Spring Games 31 & 32: NYY vs. DET & PIT vs. NYY — Splitting the day, it may not count but it matters

Prior to today’s split squad games, the Yankees announced that Brendan Ryan was diagnosed with a Grade 2 calf strain, which can take 6-8 weeks to heal properly. Both calves and strains are rather tricky when it comes to injuries, so an estimated date isn’t really in the works right now. No point in rushing him back and then doing further damage, rather similar to what happened to Mark Teixeira in late 2012. With that in mind, the Yankees acquired infielder Gregorio Petit from the Astros for cash considerations. Petit reported for duty, donned number 27, and played a little 3rd base late in the Tampa-based game today. So it looks like the back-up infielder (Ryan) has his back-up now (Petit).

So two games went on rather simultaneously today. Part of the team traveled to Lakeland to face the Tigers, while another part stayed at Steinbrenner Field to face the Pirates. As it happens so often on split squad days, the Yankees split their win-loss outcome as well.

In central Florida, Bryan Mitchell got the start against the Tigers, going 5 full innings, giving up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs, but also striking out 6 Detroit batters. It is not a coincidence that the only runs the Tigers scored were in Mitchell’s weakest inning (the 4th), where he gave up 1 of those walks and 3 of those hits. (Statistics-wise: looking at that game minus his 4th inning makes Mitchell’s overall outing rather good, perhaps his best all Spring.) Unfortunately, the 4th inning wasn’t as tight as the rest of his game — a lead-off walk, a flyout, a single, another single that loaded the bases, a strikeout, a 2-RBI single, and a wild pitch that scored the Tigers 3rd (and final) run. After another strikeout, going into the 5th inning, the Tigers were up 3-0.

The Yankees got one back in the 5th, though. Slade Heathcott led-off with a bunted single, stole 2nd base, ended up at 3rd on a line out, and then scored on Kyle Roller’s sacrifice fly. And then in the 7th, Murphy led-off with a double and then scored on Heathcott’s single. But that would be all for the Yankees offense, while reliever Kyle Davies finished the game, a solid 3 innings with nothing but 3 strikeouts for the Tigers.

Final score in Lakeland: 3-2 Tigers.

Then over in Tampa, the Yankees stayed strong under starter Michael Pineda, making his final start this Spring. Pineda threw 5.1 innings, gave up 6 hits, no walks, and just 1 run, and (much like his Lakeland counterpart today) struck out 6 batters. For much of the first part of the game, both the Pirates and the Yankees kept getting runners on base but not doing much to try to get them home. In the 6th inning, with 1 out, two back-to-back singles scored the first run for the Pirates. This triggered a pitching change, bringing in reliever Andrew Miller for what turned into a snazzy 1-pitch doubleplay to end the inning.

This seemed to break open the run-scoring doors for the Yankees. In the bottom of the 6th, Romine single and Jones doubled (Aaron Judge came on to pinch-run for Jones), and they both scored on Chris Young’s single, pushing the Yankees up over the Pirates 2-1. Young was pinch-run by Ben Gamel, who promptly advanced to 2nd on a groundout and then 3rd on a wild pitch before scoring on Rob Refsnyder’s single.

In the 7th, with 1 out, Bird, McCann, and Romine fill the bases with a single, a walk, and a messy (lucky) single. Bird and McCann’s pinch-runner Haddad scored on Judge’s single, and then Romine scored on Gamel’s sacrifice fly. The Pirates made a pretty good effort to get back those runs in the 8th inning loading the bases on reliever David Carpenter and then scoring just 1 on a sacrifice fly. A quick 2 outs later, and Carpenter joined the remaining Yankees fans in a sigh of relief. Ramirez got a quick 1-2-3 9th inning to close out the game and finalize the Yankees victory today.

Final score in Tampa: 6-2 Yankees.

Roster moves: as it is that time of year, Chase Whitley was optioned to AAA Scranton prior to today’s game. And Nick Noonan, Rob Refsnyder, and Eddy Rodriguez are reassigned to minor league camp (following today’s game, where they were needed to fill out the dual roster).

There is technically one more game in Spring, though many people are calling the game on Saturday in DC the final Spring game. A game that doesn’t count is still a game, so I guess we can consider them all exhibition games. Kind of puts all that excess energy people seem to have over the stats like wins and all their silly predictions in a different light. It reminds me of that improv show where the host asks the actors to do silly things and give them points, but the points don’t matter in the end as the host will just pick a random person to do the final improv act with the host himself. “That’s right, the points don’t count, just like every single Spring Training game.”

And before I go off on a philosophical tangent here, let’s remember that sometimes things that don’t count still really matter. I think about that when I watch the young minor league guys play with the veteran guys. They may never actually make it to the Bronx, but for that moment, they’re playing ball with some people they grew up watching on TV or even idolizing. It’s like a dream come true for some of these guys. So it may not count for much in the long-run, it most certainly matters more than we can possibly imagine to so many of these young guys.

And finally, (for something that also doesn’t really count but matters a whole lot), the Yankees announced that Joe Torre will be throwing out the first pitch at Opening Day. As if I needed one more reason to be excited for Monday…

Go Yankees!

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