field in left-center. Teixeira is in third place in both the majors and the American League in home runs behind Nelson Cruz (13) of the Seattle Mariners and Ramirez (10). Despite the power and his team-leading 20 RBIs, Teixeira is still batting just .202 on the season.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

I should be angry with the way Warren could not get through six, the fact Rogers gave up a three-run home run and that the usually flawless Headley committed his sixth error of the season. But because the Yankees did win on national TV and it ended with a sweep against the Red Sox at Fenway, I am willing to overlook all that just to see most of that home crowd of 33,198 going home angry with their team. There is nothing but sunshine in the Yankee Universe.

BRONX JEER

The Red Sox showed their true colors when Ramirez bellowed like a stuck pig when Warren hit him with a pitch with two outs in the sixth and the Yankees winning 8-1. Manager John Farrell obviously gave the go-ahead for Mujica to retaliate in the eighth on a 3-0 pitch after Mujica had thrown an earlier pitch that Ellsbury had to avoid. In this series, the Yankees had not hit a single Bosox batter while Teixeira and McCann both were hit by pitches on Friday. The idea that Warren intentionally hit Ramirez was even lost on Ortiz, who told reporters after the game he didn’t think Warren’s pitch had that purpose. But Ramirez always has been a prima donna with a sour attitude much like another outfielder named Ramirez who played for Boston. So the intellectually deficient Red Sox decided to target Ellsbury after he forced them for seven hits in 11 at-bats in the series. I think the move shows more a team that is frustrated their starting pitchers are getting lit up like a Chinese New Year celebration and they can’t handle the fact their team is not as good as they believe it is.

BOMBER BANTER

Backup infielder Brendan Ryan suffered a setback in his rehab of a right calf strain on Saturday. Ryan, 33, sustained a strained hamstring while he was running sprints at the team’s Tampa, FL, complex and he will have to sit out another week. Ryan first injured his back while lifting weights before spring training games started and then ended up with the strained calf in the final week of camp. For now Gregorio Petit, 29, will remain the backup middle infielder. Obtained from the Houston Astros, Petit is batting ,200 with no homers and five RBIs. However, Jose Pirela, 24, is 11-for-19 (.579) with a homer and five RBIs at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

ON DECK

The Yankees will make their first trip to Toronto on Monday to open a three-game series with the Blue Jays.

Right-hander Chase Whitley (1-0, 1.80 ERA) will make his second start of the season for the Yankees as the replacement for Masahiro Tanaka in the rotation. Whitley limited the Rays to one run on six hits and one walk with five strikeouts in a victory on Tuesday.

The Blue Jays will counter with knuckle-balling right-hander R.A. Dickey (0-3, 5.23 ERA), who lost again in yielding four runs on nine hits with no walks and four strikeouts in seven innings against the Red Sox on Wednesday.

Game-time will be 7:07 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.

 

Yankees Poised To Finish Third In A.L. East

With spring training in their rear-view mirror and the 2015 season about to start, the question is where will the New York Yankees finish in the American League East. The Yankees have failed to make the playoffs the past two seasons and many experts believe it will be three. But with the additions the Yankees made could they possibly have a surprise in store. Here is how I project it.

NEW YORK YANKEES

First of all, let’s admit that this is not your father’s A.L. East. There is NO dominant team in the division and there is not much separation between any of the five teams in terms of talent.

That said, the Yankees come into 2015 building around the foundation they began with their half-billion dollar investment last winter with the signings of outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, catcher Brian McCann and right-handed pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.

Those free agents were added to the holdovers in shortstop Derek Jeter, first baseman Mark Teixeira, outfielder Brett Gardner and left-hander CC Sabathia.

General manager Brian Cashman actually started the rebuilding process for 2015 last summer by retaining a number of players they acquired around the trade deadline or later such as third baseman Chase Headley, second baseman Stephen Drew, outfielder Chris Young and left-hander Chris Capuano.

With the retirement of Jeter, the loss of free-agent closer David Robertson and right-hander’s Hiroki Kuroda’s decision to end his career pitching in his native Japan, Cashman was forced to shuffle the deck by using young pitchers like right-handers David Phelps and Shane Greene and left-hander Manny Banuelos to bring in right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, backup first baseman and outfielder Garrett Jones, starting shortstop Didi Gregorius and relievers David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve.

Cashman also used cash to lure free-agent left-hander Andrew Miller to bolster the bullpen around rookie sensation Dellin Betances.

The result is a team that features a starting lineup of eight players ranging in age from 31 to Alex Rodriguez at 39. The former starting third baseman is returning from a year-long performance-enhancing drug suspension to become the team’s designated hitter.

Only Gregarious at age 25 is considered young.

However, the rotation features a 26-year-old in Tanaka, a 26-year-old in Michael Pineda and a 25-year-old in Eovaldi. A spring injury to 36-year-old Capuano has thrust 27-year-old Adam Warren into the No. 5 slot. So the only pitcher over 27 in the Yankees rotation is Sabathia, who is 34. When is the last time you could say that about the Yankees’ rotation?

The bullpen will center around Betances, 26, and Miller, 28, who are  –  at least for now  –  going share the closing duties. If both pitch as they have up to now, it will be a very good shutdown pair because neither have been hit hard by righties or lefties.

The concern will be with the setup spots. Warren is in the rotation so the Yankees will be counting on the right-handed Carpenter, 29, and left-handed Justin Wilson, 27, who was acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates with Cashman using the team’s catching surplus to deal away Francisco Cervelli.

If Carpenter and Wilson are successful, the bullpen will have a chance to be very good. If they fail, it could be a long season. Warren’s shift back to the bullpen with the return of both Capuano and right-hander Ivan Nova from Tommy John surgery in June can only be a big plus for the group.

Esmil Rogers, 29, will handle long relief. Shreve, 24, gives Girardi a third left-hander and 6-foot-8 right-hander Chris Martin has 95-mile-per-hour stuff that moves on an extreme downward plane. This trio looks solid and give Girardi credit for being a master of managing bullpens.

All spring long the Yankees struggled to score runs. It was not too much different from the way the offense struggled last season.

A pair of speed demons  –  Ellsbury and Gardner  –  are stacked on top of the lineup. The idea is to get them on base as much as possible and let them use their speed to get into scoring position for the middle of the lineup.

Both combined to steal 60 bases in what both players admittedly could call an off year. So they hope they can top 80 this season.

The whole strategy rests upon the middle of the order bouncing back from injuries and off years in 2015.

The third batter, Beltran, incurred painful bone chips in his right elbow and ended up posting the worst numbers of his career.

The cleanup hitter, Teixiera, was still limited by a sore right wrist and other injuries and posted only 22 home runs.

Although the fifth hitter, McCann, did crack 23 home runs and drive 78 runs, he only batted .232. So the Yankees would like him to hit closer to his career .272 average this season.

That is plenty of firepower but it seems like a fragile situation counting on Beltran, who will be 38 on April 24 and Teixeira, who will be 35 on April 11.

Behind McCann may be the one diamond-in-the-rough player who is primed for  huge season in Headley, 30, who hit 31 homers and drove in 115 runs for the San Diego Padres in 2012. Back issues have hampered him for the past two seasons but he seems healthy now.

He batted .305 with three homers and eight RBIs this spring and the former Gold Glove winner has been flashing some serious leather at third base.

It is unclear how much A-Rod will contribute from the DH spot. Rodriguez has not played more than 138 games since his Most Valuable Player season in 2007. Hip surgeries, nagging other ailments and the drug suspension have teamed with Father Time to make him an unknown quantity.

This spring, Rodriguez batted .267 with three homers and four RBIs and he did not look overmatched at the plate. But it is hard to know what A-Rod will provide until the bells rings on the regular season.

Nowhere did the Yankees look more vulnerable last season than at second base. After Robinson Cano took his power, his .300 average and his Gold Glove defensive skills to Seattle, the Yankees tried veteran Brian Roberts at the position.

But his batting and fielding skills eroded over four seasons of injuries and the Yankees cut him loose in July in favor of Drew, who had never played second base in the pro baseball. Drew also was dealing with a season-long hitting slump that saw him bat only .162 between the Boston Red Sox and the Yankees.

Drew started this spring very slowly but emerged to bat over .470 in the final three weeks with three home runs. Drew has been working with the Yankees’ new hitting coach Jeff Petland and it seems to have been paying some dividends. The Yankees would settle for Drew batting .250 or so with 15 homers and 65 RBIs this season. Those had been norms for Drew in his previous seasons.

Though it was sad to see the 20-year era of Jeter’s career at shortstop come to an end, the Yankees are very hopeful they have an emerging star in the making in Gregorius.

What fans immediately saw this spring is that Gregorius has outstanding range, great hands and an powerful and accurate arm. The Yankees believe his defense will be upgrade since Jeter’s range had been so limited the past several years.

Jeter batted .256 in his final season and the Yankees hope that Gregorius can possibly top that average this season largely batting ninth. When Gregorius was in Arizona, manager Kirk Gibson benched him against left-handers because he has batted only .150 in his career against them.

But the Yankees allowed him to hit against left-handers this spring and Gregorius did not seem to look bad against them. So, for now, Girardi is content with playing his young shortstop every day.

The bench is solid and features power-hitting right-hander Young and power-hitting left-hander Jones. Young, 31, had an exceptional spring and he brings athleticism to all three outfield spots he plays and a potential deadly bat against left-handed pitching.

Jones, 33, hit 15 homers for the Miami Marlins last season and he seems to have the perfect swing for Yankee Stadium. Jones will primarily back up Teixeira at first and he can also play the corner outfield spots, if needed.

Backup infielder Brendan Ryan, 33, had a spring he would rather forget. First, he was delayed at the start with a back injury he sustained lifting weights. After he returned, Ryan ended up pulling a right calf muscle last week and he will start the season on the disabled list.

Ryan brings a slick glove to second, shortstop and third base  –  although short is where he really shines in the field. But he can’t hit a lick. He has no power and he is a career .234 hitter.

The Yankees obtained infielder Gregorio Petit from the Houston Astros in exchange for cash in the last week of the spring. So Petit, 30, will assume Ryan’s role despite having played on only 62 major-league games with the Oakland Athletics and the Astros. He has batted .278 in just 151 at-bats. He will be a stopgap until Ryan is healthy again.

John Ryan Murphy, 23, managed to hold off a challenge from veteran Austin Romine this spring to remain the backup to McCann. Murphy batted .284 with a homer and nine RBIs in 32 games last season and the Yankees rave about his defense behind the plate.

But the biggest secret the Yankees are carrying with them now lies in the young players they were able to showcase this spring. For the first time in a very long time the Yankees have a number of very good prospects and some positional depth at the minor-league level that could be factors this season.

But the promise is even brighter longer term.

Right-handed starters Luis Severino and Domingo German (obtained in the trade for Phelps and Martin Prado) and left-handed starter Ian Clarkin along with left-handed reliever Jacob Lindgren and right-handed relievers Nick Rumbelow and Jose Ramirez are in the pipeline and moving quickly to the majors.

Second basemen Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela tore the cover off the ball this spring and their presence at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is just a taste of what is the horizon with outfielders Slade Heathcott and Ramon Flores also knocking on the door.

Right-hander Chase Whitley, 25, had a 1.17 ERA this spring and he still not crack the bullpen. You have to figure he is going to get a call-up to the 25-man roster at some point. Keep an eye also on Bryan Mitchell, who will be 24 this month. Mitchell drew rave reviews when he fanned Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez back-to-back in a five-inning effort in a split-squad game in Lakeland, FL, on April 2.

At Double-A Trenton will be prospects such as outfielder Aaron Judge and first baseman Greg Bird, both of whom looked undaunted by major-league pitching this spring.

Catching prospect Gary Sanchez, 23, is also not too far away from contributing in the major leagues.

Though Yankee fans and the Yankee front office never has shown much patience with its young prospects in the past, this group might just force the front office to use them and perhaps the revolving door of signing aging free agents will finally end.

Should the Yankees falter as what so many experts are predicting this season. The young players who are on the way could be a foundation to build around, It is there to see. It is just up to Cashman and the Yankee front office not to screw it up.

Here now is my brief assessment of the other four teams in the division and my prediction for the order of finish in 2015.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

This is a team that ran away with this division last season. But it is hard to see them as a “great” team.

Their ace is a very pedestrian Chris Tillman. Their offense lost outfielders Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis. They also are likely to be without Matt Wieters to start the season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Ditto for shortstop J.J. Hardy, who has left shoulder injury.

With all that they still have Adam Jones, Manny Machado and they are really hoping that Chris Davis recovers his home-run stroke.

Though Tillman is not a true ace they do have Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzales and Bud Norris to form a solid foursome. The bullpen with closer Zach Britton and setup guys Darren O’Day and Tommy Hunter is top notch.

They also have one of the best managers in baseball in Buck Showalter. So in Baltimore there is hope the O’s can repeat.

A lot depends on how new outfielders Alejandro De Aza and Travis Snider do to make up for the losses of Cruz and Markakis.

BOSTON RED SOX

This team flopped in 2014 and yet many are picking them to win the title in 2015.

Most of that is based on their offense. To Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Mike Napoli, the Red Sox have added Hanley Ramirez, Mookie Betts and Pablo Sandoval.

They are also hoping for better seasons and health from Xander Bogaerts and Shane Victorino.

However, it is hard to look at the rotation and see anything but potential disaster.

Clay Buchholz was 8-11 with a 6.34 ERA and is considered the ace. Rick Porcello did have a 15-13 record and a 3.43 ERA with the Tigers. But Justin Masterson was 7-9 with a 5.88 with the Cleveland Indians and the St. Louis Cardinals.

Lefty Wade Miley was 8-12 with a 4.34 ERA for the Arizona Diamondbacks. A better offense will help him but he is not anything close to Jon Lester, who the Red Sox traded last season and were unable to re-sign as a free agent.

No. 5 starter Joe Kelly (6-4, 4.20 ERA with the Cardinals) starts the season on the disabled list with right bicep injury. In addition, closer Koji Uehara, who just turned 40, is also on the disabled list with a hamstring injury so Edward Mujica and his 49 career saves are it for now.

There is no doubt that the Red Sox will be capable of scoring runs. The question is will it be enough runs to cover a pitching staff and an underbelly of a bullpen that could really exploited?

Add that up to the fact that catcher Christian Vazquez is out for the season to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and you have enough doubts about the Red Sox to make it unlikely they are a good choice to win this division.

The Toronto Blue Jays tried this approach last season and it did not work.

TAMPA BAY RAYS

This team seemingly lost everything so quickly that their home radio station, WDAE, is not very enthusiastic about them.

Manager Joe Maddon and his screwy ideas that seem to work on shifting is gone. General manager Andrew Friedman, who introduced sabermetrics and advanced scouting techniques to the organization that built this team, is also gone.

The team’s best pitcher in David Price was traded last season and now is pitching for the Detroit Tigers. Their second-best pitcher, Matt Moore, is not expected back until June because he is recovering from Tommy John surgery.

This spring they incurred injuries to their best remaining pitcher Alex Cobb. Their closer, Jake McGee, will miss the first month.

They also traded away offensive contributors such as Wil Myers, Ben Zobrist, Yunel Escobar and Matt Joyce.

The team’s offense can be wrapped up in third baseman Evan Longoria and a lot of hope and praying.

They are counting on production out of rookie outfielder Steven Souza Jr., who batted .130 this spring and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who the Indians discarded saying he could not play shortstop and he was not the hitter he was in 2011 (25 home runs and 92 RBIs).

They are still hoping that Desmond Jennings just shows one little spark of the long-departed Carl Crawford. But it is not looking like it will happen.

This could amount to one of the weakest hitting teams in baseball in 2015 and it could be worse without Maddon running the show.

Granted, Cobb, Moore, Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi could form a solid rotation when they are all healthy. The question is can the Rays tread water long enough to see that happen?

Though McGee, Grant Balfour and Brad Boxberger form a solid trio at the back of the bullpen, the Rays are counting on a pair of former failed relievers in Kevin Jepsen and Ernesto Frieri to help out in the middle innings.

They also do not have a decent lefty beyond McGee. Ouch!

After many years of dealing with their obnoxious cowbell-ringing fans  –  all of about 7,000 of them a game  –  it appears that the bloom is off the rose and the cowbells will eventually fall silent this season unless there is some sort of miracle new manager Kevin Cash can create.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

This was the sexy choice to win the division in 2014. Funny thing is, I would have selected them to win this season if young right-hander Marcus Stroman did suffer knee injury that will force him to miss the entire season.

Stroman would have formed a nice 1-2 punch with right-hander Drew Hutchison, who at 24 has progressed so much as a pitcher he is starting on Opening Day ahead of Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey and veteran Mark Buehrle.

To that they have added a pair of young pitchers in left-hander Daniel Norris and right-hander Aaron Sanchez, who looked to be the team’s closer in waiting until the team opted to use him as a starter instead.

The bullpen is untested but it has closer Brett Cecil. There is a lot untested pitchers in the mix behind him but 20-year-old Miguel Castro may end being something special as he gets his feet wet in the majors.

Like the Red Sox, the Blue Jays never have to worry about scoring runs. Add to the thundering power of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion the bat of third baseman Josh Donaldson, who hit 29 home runs and drove in 98 runs for the Athletics in their cavernous ballpark.

You would think Donaldson will love the Rogers Centre.

Though the Jays will miss line-drive machine Melky Cabrera, they still have Jose Reyes and they have also added catcher Russell Martin, who can hit 20 homers and run a pitching staff like a pitching coach.

So there is a lot to like.

The question is after losing Adam Lind and Colby Rasmus the Blue Jays are trotting a pair of young outfielders in Dalton Pompey (center) and Kevin Pillar (left). Much of what the Blue Jays do will revolve around what they do.

They also have a new second baseman in Devon Travis.

It is hard to pick a team to win with so many new players in the lineup like Pillar, Pompey and Travis. This team is carrying six rookies!

But the real test of how the Blue Jays do in 2015 will hinge on its pitching staff. Stroman was a much bigger loss than I think the Blue Jays can overcome.

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH

1) BALTIMORE ORIOLES (92-70)

2) TORONTO BLUE JAYS (86-76)

3) NEW YORK YANKEES (84-78)

4) BOSTON RED SOX (80-82)

5) TAMPA BAY RAYS (76-86)  Hello Montreal!

The Orioles will fall back to the pack but not enough to make much difference. The Blue Jays actually could have won it with Stroman, but now they will fall short and they will not win the wildcard either. I was tempted to pick the Yankees for second because Tanaka, Pineda and Eovaldi are all primed for excellent seasons. But the offense this spring was woefully lacking and it looks as if they will lose a lot of 4-3 and 3-2 games unless make a deal for a young slugger like Giancarlo Stanton. The Yankees just do not have that stud in the middle of the order and it will hurt. The Red Sox will be the Red Flops mainly because their pitching is not as good as people believe it is. Their bullpen also is much weaker without Miller. About all that the “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval is good for is twining with Ortiz to advertise for a doughnut shop. Ramirez is talented but he also is moody and can give up when things are not going well. Ask the Marlins and Dodgers. As for the Rays, their collapse could not have come at a worse time for them when attendance and TV viewership is dropping. The owner wants to have a new stadium built despite the fact that they are tied to dumpy and ugly Tropicana Field for many more years. That is why it is inevitable that the team will be sold and shifted to another city like Montreal soon. Tre bien!

Yankees Dump Bosox On Galvez’s 3-Run Triple

GAME 12

YANKEES 5, RED SOX 3

Non-roster invitee Jonathan Galvez laced a two-out, bases-loaded double in the fourth inning to give the Yankees a lead they would not relinquish as New York downed Boston on Friday at jetBlue Park in Fort Myers, FL.

With the Yankees trailing 2-0, Garrett Jones and Brian McCann opened the frame with back-to-back singles to chase right-hander Rick Porcello. One out later, Rob Refsynder loaded the bases on a slow-roller single between home plate and third base off reliever Dalier Hinojosa.

With two out, Galvez, 24, lofted an opposite-field fly ball that dropped out of right-fielder Daniel Nava’s glove as he hit the side wall for a triple.

The Yankees added a pair of runs in the seventh inning off right-hander Edward Mujica on a two-run double by Mason Williams.

Yankees starter Adam Warren (1-0) yielded two runs on four hits while striking out two in three innings to get credit for the victory. Left-hander Jacob Lindgren pitched a scoreless ninth to get a save.

Hinojosa (0-1) was saddled with the loss.

The Yankees earned a split in their two Grapefruit League games with the Red Sox. They lost to the Bosox 10-6 at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Wednesday. Their spring record improves to 7-4.

FIELD FOCUS

The majority of players enter spring training camp with very long odds of making a team and Galvez is looking at some of the longest of odds.

He was signed by the Yankees as minor-league free agent and given an invitation to spring training after he batted .280 with 10 home runs and 52 RBIs in 103 games for the San Diego Padres’ Triple-A El Paso team in the Pacific Coast League.

The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Dominican entered camp knowing that starter Chase Headley is just beginning a four-year contract and that three-time American League Most Valuable Player Alex Rodriguez is next in line to play third base.

But Galvez is hoping that he might open enough eyes in the Yankees front office to stay in the organization to provide infield depth at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. If not, there is a chance he might catch some interest from another team needing a third baseman with some power.

Galvez actually began his minor-league career as middle infielder with the Padres. But he has not played shortstop since 2011 and he has played only one game as second baseman since 2012. He now mostly plays first base, third base and left-field.

The Yankees have used him primarily at third and in one game as a left-fielder. After Friday’s game, Galvez is 4-for-15 (.267) with no home runs and the three important RBIs he picked up against the Red Sox.

Even if Galvez fails to stick with the Yankees this season he can take comfort in knowing he helped the team beat its bitter rival in their own ballpark. That is pretty good feather to have in your cap.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Galvez finished the evening 2-for-3 in what was, by far, he best game of the spring. The Yankees only sent veterans McCann, Jones and Chris Young on the long bus ride to Fort Myers but it was Galvez who ended up being the hero.
  • Williams entered the game in the bottom of the fifth inning and began the day just 2-for-10. But his opposite-field, ground-rule double in the seventh scored Galvez (who singled earlier) and Aaron Judge (who had doubled). Williams, 23, is coming off a disappointing season in which he hit .228 at Double-Trenton.
  • If you throw out the innings that Warren and right-hander Branden Pinder (who gave a run in the seventh) pitched the other four Yankee relievers combined to give up one hit and three walks with eight strikeouts in five innings. Those pitchers included Chasen Shreve, Jose Ramirez, Nick Goody and Lindgren.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Warren was nicked for two hits and a run in the first inning as Mookie Betts scored on a Hanley Ramirez groundout. Then in the third Betts doubled and scored on an infield single by David Ortiz. Warren was supposed to pitch four innings but he left after three because his pitch count was up to 58. He threw 29 pitches in the third inning alone. Warren has to be sharper in order to limit his pitch count.
  • Young was 0-for-3 with a strikeout and he did not get a ball out of the infield. Young, 31, is now 3-for-18 (.167) with four strikeouts in what has been a slow spring with the bat. The Yankees are looking to the former National League All-Star to provide power from the right side, some speed on the bases and solid defense in the outfield.

BOMBER BANTER

Manager Joe Girardi told reporters on Friday that left-hander CC Sabathia will make his spring debut at home on Tuesday against the Toronto Blue Jays. Sabathia is coming off surgery on his right knee after he was limited to just eight starts last season. In addition, Girardi announced that Masahiro Tanaka will make his second start on Wednesday against the Atlanta Braves at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, FL.

ON DECK

The Yankees will play the second of three split-squad games scheduled for this spring on Saturday.

At their complex in Tampa, FL, the Yankees will host the Detroit Tigers, who also are fielding a split squad.

Right-hander Michael Pineda will make his second start of the spring for the Yankees. The Tigers will counter with left-hander Kyle Lobstein.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.

Meanwhile, the Yankees will send a team to play the Toronto Blue Jays at Florida Auto Nation Stadium in Dunedin, FL.

Right-hander Esmil Rogers will start that game for the Yankees. He will be opposed left-hander Daniel Norris, who is competing for the No. 5 starter’s job.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by MLB Network on a delayed basis at 11 p.m.

 

Suzuki, Yankees Turn Back Clock Against Dodgers

GAME 70

YANKEES 6, DODGERS 4

It was the 1981 World Series when the Los Angeles Dodgers had last played the New York Yankees in the Bronx and Ichiro Suzuki was a seven-year-old boy in Japan hardly thinking he would someday play a game in one of baseball’s most storied rivalries.

But on Wednesday, Suzuki flashed some legendary skills of his own past and his fellow countryman Hiroki Kuroda pitched into the seventh inning as New York spoiled the return of Dodgers manager Don Mattingly’s first visit to the new Yankee Stadium by defeating Los Angeles in front of a paid crowd of 40,604.

Suzuki was 3-for-4  –  including his third home run of the season  –  and drove in three runs off Korean left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu (6-3) to lead the Yankees to their second victory in a row after they had dropped five straight games last week.

Kuroda (7-5), meanwhile, held the Dodgers to two runs on eight hits and a walk while he struck out two in 6 2/3 innings.

Lyle Overbay, in the early stages of replacing injured first baseman Mark Teixeira for a second time this season, got the Yankees off to a quick start against Ryu by delivering a booming two-run double off the center-field wall in the second inning to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead.

Thomas Neal opened the frame with a singe to right and Suzuki followed with an infield single off the glove of second baseman Skip Schumaker. David Adams advanced both runners with a sacrifice bunt and Overbay stroked a 1-1 Ryu fastball off the wall in the deepest part of the ballpark.

Suzuki added to the lead when he opened the sixth inning by turning on an inside fastball from Ryu and depositing it deep into the right-field bleachers to make it 3-0.

That run would become critical when the Dodgers rallied for two runs off Kuroda and hastened his departure from the game.

The Dodgers loaded the bases with one out against Kuroda and A.J. Ellis delivered the Dodgers’ first score with a sacrifice fly to center to score Hanley Ramirez, who would end up 4-for-4 in the game.

Pinch-hitter Jerry Hairston followed with a single to left that scored Andre Ethier, who had drawn a walk earlier in the inning.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi replaced Kuroda with Shawn Kelley and Kelley ended the threat by striking out Nick Punto swinging.

The Yankees then got some help from a very sloppy Dodgers’ defense, which committed a season-high tying four errors in the game.

With one out in the seventh, Jayson Nix and Robinson Cano delivered back-to-back singles off left-hander J.P. Howell. Mattingly replaced Howell with right-hander Ronald Belasario.

Vernon Wells then hit a weak popup halfway to the mound and Belasario let the ball hit the ground, but the ball rolled under his legs. Belasario recovered the ball and attempted to throw out Cano as he ran towards second base, but his throw was wide of the bag and rolled into centerfield to score Nix.

After Belasraio hit Neal with his next pitch to load the bases, he was removed in favor of left-hander Paco Rodriguez. Suzuki greeted him by serving the ball like a tennis lob into left-field for a single that scored two runs.

Ramirez got the Dodgers closer in the eighth inning by slamming a frozen-rope line-drive two-run homer to left off right-hander Preston Claiborne.

However, Mariano Rivera pitched a perfect ninth inning, punctuating his outing by striking out rookie sensation Yasiel Puig looking for the final out, to record his 25th save in 26 opportunities this season.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Suzuki flashed some of his 2001 rookie form in this game. In addition to going 3-for-4 to raise his season average to .274, Suzuki also made a sensational leaping grab on the warning track in right to rob Adrian Gonzalez of an extra-base hit in the eighth inning. Considering Ramirez homered one pitch later, Suzuki’s catch also preserved Kuroda’s lead.
  • Kuroda was not at his best but he got the job done by keeping the Dodgers off the scoreboard through the first six innings. His own defense saved him in the fourth inning. Gonzalez singled to lead off the frame and Ramirez followed with a double to advance Gonzalez to third. But Kuroda escaped the jam by spearing a hot smash liner off the bat off Ethier and doubling Gonzalez off third base.
  • Overbay continues to produce big hits with runners in scoring position. With his two-run double in the second inning, Overbay now has 32 RBIs, which ties him for second on the team with Travis Hafner. The Yankees need Overbay to produce, particularly against left-handers like Ryu, until Teixeira returns to the lineup.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

There really was not much negative to criticize in this one. Everyone of the starters contributed offensively, Kuroda pitched well as always and the team did not commit and error in the field. What is there to criticize?

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees lost the second game of the doubleheader, 6-0. For some reason the Yankees could not hit slop-tossing lefty Chris Capuano (2-4) and Phil Hughes (3-6) pitched another disappointing game. The Yankees collected only three hits.

ON DECK

The Yankees open a four-game home series against the struggling Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday.

Veteran left-hander Andy Pettitte (5-4, 3.95 ERA) will open the series for the Yankees. Pettitte allowed four runs and a season-high 11 hits in a loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Friday. Pettitte is 16-6 with a 4.09 ERA in the past 10 seasons against the Rays.

The Rays will counter with young lefty Matt Moore (8-2, 4.12 ERA). Moore has been pounded for 19 earned runs in 13 1/3 innings over his past three starts. Moore is 3-2 with a 2.57 ERA against the Yankees in his brief career.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.

 

‘Homeboy’ A-Rod Boosts Yankees Over Marlins

GAME 31

YANKEES 5, MARLINS 2

When Alex Rodriguez was a teenager in Miami he dreamed of replacing Dan Mario as the starting quarterback of the Dolphins and having his friends watch him in the Orange Bowl. Years later, friends and family watched as he starred for the Yankees in a baseball game against the hometown Marlins in their new park.

Rodriguez drove in three runs and his two-run double in the fifth inning broke a 2-2 tie as New York registered its second victory of a two-game series against Miami in a Grapefruit League exhibition game on Monday at Marlins Park.

Rodriguez followed a bases-loaded walk to Robinson Cano by Marlins starter Carlos Zambrano in the third inning with a sacrifice fly to left that gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead. After the Marlins tied it up the fourth inning, Rodriguez chased Zambrano with a double off the center-field wall in the fifth to score Curtis Granderson and Cano.

The Yankees opted not to obtain Zambrano in a trade with the Cubs last season and Yankee fans saw the reason why. Zambrano (0-3) gave up five runs on four hits and a mind-numbing seven walks in four-plus innings. The Marlins’ No. 4 starter ended his spring with a 6.23 ERA.

Meanwhile, the Yankees got good efforts out of No. 2 starter Hiroki Kuroda and No. 3 starter Phil Hughes.

Kuroda gave up one run on three hits and one walk while striking out two in his three innings of work. Hughes scattered five hits, walked one and struck out four in his four scoreless innings of relief.

Rafael Soriano (1-0) pitched a scoreless one-third of an inning to get credit for the victory. David Robertson pitched a perfect ninth with two strikeouts to collect a save.

With the victory, the Yankees are now 17-11 this spring and they are 12-3 with three ties since March 14. The Marlins end up with a 11-14 spring record.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • It is always good to see Rodriguez driving in runs from the cleanup spot. That is something the team sorely missed last season when he played in only 99 games due to an assortment of injuries. With his three RBIs on Monday, Rodriguez is second on the team with 14 RBIs this spring. Cano’s bases-loaded walk gave him one more at 15.
  • Kuroda looked sharp in his tuneup for his game against the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday. Kuroda gave up a leadoff double in the first inning to Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez scored him one out later with a single to left. He shut down the Marlins over his next two innings. He ends the spring with a 2.92 ERA.
  • It appears that the Yankees have the 2010 version of Hughes healthy and ready to start the season. Hughes was 18-8 in 2010 but right shoulder weakness ruined his 2011 season. Hughes lost weight in the winter and compiled a 1.92 ERA this spring to earn the No. 3 spot in the rotation. Amid all the hoopla over Kuroda, Michael Pineda and Andy Pettitte coming back, Hughes just went about his business and he looks primed for a good 2012 season.
  • The Yankees were very lucky that the right foot injury to Robertson was just a bruise. He looked dominant in his one inning of work and he will join Soriano and Mariano Rivera to form a back end of the bullpen that can be called “The Bermuda Triangle” of runs.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Raul Ibanez entered the game riding a torrid hot streak over the past week where he has hit three home runs. However, he was 0-for-4, including a strikeout and grounding into an inning-ending double play. His average dropped to .155 but manager Joe Girardi and the Yankees are still very proud of the way Ibanez handled the adversity of his slump this spring.
  • Sloppy play cost the Yankees a run in the fourth. Logan Morrison doubled to lead off the frame against Boone Logan and Gaby Sanchez singled to right, which would have advanced Morrison to third. However, Nick Swisher overran the ball and Morrison was able to score on the play.
  • Though the Yankees did score five runs and win the game, their offense did not really take full advantage of the nine walks they received from the Marlins. They were 2-for-7 with runners in scoring position and Mark Teixeira, Swisher and Ibanez combined to leave a total of eight runners on base.

BOMBER BANTER

With the starting rotation set, Girardi has to make only two decisions for the bullpen. One is whether to keep Clay Rapada, 30, as a second lefty with Logan. The elbow injury to Cesar Cabral pretty much cleared the way for Rapada to make the team. The other decision is with Micahel Pineda on the disabled list, who among David Phelps, D.J. Mitchell or Adam Warren will make the team as a long reliever  –  a role Hector Noesi filled last season.  . . .  Outfielder Justin Maxwell, 28, has had an exceptional spring, hitting .317 with five doubles and 11 RBIs. But the Yankees have no room on the roster for him and he is out of options to the minors. So the Yankees might look to trade him.  . . .  After saying Pettitte would not pitch in a spring exhibition game on Sunday, Girardi said on Monday that Pettitte could pitch an inning of a game on Wednesday. If he does not, Pettitte instead will pitch in a minor-league game on Thursday.

ON DECK

The Yankee regulars are on their way back home to Tampa, FL. The reserves, non-roster players and minor-league rookies are headed to Port Sr. Lucie, FL., for an exhibition game against the New York Mets on Tuesday. This will be the teams’ first spring meeting since 1998.

No. 4 starter Ivan Nova is scheduled to get the ball for the Yankees. Right-hander Mike Pelfrey and left-hander Jonathan Niese are scheduled to pitch for the Mets.

Game-time will be 2:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.