Tagged: Kevin Whelan

Yankees Give Big Sigh Of Relief As Soriano Shines

The New York Yankees have reached the halfway mark of the season and they are comfortably in first place in the American League East. This is despite some injuries to some keep players such as Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Michael Pineda, Brett Gardner and Joba Chamberlain. As we do every year, let’s look at the individual components of the team and issue grades for the first half.  

RELIEF PITCHERS

RAFAEL SORIANO (2-0, 1.72 ERA, 19 SAVES)

DAVID ROBERTSON (0-3, 2.42 ERA)

BOONE LOGAN (3-0, 3.54 ERA)

CORY WADE (0-1, 5.79 ERA)

CLAY RAPADA (2-0, 3.00 ERA)

CODY EPPLEY (0-0, 2.53 ERA)

D.J. MITCHELL (0-0, 3.38 ERA)

The New York Yankees season could have very easily ended on May 3 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.

Future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera was shagging balls during batting practice, as has been his custom his entire career, when his right knee buckled as he reached the warning track. Rivera went down in a heap and the Yankees lost the best closer in the history of the game for the rest of the season.

However, on May 22 the Yankees ran off a record of 28-11 and they moved from tied for last place in the American League East 5 1/2 games behind to first place in the division and five games ahead.

The starting pitching was a big reason why. The starters who struggled in April pitched better. But there was something else that kept the Yankees going without Mariano Rivera.

That something was Rafael Soriano.

Soriano, 32, was signed by the Yankees for $12 million a season over three seasons in the winter of 2011. Soriano had just come off a season in which he saved a league-leading 45 games in 48 chances with the Tampa Bay Rays and compiled a 3-2 record with a 1.73 ERA.

But why pay so much for someone who would not close games?

General manager Brian Cashman quickly pointed out publicly the signing was not his idea and he disavowed it. But after the Yankees lost out in trying to sign left-hander Cliff Lee the front office figured that with Rivera, Soriano and David Robertson that the Yankees could shorten the game to overcome their starting pitching deficiencies.

On paper, it made sense. In practice, it did not work out entirely as planned.

Soriano was hit hard early and often at the start of the 2011 season. The fans quickly turned on him for his seeming uncaring attitude as he pitched worse and worse. Then he ended up on the disabled list for two months with soreness in his right elbow. The fans also do not like players drawing rich contracts while rehabbing injuries.

Soriano did come back and ultimately was given the seventh inning as Robertson owned the ninth and Rivera was king of the ninth. Soriano finished the 2011 season with a 2-3 mark and a gaudy 4.12 ERA. He saved two games and blew three others.

Soriano then surprised a lot of people by deciding not exercise his opt-out clause in his three-year deal. He was getting paid good money to pitch the seventh inning and he figured it was more advantageous for him to stay. As far as Yankee fans go, they may have enjoyed booing him, but Soriano saved the Yankees’ season by deciding to stay.

When Robertson failed in his first attempt to close for Rivera on May 9 against the Rays and then ended up on the disabled list for a month with a left oblique injury, Soriano was reborn as a closer. He is also proving to be very good at it.

Since he has taken over, Soriano has saved 19 games out of his 20 opportunities and erased the team’s fears they could not win without Mo.

The fans? They booed him unmercifully at Yankee Stadium when he blew his only save on June 10 against the Mets. Tough crowd.

Yankee fans should be hoisting this man up and celebrating him because Soriano will be a big component of the Yankees’ run in the playoffs. They certainly do miss Mo but they have to be thankful they have a replacement in Soriano who has saved 91 games out of 99 chances since the 2009 season. That is a 92 percent success rate.

The Yankees actually have other more pressing bullpen issues. They revolve around Robertson, who came off the 15-day disabled list on June 15.

In the 11 appearances Robertson, 27, has made beginning on June 15, he is 0-2 with a 4.35 ERA. That is a far cry from the Robertson who made 13 appearances before May 9 and was unscored upon in his first 13 innings of the season with 23 strikeouts.

The Yankees need Robertson to settle back into his groove and just, well, be Robertson again. We will see how it unfolds after the All-Star break.

The injuries to Rivera and Robertson have meant that Boone Logan has pitched in more games and for more innings than he has been used since he was acquired by the Yankees in 2009. The most innings he ever pitched in pinstripes was the 41 2/3 innings he pitched last season in 64 appearances.

But because Logan is no longer the lefty specialist in the bullpen he is being used more often and for longer stretches. Logan, 27, has already thrown 29 2/3 innings and made 41 appearances.

The strain is beginning to show. Logan’s ERA for the first three months was excellent: He was 2-0 with a 2.54 ERA on June 30. But in July, Logan has been scored upon in all four of his appearances and, if anybody deserved an All-Star break it was Logan.

The hope is that Logan will bounce back in the second half and pitch like he did before June 30. The Yankees need Logan to be good in the seventh inning so the Yankees can use Robertson in the eighth and Soriano in the ninth. Logan will be a big key to the Yankees in the second half, no doubt.

Manager Joe Girardi has been praised, and rightfully so, for his ability to maximize a bullpen. This season he has proven what a skill it is.

The Yankees found a lefty specialist in side-armer Clay Rapada during spring training and Rapada has been excellent as getting left-handers out since the 2012 season began.

Rapada, 31, is holding left-handed hitters to a .150 average this season. Amazingly, Rapada is retiring right-handers also. They are hitting .227 off him. But Girardi has wisely tried to keep Rapada as a specialist as much as he can this season.

The Yankees also got lucky when the Texas Rangers waived 26-year-old side-arming right-hander Cody Eppley early in the season. The Yankees claimed him and sent him to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Recalled on April 20, Eppley has provided Girardi with a righty specialist to twin with Rapada.

The results have been very good. Eppley is holding right-handers to a .231 average. Much like Rapada with right-handers, Girardi must keep Eppley away from dangerous left-handed hitters. Overall, Eppley has done an excellent job and he and Rapada have strengthened what already was an excellent bullpen.

That can’t be said of Cory Wade, however.

Wade, 29, was picked up off waivers from the Rays in 2011 – much like Eppley was this season – and he put together a great season. Wade was 6-1 with a 2.04 ERA last season and drew a lot of praise from Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild.

But 2012 has a been nightmare for Wade.

He compiled an ERA of 1.69 in April and an ERA of 2.92 in May. But in June, Wade hit the skids and he has not recovered.

Beginning on June 16, Wade gave up a home run to Ian Desmond of the Washington Nationals in a game the Yankees won 5-3. Since then, Wade has given up 16 runs in his last 8 innings covering his last seven appearances. Wade’s ERA has ballooned to 6.48 and he has been sent back to Scranton to try and get his groove back.

The Yankees filled out their bullpen just before the break by calling up Triple-A starter D.J. Mitchell to be the long man in the bullpen now that Freddy Garcia is being used as a starter to replace the injured Andy Pettitte.

Mitchell, 25, has a 2.45 ERA in 3 2/3 innings covering three appearances. Mitchell was 5-4 with a 5.36 ERA at Scranton in 14 starts but Mitchell may have more value as a reliever in the majors because he has the best sinking fastball in the organization.

The Yankees would like to use him in situations they might need a double play. But Mitchell is strictly a long man for now.

To replace Wade, the Yankees picked up veteran right-hander Chad Qualls off waivers from the Philadelphia Phillies.

Qualls, 33, is 0-0 with a 2.70 ERA in 3 1/3 innings over three games. That is certainly a step up from what the Yankees have been getting from Wade. We will see if he continue to pitch well in the second half.

Overall, this has been one of the best, if not the best, bullpens in baseball this season despite the loss of Rivera.

Girardi was able to slide Soriano into the closer’s role and he has Robertson and Logan to pitch in setup roles. Plus he can mix and match with the righty-lefty combo of Eppley and Rapada. Wade is the only reliever who has been a major disappointment but Qualls was picked up to fill his role until Wade finds it again or not.

MIDESEASON GRADES:

RIVERA: I (for Incomplete)

SORIANO: A

ROBERTSON: B+

LOGAN: B+

WADE: C-

RAPADA: B+

EPPLEY: B

QUALLS: I (for Incomplete)

MITCHELL: I (for Incomplete)

OTHERS

DAVID PHELPS (1-1, 6.46 as a reliever)

RYOTA IGARASHI (0-0, 22.50 ERA)

David Phelps began the season in the bullpen as the long reliever and he actually pitched much better than his ERA indicates. He was shelled for three runs in back-to-back appearances against the Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox in late April.

But Phelps, 25, is more suited as a starter and is thought of that way by the organization. After two starts in place of Freddy Garcia in early May, Phelps was sent back to the bullpen when Pettitte was activated on May 13. He stayed until June 2, when he was shipped to Double-A Trenton to get his arm in shape to become a starter.

However, before the process could be completed Pettitte was placed on the disabled list with a broken tibia in his right leg and CC Sabathia had to be shelved because of a groin injury.

Phelps was recalled and pitched out of the bullpen until he was pressed into a start against the Rays on the Fourth of July. Phelps struck out eight batters and gave up only one run in 4 1/3 innings in his best performance of the season.

Now Phelps has been sent back to Trenton to complete the process of building up his pitch count so he can start. It is unclear when Phelps might return to the Yankees or what role he will assume. My guess is we have seen the last of Phelps as a reliever, barring an injury.

Igarashi was called up to fill a spot in the bullpen on May 25 and pitched poorly in the two games in which he pitched. He was sent back to Scranton and was recalled again on June 8 and he gave one run in his one inning of work against his former Met teammates.

Igarashi, 33, is 1-1 with a 2.63 ERA and three saves at Scranton this season. He is there for depth purposes but the Yankees could do better. Igarashi does not appear to be the answer for the Yankees based on what he has done in three games.

MIDSEASON GRADES

PHELPS : I (for Incomplete)

IGARASHI: I (for Incomplete)

The Yankees have some veteran relievers at Scranton, including Igarashi.

Kevin Whelan 28, is the main closer and is 3-0 with a 3.55 ERA and 12 saves.

Meanwhile, left-hander Juan Cedeno, 28, is 2-0 with a 2.38 ERA and former Red Sox right-hander Manny Delcarmen is 2-4 with a 3.86 ERA.

The most impressive young relievers the Yankees are developing are Preston Claiborne, 24, and Chase Whitley, 23.

Claiborme was just promoted to Scranton after going 2-2 with a 2.22 ERA and saving five games at Trenton.

Whitley is 5-4 with a 4.22 ERA in 27 games in Scranton.

Both are right-handers.

OVERALL POSITION GRADE: B+

There are whispers that Rivera is progressing well in his rehab after surgery on his right knee and that he might be able to pitch this season. That would be bad news to the teams in the A.L. East staring up out of a huge hole in which the Yankees have placed them.

Whether Rivera returns or not the Yankees have an exceptional bullpen that rarely coughs up leads late in the game.

Soriano has 19 saves after 81 games and he has been sensational as Rivera’s stand-in.

There are some concerns before the second half begins.

Both Robertson and Logan need recapture their early-season form. They both have a long enough track records in the majors that they should be able to rebound. Robertson just needs to regain command of the strike zone and Logan just needs rest after absorbing a huge workload in the first half.

Logan leads the American League in appearances and that is an aberration from what Girardi and Rothschild would like from him. But Rivera’s loss impacted Logan the most and he has been forced to pitch a lot of innings and it is catching up to him. Hopefully, the rest over the break rejuvenates his valuable left arm.

The Yankees also have to hope that Wade rediscovers his karma in the minors. Most of the karma he has been exhibiting on the mound these days is bad.

Rapada and Eppley have proved to very valuable specialists and they have been impressive in the first half. They just have to continue to do what they have been doing.

Qualls is a place-holder for Wade and Girardi seems to trust him.

Mitchell can be valuable as a long man but Girardi rarely calls on him. His sinker could have some value in the second half and he is the one reliever that can give Girardi a lot of innings out of the bullpen.

The biggest hope for the second half has nothing to do with any of the pitchers I mentioned.

The Yankees just sent Joba Chamberlain out on a minor-league rehab stint. Because Chamberlain, 26, is coming off Tommy John surgery in 2011 and a severely displaced fractured right ankle, the Yankees were not really expecting much out of the big right-hander.

But if all goes well in his extended rehab stint, Chamberlain could return to the Yankees within a month. That would be a big boost to the Yankees and it should make Logan really smile.

Yankee fans may have forgotten that Chamberlain was 2-0 with a 2.83 ERA in 27 games before injuring his elbow last season. If he can get back to that level, Chamberlain could a valuable piece to the bullpen in the sceond half and heading into the playoffs.

The Yankees also had high hopes for former Seattle Mariners closer David Aardsma in the second half. Aardsma, 30, was coming off Tommy John surgery himself last July and was making his final rehab appearances when he suffered a setback and had to be shut down.

Aardsma underwent some tests and is consulting Dr. James Andrews, who performed his surgery, about what his next step will be. But it looks doubtful Aardsma will be able to help the Yankees this season. That is a shame.

But the way the Yankees’ bullpen has been gong this season, they may not need him. The return of Chamberlain, however, could be a real big boost.

 

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Yankees Strand 10 To Settle For Tie With Tigers

GAME 24

YANKEES 1, TIGERS 1 (10 INNINGS)

TAMPA – Derek Jeter led off the bottom of the first inning with his first home run of the spring. Little did the Yankees know but that would be the only run they would score all day against the Tigers.

New York stranded 10 runners over 10 innings and had to settle for a tie with a Detroit split squad on Sunday in a Grapefruit League contest played at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL.

Yankees right-hander Michael Pineda recorded one of his best outings of the spring, giving up one run on five hits and two walks in five innings of work. But the Yankees did not give him much in the way of support.

The Yankees collected only five hits but they got some help from six walks and two hit batters to put plenty of runners on base to take the lead in the game. But much like the Game 5 loss of the American League Division Series against the Tigers, the Yankees could not collect a big hit with runners in scoring position. They were 0-for-10 with RISP in the game.

Meanwhile, relievers Mariano Rivera, Rafael Soriano, David Roberston, Clay Rapada and Manny Delcarmen each turned in a scoreless inning of relief against the Tigers to keep the game knotted.

Jeter’s home run in the first came off Tigers left-hander and starter Duane Below.

The Tigers tied it in the third inning when Danny Worth drew a leadoff walk and Ramon Santiago delivered a one-out RBI triple.

The Yankees remain 13-9 with two ties this spring. They have not lost a game in their last 11 spring contests. The Tigers are 14-4.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • In Jeter’s second game back after being shelved by a tight left calf, he delivered a home run to right and double to left-center. Jeter is quietly hitting .348 this spring and the best news is he is driving the ball with authority and not squeezing weak grounders through the infield. Those who might have written Jeter’s baseball obituary at age 37 might have been a bit premature.
  • Pineda struggled at times in keeping the Tigers off base but he only gave up the one run. After Santiago’s triple, he struck out the next two batters as part of stretch where Pineda fanned four of the last eight batters he retired. Pineda’s velocity also was consistently at 93 miles per hour during his outing.
  • Brett Gardner led an outfield that recorded three assists on Sunday that helped keep the Tigers from scoring more runs. With speedy Austin Jackson on second in the first inning, Alex Avila stroked a lined single to Gardner in left. Gardner charged the ball on the hop and gunned Jackson out at the plate with a perfect throw. In the eighth inning, new left-fielder Jayson Nix caught Brent Wyatt’s line drive and gunned down Dixon Machado after he failed to retouch second base on his way back to first. In the ninth, center-fielder Dewayne Wise caught a Ryan Strieby liner and doubled off Tony Plagman at second base.
  • Robertson returned to action for the first time since he bruised his right foot in an accident at his home on March 7 and he showed no ill effects from the injury. Robertson struck out a batter and he benefited from Machado’s poor base-running on Wyatt’s line drive to pitch a scoreless eighth inning. Robertson said he felt good and he hopes to build upon it with his next outing.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Despite Jeter’s good day there was one striking negative: In the fourth inning, Jeter rolled out to short with the bases loaded. He was a part of an offense that sputtered all day when they had chances to take the lead. In the fifth inning, right-hander Collin Balester walked three batters. But Curtis Granderson was nailed by Avila attempting to steal second and Russell Martin hit into a fielder’s choice after Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira drew two-out walks.
  • In the seventh, it was no better for the Yankees against Brayan Villarreal. Doug Bernier was hit by a pitch and stole second. Granderson then drew a walk. However, Robinson Cano hit into a double play. After Rodriguez was hit in the ribs with a pitch and left the game as a precaution, Teixeira grounded out to short to end that threat.
  • In the second inning, the Yankees had Texeira on third and Martin at second with one out. However, Eduardo Nunez struck out looking and Gardner bounced out to the pitcher and spoiled that effort. So it was obvious that there was a lot of frustration with the offense on Sunday.

BOMBER BANTER

Joba Chamberlain was released from St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, FL., on Sunday four days after he suffered an open dislocation of his right ankle in a trampoline accident. General manager Brian Cashman echoed manager Joe Girardi’s assessment that there was a possibility that Chamberlain could return to pitch this season. Chamberlain had Tommy John surgery last summer and was not expected back to the Yankees until June when the injury occurred last week. Chamberlain will wear a non-weight-bearing cast for six weeks and then will be fitted for a weight-bearing walking boot.  . . .  Although Rodriguez left the game Sunday after being struck in the left ribs on a pitch from Villarreal, Girardi said he expects Rodriguez being able to play on Tuesday.  . . .  Girardi also said he hopes to get Nick Swisher back into the lineup on Tuesday. Swisher has only had two at-bats since he injured his left groin on March 14.  . . .  After the game on Sunday, the Yankees optioned Ramiro Pena to Triple-A Empire State and reassigned outfielders Colin Curtis and Cole Garner, catcher Jose Gil and pitchers Kevin Whelan and Delcarmen to minor-league camp.

ON DECK

The Yankees are enjoying their second off-day of the spring on Monday. They will return to action at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Tuesday night against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Ace lefty CC Sabathia will make his fourth Grapefruit League start. The Blue Jays will start right-hander Kyle Drabek.

Game-time will be at 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be televised nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

This report was delayed by technical difficulties.

 

Yankees Virtually Flawless In Blanking Phillies

GAME 9

YANKEES (SS) 3, PHILLIES (SS) 0

TAMPA – Every team looks for what could be called that “Goldilocks Game,” meaning they get just the right amount of hitting and pitching. The Yankees had one of those games on Sunday.

Chris Dickerson stroked a two-out, bases-loaded single to drive in two runs in the fourth inning and CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera were among the seven pitchers who held the Phillies scoreless on just three hits as New York left Philadelphia with some mighty cold porridge in a Grapefruit League contest at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

In his second appearance of the spring Sabathia gave up two hits and a walk and fanned two batters in his thee innings of work. He threw 28 of 39 pitches for strikes and looked vastly improved from his first outing.

Meanwhile, the strains of “Enter Sandman” blared throughout the stadium in the fourth inning as Rivera trotted in to a raucous standing ovation from most of the 10,810 fans in attendance, who are unsure of these one-inning tune-ups from the greatest closer baseball has ever seen will come to an end this year.

Rivera then demonstrated what he does so well. He needed just 14 pitches to induce a flyout to right by Ty Wigginton, a line-drive out to center by Lou Montanez (as part of a 11-pitch battle and a groundout to third by Hector Luna.

Dickerson’s hit came off Phillies right-hander Austin Hyatt, who entered the game in the fourth and got into trouble after retiring the first two batters.

Hyatt (1-1) hit Russell Martin with a pitch and Martin later stole second. Hyatt then walked Andruw Jones and Bill Hall to load the bases. Hyatt fell behind to Dickerson 2-0 before Dickersomn slapped his next offering into right-field to score Martin and Jones.

The Yankees added an unearned run in the eighth on a one-out double by Justin Maxwell and a fielding error by Luna that allowed Maxwell to score.

Rivera was the winning pitcher and Hyatt took the loss. Right-hander Kevin Whelan pitched a perfect ninth to get credit for a save.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Pitching was king for the Yankees. Sabathia looked sharp, Rivera was Rivera and Boone Logan, Corey Wade, Clay Rapada, Chase Whitley and Whelan combined to give up just one hit and two walks and they struck out five. Granted, it was a Phillies split squad, but it was impressive nonetheless.
  • Dickerson, 29, has always been considered a good fielder and a good athlete but he has never quite made it in the major leagues as a hitter. It was nice to see him come through with two outs with a big hit. He is hitting .273 this spring but his chances with the Yankees are bleak. He was taken off the 40-man roster and he is out of options. Dickerson may be playing for a fresh start with another team.
  • Martin stole his fourth base this spring in the Yankees’ two-run fourth inning. He leads the team in stolen bases this spring. Brett Gardner has two.
  • Derek Jeter was 2-for-3 in the game and he is hitting .308 this spring. Perhaps the Jeter of the second half of last season is the Jeter we will see in 2012.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

I can’t really see a point in nitpicking for negatives in this game.

BOMBER BANTER

Backup infielder Eduardo Nunez is still feeling discomfort in his bruised right hand. He will take two days off before trying to hit again. Nunez was struck in the hand on a pitch from Hyatt on Monday in Clearwater, FL. X-rays and a CT scan show no broken bones but Nunez has been unable to taking batting practice without feeling pain.

ON DECK

The Yankees will play their first night game of the spring on Monday, hosting the Houston Astros at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Hiroki Kuroda will get the start for the Yankees. It was be his second outing of the spring. Kevin Weiland, who was acquired from the Red Sox, will make his first start for the Astros.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will not be telecast.

 

A-Rod Starts Red Hot As Yankees Cool Off Phils

GAME 2

YANKEES 7, PHILLIES 4

TAMPA – When it comes to anything positive that Alex Rodriguez does this spring, it will always be couched in very cautious terms. Last spring, Rodriguez was in excellent shape and hit everything in sight but it did not carry over to the 2011 season.

So when Rodriguez hit a screaming line-drive home run to right-center on the first Grapefruit League pitch he saw from Roy Halladay and then followed it up with a single and an RBI double off Joel Pineiro, Rodriguez tried to keep it all in perspective after the game.

“Last year, I stood here and had a really good spring, felt really good and the results during the year weren’t what we all wanted,” Rodriguez said. “[I take it] definitely one day a time. A good start; hopefully the first of many more days to come.”

The same can be said for the Yankees as a whole.

They shook off a two-run home run in the first inning by Hunter Pence, his second two-run shot off the Yankees in two days, to come back to score four unanswered runs as they went on to defeat the Phiilies for the second straight day in the team’s home Grapefruit league opener on Sunday at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

The Phiilies helped the Yankees by committing four errors in the field. The losing pitcher, Pineiro (0-1), was the victim of most of the misplays.

After Pineiro walked Francisco Cervelli on a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded and two out in the third inning to tie the score at 2-2, the Phillies treated the ball like a hand grenade in the fourth.

Justin Maxwell reached base with one out on a fielding error by third baseman Ty Wigginton. Second baseman Mike Martinez then botched a double-play ball off the bat of Derek Jeter that allowed Maxwell to advance to second while Martinez recovered to retire Jeter. Then Martinez made his second error in as many innings on a ball off the bat of Robinson Cano that allowed Maxwell to score the game’s eventual deciding run.

Rodriguez finished off the error-laden rally with an RBI double to the wall in left field to score Cano.

Rookie right-hander D.J. Mitchell (1-0) pitched two scoreless innings behind starter Freddy Garcia to pick up the victory. Young right-hander Chase Whitley got credit for a save despite the fact he gave up two hits in the ninth.

The Yankees have a 2-0 spring record. The Phillies are 0-2.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • A-Rod’s 3-for-3 day illustrated why it is so important to keep the 36-year-old slugger healthy for a full season. When he is locked in at the plate he remains one of the scariest hitters in baseball to face. Rodriguez was limited to only 99 games last season due to a knee injury and later a sprained left thumb.
  • Despite the fact Garcia was tagged for a two-run home run, he still pitched well in his two innings of work. Garcia gave up two runs on four hits. He did not walk a batter and he struck out two. He threw 25 of his 33 pitches for strikes.
  • The Yankees teed off on 6-foot-7, 255-pound right-hander Phillippe Aumont for three runs in the seventh inning to extend their lead to 7-3. Jose Gil blasted an RBI double after Domonic Brown dropped a routine fly ball off the bat of Corbin Joseph for a two-base error. Catching prospect J.R. Murphy and Jayson Nix later added RBI singles to close out the Yankees’ scoring.
  • Clay Rapada, who is in a four-way battle to become the second left-hander in the bullpen, threw a perfect inning of relief and struck out two batters.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  •  Cano pulled a base-running blunder that cost the Yankees in the third inning. With one out and Cano on second and Rodriguez at first, Cano drifted towards second base on fly ball off the bat of Mark Teixeira that dropped out of the glove of shortstop Freddy Galvis. Brown picked up the ball in left-field and threw Cano out easily at third base in an odd fielder’s choice from the outfield.
  • Yankee pitching gave up a total of 12 hits, five of them for extra bases. The one positive is they only walked one and struck out nine batters. The Phillies hurt their own cause by hitting just 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position and they left the bases loaded in the first inning en route to stranding eight runners overall.
  • Relievers Corey Wade and Kevin Whelan each gave up an earned run in their one inning of work. Wade gave up a two-out, two-run double to Galvis in the sixth and Whelan was touched for RBI out by Hector Luna scoring Lou Montanez in the eighth.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees celebrated their home opener by inviting the George M. Steinbrenner High School band to perform during the pregame show. Haley Swindal performed the national anthem during a flyover by two F18 Hornet jets from Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, VA.  . . .  After a 82-degree day in Clearwater, FL, on Saturday, temperatures dipped to the mid-60s on Sunday in Tampa and a sellout crowd of 10,981 had to brave 20-mph winds blowing from the left-field line to the right-field line.. The wind also played havoc with fly balls for the second straight day, making pop-ups an adventure for both teams.  . . .  Mariano Rivera and Rafael Soriano are scheduled to pitch a live inning of batting practice on Monday at Steinbrenner Field. Manager Joe Girardi said Rivera will throw one more batting practice session and then will be ready for game action next week.  . . .   Starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda pitched a simulated inning on Sunday in preparation for his spring debut Wednesday against the Tampa Bay Rays.  . . .  Outfielder Cole Garner was sidelined on Sunday with hamstring tightness after homering in the Yankees’ Grapefruit League opener against the Phillies in Clearwater on Saturday. He will be re-evaluated on Monday, Girardi said.

ON DECK

The Yankees will travel to Bright House Field in Clearwater on Monday to take on the Phillies for the third straight day.

Newly acquired right-hander Michael Pineda, 23, will make his Yankee debut as the starting pitcher. David Robertson is among a group of relievers also expected to pitch on Monday. The Yankees also will bring their starting outfield of Brett Garner, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher.

The Phillies will counter with with veteran right-hander Joe Blanton. Scott Elarton, Austin Hyatt, Brian Sanches and David Herndon also are scheduled to pitch for the Phillies.

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

 

Yankees To Open Spring Playing South Florida

The New York Yankees will open the spring with an exhibition game against the University of South Florida on Friday.

Manager Joe Girardi is planning to have his starters get one at-bat or two and right-hander Adam Warren will be the starting pitcher for the Yankees.

Warren, 24, is a non-roster player who was 6-8 with a 3.60 ERA in 27 starts at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. With the Yankees’ rotation loaded with six pitchers vying for five spots, Warren is obviously headed back to Triple A.

But Warren hopes to leave a good impression this spring with hopes of in-season call to the major leagues as a starter or reliever.

Girardi also announced the pitchers who will follow Warren to the mound. They are: Brett Marshall, Dan Burawa, Juan Cedeno, Graham Stoneburner, Ryan Pope and Kevin Whelan. All of them are non-roster pitchers who were invited to spring training.

The game, which begins at 1:05 p.m. EST at George M. Steinbrenner Field, will benefit the University of South Florida baseball program.

WALKING WOUNDED

The club has five players who have come up with injuries this spring.

Right-handed reliever Manny Delcarmen, another non-roster invitee, will miss four to five days with a slight strain of his right lat muscle.

Rookie catcher Austin Romine has been hobbled by inflammation in his back and the Yankees are being very cautious before letting him return to action.

First baseman and designated hitter Russell Branyan has been shelved with tightness in his back. Catcher Kyle Higashioka has been bothered with right shoulder soreness and right-handed reliever George Kontos has a slight oblique strain.

ALL EYES ON A.J.

Speaking of wounded, the Pittsburgh Pirates announced on Thursday that A.J. Burnett will undergo surgery in Pittsburgh on Friday after he suffered a fractured right orbital bone in his right eye in a bunting drill on Wednesday in Bradenton, Fl..

The Pirates do not have a timetable for his recovery at this time.

Burnett, 35, was acquired by the Pirates on Feb. 18 from the Yankees in return for two minor-league pitchers.

The Pirates scrapped Burnett’s scheduled start on Sunday and now face the likelihood with the setback in his spring preparation that he likely will not open the season on the team’s roster.

Burnett was injured while participating in the team’s bunting tournament. He fouled a ball from a pitching machine into his right-eye area and had to be immediately tended to by trainers.

On behalf of the Bottom of the Ninth blog and all the Yankee fans who still love and support A.J., we wish to express to A.J. and his family that we are are hoping the surgery goes well and he bounces back to pitch well for the Pirates this season.

BOMBER BANTER

Robinson Cano returned to camp in Tampa, FL, on Thursday after spending a few days in the Dominican Republic attending his grandmother’s funeral. She died of cancer at age 91. Cano will not play in a exhibition game until Sunday.  . . .  The Yankees’ annual team-building outing was held on Thursday at the Tampa Improv in Ybor City, FL. The team participated in improvisational skits and activities designed to loosen up the players and allow them to have some laughs together. Girardi said the trip was especially important for the young players in camp in helping them feel a part of the team.  . . .  Managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said Thursday that the team has a goal to lower payroll to $189 million over the next two years and the development of the team’s young pitchers would help toward that goal.  He said the team’s current payroll is around $210 million.

 

Branyan Among 27 Players Yanks Invite To Tampa

The New York Yankees announced Wednesday the signing of 13 players to minor-league contracts and have issued invitations to 27 players to spring training.

Besides utility man Bill Hall, who was signed to a minor-league deal on Tuesday, the biggest name on the list was left-handed power hitter Russell Branyan, who was signed on Wednesday. Branyan could figure as a cheap solution to the designated hitter spot should the Yankees fail to reach agreement with Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui or Raul Ibanez.

Branyan, 36, played in 68 games last season with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Angels and hit .197 with five home runs and 14 RBIs. Branyan is capable of playing first base, third base and as a corner outfielder but has primarily been a DH or pinch-hitter. In his 14-year career, Branyan has 194 home runs, 467 RBIs and a .232 batting average.

Branyan also has the distinction of hitting two of the longest home runs in the short history of the new Yankee Stadium.

Among the other prominent veterans invited to spring training are former Red Sox right-hander Manny Delcarmen, former Red Sox left-hander Hideki Okajima and former Blue Jays outfielder Dewayne Wise.

Delcarmen, 29, was a combined 3-4 with a 4.99 ERA in 57 appearances with the Red Sox and Colorado Rockies. He will compete for a spot in a stacked and talented Yankee bullpen.

Meanwhile, the 36-year-old Okajima will have to compete with fellow Red Sox left-hander Cesar Cabral, 23, to join Boone Logan in the bullpen as a second left-hander. Okajima was 1-0 with a 4.32 ERA in just seven appearances with the Red Sox last season before he was sent to the team’s Triple-A affiliate in Pawtucket, where he spent the rest of the season before being released.

Wise, 33, is best known for his spectacular ninth-inning catch to preserve Mark Buerhle’s perfect game for the White Sox against the Tampa Bay Rays in 2009. Last season, Wise hit .202 with two home runs, seven RBIs and six stolen bases in 69 games with the Blue Jays and the Florida Marlins. Wise is considered an excellent fielder with good speed and he has the ability to play all three outfield spots.

Among the group of players also invited to spring training is the Yankees’ No. 1 prospect, left-handed starter Manny Banuelos. Banuelos, 20, will join the team’s No. 2 prospect, right-handed starter Dellin Betances, who already was on the 40-man roster. Naeither pitcher is expected to make the major-league club out of spring training but they could be factors later in the season.

In addition, the Yankees have also invited two star catcher prospects: Gary Sanchez, 19, and J.R. Murphy, 20. Sanchez, ranked as the team’s No. 3 prospect, and Murphy, is ranked No. 13, both require seasoning at the minor-league level but are considered excellent future catching prospects.

The other players who received invitations include:

Left-handed pitchers: Juan Cedeno, Mike O’Connor.

Right-handed pitchers: Daniel Burawa, Matt Daley, Adam Miller, Ryan Pope, Graham Stoneburner, Adam Warren, Kevin Whelan, Chase Whitley.

Catchers: Jose Gil, Kyle Higashioka, Gustavo Molina.

Infielders: Doug Bernier, Jayson Nix, Jorge Vazquez.

Outfielders: Colin Curtis, Cole Garner, Brett Marshall.

 

Rays Pound Weakened Joba For 12-7 Victory Over Yankees



GAME 3
RAYS 12, YANKEES 7

TAMPA, FL – Sean Rodriguez was 3-for-3, including a double, a triple and a home run, and drove in three runs and Jason Bartlett added another two hits and three RBIs as the Tampa Bay Rays beat the New York Yankees 12-7 in a slugfest at Steinbrenner Field on Friday.
Joba Chamberlain, showing the effects of rustiness and weakened by the flu, was tagged for three hits, issued three walks and surrendered five runs in 1 1/3 innings. His main competition for the No. 5 spot in the rotation, Phil Hughes, gave up one run in his two innings of work and he took the loss.
Rays’ starter David Price pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings and he was credited with the victory.
The Yankees are now 1-2 on the spring and the Rays are 2-1.
YANKEE POSITIVES

  • There were no injuries to report.
  • Francisco Cervelli was 2-for-2, including a leadoff triple in the third in which he dared left fielder Rodriguez to throw him out at third and he slid in safely. Unfortunately, he did not score because Derek Jeter struck out, Curtis Granderson bounced out to the pitcher and Mark Teixeira struck out.
  • Robinson Cano also was 2-for-2 with a double and a single — both hits came off left-handers.
  • After the Yankees fell behind 7-0 and were trailing 8-1 in the bottom of the seventh, the reserves battled back to score six runs off Rays’ pitchers Mike Ekstrom and R.J. Swindle.
  • Eduardo Nunez, Juan Miranda, Kevin Russo and Jorge Vazquez keyed the seventh inning rally with RBI doubles.
  • You know it is a bad day when the most impressive Yankees pitcher was Kei Igawa. The Japanese lefty entered the game in the fourth inning with the bases loaded and one out and the Yankees were trailing 7-0. Igawa ended the threat by striking out Ben Zobrist and inducing B.J. Upton to pop out to Jeter. He then pitched a perfect fifth inning. He faced five batters in all and retired them all on 21 pitches. 
  • Hughes did not pitch poorly. He did give up a home run to Rodriguez in the first but he showed good command of his change-up, a pitch he is adding to his arsenal this season.
THE NEGATIVES

  • Chamberlain was obviously not himself. His delivery was sound but he left too many pitches up in the strike zone and the three walks are a clear indication his command was just not there. He told reporters after the game “You’re not going to win the battle by one game.” Chamberlain had spent most of the previous two days in bed and he said he had lost eight pounds. He said it was important for him to pitch and get his work in and he is not too concerned with the results.
  • It is early in the spring but some of the regular starters are off to slow starts. Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Jorge Posada and Nick Swisher are hitless.
  • Kevin Whelan, who was acquired in the Gary Sheffield trade, made Chamberlain’s outing worse by failing to retire a batter in the fourth inning. He entered the game with runners on second and third and one out. He then, in succession, threw a wild pitch to allow one run to score, walked a batter, gave up a two-run single to Bartlett, a double to Rodriguez and walked Evan Longoria before he was yanked by pitching coach Dave Eiland.
  • After the Yankees had rallied to an 8-7 deficit in the seventh, Grant Duff entered the game  in the eighth and promptly gave up three runs on two hits and two walks.
  • Yankee pitchers combined to issue 10 walks to the Rays and six of them later scored runs. The staff also uncorked two wild pitches.
  • An unearned run also scored in the seventh inning on a throwing error by Nunez.
DIAMOND NOTES

The weather for Friday’s game was a marked improvement from the past two days. The temperature at game time was 57 degrees. It was mostly sunny with only a slight 5 mph breeze towards right field. . . . The better weather also improved the attendance. The announced crowd was 10,753. . . . As expected, Nick Johnson did not play due to a strained lower back. Manager Joe Girardi said Johnson likely will not play again until Monday. Johnson suffered the injury in Clearwater on Thursday when his spikes caught in a turf mat near the batting cage. Johnson mistakenly thought he would be taking grounders after completing batting practice. But, as the DH that day, he was not required to take grounders and only needed to wear his rubber-souled shoes in the batting cage.  . . . Derek Jeter robbed his counterpart Jason Bartlett of a hit in the first inning with an impressive pickup of a line drive on the short hop, a spin and a long throw to first from the outfield grass that beat Bartlett. Many Rays players felt that Bartlett and not Jeter should have won the Gold Glove at shortstop in the American League last season. . . . Nick Swisher was a bit embarrassed after a base-running blunder in the second inning. Catcher Dioner Navarro attempted to pick him off first base with Francisco Cervelli at the plate but Swisher narrowly got back to the bag. But on the next pitch Navarro gunned him down easily and it ended a two-on, two-out threat. . . .  Girardi said he will not make up his mind concerning a No. 5 starter until about March 25 so Joba Chamberlain will have plenty of chances to prove he deserves the job. . . . In the crowd at the game was former Yankee farmhand and Rays first baseman Fred McGriff. The Tampa native assists the Rays on a part-time basis. 
THE NEXT GAME

The Yankees will host the Toronto Blue Jays at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Saturday. A.J. Burnett, a former Blue Jay, will make his first start of the spring for the Yankees. His former teammate, Shaun Marcum will get the starting assignment for the Blue Jays.
Game time is 1:05 p.m. EST and the game will be telecast locally by WWOR (My 9) and nationally by the MLB Network.