YANKEES 4, NATIONALS 3
Chris Young blasted a two-run homer in the eighth inning off Nationals closer Drew Storen to propel New York to a come-from-behind victory over Washington on Saturday at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.
Young’s third home run of the spring, which all came off the Nationals, followed a one-out single by Didi Gregorius.
Storen (0-1), who has been hampered all spring with blister on his right foot, took the loss.
David Carpenter (2-0) pitched one-third of an inning in the seventh to get credit for the victory. Right-hander Dellin Betances earned a save by striking out the side in the ninth despite making things interesting by yielding a single and a walk in between.
The Yankees concluded their exhibition season with a 17-16-1 record.
Chris Martin pitched a perfect inning of relief in sixth with two strikeouts. Just the fact he is even pitching on a major-league roster is a miracle in and of itself.
Martin was named a member of manager Joe Girardi’s seven-man bullpen on Friday. But there was a time the 6-foot-8 right-hander was just a regular working stiff at an appliance warehouse.
Down in Arlington, TX, Martin was loading 650-pound refrigerators onto dollies for delivery. The only doubleheaders Martin knew were the shifts he previously worked at the lawn and garden section at Lowe’s warehouse and then evenings at UPS.
Before all this Martin, 27, was drafted as a senior from Arlington High School by the Detroit Tigers in 18th round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft. Instead of signing Martin opted to attend McLennan Community College in Waco, TX.
That following year, the tall right-hander was chosen in the 21st round by the Colorado Rockies. Again, Martin opted to stay in school.
However, that fall, Martin severely injured his shoulder. On the advice of Dr. Keith Meister, the team physician for the Texas Rangers, Martin tried resting the shoulder. But with the pain too great, Martin underwent surgery in 2007 to repair the labrum and release the shoulder capsule.
When the shoulder healed, Martin tried out with the Fort Worth Cats of the United Baseball League. When the shoulder still didn’t feel right, Martin quit baseball and went to work at Lowe’s and then at night with UPS for the insurance benefits.
Martin later caught up with former Arlington alum Jordan Bostwick, who graduated a year after Martin. Bostwick urged Martin to come to work for him at Texas Appliance in Arlington.
In June 2010, Bostwick broke out a left-handed catcher’s mitt during a lunch break and had Martin play catch with him. Martin’s pitches busted the seams off the mitt and nearly broke Bostwick’s right thumb.
More importantly, Martin informed Bostwick his shoulder felt really good.
Soon Martin signed a contract for $800 a month with the Grand Prairie Airhogs, an independent team operated by former major-league slugger Pete Incaviglia.
The radar readings of Marin’s pitches were hitting 95 miles per hour. Martin went on to a 4-0 record with a 1.95 ERA in 13 games with the Airhogs.
Incaviglia called the Boston Red Sox on behalf of Martin and the Red Sox signed him for $1,100 a month after a tryout arranged at Martin’s expense in Fort Myers, FL. After stops in Class-A Greenville and Salem, Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket, Martin was dealt to the Rockies in December 2013.
Martin made his major-league debut with the Rockies against the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 26 of last year.
He ended up with an ERA of 6.89 in 16 games with the Rockies before his contract was purchased for $75,000 by the Yankees in January.
Martin was among a large group of non-roster pitchers trying to making the Yankees’ bullpen this spring. At best, he was a long-shot. He ended spring training on Saturday with a 0-1 record and 4.09 ERA in 11 appearances. But the Yankees were enamored more by his 18 strikeouts with only one walk.
So Martin now will have a chance to open the season in the major leagues in 2015. It does not appear he will be making those shifts to load refrigerators in Texas anymore.
Instead he will be living out a dream that looked to be over just a short time ago.
- Despite the fact starter Nathan Eovaldi gave up three runs on three hits in the first inning, he settled in nicely afterwards. Eovaldi, 25, held the Nats to just one hit over the next four frames. In five innings, Eovaldi struck out six while walking three. He ended his spring with a 1-1 record with a 1.93 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings.
- Stephen Drew ruined right-hander Doug Fister’s six-inning outing by lashing a two-out, two-run home run in the fifth inning to draw the Yankees to within a run of the Nationals at 3-2. It was Drew’s third homer of the spring and he ended up batting .259 with three homers and nine RBIs. On March 12, Drew was hitting .077. From then on he was 16-for-34 (.471).
- Betances earned a save by striking out the side in the ninth. But he also yielded a one-out single to Reed Johnson and a one-out walk to Pedro Severino. Betances topped out at 95 mph on the radar gun, which is still a bit off the 97 mph he was throwing at last season.
- The offense is still pretty inconsistent. The Yankees did not get their first hit until the fourth inning and they managed just six hits overall. Fortunately, home runs by Drew and Young bailed them out. The Yankees got great pitching from Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Eovaldi and Adam Warren this spring. It would a shame not to give those guys the support they deserve.
- Alex Rodriguez started at designated hitter and batted seventh in the game. But A-Rod probably would like to forget about it because Fister fanned him twice and reliever Craig Stammen did it once – all three strikeouts came on sharp curveballs.
- Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner set the table exactly as Girardi would have liked in the fourth when Ellsbury reached after being hit by a pitch from Fister. Gardner followed with a sharp single to left. But Carlos Beltran grounded into a force play and Mark Teixiera rapped into a 4-6-3 double play. The RBI guys are paid to produce and Beltran and Teixeira must do it consistently if the Yankees are to contend at all.
The Yankees elected to retain John Ryan Murphy as their backup catcher to Brian McCann as they designated for assignment Austin Romine on Saturday. Murphy came off the bench in seventh inning to catch and was 0-for-1 to end the spring with a .238 average. Romine was 6-for-35 (.171) with 10 strikeouts. Romine was out of options so now any team may claim him. If he is not claimed he would remain with the Yankees and be sent to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. . . . In other roster moves, the Yankees added backup infielder Gregorio Petit to the 25-man roster and they placed infielder Brendan Ryan (calf strain), left-hander Chris Capuano (quad strain) and right-hander Ivan Nova (Tommy John surgery) on the 15-day disabled list. Infielder Jose Pirela was placed on the 7-day concussion DL.
The Yankees will rest on Sunday and prepare to open the season on Monday at Yankee Stadium against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Tanaka, 26, will start for the Yankees after ending up 1-2 with a 3.07 ERA in four spring starts. It is the first time since 2008 that a pitcher other than CC Sabathia has started the season for the Yankees.
Right-hander Drew Hutchison will pitch for the Blue Jays. Hutchison, 24, was 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA in four spring outings. He surprisingly won the starting assignment over former Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey and veteran left-hander Mark Buehrle.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by ESPN and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 10, ROYALS 4
Once again the Yankees witnessed a starting pitcher who failed to get past the third inning and surrendered seven runs. But this time it wasn’t a Yankee starter.
Phil Hughes pitched into the seventh inning and New York pounded Kansas City’s Luke Hochevar for six runs in the third inning – punctuated by a grand-slam home run from Robinson Cano – as the Yankees salvaged a split of a four-game road series on Sunday at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, MO.
Hughes (2-4) gave up three runs on six hits and one walk and struck seven in 6 2/3 innings in an effort that may yet keep him in the starting rotation.
Hochevar (2-3), a former No. 1 draft pick in 2006, gave up seven runs on seven hits and one walk and he lasted only 2 1/3 innings.
The Yankees, who have been struggling to score runs for the past six games, broke out in a big way in the third inning with the score knotted at 1-1.
Dewayne Wise, making only his second start for the Yankees, opened the frame with a single and Derek Jeter followed it up with a bunt single. Curtis Granderson then smacked an RBI single into right-field to score Wise and it gave the Yankees a lead they would never relinquish the rest of the afternoon.
Hochevar then compounded his problems by hitting Alex Rodriguez on the left elbow with a pitch, which loaded the bases and Cano made him pay for it dearly.
Cano, who entered the game with an uncharacteristic .255 average with a home run and four RBIs, doubled his home run and RBI total by walloping a 2-1 change-up into the pavilion deep in right-center.
One out later, Nick Swisher, who was returning to the lineup for the first time since he left a game on April 29 with a strained left hamstring, blasted a 1-2 Hochevar fastball deep in the bleachers down the right-field line. Hochevar’s day was done and the Royals were left stunned looking up out of an early 7-1 hole.
The Royals rallied to score single runs in the fifth and seventh innings but Rodriguez put the game out of reach for good with a three-run blast of his own in the eighth inning off Royals reliever Tommy Hottovy.
With the victory, the Yankees improved their season record to 15-13. The Royals dropped to 9-18.
- It was good to see Hughes pitch a solid game and command his fastball to earn seven strikeouts. Pitch count is still an issue because Hughes threw 20 or more pitches in three of the first four innings. But Hughes did retire 14 of the 18 batters he faced after getting the 7-1 lead as he started the bottom of the third inning. This outing is something Hughes can build upon.
- Cano was 2-for-5 and his home run was the key blow of the game. Yankee fans had to scratching their heads wondering what was going on with one of the best pure hitters in the game struggling with only one home run and four RBIs on May 6. It is hard to say if the slump is over but Cano’s bat is very important to the offense and the team’s overall success.
- Rodriguez’s home run was his fifth of the season and his first since April 27 in a game against the Tigers. His three RBIs were his first RBIs since April 29 in a game also against the Tigers. The Yankees have gone through a major offensive slump largely due to slow starts by Cano, Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira and injuries to Swisher and Brett Gardner.
- All Jeter did was go 2-for-3 with two walks and he scored two runs. It was just another day at the office for “The Captain.” Jeter’s batting average is .397, which is the best in the major leagues.
- Russell Martin was 3-for-4 and his solo homer provided the Yankees’ only offense on Saturday. On Sunday, Martin was 0-for-5, including two infield groundouts, hitting into a double play and he was called out on strikes in his final at-bat. His average is at .192 and the Yankees could use consistent offense from him.
Swisher cleared all of the medical hurdles in order to return to the lineup as the designated hitter on Sunday. He homered in his second at-bat and the home run was his seventh of the season. Swisher hopes to be able to return to right-field when the Yankees open their homestand on Tuesday. . . . Meanwhile, Gardner tested his ailing right elbow in the batting cage at Kauffman Stadium on Sunday and he will head out to play in two or three minor-league rehab games at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before being activated from the 15-day disabled list. . . . Eric Chavez, who is on the seven-day disabled list with a concussion is expected to be activated on Thursday, which is the first day he would be eligible to return to action. . . . In his fourth minor-league rehab start on Sunday, Andy Pettitte gave up five runs (three earned) on eight hits over five innings for Scranton in a loss to Pawtucket. Pettitte, 39, admitted he did not pitch as well as he would have liked but he said he feels ready to join the Yankees immediately. However, general manager Brian Cashman, who was not in attendance at the game, will make the determination if Pettitte requires another start or not.
The wounded and struggling Yankees get a well-deserved day off on Monday to collect their thoughts before opening a three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday.
Right-hander Ivan Nova (3-1, 5.58 ERA) will open the series for the Yankees. Nova had his 15-game winning streak that dated back to June of last year snapped in a game against the Orioles on Wednesday. Nova gave up five runs and nine hits in 6 1/3 innings. He is 2-0 with a 3.47 ERA in his career against the Rays.
The Rays will start right-hander James Shields (5-0, 3.05 ERA). Shields struck out 11 in 6 innings for a victory against the Mariners on Wednesday. Shields is 5-11 with a 4.39 ERA against the Yankees in his career.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
The New York Yankees, much like their fans, would like to forget 2011 and look forward to the promise 2012 brings. With that promise the Yankees have made a couple of moves to improve the team and let’s assess those moves and how they will impact the team.
JONESING FOR A RIGHTY
The Yankees on Friday signed Andruw Jones to a one-year, $2 million contract that includes $1.4 million in performance incentives, CBSSports.com reported. The 34-year-old outfielder will have to undergo a physical in order for the deal to be made official.
This is very good news for the Yankees because Jones filled a very important role as the team’s only right-handed hitting outfielder. Starters Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner hit left-handed and Nick Swisher is a switch-hitter. Jones batted .247 with 13 home runs and 33 RBis in 77 games last season. More importantly, he batted .286 off left-handers.
Jones began the season as a fourth outfielder and pinch-hitter but later replaced Jorge Posada as the designated hitter against lefties. Manager Joe Girardi also used Jones to sit Gardner against some left-handers. Jones could be used in that role again in 2012 because Gardner hit only .233 against left-handers in 2011.
If the reports are true, the Yankees also prevented the Boston Red Sox from signing Jones away from the Yankees. Jones is eighth on the active home run list with 420 and he also is among just four major leaguers who have 400 home runs and 10 Gold Gloves along with Ken Griffey Jr., Willie Mays and Mike Schmidt.
The Yankees also added to their bullpen mix for spring training another left-handed reliever.
On Wednesday, the Yankees agreed on the terms of minor-league contract with former Red Sox lefty Hideki Okajima.
Okajima, 36, was an integral part of the Red Sox bullpen for his first three seasons in the majors. But he fell out favor with then-manager Terry Francona the past two seasons and spent most of the 2011 season at the team’s Triple-A franchise Pawtucket.
Okajima pitched in only seven games for the Red Sox in 2011 and was 1-0 with a 4.32 ERA in 8 1/3 innings of work. At Pawtucket, Okajima fashioned a 2.29 ERA in 34 innings over 51 appearances for the PawSox.
In his five seasons with the Red Sox, Okajima was 17-8 with six saves and 3.11 ERA in 261 appearances. During that span he held left-handers to a .218 batting average.
Okajima will have a chance in spring training to claim the team’s bullpen spot as the lefty specialist. He will compete with another former Red Sox left-hander in 22-year-old Cesar Cabral, who the Yankees acquired from the Royals for cash considerations after the Royals selected Cabral in the Rule 5 draft at the Winter Meetings.
For the past two seasons, the Yankees have relied on Boone Logan as their lone left-hander out of the bullpen and Logan, 27, has been miscast in the role of lefty specialist. Logan was 5-3 with a 3.46 ERA over 64 games and 41 2/3 innings. Left-handers hit .260 against him last season while right-handers hit .262.
If Okajima or Cabral win a job in the bullpen, Logan will revert to a middle-inning reliever and he has been much more effective in that role.
Okajima’s best pitch is his change-up, which Francona termed the “Okie Doke.” But he is going to have to earn his role with the Yankees because in the 8 1/3 innings he pitched last season, left-handers hit .364 off him and he recorded an ERA of 11.57 against them. So his “Okie Doke” better be more than just OK this spring.
TICK, TICK, TICK
The Yankees have until Jan. 6 to sign Japanese infielder Hiroyuki Nikajima, who they won the rights to sign by posting a $2.5 million bid in early December.
Nikajima, 29,is primarily a shortstop but he also can play some second and third base. He hit .297 with 16 home runs and 100 RBIs and 21 stolen bases in 144 games with the Seibu Lions last season.
If the Yankees fail to sign Nikajima to a contract by Jan. 6, he will remain with Seibu for the 2012 season and the $2.5 million posting fee will be returned to the Yankees. That also would open the door for the Yankees to re-sign free agent infielder Eric Chavez.
Chavez, 34, played first and third base for the Yankees in 2011 and he hit .263 with two home runs and 26 RBIs in 58 games. The Yankees will not negotiate with Chavez’s agent unless they fail to sign Nikajima.
The Yankees also have Eduardo Nunez, Ramiro Pena and Brandon Laird on the 40-man roster to compete for a backup infield role this spring. Nunez, 24, is favored to win one of the two spots unless he is used in a trade for a starting pitcher before the season begins.
Alex Rodriguez, taking advice from Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, traveled to Germany this month to have an experimental medical procedure performed to help his ailing left shoulder and right knee.
With the Yankees’ approval, Dr. Peter Wehling performed what is termed an Orthokine procedure in Dusseldorf in early December. Bryant claimed the Orthokine procedure on his right knee and left ankle helped him recover movement and relieve pain enough so that he could return to the court with the Lakers.
Rodriguez, 36, took the experimental procedure to the Yankees and team doctor Chris Ahmad and the Yankees checked with the Lakers and with Major League Baseball on Wehling and the legality of the procedure. They then gave Rodriguez the permission to have it done.
The procedure calls for the taking of blood from an arm vein, incubating it and spinning it in centrifuge to isolate protective proteins. The proteins are then injected into the affected areas once or twice a week.
The procedure is said to have anti-inflammatory, pain-reducing and cartilage-protecting effects but not much is known about its long-term implications.
Rodriguez played in a career-low 99 games last season and in some of those games he was playing at less than 100 percent. He hit .276 with only 16 home runs and 62 RBIs.
Rodriguez missed more than a month after undergoing surgery on his right knee in July. In his first game back from the disabled list on Aug. 21, Rodriguez suffered a sprained left thumb, which affected the third baseman’s swing the rest of the season.
He hit only .191 after returning from the injury and he hit just .111 in the American League Division Series against the Detroit Tigers.
If this procedure helps Rodriguez, the Yankees might consider seeking out an experimental procedure for command-challenged right-hander A.J. Burnett.
Perhaps a doctor can come up with a procedure to inject power-steering fluid in Burnett’s right elbow to ensure he might actually come closer to hitting the strike zone with his pitches.
General manager Brian Cashman enters January with the “open for business” sign out on improving the starting rotation. This despite the fact that the Yankees have acted like they are the cash-strapped Kansas City Royals over the winter free-agent signing season.
The Yankees, hamstrung to a great degree by the lavish long-term contracts already laid out to CC Sabathia, Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Burnett, have been spending pennies while other teams have been waving $100 bills.
Cashman would like to add a starter to the rotation and perhaps unload Burnett. But the costs of free agents like C.J. Wilson, Mark Buerhle and Japan’s Yu Darvish have been higher than their actual worth, according to Cashman. Meanwhile, trade avenues have been blocked by other teams’ insistence the Yankees cough up the jewels of the Yankees’ farm system in Jesus Montero, Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances and Mason Williams.
Cashman continues to say no to those deals because he does not want to short-circuit the Yankees’ future for a short-term fix.
So the Yankees have struck out on deals for pitchers such as John Danks, Gio Gonzlaez, Matt Garza, Jair Jurrgens and Jonathan Niese.
For now, the Yankees seem to be counting on a return to form of Phil Hughes, who suffered through an injury-plagued 2011 campaign after winning 18 games in 2010. They also do not believe that rookie right-hander Ivan Nova’s 16-win season was a fluke.
The re-signing of 34-year-old right-hander Freddy Garcia, who was a respectable 12-8 with a 3.62 ERA, means the only really Yankee concern is Burnett, who was 11-11 with a 5.15 ERA last season.
The truth is Cashman, Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild are at their wits’ end trying to figure out what is wrong with Burnett. They seem to agree a change of scenery is in order. But with two years and $33 million still owed to the enigma wrapped inside a conundrum would seem to make dumping him a big problem.
The Yankees have offered to pay $7 million of Burnett’s contract but still have no takers. They might have to offer at least $15 million if they are serious about being rid of him. Of course, the Yankees would seem to be better off adding a starter before making a deal for Burnett because dumping Burnett would likely increase the cost of starter to replace him.
Adding a starting pitcher would be the only major task left for Cashman but he states he is no hurry because the Yankees do have six potential young starters waiting in the wings: Banuelos, Betances, Hector Noesi, David Phelps, Adam Warren and D.J. Mitchell. Any of those six could contribute either as starters or relievers to the Yankees in 2012.
But Cashman is aware that adding an established starter to what the Yankees have would be preferable. So he is pursuing that avenue first. If the pursuit stretches to the trade deadline in July the Yankees might find the asking price of some of starters they like may drop. Cashman is exercising and preaching at the same time for patience.
So like good little Yankee fans we are. We will have to trust him and take him at his word.