YANKEES 6, ANGELS 2
Since 2000 there is only one team in baseball that has a winning record against the New York Yankees and it is the Los Angeles Angels led by manager Mike Sciosia. But after what happened to the Angels this weekend, that record will not stand too much longer.
Brett Gardner, Chris Young and Jose Pirela each hit home runs and left-hander CC Sabathia threw six solid innings on Sunday as New York completed its first sweep of Los Angeles in the new Yankee Stadium in front of a paid crowd of 43,178.
The victory allowed the Yankees to extend their winning streak to six games.
Sabathia (3-7) entered the game with a 5.45 ERA and in the first inning he allowed consecutive solo home runs to Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. For Pujols it was the 535th of his career and it allowed him to pass Jimmie Foxx for 17th place on the all-time home run list.
However, Sabathia recovered to retire 17 of the next 20 batters he faced until he was ejected from the game in the sixth by home-plate umpire Dan Bellino for arguing balls and strikes. Bellino subsequently also ejected Yankees manager Joe Girardi.
But relievers Justin Wilson, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller combined to pitch three scoreless and hitless innings while striking out five batters to nail down the victory for Sabathia.
Trailing 2-0, the Yankees scored a run off left-hander C.J. Wilson (3-5) in the third inning after Pirela led off with a double, advanced to third on a flyout and scored on a groundout by Didi Gregorius.
The Yankees tied it and later took the lead off Wilson in the fifth when Young led off with his seventh home run of the season and his first since May 2. In fact, Young entered the game mired in a 5-for-46 (.109) slide that dropped his season average from .306 to .220.
One out later, John Ryan Murphy reached on an opposite-field bloop single and Gregorius followed a lined single to right. Gardner then put the Yankees ahead to stay with a long blast to right on a 2-0 fastball. It was Gardner’s fifth home run of the season.
Pirela led off the seventh inning with a deep drive into the left-field bleachers for his first major-league home run and it extended the Yankees’ lead against Wilson and the Angels to 6-2.
Wilson was charged with six runs on seven hits and no walks with eight strikeouts in seven innings. Wilson entered the contest with a 2.44 ERA in 44 1/3 prior innings at the ballpark.
Sabathia, 34, ended his day giving up two runs on five hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in six innings.
However, it was his sixth strikeout in the fifth inning that allowed the veteran left-hander to reach a rare milestone. When he struck out Johnny Giavotella looking for the second out of the fifth, Sabathia became the 31st pitcher in Major League Baseball history to reach 2,500 strikeouts. Sabathia, already baseball’s active leader in strikeouts, also became only the ninth left-hander to reach the mark.
With one out and one on in the sixth inning, Sabathia threw a 1-1 slider to Kole Calhoun that Bellino called a ball. Television replays clearly showed that the ball was over the plate and crossed above Calhoun’s right knee.
On the next pitch, Calhoun rapped into an inning-ending double play. As Sabathia left the mound he asked Bellino where the previous pitch was. Bellino said down and, when Sabathia countered by saying the pitch was not down, Bellino ejected him. Girardi hopped over the dugout railing to get between Bellino and Sabathia to pick up the argument and he also was ejected.
It was Sabathia’s first ejection since 2006 and the first of the season for Girardi.
With their victory, the Yankees are now 32-25 and they maintained their 1 1/2-game lead over the second-place Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. The Angels have now dropped five straight games and they are 28-29.
- You have to give Sabathia credit for keeping his composure after allowing two first-inning home runs. It was his first victory since May 16 against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium and his first at Yankee Stadium since Sept. 20, 2013. There is no doubt that Sabathia is no longer the ace that he was. But he proved on Sunday that he can provide the Yankees with quality starts.
- Gardner’s three-run blast was his first home run since he launched another three-run blast on May 25 against right-hander Jeremy Guthrie to cap an eight-run first inning against the Royals at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees won that game 14-1. Gardner was a pain in the Angels’ backsides the entire series. He had hits in each game and was 5-for-13 (.385) with a walk, a triple, a homer and five RBIs. Gardner had been slumping ever since taking over for the injured Jacoby Ellsbury in the leadoff spot on May 20.
- Pirela, 25, has always been considered the best pure hitter among all the team’s prospects. That is why it was odd after he batted .305 in 2014 in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and he hit well in spring training that he only was hitting .200 on May 25. Since then, Pirela is 5-for-11 (.455) and has raised his season average to .268. Pirela was 2-for-3 with a double, a homer, two runs scored and an RBI. He still is very weak defensively, but with Stephen Drew batting .168 he deserves to start against left-handers as he did on Sunday.
Former Gold Glove winner Chase Headley committed his 13th error of the season in the third inning. However, it was later erased by a boneheaded attempt to move up to second base by Trout on a fly ball to right by David Freese. Beltran caught the fly and threw out Trout at second before Erick Aybar could cross home plate, which means his run did not count. So the way I look at it there is nothing to really complain about because the Angels were outsmarted and outscored in the series 22-11. (Right-hander Esmil Rogers handed them five of those runs on a platter in Friday’s nail-bitter.)
Fresh off their two consecutive series sweeps of the Seattle Mariners and the Angels, the Yankees will take Monday off before opening a two-game home series with the Washington Nationals on Tuesday.
Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (3-1, 2.76 ERA) will make his second start after being activated from the disabled list. Tanaka was brilliant in limiting the Mariners to one run on three hits with no walks and six strikeouts in seven sharp innings of a 3-1 victory on Wednesday.
The Nationals will counter with right-hander Max Scherzer (6-4, 1.85 ERA). Scherzer is coming offa loss to the Toronto Blue Jays last Tuesday in which he was touched for four runs on six hits and two walks with five strikeouts in six innings.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 14, ROYALS 1
After losing 10 of their past 11 games the Yankees went into Monday’s Memorial Day matinee just hoping to show some kind of life for a team that was 21-12 on May 11. Well, they quickly proved to the Royals that they were far from dead.
The Yankees jumped on Jeremy Guthrie for 11 runs with no outs in the second inning and Nathan Eovaldi pitched a solid seven-plus innings as New York ended a frustrating six-game losing steak by pounding Kansas City in the opener of a three-game series at Yankee Stadium.
After averaging just over three runs in their past 11 games, the Yankees received three-run home runs from Brian McCann, Brett Gardner and Stephen Drew, while also adding a pair of two-run homers by Chase Headley and rookie Slade Heathcott.
Guthrie (4-3) pitched to 13 batters in the first inning and three more in the second before departing charged with a career-worst 11 runs on nine hits (four of them homers) and three walks with one strikeout.
Headley started the Bronx bombing with a two-run shot after Gardner had led off the first with a double. Three batters later, McCann hit a hit-arcing fly ball that ticked off right-fielder Paulo Orlando’s glove and into the first row for a three-run home run.
Later in the inning, Gardner lined a round-tripper of his own to tack on three more runs, which made the score 8-0.
After McCann walked to open the second, Garrett Jones singled and both runners advanced on a fielding error in right by Orlando. Drew then ended Guthrie’s second-shortest career outing with a long blast into the second deck that padded the lead to 11-0.
Eovaldi (4-1), who was one of the worst-supported pitchers in the National League in 2014 when he was pitching for the Miami Marlins, was able to breeze his way through the Royals’ high-octane offense. He was charged with one run on eight hits and one walk with four strikeouts.
The Royals’ lone run came in the fifth inning on a one-out double by Alcides Escobar and a two-out bloop RBI single off the bat of pinch-hitter Jarrod Dyson.
The Yankees added a single run in the fifth off left-hander Franklin Morales on a one-out walk to Gardner, a wild pitch that allowed Gardner to take second and an RBI double by Headley.
They added two more in the seventh off right-handed closer Greg Holland on a leadoff walk to Didi Gregorius and the first major-league homer from Heathcott.
The 14 runs matched their season high the Yankees scored against the Boston Red Sox in a 14-4 victory on April 12. The five home runs also tied a season high set in an 11-5 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on May 11, which ended up being the beginning of a dreadful 11-game slide that started the next day.
With the victory the Yankees improved to 23-22 and they climbed to within a half-game of the first-place Rays in the American League East. Both teams are tied in the loss column. The Royals, who entered the day with the best record in Major League Baseball, dropped to 28-16.
- Gardner, Headley, McCann and Drew each drove in three runs. The Yankees now lead the majors with 48 runs scored in the first inning. They have not scored more than 25 runs in any other frame. This is the power and offense the Yankees need consistently and they also need to be able to put teams away once they do get out to early leads. Lately they have been coughing up leads and never getting them back.
- Even with the early 8-0 and 11-0 leads, there was still pressure on Eovaldi to pitch well and go seven innings since the past three days the starters only were able to pitch 6 2/3 innings. So give Eovaldi credit for continuing to pitch into the eighth inning. Eovaldi kept the hot-hitting Royals off-balance with a mixture of a lot of off-speed pitches. He had an especially sharp slider.
- Ostensibly, Heathcott was brought up to bolster the bench with Jacoby Ellsbury on the disabled list with a sprained knee. But the 24-year-old Texas native is 5-for-12 (.417) with a double, a homer and three RBIs in four games (three starts). Heathcott was the team’s first-round pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft but he has been hampered throughout his minor-league career with serious shoulder and knee injuries. He likely will get a lot more playing time going forward. It also is no coincidence that Jones, 33, is 6-for-11 (.545) with a homer and three RBIs since his three-run pinch-hit homer on May 22. Jones was hitting .150 with no homers and one RBI before that home run. Heathcott still could make Jones expendable when Ellsbury returns.
I would hard-pressed to come up with anything negative. I could say they did not get the shutout but that would be quibbling. This is a game the Yankees really needed to stop the major bleeding this team inflicted upon itself during the previous 11 games. The thing now is to back it up with another victory, then another and another, etc.
The Yankees on Monday selected the contract another rookie, left-handed reliever Jacob Lindgren, from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and optioned right-hander Branden Pinder to the same the club. They also made room on the 40-man roster for Lindgren by shifting backup infielder Brendan Ryan from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list. Lindgren, 22, made his major-league debut against the Royals and pitched two scoreless innings of relief. Lindgren, a starter for Mississippi State, was the team’s first selection in the second round (55th overall) in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft. He is the first Yankee draft pick to play in the majors within 12 months of being drafted since Deion Sanders did it in 1989. . . . McCann was 1-for 3 with a homer, two walks, two runs scored and three RBIs on Monday despite being unsure if he would even be ready to play. McCann left Sunday’s game against the Texas Rangers in the eighth inning with tightness in his right calf and foot. McCann, 31, was able to play because the tightness turned out to be just cramps and nothing serious. Meanwhile, outfielder Carlos Beltran, 38, missed another game with flu-like symptoms. He is day-to-day, manager Joe Girardi told reporters on Monday.
The Yankees will continue their three-game home series with the Royals on Tuesday.
Right-hander Adam Warren (2-3, 4.26 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Warren, 27, took a tough loss on Wednesday to the Washington Nationals. He was charged with yielding just two runs on four hits and four walks with four strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.
The Royals placed left-hander Danny Duffy on the 15-day disabled list on Monday with left biceps tendinitis and they will start left-hander Jason Vargas (3-1, 5.26 ERA) when they activate him off the disabled list on Tuesday. Vargas was on the DL with a left flexor strain and has not pitched since May 5.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. and the game will be broadcast by WPIX.
YANKEES 4, ROYALS 2
In his major-league debut on May 15 against the New York Mets, Chase Whitley drew high praise from former Atlanta Braves right-hander John Smoltz, who was providing color commentary of the game for the MLB Network. After the way the rookie pitched against the Royals on Friday, now Yankee fans can see what Smoltz noticed.
Whitley pitched seven solid innings in his longest start of his career and he went on to earn his first major-league victory behind the hitting of Brian McCann as New York edged Kansas City in front of a paid crowd of 23,418 at Kauffman Stadium.
Whitley (1-0) yielded two runs on five hits, did not walk a batter and struck out three in his first outing to last more than five innings. Whitley threw 51 strikes out of 87 pitches for a 59 percent strike ratio, keeping the Royals off balance with his fastball, slider and change-up.
Meanwhile, the Yankees were able to break a 1-1 tie in the third inning, keyed by a one-out, bases-loaded, three-run double off the bat of McCann.
Jacoby Ellsbury opened the inning with a single up the middle off veteran right-hander Jeremy Guthrie (2-6). Brett Gardner then looped an opposite-field single into left and – one out later – Guthrie brushed the right shoulder of Mark Teixeira with a pitch to load the bases.
McCann then stroked an outside fastball into the left-field corner to clear the bases and hand Whitley and the Yankees a 4-1 lead.
Guthrie was charged with four runs on six hits and one walk while he fanned two in seven innings of work. He has now winless in his past 11 starts dating back to April 9.
Dellin Betances tossed a scoreless eighth and David Robertson threw a scoreless ninth to earn his 14th save in 16 chances this season.
The Yankees took an 1-0 lead in the second inning when Teixeira led off by lining a single to right off Guthrie. Yangervis Solarte drew a one-out walk and Brian Roberts provided a two-out RBI single to center to score Teixeira.
However, the Royals were able to tie it up in the bottom of the second when Alex Gordon laced a one-out double into the right-field corner and Salvador Perez followed with an RBI single to left.
The Royals did close to within two runs in the fifth when Gordon led off the frame with a single and stole second. One out later, Lorenzo Cain bounced a ball into left-center that he was able to hustle into a double.
However, Whitley ended the threat by retiring Mike Moustakas on a groundout and Alcides Escobar on a flyout.
The 24-year-old was recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on May 15 as the Yankees lost starters CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda to injury in quick succession. The converted reliever did not get a decision in his previous four starts despite the fact he is sporting an excellent 2.42 ERA.
With the victory the Yankees have won two in a row and they improved their season record to 31-29. They also were able to pass the Baltimore Orioles to claim second place in the American League East six games behind the first-place Toronto Blue Jays. The Royals, who have now lost 21 of the past 31 games to the Yankees at Kauffman Stadium, fell to 29-32.
- Whitley may end up being more than just a fill-in starter until Sabathia and Pineda are expected to return in July. His first five starts – and particularly this one – prove that Whitley deserves to stay in the rotation as long he continues to pitch this well. David Phelps is 1-3 with a 4.19 ERA in six starts and Vidal Nuno is 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in nine starts as replacements. Whitley has simply been more impressive as a starter than they have, period.
- McCann has been a major disappointment at the plate this season after entering the season as a career .275 hitter with 20 or more homers in the past six seasons. But his big three-run double showed he is willing to hit the ball where it is pitched to beat the extreme shifts teams play on him. Since May 27, McCann is quietly resurrecting his hitting. He is 14-for-33 (.424) in that span to raise his season average to .231.
- Roberts entered the game in a 1-for-14 (.071) funk that dates back to May 31. But his two-out RBI single gave the Yankees an early 1-0 lead. The Yankees have been really disappointed with the production they have gotten from the free agents (Ellsbury, McCann, Roberts, Carlos Beltran and Kelly Johnson) they signed this past winter. They all need to really start picking it up soon.
After the team went through a horrendous four-game losing streak while the Blue Jays were red hot, they finally seem to have some life back in them. So after getting a huge victory out a pitcher they had not planned to use at all this season things may be finally falling into place. It’s about time, too.
The Yankees will continue their four-game series with the Royals on Saturday.
Phelps (1-3, 4.11 ERA) will start for the Yankees. The right-hander is coming off his worst start of the season on Monday against the Seattle Mariners. He was tagged for six runs on six hits and three walks in six-plus innings.
The Royals will start left-hander Danny Duffy (3-5, 3.05 ERA). The converted reliever will be making his seventh start and he is 2-4 with a 3.27 ERA in those starts. He shut out the St. Louis Cardinals on one hit and one walk while striking out five in six innings on Monday.
Game-time will be 7:15 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by FOX Sports.
YANKEES 2, ATHLETICS 1
The last time the Yankees won a game, Masahiro Tanaka pitched eight innings to defeat the Minnesota Twins 3-1 on May 31 on his way to being named May’s American League Pitcher of the Month. So on Thursday all Tanaka did was pitch six gutty innings to defeat Oakland to begin June.
Tanaka weathered a home run from the second batter he faced, John Jaso, in yielding five hits and one walk while striking out four as New York ended its four-game skid to edge Oakland in front of a paid crowd of 44,346 at Yankee Stadium.
The A’s deliberately tried to press Tanaka (9-1) in the fourth and fifth innings after they could manage just Jaso’s homer off the right-hander. They decided to take pitches until they got to two strikes and shortened their swings on two strikes to foul off tough pitches.
Tanaka was forced to throw 26 pitches in both the fourth and fifth innings. The A’s did manage to post a pair of two-out singles in the fourth by Brandon Moss and Yoenis Cespedes before Jed Lowrie struck out on nine pitches. In the fifth Tanaka yielded a leadoff single to Stephen Vogt and a two-out walk to Coco Crisp but Jaso popped out weakly to end the threat.
The strategy was clear: Get Tanaka’s pitch count up to attack him in a weakened condition or force him out of the game so the Athletics could attack the Yankees’ bullpen, which has been leaking like a sieve during the Yankees’ seven-game homestand.
But the strategy did not work.
Tanaka left after 104 pitches and six innings with the lead.
Dellin Betances, Adam Warren and David Robertson did not yield a run in the final three innings to give the Yankees a 2-5 record during the homestand. Both of the victories were Tanaka’s.
However, both Warren and Robertson had to complete their innings with the potential tying run standing on third base as they recorded the final out.
Warren began the eighth by giving up singles to Crisp and Jaso and even uncorked a wild pitch to allow both runners to advance. But he escaped any damage by striking out Josh Donaldson, retiring Moss on a liner to right and fanning Cespedes.
Robertson had to earn his 13th save in 15 tries this season after Vogt muscled a bloop one-out single to center and pinch-runner Craig Gentry stole second base.
Alberto Callaspo hit a hard grounder that ticked off Robertson’s foot and bounded toward first baseman Mark Teixeira. Teixeira alertly fielded the ball and was able to retire Callaspo with a toss to Robertson covering first base.
“I was probably the happiest guy in the stadium that the ball hit me,” Robertson told reporters after the game. “I felt even more fortunate that we get an out of it.”
Robertson then finished the game by striking out pinch-hitter Derek Norris.
Tanaka and the relievers were working within a slim margin of error because the Yankees’ offense again sputtered against left-hander Drew Pomeranz (5-3).
The Yankees tied the game in the bottom of the second when Brian McCann singled and reached second when the left-fielder, Moss, allowed the ball to scoot past him to the wall for an error. Alfonso Soriano, who had been mired in an 0-for-16 slide with eight strikeouts dating back to May 25, then delivered an RBI single to right-center that scored McCann without a throw.
Brett Gardner later gave the Yankees a lead they ultimately would not relinquish with a leadoff home run in the third inning on Pomeranz’s first offering. The home run, a no-doubter that landed in the second deck in the right-field stands, was his fourth of the season and his first since May 17.
From that point on, the Yankees did absolutely nothing with Pomeranz for the rest of the afternoon.
The 25-year-old left-hander did not allow another base-runner until the sixth when Jacoby Ellsbury drew a one-out walk. The Yankees only “hit” off Pomeranz after the Gardner’s blast came with two out in the seventh when Crisp lost Soriano’s fly ball to center in the sun and it was scored a double.
Pomeranz was charged with two runs on six hits and one walk and he struck out seven in seven innings of work.
However, he could not outduel Tanaka, who lowered his American League-leading ERA from 2.06 to 2.02.
“I don’t think it was my best performance for the season,” Tanaka told reporters through a translator. “But given the fact that our team was in a little bit of a funk, and that we were facing one of the best teams in the league right now, I’m really happy to contribute to the team’s win.”
With the victory the Yankees climbed back over the .500 mark to 30-29. They are third place in the American League East and they trail the first-place Toronto Blue Jays by six games. The A’s are 37-23.
- Tanaka has bristled at being called the team’s ace but he is proving in his first season in the major leagues that he is every bit the ace the staff has needed. “A true ace stops losing streaks. There’s not another guy we want out there after losing a few in a row than Tanaka,” Teixeira told reporters after the game. The Yankees are 11-1 in his starts and it is hard to imagine where they would be without him.
- Soriano’s two hits, even though one was dubious, hopefully will get him out of one of his worst slumps in his 14 full major-league seasons. The Yankees always knew that the 38-year-old outfielder was a streaky hitter but Soriano has not really had a sustained hot streak this season. He is batting .233 with six homers and 2o RBIs a third of the way into the season. That is not what the Yankees were expecting from him.
- There also may be hope that Gardner will get going again after slumping from May 22 through June 3 on a 9-for-48 (.188) slide. Gardner finished the final two games of the Oakland series 3-for-9. This team-wide hitting slump has been very frustrating to manager Joe Girardi and the pitching staff because it left them feeling they have to be perfect in every inning to every batter on every pitch. It is hard to pitch that way.
Why dwell on the obvious offensive woes. Let’s chalk this one up as a victory thanks to Tanaka and the bullpen. The Yankees just have to hope the bats wake up before the Blue Jays run away with the division.
The Yankees did get one potentially big bat back in the lineup when Carlos Beltran was activated from the disabled list prior to the game and he was inserted into the lineup into the fifth spot at designated hitter. Beltran, who missed 21 games while dealing with a bone spur in his right elbow, was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in the game. To make room for Beltran on the roster the Yankees designated for assignment infielder Scott Sizemore. . . . Ellsbury had a two-run home run in the first inning taken away when a video review indicated that the ball struck about three inches below the top of the wall in right-field. Instead the umpires awarded him a double and placed Derek Jeter, who had singled with one out, at third base. Teixeira lined out and Beltran struck out swinging and the Yankees did not score in the inning.
The Yankees are off to Kansas City to open a wraparound four-game weekend series with the Royals beginning on Friday.
Rookie right-hander Chase Whitley (0-0, 2.37 ERA) will try to earn his first major-league victory in his fifth start of the season. Whitley held the Twins to one run on five hits while he struck out six in five innings on Sunday before Robertson blew his second save of the season and the Yankees lost the game.
The Royals will start veteran right-hander Jeremy Guthrie (2.5, 4.00 ERA) who is 0-5 in his past 10 starts. Guthrie gave up two runs on eight hits and two walks while fanning five in seven innings in a loss to the Blue Jays on Sunday.
Game-time will be 8:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.
ORIOLES (SS) 6, YANKEES 3
Adam Jones connected for a three-run homer and Matt Wieters added a solo shot in the first inning off Ivan Nova as a Baltimore split squad powered their way past New York in a Grapefruit League game on Sunday night at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, FL.
Alfredo Simon (1-0) pitched two innings, giving up one run on two hits and a walk, to get credit for the victory. However, it was a painful victory. Simon had to leave the game after two innings after re-aggravating a groin injury. Stu Pomeranz struck out the side in the ninth to earn a save.
Nova (0-2) regressed from his last start against the Red Sox, giving up five runs on seven hits in four innings of work despite striking out four. Nova did, however, retire seven of the last eight hitters he faced in the last 2 1/3 innings he pitched.
The Yankees, after winning three consecutive games to even their spring record, fell to 8-9. The Orioles improved to 6-7.
- Mark Teixeira doubled off Simon in the second inning and later scored on a Justin Maxwell groundout to push across the Yankees’ first run. Teixeira is beginning to show signs of coming around with the bat and his spring average is now at .238.
- Dewayne Wise and Jose Gil drove in a run apiece in the seventh inning off right-hander Jon Link. Link came on with one out in the inning and allowed a single to Bill Hall and walked Chris Dickerson. Hall scored on Wise’s double to left-center and Dickerson scored easily on Gil’s sacrifice fly. Wise was 2-for 2 with a walk, stole a base and drove in a run.
- Brett Gardner showed off his defensive skills in the second inning by hauling in a fly ball in center field off the bat of J.J. Hardy and firing the ball on the fly to Teixeira at first to double off the speedy Endy Chavez.
- Manager Joe Girardi was not pleased when Nova told reporters that the home runs Jones and Wieters hit came on a slider (to Jones) and a curve (to Wieters) that catcher Gustavo Molina called, but Nova did not have confidence in throwing. Girardi said what the pitcher throws is his decision because he holds the ball. Despite the hiccup on Sunday night and his 7.82 spring ERA, Nova is still pretty much assured a spot in the rotation.
- The Raul Ibanez saga continues. He was 0-for-3 on Sunday and he is now hitting a dreadful .065. Not only that, but his bat speed through the hitting zone looks slow and methodical rather than free and easy. With the money Ibanez is making, he is assured a spot on the roster and will open the season as the designated hitter. But his work this spring is reminiscent of the spring Randy Winn had two seasons ago. Winn ended up being released in May.
- The Yankees’ base-running was atrocious. Eduardo Nunez and Mason Williams were caught stealing by Wieters. Wise managed to steal a base but Wieters threw him out after he strayed too far off the bag. Also Hall nearly got passed on the base-paths by Dickerson when Hall mistakenly started back to second on Wise’s double.
All-Star reliever David Robertson pitched a pain-free bullpen session in Tampa, FL., and he hopes to be able to pitch in a spring game in about a week. Robertson has been sidelined since March 7 when he suffered a bone bruise on his right foot slipping on step at his home. . . . The injuries are piling up. This one can be blamed on another Oriole pitcher trying to “impress” by pitching inside without control. Last spring, Jeremy Guthrie seemed to be pitching to Yankee targets in the batter’s box. This season it is left-hander Troy Patton. Patton unleashed a 3-2 pitch right at Robinson Cano in the sixth inning and it struck the All-Star second baseman in the left hand. Cano left the game to have precautionary X-rays, which showed no broken bones. Girardi said Cano just has a contusion and some soreness. Cano is listed as day-to-day. To add insult to the injury, first base umpire Tim Welke incorrectly ruled Cano swung at the pitch and he was called out. Television replays showed Cano never actually brought the bat forward to swing. . . . Girardi all but ruled out that the team would go to a six-man rotation to accommodate 39-year-old left-hander Andy Pettitte. The Yankees will allow Pettitte to get in game shape for about seven weeks but it is unclear what role Pettitte will assume when he is ready.
Good news for Ibanez and Cano, the Yankees do not have a game scheduled on Monday. Cano can ice his sore left hand and Ibanez can see if he can hit a ball in the cage. The Yankees will resume their spring schedule on Tuesday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Right-hander Michael Pineda is scheduled to make his fourth start for the Yankees. In addition, walking wounded Russell Martin (groin), Nick Swisher (groin) and Derek Jeter (calf) are scheduled to return to the lineup.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be shown nationally by the MLB Network on tape delay and locally via a live broadcast by the YES Network.
As spring training camps open it is time to look at the American League East competition for the New York Yankees. How will the other teams fare as they gear up to dethrone the 2011 division champions? Do these teams have the pitching? Is there enough offense? Let’s see.
PART 1 – BALTIMORE ORIOLES
The 2011 season began with a lot of optimism because of the great job Buck Showalter did in turning around the Orioles at the end of the 2010 season.
But 2011 was much like every season for the Orioles since 1999. It fizzled into frustration in a hurry. They finished with a record of 69-93 and they were a distant fifth in the A.L. East, 28 games behind the Yankees.
This coming season promises to pretty similar because the Orioles have not made a lot of changes to their roster. With the exeption of Jeremy Guthrie, Luke Scott and Derrek Lee, this pretty much the same group that floundered through much of 2011.
One big reason is that the Orioles banked their future hopes on a collection of young starting pitchers like Brian Matusz, Zach Britton, Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman. They progressed through the minors but none of them have established themselves as major-league quality starters. And if you want to compete in this division, you have to have good starting pitching.
The Orioles compounded that issue by trading their best starting pitcher, Guthrie, to the Colorado Rockies for starter Jason Hammel and reliever Matt Lindstrom. As a result, the Orioles’ “ace” is former Rangers right-hander Tommy Hunter, who was 4-4 with a 4.68 ERA in an injury-shortened season.
The Orioles, led by general manager Dan Duquette, are now shifting their sites overseas and the team signed two pitchers from the Japanese League in Wei-Yin Chen and Tsuyoshi Wada.
Chen, 26, is a left-hander from Taiwan who has compiled a 36-30 record and a 2.48 ERA in four seasons with the Chunichi Dragons. He also has pretty good stuff with 500 career strikeouts in 631 1/3 innings.
Wada, 30, is another left-hander and he has overcome two injury-plagued seasons to compile a combined 33-13 record with a 2.29 ERA in the last two seasons with Fukuoda Softbank Hawks. While Chen has better stuff, Wada is considered to have better control.
Both figure prominently in the Orioles plans for 2012 and both likely will be in the rotation this season, depending on how they progress in the spring.
Hammel, 29, was 7-13 with a 4.76 ERA last season with the Rockies. The tall right-hander figures to be slotted as the No. 4 starter.
The Orioles still have high hopes for Matusz, Britton, Arrieta and Tillman. But it appears Britton and Arrieta are going to get most of the attention this spring. The lefty Britton suffered a shoulder injury last season and he finished the season 11-11 with a 4.61 ERA. Arrieta was 10-8 with 5.05 ERA.
The bullpen was a strength of this team when Koji Uehara was around but he was dealt to the Rangers at the trade deadline last July.
The closer job is up for grabs between incumbent closer Kevin Gregg, who saved 22 games but blew seven chances and was 0-3 with a 4.37 ERA, and Jim Johnson, who saved nine games and was 6-5 with a 2.67 ERA. Lindtsrom, who saved 23 games for the Astros in 2010, can also be shifted into the closer role.
The rest of the bullpen will likely be made up with lefty Darren O’Day and former starters Alfredo Simon, Brad Bergesen and Jason Berken.
A few years ago, the Orioles seem to invested their future into second baseman Brian Roberts, right-fielder Nick Markakis and center-fielder Adam Jones and have built around those players.
Unfortunately, Roberts has suffered through injury after injury and Markakis and Jones have underperformed expectations.
With the Orioles lack of ability to attract high-priced free-agent talent, the Orioles have to rely on that trio as the core of the team again.
The Orioles may also begin getting what they expected out of catcher Matt Wieters, who hit 22 home runs and won a Gold Glove for his defensive work behind the plate. The former No. 1 pick also is showing some signs of leadership on the team.
Shortstop J.J. Hardy finally shook off injuries that plagued him since he was with the Brewers in 2008 as he hit 30 home runs and drove in 80 runs.
Third baseman Mark Reynolds was pretty much as advertised. He did not hit for average and struck out 196 times but he also hit 37 home runs and drove in 87 runs.
Former Rangers first baseman Chris Davis is pretty much a carbon copy of Reynolds at first base only he does most of his striking out from the left side.
The Orioles will likely platoon veterans Endy Chavez and Nolan Reimold in the outfield and look for the Orioles to make a late bid for a DH.
They could re-sign veteran Vladimir Guerrero or chose from among Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui to replace Scott.
Former Yankee Wilson Betemit will be the top reserve on the infield and middle infield reserve Robert Andino will return to provide glovework behind Roberts and Hardy. Former Rangers backstop Taylor Teagarden will be the backup to Wieters.
The Orioles could use the spring to look for some veteran help in the outfield to bolster their bench a bit.
With Jones, Wieters, Hardy, Reynolds and Davis the Orioles seem to have plenty of firepower. Plus when Roberts is healthy and Markakis is going good, they can get on base and steal a base or two. But the overall offense may be too geared towards power over putting the ball iin play and advancing runners.
The Orioles, as a team, strike out way too much and it cost them because their pitching is not that strong.
The Orioles are gambling on two Japanese League pitchers and two journeyman American starters (Hunter and Hammel) to give them time to develop their young pitchers like Britton and Arrieta. The jury is still out on Matusz, who looked like a surefire star in the making in 2010.
Without a consistent starting rotation, any effort Showalter makes in the bullpen could prove futile. A good bullpen only limits the damage. The bullpen should be strong but it is obvious they are going to tire quickly if they are constantly coming in the fourth or fifth inning.
Barring another Showalter miracle, this team is headed for more frustration in 2012. They simply can’t compete with the big boys (Yankees, Rays, Red Sox) and they merely hold their own against the Blue Jays. If I were a betting man, I would suspect that the Orioles will finish fifth again.
It is a spot for which they are built.
ON TUESDAY – PART 2 TORONTO BLUE JAYS
ESPNNewYork.com is reporting that the New York Yankees have agreed to a one-year contract with right-hander Freddy Garcia.
This was not a surprise to me because I posted a story on Nov. 21 headlined: “Yankees Could Retain Garcia If Deals Fall Through.”
Though some Yankee fans might be skeptical of the signing because Garcia does not throw 95-mile-per-hour bullets at opposing hitters and he is 35 years old on a team loaded with players who have crept way past their 30th birthdays, the signing still makes a lot of sense.
The first reason is the deal is just a one-year deal paying between $4 million and $5 million. This is about what the Yankees signed free-agent catcher Russell Martin for last winter. The Yankees also have to be cognizant of the fact the starting staff they have behind CC Sabathia is a pretty shaky group consisting of rookie Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes coming off right shoulder trouble and the command and control challenged A.J. Burnett.
Garcia gives the Yankees a fifth starter who was 12-8 with a 3.82 ERA in 26 games in his first season in which he was paid $1.5 million. Garcia is an insurance policy for the starting staff and it gives general manager Brian Cashman the ability to either “go big” after free agents like left-hander C.J. Wilson and Japanese right-hander Yu Darvish or “go small” to sign left-hander Mark Buerhle and right-hander Edwin Jackson.
The signing of Garcia also takes the pressure off the Yankees from having to promote a collection of six young starting pitchers they have advancing through the minor leagues: lefty Manny Banuelos and right-handers Dellin Betances, David Phelps, Hector Noesi, Adam Warren and D.J. Michell. If Cashman was unable to sign any free-agent starters this winter, the Yankees would likely have to choose from among these young pitchers to fill out the staff. They now can be patient with them.
Garcia may not be sexiest name the Yankees could have signed but it is a practical one. There are decidely worse free-agent pitching options out there and Garcia did manage to throw a lot of quality starts keeping the Yankees in most all of all his appearances.
But, make no mistake about it, the pressure is on for Cashman to sign at least one quality free-agent pitcher. The reason is obvious: In order to compete in the American League East and advance in the playoffs the Yankees need to have a solid core of at least three quality starters. The Yankees appear to have just one in Sabathia. Nova or Hughes could be another but Burnett has been a disaster the past two seasons.
I find it rather troubling that the Yankees seem to be committed to Burnett simply because he has two years remaining on his contract paying him $16.5 million per season. Cashman said there is no reason to put Burnett in the bullpen and he cited Burnett’s ability to pitch 200 innings. Cashman trotted out this stat as if it was a virtue or badge of honor.
However, a number of other major-league pitchers threw 200 innings last season including: Jeremy Guthrie of the Orioles (7-14, 4.33 ERA), Brett Myers of the Astros (7-14, 4.46 ERA), Ricky Nolasco of the Marlins (10-12, 4.67 ERA) and Ryan Dempster of the Cubs (10-14, 4.80 ERA). It does not mean the Yankees would be better off with Burnett than any one of these others. In fact, Burnett’s ERA was 5.15 over 190 1/3 innings.
The real reason the Yankees seem to be sticking with “Bad A.J.” is that they know that any trade the make to ship him out would mean the Yankees would still be on the hook for most, if not all, of Burnett’s salary and they likely would not receive much in return from the other team.
I know if I was a general manger of another team I would not exactly be beating my fists on Cashman’s door to acquire a pitcher who is just as likely to walk seven batters, hit three, give up four home runs and toss a pitch into the dugout as he is to throw a no-hitter while walking nine batters as Burnett did earlier in his career.
So the Yankees might be facing the fact that they can’t rid themselves of Burnett or obtain a top-dollar free agent because of how much they are paying him. But Cashman must realize that Burnett is like a albatross tied around the Yankees necks right now. If the team is committed to winning they need to rid themselves of anyone standing in the way of that.
That means Cashman must have the permission of Hal and Hank Steinbrenner to “dump” Burnett and as much of his salary as they can to whatever team is willing to try to take on Burnett. Then they need to have the guts to “go big” and spare no dollars in trying to sign Wilson or Darvish.
Burnett is a huge anchor that is about to sink the Yankees’ hopes for the next two years as long as he is around. So bite the bullet and rid yourselves of him before he takes the ship deeper into the murky waters.
I was stunned to read Yankees MLB correspondent Bryan Hoch’s mailbag on Nov. 22 stating the Yankees had just “lukewarm” interest in Wilson and Darvish. This is a travesty.
If the team requires a starting staff worthy of going deep into the playoffs and possibly winning a World Series, they better not have “lukewarm” interest in the two pitchers that could help them the most in reaching that goal. If Burnett and his bloated contract and his substandard pitching are standing in the way, you got to cut him out like a cancer NOW!
Get rid of Burnett and sign Wilson or Darvish or the team will surely have sealed its fate before the first pitch of spring training is even thrown.
That would be very sad.