Tagged: Jared Burton

Fenway Quiet As A-Rod’s 660th Homer Bites Bosox

GAME 23

YANKEES 3, RED SOX 2

If there is any place where Alex Rodriguez would hear the loudest boos it would hands down be at Fenway Park. That is exactly the way it played out on Friday when Rodriguez pinch-hit in the eighth inning. But he managed to silence the 35,444 in attendance with one historically significant swing.

Rodriguez laced a 3-0 fastball off right-hander Junichi Tazawa into the seats above the Green Monster in left to break a 2-2 tie and give New York a thrilling victory over rival Boston.

The home run also was the 660th of Rodriguez’s career, which ties him for fourth on the all-time home run list with the legendary Willie Mays.

The teams remained tied into the eighth as both Red Sox right-hander Justin Masterson and Yankee left-hander CC Sabathia ended up with similar pitching lines.

The Yankees jumped into an early 1-0 lead in the first inning on a leadoff single by Jacoby Ellsbury, a one-out walk to Mark Teixeira and a two-out RBI double by struggling veteran outfielder Carlos Beltran, who entered the game batting .162.

The Red Sox tied it in the third inning when Xander Bogaerts opened the frame with a double and advanced to third on a deep fly to center by Ryan Hanigan. He then scored on a sacrifice fly by Mookie Betts.

The Red Sox then took the lead in the fourth on a solo two-out golf shot home run to left off the bat of Allen Craig for his first home run of the season.

The Yankees knotted the score in the seventh when Didi Gregorius drew a walk off Masterson. Left-hander Tommy Layne replaced Masterson and, with two out, he struck Teixeira on the right arm with a pitch and Brian McCann followed with an opposite-field single to score Gregorius.

Masterson was charged with two runs on six hits and three walks while he fanned two in 6-plus innings. Sabathia gave up two runs on seven hits and two walks and he struck out three in six innings.

Sabathia entered the game with an 0-4 record and he has not won a regular-season game since April 14 of last season against the Red Sox.

Esmil Rogers (1-1) pitched a perfect seventh inning to get credit for the victory. Tazawa (0-1) took the loss.

As has been the case all season, the Yankees relied on the “Twin Towers” of 6-foot-8 right-hander Dellin Betances and 6-foot-7 left-hander Andrew Miller to close out the final two innings.

Betances pitched around a walk and a single to keep Boston scoreless in the eighth and Miller hurled a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his ninth save in nine chances.

The Yankees improved their season record to 14-9 and they remain in first place in the American League East one game ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays. The Red Sox fell to 12-11 and they are two games behind the Yankees in third place in the division.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • A-Rod has always has had a flair for the dramatic at Fenway Park. His last homer there came off right-hander Ryan Dempster in 2013 after Dempster had deliberately hit him with a pitch in his previous at-bat. This home run came on a  3-0 pitch and strangely enough it is only the second homer of Rodriguez’s career on a 3-0 count. For the season, Rodriguez has six home runs. Rodriguez did not start the game for two reasons. The first was that manager Joe Girardi was employing an all-lefty hitting lineup against Masterson. The second is that Rodriguez entered the game 2 for his past 17 at-bats, which is a sickly .118.
  • Betances and Miller have now combined to pitch 25 2/3 scoreless innings between them. They have given up nine hits and 12 walks while they have struck out 42 batters. This is shaping up to be the strongest 1-2 combination the Yankees have had since the days of Mariano Rivera setting up for John Wetteland in 1996.
  • Beltran has been scuffling all season and he recorded no home runs and seven RBIs in the first month of the season. But on the first day of May he was 2-for-4 with a double, a single and an big two-out RBI in the first inning. The Yankees badly need to get the 38-year-old veteran untracked.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The Yankees allowed Masterson and relievers Layne, Tazawa and Robbie Ross Jr. off the hook so many times that they stranded 12 base-runners. They loaded the bases with two out in the fifth inning when Masterson hit McCann with a pitch. However, Beltran hit a weak roller to second to leave the bases loaded. Fortunately for the Yankees, the Red Sox were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
  • Garrett Jones started as the team’s designated hitter in place of Rodriguez and he was 0-for-3 with a strikeout. Jones, 33, is 5-for-30 (.167) on the season with no homers and no RBIs in 12 games. After a poor spring Jones may be playing his way out of favor. He once was considered as a potential platoon DH with Rodriguez. But that ship has sailed and Jones is getting less and less playing time.

BOMBER BANTER

All the injured players the Yankees left in spring training are progressing nicely. Left-hander Chris Capuano, who is on the disabled list with a right quadriceps strain, is scheduled to throw four innings or 60 pitches at Class-A Tampa on Saturday. Right-hander Ivan Nova, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, is scheduled to throw one inning in an intrasquad game. Right-hander Jared Burton (oblique) is also scheduled to throw an intrasquad inning. Meanwhile, backup infielder Brendan Ryan (right calf strain) took an at-bat in extended spring training game on Friday. Infielder Jose Pirela (concussion) received a rehab assignment to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre and he went 1-for-4 with a walk against Charlotte on Thursday.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their weekend series against the wicked evil Red Sox on Saturday.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (1-0, 4.14 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Eovaldi, 25, surrendered four runs on seven hits while he struck out six in 4 1/3 innings in a no decision against the New York Mets on Sunday.

The Red Sox will counter with struggling left-hander Wade Miley (1-2, 8.62 ERA). Miley was torched for eight runs on five hits and two walks in just 2 1/3 innings against the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday.

Game-time will be 1:35 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

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Eovaldi, Headley Help Yankees Blank Astros

GAME 28

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.

FIELD FOCUS

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.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • 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.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

I will not nitpick this one. If you toss shutout ball and score seven runs there is not much there to fix.

BOMBER BANTER

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.

ON DECK

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.

 

Jennings’ Homer Allows Rays To Shade Yankees

GAME 25

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.

FIELD FOCUS

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.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • 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.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • 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.

BOMBER BANTER

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.

ON DECK

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. 

 

After Rally Yankees Fall To Phils In ‘Ruf’ Ending

GAME 18

PHILLIES 7, YANKEES 3

Darin Ruf broke up a 3-3 tie with a leadoff home run in the eighth inning and the Phillies added three more in the ninth as Philadelphia outlasted New York on Thursday at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL

Ruf’s blast into the right-field bleachers came off right-hander Nick Goody (0-1). Left-hander Andy Oliver (2-0) pitched 1 2/3 innings and fanned four batters to pick up the victory. Right-hander Luis Garcia pitched a perfect ninth to notch his third save of the spring.

The Yankees trailed from the first inning until the bottom of the sixth when Didi Gregarious singled, Stephen Drew walked and Carlos Beltran followed with an RBI single up the middle off left-hander Joely Rodriguez.

The loss drops the Yankees to a 10-7 record in Grapefruit League play.

FIELD FOCUS

Ever since Robin$on Cano took his bat, ball and glove to the Pacific Northwest in an angry huff, second base has been sort of a mess for the Yankees.

General manager Brian Cashman tried to replace a Michelin tire with a well-worn B.F. Goodrich with a blowout patch on it in Brian Roberts last season.

The 37-year-old veteran batted .237 with five homers and 21 RBIs in 91 games until he was released on Aug. 1. The former All-Star who suffered through four previous seasons of injuries just had nothing left in the tank. He announced he was retiring on Oct. 18.

The Yankees shifted gears and dealt infielder Kelly Johnson to the Boston Red Sox for Drew with the intention of making him a second baseman.

Drew played 46 games for the Yankees and ended up batting .150 with three home runs and 15 RBIs. To say that second base was a black hole for offense in 2014 would be putting it mildly.

It is also why there were raised eyebrows when Drew was offered a one-year, $5 million contract to stay with the Yankees and he was quickly named this spring by manager Joe Girardi as the team’s starting second baseman.

Eyebrows were raised even farther when Drew began spring training 1-for-13 (.077).

Since then Drew has picked up his offense and he is in the middle of a very encouraging hot streak. He was 1-for-2 with a walk and an RBI against the Phillies on Thursday.

That means in his past three games, Drew is 3-for-7 (.429) with a home run and four RBIs. Even when he is making outs now they are loud outs to the outfield.

The Yankees would like for Drew to return to his form of 2013 when he batted .253 with 13 home runs and 67 RBIs for the Red Sox. Those numbers for a second baseman with the Yankees would look great compared to what they got from the position last season.

Drew is just hopeful that he can continue his steady progression with the bat throughout the rest of the spring. He may not be a Michelin but he just might still have a decent amount tread life left at age 32.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Considering the Yankees only managed four hits, the best thing you can say is that no one got injured. That is a positive, I guess.
  • Chase Headley continues to swing a red-hot bat. Headley cracked a solo home run with one out in the second inning off Phillies starter Aaron Harang. Although it seemed unwise last season for the Yankees to trade for a third baseman who was struggling with back issues, Headley seems to be over the back problems and he seems primed for a big season. He is batting .370 with two home runs and three RBIs.
  • Gregorius was 3-for-3 on Wednesday against the Braves in Lake Buena Vista, FL, and one of the hits came off a left-hander. On Thursday, he started a rally that tied the game in the sixth with a hit off the lefty Rodriguez. Perhaps he might be on the road to solving them after hitting below .200 against them for his career.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Yankee starter Esmil Rogers, competing to replace the injured Chris Capuano as the team’s No. 5 starter, was not sharp at all on Thursday. After not being scored upon this spring, the Phillies touched Rogers, 29, for single runs in the first three innings. Ryan Howard tagged him for a two-out RBI single in the first. Cody Asche hammered a leadoff homer in the second and Carlos Ruiz added a two-out RBI single in the third off Rogers.
  • Left-hander Chasen Shreve, acquired along with right-hander David Carpenter from the Braves in exchange for left-hander Manny Banuelos, is vying to become a third lefty in the bullpen behind Andrew Miller and Justin Wilson. But Shreve, 24, took a step backwards when he was shelled for three runs (two earned) on three hits in the ninth inning.

BOMBER BANTER

Jacoby Ellsbury told reporters that despite being restricted from all baseball activities for a week that he will be ready for Opening Day. Ellsbury, 31, sustained a mild oblique strain throwing in the outfield prior to Sunday’s game against the Phillies. “I think the good thing is we do have time and I’m fully confident that I’ll be there Opening Day, ready to play,” Ellsbury told reporters.  . . .  Right-hander Jared Burton, 33, sustained a strained lat and will undergo an MRI to determine the extent of the injury. Burton is a non-roster invitee who is competing for a bullpen spot this spring.  . . .   Backup infielder Brendan Ryan, who has been sidelined all spring with a mid-back strain, is scheduled to make his spring debut on Friday.

ON DECK

The Yankees will travel to Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland FL, on Friday to face the Detroit Tigers.

Adam Warren, who is battling Rogers for the fifth spot in the rotation, will start for the Yankees. Warren is 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA in three starts this spring.

The Tigers will counter with right-hander Alfredo Simon, who is 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA in three starts.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be not be broadcast via TV or radio.

Pineda Looks Dominant As Yankees Down Tigers

GAME 13

YANKEES (SS) 4, TIGERS (SS) 1

There is an old saying that it hard to know what you missed until it is gone. When it comes to Michael Pineda the Yankees never want to find out again what they missed.

Pineda, 26, threw three dominant no-hit and scoreless innings as a New York split squad defeated a Detroit split squad on Saturday at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL.

The 6-foot-7, 260-pound right-hander looked in complete control in striking out four and walking one in a 34-pitch outing in which he threw 24 of them for strikes. To cap off his outing, Pineda picked off Andrew Romine for the final out in the third inning after he had just walked him.

“My changeup and [other] pitches were working really good,” Pineda told reporters. “The command is still good. I was very happy.”

The Yankees opened the scoring in the third against left-hander Kyle Lobstein when Mason Williams led off with a triple and scored on Didi Gregorius’ sacrifice fly.

The Tigers tied it off Dellin Betances in the fourth when Rajai Davis led off with a ground-rule double. He advanced to third on a balk called on Betances and scored on a groundout by Josh Wilson.

The Yankees pulled ahead for good in the sixth against right-hander Rafael Dolis when Gregorius, Chase Headley and Stephen Drew all singled to load the bases and Mark Teixeira’s potential double-play grounder was botched when Dixon Machado threw wild to first and allowed Gregorius and Headley to score.

Rookie right-hander Nick Rumbelow (1-0) pitched 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief to earn the victory. Jared Burton pitched tossed a perfect ninth inning to earn his second save. Doris took the loss.

The Yankees improved their Grapefruit League record to 8-4.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • If starting pitching is indeed the key to success in the American League East the Yankees might have the best two starters in the division in a healthy Masahiro Tanaka and Pineda. It is still early but all indications are that this pair is primed for success in 2015. Pineda actually may look more dominant than Tanaka because he has pinpoint control and he is nearly impossible to hit.
  • Headley is having a very good spring. After his 3-for-3 day in Sarasota against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday he appears to be on a groove. In his past three games, Headley is 6-for-9 (.667). He was 2-for-3 on Saturday to raise his spring average to .368. Perhaps signing the third baseman to a four-year, $50 million deal this winter was a stroke of genius.
  • I have been on his rear end all spring for not hitting so I have to give kudos to Drew for his single in the sixth that loaded the bases. It was only Drew’s second hit of the spring and his first since March 6 against the Philadelphia Phillies. Drew was in 0-for-12 funk until that hit. He now is hitting .125 so he still has a ways to go. But at least it is encouraging.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Betances struggled for the first time this spring. He gave up ground-rule doubles to Davis and Nick Castellanos and committed a balk to allow Davis to score later. He also did not strike out a batter, which is even more indicative that he did not have his good stuff on Saturday.
  • Though he has had a decent spring, it was not a good day for Garrett Jones. He was 0-for-3 and he struck out twice. Jones has chance to be the team’s primary designated hitter this season and he is hitting .250 thus far.

The features Bronx Banter and On Deck will appear in my subsequent post.

Yankees Break Tie In Eighth To Overtake Nationals

GAME 7

YANKEES 3, NATIONALS 2

Kyle Roller, Aaron Judge and Cole Figueroa stroked consecutive two-out singles in the eighth inning with Figueroa scoring Roller with the tie-breaking run as New York defeated Washington on Sunday at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL.

Right-hander Wilking Rodriguez (1-0) pitched a scoreless eighth inning to earn the victory. Mitch Lively (0-1) took the loss. Jared Burton pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to pick up a save.

With the victory the Yankees are now 4-2 in Grapefruit League play.

FIELD FOCUS

If you walk up to Yankee special instructor Reggie Jackson and ask him who he believes is the team’s best young hitting prospect he does not hesitate to tell you that it is infielder Jose Pirela.

Pirela, 25, put those hitting talents on display on Sunday

The 5-foot-11, 215-pound native Venezuela opened the third inning with a double in the right-field corner and he scored on Brett Gardner’s two-out infield single to tie the game a 1-1.

He came up again in the fourth with two out and Brian McCann on third and Chris Young on first and chopped a infield single to give the Yankees a temporary 2-1 lead.

In his first week of spring games, Pirela is batting .455 (5-for-11) including a double, a triple and three RBIs. If you think that possibly could be just an aberration think about this: Pirela batted .305 with 10 home runs and 60 RBIs in 130 games with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

He earned a September call-up to the Yankees last season and all he did was bat .333 in 24 at-bats and three RBIs.

Pirela is not rated among the Yankees’ top prospects and yet there is a scenario where he might leave spring training as part of the 25-man roster.

With backup middle infielder Brendan Ryan shelved so far this spring with a mid-back strain he suffered working out with weights, Pirela would stand to make the team as its middle infield reserve.

The knock on Pirela has always been his defense. Scouts do not see him as a potential starter because of that reason. That reputation largely was sewn because Pirela committed 37 errors in 111 games at shortstop in 2011 wit Double-A Trenton.

But Pirela has cut down on his errors in the past three seasons. He was charged with 11 in 2012, 16 in 2013 and 11 last season though he played first base, second base, shortstop and 45 games in the outfield.

The Yankees see Pirela as a “super sub” player along the lines of Jerry Hairston Jr. But the Yankees mostly need him as infielder for now. His bat, though, will always be his main calling card.

“I’m very thankful to the Yankees for this opportunity,” Pirela told reporters. “They’ve given me plenty of opportunities. I just want to continue doing my job and I just hope to keep getting a chance to show what I can do.”

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • The Yankees trotted out their late-inning relievers in Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances in the fourth and fifth innings, respectively. Both looked relatively sharp. Miller, a 29-year-old left-hander, was making his second appearance of the spring and he threw a perfect inning with one strikeout. Betances, 26, made his spring debut and gave up a leadoff double to Clint Robinson but retired the next three hitters, the last two by strikeout. Manager Joe Girardi said no decision has been made on who the team’s closer will be or if the team will employ Miller and Betances as co-closers.
  • Although he was charged with an unearned run in the seventh inning on a RBI groundout by Derrick Robinson, right-hander Luis Severino showed off his 97-mile-per-hour fastball to fan three of the seven batters he faced. Severino, 21, is ranked as the team’s top prospect. Despite being a power pitcher who has fanned 225 batters in 221 2/3 innings, Severino also has only walked 54 batters over that time, which just a bit over two every nine innings. There is a chance Severino could make his major-league debut at some point this season.
  • Adam Warren, 27, made his second start of the spring and he looked pretty good despite surrendering a leadoff homer to Michael Taylor on his first offering of the game. Warren yielded just the one run on four hits and no walks with one strikeout in three innings.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • It is early but starting center-fielder and leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury is just 1-for-12 (.083) after going 0-for-3 on Sunday  –  all three were weak groundouts, including one in the third inning with Pirela on third and one out. Gardner followed with his RBI single to get Ellsbury off the hook. It would be nice to see Ellsbury get untracked before spring training ends.
  • Carlos Beltran is 0-for-5 in his first two games of spring. Beltran, 37, is recovering from right elbow surgery last September and it is obvious his timing is off in the early going. The Yankees are counting on the perennial All-Star outfielder to produce big numbers batting third for the team this season.

BOMBER BANTER

It’s official: Masahiro Tanaka will make his first start in a spring exhibition game on Thursday night as the Yankees play host to the Atlanta Braves. Girardi made the announcement on Sunday. Tanaka, 26, has been monitored closely this spring after he suffered a partial tear in his ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow last July. Though Tanaka opted to rehab the elbow rather than undergo Tommy John surgery he has reported no issues with his elbow this spring.  . . .  CC Sabathia threw a bullpen session on Sunday and it appears he is just a week away from his first Grapefruit League start. Sabathia had surgery on his right knee last season and the Yankees are being cautious with the 34-year-old left-hander. Sabathia told reporters there is no doubt he will be ready for the start of the season.

ON DECK

The Yankees will play host to the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday.

Right-hander Michael Pineda will make his first start of the spring for the Yankees. Pineda, 26, was 5-5 with a 1.89 ERA in 13 starts in a season cut short by a pulled muscle in Pineda’s right shoulder.

The Yankees are also scheduled to play their starting infield of Mark Teixeira, Stephen Drew, Didi Gregorius and Chase Headley.

The Rays will counter with right-hander Nathan Karns, who was 9-9 with a 5.08 ERA at Triple-A Durham last season.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast live by the YES Network and on a taped basis by the MLB Network at midnight.

 

McCann’s RBI Double Hands Tanaka 8th Victory

GAME 54

YANKEES 3, TWINS 1

When a hitter has a chance to deliver a big hit in a key situation and he fails, most times they can’t wait for a shot at redemption. That is exactly how Brian McCann felt as he stepped to the plate in the eighth inning on Saturday.

This time he delivered.

McCann slapped a double down the right-field line with one out to score Jacoby Ellsbury from third to break a 1-1 tie as rookie Masahiro Tanaka and New York went on to defeat Minnesota in front of a paid crowd of 44,346 on a rainy afternoon at Yankee Stadium.

McCann came up in the first inning with the bases loaded and one out and right-hander Kevin Correia induced him to hit into an inning-ending double play. So the veteran All-Star catcher was more than anxious to give Tanaka and the Yankees a lead.

Tanaka (8-1) gave up an unearned run on just four hits and two walks while he struck out nine over eight innings to earn the victory. Tanaka entered the game leading the American League in ERA and he lowered that league-leading mark on Saturday from 2.29 to 2.06.

David Robertson pitched around an error, one of three the Yankees committed in the game, and he struck out the side in the ninth to earn his 12th save in 13 chances this season.

With one out in the eighth, Ellsbury stroked a single to center off left-hander Brian Duensing (1-2) to extend his hitting streak to five games. He then stole second and took third when catcher Josmil Pinto’s throw to second rolled into center.

Brian Roberts drew a walk and McCann followed by slashing 0-1 pitch into the right-field corner to score Ellsbury and advance Roberts to third. Alfonso Soriano was walked to load the bases and the skies, which had been spouting rain throughout most of the day, opened up into a deluge and the game was delayed by rain for 34 minutes.

After the delay, right-hander Jared Burton replaced Duensing on the mound and he got on a infield popup Yangervis Solarte, who had accounted for the Yankees’ only run of the game prior to the eighth with his sixth home run of the season off Correia in the fourth inning.

Kelly Johnson then provided the Yankees an insurance run when he was able to leg out a ground ball to second baseman Brian Dozier for an RBI single that scored Roberts.

Errors, both physical and mental, plagued the Yankees most of the day and Johnson’s error in the first inning set the tone for it.

Dozier hit the first pitch from Tanaka to Johnson at third but the ball ticked off his glove for an error. Dozier then advanced to second on a one of two wild pitches Tanaka uncorked on the day.

Eduardo Escobar advanced Dozier to third with a groundout and, one out later, Josh Willingham plated him with an opposite-field single to right.

Though Solarte tied it in the fourth, the Yankees were unable to get any offense going against Correia, who entered the game with a 2-5 record and an ERA of 6.34, the worst ERA among all major-league starters this season.

The Yankees squandered a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the first on McCann’s double play. Brendan Ryan also hit into an inning-ending double play in the second with two on and one out.

In the sixth, McCann was on second with two out when Solarte slapped a lined single into right. Though third-base coach Rob Thomson smartly held McCann at third, Solarte attempted to take second on right-field Oswaldo Arcia’s throw to the plate. But Pinto cut down Solarte with a perfect throw to Escobar at second base.

As a result, Correia yielded just the one run despite being touched for nine hits and one walk with three strikeouts in six innings.

In Friday’s loss to the Twins, the Yankees managed just one run on seven hits and four walks in seven innings against right-hander Ricky Nolasco, who entered the game with an ERA of 6.12, the second-worst ERA in the American League to his teammate Correia.

The victory improves the Yankees’ season ledger to 29-25. They are in second place in the American League East 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Toronto Blue Jays. The Twins dropped to 25-28.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • With the Yankees struggling to score runs, Tanaka needed to pitch a near-flawless game and he did. The Yankees are 9-2 in his starts and he now has struck out 88 batters in 78 2/3 innings. The Twins managed just four singles. Two of them were infield singles and none of the four singles were hit hard. Without McCann’s hit Tanaka was headed for a very frustrating no decision. He deserved to win this game.
  • McCann may be starting to get out of the hitting doldrums. He was 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles and with what proved to be the game-winning hit. He now has at least one hit in his past four games and he is 6-for-15 (.400) in that span. That has raised his season average to .232, which is as high as it has been since April 29.
  • Solarte had fallen into a 7-for-47 (.149) tailspin from May 15 through May 28. Now Solarte is getting hot again. After not starting in the series finale against the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday, Solarte was 3-for-4 on Saturday and is 5-for-8 (.625) in the two games against the Twins. After his average dipped to .283 he is now back to.299.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • After a solid April in which he hit .247 with four homers and 10 RBIs, Soriano has been virtually useless in May. Soriano was 0-for-3 with a strikeout on Saturday and he is now 4-for-30 (.133) in his past 12 games dating back to May 18. Soriano also dropped a routine fly ball off the bat of Dozier in the third inning for an error. Soriano leads the team in strikeouts with 52 in 179 at-bats.
  • Bad base-running continues to plague the Yankees in this series against the Twins. Solarte’s base-running blunder brings the Yankees to four runners cut down on the basepaths in the past two games. On Friday, Derek Jeter was caught in a rundown after rounding first base too far. Roberts later in the game was thrown out at the plate by Arcia and he also was caught stealing after taking too big a lead at first. This just has to stop. Period!
  • Johnson, Soriano and Solarte were also charged with errors in the game. Three errors in a close game can be very costly. Asking Tanaka to pitch around errors is asking an awful lot, even for a pitcher of Tanaka’s ability. Mental and physical errors seem to be spreading through the team like a virus. The team needs to stop pressing in the field, at the plate and on the bases.

BOMBER BANTER

Mark Texeira left the game in the sixth inning with a recurrence of the soreness in his surgically repaired right wrist. The Gold-Glove first baseman was administered a cortisone injection and he will miss at least the next two games, the Yankees told reporters after the game. Teixeira, 33, had missed three games and rested on the off day Thursday before returning to the lineup on Friday. He was 0-for-1 with a strikeout and three walks in that game. He struck out with the bases loaded in the first inning and grounded out in the third on Saturday before leaving in the sixth in favor of Roberts, who was 0-for-1 with a strikeout and a walk.  . . .  Right-hander Michael Pineda’s timetable to return to the roster from the disabled list has hit a setback. Pineda, 24, is feeling more discomfort in a muscle behind his right shoulder and an outing for him in an intrasquad game scheduled for Sunday in Tampa, FL, has been postponed. Pineda felt pain playing catch on Friday and flew to New York to have an MRI on Saturday that revealed inflammation of the teres-major muscle behind his right shoulder. Manager Joe Girardi said Pineda will be shut down and it is not clear when he will be able to resume throwing.

ON DECK

The Yankees will have a chance to win the three-game series against the Twins with a victory on Sunday.

Rookie right-hander Chase Whitley (0-0, 2.57 ERA) will look for his first major-league victory in his fourth start. Whitley held the Cardinals to no runs in the first five innings before being charged with three runs in the sixth on Monday. Whitley yielded eight hits and no walks with two strikeouts. The Yankees ended up winning the game and they are now 3-0 in games Whitley has started.

The Twins will start former Yankee right-hander Phil Hughes (5-1, 3.23 ERA). Hughes did not receive a decision either in his last start against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday. Hughes left after surrendering three runs on eight hits with no walks and three strikeouts in seven innings. Hughes was 56-50 in seven seasons with the Yankees. He was 4-14 with a 5.19 ERA in 29 starts for the Yankees in 2014.

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