YANKEES 6, RANGERS 2
The entire 2015 season has been a celebration for Alex Rodriguez because he did not play at all in 2014. On Monday, he celebrated his 40th birthday in fine style at Globe Life Park, a venue he knows very well form his days with the Rangers.
Rodriguez cranked out a home run and Didi Gregorius also homered and drove in a career-high four runs as New York continued its hot run in the heat of July by defeating Texas in front of national TV audience on ESPN.
With the Yankees leading 3-2 with one out in the sixth, Rodriguez sent a 3-1 offering from left-hander Matt Harrison (1-2) just over the wall in right-field for his 24th home run of the season and the 678th of his career.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Rodriguez joined Ty Cobb, Rusty Staub and Gary Sheffield as the only players in baseball history who homered before turning 20 and also homered after turning 40. Rodriguez also has the distinction of hitting six home runs on his birthday – four of them in Arlington, TX – which leads all Major League players.
The run support benefitted right-hander Ivan Nova (3-3), who pitched five solid innings to win his second consecutive start after losing three consecutive starts for the first time in his career.
The Rangers actually struck first with two out in the bottom of the second inning
Josh Hamilton blooped a single in left and Elvis Andrus followed with lined RBI double off the left-field wall to plate Hamilton. Leonys Martin then rolled an RBI single to center to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead.
But the Yankees responded in the top of the third on a leadoff single by Chase Headley, one of his three hits in the game, and Gregorius followed by lining his fifth home run of the season into the right-field stands.
Brendan Ryan extended the rally by lacing a triple off the left-field wall. After Brett Gardner drew a walk, Chris Young scored Ryan on a sacrifice fly to left to give the Yankees a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the game.
Nova, 28, gave up two runs on five hits and two walks with three strikeouts in five innings. The bullpen comprised of Chasen Shreve, Justin Wilson and Dellin Betances did not yield a hit and struck out six batters over the final four innings to preserve the victory for Nova.
The Yankees chased Harrison in the seventh after Carlos Beltran drew a leadoff walk and Headley stroked a double to right-field.
Rangers manager Jeff Banister replaced Harrison with left-hander Sam Freeman but Gregorius greeted him with a two-run single to right to extend the Yankees’ lead to 6-2.
Harrison, making only his third start of the season after recovering from back surgery, was charged with six runs on six hits and two walks with two strikeouts in six-plus innings.
The Yankees have now won 12 of their past 15 games and they are 15-5 since July 1.
The team’s season record improved to 56-42 and they increased their lead over the second-place Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles to seven games in the American League East. The Rangers fell to 47-51.
- On May 15, Gregorius was batting .202 and he was making a lot of mistakes in the field and on the bases. But very quietly Gregorius has cleaned up his play in the field and he is 20-for-68 (.294) in July with a homer and nine RBIs. That has raised his season average to . 248. Though Gregorius, 25, will never replace Derek Jeter it appears he is growing into a worthy successor.
- Headley continued his red-hot hitting by going 3-for-4 with a double, two singles and two runs scored. Headley is 24-for-69 (.389) with a homer and 11 RBIs since July 1. That has raised his season average to .268. With Headley and Gregorius hot at the bottom part of the order it has lengthened the lineup and made it tougher for pitchers to navigate through it.
- Rodriguez’s 24th homer of the season ties him with former Rangers teammate Mark Teixeira with the team lead. Though Rodriguez is batting only .251 this month, he has cranked out nine homers and he has four in his past two games.
All is well. The team is getting solid starting pitching, they are scoring runs and the bullpen is shutting down opponents cold in the late innings. You add that all up and there is simply nothing wrong with this team. They are playing like they are going to coast to the division title. No complaints.
Manager Joe Girardi said he removed Nova after only 75 pitches in five innings because Nova complained of arm fatigue. The 28-year-old right-hander was making only sixth start of the season after returning from Tommy John surgery. Girardi said Nova said he was not experiencing any pain but just thought it was better not to try to risk going out for the sixth inning. . . . Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury was not in the starting lineup a day after crashing into the wall making a great catch at Target Field but he was deployed as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning on Monday. Ellsbury jammed his right shoulder on the play but he said that Monday was a scheduled day off and the injury is not serious. . . . Teixeira was angry with third-base coach Joe Espada on Monday after Teixeira was thrown out at the plate trying to score from second on Headley’s single with two out in the eighth inning. Espada apparently said “Easy, easy” as Teixeira rounded third but Martin threw Teixeira out at the plate. The 34-year-old first baseman threw up his arms and screamed at Espada after the play. Later Teixeira was shown throwing a cooler in the dugout.
The Yankees will continue their four-game road series with the Rangers on Tuesday.
Left-hander Chris Capuano (0-4, 5.64 ERA) will come out of the bullpen to make a rare start for the Yankees in order to give Masahiro Tanaka an extra day of rest. Capuano, 36, will be making only his fourth start of the season and his first since May 29. He is expected to pitch about five innings and give way to right-hander Adam Warren.
The Rangers will counter with left-hander Martin Perez (0-1, 4.91 ERA). Perez, 24, will be making only his third start of the season after coming off the disabled list. He gave up three runs on six hits and four walks with two strikeouts six innings of a no-decision against the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday.
Game-time will be 8:05 p.m. and the game will be broadcast nationally by FOX Sports 1.
YANKEES 7, TWINS 2
The New York Yankees seem to have a ticking time-bomb offense this season. Sometimes the fuse runs a bit longer than others but on Sunday it finally blew in the sixth inning at Target Field.
The Yankees broke up a 1-1 tie with a six-run sixth inning punctuated by a two-run homer by Stephen Drew and Nathan Eovaldi pitched into the ninth inning to earn his 10th victory as New York pounded Minnesota to go a season-high 13 games over .500.
Eovaldi (10-2) and right-hander Kyle Gibson (8-8) were locked into a 1-1 pitchers’ duel when Brett Gardner led off the sixth inning with a single and Gibson ended up loading the bases by walking both Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann.
One out later, Garrett Jones broke the tie with an RBI single to right and Chase Headley, who had homered to lead off the fifth inning to tie the game, cracked a two-run single to plate Teixeira and McCann and advance Jones to third.
Twins manager Paul Molitor replaced Gibson with left-hander Ryan O’Rourke and Didi Gregorius greeted him with a sacrifice safety-squeeze bunt that scored Jones and advanced Headley to second base.
Drew then capped the inning his two-run home run into right-field bleachers, his 13th of the season.
Gibson was charged with six runs on six hits and two walks with four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.
Meanwhile, after Eovaldi yielded a run in the bottom of the third inning he settled down to pitch one of his better games of the season.
Aaron Hicks reached first with one out in the third on an infield single. Brian Dozier followed with a single to left in which Hicks slid into third just ahead of a throw from center-fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and Dozier was able to reach second on the play.
Torii Hunter then hit a hard ground ball that caromed off Headley’s glove, but Gregorius was able to pick it up and get Hunter at first. However, Hicks scored on the play.
Miguel Sano opened the ninth with a double and Yankees manager Joe Girardi brought in left-hander Justin Wilson for Eovaldi. But Wilson was tagged for an RBI single up the middle by Trevor Plouffe.
After Eddie Rosario singled to right, right-hander Dellin Betances came on to get the final three outs to preserve the victory for Eovaldi, who has not lost a start since June 16 and is 5-0 with a 2.93 ERA in his past seven starts.
Eovaldi gave up two runs on eight hits and one walk with five strikeouts in eight-plus innings.
After dropping the first game of the series the Yankees were able to recover to win the last two games to run their record at Target Field to 16-5 and they have not lost a series to the Twins there since it opened in 2010.
The Yankees are 55-42 on the season and they have extended their lead over the second-place Toronto Blue Jays to 6 1/2 games in the American League East. The Twins fell to 52-46.
- The development of Eovaldi’s split-finger fastball has been a big reason why he he has been undefeated in more than month. He becomes the first Yankees starter to win 10 games this season and he lowered his season ERA to 4.27. Eovaldi, 25, came into the game averaging just over seven runs a game in support and he ended up getting exactly seven runs in this game.
- Headley was 2-for-4 with a single, a double, two runs scored and three RBIs in the game. Since July 1, Headley is 21-for-61 (.344) with a homer and 11 RBIs. For the season he is batting .263 with nine homers and 39 RBIs.
- Eovaldi benefitted also from some great defense behind him. Ellsbury made a spectacular running grab at the wall in center on a ball hit by Plouffe in the second inning and he later robbed Joe Mauer of an RBI single in the third inning with a diving catch. The Yankees also turned three double plays on the Twins including a game-ending lineout off the bat of Kurt Suzuki in which Headley doubled off Rosario at first base.
Eovaldi is pitching exceptionally well for a No. 4 starter and the Yankees managed to outscore the Twins 14-2 in the final 12 innings of the series after being outscored 15-2 in the first 14 innings. They now lead in the division by 6 1/2 games so I can’t see any negatives at all.
The Yankees continue their road trip with a four-game series against the Texas Rangers in Rangers Ballpark beginning on Monday.
Right-hander Ivan Nova (2-3, 3.34 ERA) will open the series for the Yankees. Nova, 28, gave up two runs on just three hits and three walks with three strikeouts over six innings in a victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday.
The Rangers will start left-hander Matt Harrison (1-1, 5.40 ERA). Harrison, 29, won his first game since May 8, 2014, in a 9-0 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday. Harrison allowed seven hits, one walk and struck out two in six innings.
Game-time will be 8:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by ESPN and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 2, MARLINS 1
Michael Pineda and the Yankees won a critical contest over the Marlins on Wednesday but they owe the whole game to the instituting of replay reviews in Major League Baseball because they benefitted from a reversal of a safe call in the eighth inning. Without it they might have lost.
Pineda flirted with a no-hitter for six innings and Alex Rodriguez moved to within three hits of 3,000 as New York edged Miami in front of a paid crowd of 43,048 at Yankee Stadium.
Pineda (8-3) retired the first 11 batters and 18 of the first 20 batters he faced, having issued walks to Christian Yelich in the fourth and and Justin Bour in the fifth, before Yelich connected on Pineda’s first pitch in the sixth inning for a home run to right-center.
Yelich’s home run, only his fourth of the season, halved the Yankees lead to 2-1.
The Marlins mounted a threat in the eighth against left-hander Justin Wilson when Adeiny Hechavarria drew a one-out walk and Ichiro Suzuki advanced him to third on a single to right.
Manager Joe Girardi replaced Wilson with right-hander Dellin Betances and Dee Gordon hit a one-hopper to first baseman Garrett Jones. Jones threw home to catcher Brian McCann to try to get a sliding Hechavarria and home-plate umpire Dale Scott ruled him safe.
Girardi challenged the call and replays showed that McCann was able to tag Hechavarria on the left thigh just before his foot reached the plate so the call took away the Marlins’ tying run.
Betances pitched around a single and a walk in the ninth inning to earn a rare five-out save, his fourth of the season in four tries.
The Yankees were able to score an early first-inning run off Jose Urena (1-3) when the right-hander hit Chase Headley in they right foot on an 0-2 pitch and Headley later advanced to second on a wild pitch.
The wild pitch proved costly when Rodriguez ripped a lined single up the middle to score Headley.
The Yankees added another run in the fifth despite having a runner thrown at the plate.
Headley laced a one-out single to right-center and one out later Rodriguez followed with his second single of the night and the 2,997th of his career. Urena walked Jones to load the bases and Carlos Beltran singled to center to score Headley from third but center-fielder Marcell Ozuna threw out Rodriguez at home plate to end the inning.
Pineda was charged with one run on one hit and two walks and struck out nine in 6 2/3 innings.
Urena, making only his fifth major-league start, yielded two runs on six hits and four walks with one strikeout in six innings.
With the victory the Yankees improved their season record to 35-30 and they remain one game behind the first-place Tampa Bay Rays in the American league East. The Marlins dropped to 29-38.
- Though Pineda was not as sharp as he was on May 10 when he struck out 16 Baltimore Orioles in seven innings, he was able to keep the Marlins off-balance with his slider, cutter and high-riding four-seam fastball. He struck out at least one batter in every inning except the seventh and he never was really threatened until Yelich connected on a hanging slider in the seventh. Pineda lowered his season ERA to 3.54.
- Rodriguez’s two hits drove in a run and set up what eventually was the winning run. His 2-for-2 night raised his season average to .274. Rodriguez, 39, is putting together a compelling case to make the American League All-Star team with 12 home runs and 33 RBIs.
- Beltran was 2-for-3 with two singles and one RBI on the evening. Beltran, 38, has been a major disappointment this season. He is batting only .249 with four home runs and 24 RBIs. However, Beltran is batting .300 over his past 30 games and he is quietly contributing from a lower position in the batting order.
- Wilson, 27, is a vexing pitcher. He has mid-90s gas and yet he can dig some mighty huge holes for himself with walks. His walk in the eighth opened the door for the Marlins and Wilson was just lucky Hechavarria was ruled out on replay. Wilson has now walked 12 batters in 23 1/3 innings. He has to improve his command.
- The Yankees made this game close by not getting key hits when Urena was struggling. Urena loaded the bases on walks in the fourth inning but did not score because Jones, Didi Gregarious and Mason Williams all grounded out. Without A-Rod and Beltran’s RBI hits the team was 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
- McCann was 0-for-4 with a strikeout and that lowered his season average to .260. He entered the game 11-for-31 (.355) with a homer and seven RBIs in his previous eight games. Hopefully it was just a bump in the road because the Yankees need McCann to produce big numbers in the middle of the lineup.
First baseman Mark Teixeira sat out Wednesday’s game with a stiff neck. Teixeira, 35, said it has been bothering him for about a week but he did tell reporters that he hopes it be able to play on Thursday. Jones played first base in his place and was 0-3 with a walk.
The Yankees will complete their four-game home-and-home series with the Marlins on Thursday.
Left-hander CC Sabathia (3-7, 5.38 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Should Sabathia, 34, win it would be his first victory against the Marlins, the only team he has not defeated in his career. Sabathia allowed four runs in five innings in a 9-4 no-decision loss to the Orioles on Saturday.
The Marlins will counter with right-hander Mat Latos (2-4, 5.44 ERA). Latos gave up only one run and struck 11 in seven innings in a victory over the Colorado Rockies on Saturday.
Game-tie will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 4, NATIONALS 3
Chris Young blasted a two-run homer in the eighth inning off Nationals closer Drew Storen to propel New York to a come-from-behind victory over Washington on Saturday at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.
Young’s third home run of the spring, which all came off the Nationals, followed a one-out single by Didi Gregorius.
Storen (0-1), who has been hampered all spring with blister on his right foot, took the loss.
David Carpenter (2-0) pitched one-third of an inning in the seventh to get credit for the victory. Right-hander Dellin Betances earned a save by striking out the side in the ninth despite making things interesting by yielding a single and a walk in between.
The Yankees concluded their exhibition season with a 17-16-1 record.
Chris Martin pitched a perfect inning of relief in sixth with two strikeouts. Just the fact he is even pitching on a major-league roster is a miracle in and of itself.
Martin was named a member of manager Joe Girardi’s seven-man bullpen on Friday. But there was a time the 6-foot-8 right-hander was just a regular working stiff at an appliance warehouse.
Down in Arlington, TX, Martin was loading 650-pound refrigerators onto dollies for delivery. The only doubleheaders Martin knew were the shifts he previously worked at the lawn and garden section at Lowe’s warehouse and then evenings at UPS.
Before all this Martin, 27, was drafted as a senior from Arlington High School by the Detroit Tigers in 18th round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft. Instead of signing Martin opted to attend McLennan Community College in Waco, TX.
That following year, the tall right-hander was chosen in the 21st round by the Colorado Rockies. Again, Martin opted to stay in school.
However, that fall, Martin severely injured his shoulder. On the advice of Dr. Keith Meister, the team physician for the Texas Rangers, Martin tried resting the shoulder. But with the pain too great, Martin underwent surgery in 2007 to repair the labrum and release the shoulder capsule.
When the shoulder healed, Martin tried out with the Fort Worth Cats of the United Baseball League. When the shoulder still didn’t feel right, Martin quit baseball and went to work at Lowe’s and then at night with UPS for the insurance benefits.
Martin later caught up with former Arlington alum Jordan Bostwick, who graduated a year after Martin. Bostwick urged Martin to come to work for him at Texas Appliance in Arlington.
In June 2010, Bostwick broke out a left-handed catcher’s mitt during a lunch break and had Martin play catch with him. Martin’s pitches busted the seams off the mitt and nearly broke Bostwick’s right thumb.
More importantly, Martin informed Bostwick his shoulder felt really good.
Soon Martin signed a contract for $800 a month with the Grand Prairie Airhogs, an independent team operated by former major-league slugger Pete Incaviglia.
The radar readings of Marin’s pitches were hitting 95 miles per hour. Martin went on to a 4-0 record with a 1.95 ERA in 13 games with the Airhogs.
Incaviglia called the Boston Red Sox on behalf of Martin and the Red Sox signed him for $1,100 a month after a tryout arranged at Martin’s expense in Fort Myers, FL. After stops in Class-A Greenville and Salem, Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket, Martin was dealt to the Rockies in December 2013.
Martin made his major-league debut with the Rockies against the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 26 of last year.
He ended up with an ERA of 6.89 in 16 games with the Rockies before his contract was purchased for $75,000 by the Yankees in January.
Martin was among a large group of non-roster pitchers trying to making the Yankees’ bullpen this spring. At best, he was a long-shot. He ended spring training on Saturday with a 0-1 record and 4.09 ERA in 11 appearances. But the Yankees were enamored more by his 18 strikeouts with only one walk.
So Martin now will have a chance to open the season in the major leagues in 2015. It does not appear he will be making those shifts to load refrigerators in Texas anymore.
Instead he will be living out a dream that looked to be over just a short time ago.
- Despite the fact starter Nathan Eovaldi gave up three runs on three hits in the first inning, he settled in nicely afterwards. Eovaldi, 25, held the Nats to just one hit over the next four frames. In five innings, Eovaldi struck out six while walking three. He ended his spring with a 1-1 record with a 1.93 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings.
- Stephen Drew ruined right-hander Doug Fister’s six-inning outing by lashing a two-out, two-run home run in the fifth inning to draw the Yankees to within a run of the Nationals at 3-2. It was Drew’s third homer of the spring and he ended up batting .259 with three homers and nine RBIs. On March 12, Drew was hitting .077. From then on he was 16-for-34 (.471).
- Betances earned a save by striking out the side in the ninth. But he also yielded a one-out single to Reed Johnson and a one-out walk to Pedro Severino. Betances topped out at 95 mph on the radar gun, which is still a bit off the 97 mph he was throwing at last season.
- The offense is still pretty inconsistent. The Yankees did not get their first hit until the fourth inning and they managed just six hits overall. Fortunately, home runs by Drew and Young bailed them out. The Yankees got great pitching from Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Eovaldi and Adam Warren this spring. It would a shame not to give those guys the support they deserve.
- Alex Rodriguez started at designated hitter and batted seventh in the game. But A-Rod probably would like to forget about it because Fister fanned him twice and reliever Craig Stammen did it once – all three strikeouts came on sharp curveballs.
- Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner set the table exactly as Girardi would have liked in the fourth when Ellsbury reached after being hit by a pitch from Fister. Gardner followed with a sharp single to left. But Carlos Beltran grounded into a force play and Mark Teixiera rapped into a 4-6-3 double play. The RBI guys are paid to produce and Beltran and Teixeira must do it consistently if the Yankees are to contend at all.
The Yankees elected to retain John Ryan Murphy as their backup catcher to Brian McCann as they designated for assignment Austin Romine on Saturday. Murphy came off the bench in seventh inning to catch and was 0-for-1 to end the spring with a .238 average. Romine was 6-for-35 (.171) with 10 strikeouts. Romine was out of options so now any team may claim him. If he is not claimed he would remain with the Yankees and be sent to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. . . . In other roster moves, the Yankees added backup infielder Gregorio Petit to the 25-man roster and they placed infielder Brendan Ryan (calf strain), left-hander Chris Capuano (quad strain) and right-hander Ivan Nova (Tommy John surgery) on the 15-day disabled list. Infielder Jose Pirela was placed on the 7-day concussion DL.
The Yankees will rest on Sunday and prepare to open the season on Monday at Yankee Stadium against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Tanaka, 26, will start for the Yankees after ending up 1-2 with a 3.07 ERA in four spring starts. It is the first time since 2008 that a pitcher other than CC Sabathia has started the season for the Yankees.
Right-hander Drew Hutchison will pitch for the Blue Jays. Hutchison, 24, was 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA in four spring outings. He surprisingly won the starting assignment over former Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey and veteran left-hander Mark Buehrle.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by ESPN and locally by the YES Network.
TWINS 3, YANKEES 1
Eduardo Escobar doubled and homered and left-hander Tommy Milone held the Yankees to one run over six innings as Minnesota edged New York on Tuesday at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, FL.
Escobar stroked a two-out double off Masahiro Tanaka (1-2) in the third inning and scored on Chris Herrmann’s RBI single to stake the Twins to a 1-0 lead. After the Yankees tied the score in the fourth on Ramon Flores’ two out single scoring Chris Young, Eric Fryer followed a one-out double by Adam Walker II and a Shane Robinson single with an RBI single in the bottom of the inning that gave the Twins a lead they would not relinquish.
Escobar added a solo home run off Tanaka to lead off the fifth inning, his fifth homer of the spring.
Meanwhile. Milone (1-1), who is slated to be the Twins’ fifth starter, controlled the Yankees on four hits and two walks while he struck out five batters in his longest outing of the spring.
With the loss the Yankees’ Grapefruit League record dropped to 15-13.
- Although Flores is just 9-for-40 (.225) this spring, he has made those few hits count. He was 2-for-4 on Tuesday with two singles and he drove in the team’s lone score of the day. To prove how weak the Yankees’ offense has been this spring, Flores leads the team in RBIs with eight. Flores, 24, is ticketed for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre but he likely would be the first outfielder called up should the Yankees have an injury at that position.
- Right-handed reliever Chris Martin, 28, entered play on Tuesday with 0-1 record and a 5.63 ERA in nine spring appearances. But he looked impressive after relieving Tanaka with one out in the fifth inning. He retired all five batters he faced and fanned two in an outing that took only 22 pitches – 17 for strikes. It impressed manager Joe Girardi, who told reporters that the former Rockie showed a “good downhill angle, good breaking ball – really good.”
- Brett Gardner has not had a very good spring but he was 1-for-2 with a single and a walk. However, he was the only Yankees’ projected starter who made the trip. The Twins played a night game on Monday and used only two starters in their lineup. It used to be a unwritten agreement by teams in Florida that they would bring at least three starters to exhibition games. The home team usually played most of its starters. That somehow has gone by the wayside all this spring. I honestly believe people who are paying good money for spring training tickets are getting ripped off. I believe I am going to have to write a letter to the new commissioner about it. If you have time, you do the same.
- Tanaka was raked pretty good in what was his last tuneup before opening the season on April 6 at Yankee Stadium again the Toronto Blue Jays. Tanaka gave up three runs on six hits and no walks while struck out just one in 4 1/3 innings. Half the hits were for extra bases. I will tell you a dirty little secret the Yankees are not telling you. Much like Dellin Betances, Tanaka has pitched with less velocity this spring. He has averaged around 89 miles per hour, but has been able to get up to about 93 mph on occasion. It is not a real worry because Tanaka is more of a “pitcher” than just a “thrower,” but it may explain why he got hit a bit on Tuesday.
- Milone entered the game with an 0-1 record and a 4.50 ERA but the Yankees managed to make him look like Cliff Lee. Of course, with all but one the Yankees’ starters back in Tampa, FL, that was likely going to be the result. To show you how bad the lineup was, Austin Romine, who was just 4-for-25 (.160) entering the contest, was batting fifth. As expected, Romine was 1-for-3 with a strikeout and is now hitting . 143.
Shortstop Didi Gregorius is experiencing some swelling in his left wrist and likely will not play on Wednesday as expected, Girardi told reporters on Tuesday. Gregorius injured the wrist diving for a ground ball in the second inning of Saturday’s 10-2 loss at home against the Baltimore Orioles. He left the game in the fifth inning to undergo X-rays and an MRI, which showed there was no structural damage to the wrist. Gregorius is 12-for-40 (.300) this spring. . . . Center-fielder Jacoby Ellsbury was 2-for-5 in a minor-league game in Tampa on Tuesday and he likely will return to the Yankees’ lineup on Wednesday. Ellsbury has been sidelined since March 15 with a strained oblique.
The Yankees will return to George M. Steinbrenner Field on Wednesday to play host to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Right-hander Chase Whitley, who is 0-0 with a 0.79 ERA in six appearances (one start) will open the game for the Yankees. Whitley is among a group of relievers trying to nail down one of two bullpen spots.
The Rays have elected not to pitch any of their regular starters against a division rival either. Instead they will open with left-handed reliever Jordan Norberto, who is 1-0 with a 4.82 ERA in six appearances.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast live on the YES Network and on a delayed basis by the MLB Network at midnight on Thursday.
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.
RED SOX 10, YANKEES 6
The Yankees lost an exhibition game on Wednesday but it is meaningless compared to what it lost with respect to the start of the 2015 season.
Veteran left-hander Chris Capuano was covering first base with one out in the first inning to complete a groundout by Brock Holt to first baseman Garrett Jones when he suddenly pulled up in pain in his right leg. He then threw the ball to the ground in frustration and had to be helped off the field by guest trainer Gene Monahan.
An MRI taken later confirmed what was obvious: Capuano suffered a Grade 2 strain in his right quadriceps and he will begin the season on the disabled list.
The Yankees used a total of 13 starting pitchers in 2014 and manager Joe Girardi, knowing he had starters such as Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia coming off injuries, has been using a number of additional starters this spring.
Those pitchers include right-handers Adam Warren, Emil Rogers, Chase Whitley, Bryan Mitchell and Scott Baker. Now Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild will have to select one of those pitchers to fill in for Capuano, who was likely to be named the No. 5 starter.
“I’d be surprised if he’s not down for a while,” Girardi told reporters.
Capuano, 36, was acquired at midseason from the Colorado Rockies and he recorded a 2-3 mark with a 4.25 ERA in 12 starts with the Yankees. The Yankees liked Capuano in the rotation because he gave the team a second left-handed starter in addition to Sabathia.
With the defeat the Yankees’ spring ledger is now 5-4.
To say this was not a good day for the team is putting it mildly.
Sometimes when opportunity knocks you not only have to answer: You have to grab the opportunity and close the door behind you.
There could not be a better time for that knock after the Capuano injury for the 29-year-old right-hander Rogers, who has failed before in his trials as a starter with the Rockies and the Toronto Blue Jays despite having a great arm and immense talent.
Rogers has made 43 starts in his career and he has an overall record as both a starter and reliever of 18-21 with a hideous 5.54 ERA. The Blue Jays designated him for assignment last May after he posted a no record and a 6.97 ERA in 16 relief appearances.
The Yankees picked him up in August and he was 2-0 with a 5.72 ERA in 34 games (one as a spot starter). But that did not tell the whole story.
The minute Rogers arrived Rothschild took him to the bullpen to work on some things to make him better. They did a little tinkering here and a little there. They picked it up again when Rogers arrived in camp.
Strangely enough, Rogers has been very impressive in his three outings this spring. He has 0-0 record and 0.00 ERA with three strikeouts in three innings. It is early, true, but Girardi is seeing the big picture and he likes what he sees.
“Larry worked with him long and hard last year during some bullpen sessions about changing a few things,” Girardi told reporters. “I thought he pitched pretty well for us. He’s started in his career and he’s got a number of pitches he can go to. He’s been really good this spring. He’ll be one of the guys we’re really looking at.”
So even in the dark cloud of Capuano’s injury there may be just a sliver of a silver lining.
- The bright spot for the Yankees had to be Alex Rodriguez. After facing a lot of harassment from the Red Sox fans at George M. Steinbrenner Field, Rodriguez launched his first home run of the spring to lead off the fourth inning against right-hander Brandon Workman. There is nothing better for a player who is being abused than to shut those fans up with a good long blast. A-Rod is now 5-for-11 (.455) with home run and two RBIs.
- We have been singing the praises of infielder Jose Pirela and with good reason. The 25-year-old Venezuelan was 2-for-2 in the game is now 8-for-24 (.333) in Grapefruit League play. Fellow second base prospect Rob Refsnyder is 5-for-12 (.455) while the veteran slated to start at second, Stephen Drew, is batting .091. Hmmm!
- Injuries have wrecked the career of former first-round draft pick Slade Heathcott. After the team had cut Heathcott loose over the winter they decided to offer him a non-roster invite this spring. Heathcott, 24, is taking advantage of what may be his last chance with the team. He slugged a two-run home run in the ninth against the Red Sox and is 5-for-8 (.625) with a home run and three RBIs.
- Mitchell, 23, was forced into the game in the fourth inning due to Capuano’s early exit. He was tagged for four runs on seven hits and a walk while he struck out two in two innings. He is a much better pitcher than he showed against the Red Sox. He was 6-7 with a 4.37 ERA in 23 games (21 starts) at Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Mitchell even made his major-league debut with the Yankees last season and was 0-1 with a 2.45 ERA in three games (one start).
- Relievers Tyler Webb and Chris Martin did not fare much better as they allowed the Red Sox to tack on five runs between the seventh and eighth innings. Webb gave up two runs on three hits and Martin yielded three runs (two earned) on three hits. It was the first runs of the spring scored off the 24-year-old lefty Webb and the 28-year-old righty Martin. The timing could not have been worse, though.
The Yankees will play host to the Atlanta Braves on Thursday in Tampa, FL.
It will be the spring training debut for right-hander Tanaka, who is recovering from a partial tear in his ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Tanaka was 13-5 with a 2.77 ERA in 20 starts last season. He is expected to pitch just two innings.
The Braves will counter with right-hander Shelby Miller, who was 10-9 with a 3.74 ERA with the St. Louis Cardinals last season. The Braves acquired him in trade for outfielder Jason Heyward.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally on the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.