A Happy Easter to all my faithful readers and to those who mysteriously stumbled onto this blog looking for hope for the 2016 Yankees season.
Today was a very hot day in Tampa. A storm front was kind of sitting off the coast, making the 81° temperature feel like it was well above 90° thanks to the wonderful thing called humidity sitting at 80%. (To be fair, it’s currently 86°, feels like 96°, 70% humidity and with some clouds.) So mix that with mostly sunny skies at the start of the game, and it was just hot and sticky today. Fortunately, a slight breeze and some incoming clouds kept it from being a scorcher. But that should’ve been a sign of things to come in today’s short game (just 2 hours, 24 minutes).
It was Nasty Nate Eovaldi to start this afternoon’s game against the visiting Twins (with 3 former Yankees pitching, catching, and fielding in a Twins uniform). Eovaldi was certainly his “nasty” self for much of his 5+ inning outing. He had a bit of a dust-up in the 3rd when he allowed a 2-out single score on a solid RBI double, but that was it for the Twins for most of his time on the mound. He got a 5 “Nasty Nate” strike outs and one fantastic pick-off right in the 1st inning to show off his scary starter stuff.
And “Nasty Nate” ruled right until the fateful 6th inning.
Blame the heat, blame the holiday, blame whatever you want, but Nasty Nate left the field in the 5th inning and some guy who looked like him came on to pitch for the 6th and just never seemed to find the right pitching pattern to get the batters out again. A lead-off walk stole 2nd base and then scored on a nice double (same guy as above, by the way). A single then put runners on the corners, and another single scored another Twins’ run. A quick visit from pitching coach Larry Rothschild, and Eovaldi got a fly out for the 1st out of the game. But a single scored another run and a throwing error allowed runners to advance to scoring positions. That was it for Nasty Nate (and his lesser twin in the 6th inning).
Then came what I hope will be the reliable trio of April: Betances came on and gave up an RBI single before getting the 2 outs to get out of the inning. Miller followed him for the 7th and into the 8th, keeping the Twins from adding anything and just sweeping through their roster for 4 outs. And Chasen Shreve finished Miller’s 8th flawlessly, as we’ve come to expect from him. And it would be Kirby Yates’ turn to shine again in the 9th inning, plowing through the last 3 Twins batters with ease.
On the flip side of things, the Yankees faced an old teammate to start for the Twins, managing 3 hits and a walk off him over his 6 innings, except for Brett Gardner’s 1-out solo home run in the 4th. Honestly, the pitcher did a really good job and has for the Twins since he went there a few years ago. Sometimes, all you need is a change of scenery to restart and remember why people though you could pitch in the first place. Looks like it worked for him.
The next 2 relievers and innings were just the Yankees hitting into grounders and pop outs. But then in the 9th inning, there was a bit of hope. A 1-out walk and a 2-out single put runners on base, and it was up to assumed regular back-up catcher Austin Romine to some how make up the 4-run deficit. He did his part with a solid single that scored the lead runner. Then with runners at 1st and 2nd, the last Yankee batter didn’t get a good hit in and popped out, splitting his bat into 3 pieces and sending them flying.
Final score: 5-2 Twins.
Roster updates: Before the game, the Yankees announced that Chris Denorfia exercised his opt-out clause and was released from his contract. Probably a very smart move on his part, as there really isn’t a solid fit for him either on the regular roster nor on Scranton’s. Best of luck there. And they optioned Rob Refsnyder to AAA Scranton and reassigned him to minor league camp. One reporter joked this was probably 2-days too late for this decision, and another tweeted that they reassigned him to keep him safe. Seriously though, the Yankees are looking at Refsnyder to improve in his role as a utility infielder, especially at 3rd base, and taking the time to refine and polish those skills in Scranton is always worth the time and effort. We’ll see him again… probably very soon.
No one for my “one to watch” today. It wasn’t that kind of game. Not that there were any veterans that stole the show either. The only thing I will mention is that Romine’s RBI single today certainly put a nice flourish on his campaign to be the regular back-up catcher. It always seems like this role is in competition every Spring, and last year, I just wasn’t sure who would get it until they announced it was Murphy (the Twins’ starting catcher today, by the way) right before the season began. But Romine’s behind the plate maturity and his offensive contributions have been outstanding since the first day of this pre-season. I would be (as would most everyone else at this point) really shocked if the Yankees went a different direction short of something obvious like an unexpected injury or trade. (Fingers crossed for neither.)