YANKEES 4, RED SOX 3 (12 INNINGS)
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman badly wanted to sign Raul Ibanez this winter but the front office told him he had to trim salary before he could. Cashman finally was able to trade A.J. Burnett to the Pittsburgh Pirates the weekend before spring training opened to clear enough salary and Ibanez was signed.
That signing looks huge now because in the 161st game of the season Ibanez blasted a pinch-hit two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings and then delivered a game-winning RBI single in the 12th as New York reduced its magic number to just one with a thrilling come-from-behind classic defeat over arch-rival Boston on Tuesday.
The 40-year-old outfielder first brought the paid crowd of 41,564 at Yankee Stadium to its feet when he stroked a low line-drive home run off Red Sox closer Andrew Bailey into the fifth row of the right-field bleachers with Curtis Granderson aboard to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 3-3 tie.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, the team then managed to load the bases with one out in the same inning but Mark Teixeira, who spent all night dashing the team’s scoring hopes, and Robinson Cano could not deliver off reliever Mark Melancon.
So the game, played on a very chilly 62-degree and rainy evening, trudged on to the bottom of the 12th.
Things did not look promising when left-hander Andrew Miller retired Teixeira and Cano to begin the inning and Francisco Cervelli, pressed into service because manager Joe Girardi had pinch-run and pinch-hit for Russell Martin and Chris Stewart earlier in the contest, was making his first plate appearance of the season.
He also was down in the count 0-2 on the first two pitches. But Miller threw four straight pitches out of the strike zone to walk him. Granderson then came to the plate and he drew a four-pitch walk to advance Cervelli into scoring position.
Girardi was also forced to keep potential pinch-runner Chris Dickerson in the dugout because Cervelli was the last catcher on the roster.
But Girardi’s concerns became moot when Ibanez laced an 0-1 pitch into the hole between shortstop and third base. Cervelli raced around third and headed for home as Daniel Nava scooped the ball and threw it towards home plate. But Cervelli crossed the plate well before the ball arrived and the Yankees flooded the field to celebrate one of their most hard-fought comebacks of the season with the division title on the line.
The Yankees knew that the Baltimore Orioles had defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 1-0 earlier on Tuesday. A Yankee loss would have hurtled them back into a flat-footed tie with the Orioles atop the American League East.
The Yankees can clinch their third division title in the past four seasons on Wednesday with a victory over the Red Sox in the final game of the regular season or if the Orioles lose to the Rays.
Derek Lowe (9-11) came on pitch two scoreless innings in the 11th and 12th to pick up the victory. Miller (3-2) took the loss.
Frustration as a word does not begin to tell the story of the evening for the Yankees.
They collected 11 hits and a walk over the first eight innings of the game but they failed to get any big hits to add to the one run they scored in the second inning off Red Sox starter Jon Lester.
With two out, Granderson reached first on an infield single and advanced to second when third baseman Pedro Ciriaco’s throw to get Granderson bounced into the stands. Eduardo Nunez, who started as the designated hitter instead of struggling Andruw Jones, delivered a hard-hit single off the glove of shortstop Jose Iglesias to score Granderson.
That run halved the deficit to 2-1 because the Red Sox jumped on rookie right-hander David Phelps early.
Jacoby Ellsbury laced a leadoff single and Dustin Pedroia, playing despite a fracture in his left thumb, then stroked an RBI double in the gap in right-center to score Ellsbury.
Pedroia advanced to third on a infield groundout off the bat of Nava and he scored on a sacrifice fly to deep center by Cody Ross.
However, Phelps pitched well the rest of the way. He left with one out in the sixth after giving up just two runs on three hits and two walks while he struck out four.
Lester, in addition to his teammates in the bullpen, kept walking the tightrope between trouble and disaster but he kept escaping thanks to some poor hitting by the Yankees with runners in scoring position:
- In the first inning, Derek Jeter singled and and reached third one out later on a bloop single by Alex Rodriguez. However, Teixeira – still hobbling on a sore left calf – hit into an inning-ending double play.
- In the third inning, Nick Swisher slapped a one-out double and advanced to third on an infield single by Rodriguez. But, Teixiera again hit into an inning-ending double play.
- In the fifth inning, Cano led off with a single and Nunez stroked a two-out double. Alas, Ichiro Suzuki lined a shot into center but right at Ellsbury to end the inning.
- In the ninth, Bailey gave up a one-out double to Jeter after Ibanez’s game-tying home run. Swisher was intentionally walked and Rodriguez followed by drawing a walk to load the bases. However, Melancon entered the game and retired Teixeira on a broken-bat pop to shallow center and Cano grounded out weakly to Pedroia at second.
- In the 11th inning, Swisher slapped an opposite-field single with two out off Vicente Padilla and Rodriguez followed with a blast to the warning track in center that Ellsbury was able to run down before he crashed into the wall.
Lester left after five innings having given up one unearned run on eight hits and one walk while he fanned one.
The Red Sox added to their lead in the top of the ninth when James Loney uppercut a 2-1 offering from Rafael Soriano in to the second deck down the line in right-field. The Red Sox and their beleaguered manager Bobby Valentine were figuring that it was the insurance run that would put the Yankees away with Bailey on the mound.
Ibanez had other ideas.
The Yankees ended up with 16 hits and five walks in the game and they stranded a total of 14 runners. Teixeira left nine runners on base in his six at-bats.
But none of that all matters much now because of Ibanez.
The Yankees, thanks to the Oakland Athletics’ 3-1 defeat of the Texas Rangers late Tuesday, now also hold claim to the best record in the American League at 94-67. The Red Sox had their season record fall to 69-92.
- Ibanez entered the game in the ninth and ended up 2-for-3 with a home run and three very big RBIs. Since Sept. 22, Ibanez is 14-for-34 (.412) with five home runs and nine RBIs in largely a platoon role against right-handers. He is hitting .235 with 18 homers and 59 RBIs on the season. His single in the 12th was his 11th career walk-off hit.
- The bullpen, with the exception of Soriano’s hiccup to Loney, was actually very good. In 6 2/3 innings, they gave up one run on five hits and two walks and struck out seven batters. Lowe was especially good in his two innings of work. In a game when the relievers needed to hold the Red Sox down long enough to wake up the bats, they did a very good job.
- Girardi chose to go with Phelps in place of Ivan Nova and Nunez in place of Jones. Both moves paid off for the Yankees. Nunez was 2-for-3 with an RBI until Ibanez pinch-hit for him in the ninth and Phelps pitched into the sixth and kept the Yankees in the game. You have to give the manager credit for those moves.
- Fans do have a right to question Girardi’s move to put Swisher second in the order with Rodriguez and Teixeira behind him. That left Cano, the team’s hottest hitter batting fifth. Teixera ended up 0-for-6 and he only got that weak pop to shallow center out of the infield in those at-bats. Teixera’s at-bats killed the Yankees all night long and it was Girardi’s fault. Shifting Suzuki to ninth did not seem to make sense either. Suzuki has owned Lester throughout his career.
The Yankees end their regular season with a chance to clinch the division and home-field advantage in the playoffs with a series sweep of the Red Sox on Wednesday.
Hiroki Kuroda (15-11, 3.34 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Kuroda won his last start despite giving up 10 hits and two walks in 5 1/3 innings against the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday. He is 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA this season against the Red Sox.
The Red Sox will counter with every hitter’s dream in Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-6, 7.68 ERA). Matsuzaka gave up five runs on nine hits and a walk in three innings against the Tampa Bay Rays in his last outing on Sept. 19. This likely will be the last start of his career for the Bosox, who can’t wait to shed his huge contract. He is 3-3 with a 5.52 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by ESPN and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 10, RED SOX 8
Well, it all came down to, as it so often does, one very bitter rival getting the best of another bitter rival on Friday.
In this case, I am not speaking of the Red Sox and Yankees. I am referring to the very bitter and public feud between Mark Teixeira and his former Texas Rangers teammate Vicente Padilla. This time, Teixeira won.
Teixeira launched a 3-2 fastball from Padilla into the deepest recesses of center-field in Fenway Park for a one-out, two-run triple that ignited a four-run seventh inning and led New York to a 10-8 victory over Boston in a game that took three hours and 59 minutes to play.
Teixeira has publicly lashed out several times at Padilla for his penchant of hitting batters on purpose while he was a starter for the Rangers. After an incident in which Padilla hit Teixeira with a pitch in 2009 when Teixeira was in in his first season with the Yankees, the Rangers players and front office were so angry with Padilla that the team released him soon after the dustup.
In his 93 starts for Texas, Padilla hit 51 batters and he even admitted publicly that he would rather hit batters than walk them and ruin his walks to innings pitched ratio (WHIP).
But Teixeira got a measure of revenge with the Yankees trailing 7-6 in the seventh inning as Padilla entered the game after Andrew Miller had walked Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez scratched out an infield single off the glove of Mike Aviles at shortstop. Texeira’s triple easily scored Granderson and Rodriguez and gave the Yankees a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the night.
“Almost every at-bat, he tries to throw at your head, throws behind you or something screwy,” Teixeira said. “With first and second and the game on the line, he’s not going to do it then, so I could actually dig in and look for a good pitch to hit.”
Teixeira led the Yankees’ 10-run, 14-hit attack with two hits, a walk, a stolen base, two runs scored and four RBIs. In the finale of a two-game series at Fenway Park on April 21, Teixeira had a double and two home runs and drove in a season-high six runs. So in his last two games at Fenway Park, Teixeira is 7-for-10 with a double, a triple, two home runs, five runs scored and 10 RBIs.
Meanwhile, the Yankees’ bullpen ended up being better than Boston’s.
Boone Logan (4-0) was credited with the win though he did give up a leadoff home run in the seventh inning to Cody Ross that made it 10-8.
Rafael Soriano entered the game in the bottom of eighth with two out and two on but retired Adrian Gonzalez on a routine infield groundout to end the threat. He then pitched a 1-2-3 ninth with two strikeouts to earn his 20th save in 21 opportunities.
You can pretty much expect the unexpected when these two teams hook up and so it was on this night in front of a sellout crowd of 38,066.
The Yankees jumped on ace right-hander Josh Beckett for five runs in the first inning, keyed by a bases-loaded two-run single by Teixeira and a pair of sacrifice flies from Nick Swisher and Chavez in an inning which the Yankees sent nine men to the plate.
However, the Red Sox jumped all over Yankees right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, who entered the game 5-1 with a 1.98 ERA in his last seven starts. The Bosox struck for five runs of their own and also sent nine men to the plate. Jarrod Saltamacchia’s 17th home run of the season, a three-run shot, was the key blow in the inning.
Granderson stroked a one-out triple in the second inning and he scored on an RBI infield groundout by Rodriguez as the Yankees ended up scoring six runs on eight hits and two walks off Beckett in 5 2/3 innings.
Kuroda, however, allowed the Red Sox to tie it up again in the bottom of the second by hitting Daniel Nava with a pitch and allowing back-to-back singles by Ryan Kalish and David Ortiz. Nava scored on Ortiz’s single but Ortiz was thrown out at second base trying to stretch the hit in to a double.
The Red Sox took the lead off Kuroda in the fifth as Gonzalez opened the frame with a single, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored one out later on an RBI single by rookie Mauro Gomez, the first RBI of his career.
Kuroda gave up seven runs (six earned) on 10 hits and one walk while striking out three in 5 2/3 innings.
But the Red Sox bullpen was unable to hold the one-run lead and the Yankees triumphed for the third time in three games this season against the Red Sox, all of them coming in Boston.
With the victory the Yankees improved to 50-32, which is the best record in the major leagues. They also maintained their lead in the American League East over the second-place Baltimore Orioles of 5 1/2 games games with the Orioles. The Red Sox fell to 42-41 and they are 8 1/2 games back in fourth place in the division.
- After largely disappointing Yankee fans with a first half in which he had 14 home runs, 46 RBIs and hitting just .247, Teixeira has been on a bit of hot streak in his last three games. He is 5-for-10 with a home run and five RBIs. In his three games against the Red Sox this season, he is 5-for-14 (.357) with two home runs and 10 RBIs.
- Even though Logan gave up the solo home run to Ross, the Yankee bullpen easily outshone the Red Sox pen. Logan, Cody Eppley, David Robertson and Soriano combined to give up one run on four hits and one walk and struck out five in 3 1/3 innings. In contrast, the Red Sox bullpen surrendered four runs on six hits and two walks and fanned five in four innings.
- Soriano was sensational in retiring all four batters he faced and striking out two. These games are good tests to see if Soriano can hold up to the pressure of a playoff-like atmosphere. It is pretty clear that he was not phased with pitching in Fenway with the game on the line.
- Give Chavez credit for another good game filling in for Rodriguez at third while A-Rod was the designated hitter. Though he was thrown out trying to stretch a single and committed an error which allowed an unearned run in the first inning, he was 2-for-3 at the plate with a double and a single and drove in two runs. Chavez is hitting .279 on the season.
- Kuroda is showing he is having difficulty winning on the road. He is 6-3 at home and 2-5 on the road and his road ERA is now 5.82. Kuroda missed the strike zone early and often in counts and got tattooed when he was forced to throw strikes. The Red Sox were without Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis has been traded but they still managed 10 hits off Kuroda.
- Watching Russell Martin flail helplessly at pitches is just getting painful to watch. He was 0-for-3 with a walk and he has just four hits in his last 55 at-bats. His average has now dipped to .176. His last hit was on June 20 against the Braves. Since then he is hitless in his last 29 at-bats.
- Swisher is also struggling big-time with the bat. He was 0-for-4 with an RBI on sac fly. However, he struck three times and he is hitless in his last 17 at-bats with eight strikeouts. He is now hitting .255 on the season.
Joba Chamberlain could be in line to begin a minor-league rehab stint next week. Chamberlain faced six batters at the Yankees’ complex in Tampa, FL, on Friday and struck out three in a 25-pitch session. Chamberlain, who began the winter rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. However, in March he suffered a severely displaced right ankle playing on a trampoline with his son. The right-hander vows he will pitch for the Yankees this season. . . . As expected, the Yankees activated former Red Sox outfielder Darnell McDonald on Friday and sent right-hander David Phelps to Double-A Trenton to build up his pitch count as a starter. Phelps could return to the Yankees after the All-Star break but that has not been decided yet. . . . The Yankees will recall right-hander Cory Wade from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to join the team for Saturday’s day-night doubleheader. League rules allow teams to add a 26th man on the day of doubleheader. Wade was optioned earlier in the week when the team added right-hander Chad Qualls to the roster. Wade had been struggling, giving up 13 runs on 17 hits and three walks in 5 1/3 innings in his last six appearances.
The Yankees will play a day-night doubleheader against the Red Sox on Saturday which is necessary because of a rainout at Fenway Park on April 22.
Veteran right-hander Freddy Garcia (2-2, 5.94 ERA) will start the first game for the Yankees. Garcia pitched pretty well in his first start since April 28. He gave up only two solo home runs in 5 1/3 innings on Monday in a no-decision that the Yankees eventually lost to the Tampa Bay Rays. In the last 10 seasons, Garcia is 9-4 with a 4.76 ERA against the Red Sox.
The Red will counter with left-hander Franklin Morales (1-1, 2.51 ERA). Morales pitched seven innings of shutout baseball in a no-decision against the Seattle Mariners on June 28. Morales is 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA against the Yankees but it all has been in relief.
Game-time will be 12:35 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
Right-hander Phil Hughes (9-6, 4.29 ERA) will pitch in the nightcap. Hughes allowed two runs and walked just one while striking out eight in eight innings in a victory over the Chicago White Sox on Sunday. Hughes is 2-5 with 6.65 ERA in his career against the Red Sox.
The Bosox will counter with left-hander Felix Doubront (8-4, 4.42 ERA). Doubront gave up just one run but left after throwing 103 pitches in 4 1/3 innings in a no-decision against the Mariners on Sunday. Doubront walked five batters. He has no record and a 2.53 ERA against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:15 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by FOX Sports.
YANKEES 15, RED SOX 9
Fenway Park turned 100 years and one day old on Saturday and the Red Sox honored the occasion by providing their fans with one of their worst meltdowns in their history.
Trailing 9-0 in the sixth inning, the Yankees came back to strike for 15 unanswered runs over the next three innings to leave embattled skipper Bobby Valentine, a depleted Bosox roster and an incredibly ineffective and shellshocked bullpen in tatters amid an embarrassing a five-game losing streak that is rapidly angering the Fenway faithful.
Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher led the comeback for the Yankees, combining for three home runs and 12 RBIs against a Red Sox pitching staff that has earned its position as the worst in baseball.
It was Teixeira who innocently began the rally with a two-out solo home run to left off Red Sox starter Felix Doubront in the sixth inning. Doubront left the game with a 9-1 lead having given up four hits and two walks and fanning seven batters. Little did he know his bullpen would not be able to hold an eight-run lead.
The Yankees got back into the game in the seventh inning against journeyman right-hander Vicente Padilla.
With one out, Russell Martin blooped a single to right and Eduardo Nunez followed with a slow roller to third in which third baseman Nate Spears could not get Nunez at first. Derek Jeter walked to load the bases and Swisher cut the lead to 9-5 on one swing by smashing a grand slam home run into the Green Monster seats in left.
After Robinson Cano singled, Valentine – serenaded with a cascade of loud boos – brought in Matt Albers to replace Padilla.
Albers induced Alex Rodriguez to hit a infield grounder but shortstop Mike Aviles misplayed it and Granderson advanced to third. Teixeira then delivered his second home run of the game, another opposite-field blast to left to bring the Yankees to within one run at 9-8.
A stunned Fenway Park crowd of 36, 770 sat in deafening silence. That silence would not last when the Yankees’ half of the eighth began with Franklin Morales on the mound.
Nunez opened the frame with a single to left and Valentine then publicly alerted the Yankees and Red Sox Nation that he was officially panicking. He elected to bring in closer Alfredo Aceves with six outs to hold a one-run lead.
Jeter immediately worked a walk from Aceves and Swisher then crushed a 2-1 pitch off the center-field wall to score Nunez and Jeter, giving the Yankees an improbable 10-9 lead.
Valentine ordered Aceves to walk Cano intentionally, but Aceves made things worse by walking Rodriguez to load the bases again. Teixeira made him pay with a ground-rule double down into the right-field corner to make it 12-9.
After Aceves walked Granderson intentionally, Valentine – fielding even more boos – removed him for lefty Justin Thomas.
Thomas was able to get an unassisted double play by Adrian Gonzalez off the bat of pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez. However, Martin stroked a two-run single to center. Nunez then reached on an infield single to Aviles.
Jeter made the Red Sox pay with a grounder to Aviles in which he slipped and could not throw Jeter out at first, which scored Martin and pushed the Yankee lead to 15-9. Fortunately for the Red Sox it was not worse.
The Yankee bullpen closed it out and the Red Sox left the field with some embarrassed faces in front of a national television audience on FOX Sports.
Rafael Soriano (2-0) pitched a scoreless seventh to get credit for the victory. Aceves (0-1) gave up five runs on two hits and four walks without recording a single out to take the loss.
The Red Sox bullpen combined to give up 15 runs on 12 hits and five walks in just three innings.
It overshadowed an absolutely horrible third start of the season for 35-year-old right-hander Freddy Garcia. He was hammered for five runs on seven hits in just 1 2/3 innings. Fortunately for him, that was forgotten hours later with the complete ineptitude of the Red Sox bullpen to get nine outs and hold what looked to be a very comfortable lead.
With the victory, the Yankees improved to 9-6 and claimed first place in the American League East for the first time this season. The reeling Red Sox – or shall we say Dead Sox – are now 4-10 and they are five games back in last place in the division.
- Swisher had a week in basically two at-bats. His six RBIs are a career high. He was 3-for-6 with a grand-slam, a two-run double and a single. he also scored two runs and he now leads the American League in RBIs with 20. He raised his average to .283 and it looks as if he is making a huge push for a new contract at the end of the 2012 season.
- The slow-starting Teixeira hit two home runs – one of them to the opposite field in left, which is one more than he hit in all of 2011. He added a huge two-run double in the eighth to give him six RBIs in the game also. Tex was 3-for-6 in the game and raised his batting average to .288. Hey, Mark, it’s April. What gives?
- Jeter quietly had another sensational game, though Swisher and Teixeira overshadowed him. He was 3-for-4 with two walks, three singles, two runs and an RBI. He raised his average to a ridiculously hot .382. The Captain is not looking like he will be retiring anytime soon.
- Simply put, Garcia has to go. After three starts, Garcia has given up 14 runs (13 earned) on 20 hits and three walks in 12 innings. His ERA is 9.75 and he is looking like he is unable to put away hitters with his splitter any more. At times it looked as if the Red Sox were taking batting practice. Perhaps David Phelps should take the No. 5 spot until Andy Pettitte is ready.
- Phelps was knocked around a bit for the first time this season. He was tagged for three runs on six hits and one walk in four innings. The big blow off him was a two-run home run to center by Cody Ross in the fifth. But he actually did not pitch as bad the numbers indicate and he could be given a start soon.
- Although the Yankees scored 15 runs and pounded out 16 hits, Rodriguez was 0-for-5 with a walk and he did not get a ball out of the infield. The 0-for-5 day lowered his batting average to .241.
There is one bit of very bad news for Yankee fans and Yankee fans who loved Jesus Montero. Michael Pineda had to end his bullpen session in Tampa, FL., after 15 pitches with discomfort in the back of his right shoulder. Manager Joe Girardi said Pineda will see a physician on Monday and there is no immediate timetable for his return. Pineda, 23, was placed in the disabled list at the start of the season after being diagnosed with right shoulder tendinitis. . . . Pettitte is scheduled to make a start on Wednesday for Double-A Trenton as part of his return to the major leagues scheduled for early May. Pettitte is expected to throw about 80 to 85 pitches. The Yankees obviously will be glad to see him the way Garcia has been pitching.
The Yankees can complete a sweep of the Red Sox on Sunday and if it happens I would not want to be Valentine on Monday.
Ace left-hander CC Sabathia (1-0, 5.99 ERA) is coming off his first victory of the season. He gave up three runs in six innings to beat the Twins. He is 7-9 with a 4.14 ERA in his career against the Bosox.
Boston will counter with right-hander Daniel Bard (0-2, 4.63 ERA). Bard gave up one run but walked seven against the Rays in his last start, which he lost. He is 2-1 with a 4.13 ERA against the Yankees but all those numbers came from the bullpen.
Game-time will be 8:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by ESPN.
This transmission was delayed by technical difficulties
RED SOX 1, YANKEES 0
TAMPA – The first salvo in the 2012 Red Sox-Yankees rivalry was all it was expected to be and in the end it was just a pair of mistakes on one play that decided the winner on Tuesday.
Outfielder Zoilo Almonte misplayed Pedro Ciriaco’s ninth-inning single into a two-base error and Ciriaco was able to slide home safely on David Adams’ throwing error as Boston nipped New York in a nationally televised exhibition game from George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Vicente Padilla (1-0) pitched three hitless innings and fanned four batters to get credit for the victory. David Phelps (0-1), who pitched 2 2/3 innings of brilliant relief, was tagged with the hard-luck loss. Junichi Tazawa struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth to pick up a save.
Both starting pitchers, Ivan Nova of the Yankees and Felix Dubront of the Red Sox, pitched four scoreless innings to set the tone for the game. Nova gave up two hits, walked none and struck out three. Dubront gave up two hits, walked one and fanned three in his stint.
With the loss, the Yankees’ spring record dropped to 5-7. The Red Sox are 7-2.
- Nova entered the contest with an 11.57 ERA in his first two starts so this was a much-needed improvement. Nova was only touched by a two-out double by Jacoby Ellsbury in the first inning and a leadoff infield roller that hit the third-base bag by Dustin Pedroia. Nova showed much better command of his fastball and his secondary pitches were working for him as well. Though Nova won 16 games last season and he seems to a lock to be one of the Yankees’ five starters, manager Joe Girardi has not named Nova a starter because he wants him to earn the role by pitching well in spring training.
- Mariano Rivera made his second appearance of the spring in the fifth inning and after receiving another huge standing ovation he went about breaking bats. Rivera worked around a two-out error and stolen base to throw a scoreless inning. He broke three bats in the process and fanned Alex Hannan to complete the frame in 13 pitches (nine of them were strikes).
- Phelps is one of five young pitchers who likely will open the season at Triple A but the former Notre Dame star is making a good impression with the coaching staff. Phelps pitched a 1-2-3 seventh and struck out two batters. In the eighth he worked around a leadoff single and a stolen base by Darnell McDonald to retire the next three batters in order. Though he gave up the single to Ciriaco, it was played into a three-base error by two misplays. After that he fanned the next two batters. Phelps is 25 and he will be pitching his first full season at Triple A. He bears watching because he could pitching in the Bronx soon.
- The Yankees are simply not hitting consistently well this spring. They managed only four hits in the game and it is not because of Dubront. They forced the left-hander to throw 75 pitches in four innings and just could not mount any offense. They only managed three hits the evening before against the lowly Houston Astros. The Yankees are one-third of the way through their spring schedule and it is time they start hitting the ball with authority. There is not only a lack of hits. There also is a lack of power, too. It is a big concern.
- One of the major culprits in the hitting drought has been newly signed designated hitter and outfielder Raul Ibanez. Ibanez, 39, is a career .280 hitter but is coming off a season in which he hit just .245. He was allowed to become a free agent by the Phillies when the Yankees signed him on Feb, 21. He was 0-for-3 on Tuesday and is now hitting .095. Ibanez is unconcerned about his slow start but the question is when does he become concerned?
- It is kind of odd that Girardi chose not to play Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher and yet he is playing all the team’s starters with the exception of Russell Martin and subbing Eric Chavez for Alex Rodriguez at third base with Rodriguez acting as the DH in a game against Toronto on Wednesday. In the days of George Steinbrenner this would be unacceptable. It makes me curious also.
- The Red Sox pitchers used the 7.8 and 9 hitters to attack aggressively all night and it paid off for them. Bill Hall, Jason Nix and Doug Bernier each had two at-bats and they combined to go 0-for-6 and fanned five times. That is the reason i pointed out the previous item about not playing four starters.
The Yankees originally had Eduardo Nunez in the strating lineup against the Red Sox but he had to be scratched again because of recurring pain in his right hand. Nunez was struck on his right hand on March 5 on a pitch from the Phillies’ Austin Hyatt and he been unable to shake the pain despite the fact X-rays on the hand show no broken bones. The Yankees say the bruise is deep and it will take time to heal. Nunez will not attempt to hit again until Saturday. . . . Girardi had high praise for three of his left-handed reliever candidates: Clay Rapada (0.00 ERA), Cesar Cabral (3.38 ERA) and Juan Cedeno (10.12 ERA). One of them could make the bullpen depending how they pitch the rest of the spring.
As spring training camps open it is time to look at the American League East competition for the New York Yankees. How will the other teams fare as they gear up to dethrone the 2011 division champions? Do these teams have the pitching? Is there enough offense? Let’s see.
PART 4 – BOSTON RED SOX
A fellow Yankee fan once called the Red Sox the Red Flops because of their penchant for running out to big leads in the American League East and fading badly in the second half. After the famous “Collapse of 2011” the term seems apropos.
On Sept. 3, they were 84-54, a half game behind the Yankees and nine games up on the Tampa Bay Rays. They finished the season with a dreadful 6-18 record and missed the playoffs by a game. In Boston that is not an oops, it is an eruption and it cost manager Terry Francona his job and general manager Theo Epstein fled to the Chicago Cubs.
Looking to 2012 the Red Flops hired ego-driven Bobby Valentine as manager. Ben Cherington, an Epstein assistant, took over as GM. They even dismissed first-year pitching coach Curt Young in favor of Bob McClure to keep their starting pitchers from getting bagged in the clubhouse on Samuel Adams.
Of course, that is odd because McClure pitched most of his career with the beer capital of the world in Milwaukee.
There is no doubt the starting pitching let the Red Sox down in 2011. They scored runs and the bullpen was good until it got overtaxed. But has this team addressed the areas of weakness enough to win the division in 2012?
Well, it does not look good.
The Red Sox were unable to acquire any starter of significance this winter because they had to re-sign free agent David Ortiz and the team was already perilously close to the salary mark that would incur the luxury tax.
So they return to the field with two of the pitchers who aided in the collapse (Josh Beckett and Jon Lester), one pitcher who was hurt most of the 2011 season (Clay Buchholz) and two big question marks behind them. That seems hardly like a recipe for success.
Beckett, 31, returns as the team ace after a season in which he was 13-7 with a 2.89 ERA. But an ankle injury late in the season forced him to fade like a typical Red Flop in September. He posted a 5.48 ERA in September. He also was in the center of the beer issue that drew the ire of teammates and the front office.
If Beckett wants to remain the ace he better start showing some leadership by example.
Lester, 28, is starting to look like the Red Sox version of Mike Mussina. He has all the talent and the pitches to be successful but he never takes that big step forward to be an elite pitcher. He was 15-9 with a 3.47 ERA but he also slid in September. He had only two quality starts from Aug. 27 to the season finale and was 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA in the final month.
Buchholz, 27, made only 14 starts last season before ending up on the disabled list with what was eventually diagnosed as a stress fracture in his back. He finished with a record of 6-3 and a 3.48 ERA. There is no doubt he was sorely missed last season because Epstein failed to stock the Red Sox with any depth and the team floundered after he was shelved on June 16.
The Red Sox other two starters were veteran right-handers John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka.
If Lester is like Mussina then Lackey is looking like the Red Sox version of A.J. Burnett. Signed as free agent before the 2010 season, Lackey has done nothing but disappoint Red Sox Nation with bad pitching. He was 14-11 with a 4.40 ERA in 2010 but he got much worse in 2011 with a 12-12 mark and 6.41 ERA.
Red Sox fans have taken to calling him “Lacking.”
But there is good news for RSN, Lackey, 33, will not pitch at all in 2012 because he had to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. There is no real guarantee Lackey will be any better in 2013, which will be the final year of his four-year contract. His days in Beantown look to be limited at this point.
Speaking of that, Red Sox fans also would like to see Matsuzaka, 31, gone after three injury-filled seasons in which he was a combined 16-15 with a plus 5.00 ERA in only 44 starts. Last season, he was shelved in June with a 3-3 record and a 5.30 ERA. Like Lackey he underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
He possibly could return late in the season but there is no one banking on him coming back pitching like in he did in 2008 when he was 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA. He is in the final year of lucrative six-year contract and the Red Sox seem to be counting the days they can part with him.
With Lackey and Dice-K on the shelf, the Red Sox have to come up with two starters and one of them is Daniel Bard, the team’s setup man the past two seasons. Bard, 26, does throw hard and he has two breaking pitches to mix in his arsenal.
But Bard also was the poster boy for the Red Sox collapse. Forced to pitch a lot to cover for weak starting pitching, Bard got hit hard and often in September, finishing the season 2-9 with a 3.33 ERA and five blown saves. Only July 31, Bard had a 1.76 ERA.
Now the question is can he be an effective starter? It has not worked for relievers lately. It did not work for Joba Chamberlain and Brandon Morrow of the Blue Jays has struggled to get past the fifth inning with the Blue Jays. Usually it works better when a starter becomes a reliever as it did with former Red Sox right-hander Dennis Eckersley.
Until Bard proves he can pitch deep into games consistently and does not fade late in the season as the innings pile up, he is big question mark in 2012.
For the fifth spot, the Red Sox issued an open casting call much like the Yankees did in 2011 with Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia.
They are looking at holdovers Alfredo Aceves and Andrew Miller as possible candidates. Aceves, 29, was 10-2 with a 2.61 ERA but made only four starts. He is better suited as a reliever, as he proved with the Yankees. Miller, a 26-year-old left-hander, was 6-3 but he had a horrible 5.54 ERA in 12 starts.
The Red Sox also signed former Yankee right-hander Ross Ohlendorf and three other right-handers including Aaron Cook, Vicente Padilla and Carlos Silva to compete for the job this spring.
None of these candidates are going to impress the Red Sox faithful. They all have a lot of mileage on them and they all have not had much success in recent years.
This might be one of the weakest Red Sox rotations in many years and the lack of depth in it is the major problem. If Beckett, Lester or Buchholz are hurt, who steps up to replace them?
The Red Sox allowed Jonathan Papelbon leave for the Philadelphia Phillies rather than pay him what he was worth as a closer for them over the past six seasons. The conventional wisdom was Bard would take over as the closer.
But the Red Sox made him a starter instead and opened up the job. They decided to fill it with 27-year-old right-hander Andrew Bailey, who was acquired in a trade with the Oakland Athletics.
Bailey is coming off two injury-plagued seasons but is pretty darn good when he is healthy. Bailey is 7-10 with a career ERA of 2.07 and 75 saves in 84 chances.
There is no doubt Bailey is an excellent closer. The only question is of the Red Sox can keep him healthy and can Bailey adjust to the very small dimensions of Fenway as opposed to the expansive Coliseum.
The Red Sox also traded with the Houston Astros for yet another former Yankee reliever in Mark Melancon. (Can the signing of Tanyon Sturtze be far behind?). Melancon, 26, was 8-4 with a 2.78 ERA and saved 20 out of 25 games for the lowly Astros last season. Melancon, who was touted years ago as the eventual successor to Mariano Rivera when he was in the Yankees’ minor-league system, will set up Bailey and can close if Bailey should revert to past form and pull up lame.
Speaking of lame, the Red Sox suffered a huge blow to their bullpen before pitchers reported to camp on Sunday because 30-year-old right-hander Bobby Jenks will miss more time when a pulmonary embolism was discovered in his lung. This was discovered after he had two back surgeries after pitching only 19 games last season. He is on the 60-day DL and he will be on a long road back to health.
Aceves also figures in the late innings because he is much more valuable in that spot.
The Red Sox got some use out of 29-year-old right-hander Matt Albers, who was 4-4 with 4.73 ERA in 56 games last season. The lefty specialist was 26-year-old Franklin Morales, who was 1-2 with a 3.69 ERA in 50 appearances. The Red Sox are hoping Rich Hill will come back from Tommy John surgery on his left elbow sometime this season.
The Red Sox think 24-year-old lefty Felix Doubront can take the second left-hander spot in the bullpen. He had no record and 6.10 ERA in 11 appearances last season. Doubront could also get a chance to start and he has some upside.
This bullpen is definitely in a state of flux. New personnel, new roles and there are some pitchers coming off injuries or currently rehabbing injuries. It is not a recipe for success.
Valentine and McClure have a lot of decisions to make in the spring. For the Red Sox to succeed they need an excellent bullpen. For now, it looks just mediocre.
The Red Sox were largely a four-man offense – a very good four-man offense but a four-man offense nonetheless – in 2011.
First baseman Adrian Gonzalez was as advertised. He hit .338 with 27 home runs and 117 RBIs and played Gold Glove defense. The Red Sox hope Gonzalez, 29, is the fulcrum of the Bosox attack for many years to come.
Second baseman Dustin Pedroia bounced back from an injury-plagued 2010 season to re-establish himself in 2011. He hit .307 with 21 homers and 91 RBIs and also won a Gold Glove. Pedroia, 28, remains the spark-plug in the Red Sox engine. His grit and determination makes him the heart and soul of the team.
Designated hitter David Ortiz followed up a bounce-back 2010 season with another solid campaign in 2011. Ortiz, 36, hit .309 with 29 home runs and 96 RBIs. He is not the same feared hitter he was in his steroid days hitting behind Manny Ramirez but he is still good enough to help the offense.
The big surprise was center-fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who played only 18 games in 2010 and was accused of milking his rib injury by some teammates. Ellsbury, 28, must have been angry because he came back with a vengeance in 2011. He hit .321 with easily a career-high 32 home runs and 105 RBIs from the leadoff spot. He also stole 39 bases.
To most Red Sox observers, Ellsbury was the team’s MVP and would have won the American League MVP if Justin Verlander of the Tigers had not.
The big disappointments in this lineup were Kevin Youkilis and Carl Crawford.
Youkilis, who will be 33 when the season starts, still has not played any more than 147 games in a season. Last season, the combination of bursitis in his left hip and a sports hernia limited him to 120 games. He hit a disappointing .258 with 17 home runs and 80 RBIs and he did not play third base as well he played first base. Youkilis must stay healthy and return to form if the Red Sox are to make a move in 2012.
Left-fielder Crawford, 30, arrived in Beantown with 409 career steals and .293 career batting average. His seven-year, $142 million contract was the signing that limited the Red Sox from adding pitching this winter. He also proved he did not fit in well at Fenway. He hit .255 with 11 home runs and 56 RBIs and only 18 stolen bases. He also proved weak in the field despite having won a Gold Glove with the Rays in 2010.
More bad news about Crawford: Late in the winter Crawford realized his left wrist required surgery and he is not likely to be able to play on Opening Day. Crawford will either turn his game around or become one of the biggest albatross signings in baseball history.
The Red Sox have shuffled the deck in right-field and shortstop this season.
The Red Sox released aging outfielder J.D. Drew and they used promising youngster Josh Reddick in the Bailey trade.
The Red Sox did obtain outfielder Ryan Sweeney in the Bailey deal and he is a left-handed hitter like Reddick. However, the 27-year-old has been a huge disappointment in Oakland. He is career .283 hitter but he lacks both power and speed.
Holdover Darnell McDonald, 33, was brought up last season and he hit .236 with six home runs and 24 RBIs in 79 games. He could figure in an early platoon with Sweeney or win the job outright. Ryan Kalish, 23, hit .252 in 53 games and he will get a look also.
The Red Sox also picked up Cody Ross from the Giants. Ross, 31, bats right-handed and he figures to start n left-field until Crawford returns to health. Then he will shift to right in a platoon with either Sweeney or Kalish. Ross hit .240 with 14 home runs and 52 RBIs in 2011.
Shortstop also was shuffled for 2012. Starter Marco Scutaro was shipped to Colorado for right-handed pitcher Clayton Mortensen. Backup infielder Jed Lowrie was used in the Melancon trade with the Astros.
That leaves former Royals infielder Mike Aviles to start at the position. Aviles, 31, is a career .288 hitter but he hit only .255 with seven home runs and 39 RBIs in 91 games with the Royals and Red Sox.
The Jason Varitek era in Boston is officially over. Varitek was not re-signed and Jarrod Saltalamacchia enters his second season as the unquestioned starter for the Red Sox. Saltalamacchia, 26, is coming off a so-so 2011 season. He hit .235 with 16 homers and 56 RBIs. He also struck out 119 times in 358 at-bats so he is not exactly a selective hitter. The Red Sox also wish he would continue to improve his defense and throwing.
The Red Sox will likely keep Ross, McDonald and either Sweeney or Kalish as backup outfielders. McDonald is valuable because he play all three spots and he is better in center.
The Red Sox picked up former Twins infielder Nick Punto as a reserve at second, short and third. Punto, 34, hit .278 with one home run and 20 RBIs with the Cardinals last season. Having Punto means the Red Sox can allow 22-year-old shortstop Jose Inglesias another season to develop at Triple-A. Inglesias can field but has not developed much as a hitter.
The team also picked up former Red Sox catcher Kelly Shoppach from the Rays. Shoppach, 31, hit .176 with 11 homers and 22 RBIs with the Rays and he replaces Varitek as the backup catcher. He is solid defensively.
This is a serviceable bench but I would hardly call it talent-laden or special.
The Epstein-Francona era is over. The main architects of the only two World Series championships in the last 96 years have fled. They left a financial constraint on the team that prevented them from addressing their crisis in starting pitching, the bullpen and in right-field.
The Crawford and Lackey signings along with the trades for since-departed Victor Matinez and Gonzalez left this very dollar-rich team weak in minor-league prospects and unable to find enough wiggle room to sign what they needed without breaking way past the level where the luxury tax kicks in.
This limits what the Red Sox will actually do this season. This is team that already is beset by injuries (Lackey, Dice-K, Crawford, Jenks) and they are severely lacking in depth before spring training has even started. It is hard to see how they find the money to fix what needs fixing if the ship should begin to flounder.
The Red Sox will only go as far their offense and their top three starters take them this season.
With the Rays a bit flawed it is easy to see both the Red Sox and Rays battling for second place behind the Yankees in 2012. Because of what happened to the Red Sox last season it hard to see how it could happen again. But that is what I am predicting.
I just have a sneaking suspicion that the Rays pitching will be the reason the Red Sox will finish third. The only question is can Valentine get out of town before RSN tries to lynch him. Good luck, with this bunch, Bobby. You are going to need it – along with a lot of Maalox.
Just call them the Red Flops.
The New York Yankees owe a debt of gratitude to Vicente Padilla.