YANKEES 3, BRAVES 2
With all the Bronx, the Yankee front office and the coaches having completely chewed off their fingernails all winter worrying about Masahiro Tanaka’s right elbow they can now relax. The Japanese right-hander made his spring debut on Thursday and he looked just fine – really.
Tanaka pitched two perfect dominant innings and Jake Cave’s RBI ground-rule double and Nick Noonan’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of seventh inning propelled New York to a come-from-behind victory over Atlanta at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL.
The Yankees entered the seventh trailing 2-1. With one out and pinch-runners Jonathan Galvez and Jose Pirela on second and first, respectively, Cave laced long double to center that plated Galvez to tie the game at 2-2. Noonan followed with a sacrifice fly to left that scored Pirela from third with the go-ahead run.
Left-hander Justin Wilson (1-0) pitched a perfect seventh inning and recorded two strikeouts to get credit for the victory. Braves right-hander Tyrell Jenkins (0-1) was saddled with the loss. Right-hander Wilking Rodriguez pitched a scoreless ninth and earned a save.
The Yankees improved their Grapefruit League record to 6-4.
Tanaka, 26, looked every bit the same pitcher who was 13-5 with a 2.77 ERA in 20 starts last season. It did not take the Braves too long to see it.
He retired Andrelton Simmons and Alberto Callaspo on routine grounders and struck out Freddie Freeman looking on a pitch that Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez disputed so vehemently that he was ejected from the game after the first pitch of the bottom of the inning by home-plate umpire Dan Iassogna.
Tanaka then opened the second by fanning Jonny Gomes and inducing groundball outs from Christian Bethancourt and Chris Johnson. And that was Tanaka’s evening.
All told he threw only 19 pitches, 15 of them for strikes and he threw first-pitch strikes to four of the six batters. He was so efficient he had to go the bullpen to throw enough pitches to get up the 35 he had been allotted.
“Overall, I think it was good,” Tanaka told reporters through an interpreter. “Probably the best part is that I was able to get first-pitch strikes a whole lot tonight.”
He was clocked as high 94 miles per hour on his fastball and he stayed within 88 to 91 most of the outing. He drew raves from his catcher, Brian McCann.
“He looked great, kind of picking up right where he left off last year,” McCann told reporters. “His sinker tonight was what impressed me the most. He had good downward action on it. His split was there, and he had a couple of quick innings. He was putting the ball where he wanted.”
Manager Joe Girardi now feels relieved to have his ace pass his first test of the elbow.
“You want to get all your starters out there and try to get them going,” Girardi told reporters. “You can’t spend your time worrying about what might be. You just approach every day, you know what you have, and you go forward.”
Tanaka also was glad to have his first outing out of the way.
“I feel better right now,” he told reporters. “I’ve had the time to prepare myself up to this point. It has gone well thus far.”
Now all of Yankee Universe can exhale. The team’s ace is just fine – really.
- The concern about Didi Gregorius has not been his glove or arm because both have been sensational. The real issue has been his bat but Gregorius ripped a leadoff triple into left-center off Braves starter Shelby Miller. The 25-year-old shortstop later scored on a fielder’s choice groundout by Brett Gardner to give the team a 1-0 lead.
- After getting shelled for three runs on six hits in the first inning by the Houston Astros in Kissimmee, FL, on Saturday in his spring debut, non-roster invitee Scott Baker pitched two perfect innings before giving up a one-out double to Bethancourt and two-RBI single to Todd Cunningham in the fifth. Baker, 33, now has a chance to stick with the Yankees due to the right quad injury of left-hander Chris Capuano, who will sidelined for a month.
- Cave, 22, is very quietly have a great spring training. The speedy outfielder is 5-for-9 (.556) with a double and home run and four RBIs. Cave advanced from Class-A Tampa to Double-A Trenton in 2014 and batted a combined .294 with seven homers and 42 RBIs in 132 games.
- Right-hander David Carpenter looked a little shaky in his one inning work against his former teammates. Carpenter was tagged for a pair of singles by Pedro Ciriaco and Simmons to begin the sixth. Callaspo followed with a sac fly to score Ciriaco from third. Carpenter, 29, and left-hander Chasen Shreve were acquired over the winter in exchange for former Yankees No. 1 pitching prospect Manny Banuelos. Carpenter figures to be the primary setup man in the bullpen for Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances.
- I am always being reminded that it is early but Stephen Drew keeps extending his hitting woes. He was 0-for-2 on Thursday and is 1-for-13 (.077) this far. Drew likely will break camp as the team’s starting second baseman. But after he hit a combined .162 with the Boston Red Sox and the Yankees last season he better get going with the bat sooner rather than later.
With the bad news about Capuano’s injury it is about time the Yankees got some good news about their starters. Along with Tanaka’s successful debut the Yankees were encouraged by left-hander CC Sabathia’s 29-pitch simulated session earlier in the day. Sabathia, 34, said he has not felt any pain in his surgically repaired right knee and thinks he is ready to take the next step of starting in an exhibition game. That could come as soon as next Tuesday at home against the Toronto Blue Jays or in Lake Buena Vista, FL, on Wednesday against the Braves.
The Yankees will make their only trip of the spring to Fort Myers, FL, on Friday to face the Red Sox at JetBlue Park.
Right-hander Adam Warren will make his third start of the spring for the Yankees. Warren, 27. has no record and has a 1.80 ERA.
McCann will play along with Garrett Jones, Chris Young and John Ryan Murphy.
The Red Sox will counter with right-hander Rick Porcello, 26, who was acquired from the Detroit Tigers and is 0-0 and with 0.00 ERA after one outing.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will broadcast by the MLB Network.
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.
YANKEES 7, CARDINALS 4
Since May 3, Jacoby Ellsbury has been struggling at the plate. So much so that his season average dipped from .346 to .259 entering Wednesday’s contest. By the time the game was over Ellsbury seemed back on track.
Ellsbury was 3-for-5 with three RBIs, two stolen bases and two runs scored to lead a seven-run, 12-hit attack to help Hiroki Kuroda and New York take a three-game series over St. Louis in front of a paid crowd of 45,267 at Busch Stadium.
The Yankees scored four runs in the third and three in the fourth against right-hander Shelby Miller and Ellsbury had a hand in both rallies.
With one out in the third, Brett Gardner drew a walk and Brian Roberts followed with a single up the middle. Ellsbury then scored Gardner with the game’s first run with a single to right-center as Roberts hustled into third.
Ellsbury stole second without a throw from catcher Yadier Molina and Brian McCann walked on four pitches to load the bases because Miller was pitching around him to face rookie catcher John Ryan Murphy.
But Murphy spoiled the strategy by delivering a single to center to score both Roberts and Ellsbury and Ichiro Suzuki capped the scoring by beating out a potential double-play grounder to score McCann.
With two out in the fourth and Kelly Johnson on first base after a single, Roberts doubled into left-center and Ellsbury scored both of them with a lined single to center. Ellsbury then stole second, again without a throw from Molina, and McCann followed with a single to right to score Ellsbury, giving the Yankees a 7-0 lead.
Miller (6-4) was charged with seven earned runs on nine hits and two walks with one strikeout in five innings.
Kuroda (4-3), who has spent most of major-league career as a pitcher who has received very little run support, suddenly has an abundance of runs provided by his teammates.
Unfortunately, the Cardinals took advantage of Kuroda’s desire to limit walks and keep his pitch count down by teeing off on Kuroda’s fastball.
The Cardinals managed to score single runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth and they chased Kuroda from the game in the sixth when Matt Carpenter laced an RBI double off the wall to score pinch-hitter Jhonny Peralta from first with two out.
Kuroda yielded three runs on nine hits with no walks and three strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.
The Yankees bullpen quartet of Matt Thornton, Dellin Betances, Adam Warren and David Robertson were knocked around a bit, giving up four hits and two walks in 3 1/3 innings. In fact, after Warren was chased by a two-out double by Carpenter, Kolten Wong greeted Robertson with an RBI single, his fourth hit in five at-bats on the night.
But Robertson ended the eighth by striking out Matt Holliday looking.
Then in the ninth, Robertson was touched by a leadoff single by Allen Craig and he walked Molina to bring up the potential tying run.
But Robertson ended the night with a flourish by striking out in succession John Jay, pinch-hitter Matt Adams and Daniel Descalso.
With the victory the Yankees improved their season record to 28-24. They are in second place in the American League East, three games behind the first-place Toronto Blue Jays. The Cardinals fell to 29-24.
- Ellsbury’s night also included an impressive sliding catch of a sinking line drive off the bat of Craig in the second inning. Ellsbury is an extremely talented player who was responsible for carrying the team through the first month of the season. He now has at least one hit in four of his past five games and is 7-for-20 (.350) with a homer and seven RBIs in that span.
- Murphy was 1-for-5 in the game but that single drove in two big runs with the bases loaded in the third inning. It raised a few eyebrows when manager Joe Girardi had him batting fifth in the lineup. But the 22-year-old rookie is batting .357 with a home run and eight RBIs in limited playing time behind McCann.
- Give Roberts credit for doing well in the second spot in the order replacing a resting Derek Jeter. Roberts was 2-for-4 with a double and a walk and two runs scored. Roberts also extended his hitting streak to five games and he is 7-for-19 (.368) in that span. He has raised his season average to .248.
- It was hard to judge whether the Cardinals were knocking Kuroda around or if he was losing his competitive edge because he had such a big lead. Kuroda is 4-3 and he has not lost a start since May 1. But his ERA is hovering now at 4.57 and his highest ERA since he came to the United States was in his first season with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008 when it was 3.73. The Yankees need him to pitch better.
- The Yankees had a chance to extend their lead in the eighth when they loaded the bases on right-hander Sean Maness. But left-hander Randy Choate struck out Gardner and Roberts smacked a 3-0 pitch to Carpenter at third and ended up in an inning-ending double play. The Yankees have to stop coming up empty in bases loaded and no out situations.
- Robertson looked a little shaky in yielding two hits and a walk but he made up for it with recording all four of his outs on strikeouts. The Yankees know that comparing Robertson to Mariano Rivera is not fair but it is inevitable. The fact that Robertson has one blown save in 12 tries and a 2.20 ERA in 16 appearances is pretty darn good.
It is amazing that the Yankees got seven runs out of their offense with Mark Teixeira nursing a sore right wrist, Jeter sitting out to rest and slumping Alfonso Soriano and Yangervis Solarte held out of the lineup. McCann even started his first professional game at first base. But it all worked. Solarte was benched after hitting just .152 since his nine-game hitting streak was stopped on May 15. So Johnson moved to third, which opened first base for McCann. . . . Teixeira will have his right wrist examined on Thursday by Dr. Keith Raskin, who performed Teixeira’s surgery to repair the torn sheath in the wrist in the offseason. Teixeira will also have precautionary ultrasound. However, the Yankees are saying the stiffness and soreness are normal after this type of surgery and Teixeira is expected to be back in the lineup soon.
The Yankees will have Thursday off and they return home to begin a three-game weekend series against the Minnesota Twins on Friday.
Left-hander Vidal Nuno (1-1, 5.49 ERA) will start for the Yankees coming off what was his best start of season on Saturday. Nuno gave up three runs in the first inning to the Chicago White Sox but did not give up another run in the following six innings. Nuno walked one and struck out five.
Veteran right-hander Ricky Nolasco (2-5, 6.12) will get the nod for the Twins. Nolasco has lost his past two starts and was shelled by the San Francisco Giants on Sunday. Nolasco was tagged for seven runs on nine hits and a walk in 4 2/3 innings.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.