Tagged: Juan Miranda

Yankees Counting On Teixeira To Rebound In 2011

As training camp opens in Tampa, FL, the New York Yankees are looking to return to their 2009 form. We will take a look at each position and see how they stack up for the 2011 season. Just how good are the Yankees? Let’s find out:

To quote the famous Charles Dickens opening line in the “Tale of Two Cities” the Yankee portion of Mark Teixeira’s career has been both “the best of times and the worst of times.”
The championship season of 2009 could not have been better for Teixeira. He hit .292 with an American League-leading 39 home runs and 122 RBIs. He also brought the most sparkling defensive play to first base Yankee fans had seen since Don Mattingly retired after the 1995 season.
Teixiera finished second in the voting for the A.L. Most Valuable Player award while helping lead the Yankees to their 27th world championship.
His second season, however, was the worst of times.
Teixiera got off to his usual slow start. But this one was the worst of his career. On May 7, Teixiera was hitting .181 with two home runs and 14 RBIs. After briefly rebounding in May, Teixeira struggled to hit .250 in June.
At the All-Star break, Teixeira had raised his average to .254 with 17 home runs and 60 RBIs. So he was primed for a big second half and could still reach his usual targets in home runs and RBIs.
But his comeback in the second half was short-circuited by a right thumb injury he suffered diving for a ball in Chicago on Aug. 28 and a foul ball he hit off his left pinky toe on Sept. 1 in the Bronx in a game against Oakland.
Teixeira played through the pain in his thumb and his broken toe all through September. He probably would not have unless the Yankees did not need him for a pennant push. But he did and the result was disastrous.
Teixiera hit .220 from Sept. 1 on with just three home runs and 13 RBIs. Clearly, Teixiera was not the same player offensively leading into the playoffs and it showed. He hit a miserable .148 with a home run and 3 RBIs until a pulled hamstring in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series against the Rangers ended his season a game before the Yankees were eliminated themselves.
Bad times, indeed.
Teixeira ended the regular season with 33 home runs and 108 RBIs, the seventh straight season in which he had topped 30 homers and 100 RBIs. Only two other players have longer streaks: teammate Alex Rodriguez (13 seasons) and Albert Pujols (10 seasons).
But Teixiera ended up hitting .256, the lowest mark of his career. He is a career .286 hitter and had three seasons of hitting .300 or better. Clearly, 2010 was not a season to remember despite the fact Teixiera continued to play the exceptional defense he always has played.
In 149 games, Teixeira made only three errors all season and he collected his fourth Rawlings Gold Glove award in the past six seasons. His ability to scoop balls in the dirt and corral high throws also saved the Yankees’ infielders even more errors.
Shortstop Derek Jeter and second baseman Robinson Cano also won Gold Gloves, making this infield the most decorated infield in the history of baseball. The Yankees can claim either a reigning or former Gold Glove winner at every position in the infield, including catcher with the signing of Russell Martin.
Martin (2), Teixeira (4), Cano (1), Jeter (5) and Rodriguez (2, won as a shortstop) have a combined 14 Gold Gloves between them. This has to be considered one of the best defensive infields in baseball history despite the limited ranges between Jeter and Rodriguez. 
You can say two things: This infield does not beat itself with mistakes and they do not make errors on the balls to which they do reach. Tex, 30, was a huge part of that with his exceptional range at first and his ability to save throwing errors.
The only real question leading into the 2011 season is which type of season will Teixeira have at the plate. Will it be like 2009 or will be like 2010?
All we have to go on is reports from Teixeira that all the injuries have healed and he is in good shape heading into camp. You would have to give Teixeira the benefit of the doubt there because in his eight major-league seasons, he has played less than 145 games just once. In 2007 he played in only 132 games.
But with Teixeira turning 31 on April 11, he may begin to require an occasional day off here and there during the season. The Yankees need their No.3 hitter and defensive stalwart at first base healthy all season and throughout the playoffs to have any hope of winning their 28th world title.
In 2010 Teixeira was backed up originally by DH Nick Johnson. However, the historically brittle first baseman injured his wrist on May 7, required surgery and missed the rest of the season. He was released and he currently is a free agent.
The Yankees also used Cuban-born farmhand Juan Miranda at the position. But Miranda was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks this winter. And trade deadline acquisition Lance Berkman took over as the primary backup for most of the rest of the season.
After a successful last month and a strong playoff run, Berkman chose not to re-sign with the Yankees and signed instead with the St. Louis Cardinals for the 2011 season.
So the Yankees will use right-fielder Nick Swisher as a backup to Teixeira this season. Swisher played 20 games at the position in 2009 and six games in 2010. While his glovework will not remind anyone of Mattingly or Teixeira, Swisher has committed only one error at the position and there is certainly not much of a dropoff in offensive production when he plays first base.
The Yankees also plan to use former starting catcher and new DH Jorge Posada at the position this season. Posada has been inserted into 28 games as a first baseman in his career and he started 14 of them. Although he is not considered a good defender at first, he has made only one error at the position. 
His abilities as a hitter also make the position solid if Teixeira is out of the lineup. However, the Yankees can ill afford to have Teixeira injured for a long period of time. Swisher and Posada are best used as temporary stopgaps and as late-inning replacements.
The Yankees have no young minor-league prospects at this position with Miranda having been traded. So they invited third baseman Eric Chavez to camp as a non-roster invitee.
If Chavez, 33, makes the team it will be as a reserve third baseman and first baseman. Chavez is a former Oakland A’s All-Star and Gold Glove third baseman. In fact, he won the Gold Glove award at third base for six consecutive seasons from 2001-2006. 
However, he has not played a full season in the major
leagues since 2005. Back and neck injuries have limited him to just 64 games over the past three seasons. Chavez left Oakland to try to make it in a place where there was less pressure on him to succeed.
So he signed a minor-league contract that will pay him $1.5 million if he makes the Yankees’ Opening Day roster. Chavez just needs to prove he is healthy and he can still swing a bat. From 2001 to 2005 Chavez averaged 30 homers and 98 RBIs. Staring at those numbers, the Yankees were more than willing to give him a shot to make the team and prove he still can hit off the bench.
At the Triple-A level the Yankees have Jorge Vazquez. However, the 29-year-old native of Mexico does not look to have the same promise as Miranda did. At Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Vazquez hit .310 with 18 home runs and 62 RBIs. But his age leaves him out the prospect discussion.
The Yankees are very weak at the first base position in the minors. The only other prospect here is Luke Murton, 24, who hit .282 with 12 home runs and 55 RBIs in 106 games with the Charleston River Dogs of the Class-A South Atlantic League. His .361 on-base percentage was very impressive and he should progress to Double-A Trenton this season.
But with Teixeira entrenched at first base for the next eight seasons, it unlikely the Yankees will be looking for a replacement real soon.

Injuries Short-Circuit Tex’s Second-Half Surge At Plate

With the end of the season it is time to hand out the final report cards for the New York Yankees for 2010. The Yankees reached the halfway point with the best record in baseball but with much promise to even improve in the second half. But some key injuries and some inconsistency with the starting pitchers dragged this team down a few notches. They qualified as a wild card but to defend their 2009 title they will have to dig deep. Here are the grades:


Mark Teixeira (33 HRs, 108 RBIs, .256 Avg.)

In 2009, Mark Teixeira was the second-best player in the American League, according to the writers who voted Joe Mauer the league’s Most Valuable Player. Tex finished second in the voting after a season in which he hit 39 home runs, drove in a league-best 122 runs and hit .292.
Despite a 2010 season in which he hit just six fewer home runs and drove in 14 less runs, Teixeira won’t likely garner a single MVP vote this season.
The reason is that his habitually slow start with the bat extended well into May and Teixeira ended up hitting a paltry .256, some 30 points below his career .286 average. Even Teixeira would admit that he was disappointed in his performance this season.
One area of concern is that Teixiera hit only .247 batting left-handed this season and opposing managers actually kept right-handers in to face him and Alex Rodriguez this season. That is something that did not happen often in 2009.
The 30-year-old first baseman did hit a respectable .273 with runners in scoring position and he batted a ridiculous .533 with the bases loaded. But somehow it seemed that in key situations, when the Yankees really needed a hit, Teixiera did not come through as consistently as he had in the past.
Fortunately, for Yankee fans, Teixeira contributes so much more than hits and home runs. Teixeira is simply the best fielding first baseman in baseball and he had another stellar season with the glove this season.
Teixeira committed only three errors at first base and he boasts the largest range of any first baseman in baseball. Getting a ball past him is tough to do. In addition, Teixeira cuts down on errors by taking balls to the bag rather than flipping to the pitcher and by his amazing dexterity at scooping balls in the infield.
Robinson Cano made only three errors, Derek Jeter committed only six and Alex Rodriguez was charged with seven. One of the reasons this infield commits so few errors is because Teixeira saves so many with his ability to catch anything close to him.
Teixeira is simply the best fielding first baseman the Yankees have had since Teixeira’s hero Don Mattingly. So, low batting average or not, Teixeira still contributed greatly to the Yankees’ success.
What really hurt Teixeira’s season was a pair of injuries he suffered with a few days each other in late August. In a game at Chicago, Teixeira jammed his left thumb diving for a foul ball. A few days later he was struck by a pitch on his right little toe. He has been playing with a broken toe ever since.
Though Teixiera said the toe and thumb injuries did not inhibit him in any way, his .220 average with three home runs and 13 RBIs after Sept. 1 tell a different story. In the previous two months Teixiera produced 17 home runs and 47 RBIs while hitting .316.
So Teixeira enters the playoffs with a huge question mark. The Yankees count on him for power and production in the No. 3 spot in the batting order and they have not been getting it lately.
Teixeira received a grade of C for his first half, largely because he hit .243. His second half surge was well under way when suffered those two injuries. It likely cost him an A for the second half. He gets a B- for his second half.
But the overall grade of C+ is disappointing to him and to the Yankees. His A+ fielding could not make up for the long droughts at he plate.
In the first half of the season the Yankees used Nick Johnson at first base to spell Texeira for two games. But a season-ending wrist injury took Johnson out the equation at first base. So Nick Swisher filled in there for game. Juan Miranda was called up from the minors and he started there for four games.
But the Yankees acquired Lance Berkman at the trade deadline as a DH and part-time first baseman and he started there in seven games. Teixiera started 148 games at first, which is down from last season largely due to the thumb and toe injuries.
Neither Berkman, Swisher or Miranda can come anywhere near Teixeira’s prowess in the field and only Swisher can match his production at the plate. But they all provided adequate backup for the veteran first baseman.
Miranda. 27, likely will not make the playoff roster. Berkman and Swisher will back up Teixeira in the playoffs. Miranda hit .285 at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre with 14 home runs and 65 RBIs in 80 games. He split time with Jorge Vazquez, 28, who hit .270 with 18 home runs and 62 RBIs in 78 games. 
Neither Miranda or Vazquez are considered long-term major-league prospects given their age. Both obviously are blocked by Teixeira, who has six years remaining on his contract. 

Teixeira said that his broken toe likely would not heal until after the season is over. That is too bad because the Yankees need Teixeira’s bat in the playoffs. The ill-timed injuries spoiled a nice comeback second half for him.
The Yankees know they can count on Tex to field his position. He simply is the best in baseball and that won’t change despite the injury. But his production at the plate is sorely needed and the Yankees have to hope he provides it.
No matter what happens in October, Teixeira knows he must do a lot better in 2011 than he did this season. The late starts are okay as long they come with great finishes. This season there was no late kick and the Yankees really needed it in September.

Bosox Fail To Read Miranda, Let Yanks Walk To Victory

GAME 156
YANKEES 4, RED SOX 3 (10 Innings)

Sometimes an heroic act just comes out of doing nothing but letting the other guy beat himself.
On Sunday night, Juan Miranda did just that and his ability to let Hideki Okajima’s 3-1 pitch with two out and the bases loaded sail inside for ball four propelled the New York Yankees to a dramatic 10th-inning walk-off victory over the Boston Red Sox and clinch no worse than a tie for the playoffs.
Perhaps it was fitting that in the final regular season game at Yankee Stadium that the Yankees would throw off a week of nagging injuries, poor starting pitching and four straight losses at home and fight the Red Sox tooth and nail and virtually hammer the final nail in Boston’s hopes to stage a miracle rally to get into the playoffs.
Now in order for the Bosox to make the American League playoff dance, the Yankees would have to lose every remaining game and Boston would have to win the rest of their games. And, only then, they would have to beat the Yankees in a one-game-playoff.
After Sunday night’s victory, even Bucky Dent knows that is not real likely no matter how poorly the Yankees have played this week.
There actually were many heroes for the Yankees on this night. Not just Miranda.
First, there was Phil Hughes, who was originally scheduled to have his start skipped, only to have manager Joe Girardi change his mind on Sunday afternoon.
Good thing, too. Hughes pitched brilliantly into the seventh inning, giving up only one run on three hits and four walks and striking out four. Hughes would have deserved his 18th victory if Daisuke Matsuzaka had not decided to forget the over 6.00 career ERA he had posted against the Yankees coming into the game and pitch more like the pitcher the Red Sox thought they paid a total of $114 million to leave Japan.
Matsuzaka pitched six innings of two-hit, no walk shutout baseball. Unfortunately, for Dice-K, the Yankees got a one-out opposite field single from Mark Teixeira in the seventh inning. Dice-K must have figured, “No problem, Alex Rodriguez is 2-for-29 off me.” That is the second worst mark A-Rod had off any pitcher with that many at-bats in his career.
Matsuzaka put him into a deep hole, too. He was up on the count 0-2. The wind was also hailing in from left-center, part of a pesky storm system moving into the Bronx and pelting the 49,199 fans with some driving rain. Not easy conditions for a home run.
Tell that to hero No. 2, A-Rod. He hung a high, inside fastball out on a clothesline into right-center-field and it landed in the first row of the bleachers to give the Yankees their first lead of the evening, their first lead in the three-game series with the Red Sox and their first lead in a game since the fifth inning of Thursday’s 10-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Yankees then gladly took that lead into the ninth before Red Sox manager Terry Francona decided to dust off the ghost of Dave Roberts in 2004 and turn Mariano Rivera’s ninth inning into a track meet.
The Red Sox managed only two hits in the inning but scored two runs on the heels — literally — of four stolen bases, two by Ryan Kalish and two by Bill Hall. Hall’s RBI single after Kalish’s two swipes tied it and a pinch-hit sac fly by Mike Lowell with Hall having dashed to third put the Red Sox Nation into delirium with a 3-2 lead.
However, hero No. 3 arrived in the bottom of the ninth for the Yankees.
With Jonathan Papelbon having blown seven saves this season, it is easy to see why in the way he pitched the ninth against the Yankees. 
With one out, Papelbon walked Nick Swisher. Teixeira followed the gift with his second clutch single of the night and Papelbon poured even more fuel on his own destruction by walking Rodriguez to load the bases.
MVP candidate Robinson Cano, hero No.. 3, stepped in and laced a solid single to right to score pinch-runner Eduardo Nunez with the tying run. Make that eight blown saves for Papelbon, a new career high. Why do they all seem to have come off the Yankees?
Papelbon wiggled out of further trouble in the ninth but he merely passed the goat horns off to Okajima, who made a hero of Miranda in the tenth.
Okajima pitched as if the plate were dynamite and the baseball contained nitro glycerine. Which is to say, Okajima tried his best NOT to throw a pitch near the strike zone and make sure it had no velocity.
Curtis Granderson opened the inning with a single and Brett Gardner moved him to second on a bunt that Victor Martinez threw into the back of Gardner for an error. Granderson made it to third on the misplay and Gardner was safe at first.
Francona ordered Okajima to walk Jeter to load the bases. That was the easiest thing for Okajima to do all night. Throwing pitches out of the strike zone is a specialty of the lefty from Japan.
After pinch-hitter Marcus Thames was robbed of glory by a bases-loaded stab of a short-hopper ticketed for left-field by Adrian Beltre, who threw home to retire Granderson for the only out Okajima got all night. 
Miranda only entered the game because Girardi had used pinch-runner Ramiro Pena to run for Teixeira in the ninth. Miranda was sent in to play first base in the 10th inning.
The lefty swinging Miranda was forced to bat against the left-handed Okajima, 
Miranda only swung — and missed — on Okajima’s second pitch. It was within the zip code of the plate but enticing enough. But Okajima’s other three offerings to Miranda were nowhere close to the plate and nowhere close to 90 miles per hour.
So, up on the count 3-1, Miranda was ready to pounce on anything resembling a fastball over the plate. But Okajima made it easy on Miranda by uncorking a pitch up and in and the rookie merely sidestepped it and took it for ball four.
He raced to touch first base as his Yankee teammates chased him in jubilation.
How cruel an ending for the Red Sox. Their 2010 hopes were vanquished on a bases-loaded walk to a minor-league first baseman. There is just a little bit of 2004 payback in that scenario.
Bucky Dent is very proud, too.
Hasta la vista, Red Sox!

Tex’s Early Struggles Appear Over As Second Half Starts

It is the halfway point of the season for the New York Yankees and you all know what that means. That’s right, it’s time to had out grades for the first term. Some of our Yankees were scholars and some need some remedial work. But with the best record in baseball the Yankees already have a great grade as a team. The funny thing is that they have not really pushed themselves and there is still potential to be even better in the second half. Let’s start evaluating the positions and players.


Mark Teixeira

Coming into the 2010 season the least of the Yankees’ worries was first baseman Mark Teixeira. After all, their free agent signee was coming off a season in which he tied for the American League lead in home runs (39), led the A.L. in RBIs (122), won a Gold Glove and the Silver Slugger award at first base.
Oh, the Yankees were well aware of his annual struggles in April. But in 2010 the Yankees were not prepared for his struggles after April.
After hitting a career worst .136 in April with two home runs and nine RBIs, Teixeira seemed to break out it in May, when he hit .280 with six home runs and 25 RBIs. 
But June was a month of regression and Teixeira was simply MIA through most of the month. It has only been in his last 16 games that Teixeira has been consistently getting hits, providing power and driving in runs.
In that span Texeira is hitting .323 with four home runs and 16 RBIs. The fact that the Yankees had the best record in baseball with their No. 3 hitter mired in the worst slump in his career actually speaks volumes of what may be possible if Teixeira finishes 2010 just like he did in 2009.
You have heard many so-called baseball experts say “Isn’t it amazing that with all the struggles (fill-in-the-blank) has had at the plate that he does not carry it into the field.”
It is nonsense. Just because Teixeira is not hitting does not mean he is going to start dropping foul pops, firing double-play relays into left-field and muff easy grounders. Teixeira is an extraordinary defender and his hitting never will affect those skills.
This season Teixeira is showing he deserves a second Gold Glove. He has only one error and he still saves the infielders countless throwing errors with his ability to scoop and stretch for errant tosses.
It is also a good thing that Teixeira is a durable player. The plan for 2010 was to give Tex some days off at first by putting him at DH and playing Nick Johnson, a pretty good fielder in his own right, at first.
That plan added up to two games that Johnson started. He is now on the DL and he is not due back until August at the earliest. So Teixeira likely will continue to start just about every game at first base until Johnson returns.
As long as Teixeira continues to hit and produce like his capable, that will be no problem for manager Joe Girardi.
Teixeira’s overall first half grade is a C. His fielding counts for most of it and there is hope that he can continue to pull that batting average up. On April 16, Teixeira was batting .083. At the midway point he was hitting .243. 
Considering he is career .287 hitter, it looks like he is on his way back to respectable numbers and can look forward to a productive second half.
Down on the farm, the Yankees have Juan Miranda, who started three games first base earlier in the season. Miranda, 27, is hitting .280 with nine home runs and 22 RBIs at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Miranda was sent back down but could be recalled if the Yankees fail to acquire a bench player who can play first and hit left-handed or if Johnson’s wrist problems keep him out the rest of the season.

The Yankees rely on Teixeira to hit for power and drive in runs. They did not get either from him consistently in the first half. But he has put together six consecutive seasons in which he hit 30 or more home runs and driven in 105 or more runs. 
Teixeira had 13 home runs and 53 RBIs at the midway point. So there is every indication that the 30-year-old veteran first baseman will meet or exceed those numbers again. Johnson’s return would help with depth at the position and could allow Teixeira to take day off or DH a bit down the stretch.

Duensing, Twins Relegate Yankees To Losing  Spring

Transmission of this report was delayed by technical difficulties.


TAMPA – J.J. Hardy had two hits, scored a run and drove in another and left-hander Brian Duensing gave up one run in five innings as a Minnesota Twins split squad defeated the New York Yankees 4-2 on Wednesday at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL.
Duensing (1-2) gave up four hits, walked none and struck two to get the victory. Minor league reliever Tim Lahey pitched a perfect ninth inning to earn a save. Phil Hughes (0-4) took the loss.
The loss dropped the Yankees’ spring record to 12-15 and will prevent them from finishing the Grapefruit League schedule with a winning record. The Twins are now 15-12.

  • Hughes did not pitch poorly but he was inconsistent. He struck out the first two batters of the game and then gave up a single, a walk and two singles for two runs. He then retired 12 of the next 13 batters he faced until Orlando Hudson tripled and Hardy followed with a double that knocked him out of the game. 
  • First baseman Juan Miranda may have his major league path blocked by Mark Teixeira and Nick Johnson but he was 3-for-3 on Wednesday with a single, a double and a home run, his second spring homer.
  • Alex Rodriguez blasted a line-drive, opposite field home run in the fourth inning off Duensing. It was his second home run of the spring.
  • Lefty Boone Logan was called up to retire left-hand hitter Jason Kubel in the fifth inning and he struck him out. Logan’s spring ERA is 1.93.
  • It took Joba Chamberlain only nine pitches to retire the side in order in the seventh inning. 
  • It took Chan Ho Park only 10 pitches to retire the side in order in the eighth inning.

  • Hughes needs to learn how make smarter pitches to minimize the damage. In the first inning he could not find a way to get Delmon Young out with two on and two out. Young singled in a run on an 0-2 pitch. That is a no-no.
  • David Robertson may be experimenting but he is not looking sharp. He gave a long home run to minor league first baseman Brock Peterson. His spring ERA is now 5.14.
  • Duensing, who the Yankees defeated in Game 1 of the League Division Series last October, had the number of Marcus Thames, Jorge Posada, Nick Swisher, Brett Gardner and Ramiro Pena. They were a combined 0-for-12 off Duensing.
  • Gardner did not get a ball out of the infield in grounding out in all of four of his at-bats. His spring average plummeted to .200. He hot .371 last spring to win the center-field job. This season a lack of competition has ceded him a starting outfield job despite his struggles.
  • Marcus Thames ran his spring strikeout total to 21 in the first inning. He leads the club in that category.

In what has to be a “what are the odds?” record Denard Span fouled a line drive into the crowd of 10,298 fans at Steinbrenner Field in the first inning and managed to hit his mother
, Wanda Wilson, in the chest. Paramedics treated her and she was fine enough to refuse to leave the game. She stayed to watch the rest of the game from seats further up in the shade. . . . Span was so shaken by the event he left the game in the bottom of the third inning. . . . Rumors persist that general manager Brian Cashman might be shopping some of the Yankees’ spare bullpen parts for a right-hand hitting outfielder. Marcus Thames and Randy Winn have not been impressive this spring and the Yankees might explore what is out there early in the season.

Braves Pound Sabathia, Yankees For 9-6 Victory

Transmission of this report was delayed by technical difficulties.


LAKE BUENA VISTA – Reserve infielder Omar Infante laced a pinch-hit double to right to score Brent Clevlen in the eighth inning to break a 6-6 tie as the Atlanta Braves defeated a New York Yankees split squad 9-6 on Tuesday at Champions Field.
Reliever Takashi Saito (2-0) pitched a perfect eighth inning to earn the victory. Billy Wagner pitched the ninth to earn his second save of the spring. Zack Segovia (1-1) took the loss.
The Yankees spring record fell to 11-14. The Braves are now 16-9-1.

  • Jorge Posada had a great day with the bat. In the first inning he singled and scored on a Robinson Cano double. In the seventh inning he victimized former teammate Scott Proctor with a two-run home run that tied the game at 6. Posada is batting a robust .394 on the spring.
  • Cano, not to be outdone, had a single along with that RBI double to raise his spring batting average to .354.
  • Nick Swisher collected his first home run of the spring, a solo shot he hit to the opposite field in the second inning.
  • Curtis Granderson and Juan Miranda had back-to-back RBI hits in the sixth inning off relief pitcher Cory Gearrin. Granderson singled in Posada and Granderson drove in Miranda with a double.
  • Brett Gardner stole his sceond base of the spring in the seventh inning off Proctor. He later scored on Posada’s home run.
  • Cano caught a wind-blown pop-up off the bat of catcher Clint Sammons in the second inning and neatly fired to Miranda at first base to double off outfielder Matt Diaz.

  • No one will say anything publicly but privately the Yankees are concerned about CC Sabathia after he was blasted for eight hits, a walk and five earned runs in 4 2/3 innings by the Braves. Sabathia spring ERA ended up at 7.23 and that does not count the seven runs he gave up to some Philadelphia Phillies minor leaguers in “B” game in his last start. The Yankees are hoping it is just “spring training rust” and not pointing to other potential mechanical or physical problems.
  • Minor-league third baseman was the only non-pitcher and starter in the lineup who did not get a hit in the game. He did not get a ball out of the infield, was 0-for-4 and even hit into a double play in the fourth inning. Though he is buried way behind Alex Rodriguez at third base, Laird is hitting .276 this spring and shows great promise in the field.
  • Segovia pitched a perfect seventh inning and threw only 12 pitches. But in the eighth he walked two consecutive batters after one out before giving up consecutive RBI hits to Infante and Matt Young. After striking out a batter for the second out, Segovia then surrendered a single to reserve infielder Joe Thurston that turned a 6-6 tie into a 9-6 Braves’ lead.

Manager Joe Girardi got his wish to see “switch-pitcher” Pat Venditte pitch in a game this spring. Venditte got Sabathia off the hoof from further damage in the fifth inning by retiring Yunel Escobar in the fifth pitching left-handed.Venditte was touched for a run in the sixth as the Braves loaded the bases and Young hit a sacrifice fly to score pinch-runner Mitch Jones. Venditte, who is a 20th-round Yankee draft selection shows a lot of promise as the majors’ only ambidextrous pitcher.  He is more than a novelty. He has the ability to be a pretty good reliever . . . The game drew a standing-room only crowd of 11,112 to Champions Field in Lake Buena Vista, FL, which is part of Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex.  . . . The “Disney Magic” touches are on display here in this fan friendly paradise. Thi
s is the only complex in Florida that has a separate line for fans without bags so you do not have to wait for bag and purse searches to get into the park. Disney employees also cheerfully hand out the days’ starting lineups with a free scorebook page with the batters’ up-to-date spring statistics. Employees also hand out napkins to fans at the condiment stations. They also boast a sixth-inning beer special by sending out vendors selling old-time brands like Miller and Old Milwaukee in 16-ounce cans for $3 apiece. Steinbrenner Field, not that it is in lacking as a first-class facility, should take a page from the Disney customer service playbook.  . . . Our old friend Melky Cabrera started for the Braves in right-field and had a double and infield single in the game. He began the day hitting .263 this spring.  . . . Girardi actually won an argument with umpires in the fifth inning. Troy Glaus, who had a lead-off double in the fourth inning off Sabatha, took Sabathia back to the wall in left-centerfield that was called a home run by second-base umpire Chad Fairchild. However, the ball actually landed on the top of the padding of the wall and Granderson caught it as it bounded back into play. So the umpires conferred and ruled it a double instead.

Gaudin’s Meltdown Allows Rays To Outshine Yankees


Ben Zobrist singled in Evan Longoria in the sixth inning to break a 2-2- tie as the Tampa Bay Rays went on to defeat a New York Yankees split squad 6-2 on Friday night in Port Charlotte, FL.
Rays reliever Mark Ekstrom (2-0) pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings to earn the victory. Chad Gaudin (0-3) took the loss.
The Yankees’ spring record is now 8-9. The Rays are now 12-4.

  • Sergio Mitre did a reasonable impersonation of Roy Halladay for three innings and pitched a sensational five innings. He gave up two runs on two hits and walk and he fanned seven Rays. He pitched a perfect three innings to start the game, striking out five of the first nine batters he faced. Mitre, competing to be the team’s No. 5 starter, lowered his spring ERA to 3.21.
  • Curtis Granderson, who has been slumping most of the spring, was 2-for-2 and also reached when he was hit on the back of the hand by a pitch.
  • Juan Miranda, who is ticketed for a return trip to Triple A, was 2-for-4 with a single and a solo home run in the fourth inning off the Rays’ Jeff Niemann. 
  • Brett Gardner triggered a two-out scoring opportunity in the third inning with an infield single. He moved to second after Granderson was hit with a pitch. He scored on a single.
  • Nick Swisher drove in Gardner with that single on Niemann’s first offering. Swisher is tied with Nick Johnson for second on the team in RBIs this spring with six. Colin Curtis leads the team with seven.
  • Speaking of Curtis, he came into the game in the seventh inning and singled in his only at-bat. He is now hitting .545.
  • Mega-prospect Jesus Montero doubled to left in his only at-bat and he is hitting .375.

  • For all the superlatives you can muster for Mitre, the opposite can be said for Chad Gaudin. For the third straight outing Gaudin struggled mightily and was tagged with a loss. In 2 1/3 innings the Rays pounded him for four runs (three earned) on seven hits and three walks. Gaudin’s spring ERA ballooned to 8.68 and he appears to fallen to dead last in the five-man competition for the No. 5 starter spot. The question is now: Will he even make the staff at all?
  • Randy Winn is making that $1.5 million investment in his free-agent contract seem like a terrible mistake. He was 0-for-3 and is now hitting .167 on the spring with seven strikeouts in 24 at-bats.
  • Gaudin did not help his cause much with two wild pitches.
  • Mitre committed a balk in the fourth that allowed Evan Longoria to score from third on a groundout.
  • Ramiro Pena, Brandon Laird and Eduardo Nunez, who comprised the No. 7, 8 and 9 hitters in the Yankees’ lineup, combined to go 0-for-8 with three strikeouts.

Johnny Damon did not make the trip to Tampa with the Tigers’ spilt squad. He traveled to Lake Buena Vista, FL as the Tigers faced the Braves. Damon hit his second home run of the spring and is now hitting .333. But the Yankees have Randy Winn! . . . Former Yankees Austin Jackson and reliever Phil Coke did make the trip. Jackson was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts — he was caught looking on both. Coke pitched a perfect inning in the fifth. Jackson is hitting .389 this spring and Coke is struggling with a 6.14 ERA. . . . After Friday’s afternoon contest, the Yankees optioned righty reliever Romulo Sanchez to Triple-A Scranton and reassigned right=hander Ryan Pope to minor-league camp. The team roster is now at 50. . . . Manager Joe Girardi could hardly contain his enthusiasm for the way Sabathia pitched on Friday. He said, “I really liked what CC did today.” In particular, Girardi was pleased with Sabathia’s command of his pitches. . . . The Yankees split their squad by keeping their infielders at Tampa and sending the starting outfielders and catcher Jorge Posada to Port Charlotte.

The Yankees make their only trip of the spring to Kissimmee, FL to face the Houston Astros on Saturday afternoon. The Yankees will start Alfredo Aceves, who is making a strong case to be the No. 5 starter with an ERA of 0.90 this spring. He will be opposed by former Phillies right-hander Brett Myers.
Game time is 1:05 p.m. EDT. There will be no broadcast of the game.