CC Sabathia continued his fine work from spring training with six strong innings and Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira led a newly retooled Yankee offense as the New York downed Houston in their season opener at Minute Maid Park in Houston.
ASTROS 6, YANKEES 2
Somehow the Astros did not get the memo on how Opening Day was supposed to go.
The Astros scored six runs in the first two innings off CC Sabathia, including home runs by Jesus Guzman and L.J. Hoes, as Houston rolled to an Opening Day victory over New York on Tuesday in front of a paid crowd of 42,117 at Minute Maid Park.
Sabathia (0-1) was tagged for four runs in the first and two more in the second before he settled in and pitched four scoreless innings to save the bullpen. Meanwhile, Astros starter Scott Feldman (1-0) held the Yankees in check by using a series of slow-pitch softball speed pitches.
Feldman held the powerful Yankee lineup to no runs on two hits and two walks in 6 2/3 innings. The 31-year-old right-hander entered the contest with a career record of 51-56 with a 4.59.
The Yankees did not get their first hit off Feldman until Carlos Beltran slapped a one-out single to left in the fourth inning. Mark Teixeira looped a one-out single to right in the seventh for the team’s only other hit off Feldman.
The Astros did not waste any time against Sabathia when Dexter Fowler led off the first with a double to deep center. He moved to third on a flyout and scored on an RBI single by Jose Altuve. After a stolen base and a wild pitch advanced him to third, Altuve scored when Teixeira’s throw to home on a grounder off the bat of Jason Castro was thrown wide past McCann.
Guzman lined the first offering from Sabathia deep into the left-field bleachers to make the score 4-0. Guzman entered the game with only 23 career homers over the past 2 1/2 seasons.
Hoes opened the second inning with a solo blast of his own. Hoes entered the contest with only one previous major-league homer in 49 games.
The Astros capped the scoring in the second when Fowler laced another double with one out. Altuve later added a two-out single to score Fowler.
The Yankees had two chances to score against Feldman. In the fourth, Beltran singled with one out and Teixeira drew a two-out walk. However, Alfonso Soriano struck out to end the threat.
In the seventh, Teixeira’s one-out single was followed by a pair of two-out walks to Brett Gardner and Brian Roberts to load the bases.
Astros manager Bo Porter replaced Feldman with left-hander Kevin Chapman and he induced Kelly Johnson into a force out to leave the bases loaded.
The Yankees did finally break through in the eighth inning when Chapman opened the frame by walking Jacoby Ellsbury. Jeter then greeted right-hander Chad Qualls with a single to right.
Beltran advanced Ellsbury and Jeter with a groundout and Brian McCann and Teixeira followed with RBI singles.
However, Qualls ended the rally by getting Soriano to hit into an inning-ending double play.
- Two big concerns the Yankees had opening the season was how Jeter and Teixeira would fare after both players, who missed most of the 2013 season with injuries, struggled to hit this spring. But Jeter was 1-for-3 with a walk and a run scored and Teixeira was 2-for-3 with a walk and an RBI.
- Give both McCann and Teixeira a lot of credit for the their RBI singles. Both decided to hit to the opposite field with shifts on against them and a ground-ball pitcher on the mound in Qualls. If you try to pull outside pitches you end up grounding into the shift. Both recognized that and hit to the opposite field.
- Both Dellin Betances and Vidal Nuno pitched an inning of relief and both were impressive. Betances struck out two in a perfect inning in the seventh and Nuno struck out the side in the eighth. The Yankees are hoping that Betances, 26, and Nuno, 26, will contribute a lot to a completely retooled bullpen that is missing closer Mariano Rivera.
- The reality is that Sabathia was NOT defeated by his reduced velocity. Sabathia was beaten because he missed location with his pitches. When he was up in the strike zone he got hammered. When he got the ball down he was successful in the final four innings. Sabathia was making his sixth consecutive Opening Day start for the Yankees and the 11th of his career. He is the team’s ace out of courtesy and you can actually make a case that he is the weakest of the Yankees five starters. Once Yankees fans accept that fact they may just be able to accept Sabathia for what he is at age 33.
- Soriano can be a maddening player. When he is red hot you can’t get him out. When he is cold he can kill your offense. He killed the offense pretty well on Tuesday by going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and a inning-ending double play. Soriano stranded a team-high five runners. Ouch!
- Though the Yankees were charged with one error they actually were extremely sloppy in the field in this game. McCann overthrew third base trying to nab Altuve. Teixeira’s throw home to get Altuve was to the first-base side of home plate and skipped past McCann. They just did not look sharp in the field with the exception of some fine plays at third by Johnson.
Before the game the Yankees purchased the contract of infielder Yangervis Solarte from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and designated infielder Eduardo Nunez for assignment. The team will have 10 days to trade, release or outright Nunez to the minor leagues. Nunez, 26, was once viewed as the heir apparent to Jeter at shortstop but he was outplayed this spring by Solarte, 26, and Dean Anna, 27. . . . The Yankees Opening Day lineup had only one holdover from Opening Day in 2013 and that was Gardner. Last season, both Jeter and Teixeira were on the disabled list and 2013 starters Ichiro Suzuki and Francisco Cervelli were on the bench on Tuesday. The 2013 lineup also included Vernon Wells, Kevin Youkilis, Ben Francisco, Jayson Nix and Nunez. . . . The Astros plan to honor Jeter with a special ceremony on Wednesday with former teammates Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens on hand. Jeter announced just before spring training began that this will be his final season.
The Yankees will have to recover from their loss as they play the second game of a three-game seres with the Astros.
Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (11-13, 3.31 ERA in 2013) will make his first start of the season. He was 1-0 with a 4.76 ERA this spring.
He will opposed by right-hander Jarred Cosart, who was 1-1 with a 1.95 ERA in 10 starts last season. He was 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA this spring.
Game-time will be 8:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.
Abbott: Nicknames, nicknames. Now, on the . . . team we have Who’s on first, What’s on second, I Don’t Know is on third –
Costello: That’s what I want to find out. I want you to tell me the names of the fellows on the . . . team.
Abbott: I’m telling you. Who’s on first, What’s on second, I Don’t Know is on third –
The classic Lou Costello and Bud Abbott comedy sketch is a perfect metaphor for the 2014 Yankees. Because it is beginning to look like What’s on second and I Don’t Know is on third.
The angry free-agent departure of Robinson Cano and the looming suspension hovering over the head of Alex Rodriguez have those two spots in a bit of limbo now.
The Yankees pretty much were prepared for the suspension of A-Rod but they were not really expecting Cano to get in a tizzy over the contract offered to outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury and leave like a spoiled child. But general manager Brian Cashman has had to deal with these situations since he became general manager in 1998.
He does not panic. He moves on.
When second baseman Omar Infante elected to sign with the Kansas City Royals for four years and $30 million on Dec. 17, Cashman turned to two-time All-Star second baseman Brian Roberts to fill the void for the Yankees.
At the moment, news reports indicate, the Yankees are close to signing Roberts, 36, to a one-year deal worth about $2 million plus incentives. If Roberts does indeed sign he likely would become the Yankees’ primary starting second baseman for the 2014 season.
When Cano left for the Seattle Mariners, Cashman said that all players are replaceable. But he added that some were harder to replace than others. Cano certainly falls into that latter category.
It is not easy to replace a player who hit .314 with 27 home runs and 107 RBIs and played Gold Glove-quality defense. Putting it succinctly, how do replace the team’s best second baseman in history? The answer, of course, is that you don’t.
Even if the Yankees had signed Infante, it would not have been the same. Infante, 32, hit .318 with 10 home runs and 51 RBIs for the Detroit Tigers last season but he is not even close to Cano in ability. So with Infante off the board, Roberts becomes the Yankees No. 1 target.
The question with Roberts is at his age does he have anything left? Another question is can he remain healthy?
After the Yankees disastrous 2013 campaign when even Cashman himself broke his leg skydiving at a charity event, making sure their players can answer the bell to start the 2014 season and have confidence they can finish it would have to be a top priority.
Roberts does not instill a lot of that confidence.
From 2007 through 2009, Roberts was among the top second basemen in baseball, averaging .290 with 120 stolen bases and playing in 157 games a season. But much like A-Rod, staying on the field since 2010 has been a challenge for the former Baltimore Orioles star.
He has played in only 192 games since the 2010 season due to a variety of injuries with the most serious being a concussion that shelved him for portions of two seasons.
Roberts played in 77 games for the O’s last season, batting .249 with eight home runs and 39 RBIs.
Because Roberts is a switch-hitter, the Yankees would likely use him as their primary second baseman because free agent infielder Kelly Johnson has the ability to play third base and he could be used there should Rodriguez have to face a suspension covering all of the 2014 season.
Johnson, 31, bats left-handed and he figures in as more as a potential platoon third baseman with the Yankees also looking to possibly re-sign free-agent Mark Reynolds. Johnson also could back up Roberts at second, as could shortstops Brendan Ryan and Eduardo Nunez.
The disarray at second and third is odd for a Yankee team that has boasted an infield of Mark Teixeira at first, Cano at second, Derek Jeter at short and Rodriguez at third since the 2009 season. But injuries and off-field troubles for Rodriguez and the recent departure of Cano have thrown this once powerful part of the team for a loop.
Teixeira and Jeter are both coming off serious injuries and they hope to be ready to play sometime during spring training in order to begin the season. Rodriguez missed all but 44 games last season recovering from hip surgery last January and has played in 138 games or less since the 2007 season.
Adding the injury-prone Roberts does not seem to make much sense. But he might be healthiest among the other three at this point.
In addition to Roberts, the Yankees are also talking with former All-Star infielder Michael Young, 37, who is capable of playing all four infield positions.
Young hit a combined .279 with eight home runs and 46 RBIs for the Philadelphia Phillies and the Los Angeles Dodgers last season. He is a right-handed hitter who primarily is considered a third baseman. The Yankees would not sign Reynolds if Young decides to sign.
But the signing of Roberts would not preclude the team from also signing Young, who would platoon with Johnson at third base in the absence of Rodriguez.
So Roberts looks to be more a Plan A signing while Young and Reynolds are more of a Plan B after the Yankees get a ruling from the arbitrator who is deciding Rodriguez’s appeal of his 211-game suspension for his alleged role in the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drug scandal.
The hearing was concluded in mid-November with the players’ association seeking to overturn or reduce Rodriguez’s suspension handed down by Major League Baseball and Commissioner Bud Selig last summer. Rodriguez actually stormed out of the hearing in a huff on Nov. 20 when arbitrator Frederic Horowicz ruled that Selig did not have to testify in front of Rodriguez’s attorneys.
Rodriguez said, at that time, that the issue of his suspension likely would end up in a federal court.
Horowicz is expected to issue his ruling some time in January.
In the meantime, the Yankees have kept a public posture of saying that they expect Rodriguez, 38, to be their starting third baseman on Opening Day. But privately they have to be ready to fill the position should Rodriguez be suspended for the entire 2014 season.
That is why they signed Johnson and why they remain interested in Young and Reynolds.
One thing is certain, however: The Yankees would be better off with Rodriguez’s diminished bat in the lineup than without it.
Rodriguez hit .244 with seven home runs and 19 RBIs in 44 games last season and was hampered the final month of the season with tightness in his left hamstring. But it was a far cry better than the production they got from Jayson Nix, Nunez, Corban Joseph, David Adams, Chris Nelson and Luis Cruz.
Reynolds, 30, did hit .236 with six home runs and 19 RBIs in 36 games but he was also needed at first base in a platoon with Lyle Overbay and he is not considered to be as adept fielding at third base as he is at first.
So when the Yankees say “I Don’t Know” is playing third they really mean it.
To be sure, the Yankees have shored up the team’s offense by signing catcher Brian McCann, outfielders Carlos Beltran and Ellsbury and trading last season for outfielder Alfonso Soriano. They also are shoring up the rotation by re-signing Hiroki Kuroda and looking to sign 25-year-old Japanese pitching star Masahiro Tanaka, who has been posted by the Rakuten Golden Eagles.
But around the horn of the infield there are question marks everywhere.
Those question marks all have answers. But none of them appear to be answerable in the short term. What was once a Yankee strength appears to be a possible weakness.
Of course, should Teixeira show up in spring training hitting home runs and Jeter starts running the bases and fielding his position without any pronounced limp, the rest of the infield troubles can be overcome with some hard work.
Roberts could be the answer at second and there are worse things than having a platoon at third until Rodriguez is able to return.
Yankee fans are not accustomed to it. But they might just have to get used to it. Things just look like they will be in a state of flux for a good while.
It is hard enough to win games with a full roster in the American League East. It is difficult when your team is riddled with crippling injuries. It becomes darn near impossible when the team loses its heart and soul.
That is pretty much what the New York Yankees lost last season without its future Hall of Fame shortstop and captain Derek Jeter.
The team has spiraled downward ever since Jeter broke his right ankle in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers in 2012.
The Yankees were swept in that series and they stumbled to a tie for third place in the division with the Baltimore Orioles and missed the playoffs for only the second time since 1994, the season before Jeter made his major-league debut.
Jeter, 39, tried to get back on the field for the 2013 season. But each step forward led to two steps back.
During spring training, the Yankees brought Jeter along slowly, not allowing him to play in the field until the third week of exhibition games. However, it was obvious in watching Jeter run out the batter’s box that he was just not right.
He favored the left ankle and had none of the usual spring in his step.
When X-rays indicated an additional break in the ankle, Jeter was placed on the 60-day disabled list and the usual critics and naysayers came out of the woodwork claiming Jeter was too old to play shortstop and that he would never be the same.
Jeter took that as a challenge and tried to come back on July 11. However, that comeback was short-circuited when he suffered a mild strain in his left quad running out a grounder in his first game back. He went on the 15-day disabled list with quite a bit of frustration after being so sure he was ready.
Activated on July 28, Jeter showed the Yankees just a hint of what they were missing when he went 2-for-4 with a home run against the Tampa Bay Rays.
That comeback was ended just three games later when an examination on Aug. 3 indicated Jeter sustained a Grade 1 strain of his right calf. He was placed on the disabled list for a third time. This was pretty much par for the course when it came to many of the Yankees returning from injuries in 2014 only to wind up back on the disabled list.
Just ask Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Kevin Youkilis and Alex Rodriguez. Jeter had a lot of company on the team’s sickbay.
Jeter returned to the lineup on Sept. 1 and that comeback lasted just a total of seven games. Jeter re-injured his surgically repaired left ankle and, after a few days to assess the injury, Jeter offiicially was shelved for the season on Sept. 11.
The 13-time All-Star ended up playing in just 17 games batting .190 with a home run and seven RBIs. One big wasted season filled with frustration for a player who has always prided himself on playing every day since he became the team’s starting shortstop in 1996.
He also had to abandon any hope of potentially being able to surpass baseball’s all-time hits leader, Pete Rose, who amassed 4,256 hits. Jeter was ahead of Rose’s pace at the same age entering the 2013 season. If Jeter had any intention of playing long enough to break that mark it is went up in smoke last season.
Yankee fans received a bit of a jolt when the Yankees signed shortstop Brendan Ryan to a two-year, $5 million contract on Dec. 2. It raised some eyebrows because some Yankee watchers thought it signaled that the team might be making the move to replace Jeter with the 31-year-old veteran.
But the Yankees quickly squelched any talk about that because Jeter. who was scheduled to play under a player-option contract in 2014 worth $9.5 million, was handed a one-year, $12 million deal by the Yankees. You do not replace a shortstop by offering him more money than his contract specified.
Jeter revealed to reporters on Nov. 14 that his ankle has healed and that he was “100 percent sure” that he would return to his role as the every day shortstop for the Yankees in 2014. Jeter said he was only working on strengthening his body for the coming season and was not worried about his ankle at all.
Of course, he did admit that although he wants to play every day, he is sure that he will get some at-bats as a designated hitter, which is fine with him.
The naysayers still do not believe that Jeter can come back at his age and play at the same level he did before the injury. That is fine if they think that, Jeter says.
Jeter will just have to prove them wrong as he did in 2012 when he led the majors with 216 hits after he hit a career low .270 in 2010 and spent the first half of the 2011 season hitting around .250. Many baseball experts thought Jeter was done then. But after adjusting his swing rehabbing a calf injury during the All-Star break, Jeter raised his average to .297 by season’s end.
The lesson: You may not want to give up on a guy who has five championship rings and career total of 3,316 hits.
The only real question about Jeter will be his ability to field such a demanding position at an advanced age. Players such as Ozzie Smith and Omar Vizquel have done it, but for some reason the ankle and leg injuries Jeter sustained last season give some people pause.
However, whatever range Jeter once had, he lost a long time before the ankle injury. Though Jeter has been awarded five Gold Gloves, including one in 2012, number-crunching gurus have been criticizing him since he won his third award in 2008.
Jeter’s defensive strength has never been totally about range. It is his sure-handed playmaking on the balls he does reach. In 2012, he handled 506 chances and committed only 10 errors. He also formed what has to be the franchise’s best double-play combination in history with second baseman Robinson Cano.
Yankee fans know the difference when Jeter is not in the lineup too. Eduardo Nunez has struggled most of his career playing the position and fans even dubbed him “Eduardo Scissorhands.”
With Jeter’s injury troubles, you would think that Nunez, 26, would have been able to take advantage of the opportunity and make his own mark at the position in 2014.
Unfortunately for Nunez, he could stay healthy and he regressed with his bat. Nunez batted .260 with three homers and 28 RBIs and 10 stolen bases in 90 games. In 75 starts at shortstop, he committed 12 errors, which pretty much played himself out of a job when the Yankees signed Ryan on Sept. 10.
Ryan started all 17 of the Yankees’ remaining games in 2014 and batted .220 with a home run and one RBI. He committed only one error in those games and he is generally accorded to be one of the better fielding shortstops in baseball though he has never been awarded a Gold Glove.
According to FanGraphs Ryan recorded 22 defensive runs saved in 2010, 18 in 2011 and 20 in 2012.
The big knock on Ryan is that he is a career .237 hitter with 19 home runs and 187 RBIs in seven major-league seasons. He is no threat to take Jeter’s job at shortstop but he gives the club some excellent insurance at the position.
However, Nunez’s days with the Yankees appear to be numbered. The team seems to have given on him completely. So Nunez enters 2014 in a position where he should not be looking to buy a home in the tri-state area around New York City.
The Yankees already trimmed the roster of versatile infielder Jayson Nix on Dec. 2 when he was not tendered a contract offer for the 2014 season along with rookie infielder David Adams and right-handed pitcher Matt Daley.
Nix, 31, spent two seasons with the Yankees as backup infielder. Like many of the Yankees, Nix suffered a broken left hand in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays on Aug. 21 in which he was struck by a pitch by knuckleball right-hander R.A. Dickey and missed the remainder of the season.
Nix batted .236 with three home runs and 24 RBIs in 87 games before succumbing to the injury.
The Yankees signed free-agent infielder Kelly Johnson to a one-year, $3 million contract, which means the 32-year-old veteran could figure in the mix to play second base.
Johnson has also played first and third base and the outfield. He also, unlike Ryan, Nunez and Nix, bats left-handed.
The Yankees are not exactly rich at the shortstop position in the minors at this point.
Addison Maruszak, 26, batted .254 with four home runs and 32 RBIs in 94 games at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He is not considered as a prospect for the big leagues.
Former first-round pick Cito Culver, 21, is not making much progress in the minors. Though Culver can flash some leather with the glove the offensive part of the game has eluded him up to this point.
Culver hit a combined a combined .248 with nine home runs and 34 RBIs in 120 games in two stops at the Class-A level in 2013.
The Yankees, it is safe to say do not have another Jeter waiting in the wings to take his place.
So it is a good thing that Jeter is saying he is healed and will be ready to go when camp opens in February. He is the one player the Yankees can’t afford to be without in 2014. They need his bat, they need his glove and they need his leadership by example.
Expecting him to be the fresh-faced kid that 20-plus homers and drove in 90 runs in his heyday would be expecting way too much, But the Yankees will take the numbers he put up in 2012 when he hit .316 with 15 home runs and 58 RBIs.
Betting against Jeter has never been a safe bet before and may not be a wise one now.
When Robinson Cano fired combative player agent Scott Boras to become the first sports client for recording artist Jay-Z and his new agency, Yankee fans figured it was a given that a loyal Yankee fan like Jay-Z would steer his client to the Yankees without any problem.
Well, it has not quite been that way so far.
Cano, 31, and the Yankees still remain very far apart in negotiations on a new contract for the All-Star second baseman.
Representatives for Cano kind of stunned the Yankees and the baseball world as a whole by seeking a 10-year contract in excess of $300 million. Many observers claim that Cano’s agents are marketing him as a baseball version of Michael Jordan and it is hard to see the analogy.
Cano is a talented player with great appeal but his jersey and other gear is not even selling among the top 20 players in the sport. He even trails fellow second baseman Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox.
However, Yankee fans, reality and circumstances may be settling in at Camp Cano now.
Cano’s representatives, Brodie Van Wagenen and Juan Perez of CAA Baseball, met with Yankees president Randy Levine on Tuesday and Cano has reportedly lowered his contract demands. However, the two sides remain far apart. After all, the Yankees were offering seven years at $160 million.
But the fact that Cano’s people are lowering his demands shows there is some wiggle room in the talks. More talks are planned and we could see the Yankees raise their offer a bit.
The Yankees were extremely fortunate to gain an upper hand in the negotiations when two prime teams Cano could have coaxed into a bidding war for his services solved their second base problems early.
The Los Angeles Dodgers signed 27-year-old Cuban star Alexander Guerrero to fill their big need at the position. That was strike one on Cano.
Then this week the Detroit Tigers dealt first baseman Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers in return for second baseman Ian Kinsler. Strike two.
That has given Yankees general manager Brian Cashman just the kind of leverage he needed to lower Cano’s very lucrative demands. Now it appears common sense will prevail and the two sides can work something out because their is one very salient fact about all this: The Yankees can’t afford to lose Cano.
Cano is simply the best player the Yankees have and on the heels of a disastrous injury-marred 2013 campaign the Yankees don’t want their franchise player to leave.
The Yankees are playing it like they are cool with it. I’m sure the rumor the Yankees were talking with free agent Omar Infante had all the hallmarks of Cashman behind the scenes fanning the flames.
But even he knows that Infante is not even a blip on the radar compared to what Cano can do for a team. But, hey, if it works, it works for Cashman.
Infante, 31, hit a robust .318 with 10 home runs and 51 RBIs for the Tigers last season. Cano, on the other hand, batted .314 with 27 home runs and drove in 107 runs and should have won a Gold Glove after just committing six errors last season. (Pedroia dives and flops around like a dying carp while Cano glides to everything and the voters think Pedroia is better. Geesh!)
Cano’s growth as a player has been immense. He came up as a colt in 2005 but he is now a bona fide thoroughbred.
He is a career .309 hitter with 204 home runs and 822 RBIs. He is four-time All-Star, he has won two Gold Gloves and five Silver Slugger awards and he is simply the best second baseman in baseball today. You don’t replace that with Infante.
Last season, the Yankees lost a huge chunk of its power when players such as Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez left as free agents. Then the team lost most of its remaining power with Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter rehabbing from offseason surgeries and Curtis Gramderson and Mark Teixeira sustaining injuries before the season even started.
The one constant the Yankees could count on all season long was Cano. Despite the fact teams pitched around him all season, Cano delivered.
The other hallmark of Cano’s career has also been his durability.
Since 2007, Cano has not played in less than 159 games in any season. Last season, he answered the bell for 160.
The only knock on Cano has been that label of “lazy” that dogged his early career and cost him a few more Gold Gloves because he made everything seem so dang easy. He has mostly beaten that rap in the field but it still dogs him as a base-runner.
Cano has a habit of coasting to first on grounders and he has been embarrassed by getting thrown out at second base on balls he thought were going out of the park. But all his positives far outweigh that negative. The sum of the parts adds up to the greatest second baseman in Yankees history.
And should Cano remain in pinstripes, he could certainly make a case for himself up against the likes of Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Babe Ruth. He and Jeter have formed the best double-play combination in Yankees history.
There is no telling what Cano will do if he remains a Yankee.
The only question remains is will he?
There is no doubt Infante remains the only viable fallback position should Cano leave.
After all, the Yankees have some players who play the position but none of them hold a match, much less a candle, to Cano.
The Yankees dealt right-hander Ben Paullus to the San Diego Padres for second baseman Dean Anna on Nov. 20. Anna, 27, was a Triple-A All-Star at Tucson in 2013 and batted .331 with nine home runs and 73 RBIs. Another big plus in his favor is that he bats left-handed.
The word on Anna is that he is solid fielder. In fact, he also played 60 games at shortstop and seven at third base. His versatility seems to make him a player worth watching this spring. But he is not likely going to be the heir apparent to Cano if he leaves. The Yankees are not fools.
Anna is going to compete for a backup infield spot, period. He will get some stiff competition from holdover Jayson Nix.
The Yankees have not given up on David Adams but they certainly were disappointed with what he produced when he was pressed into service as a third baseman in 2014.
Adams, 26, has primarily been a second baseman in the minor leagues and he will get a shot at both second and third this spring. But after hitting .193 with two home runs and 13 RBIs in 43 games with the Yankees in 2013, he will be on a very short leash if he does not produce this spring.
Meanwhile, after a very strong 2012 season, 25-year-old Corban Joseph slipped mightily in 2013 at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He hit .239 with six homers and 19 RBIs in 47 games. With the acquisition of Anna, Adams and Joseph are quickly dropping off the radar as prospects if they were at all.
At lower levels the Yankees have hot-hitting Jose Pirela, 24, who batted .272 in 124 games at Double-A Trenton and 21-year-old speedster Angelo Gumbs, who hit .213 in 91 games at two stops at the A level last season. Though Gumbs is pretty raw with the bat the Yankees love his potential.
But all talk surrounding second base with the Yankees begins and ends with Cano. Yankee fans would just love to hear that Cano has re-signed with the team. It is hard to imagine 2014 without him.
The signs, though, are pointing toward the Yankees retaining him. The question just remains at what price. It is looking at this point that it will be the Yankees price and Cano will just have to settle on a more realistic number.
Then he can start racking up more big numbers with his bat.
YANKEES 4, BLUE JAYS 2
It seemed like it was a night just like every other night for the New York Yankees on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium.
One of their future Hall of Fame players reached a rare milestone. Alfonso Soriano proved again why he is a godsend. The team lost another player for the rest of the season. And they continued to dominate the Toronto Blue Jays as they have all season.
On a night that Ichiro Suzuki collected his 4,000th hit as a professional, Soriano broke a 2-2 tie with two out in the bottom of the eighth inning with a two-run home run as New York ran its season record against Toronto to 11-1 with a victory in front of a paid crowd of 36,140.
Suzuki, who entered the game with 3,999 combined hits between Japan (1,278) and the majors (2,721), slapped a 1-1 offering from right-hander R.A. Dickey past third baseman Brett Lawrie into left-field in the first inning to join Pete Rose and Ty Cobb as the only three players who reached the 4,000-hit plateau in professional baseball.
The crowd immediately stood up to pay homage as the Yankee players and coaches streamed from the dugout to congratulate Suzuki on his achievement. The 39-year-old outfielder then tipped his batting helmet and bowed to the adoring crowd.
Once the game resumed, it became a battle of wills between the 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner in Dickey and a pair of young pitchers who the Yankees used only to give 41-year-old left-hander Andy Pettitte an extra day of rest in Adam Warren and David Huff.
The game was locked up into a 2-2 tie until the bottom of the eighth when Robinson Cano laced a 1-1 pitch from the knuckleball-tossing Dickey into right-field for a single. Soriano followed by blasting a belt-high 0-1 knuckler about 12 rows deep into the left-field bleachers for his 26th homer of the season and his ninth for the Yankees since he was acquired from the Chicago Cubs on July 26.
Huff (1-0), who pitched five innings of one-hit, no-run baseball in relief of Warren was credited with the victory.
Mariano Rivera pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his 37th save of the season.
Dickey (9-12) was saddled with a tough-luck loss despite giving up two runs on four hits and two walks over the first seven innings. Dickey ended up yielding four runs on six hits while he struck out in eight innings. He is the first Cy Young Award pitcher the Yankees have defeated twice in a season since Barry Zito of the Oakland Athletics in 2003.
The Blue Jays opened the scoring after there were two out in the second against Warren when Anthony Gose snuck a bouncing ball just under the glove of Cano into right-field. Gose stole second and scored on a single by Munenori Kawasaki.
The Yankees tied it in the bottom of the frame when Eduardo Nunez led off with a lined single to left. He stole second and reached third on a wild pitch charged to Dickey.
One out later, Dickey struck Jayson Nix in the left hand with a pitch and Nix removed himself from the game to have tests to determine the severity of the injury. The tests indicated that Nix sustained a fractured hand and he likely will miss the remainder of the regular season.
Mark Reynolds was inserted into the game to pinch-run for Nix.
Austin Romine then tied the game with a long sacrifice fly to the wall in left that scored Nunez easily.
The Yankees staked Warren to a 2-1 lead in the third inning when Cano laced a one-out double off the right-field wall and with two out Curtis Granderson slapped a 1-1 Dickey offering into right to score Cano.
Unfortunately, Warren could not hold the lead for long because the Blue Jays tied it back up in the fourth inning when light-hitting catcher Josh Thole smacked a 2-0 fastball off the back wall of the Yankees’ bullpen in right-center for his first home run of the season.
Warren left one batter later after giving up two runs on four hits and two walks while he fanned four batters over three-plus innings.
But Huff became the story by coming in and shutting the Blue Jays out over the next five innings. He only gave up a high-hop infield single to Lawrie as he led off the eighth inning. He walked four and struck out two before giving way to Rivera in the ninth.
The Yankees have now won four straight games and nine of their 10 of their past 13 games.
The team’s season record now stands at 67-59 and they are 6 1/2 games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox in the American League East. They are just four games back in the wild-card standings. The Blue Jays have now dropped all nine road games to the Yankees and are 57-70 on the season.
- Soriano was the hottest player in baseball through a five-game stretch from Aug. 13 through Aug. 17 when he was 15-for-22 (.682) with five home runs and 18 RBIs. But he then went into a 0-for-17 tailspin that he broke with his two-run homer in the eighth. Soriano is hitting .260 with 26 home runs and 76 RBIs on the season. But he is hitting .284 with nine homers and 28 RBIs in just 24 games with the Yankees.
- Cano looks to be on one of his patented late-season hitting tears. Cano was 2-for-4 with a double, a single and two runs scored on Wednesday. Since Aug. 5, Cano is 28-for-61 (.459) with two home runs and 11 RBIs. In that 16-game span he has failed to get a hit in only one game and he has raised his season average from .288 to a team-leading .310.
- Huff, who turns 29 on Thursday, was picked up off waivers from the Cleveland Indians in May and he was 1-6 with a 3.84 ERA in 13 games (12 starts) at Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre when the Yankees selected his contract on Aug. 15 and placed him on the 25-man roster. He gives the Yankees a left-handed option out of the bullpen and he looked impressive on Wednesday.
It is hard to criticize Brett Gardner and Lyle Overbay for going a combined 0-for-7 in the game because Dickey’s knuckleball was dancing pretty good. The fact the Yankees have turned things around by winning four straight series is encouraging to a team that looked destined for fourth place in the division. Things are starting to look up.
Though it would seem with Nix going on the disabled list on Thursday, it is unlikely the Yankees will recall shortstop Derek Jeter just yet. Jeter is scheduled to begin a minor-league rehab assignment on Thursday with the Scranton RailRiders. Jeter, who is recovering from a mild strain in his right calf, will likely play two games and return to the team in St. Petersburg on Saturday for a game against the Tampa Bay Rays. . . . Suzuki’s 4,000th hit also gave him 2,722 in the United States, which ironically allowed him to pass Yankee legend Lou Gehrig on the all-time hits list. Suzuki said that although 4,000 hits means a lot to him he still would like to reach 3,000 hits in the major leagues.
The Yankees can sweep the four-game series and go 10-0 at home against the Blue Jays this season with a victory on Thursday.
Pettitte (8-9, 4.39 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Pettitte won his first game in more than month on Friday against the Red Sox allowing three unearned runs in 6 1/3 innings. He is 14-10 with a 4.66 ERA in the past 10 seasons against the Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays will start left-hander J.A. Happ (3-2, 4.93 ERA). Happ gave up two runs on five hits in 5 1/3 innings in a victory against the Rays on Sunday. He is 2-0 with a 5.16 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 3, BLUE JAYS 2
When you look at Jayson Nix you see a player without much power, speed, skill as a hitter and he lacks range in the field. But when you watch him play the game, all you can say is that he is just solid all-around player. He proved it on Tuesday.
Nix hit the game-tying homer with two out in the seventh inning and then delivered the game-winning RBI single in the ninth as New York swept a day-night doubleheader over Toronto with a walk-off victory in front of a Yankee Stadium crowd of 37,190.
With the Yankees trailing left-hander Mark Buehrle 2-1, Nix launched the first pitch he saw halfway up the left-field bleachers for only his third home run of the season and his first since June 25.
The game remained tied until the bottom the ninth when Blue Jays left-hander Darren Oliver opened the frame by walking Mark Reynolds on four pitches.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi inserted Ichiro Suzuki in to pinch-run for Reynolds and Eduardo Nunez advanced Suzuki to second with a sacrifice bunt..
With Nix at the plate, Suzuki then stole third and Nix lined the next pitch from Oliver (3-4) into left to score Suzuki with the game-winning run. It was the first walk-off hit of Nix’s career.
Mariano Rivera (4-2) pitched a scoreless ninth to earn credit for the victory, the Yankees’ eighth victory in their past 10 games. They also are 10-1 against the Blue Jays this season.
Buehrle entered the game with a 1-10 career record and a 1-5 mark with 5.57 ERA against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. And it looked as if, until Nix’s home run, that Buehrle was in line for a rare victory over a team that has tormented him throughout his career.
The Yankees’ only touched Buehrle in the third inning when Robinson Cano delivered a two-out single to score Austin Romine to tie the game at 1-1. It was Cano’s fifth RBI of the day after he went 4-for-4 with four RBIs in the first game of the doubleheader.
Buehrle gave up six hits and walked one while striking out five in seven innings of work.
The Blue Jays, meanwhile, got to right-hander Phil Hughes in the first inning as Rajai Davis led off with a single, stole second, advanced to third on a groundout and scored on a wild pitch.
But Hughes settled in to match Buehrle until the fifth when Munenori Kawasaki laced an 0-2 curveball into the gap in right-center for a triple and Davis followed with a sacrifice fly to give the Blue Jays a 2-1 lead.
Hughes yielded seven hits and two walks while fanning six batters six-plus innings. The no-decision for Hughes runs his streak of winless starts to eight. Hughes last won a game on July 2 when defeated the Minnesota Twins in Minneapolis.
With the pair of victories the Yankees’ season record stands at 66-59 and they 6 1/2 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox, who are in a virtual tie for first place in the American League East. In addition, the Yankees climbed to within five games in the wild-card standings. The hard-luck Blue Jays are 57-69.
- Nix was the hero of the second game of the doubleheader, going 2-for-4 with a game-tying homer, a game-winning single, a run scored and two RBIs. But he also was 1-for-2 with a single, two walks, a stolen base and two runs scored in the first game. Nix is only hitting .236 with three homers and 24 RBIs in 86 games but he is so valuable as a bench player for this team.
- Cano was 2-for-4 with a pair or singles and an RBI and he ended up 6-for-8 (.750) with a home run and five RBIs in the two games on Tuesday. That has raised his season average to .308, which leads the team along with his 23 home runs and 81 RBIs.
- Romine had himself a great day at the plate. He was 3-for-3 with two singles and a double and a run scored. In his last nine starts, Romine is 12-for-29 (.414) with a home run and two RBIs. During that span dating back to July 25, Romine has raised his season average from .165 to .231. At age 24, Romine might show the Yankees that he can be a starting catcher if he can continue to hit this way.
- Alfonso Soriano was 0-for-3 with a walk in the second game and is now 0-for-13 in his past three games. Soriano has been considered as a streaky hitter throughout his 15-season major-league career.
- Alex Rodriguez had a game he would love to forget. He was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and he hit into a inning-ending double play to squelch a rally in the eighth inning. As each at-bat unfolded the crowd at Yankee Stadium booed louder after he drew a rousing ovation in his first at-bat in the first game.
- Brett Gardner was 0-for-4 in the second game and only managed to get one ball out of the infield. His season average dropped to .269.
Major League Baseball suspended Boston Red Sox right-hander Ryan Dempster for five games and fined him an undisclosed amount for intentionally hitting Rodriguez with a pitch on Sunday at Fenway Park. However, because of the Red Sox’s schedule, Dempster can serve the suspension without missing a start, which angers Girardi and the Yankees. It also renders a moot point if Dempster had received a longer suspension and chose to appeal it. It just shows that Commissioner Bud Selig and the baseball’s hierarchy spends most of its days with their heads lodged in their rectums and they always let the Red Sox get away with murder. . . . An MRI taken on Nunez’s left hamstring was negative and he started in the second game of the doubleheader. Nunez injured his hamstring sliding back into first base after he singled on Sunday against the Red Sox at Fenway Park. . . . Derek Jeter ran the bases for the first time in a simulated game in Tampa, FL, on Tuesday. It is not clear when Jeter, who has been sidelined with a strained right calf since Aug. 3, will be activated form the disabled list.
The Yankees will continue their four-game home series against the Jays on Wednesday.
Rookie right-hander Adam Warren (1-2, 3.57 ERA) will make only his second major-league start and his first of the season. Warren has been the team’s long reliever this season. Warren has never faced the Blue Jays.
Knuckleballing right-hander R.A. Dickey (9-11, 4.49 ERA) will start for Toronto. Dickey was touched for four runs on six hits and two walks while he struck out six in seven innings in a no-decision against the Rays on Friday. Dickey is 3-2 with a 3.25 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 8, BLUE JAYS 4
Two weeks ago, if the Yankees fell behind 4-0 it was a good bet they would end up losing the game. But on Tuesday, bolstered by a new lineup that features a lot more power, they were able to come from behind in the first game of a day-night doubleheader.
Robinson Cano rapped out four hits, including a three-run home run – the 200th of his career – and drove in four runs and Chris Stewart hit a three-run shot of his own that put the Yankees ahead to stay as New York again frustrated Toronto at Yankee Stadium.
Despite not having his best stuff, right-hander Ivan Nova (7-4) pitched 6 1/3 innings to win his third straight decision in front of a paid crowd of 40,248 for a makeup game resulting from a May 19 rainout..
The Blue Jays batted around against Nova as part of four-run second inning to take early command of the game. Maicer Izturis and rookie Kevin Pillar drove in a run apiece and Rajai Davis closed out the scoring by ripping a two-out, two-run double in the gap in right-center.
But the Yankees, who entered the day having won seven of their past nine games, started their comeback in the third inning off right-hander Esmil Rogers.
Brett Gardner stroked a one-out single and Ichiro Suzuki followed by slapping a double down the left-field line to advance Gardner to third.
Cano then lined a 1-0 fastball into Monument Park in center-field for his 23rd home run of the season and became the 16th player in Yankee history to reach the 200-homer plateau.
The score remained 4-3 until the bottom of the sixth inning when Rogers opened the frame by yielding a lined single to left by Alex Rodriguez.
Rogers was removed in favor of left-hander Brett Cecil, who struck out Curtis Granderson, and right-hander Neil Wagner (2-4) came in to strike out pinch-hitter Mark Reynolds.
However, Wagner ended up hitting Jayson Nix with on a 3-1 pitch and Stewart followed by launching a high-arcing blast into the left-field bleachers for only his fourth home run of the season and his first home run since May 15, a span of 173 at-bats.
The Yankees added a pair of solo runs in the seventh and eighth innings on an RBI single in the seventh by Cano and a sacrifice fly off the bat of Gardner that scored Nix in the eighth to close out the scoring.
Nova gave up four runs on nine hits and two walks while he struck out two in 6 1/3 innings. Relievers Boone Logan, Shawn Kelley, David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera held the Blue Jays hitless and scoreless over the final 2 2/3 innings.
Nova’s counterpart, Rogers, surrendered four runs on seven hits and two walks and fanned four batters in five-plus innings.
With the victory the Yankees have now won all seven home games they have played against the Blue Jays this season. They also have won 10 straight games against them at the stadium and they have won 19 of the past 21 games there dating back to May 2011.
- Cano is getting red hot at just the right time for the Yankees. Cano was 4-for-4 with a homer, a double, two singles, a run scored and four RBIs. After having his 11-game hitting streak snapped on Saturday at Fenway Park, Cano is 7-for-9 (.777) in his past two games. He has raised his season average to .307, the highest it has been since he was hitting .310 on May 10.
- Suzuki was 2-for-5 with a double, a single and two runs scored. The two hits gave him 3,999 in his professional career, including his 1,278 hits he recorded in Japan. Pete Rose and Ty Cobb are the only players to have reached 4,000 hits in baseball history.
- Stewart has pretty much been an automatic out for most of the season. He came into the game hitting .230 with three home runs and 20 RBIs as the team’s No. 9 hitter. Though Stewart contributes a lot with his work behind the plate and his ability to throw out base-runners, it is nice to see him get a big hit that won a game for the Yankees.
- Nova did not have good command of his pitches early in the ballgame. He came into the game 4-2 with a 1.89 ERA in his past seven starts. But after giving up four runs in the second inning, Nova was able to hold the Blue Jays scoreless on five hits over the next 4 1/3 innings.
- After going 15-for-22 (.6820 with five home runs and 18 RBIs in five games through Saturday, Alfonso Soriano was 0-for-4 in the first game and now is 0-for-10 in his past two games.
The features Bomber Banter and On Deck will appear in the post reporting on the second game of the doubleheader.