Spring Game 17: MIN vs. NYY — Opportunities chilled out just short of success

It was 61° at first pitch and windy, and as the sun set, it just got colder. In other words, while the Northeast may be bracing for its 3rd major storm of the winter, Florida was in the middle of its continued winter. I know that must sound like heaven for some of my readers, but when it was just 80-something a few weeks ago, this week is going to be frigid in the busiest home week at Spring Training this year.

The Yankees hosted the Twins for tonight’s game, calling on Masahiro Tanaka to have a better outing than his last one. And overall, he did. Tanaka threw a pretty solid 4 innings, getting a strong 6 strikeouts. His weakest inning was the 2nd, allowing 3 of his 4 allowed hits and his lone walk. Unfortunately, one of those was a 1-out double and the next one was a 2-run home run to get the Twins on the board early. But outside of that Tanaka set a nice pace for the Yankees’ pitchers tonight.

Dellin Betances came out for 2 quick strikeouts in the 5th, and Chasen Shreve finished off the inning quickly to keep the Twins from adding to their lead. Domingo German came on for a solid 3 innings, adding 3 more strikeouts to the Yankees’ pitching total tonight. German kept the ball rolling and handed things over to Tommy Kahnle for a scoreless 9th. All these pitchers just waiting for the Yankees to do something. Anything really.

Despite some, shall we say “questionable calls”, the Yankees did get many opportunities to change the game in their favor, thanks in part to the strong pitching. The lone successful one was Tyler Austin’s big 2-out solo home run over the center field fence in the 4th to get the Yankees on the board.

There was a really close shot in the 3rd with Torreyes’ big lead-off double but he was tagged out coming home on Wade’s double. (Yes, Wade is back after his wrist injury and looking good again.) Two outs later left Wade stranded on base. And in the 8th, Florial and Robinson worked walks and ended up in scoring position before a dribbling ground out ended the threat. A final hope came in the 9th, putting more runners in scoring position, but the final out was a solid catch in left field to hand the win to the Twins.

In other words, the Yankees were pitching well, but not putting together much hitting-wise.

Final score: 2-1 Twins

Next up: the Yankees host the Tigers tomorrow afternoon. The Yankees host 5 games at home this week, their busiest week at home this Spring. CC Sabathia is scheduled for the start.

One to Watch: I’ve got to give this to Tyler Austin today. Of course, he helped this cause by hitting that 4th inning home run. But Austin has been a constant on the roster this Spring and proved his defensive skills are worth being considered Bird’s first replacement at 1st base. Barring some injury, Austin will probably spend this year with AAA Scranton so he can play every day and sharpen those skills, laying in wait for his next shot at the big leagues. It’s hard not to forget how he made his rookie at-bat in 2016.

Roster moves: before the game, the Yankees designated outfielder Jake Cave for assignment, released infielder Danny Espinosa, and reassigned infielder Kyle Holder to minor league camp. All of this is because the Yankees officially signed veteran infielder Neil Walker. Walker began his career with the Pirates for 7 years, playing with the Mets and Brewers for the last 2 seasons before becoming a free agent.

Walker was just playing in the “Free Agency Camp” that many unsigned players are using to keep their skills sharp and be a running preview for potential scouts. Hey, it worked for Walker. The Yankees are still playing with who will be their starting second and third basemen, so throwing a veteran presence like Walker (who they have been interested in for a while) in the mix creates more options for the team.

Injury updates: Spring Training fixture, guest instructor, Yankees special advisor, and (oh yeah) Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson tripped while out walking today and seriously injured his knee, forcing surgery tomorrow. Jacoby Ellsbury’s oblique injury continues to plague his Spring, and it’s looking like he may not be fully ready for Opening Day. And Clint Frazier is still dealing with lingering concussion effects. He’s following his doctor’s lead, the progress is slow, but he’s now working on some minimal exercises and hoping to ramp them up sooner rather than later. Get healthy, guys!

And finally a happy birthday to pitching coach Larry Rothschild, who might look like a quiet strength during a game but serves as a lion in the organization.

Go Yankees!

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