YANKEES, TWINS 3
Just six days ago the Yankees raised eyebrows when they called up 22-year-old first baseman Greg Bird. After the performance he put on Wednesday in place of the injured Mark Teixeira it is now clear just why they called him up.
Bird not only hit one two-run blast for his first Major-League home run, the rookie added another two-run homer that proved to be the game-winner as New York completed a sweep of Minnesota in front of a paid crowd of 38,066 at Yankee Stadium.
With right-hander Nathan Eovaldi pitching a perfect game through five innings, Bird provided him with some early support by connecting in the fourth inning on a 0-1 change-up from right-hander Ervin Santana and launching it into the second deck of the right-field bleachers to score Carlos Beltran, who had singled, to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead.
Unfortunately for Eovaldi and the Yankees, it was not enough.
The Twins not only broke up the perfect game in the sixth inning. They also sent nine men to the plate and took the lead.
Chris Herrmann started the uprising with a one-out bloop single behind third base. Shane Robinson followed with a hard-hit single to left and Aaron Hicks advanced both base-runners on a groundout.
Eovaldi walked Brian Dozier to load the bases and Joe Mauer followed with a two-run single to right. Eovaldi then walked Miguel Sano to reload the bases and Trevor Plouffe scored Dozier on an infield roller between home plate and third base.
Santana was sailing despite giving up the two-run homer to Bird in the fourth. He held the Yankees to two runs on five hits and no walks with four strikeouts through 5 2/3 innings until he walked Beltran in the sixth inning.
That allowed Bird to come up to the plate. Santana threw him 1-0 fastball and Bird laced it on a high line drive into the Yankees bullpen in right-center to allow the Yankees to reclaim a 4-3 lead.
After Bird rounded the bases and headed into the dugout most of the Yankees fans were on their feet urging the rookie to take his first Yankee Stadium curtain call. After some fevered encouragement from his teammates, Bird came out to tip his cap to the crowd quickly.
“We’re just trying to win games here and anything I can do to help, that’s all I’m trying to do. Nothing more, nothing less,” Bird told reporters.
Eovaldi (13-2) ended up collecting his eighth victory in a row and he is undefeated his past 11 starts. He was charged with three runs on four hits and two walks with eight strikeouts in seven innings.
Santana (2-4) pitched 7 2/3 innings but took the loss after giving up four runs on seven hits and two walks with four strikeouts.
With the Yankees bullpen without the services of Andrew Miller after he pitched in two consecutive games, left-hander Chasen Shreve and right-hander Dellin Betances combined to preserve the victory for Eovaldi by each pitching one scoreless inning.
Betances threw perfect ninth and struck out two batters to earn his eighth save of the season in 11 chances. His two strikeouts gave him 101 on the season and he became the first Yankees relief pitcher to ever strike out 100 or more batters in two consecutive seasons.
With the three-game sweep the Yankees also completed the season series with the Twins at 5-1. Since 2002, the Yankees have a record of 69-27 against the Twins – a .281 winning percentage for the Twins. That percentage is the worst in baseball for any team against any opponent (minimum 50 games).
The Yankees also also have won six of their past seven games and they are now 67-52 this season. Coupled with the loss by the second-place Toronto Blue Jays to the Philadelphia Phillies the Yankees have extended their lead in the American League East to two games.
The Twins fell to 59-61.
- I could tell when I saw Bird’s spring during the exhibition season that he was going to be something special. You can see why he has a combined minor-league average of .282 with 48 home runs in just over 1,200 at-bats. His swing is similar to former Blue Jays first baseman John Olerud and he might end up as a similar type of hitter. The question will be what do the Yankees do with Bird as long Teixeira is playing first base and Alex Rodriguez is the designated hitter?
- Eovaldi was simply lights out for five innings and then he ran into a lot of bad luck. Only one of the four hits was hit hard. But he did make things worse by walking Dozier and Sano. Now that Eovaldi is succeeding with his split-finger fastball, he is becoming a very good pitcher. Despite the great run support he has received, Eovaldi has earned his 13 victories.
- Betances stepped back into the closer’s role and did not miss a beat. If Betances had pitched better during spring training and early in the season, he would have likely been the closer. But you can’t argue with Miller’s 27 saves in 28 chances. Of the two I suspect teams fear Betances more. But they both are pretty devastating.
- Rodriguez ended an 0-for-18 slide on Tuesday with a grand slam home run that proved to be the game-winning hit. But on Wednesday it was back into a funk for the DH. He was 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout. His season average has now dipped to .259.
- John Ryan Murphy has been hitting well (.282) when he starts to give Brian McCann a rest. But Wednesday was not one of those days. He was 0-for-3 and struck out all three times.
Right-hander Michael Pineda will make a second rehab start on Friday for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said on Wednesday. Pineda, 26, has been on the 15-day disabled list since July 30 with a right forearm strain. He is 9-7 with a 3.97 ERA in 19 starts. Girardi said the he hopes this will be Pineda’s final rehab start and they would to activate him before Sept. 1.
The Yankees will play host to the Cleveland Indians for a four-game weekend series that begins on Thursday.
Right-hander Ivan Nova (5-4, 3.57 ERA) will open the series for the Yankees. Nova defeated the Blue Jays on Friday, limiting them to three runs on five hits and one walk with three strikeouts in seven innings.
Right-hander Josh Tomlin (0-1, 2.84 ERA) will be making only his second start of the season for the Indians coming off shoulder surgery. Tomlin yielded two runs on five hits with five strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings in a loss to the Twins on Saturday.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 9, ASTROS 6
Since he arrived in Houston on Thursday, Mark Teixeira had not been feeling real comfortable at Minute Maid Park. He entered the day 0-for-7 in the series and he stood at the plate in the eighth inning 0-for-4 in Saturday’s game.
But Teixeira is not feeling so bad about Houston now.
His one-out, two-run double in the eighth inning broke a 6-6 tie and allowed New York to defeat the Astros despite blowing a 6-0 lead earlier in the game.
Brett Gardner opened the eighth by drawing a walk from right-hander Pat Neshek (3-1). Chris Young followed by hitting a ground ball to third baseman Luis Valbuena, who threw to second baseman Jose Altuve in an effort to force Gardner.
However, second-base umpire Joe West ruled that Altuve never touched the base. after he caught the ball. Gardner was ruled safe and Altuve was charged with a what ended up being a very crucial error. Astros manager A.J. Hinch challenged the call but it was confirmed by replay.
One out later, Teixeira ended his 0-for-11 slump in Houston by driving a 3-2 pitch high off the wall in left-center for a double that scored both Gardner and Young with the go-ahead runs.
Chase Headley padded the lead to three runs by hitting his eighth home run of the season – a solo shot off left-hander Tony Sipp in the ninth.
Left-hander Chasen Shreve (5-1) pitched two-thirds of an inning of scoreless relief in the bottom of the seventh inning to get credit for the victory.
Left-hander Justin Wilson pitched a scoreless eighth and right-hander Dellin Betances finished the ninth to earn his sixth save in seven opportunities this season.
The Yankees opened the game as if it would be an easy victory for them when they loaded the bases against left-hander Brett Oberholtzer in the first inning.
Gardner led off with a double while Young and Alex Rodriguez both drew walks. After Teixeira flied out, Brian McCann blasted a 1-0 change-up well into the right-field bleachers for his 12th homer of the season and 11th career grand slam to give the Yankees a 4-0 lead.
With one-out in the second inning, Gardner stroked another double and Young, a Houston native who entered the game with a .410 career average and 10 homers at Minute Maid Park including a three-run game-winning home run on Friday, hit a two-run blast to left to give the Yankees a 6-0 lead.
Oberholtzer then threw a pitch so far inside to Rodriguez that it nearly hit him. Home-plate umpire Rob Drake immediately ejected Oberholtzer from the game for, in his judgment, deliberately trying to hit Rodriguez with a pitch.
Oberholtzer was charged with six runs on four hits and three walks with one strikeout in 1 1/3 innings, the shortest outing of his career. He entered the game 2-1 with a 2.81 ERA.
However, right-hander Masahiro Tanaka was unable to hold the big lead and suffered through his second bad outing in a row.
With one out in the second inning, Domingo Santana doubled to left and Chris Carter followed with an RBI double off the wall in center to score Santana. One out later, George Springer scored Carter with an RBI single to left.
With two in the fourth, Carter got to Tanaka again with a long blast into the left-field bleachers for his 13th home run of the season.
The Astros then opened the third with Springer drawing a walk and rookie Carlos Correa shooting an opposite-field home run to right for his fifth home run of the season. Altuve then followed by lacing a shot into the left-field stands for his sixth home run of the season to tie the game at 6-6.
Tanaka left having yielded six runs on seven hits and two walks with five strikeouts in five innings. The three home runs matched the three home runs he surrendered to the Tigers and the six runs allowed were a career high.
Fortunately for Tanaka, Teixeira was finally able to break out of his minor hitting slump in time to hand the Yankees their second victory in a row in the three-game series with the Astros.
With the victory the Yankees are now 41-34 on the season and they remain a half game behind the first-place Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. The Astros fell to 43-34.
- Gardner continues to sparkle on offense. He was 3-for-6 with two doubles, a single, a walk and he scored three runs. On May 8, Gardner was hitting .326. But a prolonged slump saw his average drop all the way to .271 on June 3. Since June 3, Gardner is 31-for-86 (.360) with five home runs and 17 RBIs. That has raised his season average back to an even .300.
- Teixeira’s two RBIs now give him 53 on the season and that leads the team. It also puts him in a three-way tie with Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers and Stephen Vogt of the Oakland Athletics for first place in the American League. Teixeira is now hitting .263 with 14 homers and 42 RBIs against right-handers this season.
- One of the best-kept secrets on this team has been 24-year-old Shreve, who has won five games in relief and is sporting an excellent 1.72 ERA in 27 games. When the Yankees dealt left-hander Manny Banuelos to the Atlanta Braves they were expecting big things out of right-hander David Carpenter and they were hopeful Shreve would develop. Well, Carpenter has been released and Shreve has not given up an earned run since May 22, a stretch of 14 appearances and 14 2/3 innings. He has been very valuable since closer Andrew Miller has been on the disabled list.
- The elbow naysayers are already barking because Tanaka has been shelled for 13 runs (11 earned) on 17 hits and four walks in 10 innings in his past two starts. That includes six home runs and his ERA has climbed to 3.88. However, his fastball was clocked up to 94 and averaged 92. So the elbow is fine. The problem is Tanaka is throwing the cutter way too much and he is falling behind in the count too often. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild told reporters that he will be working with Tanaka on tightening his mechanics on his delivery and that he should be better next time out.
Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury ran the bases and hit on the field at Minute Maid Park on Saturday and, if he does well doing the same on Sunday, he could be sent out to Tampa, FL, on a rehab assignment. Ellsbury has not played since May 19 due to a strained lateral collateral ligament in his right knee. Manager Joe Girardi said he does not think Ellsbury will need many at-bats in the minor leagues to get ready but he refused to place a set number of at-bats on his return.
The Yankees could claim three of the four games in the road series with the Astros with a victory on Sunday.
Right-hander Michael Pineda (8-4, 4.25 ERA) will pitch for the Yankees. Pineda is coming off a horrible outing against the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday when he was charged with a season high eight runs on 11 hits in 3 1/3 innings.
Right-hander Collin McHugh (8-3, 4.80 ERA) will start for the Astros. McHugh held the Los Angeles Angels to two runs on nine hits and one walk with six strikeouts in eight innings on Tuesday.
Game-time will be 2:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 10, PHILLIES 2
When assessing the New York Yankees in 2015 most forecasters discounted any contribution that Ivan Nova might make since he was coming off of Tommy John surgery and 14 months of rehab. By the looks of what he did in his first start back on Wednesday it looks like his potential contribution to the team could be monumental.
Nova pitched 6 2/3 shutout innings and allowed only three hits and two walks with one strikeout as New York avoided a sweep to the team with the worst record in baseball in Philadelphia at Yankee Stadium in front of a paid crowd of 45,877.
Nova, 28, quickly established his mid-90s sinking fastball and sharp breaking curveball to hold scoreless a Phillies team that had tallied 11 runs in both of their two previous games against the Yankees. Nova (1-0) navigated deftly through the Phillies to throw 92 pitches and 51 of them for strikes (55%).
It was his first victory since April 13, 2014 and his first start since April 19 the same year.
In contrast, left-hander Cole Hamels (5-6) was not sharp in his five innings of work. He was charged with five runs on eight hits and three walks with strikeouts.
With the help of a throwing error, the Yankees were able to score a pair of runs off Hamels in the second inning after they loaded the bases on a single by Chris Young, a walk by John Ryan Murphy and an infield bunt single by Didi Gregorius.
Rookie Jose Pirela slapped a grounder to third baseman Andres Blanco, but Blanco’s throw home to catcher Carlos Ruiz bounced away to allow Young and Murphy to score on the fielder’s choice.
The Yankees added three runs in the fifth inning on an RBI single by Brett Gardner, an RBI double by Chase Headley and an RBI single by Mark Teixeira, who had missed the two previous games with stiffness in his neck.
The Yankees added a run in the sixth inning off left-hander Jake Diekman on a two-out RBI single by Young and they broke the game wide open with a four-run seventh inning off right-hander Justin De Fratus capped by a two-run single by Alex Rodriguez and another RBI single by Teixeira.
The Phillies broke up the shutout with a pair of runs in the ninth inning off 27-year-old right-hander Diego Moreno, who was just called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Monday.
They scored on RBI single by Dominic Brown and Cody Asche. Moreno was optioned back to Triple A after the game.
With the victory the Yankees ended a three-game skid to improve their record to 39-33. They also pulled to within one game of the first-place Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. The Phillies fell to 26-48.
- Because of some shaky outings from Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia, the successful return of Nova was welcome on a day the team was facing one of the better left-handers in baseball in Hamels. But Nova showed why he had compiled a 40-22 record since his debut in 2010. People forget that he was 16-4 in 2011 and that he was the team’s best pitcher in the second half of 2013 when he finished 9-6 with 3.10 ERA. This was vintage Nova.
- The Yankees also could breathe a sigh of relief that Teixeira was able to play and, in addition, go 3-for-5 with two RBIs. His two RBIs give him 51, which ties him with Stephen Vogt of the Oakland Athletics for second in the American League. Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers leads with 52. Teixeira had been bothered for two weeks with a stiff neck and had to have a cortisone shot to speed the healing enough to get him back in the lineup.
- Gardner was 1-for-5 with a single, a walk, two runs scored and an RBI. In the eight-game homestand, Gardner batted .472 with three doubles, a triple, four homers, 10 RBIs and he scored 12 runs. Gardner’s .292 average leads the team and he has nine homers and 38 RBIs. After struggling initially when he replaced Jacoby Ellsbury in the leadoff spot, he has come back to post numbers that could get him into the All-Star team picture.
After two days where they looked looked like the worst team in baseball and the Phillies looked like the contending team, the Yankees finally put together a good starting pitching performance and some timely hitting against a very good left-hander. Hopefully, Nova’s return will help shore up a starting staff that has been poor of late.
Manager Joe Girardi received his second ejection of the season in the third inning after disputing a checked-swing call on Maikel Franco on an 0-2 count by first-base umpire Alan Porter. Girardi contended from the dugout that Franco swung and Porter ejected him. On the next pitch, Franco struck out when he failed to check his swing. . . . Left-handed closer Andrew Miller threw for the first time on Wednesday since being placed on the disabled list with a strained flexor muscle in his elbow. Miller, 29, threw 25 times off flat ground at 60 feet and reported no issues with his arm. Miller, 30, hopes to be able to begin throwing off a mound next week but there is still no firm timetable for his return. Right-hander Dellin Betances will continue to close until Miller returns.
The Yankees are off to Houston to begin a four-game weekend series on Thursday with the surprising Astros at Minute Maid Park.
Right-hander Adam Warren (5-4, 3.52 ERA) will open the series for the Yankees. Warren pitched the best game of his career on Friday, holding the Tigers to two runs on seven hits with no walks and seven strikeouts in a career-best eight innings.
The Astros will counter with ace left-hander Dallas Keuchel (8-3, 2.35 ERA). Keuchel, 27, was beaten by the Seattle Mariners on Saturday, giving up five runs on five hits and four walks with seven strikeouts in five innings.
Game-time will be 8:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
RED SOX 8, YANKEES 4
Joe Kelly limited the Yankees to one run and one hit over seven innings and Boston took advantage New York’s fatigued bullpen to post a victory in front of a paid crowd of 46,678 at Yankee Stadium and a national television audience.
Kelly (1-0), who was just activated off the 15-day disabled list to make his first start for the Red Sox, yielded a leadoff single to Alex Rodriguez, issued a one-out walk to Garrett Jones and then uncorked a wild pitch to allow both runners to advance. Didi Gregarious then lofted a sacrifice fly to score Rodriguez.
Kelly retired the last 17 batters he faced.
Meanwhile, Adam Warren (0-1) was undone by some shaky Yankees defense and a pair of RBI singles by Daniel Nava. Warren, making only his fourth major-league start, was charged with two ones (one earned) on five hits and two walks with one strikeout in 5 1/3 innings.
The Red Sox then added to their lead in the seventh inning with three runs keyed by a two-run double off the bat of Dustin Pedroia against right-hander Chris Martin. They added more in the eighth on Brock Holt’s three-run double off left-hander Matt Tracy.
All the runs were unearned due to a costly error by third baseman Chase Headley. The Yankees committed three errors in the game and they now have eight on the season.
Tracy was recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in place of Chasen Shreve after Shreve was forced to throw 3 1/3 innings in Friday’s 19-inning marathon that the Red Sox won 6-5.
The Yankees did manage to cut the lead in half in the bottom of the eighth on a three-run home run by Chris Young off right-hander Alexi Ogando. It was Young’s first home run of the season.
The Yankees are now 1-4 on the young season and the Red Sox are 4-1.
- Give Young credit for the home run. The 31-year-old outfielder was starting in place of Jacoby Ellsbury, who manager Joe Girardi elected to rest along with first baseman Mark Teixeira, second baseman Stephen Drew and catcher Brian McCann. Young had a good spring and it appears that he will be a big help to the Yankees off the bench this season.
- One hit in seven innings against a pitcher who spent two weeks on the disabled list? In anybody’s book that is real bad and Girardi is scratching his head for answers. Management decided to fire long-time hitting coach Kevin Long and hired Jeff Pentland to get the offense untracked this season. It appears it was not Long’s fault. The problem rests with the hitters who are not producing. The Yankees are hitting .193 as a team. Ouch!
- The three errors also puzzle me because the defense was supposed to be a big strength. But if you look at the fact the Yankees were playing Rodriguez out of position at first, a backup second baseman and two reserve outfielders it can create problems. John Ryan Murphy has been a mess defensively behind the plate this season. In Saturday’s game he committed a throwing error and his second passed ball of the season. Poor fielding and mental errors in the field are killing this team.
- Carlos Beltran got a “half-day off” as the team’s designated hitter and ended up going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. He is batting .100 on the season and is one of the big reasons why the Yankees are sputtering on offense. The team needs him to hit and produce numbers to contend. If he doesn’t this team is not going very far at all.
The Yankees will try to salvage the third and final game of the series against the Red Sox on Sunday.
Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (0-1) will start for the Yankees off a lackluster debut on Monday in which he yielded five runs (four earned) on five hits and two walks in four innings against the Toronto Blue Jays. There are a lot of concerns about his reduced velocity.
The Red Sox will counter with right-hander Clay Buchholz (1-0), who pitched three-hit shutout baseball for seven innings to defeat the Philadelphia Phillies.
Game-time will be 8:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by ESPN.
YANKEES 7, ASTROS 0
KISSIMMEE – Chase Headley pounded out three hits, including his third home run of the spring, and drove in three runs to support Nathan’s Eovaldi’s strong 4 2/3 innings of shutout baseball as New York blanked Houston on Sunday at Osceola County Stadium.
Headley got the Yankees’ offense started against right-hander Scott Feldman (0-2) with a two-out solo home run in the third inning that hit the top of the right-field field wall and bounced over. He later broke the game wide open in the sixth with a two-out, bases-loaded single off right-hander James Hoyt that drove in two runs to cap a four-run rally and extend the Yankees’ lead to 7-0.
Meanwhile, newly acquired right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (1-1) continued a string of impressive appearances this spring by shutting down the Astros on just three hits. He did not walk a batter and he fanned five.
For the Yankees it was their second consecutive road shutout of the spring. On Friday, the Yankees defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 10-0 in a game called in the sixth inning due to rain.
With the victory the Yankees improved their Grapefruit League record to 15-12.
The Yankees have historically leaned towards trading away young pitchers and acquiring veteran pitchers on the north side of 30.
There are many examples of young pitchers the Yankees traded before they became stars like Jose Rijo, Doug Drabek, Ted Lilly and Ian Kennedy. Just this winter the Yankees traded David Phelps and Shane Greene. It is just something for which Yankee fans have grown accustomed.
The script got flipped, however, when veteran infielder Martin Prado and Phelps were packaged to the Miami Marlins in a trade for first baseman and outfielder Garrett Jones, Eovaldi, a 25-year-old right-hander, and a promising 22-year-old right-hander Domingo German.
Basketball coaches always say that you can’t teach size and baseball managers say accordingly that you can’t teach a pitcher velocity. Eovaldi has a gifted right arm that possesses outstanding velocity. His fastball can reach as high as 98 miles per hour.
In fact, FanGraphs.com ranked Eovaldi’s fastball as the fourth highest in velocity last season among major-league pitchers. The oddity was Eovaldi led all National League pitchers in hits allowed (223) and he only managed 142 strikeouts in 199 2/3 innings.
His 6-14 record and 4.37 ERA also would have you scratching your head after you saw that sizzling heater of his.
So Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild did some tinkering with Eovaldi’s fastball and his secondary pitches this spring to bring his hits allowed down and raise his strikeout totals. In short, they want him to take the next step in being a dominant pitcher.
After Sunday’s sterling effort, it appears that Eovaldi – with Rothschild’s help – is doing just that. In Eovaldi’s four spring appearances (three starts) he is 1-1 with a team-best 0.66 ERA. He has yielded just one run on 10 hits with no walks and 14 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings.
If you add a potentially dominant Eovaldi to 26-year-old right-hander Masahiro Tanaka and 26-year-old right-hander Michael Pineda then you might have an excellent trio of young starters to build a team around.
But don’t just take my word on Eovaldi. You can hear it from a fellow graduate of his from Alvin High School in Alvin, TX, who was watching Eovaldi on Sunday in his role as an executive advisor to the Astros – some guy named Nolan Ryan.
“I haven’t watched him in person, only on television, but I’ve followed him ever since he’s been in high school,” Ryan told reporters. “I really think that the better part of his career is still ahead of him.”
The Yankees might just have something special in this young Eovaldi. And the best part is he is not 34 years old and past his prime.
- I really ripped this team for how bad they looked on Saturday at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL, against the Baltimore Orioles in a 10-2 loss. But they bounced back nicely on Sunday and scored seven runs and collected 11 hits and drew seven walks. But he oddity this spring is that the Yankees are 8-5-1 and have outscored their opponents 77-44 on the road while they are 7-7 and have been outscored 64-46 at home. This may be because the young players have been doing most of the hitting this spring and they are playing more on the road.
- In addition to Headley’s three hits, the Yankees got another stellar effort at the plate from Rob Refsnyder. The 24-year-old second baseman was 2-for-3 with two doubles and two runs scored and an RBI. Refsnyder is now 12-for-35 (.343) with five doubles, one home run and five RBIs. He is ticketed for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and he does need to get better in the field, but this young player has all the makings of a great hitter.
- Esmil Rogers, 29, may have blown his opportunity to be the team’s No. 5 starter this spring. But he still has some value in the bullpen. Rogers looked sharp in retiring all five batters he faced and he fanned two of them.
I will not nitpick this one. If you toss shutout ball and score seven runs there is not much there to fix.
Alex Rodriguez made his major-league debut as a first baseman on Sunday and handled three chances flawlessly in his three innings of work. Manager Joe Girardi envisions Rodriguez as potential fill-in at first base behind starter Mark Teixeira and Jones. “Catching the ball, I’m not worried about that. I’d think he’d be pretty good around the bag, even scooping, because you get a lot of those hot shots at third base,” Girardi told reporters. . . . Teixeira suffered a right knee contusion on Sunday playing in a minor-league game at the Yankees’ complex in Tampa. Teixeira left the game immediately and was limping afterward. But he told reporters that he was “fine.” . . . Shortstop Didi Gregorius received treatment and said there was improvement in his strained left wrist that he sustained in Saturday’s game against the Orioles. Gregorius said he is sure he will be ready to play on Opening Day. . . . The Yankees released right-hander Scott Baker but they hope to re-sign him to a new minor-league contract. Baker, 33, originally was signed to a deal that would have forced the Yankees to pay him a retention bonus. The Yankees would like Baker to sign a minor-league deal without the bonus. That is the same basis they re-signed right-hander Jared Burton on Sunday. Burton, 33, had been released three days ago. He only pitched in four games this spring because he suffered a strained lat. In addition to the Burton signing, the Yankees also optioned right-hander Bryan Mitchell to Scranton and sent right-hander Kyle Davies to minor-league camp. The team also optioned outfielder Ramon Flores to Triple-A and re-assigned catchers Francisco Arcia and Kyle Higashioka, infielders Cole Figueroa and Jonathan Galvez, outfielder Slade Heathcott, left-hander Jacob Lindgren and right-hander Nick Rumbelow to minor-league camp.
The Yankees will take the day off on Monday before resuming their final week of spring training games on Tuesday at CenturyLink Sports Complex in Fort Myers, FL, as the Yankees play the Minnesota Twins.
Tanaka will make what will be his final spring appearance before he opens the season on April 6 at Yankee Stadium against the Toronto Blue Jays. Tanaka is 1-1 with a 1.74 ERA in his three spring starts.
The Twins will counter with left-hander Tommy Milone, who is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA in four starts.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the MLB Network.
YANKEES 10, PHILLIES 0 (CALLED IN SIXTH – RAIN)
Michael Pineda tossed five scoreless innings and the Yankees erupted for seven runs in the fifth inning as New York blanked Philadelphia in a rain-shortened contest on Friday at Bright House Field in Clearwater, FL.
Pineda (2-0) looked impressive in limiting the Phils to five hits, he walked none and fanned five batters. The five shutout innings lowered Pineda’s spring ERA to 1.32.
The Yankees’ offense, meanwhile, jumped on left-hander Jake Diekman (0-1) for seven runs on six hits and a walk in just one-third of inning to put the game away in the fifth. The key blows in the inning were a two-run single by Stephen Drew, who was 3-for-3 in the game, and a two-run double off the bat of Chris Young.
The Yankees added three more runs in the sixth inning off right-hander Hector Neris and all three runs came on a bases-loaded double by Tyler Austin.
The game was played delayed 35 minutes by rain and finally was called with one out in the top of the sixth.
The victory improved the Yankees’ Grapefruit League mark to 14-11.
When it came time for the Yankees to settle upon a second baseman after Brian Roberts failed to produce last season, the Yankees decided against looking for the pedigree and instead went to the rescue shelter.
They traded infielder Kelly Johnson to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for a shortstop, Drew. You read that right. The Yankees traded for a shortstop to play second base.
Drew had been a shortstop his entire professional career, which started in 2005. He became the starting shortstop for the Arizona Diamondbacks at the end of the 2006 season and he stayed in that role through 2012.
Drew’s best season was in 2008 when he batted a career-high .291 with 21 homers and drove in 67 runs for the D-backs. Much like his older brother J.D., Drew came out of the minors tagged as a future star. After all, he was the team’s first selection and the 15th overall in the 2004 draft.
Though Drew had some fine seasons with the bat and he was a pretty steady fielder, stardom somehow eluded him and the D-backs traded him to the Oakland Athletics in 2012 in his free-agent year.
But he ended up signing a free-agent contract with the Red Sox in 2013 and he had a throwback season at the plate. He batted .253 with 13 homers and 67 RBIs and he ended up collecting a championship ring in the process.
But Drew’s fortunes went from penthouse to outhouse quickly when Drew refused the Red Sox’ qualifying offer and then ended up sitting out all of the winter, spring training and the early portion of the 2014 season without a place to play.
Drew finally relented and signed with the Red Sox at a huge discount. But without any spring training, Drew was basically thrown into the fray cold and it showed. He batted .176 with four home runs and 11 RBIs until the Red Sox made the deal with the Yankees for Drew.
The 32-year-old Georgia native did not fare much better with the Yankees, batting .150 with three homers and 15 RBIs in 46 games, most of them (34) at an unfamiliar second base.
Rather than cut Drew loose and look for another second baseman, the Yankees signed him this winter to a one-year, $5 million deal. But the onus on Drew is to produce with the bat quickly or be replaced by up-and-coming second base prospects Jose Pirela and Rob Refsnyder, who have both hit extremely well this spring.
Manager Joe Girardi ended the speculation early and stated that Drew was the team’s starting second baseman. But Drew has foundered at the plate and he was hitting just .167 going into Friday’s contest.
Drew has been changing his mechanics with new hitting coach Jeff Pentland. It may be starting to pay off.
Drew had a double and two singles, scored a run and drove in two. The good day at the plate raised his spring average to .231. It is not much yet, but it is a start.
The 2015 season will begin soon and there will be no player more scrutinized than Drew. He is no stranger to pressure and expectations. But this challenge may be the biggest he has to overcome in a long time.
- Pineda, 26, has simply been the most impressive starter the Yankees have this spring. That includes Masahiro Tanaka. Pineda has been absolutely unhittable this spring and he is showing the same great control. One scout said that Pineda has been the best starter he has seen in Florida this spring. Look for a big season from the right-hander if he can stay healthy.
- Young, 31, has been real hot lately with the bat. In his past four games Young is 4-for-13 (.308) with two doubles, two homers and five RBIs. Young provides the team with solid right-handed power and a reliable outfielder who can play all three positions. He is going to be very helpful coming off the bench this season.
- Alex Rodriguez was 1-for-2 in the game and now is batting .303 on the spring. The 39-year-old infielder has proven that he has not been overmatched at the plate. Though he might not be the A-Rod of 2007 when he was the American League Most Valuable Player, he has proven that he can be a productive contributor for the Yankees. They will need his right-hand power in 2015.
When your pitcher shuts out the opposition and your offense scores 10 runs there can be nothing to nitpick about. This was an impressive victory.
As expected, Girardi named Tanaka as the team’s Opening Day starter on Friday. Tanaka, 26, will be followed by Pineda, CC Sabathia and Nathan Eovaldi. The team’s fifth starter will be named later this weekend and it is expected to be right-hander Adam Warren. It will be the first time in six seasons that Sabathia has not drawn the opening assignment. . . . The Yankees said on Friday that Rodriguez will play first base for five innings in Sunday’s exhibition game against the Houston Astros in Kissimmee, FL. Girardi envisions Rodriguez as a potential third option at first behind Mark Teixeira and Garett Jones. “I’m excited,” Rodriguez told reporters. “I told Joe to really keep a close eye on me. He said he will.”
The Yankees will return to George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL on Saturday to host the Baltimore Orioles.
There was a switch in plans and Sabathia will start in a minor-league game instead of giving the Orioles a peak at him. In his place, non-roster right-hander Scott Baker will draw the start. Baker, 33, is 0-0 with a 4.32 ERA in three games this spring.
Baker will be opposed by right-hander Bud Norris, who is 0-3 with a 9.26 ERA in four spring starts.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
RAYS 6, YANKEES 5
Desmond Jennings led off the sixth inning with a home run and the Rays later added a run that frame on a wild pitch uncorked by right-hander Chris Martin as Tampa rolled to victory over New York on Thursday at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, FL.
Right-hander Brad Boxberger (1-1) yielded a run in seventh inning on an RBI double off the bat of Didi Gregorius but still got credit for the victory. Khan Martinez also yielded a run in his two-thirds of an inning in the ninth but was credited with the save.
Martin (0-1) took the loss.
The Yankees’ Grapefruit League record dropped to 13-11.
Going into Thursday’s contest Yankees starter Adam Warren had the No. 5 starting job pretty much locked up.
It is always a good think to have the team’s general manager say as much.
“I think there’s a predictable favorite. I guess that’s as far as I can go on that one,” Brian Cashman told reporters on Wednesday. “Right now, if we had to make a decision today, I think we all know what that decision would be. There’s a Secretariat right now in this race for me that’s got a number of lengths ahead of the field.”
Cashman, without saying it, was actually saying that Warren was the clear favorite. After Thursday’s start that has not changed.
Warren surrendered a run on four hits and a walk with five strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings against the Rays. The lone blemish was a solo home run off the bat of Evan Longoria.
The 27-year-old right-hander entered the spring having started only three major-league games and none of them were last season as he was 3-6 with a 2.97 ERA in 69 relief appearances.
But the former University of North Carolina star pitched as a starter in all 90 of his minor-league games and was 28-25 with a 3.71 ERA. The Yankees merely shifted one of the better minor-league starters to the bullpen out of necessity in 2013 and Warren helped solidify the bullpen last season.
Circumstances changed on March 11 when No. 5 starter Chris Capuano, 36, strained his right quad covering first base on the second batter he faced in an exhibition game against the Boston Red Sox at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
The Yankees had been auditioning Warren and several others as candidates to be a potential sixth starter because the Yankees play 30 games in 31 days in late April and early May. With Capuano out at least a month and likely more, the audition purpose was altered to become the fifth starter.
Warren clearly has been the best among Esmil Rogers, Chase Whitley, Scott Baker and Bryan Mitchell. He is now 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA in five starts and he has recorded 11 strikeouts while issuing just one walk in 16 2/3 innings.
The Yankees are expected to make a final decision this weekend after manager Joe Girardi discusses it with pitching coach Larry Rothschild and the rest of his staff. But if Warren does not get the nod it would be real shocker.
Now Warren just has endure constant ribbing is he has been getting from his teammates who now insist on calling him Secretariat. For Warren it is minor cross to bear.
- Ramon Flores was a hero earlier this week with his walk-off three-run homer in the ninth that defeated the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday. On Thursday, Flores was building on that success. He started in right-field and was 2-for-4 with a single and a double, scored a run and drove in two runs. Flores is only 7-for-33 (.212) but he has made his hits count because he has two home runs and seven RBIs, which leads the team this spring.
- Gregorius also was 2-for-4 with a single, a double and an RBI. Since March 18, Gregorius has been a real tear, going 9-for-20 (.450) with three doubles, two triples and three RBIs. That has raised his spring average to .308 and that does not even take into account his magnificent defense throughout March. The 25-year-old shortstop is following in the footsteps of a legend but he is handling the pressure very well.
- Jake Cave, 22, got into the game late and added another RBI single to his spring resume. The young outfielder is leading the Yankee regulars with 10 or more at-bats with a .462 average (6-for-13) with a homer and six RBIs. Cave is ticketed for Double-A Trenton along with fellow prospect Aaron Judge. But you may be hearing more about him very, very soon. He can flat-out hit.
- The biggest issue besides the lack of offense out most of the regulars this spring has been some disappointing pitching out of the bullpen. On Thursday, Jose Ramirez was one of the culprits. He was touched for two runs on three hits and a walk in just 1 1/3 innings of work. The 25-year-old former starter now has a 5.40 ERA on the spring. Though the Dominican right-hander has a gifted arm he has dropped from top prospect status because of recurring injuries and inconsistency.
- Martin, 28, was also tagged pretty good by the Rays, giving up two runs on two hits despite ending up striking out the side in his inning of work. The former Colorado Rockies right-hander has wonderful backstory, having been out of baseball after suffering a severe shoulder injury in college and discovering he could pitch again some years later in a hardware store parking lot. However, he has a 6.14 ERA and he is going to have to improve if he wants a minor-league assignment with the team.
- Garrett Jones was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts on Thursday and now is in a huge hitting funk. He is 1-for-13 with five strikeouts in his past four games. He is now 7-for-40 (.175) on the spring and likely has lost a chance to claim the primary designated hitter role from Alex Rodriguez, who is batting .290 this spring.
Jacoby Ellsbury participated in hitting off a tee and took some swings from soft tosses on Thursday at the Yankees spring complex in Tampa, FL. Ellsbury, who has been sidelined since March 15 with a mild right oblique strain, says he believes he will be ready to play on Opening Day. Girardi said that if Ellsbury can play in an exhibition game by March 31 he will start the season in center-field. . . . The Yankees on Thursday decided to unconditionally release right-hander Jared Burton. The 33-year-old right-hander had not pitched since March 17 with a strained lat. He allowed no runs on two hits with no walks and two strikeouts in four innings over four appearances.
The Yankees will take the short trip to Bright House Field in Clearwater, FL, for their fifth and final contest this spring against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Right-hander Michael Pineda will start for the Yankees. Pineda is 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in three spring starts. He is slotted to be the Yankees’ No. 2 starter to start the season.
The Phillies will counter with top pitching prospect Aaron Nola. The right-hander was the team’s No. 1 selection in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft and he could possibly end up on the Phillies’ 25-man roster this season.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m EDT and the game will be broadcast on a delayed basis on Saturday at 6 a.m. by the MLB Network.
NOTE: A word of warning if you do plan to attend this game. There is a 50 percent chance of rain in Clearwater during the early-afternoon hours on Friday.