YANKEES 9, TWINS 7
As the old saying goes, what a difference a day makes. After managing just one hit at home on Thursday against the Twins the Yankees finally found their way to the bat rack on the road in Fort Myers, FL, and got a measure of payback on Friday.
Robinson Cano drove home two runs and Ben Francisco broke a 5-5 tie in the eighth inning with an RBI single as New York collected 14 hits to down Minnesota in front of a record paid crowd of 8,366 at Ed Hammond Stadium.
Cano, playing in just his second game back with the Yankees after returning as the Most Valuable Player for the World Baseball Classic champion Dominican Republic team, was the designated hitter and was 1-for-2 with an RBI double and a sacrifice fly.
Francisco’s RBI single off Tyler Robertson (0-2) in the eighth came as part of a four-run inning that put the game out of reach.
Ivan Nova started for the Yankees and surrendered five runs (four earned) on seven hits and a walk over 5 1/3 innings. Justin Morneau and Ryan Doumit hit back-to-back home runs off Nova as part of three-run second inning.
Jim Miller gave up no runs on one hit and a walk in 1 1/3 innings to earn credit for the victory. Despite giving up a solo home run to Dan Rohlfing in the ninth inning, Kelvin Perez was credited with a save.
The Yankees’ Grapefruit League ledger is now at 11-16. The Twins are 12-13.
- Having a red-hot and contract-driven Cano back in the lineup is already paying big dividends for the Yankees. With all the losses to free agency and injury, Cano remains the biggest and best threat the Yankees have. Along with winning the MVP in the WBC, Cano is hitting a torrid .318 for the Yankees this spring. This could be the year he breaks out in a big, big way.
- Very quietly Francisco is having a big spring. He was hitting .333 for the Cleveland Indians when he arrived and he is continuing to hit well for the Yankees. With Juan Rivera seemingly a lock to play first in the absence of Mark Teixeira, Francisco figures to make the team as part of a platoon with the lefty-swinging Brennan Boesch in a corner outfield spot.
- Ronnier Mustelier is also knocking on the door to make the team as a third baseman and outfielder. Mustelier, 28, was 3-for-4 including a two-run double in the the Yankees’ four-run eighth inning. The Cuban defector is hitting ,313 on the spring after he hit a combined .314 with 15 home runs and 69 RBIs at two minor-league stops last season.
- It just seems the Yankees get good pitching when they don’t score runs and when they do score runs they don’t get good pitching. This one of those days they scored and could not shut the other team down. The Yankees relinquished 2-0, 4-3 and 5-4 leads before scoring four runs in the eighth and then later gave up single runs in the eighth and ninth. This is perhaps a byproduct of the fact that Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Cody Eppley and Joba Chamberlain rarely pitch on the road and Boone Logan is just back from a sore elbow.
- Nova struggled for the second straight outing. In his last two starts, Nova has given up nine runs (eight earned) on 13 hits and two walks in 10 1/3 innings. Both David Phelps and Nova have struggled of late and they remain pretty even in their battle for the fifth starter’s spot.
- Sloppy fielding continues to plague the Yankees this spring. The team committed three errors and they all had some impact on the score. Melky Mesa bobbled a single off the bat of Wilkin Ramirez in the second that led to a run scoring later the inning. In addition, after Nova fielded a ball of the bat of Ray Olmedo in the fourth, he looked back Doumit at third and threw to Rivera at first for the second out. However, Doumit broke for home and Rivera air-mailed the throw over Chris Stewart’s head to allow Doumit to score. In the eighth, Dan Johnson misplayed a routine throw to first that later allowed another unearned run to score.
Derek Jeter tested his inflamed left ankle at a workout at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Friday and said that if it were up to him he would playing now. Jeter took ground balls and participated in batting practice with no issues with the ankle other than some mild soreness. The Yankees announced a day earlier that Jeter would not play in any more Grapefruit League games in order to preserve the team’s ability to backdate his stint on the disabled list so he could return as early as April 6, if it were necessary. The Yankees still believe Jeter can open the season with the team on April 1. . . . Of course, it is not Yankees camp without another injury. Boesch rode the team bus to Fort Myers but had to be scratched from the game with a sore left ribcage. Manager Joe Girardi said Boesch likely will not play again until Tuesday. . . . In more injury news, left-handed relief specialist Clay Rapada likely will begin the season on the 15-day disabled list with bursitis in his left shoulder. Rapada, 32, did throw 15 fastballs from a mound on Friday but he still says he will need to be able to pitch effectively for several days in a row to help the team. Rapada says he is close to being ready but it will not be at the start of the season. . . . Meanwhile fellow walking wounded right-hander Phil Hughes allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits over three innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Class-A West Virginia club on Friday. Hughes was not sharp in his 57-pitch outing but he said he was just glad to be back on the mound after missing most of the spring with a bulging disk in his upper back. It seems likely Hughes will open the season on the disabled list and he will miss at least one start. . . . Jon Heyman reported on Friday that the Yankees have agreed to terms on a minor-league contract with former Yankees starter Chien-Ming Wang. The 32-year-old right-hander, won 55 games in four seasons with the Yankees before a series of foot and shoulder injuries derailed his career. He was 6-6 with a 4.94 ERA in 21 games with the Washington Nationals last season. Wang drew interest from major-league teams after he threw 12 shutout innings in two starts for the Chinese Taipei team in the WBC.
The Yankees will travel to Lakeland, FL, on Saturday to play the Detroit Tigers.
Left-hander Andy Pettitte will make his second start of the spring for the Yankees. The Tigers will counter right-hander Anibal Sanchez.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will not be telecast.
With A.J. Burnett just a physical and a commissioner’s approval away from a trade to the Pittsburgh Pirates, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the New York Yankees already have agreements to sign Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez.
The Yankees attempted to acquire Pirates outfielder/first baseman Garrett Jones, Indians DH/first baseman Travis Hafner and Angels outfielder Bobby Abreu in separate deals for Burnett. However, the Pirate and Indian deals were rejected and Burnett exercised his limited no-trade clause to scuttle the Angel proposal.
So the Yankees accepted two minor leaguers and $13 million from the Pirates for Burnett and they plan to use the money they are saving on the two years and $33 million left on Bunrett’s contract to sign Ibanez and Chavez.
Ibanez, 39, hit .245 with 20 home runs and 84 RBIs with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2011. Ibanez is expected to share the DH duties with outfielder Andruw Jones.
Chavez, 34, hit .263 with two home runs and 26 RBIs with the Yankees last season. Chavez is expected to return to his role from last season as a backup at first and third base.
If Heyman’s report is correct the Yankees have chosen to sign Ibanez instead of former Yankee outfielder Johnny Damon, who said he would a “perfect fit” for the Yankees’ left-handed DH role.
But Yankees general manager Brian Cashman basically told him to peddle his talents elsewhere. Why?
I think I can answer that question by going back to spring training in 2007. The Yankees had come off a crushing loss to the Detroit Tigers in the American League Division Series. In that series, Gary Sheffield was benched and Alex Rodriguez was dropped to the No. 8 spot by then-manager Joe Torre. In the offseason, right-handed starter Cory Lidle died when the small plane he was piloting crashed into a building in New York.
Damon left the Yankees for a period of time during the exhibition season in 2007 to go to his home in Orlando, FL, to contemplate retirement. After a few days, Damon returned to the team and he went on to have a subpar season in which he was hobbled by leg injuries. He hit .270 with only 12 home runs and 63 RBIs.
In Torre’s book “The Yankee Years” he said that teammates thought Damon’s play in 2007 showed “a lack of commitment.” Torre even quoted one player as saying “Let’s get rid of him. The guys can’t stand him.”
So when Damon’s contract expired after the 2009 season, they basically allowed Damon to walk as a free agent and they never made an effort to re-sign him. As cover, Cashman cited financial constraints as the reason Damon was not retained. But it seems clear now that the Yankees had no desire to bring Damon back because of the clubhouse turmoil he created.
Those old wounds have obviously not healed in 2012 and thus Damon was never seriously considered by Cashman.
NOT OKIE DOKEY
Left-handed reliever Hideki Okajima failed a physical with the Yankees and he will not report to spring training with the club.
Okajima, 36, signed a minor-league contract with the Yankees in December with an invitation to make the team if he could bounce back after two subpar seasons with the Red Sox.
But WFAN reported this weekend that Okajima was released from his contract and he would not participate in any workouts with the Yankees in Tampa, FL.
Okajima fell out of favor with the Red Sox after seven appearances in 2011 in which he was 1-0 with a 4.32 ERA in 8 1/3 innings. He spent the rest of the season as Triple-A Pawtucket before being released by the Red Sox despite a 2.29 ERA in 34 appearances spanning 51 innings.
The Yankees saw Okajima as a potential lefty specialist for the bullpen to tandem with fellow left-hander Boone Logan, who has been miscast in the role for the past two seasons.
Okajima signed with the Red Sox in 2007 out of Japan. He was 17-8 with six saves and a 3.11 ERA in 261 appearances, holding left-handed hitters to a .218 batting average.
With Okajima out of the picture, the Yankees’ search for a second left-hander will come down to a battle between 23-year-old Rule 5 draftee Cesar Cabral, who was selected by the Kansas City Royals from the Red Sox and sent to the Yankees for financial considerations in December, and Clay Rapada, who was signed to a minor-league deal this weekend.
Rapada, 30, was released by the Baltimore Orioles this week. Rapada was 2-0 with a 6.06 ERA in 32 appearances for the Orioles last season. He is 5-0 with a 5.13 ERA in 78 major-league appearances with the Orioles, Rangers, Tigers and Cubs.
He has held left-handers to a .153 batting average in his career, including an .090 mark the past two seasons.
Cabral was a combined 3-4 with a 2.95 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 55 innings with a Class-A Salem and Double-A Portland. If Cabral does not make the major-league roster he will have to be offered back to the Red Sox for $25,000.
PINEDA THE PINATA
Newly acquired right-hander Michael Pineda reported to the Yankees camp 10 pounds overweight and drew the ire of the team’s coaches and front office.
Pineda is listed at 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds. The former Mariner showed up weighing 270 pounds and even Pineda admitted that he needed to lose 10 pounds during spring training.
Pineda, 23, was 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA for a offensively weak Mariner team in 2011, his rookie season. He was packaged along with 19-year-old right-hander Jose Campos in a trade with the Yankees for catcher Jesus Montero and right-handed pitcher Hector Noesi.
Pineda is being counted upon to join a revamped – and hopefully improved – rotation that already includes ace left-hander CC Sabathia and second-year right-hander Ivan Nova. The Yankees also signed former Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year, $10 million contract.
With the trade of Burnett, right-hander Phil Hughes and right-hander Freddy Garcia will battle for the team’s No. 5 spot in spring training.
Pineda said he felt good after a bullpen session on Friday and that pitching coach Larry Rothschild is already working on a new grip for his change-up. Pineda largely threw just a fastball and slider in his rookie season.