PHILLIES 7, YANKEES (SS) 0
TAMPA – Dominic Brown hit a three-run home run in the fourth inning and five Phillies pitchers held the Yankees scoreless as Philadelphia downed a New York split squad on Saturday in a game at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Left-hander Raul Valdes opened the game with three shutout innings to get credit for the victory for the Phils. Hiroki Kuroda (1-2) took the loss.
Kuroda actually looked sharp in five of the six innings he pitched but was tagged for four runs (two earned) on six hits and one walk while he fanned two batters.
Kuroda was undone when Gil Velazquez botched a potential inning-ending double-play ball off the bat of Ryan Howard and one pitch later Brown made the Yankees pay for the error with his fourth home run of the spring.
The Yankees’ spring record is now 8-13 and the Phillies improved to 9-11.
- In the other five innings Kuroda pitched he gave up no runs on three hits and no walks and struck out two. In addition to the error that hurt him, Kuroda also did not get any offensive support from the Yankees. So it was a rough day all around for the 38-year-old right-hander.
- Kevin Youkilis continues to sting the ball hard just about every time up. He was only 1-for-3 but in those at-bats he lined out hard into a double play, flew out to deep center and laced a double to the wall in right-center. Youkilis has been the hottest hitter on team for just over a week now and he is not showing any sign of slowing down.
- Mariano Rivera – gasp – gave a walk in his one inning of work. I guess he is human after all. Still, the 43-year-old closer induced a double play grounder to wipe out the leadoff walk and pitched yet another scoreless inning. Rivera drew a standing ovation from most of the 10,943 in attendance both when he came into the game in the seventh inning and when he left after the inning. Yankee fans in Tampa realize it will be the last time they ever see him pitch and they are showing their appreciation.
- The offense just looked terrible. The Yankees collected seven hits and drew three walks but they were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and they hit into a pair of double plays that snuffed out rallies.
- Newly acquired outfielder Brennan Boesch debuted as a starter in right-field and batted sixth in the lineup on Saturday. However, he did not have a day worth noting. He was 0-for-3 with a strikeout and he did not get a ball out of the infield.
- Right-handed reliever Shawn Kelley imploded in his one inning of work. He came in the ninth and gave up three runs on four hits, including surrendering a two-run home run by Steven Lerud.
The Bomber Banter and On Deck portions of this report will be included in a later post about the Yankees split squad game against the Atlanta Braves.
YANKEES 7, MARLINS 3
TAMPA – You can make a case that spring has not really sprung until a major-league team’s ace pitches in his first exhibition game. Well, for the Yankees it sprung on Friday as CC Sabathia toed the rubber for the first time and he pitched five solid innings.
Later the Yankees broke a 3-3 tie when Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto’s passed ball with the bases loaded in the bottom of seventh inning allowed Jose Pirela to score the tie-breaking run as New York went on to overtake Miami at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
The Yankees added another run in the frame when Realmuto was charged with an error on an attempted pickoff of Ichiro Suzuki at first base that allowed Gil Velazquez to score.
David Robertson (1-0) pitched an inning of scoreless relief to get credit for the victory. Dan Jennings (0-1) took the loss.
The Yankees initially rallied from a 2-0 deficit to take a 3-2 lead on a solo home run by Francisco Cervelli in the second inning and a mammoth two-run blast to right off the bat of Travis Hafner in the third. The home runs were the first of the spring for both Hafner and Cervelli.
With the victory, the Yankees improved their spring ledger to 8-12. The Marlins fell to 7-10.
- Hafner finally provided the power the Yankees were looking for when they signed him to a one-year contract to be the team’s left-hand designated hitter. Hafner’s home run with one out in the third inning came off former Mets right-hander John Maine, who is attempting to win a starting rotation spot with the Marlins. Hafner, 35, is now hitting .174 with a homer and four RBIs.
- The pitching line for Sabathia looks bad at first glance: Two runs on eight hits and one walk and two strikeouts in five innings. But most of those eight hits were not hard-hit balls. They included a bunt single, two bloop singles and a few others that just wriggled through holes in the infield. Sabathia, 32, was making his first start after recovering from offseason surgery to remove a bone spur in his left elbow.
- Pirela, 23, has very quietly had a great spring. He entered the game in the fourth inning and ended up going 2-for-3 with a triple and a single and he scored the tie-breaking run and drove in another run in the eighth. Pirela, who hit .293 with eight home runs and 33 RBIs in 82 games at Double-A Trenton last season, is hitting .385 this spring.
- After a scorching hot start Brett Gardner is beginning to struggle a bit. He was 0-for-4 on Friday with two strikeouts and he did not get a ball out the infield. In his last six starts dating back to March 7, Gardner is a miserable 1-for-18 and his spring average has plunged to .324.
- Non-roster infielder Dan Johnson is seemingly playing his way out of a chance to make the 25-man roster. Johnson, 33, was 0-for-2 on Friday and he is hitting a ridiculously low .043 this spring with seven strikeouts in his 23 at-bats. With injuries to Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, Johnson had a great shot to make the team as backup corner infielder – the same role Eric Chavez filled last season. But it looks like that ship may have sailed unless Johnson gets awful hot in a hurry.
- Even in scoring seven runs the Yankees still did not hit well with runners in scoring position. They were 1-for-8 in the game and it remains a major concern going forward.
The Yankees have added to their outfield depth by signing Brennan Boesch, who was released earlier this week by the Detroit Tigers. Boesch, 27, hit .240 with 12 home runs and 54 RBIs in 132 games with the American League champions in 2012. He was hitting .188 in 16 at-bats with the Tigers this spring. Boesch signed a one-year major-league contract for $1.5 million and $600,000 in performance incentives and he will give the Yankees a left-handed hitting corner outfielder as Curtis Granderson recovers from broken right forearm. It appears that Juan Rivera and the newly acquired Ben Francisco are competing for the right-hand portion of the corner outfield spots. Rivera also has been playing some first base in Teixera’s absence. . . . Utility man Ronnier Mustelier was forced to leave Friday’s game with multiple contusions on both legs after he ran into a metal dugout railing chasing a foul pop off the bat of Juan Pierre in the fourth inning. Manager Joe Girardi said Mustelier likely will be out until at least Tuesday. Mustelier, 28, has been a hitting sensation this spring and the Yankees have looked him at the corner outfielder spots and at third base. . . . Yankees relief prospect Mark Mongomery and rising star outfielder Tyler Austin were presented with 2012 Kevin O’Brien Lawn awards before Friday’s game. Montgomery, 23, received the “Pitcher of the Year” award after going a combined 7-2 with a 1.54 ERA and 15 saves between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton. Austin, 21, was named “Player of the Year” after batting a combined .322 with 17 home runs and 80 RBIs in four minor-league stops last season. The annual awards are dedicated to Kevin O’Brien Lawn – the son of longtime Yankees Vice President and Chief of Operations Jack Lawn – who passed away in 1999.
The Yankees will play a pair of games on Saturday.
In one game the Yankees will play host to the Philadelphia Phillies. In the other game, the Yankees will send a split squad to play the Atlanta Braves at Champions Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, FL.
Hiroki Kuroda will start at home against the Phillies. He will be opposed by reliever Raul Valdes.
Game-time will be one hour earlier than usual at 12:05 p.m. EDT to accommodate an evening concert at Raymond James Stadium by country star Kenny Chesney. The game will be telecast live by the YES Network and on tape delay by the MLB Network.
David Phelps, who is still in the running to be the team’s fifth starter, will pitch in the road contest. He will square off against left-hander Paul Maholm of the Braves.
Game-time will be 5:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast on tape delay by the MLB Network.
The New York Yankees got some game-condition work in on Friday with a 11-0 exhibition victory over the University of South Florida at George M. Steinbrenner Field at Tampa, FL.
Right-hander Adam Warren pitched two scoreless innings to pick up the victory. Warren, 24, gave up one hit and walked none while striking out two as part of a group of seven Yankee pitchers who limited the Bulls to four hits, no walks and struck out 10.
Manager Joe Girardi started all his regulars with the exception of second baseman Robinson Cano and catcher Russell Martin and the regulars were given only one or two at-bats.
Girardi was pleased with the hitting of outfielder Zoilo Almonte (2-for-2, two RBIs) and second baseman David Adams (1-for-2, one RBI). Outfielder Colin Curtis and Infielder Ramiro Pena added two hits apiece as the Yankees pounded out 14 hits against USF pitching.
The USF Bulls are coached by Lelo Prado, the brother-in-law of former Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez, currently a special assistant to general manager Brian Cashman. USF is in fourth place in the Big East standings with a 4-4 record.
The Yankees are 3-0 against USF in spring exhibitions by a combined score of 31-5. Proceeds from the game benefitted the USF baseball program.
Most of Friday’s news surrounded two former Yankees. Former Yankee right-hander A.J. Burnett underwent successful surgery to repair an injury to his right-eye orbital bone in Pittsburgh and the Pirates announced that he will miss about eight to 12 weeks. Bunrett sustained the injury fouling a bunt off his eye during a bunting contest at the Pirates spring training complex in Bradenton, FL. . . . Former Yankee catcher and designated hitter Jesus Montero took two foul shots off his jaw in the fifth inning of the Mariners’ spring Cactus League opener against the Oakland Athletics and had to be removed from the game. Up to that point, Montero, 22, was 1-for-3 at the plate with two runs and two RBIs in the game in Phoenix, AZ. The Mariners have already announced that Miguel Olivo will open the season as the team’s starting catcher and that Montero would be a candidate to DH and develop as a catcher as a backup to Olivo.
The Yankees will open their 33-game spring training schedule on Saturday against the Philadelphia Phillies at Bright House Field in Clearwater, FL. Ivan Nova, a 24-year-old right-hander who was 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA in his rookie season, will start for the Yankees. Girardi also said that Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, Cesar Cabral, Michael O’Connor and David Phelps will pitch for the Yankees. The starting outfield of Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher along with Martin will start for the Yankees.
The Phillies will counter by starting left-hander Cole Hamels, who was 14-9 with a 2.79 ERA for the Phillies last season. David Bush, Jonathan Papelbon, Dontrelle Willis, Raul Valdes, Chad Qualls and Mike Stutes are also slated to pitch. The Phiilies willl open their spring slate without three of the top regulars available to play on Saturday. First baseman Ryan Howard has an infection in his left Achilles tendon and has not reported to camp. Second baseman Chase Utley and third baseman Placido Polanco are also being held out of action by manager Charlie Manuel. Utley suffers from a chronic knee condition and Polanco is recovering from sports hernia surgery.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EST and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network.
YANKEES 4, RAYS 2
The Yankees have earned so many postseason invitations that the 2010 version did not carry any special meaning for the players. No hoopla, no high-fives and no hollering. Just handshakes.
But the team’s 16th postseason berth in the last 17 seasons was made possible by a dramatic three-run eighth inning rally off James Shields and Tampa Bay as New York clinched at least a wild-card spot with a victory over the Rays on Wednesday in front of a Yankee Stadium crowd of 42,755.
Manager Joe Girardi and the Yankees would have been forgiven if they had mailed the game in when they found out scheduled starter Phil Hughes was unable to pitch due to recurring back spasms. That forced Girardi to press into service reliever Hector Noesi and he was on a pitch count of about 60 pitches.
The Yankees, in turn, were facing Shields, the Rays ace right-hander, who entered the game with a 15-11 record and a 2.91 ERA.
But the Yankees held the score to 2-1 beginning the eighth inning. Shields had only been touched by a Derek Jeter single and an Alex Rodriguez double off the wall in straightaway center that scored Jeter easily in the first inning. In the next six innings, Shields had given up only an infield single by Jeter with two outs in the third and a one-out single to Eduardo Nunez in the fifth. He had struck out six and walked one, relying mostly on his changeup.
However, Shields paid dearly for throwing one too many when Nunez connected with one on an 0-1 count to lead off the eighth inning and he lined it into the first row of the bleachers in left to tie the game at 2-2. Shields knelt to the left of the mound and bowed his head in frustration.
One out later, Brett Gardner stroked a 3-2 pitch for a single to the opposite field in left and Jeter drew a four-pitch walk, which ended the day for Shields.
Manager Joe Maddon summoned left-hander J.P. Howell to face Robinson Cano. Cano entered play with a .315 batting average against lefties this season, but Maddon made the move anyway. He also paid a dear price for it.
Howell fell behind Cano at a count of 3-1 and Cano laced Howell’s next offering over the head of Upton in center-field to score Gardner and Jeter and allow the Yankees to regain the lead late.
Mariano Rivera, fresh off his record-setting 602nd career save on Monday, tossed another dominant 11-pitch perfect ninth inning to wrap up the victory with his 45th save of the season to put the Yankees in the playoffs once again.
The defeat really hurt Shields (15-12) and the Rays. The Rays started the day 2 games in back of the slumping Boston Red Sox in the wild-card race. The loss dropped to them 2 1/2 games back.
The win was improbable for the Yankees because Noesi, making his first major-league start, had a hard time commanding his pitches. In the third inning, Elliot Johnson led off with a ground-rule double to left. He advanced to third on a groundout and then Desmond Jennings blasted a high 2-1 fastball into the left-field bleachers to give the Rays the lead.
Girardi almost treated the game like a spring-training game, running in a total of seven relief pitchers starting in the third inning to replace Noesi. It almost seemed as if they were coming off the No. 4 train, entering and then exiting the game before you could look them up in your program.
From Noesi to Raul Valdes to George Kontos to Aaron Laffey to Cory Wade to Boone Logan to Luis Ayala and finally to Rivera in the ninth. Ayala (2-2), who struck out the only two hitters he faced in the top of the eighth got credit for the victory. The relievers pitched 6 1/3 scoreless innings on five hits and one walk and they struck out eight batters.
Girardi, mindful the Yankees would be playing the Rays in an evening doubleheader nightcap, also used the occasion to rest starters Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira and Russell Martin.
But the Grapefruit League lineup and pitchers were still able to bring the Yankees on the verge of clinching the American League East title, which is something the Yankees will celebrate with more than handshakes.
The Yankees improved their season record to 94-60. The Rays fell to 85-69.
- Jeter is making a nice a last-week push to bring his average to .300. He was 2-for-3 with a walk and scored two of the Yankees’ four runs. In his last three games, Jeter is 7-for-12 (.583) and has raised his average from .292 to .298. Jeter has failed to hit .300 or better in only four of his 16 major-league seasons.
- Cano’s two RBIs give him 115 on the season and he trails his teammate Granderson, the major-league leader, by only four RBIs. In his last nine games, Cano is 12-for-33 (.364) with a home run and nine RBIs. It may be too late to earn him the MVP award over Granderson but he is entering into the discussion.
- Give Girardi a lot of credit for this victory. He kept bringing in lefties to face Rays lefties and then summoning righties to face Rays righties. Maddon mistakenly left his lineup lopsided with three right-handed hitters at the top of the order and then three lefties, two switch-hitters and one lefty at the bottom. Girardi took advantage of it by being able to mix and match the whole game with his bullpen.
The Yankees clinch the wild card by beating Shields and the Rays with a bunch of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre pitchers and a spring-training lineup? Why complain? This was a nice victory.
The BOMBER BANTER and ON DECK reports will be contained in the next posting.