With the opening of the New York Yankees spring training camp in Tampa, FL, we will now look at each position on the team to assess their chances in 2015. After a disappointing 2014 season with a roster riddled with significant injuries the Yankees have reshuffled the deck with a lot of fresh faces to join some old ones. Let’s look at them.
Co-closers: Dellin Betances, 26 (5-0, 1.40 ERA, 1 save, 70 games), Andrew Miller, 29 (5-5, 2.02 ERA, 1 save, 73 games)
Set-up man: David Carpenter, 29 (6-4, 3.54 ERA, 3 saves, 65 games)
Lefty specialist: Justin Wilson, 27 (3-4, 4.20 ERA, 70 games)
The Yankees have had somewhat of a revolving door at the closer position for the past three seasons and 2015 will the fourth consecutive season they will be featuring a new closer or closers.
In 2012, an early-season injury to Mariano Rivera forced the Yankees to use Rafael Soriano as the team’s closer. In 2013, Rivera returned to health to complete a great final chapter to Hall-of-Fame career. And in 2014, David Robertson assumed the closer’s role and all he did was go 4-5 with a 3.08 ERA and convert 39 of his 44 save opportunities.
However, Robertson was unhappy that the Yankees did not look to extend his contract. So he declined their qualifying offer and signed a four-year, $46-million deal with the Chicago White Sox on Dec. 9.
Once again the Yankees will be auditioning another new closer in 2015.
The obvious choice is Betances after his meteoric rise from a spring training curiosity to the devastating setup weapon he became in 2014. The numbers speak for themselves.
He allowed only 46 hits and 24 walks in 90 innings. Batters hit an anemic .149 against him. He fanned 135 batters. The 6-foot-8, 265-pound right-hander dominated hitters from Opening Day to the end of the season.
The question then becomes could he do what he did last season in the ninth inning in 2015?
Manager Joe Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild believe that he can but they are not going to leave that question to chance without a Plan B.
On Dec. 5, the Yankees signed left-hander Andrew Miller to a four-year, $36-million contract with the intention of making him a setup man for what was Robertson at the time. Miller struck out 14.87 batters per nine innings and held opponents to a .153 batting average for the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles last season.
For now, Girardi says that although the Yankees would prefer to have one set closer when they begin the season, they are not averse to having Betances and Miller work as co-closers.
“I’m sure we’ll have a lot of meetings about that,” Girardi told reporters last Sunday. “We’ll decide what’s best. We want to see how they’re both throwing the baseball at the end of spring training. There will be just a lot of discussion of how we feel our team is built. Could they be interchangeable? Yeah.”
There is no doubt that however they are used both Betances and Miller have great stuff and are nearly impossible to hit consistently. That gives the Yankees two powerful weapons at the back end of the bullpen.
Betances was originally drafted as a starting pitcher out of New York City and his high-octane fastball seemed to have him on a fast track to the Yankees’ starting rotation. But control problems plagued him and got worse as he progressed through the minor-league system
His status as a top prospect diminished until the Yankees decided to try him in the bullpen in 2013. That turned everything around. Betances found a delivery that he could repeat and that devastating fastball and slider combination left batters baffled.
He impressed Girardi in a spring game when he faced Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion of the Blue Jays with the bases loaded and retired both of them to get out of the jam unscathed. It was inevitable Betances would make the roster as a reliever from that point on.
That led to Betances’ impressive first season with the big club and his reward could be eventually becoming the team’s closer.
Ironically, Miller’s career path was very similar.
Miller was a former No. 1 draft pick of the Detroit Tigers who just could not harness his control as a starter. After a short and unsuccessful stop with the then-Florida Marlins, Miller reached rock bottom when he was 6-3 with a 5.54 ERA in 12 starts with the Boston Red Sox in 2011.
Miller walked 41 batters in just 65 innings.
Then the Red Sox shifted him to the bullpen and he has not looked back. From 2012 through 2014, Miller has developed into what could be considered the most devastating left-handed relievers in all of baseball.
His walks have dropped, his strikeouts have increased and Miller is now in line to perhaps share a closers role – a job he also has never had before.
The Yankees are obviously thrilled they have both of these pitchers available for the ninth inning.
A curious thing happened after the 2014 season. For the first time in a very long time, the Yankees basically reshuffled the deck on the rest of the bullpen. David Phelps, Shawn Kelley, Matt Thornton and Preston Claiborne are gone.
Phelps was dealt to the Marlins in the trade where the Yankees acquired starting right-hander Nathan Eovaldi and first baseman/outfielder Garrett Jones. Kelley was shipped to the San Diego Padres for minor-league right-hander Johnny Barbato. Thornton was waived last August and is now with the Washington Nationals. Claiborne was released and signed with the Marlins.
So behind Miller and Betances will be a whole new cast of characters.
The team’s primary setup man will be Carpenter, who was acquired from the Atlanta Braves along with left-hander Chasen Shreve for left-hander Manny Banuelos, who was once considered the best pitching prospect in the Yankees’ organization.
Carpenter comes to the Yankees highly recommended by Brian McCann, who was his primary catcher in 2013 when Carpenter was 4-1 with a 1.78 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 65 innings over 56 appearances.
Carpenter’s numbers slipped considerably last season but he is very excited to be reunited with his former battery mate.
“B-Mac is the kind of guy that you love going to battle with,” Carpenter told reporters. “He’s a team guy, he busts his butt out there, he’s everything you could ask for in a leader, especially a catcher. To be reunited with him, it’s going to be really, really special.”
The Yankees also made a deal for a second left-hander by trading veteran catcher Francisco Cervelli to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Wilson, who like Carpenter had a sensational 2013 season.
Wilson, a converted starter, was 6-1 with 2.08 ERA in 58 games with the Pirates in 2013. Last season his numbers slipped a bit but general manager Brian Cashman said Wilson will remind Yankee fans of Boone Logan, who had a very successful stint with the Yankees as their primary left-hander.
Beyond these four, the makeup of the rest of the bullpen will be up for grabs this spring, although Adam Warren eventually will be part of it. It is just unclear when that will be because Warren is slated to pitch as a starter in spring training.
The Yankees are looking to possibly use Warren as a sixth starter in the first six weeks of the season because several Yankee starters are coming off injuries and the Yankees face a stretch in late April and early May in which they are scheduled to play 30 games in 31 days.
Warren, 27, is coming off a sensational year in the bullpen. He was 3-6 with a 2.97 ERA in 69 games, all in relief. Between Warren’s ability to pitch in almost in any role, including that of a starter, and the fact that he pitches effectively in those roles, it is easy to see why he was one of the few relievers the Yankees opted to keep for 2015.
Warren will be a big help either in the middle or late innings when he finally is shifted back in mid-May.
Right-handers Chase Whitley (25), Esmil Rogers (29) and Bryan Mitchell (23) also will get opportunities to start this spring. All three have started in the past but Whitley is better suited to be a relief pitcher. Rogers has not fully developed as a starter or a reliever but he has been better in the bullpen. Mitchell is a capable starter but the Yankees will evaluate him for both roles this spring.
Mitchell likely will be sent to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre so that he could be available as a emergency starter this season. The Yankees really like his ability.
There are several relievers on the 40-man roster who will get a look this spring including Danny Burawa, Jose De Paula, Branden Pinder and Shreve.
Burawa, 26, is a right-hander who was 3-1 with a 4.70 between Double-A Trenton and Scranton last season. De Paula, 27, was signed out of the San Francisco Giants system and the left-hander was 4-3 with a 4.21 ERA at Triple-A Fresno in 2014. Pinder, 26, is a right-hander who was 3-0 with 2.04 ERA in three minor-league stops last season, ending with a stint in Scranton. Shreve, 24, was acquired along with Carpenter in the Banuelos trade and was 5-3 with a 2.67 ERA at stops in Double-A and Triple-A in 2014.
Most of the time non-roster pitchers are invited into camp for a look but they don’t make the team. But the Yankees invited a veteran right-hander reliever to camp who was the American League Rookie of the Year in 2009 and a two-time All-Star with the Oakland Athletics.
He is 30-year-old Andrew Bailey, who saved 75 games in 84 opportunities for the A’s from 2009 through 2011, but has suffered through a series of injuries that have hindered his effectiveness and kept him off the field.
Bailey was released by the Red Sox in July 2013 after posting a 3-1 record with 3.77 ERA in 30 games. Bailey suffered a torn capsule and labrum in his right shoulder and underwent surgery in 2013. The Yankees signed him to a minor-league contract in 2014 knowing he would be unavailable to pitch until 2015.
The Yankees extended him an invitation this spring and Bailey will have an opportunity to test where he is in his rehab. If he is healthy, Bailey could be a valuable addition to the bullpen. Though his closing days are over he could land a spot to pitch in the middle innings. If he is anywhere close to the pitcher he was in Oakland the Yankee bullpen will be even more formidable.
Another intriguing pitcher to watch this spring will be former starting prospect Jose A. Ramirez, 25, who was converted to relief because of recurring oblique injuries.
Ramirez was once a very highly touted prospect as a starter and he did make his major-league debut with the Yankees as a reliever last season. He was 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA in eight appearances in relief.
At Scranton, the Dominican right-hander was 3-0 with a 1.46 ERA in nine appearances after spending an early part of the season on the disabled list with an oblique strain.
The Yankees see their 13th-ranked prospect as a full-time reliever and they hope it does for Ramirez what it did for Betances. Ramirez just maybe could make a leap to the majors this season because of his change-up, which is the best in the organization – including those in the majors now.
He also features a plus fastball though he lacks overall command and he is working hard to develop his slider. Because he has struggled to work more than 115 innings the Yankees believe keeping in the bullpen will lessen his injury issues and keep his arm fresh for a full season.
Another young pitcher to watch is 21-year-old right-hander Jacob Lindgren, who pitched Mississippi State to the 2013 College World Series title as a starter and then was shifted to the bullpen by the Yankees last summer.
The Yankees selected him with their first pick of the 2014 draft in the second round and he immediately paid dividends by advancing all the way to Trenton. In his four minor-league stops he combined to go 2-1 with a 2.16 ERA He struck out 48 batters in 25 innings.
Lindgren was able to increase his fastball speed up to 95 mph and his slider (82-84 mph) has enough bite on it to make it a wipeout pitch. It is very possible that Lindgren could make the Yankees’ bullpen in 2015 if he shows that he can throw strikes consistently in the minors.
He is ranked as the team’s No. 9 prospect.
OVERALL POSITION ANALYSIS: EXCELLENT
The bullpen has been the strength of the team for the past two seasons, though the team as a whole has not had much success. Even with the reshuffling of a lot of new faces and new roles in the bullpen, it remains one of the team’s strengths.
Another reason is that Girardi has been a master at selecting the best organization arms and utilizing a bullpen to the team’s advantage. No one gets overworked because Girardi is strict about not using pitchers three days in a row if he can help it.
This season the big test will be if Betances can take the reins as the team’s closer. The odds are that he is capable and he should be successful. If he isn’t Miller is there back him up. Whether they work as setup man and closer or as co-closers, the fact remains they are two very nasty hombres that hitters do not feel comfortable hitting against.
Neither pitcher also has a decided bias pitching against right-handed or left-handed batters. They are equal-opportunity strikeout artists. That will make it awful difficult for teams who are behind come the eighth inning.
Carpenter will likely ease into what was Kelley’s role last season. He will set up for Miller and Betances. Though Carpenter struggled a bit last season, he still is considered a good young pitcher with a very good arm.
Once Warren finishes his role as a starter in the early part of the season he will join Carpenter in a setup role. Though Warren came out of the minors as a starter, he has had great success pitching out of the bullpen and he can pitch multiple innings if needed.
The Yankees also traded Cervelli for a second left-hander in Wilson and he provides a great opportunity for Girardi to match him up against a tough left-handed hitter in the middle innings.
With these five players set in their roles, the other three spots are up for grabs this spring.
Whitley and Rogers have a great shot at winning two of those spots because they both are former starters. Whitley is ideal for the long-relief and spot-start role Phelps once had. Rogers has not harnessed his ability yet and time is running out. But he is veteran with a good arm.
The last spot will be decided in spring training with a lot of potential candidates.
One good thing is that a lot of those candidates such as Burawa, Pinder and Shreve are young, Behind them are a pair of up-and-coming prospects like Ramirez and Lindgren.
There is good chance you may see both Ramirez and Lindgren on the 25-man roster this season. The Yankees have developed a lot of great depth here.
END OF SERIES
YANKEES 4, CUBS 2 (13 INNINGS)
When a baseball team suffers through a spate of injuries it has to rely a great deal on its players from Triple A to fill in for those injured players. Add to the fact that when a team is in a 13-inning game they up asking players to do things they never have done before.
That is exactly what happened at Wrigley Field on Wednesday and those former Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders came up big for the Yankees.
Pitcher Preston Claiborne set down a perfectly placed sacrifice bunt in his first major-league at-bat in the top of the 13th inning, Brendan Ryan scored the tie-breaking run on a wild pitch and John Ryan Murphy drove in an insurance run on a single as New York rallied for two runs in the ninth to tie it and scored two in the 13th to down Chicago.
Claiborne (2-0), who was recalled from Scranton for a second time this season on April 27 to fill a void in the bullpen, pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings of relief to earn the victory. David Robertson pitched a scoreless 13th frame to remain a perfect 9-for-9 in saves this season.
Former Yankee right-hander Jose Veras (0-1) took the loss.
Ryan, who entered the game as pinch-runner for Brian McCann and scored a run in the ninth, led off the 13th with a lined single to left off Veras. Yangervis Solarte then drew a walk to set the stage for Claiborne’s bunt.
The Yankees were out of position players and Robertson was only reliever left in the bullpen. That forced manager Joe Girardi into asking Claiborne, who had never had at-bat in major-league game, to put down a sacrifice bunt to advance Ryan and Solarte.
The Cubs, defending the bunt, actually put on the wheel play to cut down Ryan at third base, however, Claiborne’s bunt on the first pitch from Veras was deadened so much on the Wrigley Field turf that third baseman Luis Valbuena had only the play at first base.
While facing Murphy, who entered the game after Ryan pinch-ran for McCann in the ninth, Veras uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Ryan to score the tie-breaking run. Two pitches later Murphy, who was recalled from Scranton on April 15 when Francisco Cervelli was placed on the 60-day disabled list with a pulled right hamstring, laced a RBI single to right that scored Solarte.
Considering the effort of Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzjia, it is lucky that the Yankees were able to tie it in the ninth, much less win the game.
Samardzjia entered the game with a 1.62 ERA but was sporting an 0-4 record and a 15-start streak in which he had failed to win a game dating back to Aug. 24, 2013 victory over the Padres in San Diego.
He held the Yankees to just four hits and two walks while he struck out three in seven innings. That lowered his season ERA to National League-leading 1.46.
The Cubs, meanwhile, were able to push across a run in the fourth inning against right-hander Chase Whitley, who was recalled from Scranton on May 15 and who was making only his second major-league start.
Valbuena slapped a one-out single and Wellington Castillo followed with a single of his own. Then Nate Schierholtz slashed a liner off the glove of Mark Teixeira at first base for a single that loaded the bases.
Mike Olt scored Valbuena on a sacrifice fly.
Whitley left the game with one out in the fifth and Emilio Bonifacio on third with a leadoff triple. But right-hander Dellin Betances bailed him out of the inning by retiring Anthony Rizzo on a swinging strike and Starlin Castro on a flyout.
Whitley gave up on run on six hits and one walk along with three strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings. In his two starts since being called up as an emergency fifth starter, Whitley has yielded one run on eight hits and three walks and seven strikeouts in nine innings.
The Cubs added a run in the seventh inning off right-hander Adam Warren when pinch-hitter Ryan Kalish lined a one-out triple to right and Bonifacio scored him on a bunt single.
But the Yankees both ruined Samardzjia’s great outing and saved themselves a loss by scoring two runs with the help of an error by Darwin Barney, who had just entered the game at second base as part of a double switch in the top of the ninth.
Teixeira opened the inning with a single off right-hander Hector Rondon, the Cubs’ closer. McCann followed by drawing a walk and he was replaced by Ryan.
Solarte loaded the bases with an infield single and Ichiro Suzuki followed by hitting a grounder to Castro at short. Castro fed the ball to Barney to retire Solarte but Barney’s throw to first skipped past Rizzo at first base to allow both Teixeira and Ryan to score.
Because of the length of the game, thousands of Yankee fans and a majority of the sellout crowd of 34,808 saluted Derek Jeter with repeated standing ovations when he came to the plate. Jeter ended the day 1-for-7 with a single in the sixth in his final game at Wrigley Field.
“I was hoping the game wouldn’t take that long, but I told you, the way the fans have been treating me on the road this year. It’s been unbelievable,” Jeter told reporters after the game.
With the victory the Yankees split the two-game series at Wrigley but won the inter-league season series three games to one. Their season record improves to 24-21 and they are in a statistical tie with the Toronto Blue Jays for first place in the American League East, a half=game ahead of the third-place Baltimore Orioles.
The Cubs fell to 16-28.
- Whitley certainly deserves another start after what he did against the Cubs on Wednesday. Girardi was pleased and only removed him in the fifth in favor of Betances with Bonifacio on third and Rizzo up because Girardi wanted a strikeout in the that situation. With Ivan Nova out for the season after Tommy John surgery and Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia on the disabled list, the 24-year-old right-hander is seizing a great opportunity after spending the past three seasons at Scranton.
- Let’s also give credit to the bullpen for pitching 8 2/3 innings of one-run baseball. They allowed only five hits and three walks while striking out 12 batters. Despite the loss of setup man Shawn Kelley, who is on the DL with a lower-back strain, the team is getting help from Betances, Alfredo Aceves, Matt Daley, Matt Thornton, Warren, Claiborne and Robertson. Robertson is certainly settling in replacing the legendary Mariano Rivera.
- Give Murphy, 22, credit for staying sharp with the bat despite getting limited playing time behind the perennial All-Star McCann. With Murphy’s single in the 13th he has raised his season average to .406. He is 13-for-32 with a home run and six RBIs. He is making Austin Romine and Cervelli irrelevant to the Yankees future plans as long as he continues to play this well.
- It is clear that Samardzjia is a good pitcher but the Yankees can not be happy that they played the weak-hitting Cubs for 17 innings heading into the ninth inning on Wednesday and they managed to score just a single run on 10 hits. The acquisitions of Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury and McCann were supposed to make the offense better than it was in 2013. But those three, so far, are failing to provide much. Ellsbury singled in the 10th and the 12th innings to snap a 1-for-27 slump and he only has one home run all season.
More bad news on the injury front. Kelley, 30, had his rehab placed on hold Wednesday due to a recurrence of his lower back pain. Kelley felt a twinge as he was playing catch on Monday and he was told to halt all baseball activities. Tests indicated no problems with the discs in his back. But plans for the right-hander to begin a minor-league rehab stint this weekend have been cancelled.
The Yankees stay in Chicago but their bus will head to U.S. Cellular Field on the south side of the city to open a four-game series with the White Sox beginning on Thursday.
Right-hander David Phelps (1-0, 3.33 ERA) will start for the Yankees coming off his best start of the season. Phelps shut out the Pirates on five hits and three walks in five innings on Friday. Though Phelps had command issues throughout his outing, he got out of jams and held the Bucs scoreless.
This is just how the Yankees’ season has gone. All-Star Chisox left-hander Chris Sale (3-0, 2.30 ERA) was not supposed to pitch in this series because he was on the 15-day disabled list with a left flexor muscle strain in his left elbow. However, after he fanned 11 batters in four innings in a rehab start last Friday, Sale was summoned to Chicago and he will be activated for Thursday’s game. Oh goody, goody!
Game-time will be 8:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 14, RED SOX 5
If you could draw up the perfect scenario for the Yankees for Thursday’s rubber game against the Red Sox it played out to perfection on the field. For the Red Sox they did about everything wrong a team can do in a game to embarrass themselves in front of national television audience on the MLB Network and a paid crowd of 37.356 at Fenway Park.
CC Sabathia gave up two runs over six innings, Mark Teixeira blasted his first home run of the season and rookie sensation Yangervis Solarte collected two hits and drove in four runs as New York pummeled Boston to win for the fifth time in seven games against their heated rival.
Of course, the Yankees had a lot of help in addition to the 14 hits they pounded out. The Red Sox defense committed an alarming season-high five errors and a passed ball and five pitchers combined to issue 12 walks and throw three wild pitches.
I thought it was Cowboy Up and not Down.
Sabathia (3-2) yielded only three hits, walked three and struck out eight batters to even his season record against the Red Sox at 1-1. He left after six innings with a comfortable 7-2 lead.
The Yankees, meanwhile, jumped all over left-hander Felix Doubront (1-3) for seven runs (three earned) on six hits and two walks while he struck out one in 2 2/3 innings.
Alfonso Soriano got the Yankees on the board in the first inning with a two-out RBI double to score Carlos Beltran.
Solarte added a two-run double in the second inning and he later scored on a wild pitch by Doubront.
Teixeira opened the third inning with a home run that landed on the top railing of the Green Monster. Later in the inning, Brian Roberts and Jacoby Ellsbury added RBI singles that finally chased Doubront with the Yankees leading 7-0.
After the Red Sox scored a pair of runs in the third on a sacrifice fly off the bat of David Ortiz and a two-out RBI double by Jonny Gomes, the Yankees blew the game wide open by hammering left-hander Craig Breslow for five runs on four hits, an error and two walks as they sent 11 men to the plate in the seventh inning.
Solarte keyed the inning with a bases-loaded single that scored two runs. Ellsbury followed by lacing an RBI double and Derek Jeter added two-run single. By the time the dust had settled on another cold and blustery evening, the Yankees were leading 12-2.
With the victory, the Yankees improved their season ledger to 13-9 and they lead the American League East by 1 1/2 games over the second-place Baltimore Orioles. The Red Sox dropped to 10-13 and they are in the basement of the division, 3 1/2 games behind the Yankees.
- You can rail about Sabathia’s lost velocity all you want but tonight’s game showed exactly what he can accomplish when he gets the run support. Sabathia used his fastball on both corners of the plate and kept the Red Sox off balance with his slider and change-up. To prove how off-balance the Red Sox were five of Sabathia’s strikeouts came looking.
- Teixeira’s return to the lineup was supposed to be bad news for Solarte because he was playing third base while starting third baseman Kelly Johnson played first in Teixera’s absence. But manager Joe Girardi elected to start the switch-hitting Solarte against the lefty Doubront and he responded with a double, a single, a walk, scoring two runs and driving in four. This despite the fact he did not have a hit in his previous 12 at-bats. Solarte is hitting .310 with nine extra-base hits and he is tied with Beltran for the team lead with 13 RBIs.
- Ellsbury weathered constant booing throughout the three-game series but he left his former team and their infantile fans with a parting gift on Thursday. He was 3-for-6 with a run scored and three RBIs. In the series, Ellsbury battered Boston pitching for 5-for-15 (.333) with three doubles, a triple, three runs scored and five RBIs. Guess he told those fans where to shove those boos.
OK. Jeter did commit a bad fielding error and rookie Shane Greene was shelled for three runs (all unearned) in his major-league debut. But those are mere quibbles. This team rallied after last night’s John Farrell-induced loss to make the Red Sox like a team not even worthy to be on the same field. That is something very special and there is nothing negative in that.
An apologetic Michael Pineda admitted to using pine tar in Wednesday’s game and he told reporters on Thursday that he was not appealing his 10-game suspension, which started immediately. With an off day scheduled for April 28, Pineda actually could miss only one start and be available to pitch on May 5 against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, CA. The Yankees will have to play the next 10 days with a 24-man roster during Pineda’s suspension. . . . The Yankees made some roster moves on Thursday in the wake of Pineda’s suspension. They signed right-hander Bruce Billings to a major-league contract and recalled Greene from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and they optioned infielder Dean Anna and right-hander Preston Claiborne to Scranton. . . . The Yankees announced that right-hander Ivan Nova will undergo Tommy John surgery on Tuesday in Birmingham, AL. Dr. James Andrews will repair a partial tear in the ulnar collateral ligament of Nova’s right elbow. It will require 12 to 18 months of rehab before Nova can come back. In a corresponding roster move, the Yankees transferred Nova from the 15-day to the 60-day disabled list.
The Yankees fresh off there rump-kicking of the Red Sox head home to open a three-game weekend series with the Angels.
Hiroki Kuroda (2-1, 4.07 ERA) will open the series for the Yankees. Kuroda gave up three runs on seven hits and two walks in 5 2/3 innings in a no-decision in which the Yankees lost to the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday. He is 3-2 with a 2.26 ERA in six career starts against the Angels.
Left-hander C.J. Wilson (2-2, 4.21 ERA) will start for the Angels. Wilson was hammered for seven hits and he walked three while surrendering four runs (three earned) in five innings in a loss to the Detroit Tigers on Saturday. He has a career ERA of 2.58 in 38 1/3 innings against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 5, RAYS 1 (12 INNINGS)
Sometimes when they say it is game of inches they really mean it. On Sunday at Tropicana Field the Yankees ended up winning a game against the Rays on a very close checked swing by rookie infielder Dean Anna.
Anna just barely held up on a 3-2 pitch from left-hander C.J. Riefenhauser with the bases loaded and two out as part of a four-run uprising as New York gladly will leave St. Petersburg, FL, with split of their four-game series against Tampa Bay.
After right-hander Heath Bell (0-1) opened the 12th by walking Yangervis Solarte, Riefenhauser came on to retire Solarte on a fielder’s choice grounder by Brett Gardner and Brian Roberts on lineout.
However, Brian McCann singled to advance Gardner to third and Rays manager Joe Maddon decided to walk Jacoby Ellsbury intentionally in order to pitch to Anna. Niefenhauser’s 3-2 pitch to Anna was called a ball by home-plate umpire Clint Fagan and third-base umpire Marty Foster correctly called that Anna checked his swing in time to allow Gardner to score to break the 1-1 tie.
That opened the floodgates as right-hander Josh Lueke replaced Riefenhauser and was tagged by a two-run single by Carlos Beltran and an RBI single off the bat of Alfonso Soriano.
Preston Claiborne (1-0), who was called up on Sunday after the Yankees had been hammered for 27 runs on 32 hits in two days, pitched the final two innings to get credit for the victory.
The Yankees actually held a 1-0 lead in the game after the top of the fourth inning, when Soriano led off with a double and Gardner followed two batters later with a deep drive to right that outfielder Will Myers appeared initially to have caught at the wall.
However, after Yankees manager Joe Girardi challenged the call, replays clearly indicated that the ball landed just under the yellow home-run line on some netting and then caromed into Myers’ glove. Gardner was awarded a double and RBI that allowed Soriano to score.
Emergency starter Vidal Nuno actually held the Rays scoreless over five innings, yielding only three hits and two walks while fanned six batters in his first start since June of last season.
The Yankees bullpen, which had been shredded the past two days, held up well until a one-out error by Roberts in the bottom of the seventh inning allowed the Rays to tie it with an unearned run.
Matt Thornton entered the game with one out in the frame but was greeted by a single by James Loney. Brandon Guyer then rolled a easy two-hopper to Solarte at third. But Roberts bobbled the ball at second and umpire Joe West ruled Loney safe at second also.
Adam Warren came in to replace Thornton and Yunel Escobar singled to load the bases and pinch-hitter Matt Joyce launched a sacrifice fly that scored Loney just ahead of the tag from John Ryan Murphy on the throw from Beltran in right.
The victory allowed the Yankees to improve their season record to 11-8. They remain a game up on the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East. The Rays fell to 9-10 and are two games back.
- Give Nuno, 26, a lot of credit for tossing five spotless innings in his first start in almost a year. Nuno was used because of Tuesday’s rainout at Yankee Stadium in a game scheduled against the Chicago Cubs, which pushed back Masahiro Tanaka’s next start until Tuesday. But Nuno likely will get at least one more start since right-hander Ivan Nova likely will miss the rest of the season to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
- Anna, 27, only was in the game because Girardi had elected to pinch-run Ichiro Suzuki in the 11th inning to replace Derek Jeter after he led off the frame with a single off Bell. Suzuki ultimately was called out on a steal attempt after he initially was called safe. The call was overturned on a replay requested by Maddon. So Anna ended up stepping into the batters’ box facing a left-hander and sporting a .136 batting average. But he earned the walk and it was a very impressive eight-pitch at-bat.
- Shawn Kelley highlighted an unyielding performance by the bullpen after they had been shelled so badly in the two previous games. Kelley pitched a scoreless ninth and 10th innings and struck out four batters to allow the Yankees to win the game in the 12th. The bullpen of David Phelps, Thornton, Warren, Kelley and Claiborne shut out the Rays on three hits and three walks while fanning nine in seven innings.
- Roberts had a day he would like to forget. Along with committing a senseless fielding error that cost the Yankees the lead he was 0-for-5 with a couple of strikeouts and he stranded four base-runners. Roberts is off to a slow start with the bat and is now hitting just .156.
- Thornton is certainly nothing like his predecessor Boone Logan. He does not have Logan’s sweeping slider and lefties make him pay for it. He was called into the game to retire the left-handed Loney but Loney slapped a fastball to the opposite field for a single. Thornton has to be prepared to push good lefty hitters off the plate to keep them from going the other way.
The Yankees activated Mark Teixeira from the disabled list and he started at first base on Sunday and was 2-for-6 with fielding error in the game. Teixeira, 34, had been out of the lineup since he strained his right hamstring in a game against the Blue Jays on April 4. . . . David Robertson is on schedule to be activated on Tuesday. Robertson, 29, suffered a strained left groin on April 6. He will resume his closer’s role and Kelley will move back into the main setup role. Kelley was 4-for-4 in save opportunities.
I have said this before and I will say this again: The Rays’ organization is great to its own players and fans (which is fantastic) but they treat everyone else with disdain because they are very insecure. One example: If there is giveaway such as an Evan Longoria T-shirt for kids age 14-and-under they will not hand the shirts to any kids wearing an opposing team’s jersey. Yep! They do that that at the Trop because they are small-minded people. But it all trickles down from the top. To most of the nation, Maddon is seemingly lovable guy. But witness him at a press conference and you see that he puts a capital A in the term a–hole. Asked to comment on Nuno and the Yankee bullpen’s performance after Sunday’s game, Maddon told reporters: “There really is no solid explanation. I can’t stand here and say that the Yankees pitched that great. We just did not have a good offensive day.” Most managers tip their cap to the opponent but Maddon can’t be bothered because when his team loses it can’t be because the other team is better that day. I’m sure that there was no explanation for Mark Buerhle’s perfect game either, Joe. He is an A–hole. Period!
The Yankees will have Monday off before making their first trip to Fenway Park to play the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday.
Tanaka (2-0, 2.05 ERA) steps into his first foray into sports’ biggest rivalry after totally dominating the Cubs on Wednesday. Tanaka, 25, struck out 10 batters and only gave up two bunt singles and a walk in seven very strong innings. I am sure Cubs manager Rich Renteria has no explanation for it.
He will be opposed by left-hander Jon Lester (2-2, 2.17 ERA). Lester evened his record by giving up just one run on seven hits and he struck out nine en route to a victory over the Chicago White Sox on Thursday.
Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by MY9.
GAME 17 AND GAME 18
The past two days have been like a House of Horrors for the New York Yankees with that house being Tropicana Field.
On Friday night it was an implosion of the bullpen that allowed an early 4-0 lead to end in an 11-5 defeat to the Tampa Bay Rays. David Phelps, Matt Thornton, Adam Warren and Cesar Cabral combined to give up eight runs on nine hits and one walk while Cabral hit three batters before she was ejected by home-plate umpire Joe West with two out in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Because it is the first time this season the team has had a meltdown of the bullpen it perhaps can be overlooked as an aberration.
The Yankees immediately sought to rectify the situation by designating for assignment the left-handed Cabral, 25, who had no record but an ERA of 27.00 after yielding three runs on four hits and two walks in one inning of work in four appearances.
Cabral was a Rule V selection from the Kansas City Royals via the Boston Red Sox and he was impressive in spring training in 2012 before he fractured his left elbow in his final appearance. After two seasons of rehab, Cabral pitched 9 1/3 innings of scoreless baseball this spring, although he did walk six batters while striking out 10.
Cabral was replaced on the roster by 31-year-old right-hander Matt Daley, who was 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in six games.
On Saturday night the Rays played Home Run Derby against right-hander Ivan Nova to win 16-1.
Ryan Hanigan hit two home runs and Will Myers and Evan Longoria added one apiece as Nova was raked for eight runs on eight hits and one walk in four-plus innings. He was removed in the fifth when he visibly winced on his 2nd delivery to Longoria.
A subsequent MRI on his right elbow showed a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament and he will examined on Monday in New York by Dr. Christopher Ahmad. It is likely Nova, 27, will require season-ending Tommy John surgery.
For the moment, he will be replaced in the rotation by left-hander Vidal Nuno, who has no record and 14.54 ERA in only 4 1/3 innings of work in relief over three appearances. Nuno, 26, was already chosen to start Sunday’s series finale against the Rays. He will be opposed by fellow left-hander Cesar Ramos, who is 0-1 with a 7.50 ERA.
The Yankees bolstered their bullpen for Sunday when they recalled right-hander Preston Claiborne from Scranton and right-hander Bryan Mitchell from Double-A Trenton with Nova being placed on the 15-day disabled list.
Claiborne, 26, has no record with a 1.50 ERA in five games with the Rail-Riders. Mitchell, 23, is 1-2 with a 5.14 ERA in three starts with the Thunder.
The Yankees also designated for assignment Daley, who was hammered for six runs (four earned) on five hits and two walks in 1 1/3 innings on Saturday in relief of Nova.
First baseman Mark Teixeira, who has been on the disabled list since April 4 with a Grade 1 strain of his right hamstring, was activated from the diasbled list for Sunday;s game and the Yankees optioned infielder Scott Sizemore back to Scranton.
Sizemore, 29, hit .308 with four RBIs in 13 at-bats over five games with the Yankees.
YANKEES 4, PIRATES 2
CC Sabathia and Ichiro Suzuki have one thing in common. These two former stars have had a lot of baseball pundits digging their graves and ready to start shoveling dirt on them.
After watching them both play on a damp and cloudy Thursday afternoon at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, FL, it might be time to put away those shovels. Both have a lot left in the tank.
Suzuki was 3-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI and Sabathia extended his spring training scoreless inning streak to 17 as New York defeated Pittsburgh in front of a paid crowd of 8.134.
In his final tuneup before Opening Day on April 1, Sabathia (3-1) held the Pirates to three hits, he did not walk a batter and he threw 33 of his 44 pitches for strikes. The 33-year-old left-hander leaves spring training with a sparkling 1.29 ERA.
Meanwhile, Suzuki helped spark the an offense that tagged right-hander Stolmy Pimentel (1-1) for four runs on nine hits and a walk over four innings.
Suzuki led off the game with an opposite-field single and he advanced to third on a hit-and-run single by Eduardo Nunez. Mark Teixeira scored Suzuki on a groundout. Two batters later, Zoilo Almonte, who also had three hits in the game, laced a single to left to score Nunez.
The Yankees added a pair of runs in the fourth after Pimentel had retired the first two batters.
Adonis Garcia doubled to the wall in right-center and Suzuki scored him on another opposite-field single. Suzuki moved to second on a wild pitch and he then scored on a single by Nunez.
The Pirates did not score until the eighth, when Jarek Cunningham greeted reliever David Phelps with a single and Andy Vazquez followed with a double. Travis Snider drew a walk to load the bases and Cunningham scored on a double play off the bat of Drew Maggi.
South African infielder Gift Ngoepe then laced a double to score Vazquez.
With the victory the Yankees assured themselves of a Grapefruit League record over .500. They are 16-12-2. The Pirates completed their Florida schedule with a 14-10 mark.
- After Sabathia finished the 2013 season with a 14-13 record with a 4.78 ERA, he vowed he would be better in 2014. Judging by his work this spring he has a good chance to make good on the promise. A great gauge on Sabathia’s progress is that in 21 innings this spring, he has walked only three while striking out 16. Despite reduced velocity on his fastball Sabathia is able to get outs with command of his pitches, mixing of speeds and the addition of a cutter.
- Suzuki, 40, even hit the ball hard in the one out he made in sixth. He lined out to left. On March 15, Suzuki was batting .125 and looking his age at the plate. Since then he is 9-for-23 (.391) with five RBIs in his past seven games. Though he likely will be the team’s fifth outfielder unless he is traded, Suzuki appears to be ready to play whenever manager Joe Girardi calls on him.
- Nunez, 26, was having a disappointing spring until he went 3-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI on Thursday. Nunez is among three players being considered for two backing infield jobs that are open with infielder Brendan Ryan nursing a sore back and headed for the disabled list to start the season. Nunez raised his average to .265 and he has a homer and four RBIs.
- In his second appearance after learning he was not chosen as the No. 5 starter, Phelps struggled with his command in his two-thirds of an inning of work. He gave up two runs on three hits and a walk. Only a bases-loaded double play turned by Carmen Angelini and Jose Pirela saved him from disaster. Phelps will have to get used to throwing out of the bullpen again.
- Though he drove in the game’s first run on a groundout, Teixeira was 0-for-3 and saw his spring average dip to .091. Because Teixeira underwent wrist surgery in the offseason, he was unable to prepare as he would have liked for spring training. Being a switch-hitter also means he has to work on his stroke from both sides of the plate. Teixeira is likely going to need more time to get going. But, then again, Teixeira has never been known to hit much in April anyway.
The Yankees made seven roster moves after Wednesday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin, FL. They optioned right-hander Preston Claiborne and Almonte to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In addition, they reassigned infielders Russ Canzler and Scott Sizemore, and right-handers David Herndon, Jim Miller and Yoshinori Tateyama to minor-league camp. On Thursday, the team also reassigned right-handers Danny Burawa and Chris Leroux and left-hander Fred Lewis to minor-league camp. The team is expected to finalize its 25-man roster on Friday. . . . Jacoby Ellsbury worked out at the team’s spring training complexion Tampa, FL, and he is expected to play in minor-league contests on Friday and Saturday. Ellsbury is recovering from a strained right calf and he is progressing well, Girardi told reporters. . . . Outfielder and designated hitter Alfonso Soriano is continuing to receive treatment for a sore right shoulder. Though the Yankees are monitoring the injury it is not considered serious.
The Yankees return to George M. Steinbrenner Field on Friday to face the Miami Marlins.
Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (1-0, 6.48 ERA) will make his fourth appearance of the spring and his third start. Kuroda likely will be limited to about 50 pitches.
The Marlins will counter with right-hander Jacob Turner (2-1, 2.79 ERA).
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by MLB Radio via WIOD-610 AM in Miami.
BLUE JAYS 10, YANKEES 6
Melky Cabrera and Brett Lawrie combined for five hits and four RBIs to lead Toronto on Wednesday as they rallied from a 6-0 deficit to pound New York in front of a paid crowd of 5,541 at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin, FL.
The Yankees jumped on the Blue Jays’ Opening Day starter R.A. Dickey for six runs on seven hits and four walks in four innings.
Carlos Beltran led the assault with a two-run double in the second inning and Kelly Johnson added a two-run single in the first as it appeared the Yankees would coast to an easy victory.
However, Preston Claiborne (0-1) had his spring nightmare continue as the Blue Jays scored eight runs in the fifth inning, six of them courtesy of Claiborne. The 26-year-old right-hander was shelled for six runs on four hits, a walk and a hitter batter as he did not retire any of the six batters he faced.
The big blows in the inning were a pair two-run singles by Adam Lind and Maicer Izturis. The hit by Izturis turned a 6-6 tie into a 8-6 lead for the Blue Jays.
Left-hander Brett Cecil (2-0) struck out a pair of batters en route to a perfect inning in the fifth to get credit for the victory.
With the loss, the Yankees dropped to a 15-12-2 Grapefruit League record. The Blue Jays improved to 13-13.
- Beltran was 2-for-3 with a double, a run scored and two RBIs in the game. Beltran is now 14-for-48 (.292) with two homers and nine RBIs this spring. The 36-year-old outfielder has at least one hit in his past seven games and is 11-for-23 (.478) during that span.
- Johnson has quietly had a productive spring. He was 1-for-2 with a walk, scored a run and drove in a pair. The 32-year-old infielder is 11-for-42 (.262) with a home run and seven RBIs this spring. He has been a bit shaky in the field at third but it looks as if he is going to contribute a lot offensively.
- The only pitcher who contributed much was Dellin Betances, who pitched a perfect sixth inning and struck out a batter. It appears that Betances, 26, has earned a spot in the bullpen after posting a 0.79 ERA in 11 1/3 innings over nine appearances. He also has struck out 10 batters while walking four.
- The Claiborne of 2013 was a promising right-handed reliever who sported a great ERA up until he was sent up and down to the minors four times in August. His final 13 appearances were awful but there was plenty to build upon entering 2014. But this spring Claiborne’s struggles have continued. He is 0-1 with a 14.29 ERA having been shelled for nine runs on 14 hits and a walk in 5 2/3 innings. It appears that Claiborne is heading back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to regain his confidence.
- After getting the final two outs in the fourth, Fred Lewis was tagged with a leadoff double by Ryan Goins and an RBI single by Cabrera. He ended up giving up two runs on two hits and a walk in two-thirds of an inning. Lewis entered the game having not yielded an earned run in his first eight appearances this spring. Lewis, 27, is battling Cesar Cabral for the lefty specialist role in the bullpen.
Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury played five innings in center-field in a minor-league game on Wednesday and he reported no problems with his sore right calf that has shelved him since March 14. Ellbury was 1-for-4 with a walk in a Class-A game against the Pirates at the team’s minor-league complex in Tampa, FL . . . The Yankees optioned catcher Austin Romine on Wednesday, which officially makes Francisco Cervelli the backup catcher to Brian McCann. Cervelli, 28, won the job by going 15-for-36 (.417) with a team-leading four homers and seven RBIs. . . . Outfielder and designated hitter Alfonso Soriano is receiving treatment for a sore right shoulder. Soriano was 1-for-2 with an RBI on Wednesday against the Blue Jays. Soriano will get a day off on Thursday and manager Joe Girardi told reporters he will re-evaluated.
The Yankees travel to Bradenton, FL, on Thursday to take on the Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field.
Left-hander CC Sabathia (2-1, 1.59 ERA) will make his fifth and final start of the spring before pitching the team’s opener on April 1 in Houston against the Astros.
The Pirates will counter with right-hander Stolmy Pimentel (1-0, 3.86 ERA).
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast live locally by the YES Network and on tape-delay nationally by the MLB Network at 6 p.m.