YANKEES 7, MARLINS 3
TAMPA – You can make a case that spring has not really sprung until a major-league team’s ace pitches in his first exhibition game. Well, for the Yankees it sprung on Friday as CC Sabathia toed the rubber for the first time and he pitched five solid innings.
Later the Yankees broke a 3-3 tie when Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto’s passed ball with the bases loaded in the bottom of seventh inning allowed Jose Pirela to score the tie-breaking run as New York went on to overtake Miami at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
The Yankees added another run in the frame when Realmuto was charged with an error on an attempted pickoff of Ichiro Suzuki at first base that allowed Gil Velazquez to score.
David Robertson (1-0) pitched an inning of scoreless relief to get credit for the victory. Dan Jennings (0-1) took the loss.
The Yankees initially rallied from a 2-0 deficit to take a 3-2 lead on a solo home run by Francisco Cervelli in the second inning and a mammoth two-run blast to right off the bat of Travis Hafner in the third. The home runs were the first of the spring for both Hafner and Cervelli.
With the victory, the Yankees improved their spring ledger to 8-12. The Marlins fell to 7-10.
- Hafner finally provided the power the Yankees were looking for when they signed him to a one-year contract to be the team’s left-hand designated hitter. Hafner’s home run with one out in the third inning came off former Mets right-hander John Maine, who is attempting to win a starting rotation spot with the Marlins. Hafner, 35, is now hitting .174 with a homer and four RBIs.
- The pitching line for Sabathia looks bad at first glance: Two runs on eight hits and one walk and two strikeouts in five innings. But most of those eight hits were not hard-hit balls. They included a bunt single, two bloop singles and a few others that just wriggled through holes in the infield. Sabathia, 32, was making his first start after recovering from offseason surgery to remove a bone spur in his left elbow.
- Pirela, 23, has very quietly had a great spring. He entered the game in the fourth inning and ended up going 2-for-3 with a triple and a single and he scored the tie-breaking run and drove in another run in the eighth. Pirela, who hit .293 with eight home runs and 33 RBIs in 82 games at Double-A Trenton last season, is hitting .385 this spring.
- After a scorching hot start Brett Gardner is beginning to struggle a bit. He was 0-for-4 on Friday with two strikeouts and he did not get a ball out the infield. In his last six starts dating back to March 7, Gardner is a miserable 1-for-18 and his spring average has plunged to .324.
- Non-roster infielder Dan Johnson is seemingly playing his way out of a chance to make the 25-man roster. Johnson, 33, was 0-for-2 on Friday and he is hitting a ridiculously low .043 this spring with seven strikeouts in his 23 at-bats. With injuries to Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, Johnson had a great shot to make the team as backup corner infielder – the same role Eric Chavez filled last season. But it looks like that ship may have sailed unless Johnson gets awful hot in a hurry.
- Even in scoring seven runs the Yankees still did not hit well with runners in scoring position. They were 1-for-8 in the game and it remains a major concern going forward.
The Yankees have added to their outfield depth by signing Brennan Boesch, who was released earlier this week by the Detroit Tigers. Boesch, 27, hit .240 with 12 home runs and 54 RBIs in 132 games with the American League champions in 2012. He was hitting .188 in 16 at-bats with the Tigers this spring. Boesch signed a one-year major-league contract for $1.5 million and $600,000 in performance incentives and he will give the Yankees a left-handed hitting corner outfielder as Curtis Granderson recovers from broken right forearm. It appears that Juan Rivera and the newly acquired Ben Francisco are competing for the right-hand portion of the corner outfield spots. Rivera also has been playing some first base in Teixera’s absence. . . . Utility man Ronnier Mustelier was forced to leave Friday’s game with multiple contusions on both legs after he ran into a metal dugout railing chasing a foul pop off the bat of Juan Pierre in the fourth inning. Manager Joe Girardi said Mustelier likely will be out until at least Tuesday. Mustelier, 28, has been a hitting sensation this spring and the Yankees have looked him at the corner outfielder spots and at third base. . . . Yankees relief prospect Mark Mongomery and rising star outfielder Tyler Austin were presented with 2012 Kevin O’Brien Lawn awards before Friday’s game. Montgomery, 23, received the “Pitcher of the Year” award after going a combined 7-2 with a 1.54 ERA and 15 saves between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton. Austin, 21, was named “Player of the Year” after batting a combined .322 with 17 home runs and 80 RBIs in four minor-league stops last season. The annual awards are dedicated to Kevin O’Brien Lawn – the son of longtime Yankees Vice President and Chief of Operations Jack Lawn – who passed away in 1999.
The Yankees will play a pair of games on Saturday.
In one game the Yankees will play host to the Philadelphia Phillies. In the other game, the Yankees will send a split squad to play the Atlanta Braves at Champions Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, FL.
Hiroki Kuroda will start at home against the Phillies. He will be opposed by reliever Raul Valdes.
Game-time will be one hour earlier than usual at 12:05 p.m. EDT to accommodate an evening concert at Raymond James Stadium by country star Kenny Chesney. The game will be telecast live by the YES Network and on tape delay by the MLB Network.
David Phelps, who is still in the running to be the team’s fifth starter, will pitch in the road contest. He will square off against left-hander Paul Maholm of the Braves.
Game-time will be 5:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast on tape delay by the MLB Network.
BLUE JAYS 17, YANKEES 5
Jose Bautista ran for two touchdowns and Melky Cabrera kicked a long field goals as . . . Oops! Right score but wrong sport.
Cabrera was 3-for-3 and drove in four runs and Maicer Izturis was 2-for-3 with five RBIs as Toronto took advantage of 10 walks and three errors to crush New York on Thursday at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin, FL.
Josh Johnson (3-0) threw three shutout inning, giving up two hits – one of them a solo home run to Kevin Youkilis in the first inning – and striking out five to earn the victory.
Right-handers Jose Ramirez (1-1) and Adam Warren were tagged for a combined 14 runs on six hits and nine walks in just 1 2/3 innings.
The Yankees’ four game spring winning streak was snapped and they are now 7-12. The Blue Jays are 8-10.
- Without a doubt the Yankees allowing to Blue Jays to run so much around the bases on Thursday will certainly tire them out for their scheduled exhibition game against the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland on Friday.
- Youkilis is starting to come around with the bat in a big way. He was 2-for-3 with his second spring homer and a triple. He scored two runs and drove in another. In his last four games, Youkilis is 5-for-10 with two home runs, a triple, two doubles and three RBIs. He has raised his spring to .263. It appears the work with hitting coach Kevin Long has paid off because Youkilis has dropped his hands to allow himself to get to the ball quicker.
- With Clay Rapada sidelined with a sore shoulder, Josh Spence is showing he is pretty capable as a lefty reliever. Spence 25, gave up just one hit and struck out three and is still unscored upon this spring.
- It is real easy to get down on Ramirez for his poor start but, in truth, the 23-year-old has not pitched above High-A Tampa. Entering the game he had pitched nine scoreless innings this spring so the Yankees are a long way from giving up on him.
- The same can’t be said for Warren, 26. In his last two outings, Warren has given up 12 runs on 10 hits and and six walks in 5 1/3 innings. The right-hander had no shot to make the team this spring but was being looked upon as a potential call-up as a emergency starter during the season. Let’s hope the Yankees do not need him because he is never going to be a good major-league starter.
- The Yankees committed three errors but that mostly was attributable to the windy conditions on the field and the fact the Yankees were already down 9-1 after two innings.
Phil Hughes, 26, threw a 26-pitch bullpen session on Thursday and said that he believes he still can be ready to pitch when the regular season begins. Hughes has been sidelined all spring with a bulging disk in his upper back. Hughes will pitch in a simulated game on Monday but it unclear if he will be able to be able to get up the 90 to 100 pitches necessary to make his first start.
The Yankees return home to George M. Steinbrenner Field to play host to the Miami Marlins.
Yankee ace left-hander CC Sabathia, 32, will make his spring training debut. He has been rehabbing from minor elbow surgery this offseason. Sabathia will be opposed by former New York Mets right-hander John Maine.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast on tape delay by the MLB Network.
After 62 games it has become apparent that teams who really want to beat the New York Yankees have a pretty good shot at wining by starting a pitcher Yankees have never seen before.