Tagged: Wei-Yin Chen

Yankees Deliver Blow To Chen On Ryan’s Double

GAME 92

YANKEES 3, ORIOLES 2

Tough luck and injuries shelved Brendan Ryan for most of spring training and he was making only his fourth start of the season on Tuesday. But in the bottom of the sixth inning he delivered a tie-breaking RBI double that gave the Yankees an important victory.

Ryan’s two-out double off scored Didi Gregorius from first base and the Yankees’ vaunted bullpen shut down the Orioles over the final three innings as New York extended their lead in the American League East to five games by edging Baltimore in front of a paid crowd of 37,993 at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees had held an early 2-0 lead on left-hander Wei-Yin Chen and the Orioles after scoring a pair of runs in the first two innings.

Jacoby Ellsbury opened the bottom of the first with a ground-rule double, reached third on a sacrifice bunt by Brett Gardner and scored on a sacrifice fly by Alex Rodriguez, his 53rd RBI of the season.

Brian McCann led off the second inning with an opposite-field single and Chris Young followed with a single of his own. Chase Headley then scored McCann on an RBI double down the line in left.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, who was seeking his 10th victory, held the Orioles scoreless over the first five innings, yielding only an infield single to Adam Jones with two out in the fourth and three walks. However, he ran into difficulty in the sixth.

Jimmy Paredes stroked a one-out single and Jones reached on another infield single. One out later, Matt Wieters laced an RBI single to right to score Paredes.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi replaced Eovaldi with left-hander Justin Wilson and J.J. Hardy greeted him with a lined single to right that scored Jones but Wieters was retired in a rundown attempting to advance to third.

Eovaldi, who has not lost a game since June 16, was charged with two runs on four hits and three walks with four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.

The Yankees, however, were able to break through against Chen (4-6) in the sixth when Gregorius slapped an opposite-field single to left with two out. That set the stage for Ryan, who pulled a 0-1 fastball down the left-field line that scored Gregorius easily with the tie-breaking run.

Chen was charged with three runs on 10 hits and no walks with three strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings of work.

Wilson (3-0) pitched an inning of scoreless relief to earn the victory and the “Twin Towers” of right-hander Dellin Betances and left-hander Andrew Miller combined to hold the Orioles to just one hit over the final 2 1/3 innings to close out the victory.

Miller threw a nine-pitch 1-2-3 inning in the ninth to notch his 20th save in 20 opportunities this season.

With the victory the Yankees are now 51-41 and they are five games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays, the Toronto Blue Jays and the Orioles, who are in a three-way tie for second place in the division. The Orioles fell to 46-46.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Ryan is fortunate that he has a guaranteed two-year contract because he very well could have lost his roster spot to rookie Rob Refsnyder. But the Yankees chose to keep both the weak-hitting Stephen Drew and Ryan instead and it paid off on Tuesday. “It’s been obviously pretty frustrating. I haven’t really gotten to contribute in the first half at all, with injury after injury,” Ryan told reporters. “Hopefully that’s all behind me. I was excited to get the opportunity today, and obviously glad that I was able to come through.”
  • The bottom three spots in the order have been a black hole most of the season for the Yankees but Headley (hitting seventh), Gregorius (eighth) and Ryan (ninth) combined to go 4-for-12 (.333) with two doubles, two singles, one run scored and two RBIs. Ryan likely will continue to start at second base against left-handers because Drew is batting .215 in 65 at-bats against lefties. Of course, Drew is batting .168 against right-handers so why he is still on the roster at all is a head-scratcher.
  • Betances and Miller continue to dominate hitters out of the bullpen. The pair are a combined 6-3 with 28 saves, a 1.42 ERA and 132 strikeouts in 82 2/3 innings. It also appears after adding right-hander Adam Warren and getting Miller back off the disabled list, the bullpen has hit its stride again. It is the strength of this club and the major reason why the team is in first place.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • While Gregorius and Ryan came up big in the sixth inning, Chen was using them to escape big innings earlier in the game. In the second inning with Young on third and Headley on second and no outs, Gregorius struck out and Ryan popped up weakly. In the fourth inning with Young on second and Headley on first with one out, Gregorius flew out to center and Ryan grounded into a force out to end the threat. As a result, the Yankees were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and could not give Eovaldi a big enough lead to protect.
  • The Yankees also had a chance to extend their lead in the seventh when right-hander Tommy Hunter entered the game with one out and walked Rodriguez, allowed a double to Teixeira and walked McCann intentionally to load the bases. With the Yankees forced to keep the righty-handed-hitting Young in the game for his defense, he struck out swinging and Headley grounded out to leave the bases loaded. Ouch!

ON DECK

The Yankees will have a chance to win the series and deal another huge blow the Orioles with a victory on Wednesday.

Right-hander Ivan Nova (1-3, 3.42 ERA) will make his fifth start of the season for the Yankees. Nova was tagged for four runs on eight hits with three strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings in a 5-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox on July 11, marking the first time in his career he has lost three consecutive starts.

The Orioles are expected to call up right-hander Kevin Gausman (1-1, 5.00 ERA) from Triple-A Norfolk to start this game. Gausman was optioned on July 8 in order to keep him on a five-day schedule. He was hammered for eight runs (seven earned) on seven hits and one walk in 3 2/3 innings in a loss to the Minnesota Twins on July 7.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by ESPN and locally by the YES Network.

 

Teixeira Impales Rodney, Mariners With Missive

GAME 91

YANKEES 2, MARINERS 1

As a closer for both the Tampa Bay Rays and the Seattle Mariners, Fernando Rodney has earned 13 career saves against the Yankees and all 13 were punctuated with his trademark  –  but annoying  – shooting of an arrow gesture after the final out.

On Sunday, Mark Teixeira shot a figurative arrow through Rodney’s and the Mariners’ hearts.

Teixeira launched a high-arcing home run into the right-field bleachers off Rodney (2-4) with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning to break a 1-1 tie as New York took two of three games from Seattle in front of a sweltering paid crowd of 42,926 at Yankee Stadium.

Teixeira’s home run, his 23rd of the season, handed a victory in relief to right-hander Dellin Betances (6-2) and left-hander Andrew Miller tossed a perfect ninth, striking out two, to earn his 20th save in as many chances this season.

The early innings of the contest were marked by a fierce pitcher’s duel between 2007 American League Cy Young Award winner CC Sabathia of the Yankees and 2010 American League Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez of the Mariners.

The left-handed Sabathia and the right-handed Hernandez matched zeroes until the top of the fifth inning when former Yankee Jesus Montero and Chris Taylor opened the frame with a pair of opposite-field singles.

After Mike Zunino successfully laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance both runners, former Yankee Austin Jackson laced a lined single to center to score Montero. But Sabathia was able to limit the damage by striking out Kyle Seager and former Yankee Robin$on Cano with Taylor on third.

The Yankees, meanwhile, were able to tie the contest in the bottom of the sixth after Brett Gardner started the inning by drawing a walk. One out later, Teixeira grounded a hit-and-run single just past Taylor into center-field to advance Gardner to third.

With two out, Carlos Beltran, who had just been activated from the 15-day disabled list earlier in the day, slapped an opposite-field single to left to score Gardner with the tying run.

Hernandez, 29, was charged with just the one run on five hits and three walks while he fanned five batters in six innings. “King Felix” is 5-1 with a 1.38 ERA in his eight starts at the new Yankee Stadium.

Sabathia, 34, in one of his better outings of the season, also yielded one run on six hits and one walk as he struck out seven in six innings.

“CC pitched extremely well,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon told reporters. “His command was exceptional. He did a tremendous job. So did Felix. He was one pitch away from getting out of that [sixth] inning.”

Despite leading Major League Baseball with 48 saves last season and being chosen as an American League All-Star, Rodney has blown four saves and entered the contest with a 5.45 ERA. As a result, he had lost his closing duties to rookie right-hander Carson Smith.

McClendon opted to use the 38-year-old right-hander with one out in the eighth inning. Rodney was able to retire Alex Rodriguez on an infield popup and he had Teixeira down on a 1-2 count.

But he threw a 98-mile-per-hour fastball over the heart of the plate and Teixeira was able to make good contact with it.

“[I] just put a good swing on it. He threw the pitch earlier, the pitch before, right by me and I just knew I had to get ready a little bit earlier,” Teixeira told reporters. “The second one I was ready for.”

With the victory the Yankees earned the 50th victory with 41 losses. They hold a four-game lead over the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. The Mariners dropped to 42-50.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Teixeira entered the contest 20-for-66 (.303) with a league-best six home runs off Hernandez. He was 2-for-3 with two singles against Hernandez on Sunday and is now hitting .319 off him. In addition, his 23rd home run surpasses the 22 he hit all of last season. Teixeira’s 3-for-4 day raised his season average to .249. To top off his day he made an outstanding grab of a foul ball in the second row of the stands off the bat of Nelson Cruz in the eighth inning.
  • Give Sabathia a lot of credit for holding the Mariners to one run on a day the Yankees were facing a tough right-hander in Hernandez. He entered the game 4-8 with a 5.47 ERA. But since May 28 when he was 2-7 with a 5.67 ERA, Sabathia is 2-1 with a 4.70 in his past eight starts. More importantly, the Yankees are 5-3 in those contests. So the 34-year-old veteran is keeping the Yankees in position to win his starts.
  • Beltran’s RBI single to tie the game in the sixth was a testament to a good veteran hitter not trying to do too much and shooting an outside curveball the opposite way. Though Beltran has been a huge disappointment to the Yankees between his injury-plagued 2014 season and his .262 average with just seven homers and 30 RBIs this season, he still adds a solid switch-hitter to lengthen the lineup for the second half of the season.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Jacoby Ellsbury entered the day with a plus-.300 career average against Hernandez but he ended up grounding out weakly to first all three times he faced him. He ended the day 0-for-4 and his average has slipped to .302. He is 1-for-17 (.059) in his past four games dating back to July 12.

BOMBER BANTER

Once again, when the Yankees have a choice between a up-and-coming homegrown player and a veteran free agent they side with the veteran. When the Yankees activated Beltran from the disabled list on Sunday they surprisingly optioned second baseman Rob Refsnyder, 24, to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre despite the fact that Stephen Drew, 32, is batting .181 after hitting .162 last season. Refsnyder hit .167 with a homer and two RBIs in four games including his first major-league home run on July 12 that allowed the Yankees to beat the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park last Sunday.

ON DECK

The Yankees will have Monday off before welcoming the Orioles to Yankee Stadium for a crucial three-game series.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (9-2, 4.50 ERA) will open the series for the Yankees. Eovaldi, 25, has not lost a game since June 16 and he won his last start by holding the Red Sox to three runs on seven hits with four strikeouts in five innings last Sunday.

Left-hander Wei-Yin Chen will start for the Orioles. Chen allowed three runs (two earned) on eight hits with seven strikeouts in eight innings in tough-luck loss to the Washington Nationals last Sunday.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by WPIX.

 

Orioles’ Home Run Barrage Bests Whitley, Yankees

GAME 31

ORIOLES 6, YANKEES 2

The Orioles hit three home runs within a seven-batter sequence off right-hander Chase Whitley and Wei-Yin Chen held the Yankees to one run in seven innings as Baltimore derailed New York on Saturday at Yankee Stadium.

Jimmy Paredes homered on the first pitch from Whitley with two out in the third inning. With one out in the third, Chris Davis also went yard on the first pitch and, two batters later, Alejandro De Aza connected with a man on to give the Orioles a quick 4-0 lead.

Chen (1-1), meanwhile, held the Yankees to one run on five hits with seven strikeouts in seven innings to earn his first victory of the season. Zach Britton retired the last two batters to earn his sixth save.

Whitley (1-1), who only gave up three home runs over 143 batters in Yankee Stadium prior to this game, was charged with five runs on six hits and two walks with five strikeouts in six innings.

The Yankees only run off Chen came in the fifth on a Chase Headley one-out single, a double by Stephen Drew and a sacrifice fly off the bat of John Ryan Murphy.

They added an unearned run in the eighth inning when Jacoby Ellsbury reached on a fielding error by Ryan Flaherty. Brett Gardner singled him to second and Carlos Beltran scored Ellsbury on a two-out RBI single.

The loss dropped the Yankees season record to 19-12. They are two games ahead of the second-place Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. The O’s are 13-15 and 4 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the division.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Beltran was 1-for-4 with an RBI and he does appear to be slowly shaking his hitting woes. On April 28, he was batting .159. Since then Beltran is 9-for-35 (.257) with five RBIs. That has raised his average to .194. He still has some work to do but he appears to be getting somewhere.
  • Jose Pirela has only played in three games but he already appears ready to spark the bottom of the batting order. He was the Yankee to have more than one hit on Saturday. He was 2-for-4 and is 4-for-11 (.364) in those three games. Considering that Drew is batting .182 and Didi Gregarious is batting .209, Pirela looks to getting more and more playing time at second base.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • This was in every sense of the word a “throwaway” game for the Yankees. Manager Joe Girardi knew going into the contest that his “Twin Towers” in the bullpen, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller, were unavailable and Gregorius, Alex Rodriguez and Brian McCann did not start. It does not mean that the Yankees did not try to win the game. But let’s just say they played it with one hand tied behind their back. They chose to rest some people and were definitely looking at the big picture.
  • Whitley started off with a bang by striking out four of the first six batters he faced but he got caught up in trying to pound the zone early with strikes. Paredes and Davis made him pay by cranking out first-pitch fastballs. It happens and remember that Whitley is, in every sense, the team’s No. 8 starter behind Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, Nathan Eovaldi, Adam Warren and both Chris Capuano and Ivan Nova, who are rehabbing injuries.
  • Ellsbury was 0-for-5, which snapped his 11-game hitting streak. Even with that he reached base on an error and scored one of the team’s two runs. The 0-for-5 day dropped his season average to .347 to fall behind Orioles outfielder Adam Jones, who was 1-fo-4 and is batting .355 to lead the American League.

BOMBER BANTER

Rodriguez missed Saturday’s game with what Girardi told reporters was tightness n both legs. Girardi said the he hoped to have the veteran designated hitter back for Sunday’s game. Rodriguez, 40, felt tightness in his legs after Friday’s game in which he hit his first triple since 2012. Rodriguez is second on the team with seven home runs and 19 RBIs and he has played in 26 of the Yankees’ 31 games.  . . .  The Yankees placed right-hander Chris Martin, 28, on the 15-day disabled list on Saturday with tendinitis in his right elbow. The Yankees recalled right-hander Branden Pinder, 26, from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to replace Martin on the 25-man roster. Martin is 0-1 with a 3.55 ERA in 12 2/3 innings over 15 appearances. Pinder was up with the Yankees previously this season and he has pitched two scoreless innings.

ON DECK

The Yankees can still claim a 3-1 series victory on Sunday against the Orioles.

Right-hander Pineda (4-0, 2.97 ERA) will go to the mound for the Yankees. Pineda has never lost in his career to the Orioles and he is coming off a game in which he shut out the Toronto Blue Jays on five hits and one walk with six strikeouts in eight innings on Tuesday. It was, by far, the most dominant outing for Pineda this season.

The Orioles will counter with right-hander Bud Norris (1-3, 9.75 ERA), who was ill on Saturday. Norris yielded three runs on seven hits and one walk with four strikeouts in seven innings in a loss to the New York Mets on Tuesday.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

Yankees’ ‘Twin Towers’ Shut Down Orioles Again

GAME 30

YANKEES 5, ORIOLES 4

You made me love you
I didn’t want to do it, I didn’t want to do it
You made me want you
And all the time you knew it, I guess you always knew it

                                           –  “You Made Me Love You (I Didn’t Want To Do It)” by Al Jolson

In a game in which the Yankees took a 5-0 lead after three innings the last thing manager Joe Girardi was thinking was that he would have to use his “Twin Towers” to have to close out the game. But that is just what happened on Friday night in front of a paid crowd of 38,731 at Yankee Stadium.

Girardi was forced into using 6-foot-8 right-hander Dellin Betances and 6-foot-7 left-hander Andrew Miller to close out the final 2 1/3 innings as New York downed Baltimore for a second straight game.

Betances (4-0) pitched 1 1/3 innings of perfect relief to get credit for the victory and Miller hurled a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his Major-League-leading 13th save in 13 opportunities.

The Yankees stormed out to an early lead on right-hander Miguel Gonzalez (3-2) when Jacoby Ellsbury extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a leadoff infield single and Brett Gardner followed with a double.

Alex Rodriguez scored Ellsbury with a sacrifice fly and, one out later, Brian McCann laced a 3-0 fastball into the seats in right-field for his third home run of the season.

Two innings later, Ellsbury reached on a leadoff walk and Gardner advanced him to third with a single. Gardner subsequently stole second. Two outs later, McCann was walked intentionally to load the bases and struggling veteran outfielder Carlos Beltran then cracked a two-run double to pad the Yankees’ lead to 5-0.

However, right-hander Adam Warren encountered both pitch count and command issues in the fifth inning.

J.J. Hardy and Ryan Flaherty opened the frame by drawing back-to-back walks. Manny Machado followed with an RBI single that scored Hardy.

One out later, Adam Jones loaded the bases with a single and Delmon Young scored Flaherty and chased Warren with a fielder’s choice groundout that erased Jones at second.

Warren left having been charged with two runs on seven hits and three walks with two strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings. He left having thrown 88 pitches and he has now failed to complete six innings in any of his eight career starts.

Left-hander Justin Wilson struck out Chris Davis to end the inning, however, he ran into trouble of his own in the sixth inning.

After retiring the first two batters, Wilson allowed a double to J.J. Hardy and Flaherty reached after being hit with a pitch. Girardi brought in right-hander Chris Martin to replace Wilson.

But Martin ended up issuing a walk to Machado to load the bases and rookie Jimmy Paredes singled in two runs to draw the Orioles within a run.

So the combination of Warren’s inability to go further in the game and shaky bullpen work from Wilson and Martin forced Girardi’s hand to use his best bullpen tandem for a second straight game.

Meanwhile, the Yankees offense went to sleep after Gonzalez left having given up five runs on five hits and two walks with two strikeouts in four innings.

Left-hander T.J. McFarland, right-hander Darren O’Day and left-hander Zach Britton held the Yankees to three hits and one intentional walk over the final five innings to keep the O’s in the game.

With the victory the Yankees improved to 19-11 and they maintained a three-game lead over the second-place Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. The Orioles, who lost their third straight contest, fell to 12-15 and they are tied with the Boston Red Sox in fourth place, 5 1/2 games behind the Yankees.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Ellsbury was 1-for-3 and scored two runs and he is now batting .362, which now leads the American League. Jones, who entered the game hitting .367, was 1-for-5 and that dropped his average to .359. Ellsbury and Gardner combined to go 3-for-7 with a double, two singles, a stolen base and four runs scored. The tandem is a combined 71-for-205 (.346) on the season.
  • McCann continues to love Yankee Stadium because 22 of his 26 home runs with the Yankees have come at home. McCann entered the contest in a 1-for-14 (.071) funk before he connected for his third home run of the season. McCann is now batting .231.
  • The “Twin Towers” of Betances and Miller have now combined for a 4-0 record, 13 saves and a 0.00 ERA in 31 games. They have yielded only 11 hits and 16 walks with 54 strikeouts in 33 1/3 innings. Their combined WHIP is 0.81. Unfortunately, neither will be available for Saturday’s game.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Warren is showing everyone what I already knew: He is better suited coming out of the bullpen. He is 2-1 with a 4.65 ERA in six starts but his failure to pitch six complete innings is hurting the team because it is draining the bullpen. It is a good thing that left-hander Chris Capuano is making some minor-league rehab starts because the Yankees could use Capuano so they can shift Warren back to the bullpen, where he recorded a 2.97 ERA in 69 games last season.
  • Chase Headley went 0-for-4 and he seems to be really mired a three-week slump. On April 22, Headley was hitting .254 with two homers and nine RBIs. Since then he is 10-for-50 (.200) with one homer and one RBI. After a hot spring it looked as if Headley was primed for a big season, but it is looking like he has fallen back in some old bad habits at the plate.
  • Martin’s 0-1 record and 3.55 ERA in 15 appearances seem like pretty good numbers. However, one very ugly number for him is that he has allowed five of seven inherited runners to score and two of them scored on Friday on Paredes’ bases-loaded single in the sixth. Martin has to do better when he enters the game with runners on base.

BOMBER BANTER

After being harassed by the press for two months, Girardi finally named Miller as the team’s closer after the left-hander earned his 13th save. Asked again if Miller was his closer at his postgame press conference, Girardi told reporters: “Is there a reason I have to? He’s been closing games for us. He’s our closer. Is that better? Is that going to be the headline tomorrow?”  . . .  Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka played catch for a second straight day prior to Friday’s game and reported no issues with his right wrist or forearm. Tanaka, who has been on the disabled list since April 28 with tendinitis in his wrist and a mild strain in his forearm, made 25 throws from 60 feet and another 25 from 90 feet. The Yankees believe he is on schedule to be back in about a month.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their four-game series with the O’s on Saturday having clinched at least in a series split already.

Right-hander Chase Whitley (1-0, 0.75 ERA) will make his third start of the season since being recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Whitley, 25, needs to pitch the same way he pitched on Monday when he shut out the Toronto Blue Jays on six hits and no walks with six strikeouts in seven innings for his first victory.

The Orioles will start left-hander Wei-Yin Chen (0-1, 2.83 ERA), who surrendered two runs on seven hits and two walks with four strikeouts in six innings in a no-decision against the Rays on Sunday.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.

 

Orioles Stave Off Late Rally To Frustrate Yankees

GAME 8

ORIOLES 4, YANKEES 3

Adam Jones drove in two runs and Miguel Gonzalez limited the Yankees to one run while he struck out a career-high 10 batters as Baltimore withstood a late rally by New York to win on a shower-filled Tuesday evening at Oriole Park in Camden Yards.

The Orioles took an early 3-0 lead against left-hander CC Sabathia on a two-out solo home run by Jones in the first inning, a sacrifice fly RBI by Jones in the third and a costly two-out RBI double by Caleb Joseph in the fourth.

Gonzalez (1-1) limited the Yankees to just two hits until the sixth inning when Jacoby Ellsbury led off with a single, advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored on a two-out double by Mark Teixeira.

The Orioles added a run in the seventh on a leadoff triple by Joseph and sacrifice fly RBI off the bat of Everth Cabrera.

Sabathia (0-2) pitched well but still yielded four runs on seven hits and one walk while he struck out seven in seven innings.

Gonzalez, however, surrendered one run on four hits and one walk in seven innings to earn the victory.

The Yankees mounted a late rally against right-hander Kevin Gausman in the eighth when Didi Gregorius reached on a bloop single. After Alejandro De Aza made a running catch of Ellsbury’s opposite-field fly ball, Chase Headley singled to advance Gregorius to third.

Then second baseman Jonathan Schoop made a diving stop of Carlos Beltran’s ground ball to retire Beltran as Gregorius scored.

Then Teixiera lofted a fly ball into left that ticked off De Aza’s glove for an error and allowed Headley to score to cut the deficit to one run.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter was forced to bring his closer, left-hander Zach Britton, to quell the rally with the tying run on second.

Schoop made another running grab of Brian McCann’ roller into shallow right-field to end the rally.

Britton pitched a perfect ninth to earn his second save of the season.

The Yankees are now 3-5 on the season. The Orioles are 4-4.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Sabathia was plagued by an inability to pitch one clean inning. He was tagged by single hits in every inning he pitched except the fourth when he yielded two. Still, with all that, the Yankees’ inability to score him any runs doomed him despite his seven strikeouts. So you can say that Sabathia was outpitched but he was not outclassed.
  • Teixeira looks locked in at the plate in the early going. He drove in one run with a double and his fly ball did allow Headley to score. While most of the Yankees are struggling with the bat, Teixeira appears to be primed for a big season in the cleanup spot.
  • Beltran has been struggling to find his groove and yet he was 1-for-4 with an RBI and he hit the ball hard in each trip to the plate. His grounder in the eighth almost was a single and the play by Schoop that retired him saved the Orioles was the crucial play of the game.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • I am not a big fan of Garrett Jones. The veteran first baseman/outfielder struggled all through spring training and he has started the season off slowly as well. He was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and he bounced back weakly to the pitcher in his first at-bat. He is hitting .154. Jones is being paid to hit right-hand pitching and if he doesn’t the Yankees will have to look elsewhere.
  • McCann looked as if he was getting hot and then he regressed on Tuesday by going 0-for-4 on four groundouts. The Yankees need McCann to deliver big numbers in power and RBIs this season. His at-bat against Britton in the eighth was critical and he failed to deliver.
  • Sabathia is a waste of space as a fielder. The Yankees had a potential double-play ball in the second inning off the bat of Chris Davis. Teixiera fielded it and he threw to Gregorius to retire Delmon Young, who had singled. But when Gregorius made the return throw to first, Sabathia failed to cover the bag. Second baseman Stephen Drew tried to cover but was late. Later that inning, Sabathia was charged with an error when his throw to retire Joseph hit the runner. Luckily he retired De Aza to end the inning without a run scoring. Once again, manager Joe Girardi needs to lay down the law on Sabathia to do his job.

BOMBER BANTER

Starting left-fielder Brett Gardner did not play on Tuesday and Girardi said he likely will serve as a defensive replacement and pinch-runner until Friday. Gardner was struck on the right wrist by a pitch from left-hander Wei-Yin Chen on Monday and he was forced to leave the game in the seventh inning.

ON DECK

The Yankees will try to win the series against the Orioles on Wednesday.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi will make his second start of the season for the Yankees. Eovaldi had a sensational spring but he had a bit of a hiccup in his first start against the Boston Red Sox on Friday. He was charged with three runs on eight hits and a walk while he struck out one in 5 1/3 innings of a game that lasted 19. The Red Sox won it, 6-5.

The Orioles will call on right-hander Bud Norris, who was gouged for eight runs on seven hits and one walk in just three innings by the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday. The Orioles say they are not concerned about Norris but he was 0-3 with a 9.26 ERA this spring.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

Drew’s Pinch-Hit Grand Slam Clips Orioles’ Wings

GAME 7

YANKEES 6, ORIOLES 5

Yankees manager Joe Girardi was forced to replace Brett Gardner in the lineup with the bases loaded and two out in the seventh inning on Monday so he called upon Stephen Drew. The 31-year-old infielder made Girardi look like a genius when he won the game with a pinch-hit grand slam.

Drew’s home run came on a 3-1 count off right-hander Tommy Hunter and it turned a 4-2 deficit into a 6-4 Yankee lead as New York held on to edge Baltimore at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

The Orioles had just taken a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth when Adam Jones victimized right-hander Michael Pineda with a two-out, two-run home run.

But the Yankees managed to load the bases against Hunter (0-2) on a single by Chris Young, a walk to John Ryan Murphy and an infield single by Jacoby Ellsbury.

Gardner was due up but his right wrist was swollen after being hit by a pitch in the first inning by Orioles left-hander Wei-Yin Chen. So Girardi sent Drew up to pinch-hit and the result was the 11th pinch-hit grand slam in team history.

Pineda (1-0) yielded five runs on nine hits with no walks and nine strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings to earn the victory despite not looking as sharp as he did in his first start. Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller held the Orioles scoreless the rest of the way with Miller earning his second save of the season.

The Yankees took an early 1-0 lead on the O’s with two out in the second inning when Young cracked his second home run of the season off Chen.

The Orioles quickly answered with two runs in the bottom of the frame on consecutive one-out RBI doubles by Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop.

But the Yankees were able to tie the game up with two out in the fourth when Mark Teixeira took Chen deep for his third home run of the season.

With the game 6-4 in the seventh, the Orioles loaded the bases with a pair of hits off Pineda and another off Betances. Alejandro De Aza then hit a potential double-play ball to Drew but Didi Gregorius’ throw to first was wide of the bag and it allowed Machado to score to draw the Orioles to within a run.

However, Betances was able to end the threat with a bases-loaded strikeout of Chris Davis, who struck out in all of his four at-bats.

With the victory the Yankees improved to 3-4. The Orioles are also 3-4.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Drew entered the game 3-for-20 (.150) but he had homered and driven in two runs in Sunday’s 14-4 thrashing of the Boston Red Sox. Drew is coming off his worst season as a professional and the Yankees are hoping he can bounce back this season. His grand slam goes a long way towards proving he could be on the road back.
  • Teixeira might be on the same road back also after hitting three home runs in his first six games of the season. In 2011, Teixeira hit 39 home runs and drove in 111 runs. But since then the 35-year-old first baseman has been plagued by injuries. After going on a gluten-free, non-dairy diet this offseason, Teixeira looks fit and his early results look real good.
  • Miller entered the game with one out in the eighth and ended up striking out three batters to earn a five-out save. Miller helped carry the Orioles into the playoffs last season but on Monday he used his patented slider to make them look bad. Given Betances’ shaky outings, Miller looks like he has a solid grip on closing duties for now.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Carlos Beltran was 0-for-4, including hitting into a double play and a strikeout. He is batting .143 early this season. The 38-year-old outfielder is coming off a injury-marred 2014 campaign and the Yankees need him to return to the form that saw him hit .296 with 24 home runs and 84 RBIs for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2013.
  • Gregorius was also 0-for-4 and is batting .130 on the season. The Yankees are hoping that the 25-year-old shortstop can develop as offensive threat this season. His defensive skills are excellent but he has looked a bit shaky in the field early. But his biggest problem has been base-running gaffes. The Yankees can afford to be patient with him though.
  • Betances walked two batters and gave up two hits in his one inning of work. He was lucky he was able to get Davis to strike out with bases loaded in the seventh but he needed help in the eighth when Jones singled to open the inning. Murphy threw out Jones attempting to steal, one of two base-runners he cut down attempting to steal. Betances promptly walked Travis Snider and Girardi was forced to pull him early in favor of Miller.

BOMBER BANTER

Gardner is listed as day-to-day but he likely will miss at least one game with a bruised right wrist. X-rays on Gardner’s wrist were negative. Gardner, 31, was hit almost in the same spot in Wednesday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays.  . . .  In yet another bullpen move in the wake of Friday’s marathon 19-inning 6-5 loss to the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees on Monday recalled right-hander Joel De La Cruz from Double-A Trenton and designated for assignment right-hander Kyle Davies. Cruz, 25, was 7-9 with a 4.44 ERA in 28 games (22 starts) with Trenton and Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre last season. Davies, 31, pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings on Sunday against the Red Sox. It was his first appearance in a major-league game since 2011.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their three-game series with the Orioles on Tuesday.

Veteran left-hander CC Sabathia gets the start for the Yankees. Sabathia gave up five runs (four earned) on eight hits but did strike out eight batters in a loss to the Blue Jays on Thursday.

The Orioles will counter with right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, who surrendered a run on three hits and five walks in 5 2/3 innings in a loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

A-Rod Leads Way As Yankees Thrash Buchholz

GAME 6

YANKEES 14, RED SOX 4

Just when the fans and media were in panic mode the Yankees had a big surprise awaiting their hated rival on Sunday. After scoring only 17 runs in their first four games, the Yankees pounded the Red Sox for 14 runs and 16 hits.

Alex Rodriguez lashed a bases-clearing double and Chase Headley and Stephen Drew hit back-to-back home runs as New York pounded Boston’s Clay Buchholz for seven first-inning runs in a rout witnessed by a paid crowd of 43,019 at Yankee Stadium and a national TV audience.

Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (1-1) was the beneficiary as he yielded four runs (three earned) on four hits and three walks while he fanned four in five innings of work. Although Tanaka was far from dominant, he did manage to silence those who believed he was pitching hurt.

Meanwhile, the Yankees sent 10 batters to the plate against Buchholz (1-1), who entered the season as the Red Sox ace despite an 8-11 record and 5.34 ERA last season.

After the Red Sox scored three runs off Tanaka in the fourth inning, keyed by a two-run double off the bat of Xander Bogaerts, the Yankees chased Buchholz in the bottom of the frame with three runs of their own.

After Didi Gregorius and Jacoby Ellsbury reached on singles, Brett Gardner hit a two-run single up the middle to score both. After an infield hit by Carlos Beltran, the Yankees chased Buchholz on a sacrifice fly by Mark Teixeira that made it 10-3.

Buchholz was charged with 10 runs (nine earned) on nine hits and two walks with three strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings.

It was the worst beating a Red Sox starting pitcher has suffered from the Yankees in nearly 70 years. The last time the Yankees scored 10 runs off a Red Sox starter was against Dave “Boo” Ferriss on June 21, 1945.

With the victory the Yankees prevented a Red Sox sweep of the three-game series and improved their record to 2-4. The Red Sox are 4-2.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Rodriguez was pinch-hit for in the eighth and ended up 1-for-2 with a double, two walks, a run scored and four RBIs. He is 6-for-20 (.300) on the season with a homer and a team-leading six RBIs. His three-run double in the first inning set the tone for the whole evening and it certainly appears that if he remains healthy he is primed for what could be an impressive comeback season.
  • Headley was 3-for-5 with two singles, a homer, a run scored and three RBIs. He entered the game 3-for-22 (.136) and he already had committed two errors on the young season. But on Sunday he looked like the same player who won the Silver Slugger Award and the Gold Glove with the San Diego Padres in 2012 when he hit 31 homers and drove in 115 runs.
  • Brian McCann homered to lead off the eighth inning off closer Edward Mujica to complete the scoring. It was McCann’s first home run of the season the 200th of his career. The shot was a line drive that scraped to the top of the wall in right-field but it still counts as a home run. He is now 4-for-11 (.364) in his past two starts.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

The Yankees committed another error, had a runner caught stealing and had another doubled up running the bases but it really does not matter much in the end. Watching them bust out the heavy lumber to thrash their hated rival is never worth nitpicking over.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees on Sunday designated for assignment left-hander Matt Tracy and selected the contract of right-hander Kyle Davies from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Davies, 31, had not pitched in a major-league game since 2011 with the Kansas City Royals. Davies entered the game with two in the seventh and did not yield a run on three hits and no walks. Tracy, 26, pitched two innings in Saturday’s 8-4 defeat, giving three runs (none earned) on two hits and two walks and one strikeout. The Yankees were forced to make the moves to bolster their bullpen because of the 19-inning game they lost to the Red Sox 6-5 on early Saturday morning.

ON DECK

The Yankees will head out on their first road trip and the first stop is at Camden Yards to face the Baltimore Orioles on Monday.

Right-hander Michael Pineda will start for the Yankees. Pineda, 26, held the Toronto Blue Jays to two runs on six hits and one walk while he struck out six in six solid innings on Wednesday. However, Pineda did not get a decision though the Yankees rallied to win the game later.

Pineda will be opposed by left-hander Wei-Yin Chen, who did not get a decision either after giving up three runs on four hits and two walks in 4 1/3 innings against the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by ESPN and locally by WPIX.

 

Yankees Poised To Finish Third In A.L. East

With spring training in their rear-view mirror and the 2015 season about to start, the question is where will the New York Yankees finish in the American League East. The Yankees have failed to make the playoffs the past two seasons and many experts believe it will be three. But with the additions the Yankees made could they possibly have a surprise in store. Here is how I project it.

NEW YORK YANKEES

First of all, let’s admit that this is not your father’s A.L. East. There is NO dominant team in the division and there is not much separation between any of the five teams in terms of talent.

That said, the Yankees come into 2015 building around the foundation they began with their half-billion dollar investment last winter with the signings of outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, catcher Brian McCann and right-handed pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.

Those free agents were added to the holdovers in shortstop Derek Jeter, first baseman Mark Teixeira, outfielder Brett Gardner and left-hander CC Sabathia.

General manager Brian Cashman actually started the rebuilding process for 2015 last summer by retaining a number of players they acquired around the trade deadline or later such as third baseman Chase Headley, second baseman Stephen Drew, outfielder Chris Young and left-hander Chris Capuano.

With the retirement of Jeter, the loss of free-agent closer David Robertson and right-hander’s Hiroki Kuroda’s decision to end his career pitching in his native Japan, Cashman was forced to shuffle the deck by using young pitchers like right-handers David Phelps and Shane Greene and left-hander Manny Banuelos to bring in right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, backup first baseman and outfielder Garrett Jones, starting shortstop Didi Gregorius and relievers David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve.

Cashman also used cash to lure free-agent left-hander Andrew Miller to bolster the bullpen around rookie sensation Dellin Betances.

The result is a team that features a starting lineup of eight players ranging in age from 31 to Alex Rodriguez at 39. The former starting third baseman is returning from a year-long performance-enhancing drug suspension to become the team’s designated hitter.

Only Gregarious at age 25 is considered young.

However, the rotation features a 26-year-old in Tanaka, a 26-year-old in Michael Pineda and a 25-year-old in Eovaldi. A spring injury to 36-year-old Capuano has thrust 27-year-old Adam Warren into the No. 5 slot. So the only pitcher over 27 in the Yankees rotation is Sabathia, who is 34. When is the last time you could say that about the Yankees’ rotation?

The bullpen will center around Betances, 26, and Miller, 28, who are  –  at least for now  –  going share the closing duties. If both pitch as they have up to now, it will be a very good shutdown pair because neither have been hit hard by righties or lefties.

The concern will be with the setup spots. Warren is in the rotation so the Yankees will be counting on the right-handed Carpenter, 29, and left-handed Justin Wilson, 27, who was acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates with Cashman using the team’s catching surplus to deal away Francisco Cervelli.

If Carpenter and Wilson are successful, the bullpen will have a chance to be very good. If they fail, it could be a long season. Warren’s shift back to the bullpen with the return of both Capuano and right-hander Ivan Nova from Tommy John surgery in June can only be a big plus for the group.

Esmil Rogers, 29, will handle long relief. Shreve, 24, gives Girardi a third left-hander and 6-foot-8 right-hander Chris Martin has 95-mile-per-hour stuff that moves on an extreme downward plane. This trio looks solid and give Girardi credit for being a master of managing bullpens.

All spring long the Yankees struggled to score runs. It was not too much different from the way the offense struggled last season.

A pair of speed demons  –  Ellsbury and Gardner  –  are stacked on top of the lineup. The idea is to get them on base as much as possible and let them use their speed to get into scoring position for the middle of the lineup.

Both combined to steal 60 bases in what both players admittedly could call an off year. So they hope they can top 80 this season.

The whole strategy rests upon the middle of the order bouncing back from injuries and off years in 2015.

The third batter, Beltran, incurred painful bone chips in his right elbow and ended up posting the worst numbers of his career.

The cleanup hitter, Teixiera, was still limited by a sore right wrist and other injuries and posted only 22 home runs.

Although the fifth hitter, McCann, did crack 23 home runs and drive 78 runs, he only batted .232. So the Yankees would like him to hit closer to his career .272 average this season.

That is plenty of firepower but it seems like a fragile situation counting on Beltran, who will be 38 on April 24 and Teixeira, who will be 35 on April 11.

Behind McCann may be the one diamond-in-the-rough player who is primed for  huge season in Headley, 30, who hit 31 homers and drove in 115 runs for the San Diego Padres in 2012. Back issues have hampered him for the past two seasons but he seems healthy now.

He batted .305 with three homers and eight RBIs this spring and the former Gold Glove winner has been flashing some serious leather at third base.

It is unclear how much A-Rod will contribute from the DH spot. Rodriguez has not played more than 138 games since his Most Valuable Player season in 2007. Hip surgeries, nagging other ailments and the drug suspension have teamed with Father Time to make him an unknown quantity.

This spring, Rodriguez batted .267 with three homers and four RBIs and he did not look overmatched at the plate. But it is hard to know what A-Rod will provide until the bells rings on the regular season.

Nowhere did the Yankees look more vulnerable last season than at second base. After Robinson Cano took his power, his .300 average and his Gold Glove defensive skills to Seattle, the Yankees tried veteran Brian Roberts at the position.

But his batting and fielding skills eroded over four seasons of injuries and the Yankees cut him loose in July in favor of Drew, who had never played second base in the pro baseball. Drew also was dealing with a season-long hitting slump that saw him bat only .162 between the Boston Red Sox and the Yankees.

Drew started this spring very slowly but emerged to bat over .470 in the final three weeks with three home runs. Drew has been working with the Yankees’ new hitting coach Jeff Petland and it seems to have been paying some dividends. The Yankees would settle for Drew batting .250 or so with 15 homers and 65 RBIs this season. Those had been norms for Drew in his previous seasons.

Though it was sad to see the 20-year era of Jeter’s career at shortstop come to an end, the Yankees are very hopeful they have an emerging star in the making in Gregorius.

What fans immediately saw this spring is that Gregorius has outstanding range, great hands and an powerful and accurate arm. The Yankees believe his defense will be upgrade since Jeter’s range had been so limited the past several years.

Jeter batted .256 in his final season and the Yankees hope that Gregorius can possibly top that average this season largely batting ninth. When Gregorius was in Arizona, manager Kirk Gibson benched him against left-handers because he has batted only .150 in his career against them.

But the Yankees allowed him to hit against left-handers this spring and Gregorius did not seem to look bad against them. So, for now, Girardi is content with playing his young shortstop every day.

The bench is solid and features power-hitting right-hander Young and power-hitting left-hander Jones. Young, 31, had an exceptional spring and he brings athleticism to all three outfield spots he plays and a potential deadly bat against left-handed pitching.

Jones, 33, hit 15 homers for the Miami Marlins last season and he seems to have the perfect swing for Yankee Stadium. Jones will primarily back up Teixeira at first and he can also play the corner outfield spots, if needed.

Backup infielder Brendan Ryan, 33, had a spring he would rather forget. First, he was delayed at the start with a back injury he sustained lifting weights. After he returned, Ryan ended up pulling a right calf muscle last week and he will start the season on the disabled list.

Ryan brings a slick glove to second, shortstop and third base  –  although short is where he really shines in the field. But he can’t hit a lick. He has no power and he is a career .234 hitter.

The Yankees obtained infielder Gregorio Petit from the Houston Astros in exchange for cash in the last week of the spring. So Petit, 30, will assume Ryan’s role despite having played on only 62 major-league games with the Oakland Athletics and the Astros. He has batted .278 in just 151 at-bats. He will be a stopgap until Ryan is healthy again.

John Ryan Murphy, 23, managed to hold off a challenge from veteran Austin Romine this spring to remain the backup to McCann. Murphy batted .284 with a homer and nine RBIs in 32 games last season and the Yankees rave about his defense behind the plate.

But the biggest secret the Yankees are carrying with them now lies in the young players they were able to showcase this spring. For the first time in a very long time the Yankees have a number of very good prospects and some positional depth at the minor-league level that could be factors this season.

But the promise is even brighter longer term.

Right-handed starters Luis Severino and Domingo German (obtained in the trade for Phelps and Martin Prado) and left-handed starter Ian Clarkin along with left-handed reliever Jacob Lindgren and right-handed relievers Nick Rumbelow and Jose Ramirez are in the pipeline and moving quickly to the majors.

Second basemen Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela tore the cover off the ball this spring and their presence at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is just a taste of what is the horizon with outfielders Slade Heathcott and Ramon Flores also knocking on the door.

Right-hander Chase Whitley, 25, had a 1.17 ERA this spring and he still not crack the bullpen. You have to figure he is going to get a call-up to the 25-man roster at some point. Keep an eye also on Bryan Mitchell, who will be 24 this month. Mitchell drew rave reviews when he fanned Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez back-to-back in a five-inning effort in a split-squad game in Lakeland, FL, on April 2.

At Double-A Trenton will be prospects such as outfielder Aaron Judge and first baseman Greg Bird, both of whom looked undaunted by major-league pitching this spring.

Catching prospect Gary Sanchez, 23, is also not too far away from contributing in the major leagues.

Though Yankee fans and the Yankee front office never has shown much patience with its young prospects in the past, this group might just force the front office to use them and perhaps the revolving door of signing aging free agents will finally end.

Should the Yankees falter as what so many experts are predicting this season. The young players who are on the way could be a foundation to build around, It is there to see. It is just up to Cashman and the Yankee front office not to screw it up.

Here now is my brief assessment of the other four teams in the division and my prediction for the order of finish in 2015.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

This is a team that ran away with this division last season. But it is hard to see them as a “great” team.

Their ace is a very pedestrian Chris Tillman. Their offense lost outfielders Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis. They also are likely to be without Matt Wieters to start the season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Ditto for shortstop J.J. Hardy, who has left shoulder injury.

With all that they still have Adam Jones, Manny Machado and they are really hoping that Chris Davis recovers his home-run stroke.

Though Tillman is not a true ace they do have Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzales and Bud Norris to form a solid foursome. The bullpen with closer Zach Britton and setup guys Darren O’Day and Tommy Hunter is top notch.

They also have one of the best managers in baseball in Buck Showalter. So in Baltimore there is hope the O’s can repeat.

A lot depends on how new outfielders Alejandro De Aza and Travis Snider do to make up for the losses of Cruz and Markakis.

BOSTON RED SOX

This team flopped in 2014 and yet many are picking them to win the title in 2015.

Most of that is based on their offense. To Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Mike Napoli, the Red Sox have added Hanley Ramirez, Mookie Betts and Pablo Sandoval.

They are also hoping for better seasons and health from Xander Bogaerts and Shane Victorino.

However, it is hard to look at the rotation and see anything but potential disaster.

Clay Buchholz was 8-11 with a 6.34 ERA and is considered the ace. Rick Porcello did have a 15-13 record and a 3.43 ERA with the Tigers. But Justin Masterson was 7-9 with a 5.88 with the Cleveland Indians and the St. Louis Cardinals.

Lefty Wade Miley was 8-12 with a 4.34 ERA for the Arizona Diamondbacks. A better offense will help him but he is not anything close to Jon Lester, who the Red Sox traded last season and were unable to re-sign as a free agent.

No. 5 starter Joe Kelly (6-4, 4.20 ERA with the Cardinals) starts the season on the disabled list with right bicep injury. In addition, closer Koji Uehara, who just turned 40, is also on the disabled list with a hamstring injury so Edward Mujica and his 49 career saves are it for now.

There is no doubt that the Red Sox will be capable of scoring runs. The question is will it be enough runs to cover a pitching staff and an underbelly of a bullpen that could really exploited?

Add that up to the fact that catcher Christian Vazquez is out for the season to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and you have enough doubts about the Red Sox to make it unlikely they are a good choice to win this division.

The Toronto Blue Jays tried this approach last season and it did not work.

TAMPA BAY RAYS

This team seemingly lost everything so quickly that their home radio station, WDAE, is not very enthusiastic about them.

Manager Joe Maddon and his screwy ideas that seem to work on shifting is gone. General manager Andrew Friedman, who introduced sabermetrics and advanced scouting techniques to the organization that built this team, is also gone.

The team’s best pitcher in David Price was traded last season and now is pitching for the Detroit Tigers. Their second-best pitcher, Matt Moore, is not expected back until June because he is recovering from Tommy John surgery.

This spring they incurred injuries to their best remaining pitcher Alex Cobb. Their closer, Jake McGee, will miss the first month.

They also traded away offensive contributors such as Wil Myers, Ben Zobrist, Yunel Escobar and Matt Joyce.

The team’s offense can be wrapped up in third baseman Evan Longoria and a lot of hope and praying.

They are counting on production out of rookie outfielder Steven Souza Jr., who batted .130 this spring and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who the Indians discarded saying he could not play shortstop and he was not the hitter he was in 2011 (25 home runs and 92 RBIs).

They are still hoping that Desmond Jennings just shows one little spark of the long-departed Carl Crawford. But it is not looking like it will happen.

This could amount to one of the weakest hitting teams in baseball in 2015 and it could be worse without Maddon running the show.

Granted, Cobb, Moore, Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi could form a solid rotation when they are all healthy. The question is can the Rays tread water long enough to see that happen?

Though McGee, Grant Balfour and Brad Boxberger form a solid trio at the back of the bullpen, the Rays are counting on a pair of former failed relievers in Kevin Jepsen and Ernesto Frieri to help out in the middle innings.

They also do not have a decent lefty beyond McGee. Ouch!

After many years of dealing with their obnoxious cowbell-ringing fans  –  all of about 7,000 of them a game  –  it appears that the bloom is off the rose and the cowbells will eventually fall silent this season unless there is some sort of miracle new manager Kevin Cash can create.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

This was the sexy choice to win the division in 2014. Funny thing is, I would have selected them to win this season if young right-hander Marcus Stroman did suffer knee injury that will force him to miss the entire season.

Stroman would have formed a nice 1-2 punch with right-hander Drew Hutchison, who at 24 has progressed so much as a pitcher he is starting on Opening Day ahead of Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey and veteran Mark Buehrle.

To that they have added a pair of young pitchers in left-hander Daniel Norris and right-hander Aaron Sanchez, who looked to be the team’s closer in waiting until the team opted to use him as a starter instead.

The bullpen is untested but it has closer Brett Cecil. There is a lot untested pitchers in the mix behind him but 20-year-old Miguel Castro may end being something special as he gets his feet wet in the majors.

Like the Red Sox, the Blue Jays never have to worry about scoring runs. Add to the thundering power of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion the bat of third baseman Josh Donaldson, who hit 29 home runs and drove in 98 runs for the Athletics in their cavernous ballpark.

You would think Donaldson will love the Rogers Centre.

Though the Jays will miss line-drive machine Melky Cabrera, they still have Jose Reyes and they have also added catcher Russell Martin, who can hit 20 homers and run a pitching staff like a pitching coach.

So there is a lot to like.

The question is after losing Adam Lind and Colby Rasmus the Blue Jays are trotting a pair of young outfielders in Dalton Pompey (center) and Kevin Pillar (left). Much of what the Blue Jays do will revolve around what they do.

They also have a new second baseman in Devon Travis.

It is hard to pick a team to win with so many new players in the lineup like Pillar, Pompey and Travis. This team is carrying six rookies!

But the real test of how the Blue Jays do in 2015 will hinge on its pitching staff. Stroman was a much bigger loss than I think the Blue Jays can overcome.

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH

1) BALTIMORE ORIOLES (92-70)

2) TORONTO BLUE JAYS (86-76)

3) NEW YORK YANKEES (84-78)

4) BOSTON RED SOX (80-82)

5) TAMPA BAY RAYS (76-86)  Hello Montreal!

The Orioles will fall back to the pack but not enough to make much difference. The Blue Jays actually could have won it with Stroman, but now they will fall short and they will not win the wildcard either. I was tempted to pick the Yankees for second because Tanaka, Pineda and Eovaldi are all primed for excellent seasons. But the offense this spring was woefully lacking and it looks as if they will lose a lot of 4-3 and 3-2 games unless make a deal for a young slugger like Giancarlo Stanton. The Yankees just do not have that stud in the middle of the order and it will hurt. The Red Sox will be the Red Flops mainly because their pitching is not as good as people believe it is. Their bullpen also is much weaker without Miller. About all that the “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval is good for is twining with Ortiz to advertise for a doughnut shop. Ramirez is talented but he also is moody and can give up when things are not going well. Ask the Marlins and Dodgers. As for the Rays, their collapse could not have come at a worse time for them when attendance and TV viewership is dropping. The owner wants to have a new stadium built despite the fact that they are tied to dumpy and ugly Tropicana Field for many more years. That is why it is inevitable that the team will be sold and shifted to another city like Montreal soon. Tre bien!

Machado Helps O’s To Defeat Listless Yankees

GAME 9

ORIOLES 3, YANKEES 1

Manny Machado went 3-for-3, drove in a run and stole a base while left-hander Wei-Yin Chen held the Yankees to one hit in three innings as Baltimore edged New York on Tuesday at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, FL.

Jonathan Schoop and Machado broke up a scoreless tie in the fifth inning with back-to-back RBI hits off right-hander Branden Pinder. The Orioles added a run in the seventh when Rey Navarro blasted a home run over the left-field fence off left-hander Chasen Shreve.

The Yankees scored their lone run of the game when catching prospect Gary Sanchez notched his first home run of the spring in the eighth inning off right-hander Logan Verrett.

Right-hander Kevin Gausman followed Chen with two shutout innings to get credit for the victory. Pinder (0-1) took the loss. Despite giving up the home run Verrett earned a save.

The Yankees’ spring record dropped to 5-3.

FIELD FOCUS

Though he was handed the third-base job the second he signed a four-year, $52-million contract to remain with the team, Chase Headley is almost an invisible man in spring camp.

All the attention seems to be going to Alex Rodriguez, Didi Gregorius, Aaron Judge and Masahiro Tanaka. But, hey, that is just the way the 30-year-old Colorado native likes it. He just focuses on his work.

Headley entered the day 1-for-10 in early Grapefruit League action. But he fixed that by going 3-for-3 with two singles and ringing double off the wall in left-center in his last at-bat in the sixth inning. He exited the game for a pinch-runner and is now 4-for-14 (.286).

So much was made of A-Rod’s return to baseball it seemed that few people noticed that Headley was the third baseman, period. If Rodriguez wanted a job with the Yankees he would have to look elsewhere.

The Yankees became enamored with Headley after they acquired him from the San Diego Padres in July trade for Yangervis Solarte and right-hander Rafael De Paula. Headley batted .262 with six home runs and 17 RBIs in 58 games with the Yankees.

More important than his hitting was the fact that the former Gold Glove third baseman brought stability to a position that was pretty much a mess all season because Rodriguez was under a full season suspension by Major League Baseball for using performance enhancing drugs.

The Yankees want Headley to stabilize the position for the immediate future and Headley is just fine with that.

Tuesday was just another day at the office for him. It showed in his humility after the game.

“Personally, it’s early and you don’t take a whole lot out of it, good or bad,” Headley told reporters. “But it’s definitely nice to hit the ball on the barrel a few times and feel good about yourself. You know that the work you’re doing in the cage is starting to carry over a little bit.”

Keep working, Chase.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • It is a good thing that Headley was on the bus for Sarasota because if you erase his three hits the rest of the Yankees only managed three other hits. The Yankees are hoping that the back issues that Headley suffered through in 2013 and 2014 are behind him because Headley is capable of more than the 13 homers he has produced in the past two seasons.
  • Sanchez, 22, may not getting much buzz either because of flashier prospects like Judge, Greg Bird, Luis Severino and Rob Refsynder. But make no mistake that he is a prized prospect still. Sanchez’s long blast to left-center showed how much he can contribute offensively as a catcher. He hit 13 homers at Double-A Trenton last season. He is still young and the Yankees love his potential.
  • Chase Whitley, 25, started for the Yankees and did a bit of a Houdini act by escaping unscored upon despite giving up three hits and two walks in three innings. With two men on in the first Whitley managed to escape by getting Adam Jones on a popup and Matt Wieters on a groundout. Though he was not as sharp as he would have liked, Whitley at least battled to keep the Orioles off the board.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Gregorius went 0-for-3 and is now 1-for-12 (.083) with four strikeouts this spring. The Yankees are letting the 25-year-old shortstop hit off lefties this spring and it is obvious it is a work in progress. Gregorius did not look comfortable against Chen at all.
  • It was obvious that Pinder, 26, did not have it all. When he entered the game in the fifth he immediately yielded a single to Ryan Lavarnway, threw a wild pitch and then gave up the RBI double to Schoop and the RBI single to Machado. Pinder is coming off an injury-plagued season even though he was 3-0 with a 2.04 with three teams last season.
  • I will keep saying it until I am blue in the face but second base is the weakest position in the Yankees 2015 lineup. Stephen Drew was 0-for-3 in the game is now 1-for-11 (.091). With Jose Pirela and Refsnyder breathing down his neck you think he would push himself to do better after hitting .162 last season.

ON DECK

The Yankees will play host to their hated rival Boston Red Sox on Wednesday at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

The Yankees will call upon left-hander Chris Capuano (0-1) to start. Capuano, 36, was tagged for a two-run homer by Tony Sanchez in the second inning and took a 3-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates in his first outing on Friday.

The Bosox will counter with 26-year-old right-hander Joe Kelly, who was hammered for seven hits and four runs in 1 2/3 innings in his first start.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

Pineda, Eovaldi Sharp As Yankees Outshine Rays

GAME 8

YANKEES 4, RAYS 3

Right-handed starters Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi held Tampa Bay scoreless through five innings  –  combining to strike out seven batters  –  while Alex Rodriguez was 2-for-3 with his first RBI of spring as New York rolled to victory on Monday at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL.

Pineda, 26, made his first start of the spring and held the Rays to a first-inning single by Desmond Jennings and he fanned two in 25-pitch outing in which he threw 17 strikes.

Eovaldi, 25, entered in the third inning and yielded three hits with no walks and five strikeouts in his second outing in Grapefruit League play.

Pineda (1-0) got credit for the victory and reliever Chris Martin hurled a scoreless eighth inning while fanning two batters to earn a save. Rays starter Nathan Karns (0-1) was tagged for two runs (one earned) on three hits and a walk in three innings to take the loss.

With the victory the Yankees improved their spring record to 5-2.

FIELD FOCUS

Pineda’s major-league career has been a series of giant strides forward with periods of two steps back. He hopes 2015 just moves him forward after having his 2012 and 2013 seasons wiped away after surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder.

Last season Pineda was supposed to be healthy and ready to show the Yankees for whom they had traded after Pineda’s rookie season in 2011, when he was 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA with the Seattle Mariners.

After a promising 2-2 record with a 1.83 ERA in his first four starts last season, Pineda found himself suspended by Major League Baseball for 10 days after being ejected from a late April game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park with pine tar on his neck.

While Pineda was preparing to return from the suspension he severely tore the teres major muscle in his surgically repaired shoulder. He was shelved until the middle of August. Once again, Pineda showed the Yankees what they missed most of the year.

Pineda ended up 3-3 with a 1.91 ERA in those final nine starts. What sets Pineda apart from a lot of pitchers is that he can strike out a lot of batters (8.43 per nine innings) and at the same time his control is so precise (0.83 walks per nine innings). Both marks are Yankee records.

So 2015 begins with Pineda again primed for a big season and the Yankees are holding their breath that he can stay healthy enough to make 33 starts.

His first step on that road was Monday and Pineda looked very sharp in his first game action of the spring.

“This is what I want. I’m working hard everyday to be healthy and make it a good year, and help my team,” Pineda told reporters.

“I thought he looked great,” catcher Brian McCann told reporters. “The ball’s coming out with the same velocity, with some cut. He threw a couple of change-ups that were really nice that had some good action. His slider was there as well.”

So with his first test out of the way, Pineda can now look to take more small incremental steps throughout the rest of the spring. He hopes all is pointing forward because he refuses to takes any more steps back.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Seeing Pineda pitch well and watching Eovaldi record five strikeouts in his outing had to be encouraging for manager Joe Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild. The pair are two important pieces in the Yankees’ rotation plans for the 2015 season. Pineda could pair with staff ace Masahiro Tanaka to form the best tandem in the American League East. Eovaldi somehow only struck out 142 batters in 199 2/3 innings despite having electric stuff. Seeing Eovaldi strike out five means that he is elevating pitches as Rothschild has urged him to do.
  • Rodriguez began his day getting rousing cheers from Yankee fans and derisive jeers from Rays fans as he stepped in for his first at-bat. By the end of the day, Rodriguez was 2-for-3 with an RBI. It was his RBI single in the second inning off Karns that opened the scoring for the Yankees. In the early going, A-Rod is 4-for-9 (.444) with two walks in four games. Though it remains unlikely that Rodriguez will win any job other than as the right-handed part of a platoon designated hitter situation, the 39-year-old three-time American League Most Valuable Player is playing as if he wants to push Girardi into giving him a larger role.
  • Hot-hitting first-base prospect Greg Bird, 22, and outfielder Slade Heathcott added RBI singles off right-hander Kirby Yates in the seventh inning to extend the Yankees lead to 4-1. Bird is 5-for-10 (.500) with three doubles, a homer and four RBIs. Both Bird and 22-year-old outfield Aaron Judge are serving notice to Girardi that they want to play in the majors and soon. Neither will make the team but both are making great impressions with the coaches and their teammates.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Right-hander Diego Moreno, 27, blew the shutout and yielded three runs on two hits and a walk in the eighth inning. Eugenio Velez and Jake Elmore each collected RBI singles in the inning.
  • Carlos Beltran, 37, extended his hitless string this spring after going 0-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout. Beltran is 0-for-7 overall and his swing looks slow and mechanical. The Yankees are counting on Beltran to produce power and production from the No. 3 spot in the order.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees trotted out a lineup that could be a preview of their starting lineup when the season opens. The lineup featured outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury (CF), Brett Gardner (LF) and Beltran (RF) in the top three spots with first baseman Mark Teixeira, McCann (C), Rodriguez (DH) and Chase Headley (3B). It also had Stephen Drew (2B) and Didi Gregorius (SS) in the bottom two spots.  . . .  Right-handed pitcher Luis Severino was diagnosed with strep throat on Monday. The 21-year-old No. 1 prospect in the organization struck out three batters in 1 1/3 innings of work on Saturday. On Sunday he complained of flu-like symptoms and was sent to a local hospital for tests. It is unclear if Severino will miss his next assignment.

ON DECK

The Yankees will travel to Sarasota, FL, for their first meeting of the season with the Baltimore Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium.

Right-hander Chase Whitley, 25, will make his first start and his second appearance for the Yankees. Right-hander Esmil Rogers is also scheduled to pitch. The Yankees plan to send their starting infield of Teixeira, Drew, Gregorius and Headley.

The Orioles plan to counter with left-hander Wei-Yin Chen.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast on a delayed basis by MLB Network at 9 a.m. on Wednesday.