Spring Game 15: PHI vs. NYY — Eovaldi & Headley lead the way to a win

The transition from Spring to Regular Season always begins when Spring rosters begin to shrink, as players that will start the year (and probably stay there all season) in the minor leagues are sent to become familiar with the minor league teams in minor league camp. Before the game, they reassigned Garrison, Goody, Graterol, Pazos, Moreno, Severino, and Webb. Following the game, they were joined by Jake Cave, Cito Culver, and Aaron Judge.

Starter Nathan Eovaldi threw 4 seriously great innings for the Yankees in today’s game against the visiting Phillies, giving up just 2 hits and striking out 3 batters. I wasn’t as familiar with Eovaldi before he was signed this offseason, so I was a little curious to see how he fared in pinstripes. But with his fastball sitting regularly around 96-98 mph (you could hear the snap of catcher McCann’s glove echo through the stadium each time) and a deceptively slow slider. He threw a total of 45 pitches, 38 were strikes.

Chase Whitley came on in relief in the 5th inning for his 2 inning outing today and put up a pretty good case for that 5th starter’s job, if not long-term relief in the bullpen. No Phillies ever made it on base and 2 of them struck out.

David Carpenter’s 7th inning was rather rocky, starting with a lead-off walk who advanced to 2nd on a steal and then to 3rd on a wild pitch, before scoring on a single. Carpenter came back for one batter in the 8th, but after giving up another single (he would be responsible for this batter), the ball was turned over to Justin Wilson.

Wilson promptly hit the batter (on the foot in a low inside ball) and gave up a wild pitch that advanced the runners. I should note that the Yankees catcher Murphy was up and ready to throw, but the young infielders were out of position and unprepared to cover their bases to get an out — a rarity, though not out of the realm for the more inexperienced fielders, a disappointment nonetheless. A groundout scored the runner from 3rd. It would be the last run the Phillies would score as Wilking Rodriguez’s 9th inning was rather flawless with a quick 3 outs to end the game.

On the offense side, the Yankees struck early. Jacoby Ellsbury’s lead-off standing triple easily put him in line to score on Brian McCann’s sacrifice fly. The Yankees maintained that 1-0 lead until the 7th inning, when the Phillies tied them up.

That didn’t last long as the Yankees came back in the bottom of the 7th with Chase Headley’s lead-off solo home run over the right-center field wall. 2 walks and 2 fly outs later, Slade Heathcott’s single caused some rather interesting chaos — while the 3 Yankee runners round the bases and the Phillies scramble for the ball deep in center field, Bird (the lead runner) scored just before Culver (the next runner) was tagged out on his way to 3rd. So the run counted, and the inning was over.

That extra run proved necessary when the Phillies scored that extra run in the 8th, but the Yankees shut them down and came out on top at the end of the 2 hour, 22 minute game. Final score: 3-2 Yankees

Also, on Friday, former Yankees President Al Rosen passed away at the age of 91. The Hall of Famer played for the Cleveland Indians in the ’50s, and considered one of the greatest hitters in that era, he earned the MVP in 1953. Post-baseball, he took a brief break from the game to be a stockbroker until coming back to baseball to work under fellow Ohioan George Steinbrenner as President and CEO of the Yankees through some of their more volatile years (1978-79, “The Bronx Zoo”). He moved on to work with the Astros in the same position and then as FM of the Giants, winning NL Executive of the Year in 1987. He is the only MVP in history to win the top executive award. A part of Yankees’ storied history, gone but not forgotten.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 1: NYY vs. PHI — It ain’t over ’til it ends in a tie, apparently

Well, the Yankees are certainly back in action… as the Yankees. A Yogi-ism is often seen as clichéd, especially when in use on a Yankees’ game, but today, it most definitely cannot be helped. Today’s game in Clearwater proved his “it ain’t over ’til it’s over” adage with a single swing. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

It may be March but the weather in sunny Florida seemed to be more in line with June, with the temperature hitting 82 about halfway through the game, though the temperature at the Bright House Stadium (the Phillies’ Spring Home in Clearwater) read nearly 10 degrees hotter. Today’s traveling squad for their first game this pre-season was a mix of Yankee veterans and non-roster invitees (and everything in between). And like so many games last season, this game seemed to be defined for the Yankees by the bookends.

Adam Warren threw the first two innings for the Yankees and looked just as sharp as he has in the past, giving up just 1 hit (a single in the 2nd inning) and no runs. Warren specializes in getting batters to hit the ball poorly to his defense, and a good defense will keep those runs off the board. And in spite of a bad throwing error by an infielder in the 2nd, no runner made it past 2nd base under Warren’s watch.

Prospect Luis Severino made his debut in the 3rd, and after a rather flawless 3rd inning with 2 strikeouts, struggled quite a bit in the 4th, giving up 4 hits and 2 runs with just 1 out in that inning. Moreno finished out his 4th inning, giving up a sacrifice fly (Severino’s runner), but a walk in the 5th ended up advancing around the bases and scored on a balk before Moreno got out of the inning. Goody’s 6th kept the Phillies from adding to their ever-increasing score, but Lindgren’s 7th got 2 outs, 2 hits, 2 runs, and a strikeout before Girardi opted for Pinder. Pinder closed out the 7th and threw a great 8th. Shreve, a recent signee, got the nod for the 9th, giving up just 1 hit and striking out 2 batters, just what the Yankees needed.

On the offensive side of things, the Yankees really out-hit the Phillies overall, and a good portion of that was in the first half of the game — 6 hits in the first 4 innings (with 5 in the first 2). With 2 outs in the 1st, Young singles, advances to 3rd on Jones’ single, and scored on Pirela’s single. The Yankees’ 1-0 lead was shortlived as the Phillies’ took advantage of some of the rookies’ nerves to tally up 5 runs over the next few innings. But even going into the 9th inning, the Yankees weren’t going to give up so easily.

I often associate Spring Training with a month-long “audition” for all those non-roster invitees and the minor leaguers on the extended roster to prove they’re worth a shot at the bigs this year. And boy, did some of those “auditioning” players make an impact in the 9th inning. Mason Williams led off the 9th inning with a double, advancing to 3rd on Figueroa’s ground out, (stayed put during a strikeout), and scored on Cave’s single.

Two outs on the scoreboard, with a runner on 1st, Slade Heathcott singled to put 2 runners on for prospect Aaron Judge. Two strikes to Judge and he finds a pitch he likes enough to send it over the left-center field wall for a 3-run home run to tie up the game 5-5. After the Phillies failed to get a run in the bottom of the 9th, the game ended in a tie. I know in the past, tied games have gone into the 10th to see if they can break the tie, but I guess it’s an option to end after 9, which is what they did.

Not a bad way to start the Spring — it’s not a loss; of course, it’s not a win either. But that 9th inning was something to watch. Judge has been one of the stories of Spring and the off-season, doing a great job in the Arizona Fall League. He is definitely one to watch, and I look forward to watching the young prospect in person.

The rest of the team was at Steinbrenner Field today with extended workouts. The team played an intrasquad game as practice yesterday, mixing up the Spring roster and giving the guys a chance to hit what was technically live batting practice against the Yankees’ pitching staff and essentially a “simulated game” for everyone.

It’s good to be back in the swing of things (bad pun intended), but it will certainly be better when it’s a win. But again, it’s Spring, and outside of the “audition” process, it really is just a month-long warm-up for the guys to get ready for the season.

Happy Spring Training!

Go Yankees!

Catchers away, Rule 5, and sleeping for charity

Personal life sometimes clogs up time and doesn’t allow for more frequent updates. Fortunately, in the off-season, it’s not like there’s much to talk about on a daily basis. Unfortunately, all those lovely plans I made for diving into history and legend and my own opinion have been shoved aside momentarily for the sake of off-season work.

Last week, the Pirates picked up yet another Yankees catcher. To recap the last couple of years, after the 2012 season, the Pirates signed Russell Martin (recently signed with the Blue Jays); then after 2013, they grabbed Chris Stewart; and now, they can claim Francisco Cervelli as a new Buc. Apparently, the Yankees are breeding grounds for Pirates catchers. In exchange for Cervelli, the Yankees acquired pitcher Justin Wilson, who will compete for a bullpen spot come Spring. The lefty debuted in 2012 with the Pirates and is very excited (via Twitter) to join the Yankees (but who isn’t?). Wilson: “[The Yankees:] Tradition and a first class organization. Can’t wait for Yankee baseball. Hope I look good in pinstripes!” If you’re wondering who’s now back-up for McCann, the Yankees look at Austin Romine and John Ryan Murphy to fill that role; one will undoubtedly win the back-up role and the other will continue in AAA Scranton as the starting catcher there. Spring is always the definer for such cases.

Okay, Zelous Wheeler fans… you will have to pay attention to Japanese baseball now because Wheeler is on his way to play for the Japanese Pacific League’s Rakuten Golden Eagles as of today. During the course of the day, as part of this same transaction, the Yankees filled out their 40-man roster with Tyler Austin, Mason Williams, Branden Pinder, and Danny Burawa. The biggest reason behind today’s moves were the midnight deadline to protect prospects for the Rule 5 Draft in a few weeks (December 11th). The Rule 5 Draft is a rather confusing part of baseball’s minor league system in which teams can draft a minor league player (signed over age 19 and played professional ball for at least 4 years or signed at age 18 and played for 5 years) to play on their 25-man roster for the entire next season; if the player isn’t kept on the 25-man, he is offered back to his original team who may decline the offer and the player reverts into essentially free agency. If minor league players are on the 40-man roster, they are officially “protected” and thus ineligible for what is essentially poaching of fresh talent.

Speaking of fresh talent… the Arizona Fall League finished up last weekend, and a couple of young Yankees certainly caught some eyes. Outfielder Aaron Judge ranked #13, catching the eye of several scouts due to his “huge raw power, patience, and arm strength”; this is significant because the Yankees just signed Judge in 2013 and is already making his mark in the Yankee organization. And 1st baseman Greg Bird ranked #19 overall, but was honored with the league’s MVP award; scouts note of his patience and power, after leading the AFL in home runs and runs scored, and was 2nd in hits RBIs, and total bases. Bird and Judge are both prospects not eligible for the Rule 5 Draft being relatively new to both professional baseball and the Yankees, but based on their performances this fall, it won’t be long before those two could become household names, hopefully in pinstripes for seasons to come.

And as you know, one of my favorite thing that the Yankees do is give back to their community. From HOPE Week to individual foundations and charities to community projects, the entire Yankees organization is actively involved in giving back. Tonight, GM Brian Cashman spends the night on the streets of Manhattan as part of Covenant House’s “Sleep Out” movement. The goal of the event is to raise awareness for homeless youth; this is Cashman’s 4th year, and he is joined by over 750 business, sports, and entertainment executives. Covenant House is nationwide an organization that provides job training, education, long-term housing, and second chances to homeless youth. The participants will sleep (or at least attempt to sleep) in a parking lot near the headquarters of the organization. As the weather turns, let us remember all those who don’t have somewhere warm to be when it snows and take an active role in helping; sometimes all that means donating blankets, sweaters, socks, or toiletries to a charity outreach or helping out at a soup kitchen or buying a needy family a holiday dinner. Just do something to give back; you’ll never regret kindness and they’ll never forget it.

Go Yankees!

World Series Game 6: SF vs. KC — Giants Royally flushed

I hate writing about games that end up as a complete slaughter because there’s no close drama, no tight rollercoaster of emotions tugging at the fans on both side, no real solid competition. It’s just clearly in one team’s control the whole time, and there’s nothing interesting to write about. Honestly, even when it’s the Yankees that just pummel their opponent, it’s often difficult to find the right angle to make a blog post interesting. Because just saying, “[Random Team] just trounced on [Opposing Team]” without talking about the give-and-take of a normal game is just boring.

I guess all I can say is that you are thus warned… I’m sorry. Blame the Royals.

Yes, the Royals won and tied up the series, but it was more in how they won. Or rather how it was certainly handed to them that made it rather painful to watch. It was the 2nd inning, that was either seen as ridiculously awesome to Royals fans or ridiculously awful to Giants fans. The Giants’ starter struggled a bit in the 1st inning, but not enough to cause much concern for the Giants. And then he just couldn’t seem to find his rhythm in the 2nd. Here’s what happened: single, single, RBI double, strikeout, single to load the bases, RBI single keeping bases loaded, (pitching change), 2-RBI single, 2-RBI double, RBI double, ground out, and foul pop up. Yes, if you kept count with all that, your math would add up to 7 runs for the Royals (on 11 batters).

Ouch is the appropriate sentiment, even if you are rooting for the Royals in this series.

The Royals then expanded that lead in the 3rd with a 2-out RBI ground-rule double, and then again in the 5th on an RBI double, and once more in the 7th with a lead-off solo home run.

And how did the Giants’ offense answer back? Get men on base but don’t let them score. Yes, we go to Game 7 with Kansas City jumping for joy with a big shutout. I’m not going to talk about the negative, so I’ll skip any comments on the entire Giants’ pitching staff. But I will say something about the Royals’ rookie starter — he’s pretty good. In honor of his late friend and cross-state competitor Oscar Tavares, Ventura wrote on his hat that this game (in which he would pitch so well) was dedicated to the memory of his friend. Our prayers continue to go our to the Tavares and Arvelo families during this time of loss.

World Series Game 6: Royals over Giants 10-0, series tied 3-3

Instead of the Yankee trivia bit, I thought I’d shake things up a bit and mention a couple of things in Yankee Universe. First, about halfway between the home towns of the two World Series teams, a slew of young hopeful prospects continue in the Arizona Fall League. If you don’t know what the AFL is, you’re not alone. It’s a special season in which prospects from each team are chosen to participate in an time of extended baseball; they are selected by their team, mostly from the AA and AAA levels. The league is set-up for players to develop and refine their skills and then play in front of scouts, executives, and other team personnel in a game setting. (The Wikipedia overview; and MLB information with current scores and standings.)

The Yankees are represented on the Scottsdale Scorpions (part of the East Division of the AFL, also populated by members of the Mets, Phillies, Pirates, and Giants) by pitchers Caleb Cotham, Kyle Haynes, and Alex Smith; catcher Kyle Higashioka; infielders Dante Bichette Jr and Greg Bird; and outfielders Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge. And though the Scorpions aren’t doing so well in the standings, word from Arizona is that some of these Baby Bombers have already sparked some conversation and interest — Bird, Austin, and Judge.

And finally, earlier this month, thieves broke into the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center in New Jersey and stole an undisclosed number of World Series rings and two of his MVP plaques. Berra won the AL MVP in 1951, 1954, and 1955. He won his 10 rings as a Yankees player in 1947, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1956, 1958, 1961, and 1962; as a coach with the Mets in 1969; and as a coach with the Yankees in 1977 and 1978. The police are still searching for the thieves, and the case is still open and ongoing.

In the mean time, the Yankees, the Mets, and MLB have supplied the Berra Museum with authentic replicas of the missing items. Fingers crossed here for total recovery and justice served in this case, but in the mean time, it’s nice to know that New York and Baseball still has Berra’s back all these years later. It certainly says a lot for his legacy, impact, and closeness to the game, the city, and the league.

“Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good, too.” — Yogi Berra

Go Yankees!

Game 60: NYY vs. SEA — 3rd inning impact

It seems that lately the Yankees are keen on picking a single inning to make a huge impact on the scoreboard and spend the other innings defending that impact. Tonight was no exception, and tonight they found an opportunity in the 3rd inning against the Seattle Mariners.

The Yankees went through 11 batters in the 3rd inning. Two singles set up Robinson Cano to hit his 15th home run of the season, and put the Yankees quickly up 3-0. Mark Teixeira grabbed his chance to jump in on the action with a long solo home run to right-center field. A single, a double, and 2 RBI singles (by Vernon Wells and Ichiro Suzuki) easily made it 6-0 by the end of the inning.

Starting pitcher Phil Hughes was in great form tonight, throwing 111 pitches over 7 innings, walking 2 and striking out 7 Mariners. One of those walks ended up scoring in the 8th inning on an RBI double. But that was the only score the Yankees would allow from the Mariners tonight, only allowing 4 hits all night. The Yankees relievers got themselves into some jams but were able nimbly work their way out of them and keep the Mariners at bay (just noticed the pun, sorry), with the help of the Yankees defense like a long, quick catch by (who else anymore) Jayson Nix.

The Yankees began their 4 game series in Seattle tonight to kick off their West Coast tour and will head down to Oakland and Los Angeles (Angels) next week. The hardest part about West Coast games for most of the Yankees fans is that they’re usually played in the evening (or the 7:00 pm game time), which is 10:00 pm for the East Coast. So while the West Coast crowd is finishing their 10:30 pm noshes at sports bars, the rest of the country is already considering it the “middle of the night”. And for those of us who write about it, it just gets to maneuver our schedules around. And honestly, it kind of reminds me of staying up late in college writing that 10 page paper I put off until the night before it was due. Fortunately, I don’t have an 8:00 am class tomorrow (whoever does the scheduling for morning college classes is a sadist, but that’s for a different time).

Also, in MLB news, the “other news” of the week is being gladly trumped by the MLB Draft. Tonight, the Yankees picked up three players due to their regular draft pick (#26) and two first round draft picks (#32 & #33) they acquired by losing Nick Swisher (to the Indians) and Rafael Soriano (to the Nationals). #26 went to 3rd baseman Eric Jagielo of Notre Dame; #32 picked outfielder and power hitter out of Fresno State Aaron Judge; and #33 is Ian Clark, a left-handed pitcher from San Diego. Welcome to the Yankees, gentlemen. You may not know it yet, but you’ve become a part of the most storied franchises in history. And by being chosen in the 1st round of the draft by the Yankees will forever be part of your history in MLB and a part of the Yankees.

Go Yankees!