The pitchers and catchers of the New York Yankees have reported to spring training camp in Tampa, FL, and the position players will soon be joining them. The Yankees’ first scheduled exhibition game is a week away. There are very few jobs on the line this spring as it is with most seasons with the Yankees. But there are four battles worth watching this spring and the result may determine how successful the team will be in 2013. Let’s look at them.
4) STARTING CATCHER: FRANCISCO CERVELLI vs. CHRIS STEWART
With the departure of Russell Martin to the Pittsburgh Pirates as a free agent, the Yankees will be looking at replacing him from within their own ranks. The Yankees elected not to sign such free agents as A.J. Pierzynski and Miguel Oilvo. The problem is that Martin not only provided the Yankees with Gold Glove-quality defense behind the plate, he also provided power despite the fact his batting average was stuck below .200 for most of the 2012 season. The two main candidates to replace Martin are Cervelli, 26, who had been the team’s primary backup catcher in 2010 and 2011 but was optioned to Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre on the final day of spring training last season due to the acquisition of Stewart, 30, from the San Francisco Giants. Cervelli arrives as the team’s best hitting option because he owns a career .271 batting average. But he lacks power and, although he calls a good game behind the plate, his throwing can be very erratic. He has a career success rate of throwing out 19.8 percent of base-runners. In contrast, throwing out base-runners is Stewart’s forte. He has nailed 33.7 percent of potential base-stealers and Stewart’s other defensive skills are pretty much on par with Martin’s. The big negative with Stewart is that he is a career .217 hitter and he has no power. In addition to this battle, there are a pair of catchers looking to make an impression in rookie Austin Romine, 24, and non-roster invitee Bobby Wilson, 29. Romine is coming off a season in which he was plagued by a lower-back strain that limited him to just 33 games in the minors last season. Wilson, a former backup catcher with the Los Angels Angels, was released by the Toronto Blue Jays after spending the entire 2012 season at Triple A. Romine’s strong suit is defense and manager Joe Girardi and bench coach Tony Pena, both former catchers, believe Romine is ready to catch at the major-league level now. The issue with Romine is that he has to prove he is healthy and he has to improve as a hitter. Wilson is almost a carbon copy of Stewart. He has nailed 27.1 percent of potential base-stealers but his career major-league batting average is .208.
PREDICTION: Cervelli should win the job, barring injury, which is a legitimate concern. Cervelli has suffered three separate concussions, a broken wrist and a broken bone in his foot over the past five seasons. So his durability is an issue. Stewart, on the basis of his solid season as backup in 2012, seems to be almost assured of retaining his job. But Romine is worth watching this spring. If he is healthy and he shows signs his hitting is improving he might get a promotion to the majors this season. But realistically the Yankees would prefer that he get in a full season at Scranton and he could be promoted in September with a hope he can compete for a starting role in 2014. Wilson will be insurance in case there is an injury to Cervelli or Stewart and he likely will share the catching chores with Romine at Scranton.
3) RESERVE INFIELDER: JAYSON NIX vs. EDUARDO NUNEZ
Although this is, in a sense, a rematch from last spring, it also is not. Confused? Well, Nunez was actually competing for the backup infield spot with Ramiro Pena and Nix, who was signed as a minor-league free agent, was just invited to spring training. Nunez, 25, easily won the role by hitting .372 while Pena hit .240. Nix, 30, was a longshot to make the team and did not. However, he did open some eyes by hitting .323 and flashing some solid defense at second base, third base and shortstop. Nix also proved valuable in that he could play the corner outfield spots. So he was optioned to Scranton and he hit .233 there before he was summoned on May 3. Nunez was hitting a sizzling .294 but his penchant to commit careless fielding errors doomed him. He was optioned to Scranton on May 11 and Nix became the team’s backup infielder. Nunez’s season pretty much fell apart after that. He suffered an injury to his right hand that sidelined him for most of the minor-league season. He was recalled to the Yankees when the rosters expanded on Sept. 1 but the Yankees top brass insisted that Nunez was being groomed as primarily a shortstop and that he would not used as a utility infielder anymore. Nix,meanwhile, flourished in his role, hitting .243 with four home runs and 18 RBIs in 174 at-bats in 77 games. Though Nunez is clearly a better athlete, a better hitter and a better base-stealer, Nix was so much steadier in the field that the Yankees were pleased with his work. Nunez committed seven errors in 38 games with the Yankees while Nix was charged with only three. A quick look at the Yankees’ depth chart on yankees.com shows something interesting this spring. Nunez is listed as the primary backup at second, third, shortstop and leftfield. Huh? I guess the Yankees changed their minds about Nunez not being a utility player and he will battle Nix for the role. If anyone believes Nunez is going to shed his nickname of “Eduardo Scissorhands” this spring than I have some prime swampland to sell you. But the Yankees may need his hitting and his base-stealing ability more than they need his fielding this season. The Yankees lost a lot of power from the 2012 club and they may need to score more runs by moving runners around the bases and stealing more bases. That would favor Nunez, who actually embarrassingly was third on the team last season with 11 stolen bases despite playing in only 38 games. Nix is still in the picture because of his fielding and steady play. It is going to be a very close call either way it goes.
PREDICTION: Nunez not only has hitting and base-stealing advantages this spring. He also may benefit from the slow recovery of Derek Jeter from surgery on his fractured left ankle and the presence of camp invitee Dan Johnson. If Jeter can’t start the season at shortstop, Nunez will man the position in his place. The reason Johnson is important is that he is a left-handed power hitter who can play both first and third base. If Johnson can make the team and show he field third base adequately enough, Nunez would only need to back up at shortstop and second base. That would lessen the chances Nix would have to making the 25-man roster. Johnson would, in effect, replace Eric Chavez, who opted to sign with the Arizona Diamondbacks. That would allow Nunez to remain as a backup middle infielder and potentially a right-handed platoon designated hitter. If I was a betting man, I would wager that this is the scenario that likely will play out. Nix could accept a demotion to Scranton as insurance. It also is possible that Nunez could be packaged in a trade before the season starts. But that won’t happen until Jeter shows he will be ready to play by Opening Day.
2) BACKUP OUTFIELDER: MATT DIAZ vs. JUAN RIVERA
One of the reasons Nunez is listed as a backup in leftfield is because both Diaz and Rivera are non-roster invitees to spring training. But, rest assured, one of them make the team as a right-handed hitting backup outfielder. Diaz, 34, was released by the Atlanta Braves after suffering through a season cut short in August by season-ending surgery on his right thumb. Diaz hit .222 with two home runs and 13 RBIs. He is a career .291 hitter and he has been an exceptional hitter against left-handed pitching. Rivera, 34, originally came up through the Yankees’ minor-league system and played with the Yankees in parts of the 2002 and 2003 seasons before being traded to the then Montreal Expos before the 2004 season. Rivera was reserve outfielder with the Los Angeles Dodgers last season and hit .244 with nine home runs and 47 RBIs. He is a career .274 hitter and h also has been a much better hitter against left-handers. When the Yankees chose to allow Andruw Jones sign with a team in Japan, the Yankees opened up a spot on the roster for a right-handed hitting corner outfielder who could also serve as a right-handed platoon designated hitter. Neither player is considered as accomplished fielders though Diaz has a bit more range. As hitters, Diaz is a better hitter for average though Rivera boasts considerably more power. Because the Yankees starting outfield is an all left-handed-hitting group consisting of Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Ichiro Suzuki it is important that the Yankees have a right-handed-hitting option on the bench. So these two players will be fighting it out.
PREDICTION: Because of Rivera’s former ties to the club and the fact he hits with more power, he has a big edge over Diaz. Neither Gardner or Suzuki have much power so it will be important to have a hitter on the bench who can provide it from the right side. Should Girardi also need a right-handed DH, Rivera fits the Jones mold better than Diaz does. Diaz also has slipped significantly since the 2009 season when he hit .313 and he also is coming off surgery. Rivera, on the other hand, also has slipped from his 2009 season when he hit .287 with 25 home runs and 88 RBIs with the Los Angeles Angels. But last season was the first season in which he has failed to connect for double-digit home runs since the 2007 season in which he played in only 14 games. Rivera will likely win the job easily barring injury or something else unforeseen.
1) NO. 5 STARTING PITCHER: IVAN NOVA vs. DAVID PHELPS
Those other position battles are the undercard but this one is the Main Event. It is also odd that there is even a competition involving Nova considering how good he was in his rookie season in 2011. But Nova, 26, struggled from the minute spring exhibitions started in 2012 and it got so bad that he was taken out of the rotation in favor of Phelps by Girardi in September. Nova’s record in 2011 was 16-4 and he was 12-8 last season. However, his ERA jumped from 3.70 to 5.02 and, though he recorded a 1.26 ERA in June last season, his ERA in the other months was: 5.18 in April, 5.87 in May, 5.97 in July, 7.03 in August and 6.23 in September. Ouch! So that is the reason Phelps is challenging him for the No. 5 spot in the rotation. Phelps, 25, arrived in camp last spring voted as the organization’s best minor-league pitcher in 2011. Though scouts have always doubted him, Phelps rose through the minors and carries a record of 40-15 with a 2.51 ERA in 90 starts. In spring training, Phelps was 0-1 with a 2.08 ERA in seven appearances and was named the Yankees’ top rookie of the spring. He also earned a spot in the bullpen. Phelps then turned in some sparkling performances as a long reliever and spot starter with the Yankees. He ended the season 4-4 with a 3.34 ERA in 33 appearances (11 starts). This competition is hard to handicap because Nova – truth be told – has the nastiest stuff of any of the Yankees’ starters. Last season he just could not harness it and he got hit hard when he fell behind and had to throw fastballs. Phelps is pit-bull on the mound who has supreme confidence in himself and his stuff.
PREDICTION: I really have no idea on how this will turn out but I still believe that Nova has a bit of an edge on the basis of his rookie season. But Phelps has been doubted at every step of the way since he starred at Notre Dame. You can never measure desire and he has it. I can tell you the loser of this battle will not necessarily be heading to the bullpen. For one thing, Nova has little or no bullpen experience. Another reason is that the Yankees probably will want to make sure that the starter they do not select for the rotation remains “stretched out” as a starter at the minor-league level so they can step in case of an injury. I can also say it is refreshing to see that with homegrown starters like Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes already in the rotation and two homegrown starters like Nova and Phelps battling for the last rotation spot, that the Yankees’ minor-league system is beginning to churn out talent at a time when the payroll needs to be reduced. It sure beats shelling out money to guys like Sergio Mitre and Freddy Garcia. That is progress.
YANKEES 6, MARINERS 3
There are some days when an ace pitcher carries to the mound what looks to be no-hit stuff and on Friday it looked for all the paid crowd of 45,872 in attendance at Yankee Stadium that they were going to see just that from CC Sabathia.
Instead, the Yankees and their fans had to settle for a complete-game three-hit victory with 10 strikeouts as Sabathia shut down the Mariners and New York ended Seattle’s seven-game winning streak.
Sabathia (12-3) retired the first 10 batters he faced until Casper Wells connected on a first-pitch fastball and deposited into the Mariners’ bullpen in left-center. He then retired the next 12 batters before giving up a one-out double down the left-field line to Miguel Olivo.
The Mariners then opened the ninth by drawing a leadoff walk from Brendan Ryan and Dustin Ackley smacked a 1-0 fastball into the the bleachers in right-field, which brought manager Joe Girardi out to the mound apparently to replace his left-hander as a chorus of boos rained down upon him. But Girardi allowed Sabathia to get the last threw outs and the Yankees coasted to victory.
Meanwhile, the Yankees offense built an early lead for Sabathia in the third inning off veteran right-hander Kevin Millwood (4-9).
Ichiro Suzuki opened the frame with an infield chopper to the left of the mound for a single to extend his hitting streak to 10 games. Russell Martin followed with a double into left-center that advanced Suzuki to third. Curtis Granderson then scored both Suzuki and Martin with a lined single to center.
Three innings later, the Yankees padded their 2-1 lead with two out and Raul Ibanez on first when Eric Chavez hit a high fly ball that eluded the glove of right-fielder Eric Thames at the right-field wall and bounced into the seats for Chavez’s 10th home run of the season. Chavez beccame the ninth member of the team to reach double figures in home runs, which is the most in the major leagues.
Millwood left the game after six innings having given up four runs on nine hits and a walk while he struck out three.
The Yankees added a pair of runs in seventh off Mariners relievers Carter Capps and Oliver Perez on RBI singles by Robinson Cano and Ibanez. Though both hits came off Perez the runs were charged to Capps, who was making his major-league debut.
The victory gives the Yankees a season record of 62-43, which is tied for the best record in the American League with the Texas Rangers. The victory also maintained the Yankees’ 6 1/2 game lead in the American League East but the Tampa Bay Rays grabbed second place in the division by shutting out the Baltimore Orioles 2-0. The Mariners dropped to 50-58.
- Sabathia came into the game as the pitcher with the best major-league winning percentage in August and he promptly won his first start of the month. He also entered the game with an 11-4 career record and a 2.42 ERA against the Mariners. Sabathia is also tied with three others pitchers for the third-most victories in the American League and he still has a shot to win 20 games for a second time in his career. He has not won less than 19 games in his three previous seasons with the Yankees.
- Chavez’s home run definitely had the benefit of the short porch in right and a little help from a fan. Replays showed a fan with glove impeded Thames’ glove from reaching the ball, but the fan did not appear to lean out into the field. The ball hit the top of the concrete wall and bounced into the stands. Thames and Mariners manager Eric Wedge did not dispute the call of home run by first-base umpire Larry Vanover.
- Suzuki’s hitting streak has been of the vitamin variety, “One-A-Day.” He has 10 hits in his 40 at-bats in his 10 games as a Yankee. If he collects a single hit in his next game, Suzuki would set a team record of a 11-game hitting streak with 11 hits.
Nothing to criticize in this game. Sabathia was dominant despite giving up the two home runs and the offense and defense was exceptional. Even with the game locked up at 2-1 into the bottom of the sixth inning, it appeared Sabathia was in command and the Yankees would win. They did and it was a good victory.
Mark Teixeira returned to the lineup after missing two games with an inflamed left wrist. Teixeira responded well to a shot of cortisone and he was 1-for-4 in the game. . . . Chavez was removed from the game in the ninth inning with a sore right ankle. Chavez twisted the ankle awkwardly on a swing in the bottom of the eighth inning and he was replaced at third base by Jayson Nix. Girardi said the injury does not appear to be serious. . . . Martin caught Sabathia for the first time since April 11 and it did not seem to bother Sabathia at all. Chris Stewart had caught Sabathia’s 16 previous starts. . . . With Alex Rodriguez out of the lineup, Girardi elected to bat Granderson in the leadoff spot and Jeter in the second spot in order to keep from stacking too many left-handed hitters in a row. It was only the second time this season Granderson has batted leadoff.
The Yankees will continue their three-game weekend home series with the Mariners on Saturday.
The Yankees will call upon veteran right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (10-7, 3.28 ERA) to start the game. Kuroda held the Mariners to one run on three hits over seven innings and fanned nine on July 23. He gave up two runs on seven hits and one walk in seven innings against the Red Sox on Sunday but did not get a decision. Kuroda is 2-1 with a 3.10 ERA in his career against the M’s.
The Mariners will counter with ace right-hander Felix Hernandez (9-5, 2.79 ERA). Hernandez is 5-0 with a 1.60 ERA in his last nine starts. He is 7-5 with a 3.38 ERA in his career against the Yankees.
Game-time will be at 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
The New York Yankees got some game-condition work in on Friday with a 11-0 exhibition victory over the University of South Florida at George M. Steinbrenner Field at Tampa, FL.
Right-hander Adam Warren pitched two scoreless innings to pick up the victory. Warren, 24, gave up one hit and walked none while striking out two as part of a group of seven Yankee pitchers who limited the Bulls to four hits, no walks and struck out 10.
Manager Joe Girardi started all his regulars with the exception of second baseman Robinson Cano and catcher Russell Martin and the regulars were given only one or two at-bats.
Girardi was pleased with the hitting of outfielder Zoilo Almonte (2-for-2, two RBIs) and second baseman David Adams (1-for-2, one RBI). Outfielder Colin Curtis and Infielder Ramiro Pena added two hits apiece as the Yankees pounded out 14 hits against USF pitching.
The USF Bulls are coached by Lelo Prado, the brother-in-law of former Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez, currently a special assistant to general manager Brian Cashman. USF is in fourth place in the Big East standings with a 4-4 record.
The Yankees are 3-0 against USF in spring exhibitions by a combined score of 31-5. Proceeds from the game benefitted the USF baseball program.
Most of Friday’s news surrounded two former Yankees. Former Yankee right-hander A.J. Burnett underwent successful surgery to repair an injury to his right-eye orbital bone in Pittsburgh and the Pirates announced that he will miss about eight to 12 weeks. Bunrett sustained the injury fouling a bunt off his eye during a bunting contest at the Pirates spring training complex in Bradenton, FL. . . . Former Yankee catcher and designated hitter Jesus Montero took two foul shots off his jaw in the fifth inning of the Mariners’ spring Cactus League opener against the Oakland Athletics and had to be removed from the game. Up to that point, Montero, 22, was 1-for-3 at the plate with two runs and two RBIs in the game in Phoenix, AZ. The Mariners have already announced that Miguel Olivo will open the season as the team’s starting catcher and that Montero would be a candidate to DH and develop as a catcher as a backup to Olivo.
The Yankees will open their 33-game spring training schedule on Saturday against the Philadelphia Phillies at Bright House Field in Clearwater, FL. Ivan Nova, a 24-year-old right-hander who was 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA in his rookie season, will start for the Yankees. Girardi also said that Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, Cesar Cabral, Michael O’Connor and David Phelps will pitch for the Yankees. The starting outfield of Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher along with Martin will start for the Yankees.
The Phillies will counter by starting left-hander Cole Hamels, who was 14-9 with a 2.79 ERA for the Phillies last season. David Bush, Jonathan Papelbon, Dontrelle Willis, Raul Valdes, Chad Qualls and Mike Stutes are also slated to pitch. The Phiilies willl open their spring slate without three of the top regulars available to play on Saturday. First baseman Ryan Howard has an infection in his left Achilles tendon and has not reported to camp. Second baseman Chase Utley and third baseman Placido Polanco are also being held out of action by manager Charlie Manuel. Utley suffers from a chronic knee condition and Polanco is recovering from sports hernia surgery.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EST and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network.
YANKEES 3, MARINERS 2
To the best closer to ever toe the rubber, Tuesday likely seemed just like any night over the past 17 seasons he has sported the number 42 on his back. But when the final out was recorded in the ninth inning, Mariano Rivera earned another taste of history by recording his 600th save.
Rivera joins a short list of relievers that includes just Trevor Hoffman and himself as the only closers to reach that plateau. The Panama native now needs only two saves to pass Hoffman on the all-time saves list.
The fact that Rivera did this to preserve a victory for the luckless veteran A.J. Burnett, helped extend the Yankees’ modest winning streak to three games and maintained the club’s four-game lead in the American League over the second-place Boston Red Sox made the milestone even sweeter.
The Yankees broke a 2-2 tie in the sixth inning on a Robinson Cano fielder’s choice grounder that scored Nick Swisher and the bullpen — led by Rivera’s 41st save of the season — held the Mariners at bay the rest of the game as New York edged Seattle at Safeco Field in front of a crowd of 18,306.
Burnett (10-11) won his first game since Aug. 15 at Kansas City against the Royals, a stretch of five starts. The six innings he pitched were a microcosm of what Burnett has been to the Yankees during the season.
In his first three innings, Burnett threw 64 pitches, he gave up two runs on four hits, walked one batters, hit two batters and threw two wild pitches. To Yankee fans familiar with the Burnett repertoire this is the what they would call “Bad A.J.”
However, over the next three innings, Burnett threw 39 pitches, gave up no runs, no hits and walked just one batter. This is what Yankee fans affectionately call “Good A.J.”
The end result was a victory for him and the Yankees and a pitching line that reads: six innings, four hits, two walks, and a season-high 11 strikeouts. He struck out at least one batter in every inning and he struck out two batters in the first, second, fourth, fifth and sixth innings. He struck out the Mariners No. 7 and No. 8 hitters, Adam Kennedy and Casper Wells, in all six plate appearances he faced them.
He was only touched by a two-out RBI single by Brendan Ryan in the second inning and a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Miguel Olivo in the third before he settled in and started getting strikeout after strikeout with his breaking pitches.
The performance earned him his 10th win, the seventh straight season he has won 10 or games.
Meanwhile, the Yankees were able to take an early 2-0 lead on rookie lefty Charlie Furbush (3-9) in the second inning.
Cano led off the frame with his 26th home run of the season that landed deep into the right-centerfield bleachers. Rookie designated hitter Jesus Montero followed with a line-drive single to left and Andruw Jones advanced him to third with double down the leftfield line.
Furbush was then working on Russell Martin, who returned to the lineup after missing two games with a bruised right thumb, when Furbush uncorked a wild pitch that eluded Olivo and rolled to the backstop. Montero broke from third and scored without a play at the plate.
The Yankees winning rally began in the sixth on a Nick Swisher leeadoff double off the wall in left-center. Mark Teixiera followed with a looping single to right that Swisher had to make sure fell in front of Ichiro Suzuki before advancing to third.
Cano then hit a grounder to Dustin Ackley at second in which the Mariners were unable to turn into a double play and Swisher scored easily with what proved to be the winning run.
The bullpen then took over in the seventh. The Yankees’ killer trio of Rafael Soriano, David Robertson and Rivera were able to shut out the Mariners the rest of the way, although Robertson did make it interesting the eighth by giving up a single and two walks sandwiched around three strikeouts. The reliever the Yankees call “Houdini” for his unbelievable escapes from jams struck out pinch-hitter Trayvon Robinson swinging with two out to end the bases-loaded threat.
Rivera then began the ninth with a strikeout of pinch-hitter Wily Mo Pena. After a Suzuki single, Rivera struck out rookie Kyle Seager swinging. Then with Ackley batting, Suzuki was thrown out attempting to steal by Martin to end the game and deliver an epic save to the Yankees’ 41-year-old living legend reliever.
The Yankee players and coaches spilled out of the dugout and bullpen to congratulate Rivera on his very rare achievement. Rivera cast it aside after the game saying there was a more important goal at stake for him.
“It’s a good number to achieve, but at the same time, it’s not all about that, you know what I mean?” Rivera said.
With the victory the Yankees have already clinched a victory in the three-game series with the Mariners. They also improved their season record to 90-57. The Mariners, losers of their last four games, are now 61-87.
- Look out A.L. pitchers, Cano is hot again! In the last three games, Cano is 7-for-14 (.500) with two home runs and six RBIs. His two RBIs on Tuesday give him 111 on the season, which ties him for the team lead with Curtis Granderson. It also tops his career high of 109 RBIs he set last season and he still has 15 games left to play.
- Montero had three very good at-bats on Tuesday. In the second he singled solidly to left and later scored on a wild pitch. In the fourth he doubled off the wall in left-center but was caught napping on a hot grounder hit to Ryan at shortstop. Ryan threw to second to nab Montero, who had strayed too far off the base. But in the sixth, Montero hit a shot to deep center that barely missed going out. To show how large Montero’s legend has grown, Mariners manager Eric Wedge called in a right-hander to face him in the sixth rather then let Furbush face him a third time.
- You have to credit to Burnett for toughing out a rocky three innings and shutting down the Mariners in the next three. His off-speed stuff was electric and had the Mariners flailing at air most of the evening. Granted the Mariners were playing a lot of youngsters who have limited major-league experience. But the performance was impressive nonetheless.
- The Yankees continue to pull rockhead plays at a time when they should be eliminating them before the playoffs. Montero was caught off second by Ryan in the fourth inning. Two innings later, Cano forgot how many outs there were and was already touching third as Montero’s blast to center was caught by Wells. Montero’s out was only the second out and Cano was doubled off easily for the third out. The Yankees also bounced into three double plays, which prevented them from extending their 3-2 lead.
- Eduardo Nunez continues to struggle at the plate. He was 0-for-3 with a strikeout and did not get a ball out of the infield. He is now 3-for-37 (.081) since Aug. 28. The league has apparently caught up with him and pitchers are feeding him a steady diet of breaking balls out of the strike zone and letting Nunez get himself out.
- In fact, the No. 7, 8 and 9 hitters in Tuesday’s lineup — Martin, Nunez and Brett Gardner — combined to go 0-for-9 with five strikeouts, one double play and none of them got a ball out of the infield. When the offense is clicking, it is usually because the bottom of the order is producing and getting on base.
The Yankees got Martin back behind the plate and Swisher, who played first on Monday, returned to leftfield for the first time since he injured his left elbow last Thursday in Baltimore. The Yankees have played the last three games without three starters and have been resting other starters due to an extended road trip without any days off. Alex Rodriguez, who is out with a sore left thumb, likely will not play again until the team gets to Toronto on Friday. Meanwhile, backup catcher Francisco Cervelli was placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to Sept. 9 with concussion syndrome symptoms. It is unlikely that Cervelli will play for the Yankees for the rest of the season. Rookies Jesus Montero and Austin Romine could both make the postseason roster, although Romine likely would take Cervelli’s role as the backup to Martin. Montero would be a DH.
The Yankees can post a sweep of the Mariners on Wednesday.
They will start Rookie of the Year candidate Ivan Nova (15-4, 3.94 ERA). Nova had his streak of eight consecutive wins in eight starts broken his last time out with a no-decision against the Orioles on Sept. 8. He gave up three runs on five hits and three walks in 5 1/3 innings. He is 0-0 with a 9.82 ERA against the Mariners this season.
The Mariners will counter with lefty slop-tosser Jason Vargas (8-13, 4.49 ERA). Vargas won his start last Thursday against the Royals, giving up one run on four hits over six innings. He is just 2-8 in his last 12 starts. He is 0-3 with a 7.86 ERA in his career against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 10:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by ESPN and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 9, MARINERS 3
It takes courage to overthrow a tyrant king who has been so oppressive for the the last three years. But the Yankees did just that on Monday night in Seattle.
“King Felix” Hernandez of the Mariners entered Monday’s game with a 5-0 record and a 1.29 ERA in his last six starts against the Yankees going back to 2009. But Hernandez left the mound having given up six runs in six innings as New York took Seattle to the woodshed and whipped them thoroughly in front of a crowd of 22,029 at Safeco Field.
The key to knocking down the walls to Felix’s kingdom came off a five-run, five-hit fourth inning started by a leadoff home run off the bat of Mark Teixeira, who now has five career home runs off the 2010 American League Cy Young award winner.
Robinson Cano doubled to right and Nick Swisher, back in the lineup after missing three games with elbow inflammation, singled to left. Eric Chavez scored Cano with a sacrifice fly and Brett Gardner scored Swisher with a opposite-field double to left.
Chris Dickerson, making a rare start in rightfield, then delivered the blow that crushed the Mariners and their revered king with a two-run home run to the bleachers in rightfield.
Herenandez (14-12) gave up six runs on nine hits in six innings and he did fan four batters.
The Yankees went three and out in the first two innings off their Seattle nemesis before Gardner singled to lead off the third inning and Dickerson followed with a bouncing single into right that advanced Gardner to third.
One out later, Dickerson stole second and Derek Jeter grounded out to allow Gardner to score the game’s first run.
“Prince Phillip” Hughes of the Yankees was touched for a run in the bottom of the third because of some mistakes of his own. He issued a one-out walk to Brendan Ryan. Later Hughes fell asleep and allowed Ryan an early break on a steal of second base.
One out later, Hughes left an 0-2 pitch over the middle of the plate to Ichiro Suzuki and Suzuki singled to center to score Ryan.
However, despite the mistakes and an elevated pitch count, Hughes (5-5) was able to shut down the Mariners. He gave up only the one run on five hits and three walks and struck out three over six innings to pick up his first victory since Aug. 19 in Minnesota against the Twins.
The Yankees added three runs in the seventh off rookie reliever Dan Cortes, keyed by an 10-pitch at-bat from Cano that culminated in a one-out, bases-clearing double in which Cano tied his career high of 109 RBIs he set last season.
The Mariners added a pair of runs off reliever Scott Proctor in the eighth on a two-run home run by Miguel Olivo. However, by the time Olivo hit the home run, the Mariners’ king was long since removed from his throne.
The victory gives the Yankees a modest two-game winning streak and improves their season record to 89-57. It also increases their lead in the American League East to four games over the Boston Red Sox, who suddenly have much bigger problems looming to their rear.
The Tampa Bay Rays beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-2 on Monday and they are now within three games of the Red Sox in the wild-card standings. While the Red Sox are 2-8 over their last 10 games and they have lost five in a row, the Rays are 8-2 in their last 10 games and they have won five in a row.
Could the Red Flops, uh, Sox, be choking on their clam “chowdah?”
- Give manager Joe Girardi a lot of credit for starting Dickerson in right. Swisher was able to play but Girardi elected to start him at first and use Teixeira as the designated hitter. Instead of using the right-hand-hitting Andruw Jones in right, Girardi opted for the left-handed Dickerson and Dickerson was 2-for-4 with a single, a home run and a stolen base. He also made a nice running catch on a drive off the bat of Ryan in the fifth inning.
- Cano followed a two-hit game on Sunday with a thrre-hit game on Monday. He was 3-for-5 with two doubles, a single, a run scored and three RBIs. After driving in four runs against the Orioles on Sept. 5, Cano was 2-for-19 (.105) with six strikeouts until he broke out of it on Monday.
- Hughes was not great and he was not awful either. He was just good enough to allow the Yankees offense to get to Hernandez and he held the lead until his pitch count reached 99 after six innings. Hughes had trouble with command of his curveball but he was able to keep the Mariners off balance with his cutter and by spotting his fastball.
- Chavez was the only Yankee starter not have a hit among the 14 hits the Yankees accumulated. But, Chavez did have a sac fly in the five-run fifth off Hernandez so everyone did contribute to the offense on Monday. Even slumping Curtis Granderson collected two hits in his last two at-bats.
Well, let’s see: The Yankees won, they beat King Felix and they now lead a large sinking ship in Boston Harbor by four games. Complaining about anything tonight would be silly.
Austin Romine made his first major-league start at catcher on Monday and he collected his first major-league hit off Cortes to lead off the Yankees’ three-run seventh inning. He singled to right and later scored on Cano’s double. Girardi said that he hopes to have Russell Martin back behind the plate on Tuesday. Martin left Saturday’s game against the Angels with a bruised right thumb. Jesus Montero, who made his first major-league start at catcher on Sunday, will likely return to the lineup as the DH. . . . Though Swisher started at first base on Monday he likely will not be able to play rightfield for a few more days because of inflammation in his left elbow. . . . Francisco Cervelli received a negative result on his MRI but Girardi said he will not rejoin the club for the rest of the road trip this week. Cervelli is suffering from concussion symptoms after a home-plate collision with Nick Markakis of the Orioles on Thursday. Meanwhile Alex Rodriguez is still unable to swing a bat because of his sore left thumb. Rodriguez could return in the Seattle series but Girardi is not going to start Rodriguez until he is sure he is 100 percent.
The Yankees will continue their three-game series with the Mariners on Tuesday.
A.J. Burnett (9-11, 5.27 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Burnett is coming off a subpar outing against the Orioles in which he gave up four runs in six innings. He is 2-2 with a 3.80 ERA in his career against the Mariners.
The Mariners will counter with left-hander Charlie Furbush (2-5, 5.87 ERA). Furbush shut out the Angels over seven innings in his last start but lost steam in the eighth and was beaten 3-1. He is 3-1 with a 3.91 ERA at Safeco Field. He has never faced the Yankees.
Game-time will be 10:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.