Tagged: Kevin Slowey

Headley’s Homer Propels Yankees Past Phillies

GAME 15

YANKEES 3, PHILLIES 2

Chase Headley hit his first home run of the spring to lead off the seventh inning and broke a 1-1 tie as New York edged Philadelphia on Sunday at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL.

Headley’s blast came off a 0-2 pitch from right-hander Kevin Slowey and it landed in the right-field bleachers to give the Yankees a lead they would not relinquish.

Despite giving up the tying run in the top of the seventh inning, David Carpenter (1-0) got credit for the victory. Right-hander Wilking Rodriguez pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his second spring save.

Slowey (2-1) took the loss.

The Yankees improved their spring record to 9-5.

FIELD FOCUS

When the Yankees faced the Miami Marlins in an exhibition game in Panama last spring, Nathan Eovaldi made a definite impression on manager Joe Girardi and the Yankees hitters he faced. There was the 95 mile-per-hour fastball, a slider, a curve and a change-up.

The secondary pitches were passable and ordinary but the right-hander had a fastball that could not be taught. It just sizzled. It was electric.

The fact that Eovaldi was only 6-14 with a 4.37 ERA last season was surprising enough. Even more shocking was that he led National League pitchers in hits allowed with 223 and he registered only 142 strikeouts in 199 2/3 innings.

So the Yankees asked pitching coach Larry Rothschild of he could “fix” Eovaldi enough to make him a better pitcher. Rothschild said he could by working to improve his secondary pitches and getting him to “elevate” his fastball to make it more of a weapon.

So on Dec. 19 the Yankees dealt infielder Martin Prado and right-hander David Phelps to the Marlins in exchange for Eovaldi, first-baseman/outfielder Garrett Jones and right-handed pitching prospect Domingo German.

This spring Rothschild went to work tinkering with Eovaldi’s pitch assortment. Then he pushed him to use the upper part of the strike zone more with his fastball. So when the exhibition season started, Eovaldi, 25, began testing his new plan of attack on live batters.

The results have been astonishing. On Sunday, Eovaldi pitched four innings and faced the minimum 12 batters. He gave up no runs on two hits and struck out three. But the clearest sign that Eovaldi is developing into a pitcher was that he threw 38 out his 45 pitches for strikes.

“Today, overall everything felt pretty good,” Eovaldi told reporters. “For the most part today, I was able to throw all four of my pitches, so that’s a good sign.”

Eovaldi is being counted upon to be the No. 4 starter in the rotation that includes Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia. The pressure of pitching in New York is always difficult but Eovaldi looks to be ready to embrace it.

All he has to do is do exactly what he did on Sunday against the Phillies.

Overall this spring Eovaldi is 0-1 with a 1.00 ERA and nine strikeouts in seven innings. Even better he has not walked a batter. The pupil is listening and learning.

“We’re really excited to have him in camp with us as one of our starters. We think he can do a really good job for us,” Girardi told reporters.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Headley entered the game hot and he now has seven hits in his past 12 at-bats (.583). His home run ended up being the game-winning hit and he is making it very hard for Alex Rodriguez to find a defined role with the team. Because he is hitting .384 and he has four-year, $50-million contract in his pocket it is obvious that Headley will be the Yankees’ starting third baseman on Opening Day.
  • Slade Heathcott drove in another run on Sunday with an RBI single in the bottom of the seventh that scored Greg Bird. Heathcott, a 24-year-old former first-round outfield pick, was actually released by the Yankees and re-signed to a contract as a non-roster invitee this spring. Heathcott’s all-out style of play has led to a series of injuries that have sidetracked him. Now healthy, he is showing the Yankees he can play. He is 6-for-12 (.500) with a home run and four RBIs in nine games. There is a chance Heathcott may be resurrecting a once-promising career.
  • Chase Whitley pitched two scoreless innings after Eovaldi and looked pretty impressive. He did not give up a hit or a walk and he fanned two batters. Whitley has not been scored upon this  spring. He has a good shot to make the team as a spot starter and long reliever.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Although Carpenter, 29, got the victory he did not pitch all that effectively for a second consecutive game. In his past two outings, Carpenter has been tagged for three runs on four hits and a walk over two innings. Carpenter was 6-4 with a 3.54 ERA in 65 relief appearances with the Atlanta Braves last season. He is being counted upon to be the primary setup man for Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances and needs to start pitching better.
  • Stephen Drew reverted back to previous form by going 0-for-3 on Sunday. He is 2-for-19 (.105) this spring after he hit an anemic .162 last season.

BOMBER BANTER

No. 1 pitching prospect Luis Severino and former first-round draft pick Aaron Judge were among 10 players the Yankees cut on Sunday and reassigned to minor-league camp. Severino, 21, gave up three runs (two earned) on six hits and a walk while striking out five over 2 2/3 innings in two appearances. The 6-foot-7 Judge was 3-for-11 (.273) with four walks, a double and a homer in four games. In addition the Yankees cut catchers Trent Garrison and Juan Graterol, right-handers Nick Goody and Diego Moreno, left-handers James Pazos and Tyler Webb, infielder Cito Culver and outfielder Jake Cave.

ON DECK

The Yankees will take Monday off and resume their exhibition schedule on Tuesday by hosting the Toronto Blue Jays.

It will signal the spring debut of left-hander Sabathia, who was 3-4 with a 5.28 ERA in eight starts before undergoing surgery to repair a degenerative condition in his right knee. Sabathia has added weight and said he feels stronger. This will be a good test if he is healthy and ready.

Sabathia will face right-hander Drew Hutchison, who is 1-0 with a 0.0 ERA in two spring appearances. Hutchison was 11-13 with a 4.48 ERA for the Blue Jays last season.

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.

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Phils Spoil A-Rod’s Return In Yanks’ Home Opener

GAME 2

PHILLIES 3, YANKEES 1

Odubel Herrera went 3-for-4, stole three bases and scored two runs to spark Philadelphia to a victory over New York and spoil their 2015 Grapefruit League home opener at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL, on Wednesday.

Non-roster right-hander Kevin Slowey (1-0) started for the Phillies and pitched two scoreless innings to earn the victory. Justin De Fratus weathered a late Yankee rally that fell short to earn a save. Newly acquired right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (0-1), making his first start for the Yankees, was tagged with the loss.

FIELD FOCUS

The buzz around Alex Rodriguez started early with ESPN actually cutting away from their regular programming to show the former three-time American League Most Valuable Player taking batting practice even though they were not televising the game.

Rodriguez, 39, also drew a rousing chorus of cheers and a small smattering of boos during pregame introductions and before his three at-bats. He did end up providing the fans with a bit of a show in going 1-for-2 with a walk in his three plate appearances.

After a 17-month absence due to a 162-game suspension from Major League Baseball for being involved in a performance enhancing drugs scandal, Rodriguez was just grateful just to be back on the field.

“This is as much fun as I’ve had in a long time in spring training,” Rodriguez told reporters. “I’m just feeling really good that I get to play the game that I love.”

A-Rod batted second and was the team’s designated hitter.

In his first plate appearance against Slowey. Rodriguez took two rusty looking swings before shooting a soft line drive into left for a single. In the third inning against right-hander Paul Clemens he ended the inning by hitting into a force play.

He completed his day in the sixth with the Yankees trailing 2-1 and two on and nobody out against right-hander Ethan Martin. Most of the announced crowd of 9,673 urged Rodriguez on as he worked a walk on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases.

Kyle Higashioka was sent out to pinch-run and Rodriguez’s first day back was done.

Rookie catching prospect Gary Sanchez followed with a sacrifice fly that scored the Yankees’ only run of the game.

Rodriguez told reporters after the game that he did hear the boos but was pleased by the cheers. “Once you hit rock bottom, anytime you hear a few cheers these days, it’s a pleasant surprise,” he said.

Girardi said he tentatively plans to start Rodriguez at DH again on Friday at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates. But there also is a chance he could play the field. Either way, Rodriguez is just glad to put the suspension behind him and just play baseball again.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Though he was the losing pitcher, Eovaldi did look good in his debut. He gave up a run on two hits with no walks and one strikeout in 31 pitches over two frames. The 25-year-old former Miami Marlins right-hander did strike out Maikel Franco to start the second inning with a split-finger fastball, a pitch the Yankees would like Eovaldi to feature more this season.
  • Left-hander Andrew Miller also made his Yankee debut by pitching in the third inning. Though he gave up a single and two stolen bases to Herrera in the inning, Miller was able to strike out Freddy Galvis and Domonic Brown before retiring Ryan Howard on a groundout to keep Herrera at third base. Miller, 29, was signed as a free agent this winter and he is expected to compete with right-hander Dellin Betances for the closer role.
  • Since he was drafted in the first round in 2009, Cito Culver has always shown an ability to field but his bat has held him back. Culver, 22, made a spectacular play going deep into outfield grass in left and throwing in time to get Darin Ruf by a step.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The Yankees did not get a very good day out of Stephen Drew, who is penciled in as the team’s starting second baseman  –  though he has played only 34 games there. All of those came with the Yankees last season after he was acquired from the Boston Red Sox. Drew was retired on two weak infield grounders and on defense he committed a fielding error on the first play of the game. Later, he threw a routine chance into the dirt and only a agile scoop from first baseman Mark Teixeira saved him from another error.
  • The Yankees seemed to sleepwalk offensively throughout the afternoon. They managed only five hits and drew two walks off some pretty ordinary Phillies pitchers. The Yankees recorded a total of five 1-2-3 innings.
  • The Yankees had the bases loaded with no outs in the sixth and, after Sanchez’s sac fly scored the first Yankee run, catcher/first baseman Francisco Arcia grounded into a double play to shut down the best chance the Yankees had to score multiple runs all day.

BOMBER BANTER

Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka threw a 30-pitch bullpen session in Tampa on Wednesday and told reporters that he is nearly ready to pitch in a Grapefruit League game. Tanaka, 26, is trying to recover from a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Manager Joe Girardi said Tanaka will throw again in a simulated game and could make his first start in a game late next week.  . . .  For the first time in 20 seasons, Derek Jeter was not playing shortstop for the Yankees. Didi Gregarious, 24, made his debut with the Yankees and went 0-for-1 with a walk. Gregorious was obtained from the Arizona Diamondbacks in a three-team trade that included the Detroit Tigers. “It was an amazing feeling, I’m not going to lie,” Gregorius told reporters. “It was amazing for me just wearing the pinstripes, to go out there with all my teammates.”  . . .  Before the game, the George M. Steinbrenner High School band performed. The Yankees then introduced former Yankee greats who are assisting the team as special instructors such as Goose Gossage, Reggie Jackson, Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez and Hideki Matsui.

ON DECK

The Yankees will travel to Bradenton, FL, on Thursday to face the Pirates at McKechnie Field.

Right-hander Esmil Rogers is scheduled to start for the Yankees. Rogers, 29, was 2-0 with a 4.68 ERA in 18 games with the Yankees after being picked up as a free agent from the Toronto Blue Jays. Outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner are scheduled to make the trip.

The Pirates will counter with veteran left-hander Francisco Liriano, who was 7-10 with a 3.38 ERA in 29 starts last season.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. and the game will not be telecast. However, it is available live from station KDKA in Pittsburgh through MLB Radio.

Judge-ment: Rookie’s Homer Draws Yankees Even

GAME 1

YANKEES 5, PHILLIES 5 (9 INNINGS)

With two on, two out and a 3-2 count Aaron Judge clubbed a three-run, game-tying homer as New York rallied from a 5-1 deficit in the ninth inning on Tuesday to escape with a tie with Philadelphia in their Grapefruit League season opener at Bright House Field in Clearwater, FL.

Judge, 22, is a 6-foot-7, 255-pound outfielder rated as the team’s No. 5 prospect after he hit a combined .308 with 17 home runs and for Class-A Charleston (SC) and Class-A Tampa last season.

Judge’s home run came off left-hander Mario Hollands, who the Yankees tagged for four runs on five hits in two-thirds of an inning.

FIELD FOCUS

When you see Judge at the plate you will see a striking resemblance to Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins, the 6-foot-6, 240 -pound outfielder who blasted 37 home runs and drove in 105 runs last season.

The similarly built Judge hopes to be able to be doing the same for the Yankees in a few years. If Tuesday’s opener is any indication the Yankees will wait patiently for what is the top power-hitting prospect in their minor-league system.

“I’m trying to make it as hard as I can for them to send me back across the street for the minor leagues,” Judge told reporters. “Just doing whatever I can to help us win.”

Judge was the Yankees’ 32nd selection in the first round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft. Since then he has been drawing comparisons with Stanton and former Yankee Hall of Famer Dave Winfield.

The Yankees love the fact that Judge is not just “all-or-nothing” swinger at the plate. He showed his knowledge of the strike zone by drawing a walk on a 3-2 pitch in the eighth inning. He grounded out in his first at-bat.

“I think we’ve said all along, there’s some really good position players that are coming,” manager Joe Girardi said.

Judge is definitely one of those good players.

“I was more nervous on deck than I was on the field,” Judge told reporters. “That first AB, warming up, I was pretty nervous. But once I got in the box, it’s all the same game.”

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Adam Warren started for the Yankees and pitched two scoreless innings, yielding one single, walking none and striking out none. He threw 25 pitches and looked to be in total command. Warren is pitching as a starter this spring in case the Yankees opt to go with six starters in the early part of the season.
  • Another power-hitting position player also had a nice game. First baseman Greg Bird was 2-for-3 with a single and double in his first game action. Bird, 22, batted .271 with 14 home runs and 43 RBIs at Class-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton last season.
  • The Yankees scored all of their runs with two outs. Two batters before Judge’s game-tying homer, outfield prospect Jake Cave legged an RBI infield single. In the first inning, second baseman Jose Pirela chopped an RBI single over Ryan Howard’s head to score Chris Young.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Two of the Yankees’ top pitching prospects pitched but ended up giving up four runs in two innings between the two of them. The team’s No. 1 prospect, right-hander Luis Severino, struck out the first two batters he faced in a 1-2-3 third inning. However, the Phillies managed three straight singles to start the fourth, culminating in an RBI single on a 3-2 pitch by Howard. After giving up another single to Domonic Brown, Cody Asche broke the 1-1 tie with a sacrifice fly off reliever Diego Moreno’s first pitch.
  • Left-hander reliever Jacob Lindgren, rated the team’s No. 9 prospect, was touched for two unearned runs on two hits and a costly error in two-thirds of an inning of work in the seventh. Lindgren, a standout pitcher with College World Series champion Mississippi State in 2013, was having trouble locating his breaking pitches in a shaky 25-pitch outing.
  • Rob Refsnyder, a converted second baseman who is ranked as the team’s No. 6 prospect, had the worst day you could possibly imagine. He committed a throwing error that led to the two unearned runs off Lindgren in the seventh. At the plate, Refsnyder, 23, was 0-for-2 with a walk, including a weak infield popup with one out and the base loaded in eighth and a strike out with the game-winning run at second in the ninth.

BOMBER BANTER

With the good news about some of the Yankees’ young prospects there was some real bad news coming out of minor-league camp in Tampa, FL, on Tuesday. The team has announced that catcher Luis Torrens, 18, suffered a torn labrum in his right shoulder and he will miss the entire 2015 season. Torrens is rated as the team’s No. 10 prospect. He was signed out of Venezuela in 2012 and played at three Class-A sites last season, batting .256 with three homers and 22 RBIs in 62 games. Torrens will undergo surgery on Wednesday in New York.  . . .  Alex Rodriguez said he is ready to go on Wednesday. Rodriguez is scheduled to start for the Yankees as the designated hitter. “I’ll be a little nervous, for sure,” Rodriguez told reporters. “I haven’t been in front of our fans for a long time. I’m excited about that. I have some challenges ahead.” Rodriguez, 39, enters the spring without a starting position and could end up as a backup at first and third base or a platoon designated hitter.  . . .  The Phillies decided to pull a switch of their scheduled pitchers for Tuesday’s opener. After announcing 33-year-old right-hander Jerome Williams would start, the Phillies elected to start right-hander David Buchanan instead. Williams did come in to pitch a scoreless third and fourth inning.

ON DECK

The Yankees return the favor with the Phillies on Wednesday by having them in for their Grapefruit League home opener at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

The Yankees have named newly acquired right-hander Nathan Eovaldi to start the game. Eovaldi, 24, was 6-14 with a 4.37 ERA with the Marlins last season. He was acquired along with first baseman/outfielder Garrett Jones and right-hander Domingo German in exchange for infielder Martin Prado and David Phelps.

The Phillis, as they did on Tuesday, elected to switch their starting pitcher from veteran right-hander Aaron Harang to non-roster invitee Kevin Slowey, 30, who was 1-1 with a 5.30 ERA in 17 games with the Marlins last season.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EST and the game will be televised nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

Kuroda Good, Tanaka Great As Yanks Zip Marlins

GAME 31

YANKEES 3, MARLINS 0

TAMPA – Most times in spring training everything is pretty much mundane and downright dull. But for anyone who saw Hiroki Kuroda and Masahiro Tanaka pitch against the Marlins on Friday it was mesmerizing and electric.

The Japanese right-handers combined to shut out Miami on six hits with no walks and 14 – count them, 14 – strikeouts as New York rolled to victory in front of a paid crowd of 10,581 at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

As good as Kuroda was in his three innings of work in his final tuneup before his first start on April 2 against the Astros in Houston, Tanaka was even better.

Kuroda yielded three hits and fanned four but Tanaka (2-0) went six innings, gave up six hits but he struck out 10 Marlins in what was his best outing of the spring. Of his 82 pitches, Tanaka threw 60 strikes.

The Yankees, meanwhile, initially had troubles of their own with Marlins starter Kevin Slowey. The veteran right-hander pitched three perfect innings against the Yankees, striking out two.

This is the same Marlins pitching staff that no-hit the Yankees in the first game of the Legends Series in Panama City, Panama for a 5-0 victory on March 15. Carlos Marmol, Dan Jennings, A.J. Ramos and Michael Dunn followed Slowey with four additional no-hit innings until the Yankees touched Marlins closer Steve Cishek for two runs on three hits in the eighth inning.

The Yankees actually scored an unearned run off Marmol in the fourth inning, taking advantage of an error, some wildness from Marmol and Brett Gardner’s speed.

Gardner reached on a fielding error by shortstop Donovan Solano. Gardner stole second and later swiped third. After Marmol walked Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira to load the bases, Gardner scored on a groundout off the bat of Brian McCann.

That run held up until the Yankees added to their lead in the seventh on a leadoff double by Kelly Johnson, an RBI single by Brian Roberts and they capped the inning with an RBI single by Yangervis Solarte to score Antoan Richardson, who was pinch-running for Roberts.

With the victory the Yankees improved their spring training record to 17-12-2. The Marlins fell to 18-12.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Both Kuroda and Tanaka were absolutely dominant against the Marlins. Kuroda, 39, ends the spring with a 1-0 record and a 4.76 ERA. The ERA is a bit deceiving since he only had one bad outing. Tanaka, on the other hand, was every bit as good as advertised. He ended his spring 2-0 with a 2.14 ERA with 26 strikeouts and only three walks in 21 innings. Batters hit a mere .190 off him. For those who said the Yankees rotation was not good enough to contend in 2014 better think again.
  • Leave it to Gardner to break up a pitcher’s duel by reaching on an error and stealing two bases to get the Yankees on the board without the benefit of a hit. Gardner’s .386 spring on-base percentage proves how valuable he will be batting ninth in the lineup this season. Look for a banner year from the speedy Gardner this season.
  • Johnson is not going to hit 30 homers and drive in 120 runs like Alex Rodriguez. But Johnson did average 21 homers and 67 RBIs in his three previous seasons as a starter. The Yankees will take that and – just remember this  – A-Rod has not approached 30 homers and 120 RBIs since 2010. Johnson is hitting .267 with a home run and seven RBIs this spring.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

Other than the fact the Yankees can’t seem to get many hits off the Marlins there is not much negative to say after Tanaka was so sensational.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees filled out the roles in the bullpen by awarding spots to right-hander Dellin Betances and left-hander Vidal Nuno. Betances, 26, had no record and a 0.73 ERA with 11 strikeouts and four walks in 12 1/3 innings over 10 games. Nuno, 26, had no record with a 3.38 ERA in 8 innings over four appearances (two of them starts). They will join closer David Robertson and set-up men right-hander Shawn Kelley and left-hander Matt Thornton. Right-handers David Phelps and Adam Warren also were shifted to the bullpen after they lost the battle for the No. 5 starting spot to Michael Pineda.  . . .  The Yankees informed infielder Dean Anna, 27, that he has made the team as a backup infielder and they will decide the final roster spot between utility infielders Eduardo Nunez and Solarte on Saturday. Anna was acquired in a winter trade with the San Diego Padres after he won the Pacific Coast League batting title in 2013 with a .331 average. Anna hit .262 and drove in four runs in 22 games this spring. A back injury that sidelined infielder Brendan Ryan since March 4 opened the door for Anna to make the team. Ryan will start the season on the 15-day disabled list.  . . .  Jacoby Ellsbury went 2-for-5 with an infield single in six innings in a minor-league game on Friday. Ellsbury, 30, told reporters that he has recovered from a strained right calf and he is ready to start the season with the Yankees.  . . .  The Yankees announced on Friday that they have re-signed right-hander Alfredo Aceves to a minor-league contract. Aceves, 31, opted out of his contract with the Baltimore Orioles earlier in the day after being told he would not make the team’s roster. Aceves will report to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and will be used there as a starting pitcher.

ON DECK

The Yankees will conclude their Grapefruit League schedule on Saturday against the Marlins at home.

Right-hander Ivan Nova (2-1, 3.66 ERA) will start for the Yankees in what also will be Jeter’s final appearance as a player at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

The Marlins will start right-hander Tom Koehler (1-1, 1.50 ERA).

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.

Transmission of this report was delayed due to technical difficulties.

 

 

 

 

Martin’s Bat, Hughes’ Arm Muzzle Poor Twins

GAME 123

YANKEES 8, TWINS 1

Watching the Twins play the Yankees the past few years is like watching the Washington Generals play the Harlem Globetrotters. You just knew Meadowlark Lemon would always get the best of that bald, fat guy trying to grab the basketball from him.

At Target Field, on a picturesque Midwest Friday evening, the same kind of scenario played out.

Phil Hughes (4-4) pitched 7 2/3 innings of dominant one-run and two-hit baseball, Russell Martin hit two home runs and Martin and Mark Teixeira drove in three runs apiece as New York best Minnesota for the 21st time in their last 24 meetings since the beginning of the 2009 season.

Hughes gave up a solo home run to Trevor Plouffe, the second batter he faced, in the first inning and then he silenced the Twins bats so soundly that could you practically hear the crickets over the 41,328 people in attendance. After Hughes issued a leadoff walk to Jason Kubel in the third inning, he retired 14 Twins in a row.

The Twins managed a Plouffe leadoff walk in the seventh and they actually added another runner when Kubel walked with two out in the inning. But Hughes escaped any damage by inducing Danny Valencia to ground into a forceout.

The Twins did manage a second hit by Luke Hughes with one out in the eighth, but Yankee right-hander — with relief help from Boone Logan — left the game having walked three and striking out two. Hughes threw 70 of his 106 pitches for strikes, a rate of 66 percent. In his last three starts, Hughes is 3-0 with a 1.37 ERA.

He and A.J. Burnett both have been rumored to be candidates to move to the bullpen because the Yankees have six starters and they prefer a five-man rotation. But Hughes served notice on Friday that he not only should stay in the rotation, he might be the Yankees’ best choice for a No. 2 starter.

Meanwhile, after trailing 1-0 early to the Twins, the Yankees began their assault on Twins starter Kevin Slowey (0-1) in the third inning of what was Slowey’s first start of the season.

Martin opened the inning by swatting the first pitch from Slowey down the left-field line and into the first row of the bleachers, the ball avoiding a leaping attempt at the wall by left-fielder Rene Tosoni.

The Yankees added another run in the fourth on a bloop leadoff double by Teixeira and a lined RBI double off the wall in right-center by Robinson Cano.

The Yankees added a pair of runs in the fifth on a double by Granderson that drove in Brett Gardner with Granderson’s major-league-leading 96th RBI of the season. Teixeira followed with a sacrifice fly to left that Derek Jeter scored upon by narrowly evading a good throw by Tosoni and a lunging tag by catcher Joe Mauer.

The Yankees broke the game wide open in the fifth and chased Slowey from the game when Martin followed a Jorge Posada’s two-out single with another home run, this one to deep into the bleachers in straightway left. It was his 15th home run of the season. The two-home run game was the fourth of Martin’s career and his third such game with the Yankees this season.

Slowey ended up giving up six runs on nine hits and one walk and struck out four batters over 5 2/3 innings. In their last two games, the Yankees have scored 12 runs on 19 hits and two walks in 10 2/3 innings against the Twins two starters in the series — Brian Duensing and Slowey.

The Yankees tacked on a pair of runs in the ninth off reliever Anthony Swarzak on leadoff infield single by Jeter, a walk to Granderson and two-run double down the right-field line by Teixeira.

With the victory, the Yankees improved their season record to an American League-best 76-47 and they maintained their half-game lead over the Boston Red Sox in the A.L. East. The hapless Twins stumbled to a mark of 54-70.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Martin continues to excel after he gets a day off. Nine of his home runs have come in games after he was rested. His 3-for-4 evening (He also singled in the fifth) raised his season average to .232. He now has 15 home runs and 52 RBIs on the season. After hitting .292 in April, Martin slumped to hit .200 in May, .185 in June and .213 in July. But Martin is hitting a solid .269 in August and he seems to have put his toe and back injuries behind him.
  • In his two games against the Twins at Target Field, Teixeira is 4-for-7 with a home run and three doubles and he has driven in five runs. The RBI spurt leaves in third place in the majors with 94, two behind Gramderson and one behind Phillies slugger Ryan Howard.
  • Granderson had another one of his stellar all-around games. He was 2-for-3 with a double, a single, two walks, a run scored and an RBI. He even stole his 23rd base of the season, which puts him in 10th place in the American League. Granderson is by far the Yankees’ Most Valuable Player of 2011. He also might take home league honors if he keeps up his current pace. In his last 10 games, Granderson is hitting an unbelievable .395 with six home runs and 10 RBIs.
  • Hughes appears to have kept his spot in the rotation on the basis of what how has pitched in his last three starts. Though it would be nice to have Hughes in a bullpen that already includes David Robertson, Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera, he is more valuable as the No. 2 starter on this team with the playoffs looming.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

Eric Chavez was 0-for-5 with two srikeouts but that would be nitpicking. This was a good win for the Yankees because it combined great pitching, timely hitting and solid defense.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees decided on Friday to place right-hander Freddy Garcia on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to Aug. 8 and claimed left-hander Aaron Laffey on waivers from the Mariners and he will be activated on Saturday. To make room on the 40-man roster for Laffey, the Yankees designated veteran catcher Gustavo Molina for assignment. Garcia sliced a finger on his right hand at his home last week and he was unable to throw his split-finger fastball effectively enough to make a start this weekend. Instead, Garcia will throw a rehab start on Monday for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and the Yankees hope the 34-year-old right-hander will be able to make a start next Saturday in one of the day-night doubleheader games scheduled against the Orioles.  . . .  Alex Rodriguez is ready to play this weekend but it likely will be on Sunday. Rodriguez ended a minor-league rehab stint and returned to the Yankees on Thursday. However, the Yankees want Rodriguez to continue his workouts to strengthen his knee and improve his conditioning. Rodriguez has been out since undergoing surgery on July 11 to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.

ON DECK

The Yankees have already clinched at least a split in their four-game series with the Twins. They can win the series on Saturday.

The Yankees will call on right-hander A.J. Burnett (9-9, 4.61). The walking enigma actually won his last start, his first August victory in three years with the Yankees. Burnett gave up 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings but allowed only three runs while walking one and striking out one. Burnett, howver, has had some success against the Twins. He is 4-1 with a 3.20 ERA in his career.

The Twins are countering with left-hander Francisco Liriano (8-9, 5.12 ERA). He is the Twins’ enigma. Liriano won his last start but he gave up five runs on nine hits over six innings. He is 0-3 with a 3.77 ERA against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.