YANKEES 6, METS 4
When Yankees manager Joe Girardi takes out his starting pitcher holding a lead and brings in a reliever the opposing manager should just make plans for the next game because the one in which his team is playing is pretty much over.
And so it was on Sunday night for manager Terry Collins and the Mets.
Alex Rodriguez hit the 659th home run of his career and he added an RBI double, the Mets threw the ball around Yankee Stadium as if it was a hand grenade for four errors and the Yankees vaunted high-octane bullpen did the rest as the Yankees won the home portion of the Subway Series two games to one.
Left-hander Chasen Shreve (1-0), who came on in the fifth inning for right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, got credit for the victory and left-hander Andrew Miller pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his seventh save in seven chances.
All told, the bullpen crew of Shreve, Chris Martin, Justin Wilson, Dellin Betances and Miller shut out the Mets on no hits and one walk while they fanned four batters over the final 4 2/3 innings.
The Mets took an early lead on Eovaldi when Curtis Granderson hit Eovaldi’s ninth pitch for his first home run of the season to start the game. The Mets later added a run on a Juan Lagares single and a two-out double by Daniel Murphy.
Rodriguez halved the lead in the bottom of the first by lacing a 2-2 curveball onto the top of the wall in right-center and it bounced into the Yankees’ bullpen for Rodriguez’s fifth home run of the season and his first since April 19.
The Yankees then went double happy on left-hander Jonathan Niese (2-1) to take a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the game.
John Ryan Murphy doubled to left with one out and with two out the Yankees then strung together four straight RBI hits, two of them doubles.
Gregorio Petit doubled to left to score Murphy, Brett Gardner doubled to right to score Petit and Chris Young singled to right to plate Gardner.
Rodriguez then singled through the left side of the infield. But left-fielder Michael Cuddyer threw a lawn-dart that allowed Young to score and Rodriguez to take second. It took first baseman Lucas Duda’s retrieval of the slow rolling ball at shortstop to throw out Rodriguez at third with the second baseman, Murphy, covering to end the four-run inning.
The Mets added a pair of runs with two out in the third inning as Duda singled, Cuddyer doubled him in and he moved to third on a throwing error by Stephen Drew. Murphy then drove in Cuddyer with a single.
But when Girardi took out Eovaldi with one out and a runner on in the fifth, the Mets’ offense went perceptibly south immediately.
The Yankees got to Niese again in the fifth as Gardner reached on an disputed infield single. First-base umpire Adam Hamari had ruled that shortstop Wilmer Flores’ throw had beaten Gardner but it was challenged and overturned by replay.
Young then reached on a hard-hit ball that Murphy played into an error that allowed Gardner to advance to third. Rodriguez then hit what looked to be routine double-play grounder but Flores stepped on second to retire Young and then fired the relay to first base into the stands for the team’s fourth error of the night, which allowed Gardner to score.
Niese, who entered the game on a streak of six games of yielding two earned runs or less, was charged with six runs (four earned) on eight hits and one walk with three strikeouts in five innings.
Eovaldi struggled in his fourth start, surrendering four runs on seven hits with no walks and seven strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings.
With the victory the Yankees improved to 11-8 and they are tied with the Tampa Bay Rays in first place in the American League East. The Mets fell to 14-5, which remains the best record in baseball.
- Rodriguez shook off a slump that had lasted more than a week to homer, double, drive in two runs and score one run. He hit the ball well in each of his four at-bats and he is now batting .267 with five homers and 13 RBIs.
- Of the five relievers Girardi used, Betances was absolutely dominant in his one inning of work in the eighth. He struck out Lagares, Duda and Cuddyer in succession but his nasty curve broke so much it got past Murphy for a wild pitch so Cuddyer reached on a wild pitch. At that point, Betances had faced eight Mets batters in his career and he had struck out all eight of them. However, Daniel Murphy was able to ground out to second to break the string.
- Very quietly John Ryan Murphy is developing into an excellent young catcher at age 23. Murphy, filling in for starter Brian McCann, was 2-for-3 with a double and he scored a run. With limited plate appearances, Murphy is batting .313 this season.
- After going eight games without making an error earlier in the week the Yankees committed two on Sunday and they were charged with four errors in the three-game series. Drew was charged with a throwing error in the third and Chase Headley also made an errant throw in the fifth. The Yankees need to clean up this sloppy play soon. They were lucky that the Mets were even worse.
- Beltran is drawing a cascade of boos every time he makes an out. On Sunday, Beltran was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and he also hit into a double play. The 38-year-old outfielder is now batting .161 with no homers and seven RBIs. After being benched on Saturday it looks as if Girardi’s patience with him is quickly running out.
Jacoby Ellsbury sat out Sunday’s game against the Mets with tightness in his right hip. The 31-year-old outfielder received treatment for the injury and Girardi told reporters that he hoped to have him back in the lineup on Monday. Ellsbury is batting .282 with a homers and two RBIs in 17 games. . . . The Yankees will recall right-hander Chase Whitley from Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre and he will start on Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Rays to allow right-hander Masahiro Tanaka to have an extra day of rest between starts. Whitley, 25, is 2-0 with a 2.12 ERA in three starts for the RailRiders.
The Yankees will begin a three-game home series against the Rays on Monday.
Right-hander Adam Warren (1-1, 5.40 ERA) will open the series for the Yankees. Warren gave up four runs on five hits and four walks with three strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings against the Detroit Tigers to get his first victory on Wednesday.
Right-hander Nathan Karns (1-1, 5.32 ERA) will pitch for the Rays. Karns was pounded for five runs on seven hits and four walks with three strikeouts in six innings in a no-decison against the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.
METS 8, YANKEES 2
The Mets jumped on CC Sabathia for three home runs and Matt Harvey throttled the Yankees’ red-hot offense for 8 2/3 innings as the Mets downed the Yankees on Saturday in front of a Yankee Stadium crowd of 47,909.
Lucas Duda touched Sabathia for a solo home run in the first inning and the Mets added four more runs off the 34-year-old left-hander in the fourth inning, capped by a two-run shot by Kevin Plawecki for his first major-league home run.
Rookie Eric Campbell led off the sixth inning with a home run as Sabathia (0-4) was charged with seven runs on nine hits and no walks with two strikeouts in 5-plus innings.
Meanwhile, Harvey (4-0) held the Yankees to a run scored by Stephen Drew in the third inning on a double-play groundout by Jacoby Ellsbury. The Yankees added a run when Mark Teixiera blasted his eighth home run of the season to lead off the seventh inning.
Harvey gave up just five hits and two walks while he struck seven to keep his record unblemished.
The Yankees fell to 10-8. The Mets are now 14-4.
- Teixeira was pretty much all the offense the Yankees could muster against Harvey. He was 3-for-4 and has eight home runs among his 15 hits on the season. This start by Teixeira was unexpected since he is coming off two injury-marred seasons and he is notoriously slow starter in April.
- Ellsbury made a sensational running catch in right-center in the fourth inning on a line drive off the bat of Campbell. It saved a run and gave the Yankees two out in the inning. Unfortunately, Sabathia immediately yielded an RBI triple to Juan Lagares, an RBI single by Wilmer Flores and a two-run homer by Plawecki to pretty much blow any chance the Yankees might have had against Harvey down 5-1.
- Just when it seems that Sabathia is about to become a productive pitcher again he takes two giant steps back. The culprit on Saturday was command of his pitches. His inability to locate his fastball led to some pitches the Mets hammered. Sabathia is now 0-4 with a 5.96 ERA and he has a lot of work to do to get going. It may be too much to ask for Sabathia to be the ace he was. But it would be nice if he could keep the Yankees in games as he did against the Detroit Tigers earlier in the week.
- Teams have pretty much refused to give Alex Rodriguez anything good to hit since he hit two home runs against the Tampa Bay Rays on April 19. That has forced Rodriguez to try to hit balls out of the strike zone or flail at change-ups. As he result, he was 0-for-4 against Harvey with two strikeouts. A-Rod is 2-for-18 (.111) with no home runs or RBIs since that two-homer game.
Manager Joe Girardi opted to bench switch-hitter Carlos Beltran in favor of hot-hitting right-handed hitter Chris Young against the right-hander Harvey. It did not work out as Girardi would have hoped because Young ended up 0-for-4 with a strikeout. While Young entered the game hitting .357 with four home runs and nine RBIs, Beltran is batting .173 in 14 games. . . . Ellsbury exited the game in the eighth inning due to hip tightness. Ellsbury was 0-for-3 with a strikeout. Girardi shifted Young from right-field to center-field and sent Garrett Jones into the game to play right. It is not clear when the injury occurred and Girardi is not sure if Ellsbury will be able to play in Sunday’s series finale.
The Yankees will play the rubber game of the weekend series with the Mets on Sunday.
Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (1-0, 3.12 ERA) will make his fourth start for the Yankees. Eovaldi, 25, is coming off his first victory in a one-run, eight-hit performance in seven innings against the Tigers on Tuesday.
The Mets will start left-hander Jonathan Niese (2-0, 1.50 ERA). Niese held the Atlanta Braves to one run on four hits and four walks in 6 2/3 innings in a victory on Tuesday.
Game-time will be 8:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by ESPN.
YANKEES 4, METS 2
A month ago, Yankee fans did not know what was worse, Mark Teixeira’s cough or his constant choking at the plate with runners on base.
On Saturday, Teixeira did not cough up his opportunity or choke in the clutch. He launched a huge two-out, two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning with the Yankees losing 2-1 to Dillon Gee and the Mets and the Yankees got another strong outing from Phil Hughes to clinch the home portion of the Subway Series.
Another sellout crowd of 48,575 at Yankee Stadium watched in awe as Teixeira swung at a hanging 2-2 curveball from Gee and pulled it into the right-field bleachers for his 11th home run of the season.
Up to that point Gee (4-4) had held the Yankees hitless since the first inning when they scored a run on an Alex Rodriguez one-out RBI single, loaded the bases and – even if you were not a psychic you could have predicted this – Raul Ibanez hit into a inning-ending double play.
From that point on the Yankees could not hit Gee’s change-up if he told them it was coming. Over the next four innings, Gee only gave up a leadoff walk to Derek Jeter in the third inning and a leadoff walk to Teixiera in the fourth. (Of course, Teixiera was immediately erased on another double play off the bat of Ibanez.)
But a third leadoff walk to Curtis Granderson in the sixth proved fatal to Gee. Two outs later, Teixeira put the Yankees ahead for good.
Granderson handed the Yankees an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth inning by delivering his 18th home run of the season off Mets reliever Bobby Parnell.
Hughes (6-5), meanwhile, was victimized by the long-ball as he has been most of the season.
He gave up a solo home run to a 30-year-old shortstop who came into the game with just two career home runs when he played briefly for the Colorado Rockies in 2008. Omar Quintanilla, who broke up Hiroki Kuroda’s no-hitter with two outs in the sixth inning on Friday, blasted a Hughes fastball into the right-field seats in the third inning to tie the contest at 1-1.
Hughes then gave up a second solo home run to David Wright in the sixth inning, which put the Mets into the lead for the first time in the weekend series. With the two home runs he surrendered on Saturday Hughes has been nicked for 15 home runs in 68 innings this season.
Hughes left with one out in the in the seventh inning having been touched for six hits and two walks and he struck out six.
A bullpen combination of Boone Logan, Cory Wade and Clay Rapada pitch scoreless ball through eight innings and Rafael Soriano pitched around a walk and single in the ninth to get pinch-hitter Jodany Valdespin to fly out to earn his ninth save of the season in as many opportunities.
With the victory the Yankees imroved their season record to 32-25 and they remain a half-game out of first place behind the Rays in the American League East. The Mets fell to 32-28.
- For all the talk about how horrible the Yankees’ starting rotation was in April, Hughes has shut those critics up with his recent spate of good outings. In his last seven starts, Hughes is 5-1 with a 3.47 ERA. After missing most of the 2011 season with weakness in his right shoulder, Hughes is beginning to show the form he showed in 2010, when he was 18-8 and made the All-Star team.
- Teixeira would also like to forget about April be he hit just .244 with three home runs and 12 RBIs that month. Since then, Teixeira has hit eight home runs and driven in 23 runs. This is despite the fact Teixeira has hit just .171 over his last 10 games.
- Granderson’s home run in the eighth put him in third place in the major leagues with 18, trailing Adam Dunn with 19 and Josh Hamilton with 22. Granderson has also been mired in a horrific batting slump this month. He is hitting only .161 in June and has struck out 10 times in 31 at-bats this month.
- Although he is having a fine season for the Yankees, Ibanez was a big disappointment with the bat on Saturday. He was 1-for-3 but he hit into a double play in his other two at-bats and the first one came with the bases loaded. Ibanez has been one of the few Yankees to hit pretty well with runners in scoring position but he is 0-for-10 this season with the bases loaded. Ouch!
- The bottom of the order was totally useless on Saturday. Nick Swisher (batting seventh), Eric Chavez (eighth) and Russell Martin (ninth) were a combined 0-for-9 in the game and they struck out three times. Chavez, who flew out twice, was the only one of the three to get a ball out the infield.
- Swisher’s 0-for-3 night snapped a modest six-game hitting streak in which he was 8-for-21 (.381) with a home run and five RBIs. Swisher has only 17 walks this season after drawing 95 last season. He also has struck out 46 times this season, which is a high total for him.
It seems Brett Gardner is good about teasing us with his imminent return from the disabled list only to disappoint us again. After playing in a rehab game at Class A Charleston, Gardner reported feeling pain in his right elbow on Saturday morning and he is now sidelined indefinitely. Gardner will be sent to Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, FL, for an evaluation early next week. He also will visit with Dr. Timothy Kremchek in Cincinnati. Gardner had three at-bats and played five innings on Friday. He was expected to play again on Saturday and rejoin the team on Monday in Atlanta. Manager Joe Girardi said Gardner likely will not rejoin the team until some time after the All-Star break. . . . Kuroda said that he will be able to make his next scheduled start on Wednesday in Atlanta. Kuroda was struck in the left foot by a line drive off the bat of Daniel Murphy on Friday and Kuroda left the game for precautionary X-rays, which showed just a deep bone bruise. . . . Rodriguez’s RBI single in the first inning marked the 1,917th RBI of his career, which ties him with Eddie Murray for seventh on the all-time list. Meanwhile, Rodriguez’s hit scored Jeter with his 1,800th run, moving him past Ted Williams for 17th place on the all-time list.
The Yankees will go for a sweep of the weekend series for bragging rights in the Big Apple against the Mets.
Left-hander Andy Pettitte (3-2, 2.78 ERA) will toe the rubber for the Yankees. He is coming off a stellar 7 1/3 inning performance against the Rays in which he gave up just two hits and struck out 10. He has won three of his four starts at Yankee Stadium this season and he is 8-5 with a 3.69 ERA in his career against the Mets.
Opposing Pettitte will be fellow left-hander Jonathon Niese (4-2, 4.11 ERA). Niese struck out 10 in a victory against the Cardinals on Sunday. He did not allow a run in his six innings of work. He is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by TBS and locally by the YES Network.
METS 7, YANKEES 6
They may be two teams that play in the same city and they may be headed in completely opposite directions in 2012 but on Tuesday they renewed a spring ritual they had ignored for 16 years.
Mets staring first baseman Ike Davis homered with one out in the ninth inning off a 21-year-old right-hander who pitched in the Sally League last season in Mark Montgomery as the Mets broke a 6-6 tie and won a Grapefruit League game in walk-off fashion against a lot of minor-league Yankees at Digital Domain Park in Port St. Lucie, FL.
Justin Hampson (1-0) pitched two-thirds of a scoreless inning in the top of the ninth to get credit for the victory.
The Yankees trailed 5-0 after three innings as the Mets folded, spindled and mutilated Yankees right-hander Ivan Nova.
But the Yankees rallied with a solo home run from Nick Swisher in the fouth inning and a five-run sixth inning in which they sent 10 batters to the plate and mustered seven hits against Mets left-hander Jonathan Niese to take a 6-5 lead.
Doug Bernier’s single to left to score J.R. Murphy tied the game and Chris Dickerson followed with a RBI single of his own to score Abraham Almonte with the lead run.
The Mets then tied it back up in the bottom of the sixth on an RBI single by Justin Turner.
The Yankees’ spring ledger dropped to 17-12 while the Mets completed their spring with a 9-19 record.
- Swisher was 2-for-3 with a home run and a double. Despite being nagged for two weeks with a sore left groin, Swisher has recovered physically and is hitting a red-hot .345 this spring. Swisher hopes to avoid the horrendous two-month slump with which he began the 2011 season.
- David Phelps and D.J. Mitchell both came on in relief in the game auditioning for a potential long-relief role in the bullpen. Phelps pitched a scoreless 1 1/3 innings, giving up a hit, no walks and striking out two batters. Mitchell pitched innings, giving up one on two hits and one walk and he fanned one. Adam Warren also is in the running despite giving up six runs on 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings to the Astros on Saturday.
- Bernier was 2-for-3 in the game with an RBI and is hitting .361 this spring. With Derek Jeter, Eduardo Nunez and Ramiro Pena ahead of him on the depth chart he will not make the Yankees. However, the 30-year-old veteran may stay in the Yankees organization and become a coach or minor-league instructor. Someday Bernier might make a very good manager.
- It is hard to sugarcoat it and I won’t. Ivan Nova flat-out stunk up the city of Port St. Lucie. He was tagged for five runs on eight hits, two walks and two hit batters in only 2 2/3 innings of what you really could not call work. Nova’s command of his fastball was nonexistent and he was leaving his breaking pitches up in the zone to get whacked all over the park. He gave up three runs on five hits in the first inning and it did not get much better after that. Nova ends spring training with a 8.06 ERA. If he pitches like this in the regular season then we can’t see Andy Pettitte come back soon enough.
- The Yankees only brought two starters, Swisher and Brett Gardner, to this game so it is hard to criticize much. But Gardner did not exactly set the world ablaze this spring. He was 0-for-3 on Tuesday and that lowered his spring average to .204. Gardner also showed an inability to get some bunts down this spring. How long will it take him to learn this skill to take advantage of his speed?
Manager Joe Girardi seeemingly can’t make up his mind about Pettitte pitching in a Grapefruit League game. Girardi first said no. Then he dangled a possibility that Pettitte would pitch an inning on Tuesday. Now Girardi thinks Pettitte might pitch an inning in the Yankees’ spring finale on Wednesday. Girardi said he wants to talk to Pettitte to see how he feels before he decides to use him. . . . Alright, Yankee fans make your plans to watch the Bombers win their 28th world title in 2012. Kentucky won the NCAA basketball championship on Monday. In the Wildcats’ previous six championship seasons (1949, 1951, 1958, 1978, 1996 and 1998) the Yankees have won the World Series. So shall we start printing those World Series tickets now? . . . After Wednesday’s finale the Yankees have a 5 p.m. deadline to cut the roster to 25 players. It appears Mitchell, Phelps or Warren will earn a spot in the bullpen (However, Warren is longshot because he is not on the 40-man roster). Clay Rapada seems to have a spot in the bullpen won with his excellent spring. The only other business is to determine what the team will do with Bill Hall, Jayson Nix and Dewayne Wise. Plus, the Yankees have to determine what to do with Justin Maxwell, who is out of options and can only go back to the minors if he clears waivers. But after the hot spring Maxwell had that is very unlikely.
The Yankees will finish what has been an eventful and successful spring camp on Wednesday against the Mets at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Freddy Garcia, who is sporting a 2.92 ERA in his four spring starts, is expected to pitch for the Yankees. The Mets will counter with right-hander Dillon Gee.
Game-time will be 12:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 5, MARLINS 2
When Alex Rodriguez was a teenager in Miami he dreamed of replacing Dan Mario as the starting quarterback of the Dolphins and having his friends watch him in the Orange Bowl. Years later, friends and family watched as he starred for the Yankees in a baseball game against the hometown Marlins in their new park.
Rodriguez drove in three runs and his two-run double in the fifth inning broke a 2-2 tie as New York registered its second victory of a two-game series against Miami in a Grapefruit League exhibition game on Monday at Marlins Park.
Rodriguez followed a bases-loaded walk to Robinson Cano by Marlins starter Carlos Zambrano in the third inning with a sacrifice fly to left that gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead. After the Marlins tied it up the fourth inning, Rodriguez chased Zambrano with a double off the center-field wall in the fifth to score Curtis Granderson and Cano.
The Yankees opted not to obtain Zambrano in a trade with the Cubs last season and Yankee fans saw the reason why. Zambrano (0-3) gave up five runs on four hits and a mind-numbing seven walks in four-plus innings. The Marlins’ No. 4 starter ended his spring with a 6.23 ERA.
Meanwhile, the Yankees got good efforts out of No. 2 starter Hiroki Kuroda and No. 3 starter Phil Hughes.
Kuroda gave up one run on three hits and one walk while striking out two in his three innings of work. Hughes scattered five hits, walked one and struck out four in his four scoreless innings of relief.
Rafael Soriano (1-0) pitched a scoreless one-third of an inning to get credit for the victory. David Robertson pitched a perfect ninth with two strikeouts to collect a save.
With the victory, the Yankees are now 17-11 this spring and they are 12-3 with three ties since March 14. The Marlins end up with a 11-14 spring record.
- It is always good to see Rodriguez driving in runs from the cleanup spot. That is something the team sorely missed last season when he played in only 99 games due to an assortment of injuries. With his three RBIs on Monday, Rodriguez is second on the team with 14 RBIs this spring. Cano’s bases-loaded walk gave him one more at 15.
- Kuroda looked sharp in his tuneup for his game against the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday. Kuroda gave up a leadoff double in the first inning to Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez scored him one out later with a single to left. He shut down the Marlins over his next two innings. He ends the spring with a 2.92 ERA.
- It appears that the Yankees have the 2010 version of Hughes healthy and ready to start the season. Hughes was 18-8 in 2010 but right shoulder weakness ruined his 2011 season. Hughes lost weight in the winter and compiled a 1.92 ERA this spring to earn the No. 3 spot in the rotation. Amid all the hoopla over Kuroda, Michael Pineda and Andy Pettitte coming back, Hughes just went about his business and he looks primed for a good 2012 season.
- The Yankees were very lucky that the right foot injury to Robertson was just a bruise. He looked dominant in his one inning of work and he will join Soriano and Mariano Rivera to form a back end of the bullpen that can be called “The Bermuda Triangle” of runs.
- Raul Ibanez entered the game riding a torrid hot streak over the past week where he has hit three home runs. However, he was 0-for-4, including a strikeout and grounding into an inning-ending double play. His average dropped to .155 but manager Joe Girardi and the Yankees are still very proud of the way Ibanez handled the adversity of his slump this spring.
- Sloppy play cost the Yankees a run in the fourth. Logan Morrison doubled to lead off the frame against Boone Logan and Gaby Sanchez singled to right, which would have advanced Morrison to third. However, Nick Swisher overran the ball and Morrison was able to score on the play.
- Though the Yankees did score five runs and win the game, their offense did not really take full advantage of the nine walks they received from the Marlins. They were 2-for-7 with runners in scoring position and Mark Teixeira, Swisher and Ibanez combined to leave a total of eight runners on base.
With the starting rotation set, Girardi has to make only two decisions for the bullpen. One is whether to keep Clay Rapada, 30, as a second lefty with Logan. The elbow injury to Cesar Cabral pretty much cleared the way for Rapada to make the team. The other decision is with Micahel Pineda on the disabled list, who among David Phelps, D.J. Mitchell or Adam Warren will make the team as a long reliever – a role Hector Noesi filled last season. . . . Outfielder Justin Maxwell, 28, has had an exceptional spring, hitting .317 with five doubles and 11 RBIs. But the Yankees have no room on the roster for him and he is out of options to the minors. So the Yankees might look to trade him. . . . After saying Pettitte would not pitch in a spring exhibition game on Sunday, Girardi said on Monday that Pettitte could pitch an inning of a game on Wednesday. If he does not, Pettitte instead will pitch in a minor-league game on Thursday.
The Yankee regulars are on their way back home to Tampa, FL. The reserves, non-roster players and minor-league rookies are headed to Port Sr. Lucie, FL., for an exhibition game against the New York Mets on Tuesday. This will be the teams’ first spring meeting since 1998.
No. 4 starter Ivan Nova is scheduled to get the ball for the Yankees. Right-hander Mike Pelfrey and left-hander Jonathan Niese are scheduled to pitch for the Mets.
Game-time will be 2:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
The New York Yankees, much like their fans, would like to forget 2011 and look forward to the promise 2012 brings. With that promise the Yankees have made a couple of moves to improve the team and let’s assess those moves and how they will impact the team.
JONESING FOR A RIGHTY
The Yankees on Friday signed Andruw Jones to a one-year, $2 million contract that includes $1.4 million in performance incentives, CBSSports.com reported. The 34-year-old outfielder will have to undergo a physical in order for the deal to be made official.
This is very good news for the Yankees because Jones filled a very important role as the team’s only right-handed hitting outfielder. Starters Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner hit left-handed and Nick Swisher is a switch-hitter. Jones batted .247 with 13 home runs and 33 RBis in 77 games last season. More importantly, he batted .286 off left-handers.
Jones began the season as a fourth outfielder and pinch-hitter but later replaced Jorge Posada as the designated hitter against lefties. Manager Joe Girardi also used Jones to sit Gardner against some left-handers. Jones could be used in that role again in 2012 because Gardner hit only .233 against left-handers in 2011.
If the reports are true, the Yankees also prevented the Boston Red Sox from signing Jones away from the Yankees. Jones is eighth on the active home run list with 420 and he also is among just four major leaguers who have 400 home runs and 10 Gold Gloves along with Ken Griffey Jr., Willie Mays and Mike Schmidt.
The Yankees also added to their bullpen mix for spring training another left-handed reliever.
On Wednesday, the Yankees agreed on the terms of minor-league contract with former Red Sox lefty Hideki Okajima.
Okajima, 36, was an integral part of the Red Sox bullpen for his first three seasons in the majors. But he fell out favor with then-manager Terry Francona the past two seasons and spent most of the 2011 season at the team’s Triple-A franchise Pawtucket.
Okajima pitched in only seven games for the Red Sox in 2011 and was 1-0 with a 4.32 ERA in 8 1/3 innings of work. At Pawtucket, Okajima fashioned a 2.29 ERA in 34 innings over 51 appearances for the PawSox.
In his five seasons with the Red Sox, Okajima was 17-8 with six saves and 3.11 ERA in 261 appearances. During that span he held left-handers to a .218 batting average.
Okajima will have a chance in spring training to claim the team’s bullpen spot as the lefty specialist. He will compete with another former Red Sox left-hander in 22-year-old Cesar Cabral, who the Yankees acquired from the Royals for cash considerations after the Royals selected Cabral in the Rule 5 draft at the Winter Meetings.
For the past two seasons, the Yankees have relied on Boone Logan as their lone left-hander out of the bullpen and Logan, 27, has been miscast in the role of lefty specialist. Logan was 5-3 with a 3.46 ERA over 64 games and 41 2/3 innings. Left-handers hit .260 against him last season while right-handers hit .262.
If Okajima or Cabral win a job in the bullpen, Logan will revert to a middle-inning reliever and he has been much more effective in that role.
Okajima’s best pitch is his change-up, which Francona termed the “Okie Doke.” But he is going to have to earn his role with the Yankees because in the 8 1/3 innings he pitched last season, left-handers hit .364 off him and he recorded an ERA of 11.57 against them. So his “Okie Doke” better be more than just OK this spring.
TICK, TICK, TICK
The Yankees have until Jan. 6 to sign Japanese infielder Hiroyuki Nikajima, who they won the rights to sign by posting a $2.5 million bid in early December.
Nikajima, 29,is primarily a shortstop but he also can play some second and third base. He hit .297 with 16 home runs and 100 RBIs and 21 stolen bases in 144 games with the Seibu Lions last season.
If the Yankees fail to sign Nikajima to a contract by Jan. 6, he will remain with Seibu for the 2012 season and the $2.5 million posting fee will be returned to the Yankees. That also would open the door for the Yankees to re-sign free agent infielder Eric Chavez.
Chavez, 34, played first and third base for the Yankees in 2011 and he hit .263 with two home runs and 26 RBIs in 58 games. The Yankees will not negotiate with Chavez’s agent unless they fail to sign Nikajima.
The Yankees also have Eduardo Nunez, Ramiro Pena and Brandon Laird on the 40-man roster to compete for a backup infield role this spring. Nunez, 24, is favored to win one of the two spots unless he is used in a trade for a starting pitcher before the season begins.
Alex Rodriguez, taking advice from Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, traveled to Germany this month to have an experimental medical procedure performed to help his ailing left shoulder and right knee.
With the Yankees’ approval, Dr. Peter Wehling performed what is termed an Orthokine procedure in Dusseldorf in early December. Bryant claimed the Orthokine procedure on his right knee and left ankle helped him recover movement and relieve pain enough so that he could return to the court with the Lakers.
Rodriguez, 36, took the experimental procedure to the Yankees and team doctor Chris Ahmad and the Yankees checked with the Lakers and with Major League Baseball on Wehling and the legality of the procedure. They then gave Rodriguez the permission to have it done.
The procedure calls for the taking of blood from an arm vein, incubating it and spinning it in centrifuge to isolate protective proteins. The proteins are then injected into the affected areas once or twice a week.
The procedure is said to have anti-inflammatory, pain-reducing and cartilage-protecting effects but not much is known about its long-term implications.
Rodriguez played in a career-low 99 games last season and in some of those games he was playing at less than 100 percent. He hit .276 with only 16 home runs and 62 RBIs.
Rodriguez missed more than a month after undergoing surgery on his right knee in July. In his first game back from the disabled list on Aug. 21, Rodriguez suffered a sprained left thumb, which affected the third baseman’s swing the rest of the season.
He hit only .191 after returning from the injury and he hit just .111 in the American League Division Series against the Detroit Tigers.
If this procedure helps Rodriguez, the Yankees might consider seeking out an experimental procedure for command-challenged right-hander A.J. Burnett.
Perhaps a doctor can come up with a procedure to inject power-steering fluid in Burnett’s right elbow to ensure he might actually come closer to hitting the strike zone with his pitches.
General manager Brian Cashman enters January with the “open for business” sign out on improving the starting rotation. This despite the fact that the Yankees have acted like they are the cash-strapped Kansas City Royals over the winter free-agent signing season.
The Yankees, hamstrung to a great degree by the lavish long-term contracts already laid out to CC Sabathia, Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Burnett, have been spending pennies while other teams have been waving $100 bills.
Cashman would like to add a starter to the rotation and perhaps unload Burnett. But the costs of free agents like C.J. Wilson, Mark Buerhle and Japan’s Yu Darvish have been higher than their actual worth, according to Cashman. Meanwhile, trade avenues have been blocked by other teams’ insistence the Yankees cough up the jewels of the Yankees’ farm system in Jesus Montero, Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances and Mason Williams.
Cashman continues to say no to those deals because he does not want to short-circuit the Yankees’ future for a short-term fix.
So the Yankees have struck out on deals for pitchers such as John Danks, Gio Gonzlaez, Matt Garza, Jair Jurrgens and Jonathan Niese.
For now, the Yankees seem to be counting on a return to form of Phil Hughes, who suffered through an injury-plagued 2011 campaign after winning 18 games in 2010. They also do not believe that rookie right-hander Ivan Nova’s 16-win season was a fluke.
The re-signing of 34-year-old right-hander Freddy Garcia, who was a respectable 12-8 with a 3.62 ERA, means the only really Yankee concern is Burnett, who was 11-11 with a 5.15 ERA last season.
The truth is Cashman, Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild are at their wits’ end trying to figure out what is wrong with Burnett. They seem to agree a change of scenery is in order. But with two years and $33 million still owed to the enigma wrapped inside a conundrum would seem to make dumping him a big problem.
The Yankees have offered to pay $7 million of Burnett’s contract but still have no takers. They might have to offer at least $15 million if they are serious about being rid of him. Of course, the Yankees would seem to be better off adding a starter before making a deal for Burnett because dumping Burnett would likely increase the cost of starter to replace him.
Adding a starting pitcher would be the only major task left for Cashman but he states he is no hurry because the Yankees do have six potential young starters waiting in the wings: Banuelos, Betances, Hector Noesi, David Phelps, Adam Warren and D.J. Mitchell. Any of those six could contribute either as starters or relievers to the Yankees in 2012.
But Cashman is aware that adding an established starter to what the Yankees have would be preferable. So he is pursuing that avenue first. If the pursuit stretches to the trade deadline in July the Yankees might find the asking price of some of starters they like may drop. Cashman is exercising and preaching at the same time for patience.
So like good little Yankee fans we are. We will have to trust him and take him at his word.
MLB WINTER MEETINGS
DAY FOUR – FAREWELL
Pardon me for having a vision of Yankees general manager Brian Cashman ending up in a long, unproductive discussion with a Hotel Anatole bellhop on the best way to turn in his room key. It has just been the way it has gone for Cashman since he arrived on Monday: Long and unproductive.
But to be fair to Cashman, it was exactly what he predicted would happen before he ever stepped foot in the hotel lobby.
While the Miami Marlins were shopping at Tiffany’s the Yankees were checking the clearance racks at JC Penney’s.
The Yankees came into the MLB Winter Meetings with a very short shopping list of parts that could make a team that won 97 games last season just a bit better. The starting lineup remains the same, the Yankees have five starting pitchers with which they can start the season, they boast a deep bullpen and have just a few spots to fill on the bench – though the Yankees would even like to bring back veterans Eric Chavez and Andruw Jones.
So the Yankees used these meetings to kick the tires on potential trades for a starting pitcher, they won the right to negotiate with a Japanese infielder and they selected two players in the Rule 5 draft on Thursday that could have an impact on their bullpen this spring.
The moves won’t spur much of a surge of season ticket sales but Cashman hopes the seeds sown here will lead to something more fruitful down the road.
First, let’s look at the two additions to the pitching staff:
The Kansas City Royals used the fifth pick in the draft to select left-handed reliever Cesar Cabral from the Red Sox and then traded him to the Yankees for cash considerations. Cabral, 22, will be given a look this spring as a potential second left-hander in the bullpen to go along with Boone Logan.
Cabral was 3-4 with a 2.95 ERA in 36 combined appearances with Class A Salem and Double-A Portland last season. He struck out 70 batters in 55 innings and Cashman likes his 94-mph velocity and the fact he can get left-handers out consistently.
Cabral was selected in the 2010 Rule 5 draft by the Rays but later was returned to the Red Sox.
With the 29th pick in the draft, the Yankees selected right-handed starter Brad Meyers from the Washington Nationals.
Meyers, 26, was a combined 9-7 with a 3.18 ERA in 25 games (24 starts) in stops at Class A Salem, Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse last season. He struck out 116 batters in 132 2/3 innings and walked just 15. In 2009, the 6-foot-5 hurler was named the Nationals’ Minor-League Pitcher of the Year.
Though Meyers is a starting pitcher, the Yankees will look at Meyers as a potential long reliever because the team intends to use Hector Noesi as a starter this season.
The Yankees entered the draft with 39 players on their 40-man roster. The addition of Cabral and Meyers meant that the Yankees had to release 26-year-old outfielder Greg Golson. Golson hit .195 with no home runs and two RBis in 40 games over four seasons with the Phillies, Rangers and the Yankees.
The Yankees might add some depth to their bench by obtaining the right to sign 29-year-old infielder Hiroyuki Nakajima of the Seibu Lions in Japan. Nakajima is primarily a shortstop but he also can play second and third base. He hit .314 with 20 home runs and 93 RBIs in 130 games in Japan last season.
The Yankees posted a bid of $2 million for Nakajima and now the Yankees have until Jan. 6 to reach contract agreement or the $2 million fee is returned to them.
The Yankees are saying Nakajima would give the Yankees some options if Chavez does not re-sign. But it also gives the Yankees the option of trading Eduardo Nunez for a starting pitcher because the Yankees also have backup infielder Ramiro Pena on the 40-man roster.
As for the search for starting pitching, Cashman made it clear he believed that clubs were not going to overpay for free-agent pitchers such as C.J. Wilson, Edwin Jackson, Mark Buerhle and Roy Oswalt. So Cashman has been seeking out possible trades for pitchers like John Danks of the White Sox, Matt Garza of the Cubs, Jair Jurrgens of the Braves and Gio Gonzalez of the Athletics.
Late Wednesday, the Yankees even inquired about Jonathan Niese of the Mets.
The problems Cashman has had in making a potential deal for any of these pitchers is teams are asking for the Yankees’ best prospects in catcher Jesus Montero, pitchers Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos and veterans like Brett Gardner, Ivan Nova, David Robertson and Phil Hughes in return. These are players Cashman does not want to trade.
But with the free-agent signing season in full swing, there is likely to be teams with changing circumstances, agents who might have to lower their price for some free agents and trade demands get lowered as spring training approaches. Cashman sees this period in January as an window of opportunity that may allow the Yankees to get a No. 2 or No. 3 starter via trade or free agency.
Oh, and do not buy the Cashman party line about his mild interest in Japanese ace right-hander Yu Darvish.
The Yankees are not tipping their hand but it is a pretty good bet that Cashman and the Yankees might go all out to win the bidding when Darvish is posted. Though the posting fee will easily top the $50 million the Boston Red Sox ponied up for Daisuke Matzusaka, that posting fee does count against the team salary level.
Darvish, 25, is also young enough that the Yankees could structure a graduated long-term contract worth $120 million over eight years that could be worth $10 million the first year. That is half of the $20 million C.J. Wilson is seeking in a six-year deal. Darvish is six years younger and the Yankees believe he has a much higher ceiling than the 31-year-old Wilson.
So do not write off Cashman and the Yankees this winter based on their relative lack of activity in the winter meetings. The hares may have a nice head start for now but the tortoises are going to be coming on strong in January. Cashman just hopes that the Yankees are one of those tortoises.