Game 101: NYY vs. TEX — Lackluster Wednesday

Game recap first, then drama recap. And there is so much drama for a Wednesday.

Starter Andy Pettitte went into the 7th inning with his 94 pitches. Only one Texas player seemed to have Pettitte’s number to put any dent in the scoreboard. In the 1st inning, the batter hit an RBI single to put the Rangers on top 1-0 until the 6th inning, when the same batter’s solo home run kept the Texas in the lead. Shawn Kelley came on in the 7th with 2 runners on base and no outs and managed to get out of that inning scott-free. But then he allowed a solo home run in the 8th inning, furthering the Rangers’ lead.

Offensively, the Yankees had some rather lackluster moments. Their lone score came in the fateful 6th inning. Brett Gardner singled and advanced to 3rd on a really bad throwing error and complete mess chasing Gardner around the diamond. This put him in the perfect place to score easily on Robinson Cano’s single. They did hit off the newly acquired Rangers’ pitcher, and there were 2 errors made by the less-than-impressive Texas defense (including the one previously mentioned). But the Yankees just weren’t consistent in their offensive attack. Needless to say, the Rangers take their second game in this four game series with a final score of 3-1.

However, the coolest part about tonight’s game was Andy Pettitte passing the great Sandy Koufax on the all-time strikeout list with 2397 strikeouts, making him securely in 39th place, leading the current active players on the list. Teammate CC Sabathia isn’t that far behind him. But the major difference between the two is that Sabathia is a dominant strikeout pitcher, where as Pettitte tends to get batters to ground/fly out. Both still have plenty of time to cement their permanent numbers in the all-time list. But a big congratulations to Andy tonight, and I know we all look forward to watching those numbers continue to climb.

Luis Cruz was moved to the 15-day DL after spraining his right knee after Monday’s game. In his place, they recalled David Adams for that ever-needed infield support. Both Jayson Nix (hamstring) and Curtis Granderson (hand) report to the Tampa Yankees for their rehab assignments. David Phelps (forearm) is rehabbing with AA Trenton. And the Yankees decided to outright Alberto Gonzalez to AAA Scranton, meaning they released him but wanted to keep him nearby in case they need more infield support in the future.

Alex Rodriguez spent time today at the Tampa minor league complex working on his rehab. And because of his injury, his name was circulating all over the internet, Twitter, and sports shows; but not in a good way. Apparently, Rodriguez sought a second opinion on his recent quad strain, but without the consent of the Yankees organization. This is a violation of the standard agreement all players sign. To make matters worse, the doctor not only said there didn’t seem to be a strain, but he was also involved in recent reprimands due to his prescriptions of steroid-like substances. And with the rumors surrounding Rodriguez with the South Florida clinic, the last thing his name needs to be tied with is another questionable medical instance.

Like I said many times before, I won’t fall into assumptions or presumptions. And I won’t comment until solid facts and sentences have been pronounced or names have been exonerated. But when my Twitter is filled up with more of this medical story than the new royal baby, I have to at least mention the story. It’s days like this that I’m glad I changed my major in college from Journalism to English. So I’m not one of those people stalking stories, but rather reflecting on the application and life lessons you can get from the stories.

So what can we learn from today’s story? When you sign a contract, read it and make sure you’re following it. And make sure you steer clear of people who aren’t 100% above-board, especially when you’re currently mired in your own murky circumstances. Maybe you can learn by example, even if you don’t necessarily agree with how the person got to the point from where you’re drawing the conclusion and life application. Seeing as we are all only ever responsible for our own decisions, learning from another’s bad example is a great way to move forward and not repeat their mistakes. But it’s up to them to also learn from their mistakes and move forward, daring to never repeat their own mistakes.

And perhaps that’s the greatest lesson of all — it’s not if you make mistakes (because you will), but how you move forward from them. History is full of great men who failed spectacularly but figured out how to learn from and excel past those failures. That’s why history isn’t written until that person has lived their life and passed into legend, leaving behind legacy and success in the face of failure. If they wrote history in the middle of someone’s life, you can’t imagine the impact, the good that can come from one person, or to use an old phrase, you “can’t see the forest through the trees”. Biographies are better when there’s an end to the story so you can look back and see how all the pieces fit together.

So we’re still in the middle of the story. There’s still so much that can happen and will happen. So I look forward on reflecting on what did happen and how even the worst parts impacted the world for the better.

Go Yankees!

Game 97: NYY vs. BOS — Teamwork wins games, but Stewart ensures them

There was a determination on every Yankee’s face today that I haven’t seen in a few games, and that determination really rocked the Red Sox’s world and earned a really great Yankee win today.

So much of today’s win was clearly set forth early in the game by a near flawless Hiroki Kuroda. Through 7 full innings, Kuroda threw 104 pitches, allowing just 5 hits and the only 2 run the Red Sox would score today; he also allowed the only walk of the game. Both Boston runs were scored in the bottom of the 7th inning, a single and a double planted runner at 2nd and 3rd with no outs, so a sacrifice fly deep to center field easily scored the first Boston run, advancing the other runner to 3rd. He then scored on a wild pitch, hustling it all the way home to beat out the tag.

Kuroda was aided in his quest for a win by David Robertson in the 8th and Mariano Rivera in the 9th (for his 31st save of 2013), who kept Boston away from threatening the Yankees lead. Also sharing in today’s win was the really great defense (with some minor exceptions). Luis Cruz played the whole game at 3rd, snagging some great foul balls and always ready to make plays in the hot corner. Boston’s usually potent offense kept Brett Gardner on his toes out in center field, often thrown back to the warning track and up against the back wall to make the plays.

Outstanding defensive day for Chris Stewart,
here in mid-double play

But really, the defensive champion is most definitely catcher Chris Stewart. In the 1st inning, a long single to left field had Vernon Wells throwing a really long throw to an awaiting Stewart at home, who easily tagged the sliding runner to keep the Red Sox from making the first dent in the scoreboard. Then in the 5th, on a wild pitch by Kuroda, he rushed to grab the ball up against the back stop and tossed it to a waiting Kuroda who was able to tag out the advancing runner. But I think everyone’s favorite play came in the 8th inning. Robertson got a batter to pop up a foul ball into the stands behind the plate, which Stewart went over the wall and got the out. But he wasn’t done. Upon returning back to his feet, he fires the ball to 2nd base to get the runner trying to steal for an inning-ending double play, leaving the Boston batter just shaking his head in disbelief. And while many analysts seemed very surprised by Stewart’s excellent defense, I don’t think one Yankee fan was surprised after all he’s contributed to the team, especially in this season.

Now, in order to win ball games, you have to score some runs and make some hits. And today, the Yankees scored some runs and made some hits off the Boston bullpen. In the 5th inning, the Yankees strike first as Gardner singles home Cruz, putting the Yankees up 1-0. Then in the 7th inning, Eduardo Nunez doubles (leaving his helmet at 1st base, as usual) and Cruz singles to score Nunez (2-0). Gardner’s single forced Boston to turn to its bullpen, which Ichiro Suzuki grounds into a force out so Cruz is at 3rd, Gardner’s out at 2nd, and Ichiro is at 1st. Then back-to-back singles by Robinson Cano and Lyle Overbay score Cruz and Ichiro, respectively. And the Yankees are up 4-0 by the 7th inning stretch.

When the Red Sox cut their lead in half in the bottom of the inning, the Yankees decided to ensure their lead in the 9th inning. Cruz is hit by a pitch, and Gardner takes advantage of a fielding error to put the runners at 1st and 2nd. Cruz then steals 3rd, though he seemed almost shocked that he did so successfully. And it’s Cano again to earn an RBI via a sacrifice fly to score Cruz.

It should be noted that the Yankees offensively did extraordinarily well overall. Gardner went 3-for-5 with an RBI, Cano earned 2 RBIs (both Cruz), Overbay and Nunez both went 3-for-4 each with an RBI, and Cruz went 1-for-3 with an RBI. It should be noted that Cruz scored 3 of the Yankees 5 total runs today. And if anyone has job security in mind in his play today, it would be him.

Before the game, the Yankees recalled Thomas Neal and Melky Mesa up from AAA Scranton, placed Zolio Almonte on the 15-day DL (with his sprained ankle from yesterday’s game), and designated Alberto Gonzalez for assignment. The next lowest man on the totem pole (so to speak) would be Cruz, who up until today hasn’t been as productive on the field as the Yankees would like. I’m guessing his display today could buy his a few more games with the Yankees.

And while the talking heads seemed surprised at how well the 4th place Yankees were playing against the 1st place Red Sox, I don’t think anyone who’s ever watched a Yankees-Red Sox game before is ever surprised by anything that goes on at the games of the greatest rivals in baseball history. It doesn’t seem to matter the location or the standings, but this rivalry never ceases to surprise and stir up emotions of its fans. Fortunately, today did not disappoint. And today, the Yankees had the game from the first pitch by Kuroda to the last pitch by Rivera. Sometimes, you just know how the game’s going to end up. But with these teams, you just never know. That’s part of what’s fun about being part of this historic rivalry. It keeps you on the edge of your seat, anxiously awaiting the next Stewart double play or Nunez helmet-losing sprint or Ichiro steal or Rivera save. You just never know…

Go Yankees!

Game 89: KC vs. NYY — HOPE Week, lots of rain, & a loss

HOPE Week begins with the Rockaway Athletes

Today began my absolute favorite week of the season: HOPE Week. HOPE Week (Helping Others Persevere & Excel) started in 2009 as a way to publicly recognize and support local charities and organizations that serve the New York community. And for the first time, this year the minor leagues also participated in their local communities during their own HOPE Weeks. But HOPE Week isn’t just for the players, but also for the coaches, front office, and owners to spend time out with the 5 selected charities this year.

Ivan Nova, Preston Claiborne, Adam Warren, David Adams, Zoilo Almonte, and Alberto Gonzalez traveled out to Rockaway (one of the areas in the city hit hardest by Sandy last fall) to surprise a group called the Rockaway Athletes, the local chapter of the Special Olympics. The Yankees played with the special needs young people, served and ate lunch with them, and presented the organization with a $5000 check. (A full article about today’s HOPE Week outing can be found here.) Then, as an honor for their new partnership, one of the Rockaway Athletes threw out the first pitch before tonight’s game against the Kansas City Royals.

Starter Phil Hughes tonight didn’t get off to a good start tonight. At the top of the 2nd inning, he allowed a home run and 2 doubles that put the Royals up 2-0. Hughes was spared any further personal damage (though he ended up with the loss tonight) because about halfway through the bottom of the 4th inning, the heavens opened and rain and reports of hail poured into the stadium at unprecedented speed and volume. The umpires (who have to be the ones to call the rain delay) were late in calling the delay, which ultimately caused many problems with getting the tarp on the infield. It was raining so hard, the tarp became too heavy to pull onto the dirt and had to be dumped before finally applying it properly to the field. The rain and its subsequent clean-up (or should I say dry-out) caused a delay of nearly an hour.

When they resumed play, Hughes was out and Adam Warren was in. Warren seemed ready to deal with long-term relief, except for an RBI double in the 7th inning to put the Royals up 3-0. Lyle Overbay answered in the bottom of that inning with his own deep, pinch-hitting solo home run. When Warren gets into some trouble in the 8th, Preston Claiborne easily gets the last out of that inning and falters on his own in the 9th, allowing a single, an RBI double, and an RBI triple to put the Royals up (to what would prove the unreachable) 5-1. The Yankees had a huge opportunity in the bottom of the 9th inning, loading the bases with a walk and 2 singles and no outs, but the next three batters struck out and gave the game to the Royals tonight.

The Yankees acquired 1st baseman Travis Ishikawa, recently released from the Orioles and on the 2010 Giants (with the ring to prove it), who started at 1st base today but wasn’t as productive both there and at bat, going 0-for-2 with 2 strike outs. To make room for him on the roster, the Yankees moved Kevin Youkilis to the 60-day DL and optioned David Adams to AAA Scranton. This still allows for an Adams recall later in the season should the need arise, but this also allows Adams time to work on his slumping offense (his defense is always quite stellar).

There is other injury updates, but I’d rather keep the focus this week on HOPE Week. I hope it encourages all of you (like it always does me) to go out and be involved actively in your community. Even if we only make a difference in one person’s life, to that person, we have changed the world. And to me, that makes all the difference between passivity and active participation in my world.

Go Yankees! (And vote for David Robertson for the All-Star Game! #HighSocksForVotes)

Game 85: NYY vs. MIN — Independence Day Sweep

The Bleacher Creatures proudly honoring America every 7th inning; “Never Forget”

A very happy 237th birthday to the United States! I do hope everyone enjoys a safe and wonderful holiday with their family and friends and remembers what cost the Founding Fathers made by signing the Declaration. They fought for the freedoms, not just for themselves and for their families, but for the generations that have yet to be born. Today, we honor their memory and sacrifice, and all those who pledged their lives for the freedoms we enjoy, as much as we celebrate with fireworks and grill-outs.

And on that note, we Yankee fans get to celebrate a victorious sweep of the Minnesota Twins as the Yankees themselves make their way back to New York for a 10 game home stand leading up to the All-Star Break. And no one could be more glad of today’s win than starter David Phelps, who needed a win so desperately after his disastrous last outing. Phelps went 6.1 innings, allowed a solo home run in the 4th inning and then got into some trouble in the 7th inning. Two singles and a fly out, set up an RBI single, and forced Girardi to bring in Chamberlain. He allowed an RBI single and was replaced by Logan. Logan allowed a sacrifice fly and got the final out to end the messy inning. Logan came back into the 8th and allowed a solo home run, a single, and a walk before Kelley came in to get three straight outs to end any potential Twins’ rally. Robertson closed the game in three batters in the 9th, as it was not a save situation to bring in Rivera, but nevertheless was his usual reliable self.

Now, on the Yankees’ batting side, it was very interesting in 3 different innings. In the 1st alone, Ichiro Suzuki hits a lead-off double; Zoilo Almonte singles; then Ichiro scores on Robinson Cano’s sacrifice fly; Travis Hafner doubles; and Vernon Wells singles home Almonte and Hafner (3-0). In the 3rd, Hafner is hit by a pitch and advances to 2nd on a wild pitch; Wells doubles home Hafner; and newly acquired Luis Cruz hits his first Yankee hit and singles and Wells scores. (5-0). Then in the 6th inning, Lyle Overbay walks; Cruz doubles; Alberto Gonzalez singles and scores Overbay; Romine reaches on a fielder’s choice as they get Cruz trying to come home; Ichiro triples as Gonzalez and Romine score; and Almonte grounds out and Ichiro tags home. And the Yankees are up 9-1 at that point.

With some Minnesota batters taking advantage of a tiring Phelps and weak spots in the bullpen, the final score ended up 9-5 Yankees. And Ichiro was a home run short to hit for the cycle today. [A “cycle” means that a batter hits a single, a double, a triple, and a home run in a single game, but not necessarily in that order.] Actually, a lot of the Yankee batters really had a remarkable day today. Ichiro went 3-for-5 with 2 RBIs, Almonte 2-for-5 and an RBI, Hafner 3-for-4, Wells 2-for-4 with 3 RBIs,and Cruz 2-for-4 with an RBI. In fact, the only batter who seemed to have an off day was Cano, and he still had a nice sacrifice fly, thus an RBI credited to his stats. And the defense just seemed to work today, like in a nifty double play in the 3rd that had Cano bare-handing the flip for the transfer.

I take this all as a good omen, if you will, of things to come. Sending the Yankees back to the Bronx on a high note where they will face the Orioles, the Royals, and the Twins again is probably the best way to do so. I think sending the team into the break on another high note would be really great for their morale, so it should be interesting to see how the next 10 games turn out.

Also, news from Tampa, Francisco Cervelli has been shut down for 2 weeks in his rehab work due to a “stress reaction” in his elbow. Cervelli fractured his hand early in the season and has been making progress in recent weeks toward his return. A stress reaction indicated by the MRI basically implies that a stress fracture is on its way short of rest and healing time. This is usually a result of overuse, which doesn’t surprise me in the least as most of the injured athletes in Florida are pushing to get their way back to the Bronx ASAP. And I don’t think the team’s taking any more chances with “stress” anythings after what happened last fall with Jeter. I think a lot of the approach to overuse and borderline injuries has changed because of the recent spike in more serious injuries. Prevention and then rest at an early stage of injury is definitely a better option than something like a shattered ankle or fused spine or torn tendon sheath. A continued get well to Cervelli and all those spending today on the DL.

The Captain with The Boss, early 2000’s

Have a great 4th of July, baseball fans! Oh, and this would have been George Steinbrenner’s 83rd birthday, so I think a win in his memory is very much in line with today’s game.

And as always… Go Yankees!

Game 83: NYY vs. MIN — Give the game ball to Gonzalez & Cano & Hughes

The Yankees were kind enough to reward a great outing by starter Phil Hughes with a much-needed win tonight against the Minnesota Twins. Hughes’ 114 pitches took him through 7 full innings, allowing 6 hits and 2 walks, striking out 3 batters, and allowing only 1 run to score. In the 3rd inning, he allowed a double, which scored on the next single. All in all a really fantastic outing for Hughes. He was even able to pitch his way out of some tight jams, with runners in scoring position to do some damage, but the Twins weren’t making it home off him. Claiborne replaced him for 1.2 innings before allowing a 2-out double in the bottom of the 9th that scored 2 runs to push the Twins’ total up to 3 total runs scored. Warren was brought in to replace him but walked his first batter, thus opening the door for what was the easiest 2 pitch save in a long time for Rivera (his 27th of the season) to record the final out.

Fortunately, the Yankee offense provided enough cushion to keep any potential Twin Cities rally from posing any real danger. They waited, however, until the 5th inning to make their mark. A single by Overbay and a single by Adams set them up to score on Alberto Gonzalez’s right field, in the corner double. Gonzalez would quickly score on a very soft Ichiro Suzuki single, something that proved to be too soft for the pitcher to make any kind of play. They gave the pitching staff a break in the 6th and came back in the 7th again to add a few more notches on today’s scoreboard. David Adams doubled and then advanced to 3rd on a really messy throwing error, which allowed him to score again when Gonzalez hit a sort of weak, but strong enough to go through the infield hole kind of single. Then with Ichiro singling to get on base, Robinson Cano steps up and aims his ball beyond the seats out in right field for his 20th homer of the season, a 3-run home run to put the Yankees way over the Twins. Final score: 7-3 Yankees.

Just a beautiful kind of day for the Yankees in Minnesota tonight.

In injury-related news, two up and two down…

Hiroki Kuroda was sent back to New York with pain in his left hip flexor. But there is good news: his MRI was negative and showed no signs of tears, and he wanted to hop back on the plane to join the team in Minnesota. With just two more games to play there before the team heads back for a 10 game homestand, Kuroda will be stuck getting updates like the rest of the world (via YES, MLB, and the like). Jayson Nix felt a tightness in his right hamstring and was out of today’s game; and while they’re not thinking this is really serious, because of recent touches of seriousness, Nix will be on day-to-day watch.

Eduardo Nunez has been doing his rehab assignment with the Charleston RiverDogs and did a particularly good day today in his outing. For today’s game, he was joined today by Alex Rodriguez. With a name like Rodriguez on the roster, the minor league stadium filled to capacity to watch him play 3rd base for 3 innings and go 0-for-2 in at-bats (a GIDP and strikeout looking). But Rodriguez seemed to love playing with the team and loved the hospitality of the city — something that must seem worlds away from the bright lights of New York and sun-drenched fields of Florida. Rodriguez will play with the team again tomorrow before joining the Tampa affiliate on Friday for the next phase. But before the game, the two teammates caught up over some of the great food of one of the oldest and historic cities in the South.

And you can’t forget about Mark Teixeira, the only man on the regular roster who will definitely not be back in pinstripes this year. His surgery yesterday went as planned and is viewed as a success. This means he will begin the surgery recovery and then work his way back up to being ready for baseball again come Spring Training 2014.

While it won’t be any easier watching the Yankees finish their year without Teixeira than it was last year sans Gardner and Rivera, it’s still relatively easy to look at the team and see the team. Because at the end of the day (and I’m sorry if I sound like a broken record here), it doesn’t matter who’s wearing the uniform as long as somebody is wearing the uniform and the whole team of somebodies (even if the world just sees them as nobodies) is working together toward that ever-present goal — #28.

Go Yankees!

Game 78: TEX vs. NYY — Strong Hughes, weak bats

Phil Hughes had a very strong start today, going 106 pitches in 8 innings, allowing 2 runs, striking out 5 batters, and walking only one. One of those runs from Texas was a sacrifice fly and one was a solo home run. Now, normally that would earn a pitcher a strong contending for a win, but the offense just wasn’t there. There were some close calls with rookie batters like Adams and Almonte hitting balls out to the warning track by the back wall for some long fly outs. But nothing that could match the 2-0 Texas lead and eventual win this afternoon.

Girardi decided a roster shake-up was in order to see if the change could help the defense. Ichiro started in center, giving Gardner (sick with a cold) the day off until a 9th inning pinch hit. Wells in right, Gonzalez at 3rd, Romine catching, Cano at DH, so Adams at 2nd, filled out with the usuals Nix at short and Overbay at 1st.

I think the most exciting defense by the Yankees were the doubles plays in the 8th and 9th innings, both instigated by David Adams, covering at 2nd for DH-ing Cano. In the 8th, a Rangers batter grounds to Adams, throwing to Jayson Nix to get the first runner out at 2nd, who throws it to Lyle Overbay to get the batter out at 1st and end the outing. Then in the 9th, another Rangers batter grounds directly to Adams who steps on 2nd and throws it the 90 feet to Overbay to get that runner out. I’m loving the defense this infield seems to be patching together, including a great diving stop by Alberto Gonzalez in the 2nd.

Again, I think it’s really hard to relegate Hughes with the loss today, as any day when the pitcher really did his job well. I mean, if Hughes was having one of his bad days, the score would have been way worse in today’s shutout. Actually, the Texas pitcher went all 9 innings and really did a stellar job, so he deserves all praise he gets today. I guess I just feel bad that Hughes, on one of his better outings, has to take the brunt of the weak offense today.

Well, it is what it is. And though it puts the Yankees 1/2 game behind the Orioles and 4 full games behind Boston. Well, the Yankees have an opportunity to reduce that lead this weekend as they head down to Baltimore for a weekend series.

In other news, Robinson Cano continued on his victory tour off the Dominican win in the World Baseball Classic last March and was presented with the team trophy when he was done with the game today.

It’s always good to get a little good news on a less than good news day. Congrats again to Robbie and the DR team on representing and displaying such excellence in the sport we love! And here’s to hoping you continue to represent the Yankees so well for many years to come.

Go Yankees!

Game 73: TB vs. NYY — Almonte’s splashy start

I never understand why people are worried about the future of the Yankees. To prove my point for me, may I present rookie Zoilo Almonte — tonight’s shining star on his first start as a major leaguer. He went 3-for-4 for the night with a solid solo home run as part of that package, and his defense out in left field was pretty good too. Almonte had been making a splash in Scranton, so a call from the “Bigs” was only a matter of time, especially with the recent “power shortage”.

But that isn’t to say the rest of the team didn’t lend a hand in tonight’s win over Tampa…

Starter David Phelps pitched a really decent 102 pitch outing, going 5.2 inning, allowing the Rays only two runs of the night (2 RBI singles in the 3rd & 4th innings) and striking out 4 batters. Logan got the last out of the 6th inning, and then Kelley, Robertson, and Rivera (perhaps my current favorite 7-8-9 bullpen combination) closed out the game and kept the Rays scoreless.

Lately, it’s always a good sign when the Yankees score first, which they did on a Robinson Cano sacrifice fly to score Gardner right in the 1st inning. Ichiro Suzuki grounds out to score Austin Romine after his really nice double to open the 3rd inning. At the bottom of the 4th, and I don’t know how this happened, but with bases loaded, Jayson Nix grounds into a double play (runners out at 1st and 2nd), Travis Hafner still ends up scoring a run, and Lyle Overbay ends up on 3rd in perfect position to score on next batter David Adams’ single (thanks to a lousy throw by the Rays’ 3rd baseman). So they’ve played 4 full innings and the score sits at 4-2 Yankees. With 2 outs in the 6th inning, rookie Almonte steps up to the plate and slams his first major league home run into the Yankees bullpen to make the score 5-2. And 2 innings later, Cano makes it all the way home on a Lyle Overbay (we should never get rid of him) single to pin the final score at 6-2 Yankees.

It looks like all the guys showed up for work tonight, and like we’ve said before, when that happens, the Yankees win. It’s amazing what working as a team will do, and winning always helps bring everyone together and bonds them through the tough times. Tonight, we saw the team. And it was brilliant.

Also in other team-related news: infielder Reid Brignac has been designated for assignment; infielder Alberto Gonzalez has been recalled from AAA to fill Brignac’s place on the roster and used in the utility role as David Adams and Jayson Nix will see a more daily role at 3rd base and shortstop, respectively; Curtis Granderson had the pin removed from his hand after breaking it in Tampa last month and will begin gripping and strength exercises to rehab his injury; pitcher Ivan Nova will be recalled from minors to start on Sunday; and the Yankees are still wheeling and dealing, signing various players to minor league deals here and there and finalizing a handful of their draft selections.

I have to bring tonight’s post back to Almonte. I remember watching him play in Spring Training. He was really outstanding, offensively and defensively. I remember thinking that this kid could do something for the team when he gets the opportunity.

I like being right.

Now, realistically, I don’t expect every game he plays to be as spectacular — this is a game where when 7 out of 10 of your at-bats are total failures and you’re still a fantastic batter. But effort and hard work is more than half the battle, and this guy has it in spades. I can’t wait to see what else he’s got up his sleeve as he’s vying for a more permanent spot on the bench next to some pretty big names. But hey, that’s baseball!

Go Yankees!