YANKEES 4, ORIOLES 3
The Yankees started the second half of the season with a lead that they hoped they could maintain. In order to that they were looking for continued production from the two biggest bats in their lineup in Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez.
On Wednesday, both those two bats delivered some big blows that left the Orioles in their dust.
Teixeira hit a two-run home run in the first inning and Rodriguez added a mammoth tape-measure solo blast in the fifth to back six strong innings by right-hander Ivan Nova as New York clinched the three-game series with Baltimore in front of a paid crowd of 43,887 at Yankee Stadium.
In what has been their trademark all season the Yankees jumped on right-hander Kevin Gausman (1-2) in the first inning as Jacoby Ellsbury led off by slicing a double down the right field line.
Brett Gardner followed with a lined single up the middle into center that scored Ellsbury. One out later, Teixeira cranked out his 24th home run of the season into the bleachers in right field to give the Yankees an early 3-0 lead.
Nova, making only his fifth start of the season, was able to hold that lead despite running into some difficulty in both the third and fifth innings.
J.J. Hardy led off the third inning by lacing a single to left and Ryan Flaherty followed by smacking his fourth home run of the season to the bleachers right-center to bring the Orioles to within a run.
Later that same inning Nova gave up a one-out double to Manny Machado. But he stranded him by getting Travis Snider and Adam Jones on groundouts.
In the fifth, Nova issued walks to both Hardy and Flaherty to start the frame and Caleb Joseph advanced them with a sacrifice bunt. However, Nova wriggled out of trouble by retiring Machado and Snider on groundouts.
Gausman was able to recover from the first inning to retire 12 of the next 14 batters he faced until there was one out in the fifth and Rodriguez hit an estimated 453-foot blast into the base of the wall in front of the bleachers in left-center for his 20th home run of the season.
The home run also marked Rodriguez’s 3,024th career hit, which moved him past Lou Brock to 24th on the all-time hit list.
Gausman was charged with four runs on six hits and two walks with four strikeouts in six innings.
Nova surrendered two runs on three hits and three walks with three strikeouts before turning the game over to the bullpen in the seventh.
Left-hander Chasen Shreve and right-hander Dellin Betances pitched a perfect seventh and eighth innings, respectively. Left-handed closer Andrew Miller pitched around a solo home run by Chris Davis with on out in the ninth to record his 22nd save in 22 chances this season.
With the victory the Yankees have improved their season record to 52-41 and the 11 games over .500 is a season high for them. They also remain five games in front of the second-place Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East.
The Orioles fell under .500 to 46-47 and they are now six games behind the Yankees.
- Texeira is not letting up on what has been a revival season for him. He was 2-for-4 with a double, a home run, a run scored and two RBIs. He leads the Yankees in home runs (24) and RBIs (65). he also has more extra-base base hits (44) than he does singles (34).
- If anyone believes that Rodriguez’s first half was a fluke you can dispel that myth now. At age 39, Rodriguez can still turn on a mid-90s fastball. It was his first home run since July 12 against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. He now has 20 homers and 54 RBIs on the season.
- Nova, 28, is still trying to find his rhythm after missing most of last season having to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. But this effort was a step in the right direction. Nova was able to keep both his curveball and his two-seam fastball down in the strike zone and that led to nine of his 18 outs coming on ground balls. This is start Nova can build upon after losing three straight starts.
- Last night the bottom part of the order was actually responsible for pushing across the game-winning run. But they took a step backward in this game. Chase Headley (batting seventh), Didi Gregorius (eighth) and Stephen Drew (ninth) combined to go 0-for-8 with a walk and three strikeouts. Gregorius lined out to left in the sixth and that was the only ball they got out of the infield.
The Yankees will have a chance to sweep their division rivals and deal a serious blow to their playoff hopes on Thursday.
Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (6-3, 3.65 ERA) will get the call for the Yankees. Tanaka, 26, is coming off a victory against the Seattle Mariners on Friday in which he yielded three runs on five hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in seven innings. He does not have a victory in his career against the Orioles.
The Orioles will counter with right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez (7-5, 3.29 ERA). Jimenez, 31, is coming off a disastrous shelling in which he gave up seven runs and three home runs in just 4 2/3 innings in a loss to the Detroit Tigers on Friday.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 3, ORIOLES 2
Tough luck and injuries shelved Brendan Ryan for most of spring training and he was making only his fourth start of the season on Tuesday. But in the bottom of the sixth inning he delivered a tie-breaking RBI double that gave the Yankees an important victory.
Ryan’s two-out double off scored Didi Gregorius from first base and the Yankees’ vaunted bullpen shut down the Orioles over the final three innings as New York extended their lead in the American League East to five games by edging Baltimore in front of a paid crowd of 37,993 at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees had held an early 2-0 lead on left-hander Wei-Yin Chen and the Orioles after scoring a pair of runs in the first two innings.
Jacoby Ellsbury opened the bottom of the first with a ground-rule double, reached third on a sacrifice bunt by Brett Gardner and scored on a sacrifice fly by Alex Rodriguez, his 53rd RBI of the season.
Brian McCann led off the second inning with an opposite-field single and Chris Young followed with a single of his own. Chase Headley then scored McCann on an RBI double down the line in left.
Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, who was seeking his 10th victory, held the Orioles scoreless over the first five innings, yielding only an infield single to Adam Jones with two out in the fourth and three walks. However, he ran into difficulty in the sixth.
Jimmy Paredes stroked a one-out single and Jones reached on another infield single. One out later, Matt Wieters laced an RBI single to right to score Paredes.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi replaced Eovaldi with left-hander Justin Wilson and J.J. Hardy greeted him with a lined single to right that scored Jones but Wieters was retired in a rundown attempting to advance to third.
Eovaldi, who has not lost a game since June 16, was charged with two runs on four hits and three walks with four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.
The Yankees, however, were able to break through against Chen (4-6) in the sixth when Gregorius slapped an opposite-field single to left with two out. That set the stage for Ryan, who pulled a 0-1 fastball down the left-field line that scored Gregorius easily with the tie-breaking run.
Chen was charged with three runs on 10 hits and no walks with three strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings of work.
Wilson (3-0) pitched an inning of scoreless relief to earn the victory and the “Twin Towers” of right-hander Dellin Betances and left-hander Andrew Miller combined to hold the Orioles to just one hit over the final 2 1/3 innings to close out the victory.
Miller threw a nine-pitch 1-2-3 inning in the ninth to notch his 20th save in 20 opportunities this season.
With the victory the Yankees are now 51-41 and they are five games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays, the Toronto Blue Jays and the Orioles, who are in a three-way tie for second place in the division. The Orioles fell to 46-46.
- Ryan is fortunate that he has a guaranteed two-year contract because he very well could have lost his roster spot to rookie Rob Refsnyder. But the Yankees chose to keep both the weak-hitting Stephen Drew and Ryan instead and it paid off on Tuesday. “It’s been obviously pretty frustrating. I haven’t really gotten to contribute in the first half at all, with injury after injury,” Ryan told reporters. “Hopefully that’s all behind me. I was excited to get the opportunity today, and obviously glad that I was able to come through.”
- The bottom three spots in the order have been a black hole most of the season for the Yankees but Headley (hitting seventh), Gregorius (eighth) and Ryan (ninth) combined to go 4-for-12 (.333) with two doubles, two singles, one run scored and two RBIs. Ryan likely will continue to start at second base against left-handers because Drew is batting .215 in 65 at-bats against lefties. Of course, Drew is batting .168 against right-handers so why he is still on the roster at all is a head-scratcher.
- Betances and Miller continue to dominate hitters out of the bullpen. The pair are a combined 6-3 with 28 saves, a 1.42 ERA and 132 strikeouts in 82 2/3 innings. It also appears after adding right-hander Adam Warren and getting Miller back off the disabled list, the bullpen has hit its stride again. It is the strength of this club and the major reason why the team is in first place.
- While Gregorius and Ryan came up big in the sixth inning, Chen was using them to escape big innings earlier in the game. In the second inning with Young on third and Headley on second and no outs, Gregorius struck out and Ryan popped up weakly. In the fourth inning with Young on second and Headley on first with one out, Gregorius flew out to center and Ryan grounded into a force out to end the threat. As a result, the Yankees were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and could not give Eovaldi a big enough lead to protect.
- The Yankees also had a chance to extend their lead in the seventh when right-hander Tommy Hunter entered the game with one out and walked Rodriguez, allowed a double to Teixeira and walked McCann intentionally to load the bases. With the Yankees forced to keep the righty-handed-hitting Young in the game for his defense, he struck out swinging and Headley grounded out to leave the bases loaded. Ouch!
The Yankees will have a chance to win the series and deal another huge blow the Orioles with a victory on Wednesday.
Right-hander Ivan Nova (1-3, 3.42 ERA) will make his fifth start of the season for the Yankees. Nova was tagged for four runs on eight hits with three strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings in a 5-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox on July 11, marking the first time in his career he has lost three consecutive starts.
The Orioles are expected to call up right-hander Kevin Gausman (1-1, 5.00 ERA) from Triple-A Norfolk to start this game. Gausman was optioned on July 8 in order to keep him on a five-day schedule. He was hammered for eight runs (seven earned) on seven hits and one walk in 3 2/3 innings in a loss to the Minnesota Twins on July 7.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by ESPN and locally by the YES Network.
ORIOLES 4, YANKEES 3
Adam Jones drove in two runs and Miguel Gonzalez limited the Yankees to one run while he struck out a career-high 10 batters as Baltimore withstood a late rally by New York to win on a shower-filled Tuesday evening at Oriole Park in Camden Yards.
The Orioles took an early 3-0 lead against left-hander CC Sabathia on a two-out solo home run by Jones in the first inning, a sacrifice fly RBI by Jones in the third and a costly two-out RBI double by Caleb Joseph in the fourth.
Gonzalez (1-1) limited the Yankees to just two hits until the sixth inning when Jacoby Ellsbury led off with a single, advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored on a two-out double by Mark Teixeira.
The Orioles added a run in the seventh on a leadoff triple by Joseph and sacrifice fly RBI off the bat of Everth Cabrera.
Sabathia (0-2) pitched well but still yielded four runs on seven hits and one walk while he struck out seven in seven innings.
Gonzalez, however, surrendered one run on four hits and one walk in seven innings to earn the victory.
The Yankees mounted a late rally against right-hander Kevin Gausman in the eighth when Didi Gregorius reached on a bloop single. After Alejandro De Aza made a running catch of Ellsbury’s opposite-field fly ball, Chase Headley singled to advance Gregorius to third.
Then second baseman Jonathan Schoop made a diving stop of Carlos Beltran’s ground ball to retire Beltran as Gregorius scored.
Then Teixiera lofted a fly ball into left that ticked off De Aza’s glove for an error and allowed Headley to score to cut the deficit to one run.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter was forced to bring his closer, left-hander Zach Britton, to quell the rally with the tying run on second.
Schoop made another running grab of Brian McCann’ roller into shallow right-field to end the rally.
Britton pitched a perfect ninth to earn his second save of the season.
The Yankees are now 3-5 on the season. The Orioles are 4-4.
- Sabathia was plagued by an inability to pitch one clean inning. He was tagged by single hits in every inning he pitched except the fourth when he yielded two. Still, with all that, the Yankees’ inability to score him any runs doomed him despite his seven strikeouts. So you can say that Sabathia was outpitched but he was not outclassed.
- Teixeira looks locked in at the plate in the early going. He drove in one run with a double and his fly ball did allow Headley to score. While most of the Yankees are struggling with the bat, Teixeira appears to be primed for a big season in the cleanup spot.
- Beltran has been struggling to find his groove and yet he was 1-for-4 with an RBI and he hit the ball hard in each trip to the plate. His grounder in the eighth almost was a single and the play by Schoop that retired him saved the Orioles was the crucial play of the game.
- I am not a big fan of Garrett Jones. The veteran first baseman/outfielder struggled all through spring training and he has started the season off slowly as well. He was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and he bounced back weakly to the pitcher in his first at-bat. He is hitting .154. Jones is being paid to hit right-hand pitching and if he doesn’t the Yankees will have to look elsewhere.
- McCann looked as if he was getting hot and then he regressed on Tuesday by going 0-for-4 on four groundouts. The Yankees need McCann to deliver big numbers in power and RBIs this season. His at-bat against Britton in the eighth was critical and he failed to deliver.
- Sabathia is a waste of space as a fielder. The Yankees had a potential double-play ball in the second inning off the bat of Chris Davis. Teixiera fielded it and he threw to Gregorius to retire Delmon Young, who had singled. But when Gregorius made the return throw to first, Sabathia failed to cover the bag. Second baseman Stephen Drew tried to cover but was late. Later that inning, Sabathia was charged with an error when his throw to retire Joseph hit the runner. Luckily he retired De Aza to end the inning without a run scoring. Once again, manager Joe Girardi needs to lay down the law on Sabathia to do his job.
Starting left-fielder Brett Gardner did not play on Tuesday and Girardi said he likely will serve as a defensive replacement and pinch-runner until Friday. Gardner was struck on the right wrist by a pitch from left-hander Wei-Yin Chen on Monday and he was forced to leave the game in the seventh inning.
The Yankees will try to win the series against the Orioles on Wednesday.
Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi will make his second start of the season for the Yankees. Eovaldi had a sensational spring but he had a bit of a hiccup in his first start against the Boston Red Sox on Friday. He was charged with three runs on eight hits and a walk while he struck out one in 5 1/3 innings of a game that lasted 19. The Red Sox won it, 6-5.
The Orioles will call on right-hander Bud Norris, who was gouged for eight runs on seven hits and one walk in just three innings by the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday. The Orioles say they are not concerned about Norris but he was 0-3 with a 9.26 ERA this spring.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
ORIOLES 3, YANKEES 1
Manny Machado went 3-for-3, drove in a run and stole a base while left-hander Wei-Yin Chen held the Yankees to one hit in three innings as Baltimore edged New York on Tuesday at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, FL.
Jonathan Schoop and Machado broke up a scoreless tie in the fifth inning with back-to-back RBI hits off right-hander Branden Pinder. The Orioles added a run in the seventh when Rey Navarro blasted a home run over the left-field fence off left-hander Chasen Shreve.
The Yankees scored their lone run of the game when catching prospect Gary Sanchez notched his first home run of the spring in the eighth inning off right-hander Logan Verrett.
Right-hander Kevin Gausman followed Chen with two shutout innings to get credit for the victory. Pinder (0-1) took the loss. Despite giving up the home run Verrett earned a save.
The Yankees’ spring record dropped to 5-3.
Though he was handed the third-base job the second he signed a four-year, $52-million contract to remain with the team, Chase Headley is almost an invisible man in spring camp.
All the attention seems to be going to Alex Rodriguez, Didi Gregorius, Aaron Judge and Masahiro Tanaka. But, hey, that is just the way the 30-year-old Colorado native likes it. He just focuses on his work.
Headley entered the day 1-for-10 in early Grapefruit League action. But he fixed that by going 3-for-3 with two singles and ringing double off the wall in left-center in his last at-bat in the sixth inning. He exited the game for a pinch-runner and is now 4-for-14 (.286).
So much was made of A-Rod’s return to baseball it seemed that few people noticed that Headley was the third baseman, period. If Rodriguez wanted a job with the Yankees he would have to look elsewhere.
The Yankees became enamored with Headley after they acquired him from the San Diego Padres in July trade for Yangervis Solarte and right-hander Rafael De Paula. Headley batted .262 with six home runs and 17 RBIs in 58 games with the Yankees.
More important than his hitting was the fact that the former Gold Glove third baseman brought stability to a position that was pretty much a mess all season because Rodriguez was under a full season suspension by Major League Baseball for using performance enhancing drugs.
The Yankees want Headley to stabilize the position for the immediate future and Headley is just fine with that.
Tuesday was just another day at the office for him. It showed in his humility after the game.
“Personally, it’s early and you don’t take a whole lot out of it, good or bad,” Headley told reporters. “But it’s definitely nice to hit the ball on the barrel a few times and feel good about yourself. You know that the work you’re doing in the cage is starting to carry over a little bit.”
Keep working, Chase.
- It is a good thing that Headley was on the bus for Sarasota because if you erase his three hits the rest of the Yankees only managed three other hits. The Yankees are hoping that the back issues that Headley suffered through in 2013 and 2014 are behind him because Headley is capable of more than the 13 homers he has produced in the past two seasons.
- Sanchez, 22, may not getting much buzz either because of flashier prospects like Judge, Greg Bird, Luis Severino and Rob Refsynder. But make no mistake that he is a prized prospect still. Sanchez’s long blast to left-center showed how much he can contribute offensively as a catcher. He hit 13 homers at Double-A Trenton last season. He is still young and the Yankees love his potential.
- Chase Whitley, 25, started for the Yankees and did a bit of a Houdini act by escaping unscored upon despite giving up three hits and two walks in three innings. With two men on in the first Whitley managed to escape by getting Adam Jones on a popup and Matt Wieters on a groundout. Though he was not as sharp as he would have liked, Whitley at least battled to keep the Orioles off the board.
- Gregorius went 0-for-3 and is now 1-for-12 (.083) with four strikeouts this spring. The Yankees are letting the 25-year-old shortstop hit off lefties this spring and it is obvious it is a work in progress. Gregorius did not look comfortable against Chen at all.
- It was obvious that Pinder, 26, did not have it all. When he entered the game in the fifth he immediately yielded a single to Ryan Lavarnway, threw a wild pitch and then gave up the RBI double to Schoop and the RBI single to Machado. Pinder is coming off an injury-plagued season even though he was 3-0 with a 2.04 with three teams last season.
- I will keep saying it until I am blue in the face but second base is the weakest position in the Yankees 2015 lineup. Stephen Drew was 0-for-3 in the game is now 1-for-11 (.091). With Jose Pirela and Refsnyder breathing down his neck you think he would push himself to do better after hitting .162 last season.
The Yankees will play host to their hated rival Boston Red Sox on Wednesday at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
The Yankees will call upon left-hander Chris Capuano (0-1) to start. Capuano, 36, was tagged for a two-run homer by Tony Sanchez in the second inning and took a 3-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates in his first outing on Friday.
The Bosox will counter with 26-year-old right-hander Joe Kelly, who was hammered for seven hits and four runs in 1 2/3 innings in his first start.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
With the opening of the New York Yankees spring training camp in Tampa, FL, we will now look at each position on the team to assess their chances in 2015. After a disappointing 2014 season with a roster riddled with significant injuries the Yankees have reshuffled the deck with a lot of fresh faces to join some old ones. Let’s look at them.
Mark Teixeira, 34 (.216,22 HRs, 62 RBIs, 123 games)
There was a time not long ago that Teixeira was considered to be among the best players at his position and he was a feared hitter in the middle of Yankees’ lineup.
But the past three seasons Teixeira has had to deal with a series of injuries that have rendered him ineffective when he did play and unavailable to play for long stretches. He has played in only 138 games in the past two seasons largely because of a wrist injury he suffered in March 2013.
Teixeira was taking batting practice before an exhibition game for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic when he tore the sheath in his right wrist. Rather than surgery on the wrist, Teixeira elected to rehab it and come back to play for the Yankees in May of 2013.
However, after 15 excruciatingly painful games Teixeira had to admit he needed surgery and 2o13 ended up being a lost season after he hit just .151 with three homers and 12 RBIs.
So Teixiera entered 2014 hopeful that after the surgery in July and a chance to heal slowly that he would be back to averaging the 37 homers and 114 RBIs he put up for the Yankees from 2009 to 2012.
After a cautious spring things looked good when Teixiera displayed his old power and he was producing offense for a very weak Yankees’ lineup. There also were some hints along the way that things were still not right with the wrist.
Early in the season he suffered a calf strain that shelved him for two weeks and then there were short stretches where Teixeira had to admit to manager Joe Girardi that he could not play because wrist was sore.
Many MRIs and cortisone shots followed and Teixeira learned from doctors that the wrist surgery was successful and the soreness was normal. But it pained Teixiera that he could not suit up and play. Even more, he also could not produce the power and runs the team needed when it so badly needed it.
Teixeira was not able to generate much for the Yankees in the second half, hitting only five homers after the All-Star break. He also struggled from the right side of the plate, where he managed just four of his 22 home runs.
There also were signs of fatigue from not being able to work out over the winter as he would have liked because of the surgery. He also suffered through a ribcage injury, a left lat strain and an injury to his left pinkie finger.
The problem for Girardi and the Yankees was exacerbated by the fact that the Yankees had precious little power at all and there was no one on the roster who specifically was designated to play first base behind Teixiera in 2014.
As a result, the Yankees were forced to use eight other players when Teixeira was sidelined: Kelly Johnson (23 starts), Brian McCann (11), Chase Headley (6), Francisco Cervelli (5), Scott Sizemore (1) and Carlos Beltran, Brendan Ryan and Austin Romine were moved there during games.
None of these players had any significant experience at the position and it showed.
Teixeira has always been considered among the best fielding first basemen in baseball. He has five Gold Gloves to his credit, including three of them won with the Yankees. But even that skill left Teixeira to some degree last season.
After averaging 4.3 errors a season over 10 seasons in the major leagues, Teixiera committed six in just 116 starts in 2014.
The Yankees do have to be asking themselves if Teixeira is in a permanent decline due to advancing age or can he somehow regain his health enough to produce the 39 homers and 111 RBIs he produced in 156 games in 2011.
The other problem Teixeira has had to face is his sinking batting averages.
From his second season with the Texas Rangers in 2004 through his first season with the Yankees in 2009, Teixiera never hit below .281 while hitting all those home runs and driving in all those runs.
But since 2010 Teixeira has never batted above .256. Teixeira even understood this and tried to correct it in 2012. But he gave up when he realized that he was signed in 2009 by the Yankees to a eight-year, $180 million contract to hit a lot of home runs and drive in a lot of runs no matter where his batting average landed.
So Teixeira continues to take a pull-happy approach and utilize an uppercut swing designed to elevate the ball over the short porch in right-field. That is why he receives a pretty steady diet of breaking pitches and a lot of pitches on the outside corner that are harder for him to pull. Hence, the lower batting averages.
At this point, the Yankees open camp hoping that Teixeira is healthy and the wrist is no longer an issue. After all, both David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox and Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays were able to put up great numbers in their second season after similar wrist surgeries. The same should hold for Teixeira.
The Yankees, however, do have a fallback position for Teixeira in 2015 to make up for the grievously stupid mistake they made of not having an experienced backup in 2014.
The Yankees were able to acquire veteran first baseman and outfielder Garrett Jones from the Miami Marlins in December as part of a five-player deal where the Yankees shipped infielder Martin Prado in exchange for right-hander Nathan Eovaldi.
Jones, 33, is a left-handed hitter with power who hit 15 homers and drove in 53 runs in 146 games with the Marlins last season, primarily as their starting first baseman (122 starts).
Much like Teixeira, Jones is not looking to win a batting title. He has averaged .253 in his seven major-league seasons. But he also has hit 117 home runs in that span, including a career-high of 27 for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012.
So Jones gives Girardi and the Yankees some flexibility if Teixeira can’t answer the bell for a game or two this season or is simply in need of a day off. Jones’ power also means the Yankees won’t suffer as much of a dropoff without Tex.
It is first time the Yankees have had a creditable backup for Teixeira since the Yankees had outfielder Nick Swisher, who the Yankees allowed to walk as free agent after the 2012 season.
The Yankees attempted to trade for Jones in the past when he was with the Pirates but were not successful. The reason general manager Brian Cashman wanted Jones so badly is because he has a swing tailor-made for Yankee Stadium’s shorter dimensions in right field.
“Obviously, his left-handed bat is made for our ballpark,” Cashman told reporters. “You saw us go through a season last year where we didn’t have a legitimate backup first baseman. Now we do.”
Jones came to the major leagues as an outfielder and he is not considered a skilled fielder at first base. He committed 13 errors there last season. But even with the defensive shortcomings it is good to know he can play the position for significant stretches if he is needed.
Jones’ versatility also makes him a potential backup in right field for Beltran, who also went through a injury-plagued 2014 season that was derailed by a bone spur in his right elbow. Jones has started as many as 78 games in a season in the outfield in his career and Girardi would be comfortable playing him there if he is needed.
In addition, Jones is the odds-on favorite to be the team’s primary designated hitter this season. Because of Jones’ defensive shortcomings he is a natural DH because the Yankees would love to have his power bat available on a team that desperately needs it in 2015.
Behind Jones the Yankees may be doing some experimentation this spring with third baseman Alex Rodriguez.
The 39-year-old veteran might see some work at the position this spring since Headley is projected to start the season as the team’s third baseman. Though Rodriguez did move from shortstop to third base when the Yankees signed him as a free agent in 2004, he has never played a single game at first base in his career.
So it remains to be seen how A-Rod will fare at first base. But his former Rangers teammate Teixeira made the switch in 2003 and became proficient. The jury is out on Rodriguez being able to make the same switch at this advanced stage of his career.
And even should he be successful in making the switch, he will not be playing the position much with Teixeira and Jones ahead of him on the depth chart.
The Yankees also were very pleased with what they saw of McCann in the 11 games he started at first base in 2014. McCann, 31, showed good reflexes and some defensive skill at the position.
However, he would just be an emergency candidate in 2015, although we could see the Yankees eventually shift McCann to the position when Teixeira’s contract expires after the 2016 season.
The Yankees also have a potential replacement for Teixeira in their minor-league system named Greg Bird.
The 22-year-old former high school catcher for Baltimore Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman in Aurora, CO, has flourished as a hitter ever since he was moved to first base.
Bird, who bats left-handed, hit a combined .271 with 14 home runs and 43 RBIs in 102 games between Class-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton last season.
Bird takes a very patient approach to the plate and he led the minor leagues with 103 walks in 2013. The Yankees believe he has the ability to hit for both power and average at the major-league level.
Bird was the sensation of Arizona Fall League in 2014. He was named the AFL Most Valuable Player representing Scottsdale this winter. The Yankees have issued him a non-roster invite to spring training.
Realistically, Bird has no shot of making the team. But he will get his first chance to see how he measures up against some of the best in the game. He is ticketed for Double-A with a promotion to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season possible.
In any event, Bird gives the Yankees a solid young player who could be a productive first baseman at the major-league level.
Kyle Roller, 26, hit .300 with 26 home runs and 74 RBIs in 125 games between Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2014. His 26 home runs actually was the not only the best minor-league total, it was also the best in the entire organization.
Unlike Bird, Roller takes more of an all-or-nothing approach to the plate as his 289 strikeouts in his past two minor-league seasons would attest. Though Roller does have very good power from the left side, his path to the majors is blocked.
He also is a non-roster invitee to spring training. He likely will end up at Scranton for another season but could see a temporary call-up should the Yankees need a backup first baseman.
OVERALL POSITION ANALYSIS: GOOD
Because of Teixeira’s declining batting average and injury problems, he is no longer considered among the elite first basemen. Having said that the Yankees still do need a healthy Teixeira in 2015.
They need the more than 30 home runs and 100 RBIs he produced from 2004 to 2011. Only one other first baseman did that for a longer period of time and that was Albert Pujols.
If you throw in Teixiera’s sparkling defense and his ability to save his fellow infielders errors, you have the makings of a quality first baseman. However, Father Time seems to have caught up with Tex.
He begins the spring with a lot to prove this season. The Yankees hope he is up to the challenge. They see him as a player who will fill either the fourth or fifth spot in the batting order so they do have a lot riding on his health.
Having a quality backup like Jones available makes the Yankees feel a whole lot better have the parade of players they out there in 2014. Though his defense is nowhere near that of Teixeira’s, Jones gives the Yankees a productive power bat to deploy at first should Teixeira for some reason be unable to play.
Bird appears to be a potential star in the making if he continues to develop as he has in the minors. It gives the Yankees some hope when the Teixeira era at first base finally ends.
NEXT: SECOND BASE
YANKEES (SS) 6, ORIOLES 0
TAMPA – Michael Pineda pitched 2 2/3 shutout innings in his first start of the spring and Brett Gardner collected two hits, scored two runs and drove in another as a New York split squad blanked Baltimore on Thursday at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Pineda (1-0) yielded three hits, a walk and struck out five in a performance marked by both brilliance and some inconsistency. Pineda reached three-ball counts on five batters.
Meanwhile, the Yankees jumped on Orioles starter Bud Norris (0-1) for a single run in the first and a pair of runs in the second.
Carlos Beltran singled in Gardner in the first and Gardner doubled in Zoilo Almonte in the second. A Norris throwing error trying to nail Gardner at third ended up allowing Gardner to score to give the Yankees an early 3-0 lead.
The Yankees added a run in the fifth on an RBI single by Alfonso Soriano off reliever Kevin Gausman.
The Yankees improved their Grapefruit League record to 8-5-2. The Orioles fell to 9-5.
- Pineda was far from sharp but still showed signs he can definitely handle the No. 5 spot in the rotation. You can pin the inconsistency to his two years of rust. The five strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings shows he has good stuff. He will just have to harness it.
- Gardner hit the ball hard three times and he is now batting .304 on the spring. The Yankees can’t wait to see how Gardner works out of the ninth spot this season with Jacoby Ellsbury leading off.
- Almonte followed up his two-run, game-tying home run in the ninth on Wednesday with a double and a single on Thursday. Almonte will not make the roster but will be a call away at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
- The Yankees hoped that Russ Canzler might have a place on the roster with his power and his ability to play both corner infield and corner outfield spots. Canzler, though, was 0-for-3 on Thursday and struck out swinging each time. He is hitting .158.
- After showing some early promise, Dean Anna is cooling off. He was 0-for-3 on Thursday and he is hitting .316.
The On Deck feature will be in the next post.