Spring Game 17: BAL vs. NYY — Definitely not a rout, a come-from-behind victory

Another cool night at Steinbrenner Field under the light watching the Yankees take on a divisional rival and battle it all the way to the end. It certainly didn’t lean in favor of the home team for much of the game, but it certainly wasn’t terrible. A hostile fan nearby even commented that he was upset over the Yankees’ “rout”. Which was a complete misnomer. The Yankees were behind, but only by 3 runs, still in “save” territory. It was never a rout. A rout is when one team beats the other by ridiculous scoring — like the 2007 Rangers defeating the Orioles 30-3.

Jonathan Loaisiga got the start for the Yankees tonight against the visiting Orioles and got roughed up a bit in his 2 innings. A lead-off walk moved to 2nd on a sacrifice bunt and then stole 3rd. A bad throwing error on that steal allowed the runner to score easily. But then he got 3 strikeouts in a row into the 2nd inning. Three consecutive singles scored one run, and a 2-out walk loaded up the bases. All three runners scored on a big double, and that runner scored on an RBI single.

Zack Britton came in to settle things down for the Yankees, nearly sailing through his 2 innings. Chapman and Green followed suit, each with a strong inning of their own. Jonathan Holder’s 7th would have been perfect except for a 2-out solo home run that allowed the Orioles to get one more run in tonight. Tarpley’s stint in the final 2 innings kept the O’s from adding any more.

The Yankees were definitely hitting far more than the Orioles, collecting 14 total hits tonight and spreading them out over the game. In the 1st, Gardner led-off with a walk and scored as part of Aaron Judge’s solid 2-run home run to get the Yankees on the board, and at that point, narrowly ahead of the Orioles.

In the 4th, down by those aforementioned 3 runs, with 1 out, Tulowitzki made it safely to 1st thanks to a bad throwing error. After another out, Brett Gardner smacked a 2-run home run to edge the Yankees closer to the leading Orioles. With 2 outs in the 5th, Andujar singled, was pinch-run by Wade, moved to 3rd on Sanchez’s single, and then scored on Greg Bird’s single.

As a sort of final ditch effort, the Yankees used a veteran pitcher’s off-day to their advantage in the 8th. Kyle Higashioka led-off with a big solo home run over the left field concourse. Then Saez’s single, Kyle Holder’s hit-by-pitch, and Florial’s 1-out single loaded the bases. The remaining fans were electrified, and all those organic chants and cheering were almost deafening at time.

Trey Amburgey works his way through a walk for Saez to score the tying run and keep the bases loaded. After a pitching change, Clint Frazier smacked a long sacrifice fly that scored the winning run — Kyle Holder.

Final score: 8-7 Yankees

One to Watch: I’m giving it again to Kyle Holder. Tonight, his defense at short stop was just outstanding. He was always where he needed to be to keep the Orioles from adding to their score in the latter part of the game. Plus, he got the honor of scoring the winning run. He’s just something to watch all Spring so far.

Next up: The Yankees will host the Phillies tomorrow night, with back-to-back home night games.

Roster moves: Every Spring, the Yankees always invite all 40 players on their regular roster. Plus, the ask members of the Yankees organization from around the minor leagues to come to camp and work out with the 40-man roster. In the process, those extra players get re-assigned to various minor league teams for the season, and some of the slots on the 40-man might shake up a bit.

So, last week, the cuts, options, and reassignments began. Lockers were emptied and players sent to minor league camp (that happens privately and simultaneously to the public Spring Training). Last Wednesday, the Yankees optioned pitcher Domingo Acevedo to AA Trenton and reassigned pitchers Brady Lail and Trevor Stephan to minor league camp.

Sunday, they optioned pitcher Albert Abreu to AA Trenton. And before today’s game, they optioned pitchers Chance Adams and Joe Harvey to AAA Scranton and reassigned pitchers Cale Coshow and Danny Farquhar and catcher Kellin Deglan to minor league camp. Then after tonight’s game, they optioned Thairo Estrado to AAA Scranton and reassigned Trey Amburgey and Mike Ford to minor league camp.

Many of these faces I expect we’ll see again, maybe even this Spring in the case of split squad games.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: Again, the later great plays are missing again in the available video highlights for you. My apologies.}

Spring Game 4: NYY vs. DET — More rain shortens rough game

The same front that washed out yesterday’s game continues to bring further bands of rain through the area and ended up shortening today’s game. And part of me thinks this might have been a relief for the Yankees, who were just getting roughed up today.

The Yankees traveled about 40 minutes east to visit the Tigers’ Spring home field in Lakeland, and things started like they have for the last 3 games — with the Yankees hitting first and hard. Hicks led-off the game with a double, and Voit worked a 1-out walk. Miguel Andujar hit a baby grounder, but a throwing error only allowed the Tigers to get the out at 2nd as Hicks spend his way home to score the first run. Torres then singled, and Greg Bird hit a big 3-run home run to give the Yankees a nice early lead.

But today’s starter Chance Adams just couldn’t find his pitches and didn’t even make it out of the first inning. He gave up a walk and single that both scored on a double. A double and triple easily scored 2 more runs before Adams finally got an out, an easy ground out. Brady Lail struggled a bit to get out of the inning, when a single scored Adams’ final runner, but then a beautiful double play closed the exhausting inning.

After an easier 2nd, Domingo Acevedo found his own set of struggles in the 3rd inning. With 2 outs, he loaded up the bases with a single, walk, and hit-by-pitch before giving up a walk to easily score the lead runner. The next batter promptly smacked a big grand slam to ensure the Yankees were overwhelmed by the home team today.

Despite starting the game with blue, sunny skies, the storm front crept its way across the area and clouded up the previous beautiful vista. And then it started raining. A bit too hard. So they brought out the tarp in the 6th inning and delayed the game for 16 minutes.

The rain cleared, and play resumed amid a bit of a drizzle. But as Kyle Holder led off the 7th with a solid hit, the rain worsened. Teams headed to their dugouts, as fans scurried to the nearest coverage. It just wasn’t going to happen. The game was mercifully called.

Final score: 10-4 Tigers, in 7 innings (thanks to Holder’s lone at-bat)

Next up: the Yankees play host again, this time to the Pirates. And the weather report reads about 10% chance of rain, but a bit humid as that aforementioned front settles over the area. In other words, there’ll be a game, but it’s going to be that typical Florida weather.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: no broadcast means no media clips to include in today’s post. Not that there’s much outside the first half-inning to remember for the Yankees.}

Spring Game 2: NYY vs. TB — First Spring win with some big swings

Shifting a little closer to home certainly seemed to help the Yankees shake off yesterday’s loss. Of course, that has nothing to do with the fact that they played a team that clearly isn’t used to working together, a clear contrast to yesterday’s opponents.

Jonathan Loaisiga had a great start against the Rays this afternoon at their Spring home field in Port Charlotte (about 90 minutes south of where the Rays spend the season and the Yankees spend Spring in Tampa). Loaisiga continues to show the Yankees why he was worth the call-ups last year and why he could be a contender for this year’s team. He threw a near flawless 2 innings, eventually setting himself up for the win.

Other names (perhaps familiar to frequent readers) that took the mound today included David Hale, Brady Lail, and Stephen Tarpley. Together with two other minor league relievers, the Yankees pitching staff helped navigate today’s team to their first Spring win.

Sure, there were some stumbles along the way, as we should expect in Spring Training. But they were able to fend off the Rays until the middle of the game. In the 5th, back-to-back solo home runs over the short left field fence got them on the board, and 2 outs later, another solo shot off the center field netting added one more. But a great moment (not on the highlight reel thanks to the away broadcast) was the final play of the inning — when catcher Lavernway threw to shortstop Cabrera in a blink-and-you-miss-it play to catch the runner stealing 2nd.

In the 6th, a 1-out single scored as part of a 2-run home run to give the fans a bit of something to cling to in what became the Rays’ 3rd loss of the Spring. It’s worth noting that much like at the Rays’ regular home in St. Petersburg, the majority of fans in the stands today were clearly Yankees fans. As if the echoing cheers during positive Yankee moments weren’t making that obvious.

And those cheers began early today, with the Yankees once again jumping out in front right in the 1st inning. Tyler Wade hit a ground-rule double and then scored on Luke Voit’s single. Estevan Florial kicked off the 2nd inning with a single, stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then easily scored on another wild pitch. Two outs and a new pitcher later, Holder and LeMahieu singled to get on base, and Wade’s double scored Holder for a rather easy early Yankees’ lead.

Then in the 4th, with 1 out, LeMahieu walked, Wade singled, and they both scored with Luke Voit’s powerful 3-run home run over that left field fence to double the Yankees’ score. After the Rays got a few runs on the board, the Yankees got a few back in the 6th when Mazilli singled and then scored as part of Matt Lipka’s 2-run home run (yes, to left field).

It was enough to claim their first win this Spring.

Final score: 8-5 Yankees

Next up: for Opening Day, the Yankees will host the Blue Jays at Steinbrenner Field tomorrow afternoon. And because it’s both Opening Day and their home, you can expect to see some appearances by the “big guys”. There’s nothing like Opening Day. I can’t wait.

Go Yankees!

Off-season bits: February edition

The groundhog said it would be an early Spring, something easily laughed at by the majority of the country buried under snow at the time. Of course, Spring never actually “comes early”, as according to the vernal equinox, it won’t officially be Spring until March 20. But in the baseball world, thanks in part to the climate of the Sunshine State (and Arizona), Spring always comes a bit earlier.

Major League Baseball is celebrating its sesquicentennial. In 1869, the Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first salaried professional baseball team thus seen as the start of what became Major League Baseball. To honor this anniversary, all 30 teams will wear a special patch on their jerseys this entire season. It previously honored the 100th and 125th anniversaries in 1969 and 1994, respectively. Happy birthday, baseball.

And in what has to be the smallest alteration to the roster this season, Yankees’ reliever Zach Britton officially altered his name to Zack Britton. I’m not sure where the fluff up began as his legal name is actually Zackary Grant Britton, which means that Zack would make much more sense as a nickname than Zach. And as someone who’s had a few nicknames, mostly alterations of spellings, getting people to correctly address you and spell your name right is quite the ordeal. I’m still not sure why. So, welcome to the Yankees, Zack.

Speaking of new roster blood, the Yankees signed another reliever to fill David Robertson’s vacant spot after he signed with the Phillies. Adam Ottavino, previously with the Rockies for the last 7 seasons, is set to help provide a further veteran arm in the bullpen and in the clubhouse. Ottavino is joining former Rockies’ teammates like Tulowitzki and LeMahieu in pinstripes this year. Interestingly, Ottavino usually wears #0 on his jersey, so he requested to wear the final single digit available as a Yankee. It will be quite something to see a single digit on a Yankees’ jersey this year.

Yesterday, all pitchers and catchers were to report to camp, and today, they had their first workout session of the season. Manager Aaron Boone held his first press conference of the year yesterday afternoon, discussing many of the roster changes, the substitutes and competitions for spots, and surgeries and injuries this off-season. Gary Sanchez had shoulder surgery in the off-season, but he is recovering well enough to start the season and Spring with no delay.

However, Jacoby Ellsbury is one of those who will be delayed into camp this year. Though position players don’t report until Monday (Feb. 18), his recovery has been delayed by plantar fasciitis after his surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip. He missed all of last season due to an injury plagued year and was hoping for a triumphant return to what could be the first of his final two years in baseball (or what’s left on his contract with the Yankees).

And Dellin Betances will be a little delayed as his wife Janisa gave birth to their first child, a son they named Dellin Betances Jr. yesterday. They are a little busy being new parents, but the new father will join the team once mother and son have been discharged from the hospital in a few days. A big congratulations to the new family.

Who’s really stealing the show in this final off-season bit is CC Sabathia. Sabathia will be announcing his retirement at a press conference Saturday, calling a close to his long career after this season, his 19th in the major leagues. And thus begins his own farewell tour, which will include a trip to the UK for the much-anticipated series against the Red Sox, but follows his health and personal struggles including knee surgeries, a stint in the heart this off-season, and dealing with his alcoholism.

Add in a storied post-season career and a legacy of community outreach through his PitCChIn Foundation, Sabathia is ready to hang up the cleats in dramatic fashion. This will probably include hitting a major milestone — 3000 career strikeouts, something he will do with just 14 more big strikeouts, which by my best guess could be as early as late April. It will be quite the celebration for the retiring legend, and what a way to go out.

And in honor of what would have been Jackie Robinson’s 100th birthday, Sabathia visited the Jackie Robinson School in Brooklyn (P.S. 375) to connect with the kids there and talk about Robinson’s legacy of service and activism. Upon reflecting Robinson’s life and legacy as he saw in the students there, Sabathia said that he just wants “[to] be strong and deal with adversity. Just sitting here and listening to the kids chanting his name — he would be 100 years old today. That legacy is what all players want. That’s something you can’t accomplish on the field. It’s something you have to do off the field, leaving your name for kids and organizations to deal with after the fact.”

But looking forward to this Spring, there are 40 men on the regular roster that are contractually required to be there. And every year, the team extends an invitation to others in the organization to attend camp and see if they can earn a spot or promotion or just recognition. This year, the Yankees invited 23 non-roster players — 12 pitchers, 4 catchers, 3 infielders, and 4 outfielders. (Note: the original article was written prior to 2 additions to the invitee list on Wednesday.)

Welcome to camp: pitchers Rex Brothers, Nestor Cortes Jr., Cale Coshow, Danny Coulombe, Phillip Diehl, Raynel Espinal, Danny Farquhar, David Hale, Drew Hutchinson, Michael King, Brady Lail, and Trevor Stephan; catchers Kellin Deglan, Francisco Diaz, Ryan Lavarnway, and Jorge Saez; infielders Mike Ford, Kyle Holder, and Giovanny Urshela; and outfielders Trey Amburgey, Billy Burns, Estevan Florial, and Matt Lipka.

So if you recognize a few of those names, you’ve been following the Yankees closely. If you are excited to see how those have progressed in the last year, you and I are in the same boat. I think Spring Training is always one of my favorite times of the year because you get a first-hand look at the future of the club, the future of baseball really.

And if that future gives you hope, then it’s all worth it.

Believe me. It’s always worth it.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 31: NYY vs. TB — Routed in the Florida finale

That was definitely not how you want to end your time in Florida for Spring Training. After a big double win yesterday, the Yankees just couldn’t seem to find their footing in Port Charlotte (about 90 minutes down the Gulf Coast between Sarasota and Fort Myers) in today’s game against the Rays.

Brian Keller had a rough start and set the pace for most of the Yankee pitching today. Throwing just into the 3rd inning, he gave up 8 hits and 5 runs, getting just 1 strikeout in his 8 outs. He gave up a lead-off walk in the 1st that stole 2nd, advanced to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on a sacrifice fly to get the Rays on the board first. In the 3rd, he then gave up a single that scored as part of a 2-run home run. Then a 1-out double scored as part of a 2-out 2-run homer to keep the Rays advancing. Two singles later, Keller’s afternoon was done.

Brady Lail came on and ended the threat with a solid strikeout. With 1 out in the 4th, he gave up a double and a walk to allow his own threat before a strikeout ended his afternoon. Adonis Rosa’s relief began with an RBI single. And his 5th inning sealed the game for the Rays — a single, a 2-run home run, a fly out, 2 solo home runs, and then 2 more outs.

Trevor Lane’s 6th inning was less dramatic. With 1 out, he gave up a solo homer, a walk, and a wild pitch before getting out of the inning without further damage. That improvement was picked up by Raynel Espinal in the 7th whose 3 outs were 3 solid strikeouts, and Andrew Schwaab followed suit in the 8th with his own 3 strikeouts. Collectively, the Yankee pitchers gave up 16 hits and 4 walks, and earned 11 strikeouts.

On the other side of things, the Yankee batters worked 12 strikeouts and just 4 total hits. This reflected the mass of zeroes by their name that stretched across the scoreboard for most of the game. It wasn’t until the 9th inning that they determined they weren’t going to be so badly shut-out of today’s game. Diego Castillo led off with a nice double, and 2 outs later, Trey Amburgey’s easy single scored Castillo to end the shut out. Despite a walk to Jorge Saez, the Yankees were unable to chip away at the Rays’ large lead any further.

Final score: 11-1 Rays

Up next: the Yankees play their final pre-season game against the Braves in Atlanta, a repeat of last season that helped inaugurate the Braves’ new stadium. Tomorrow night’s game will feature Sonny Gray on the mound.

Injury news: Greg Bird will be one player not making the trip to Atlanta. He’s on his way to New York for more tests on that sore foot after feeling some discomfort during pre-game batting practice yesterday. He was examined by team doctors yesterday, given an MRI and CT scan, which revealed inflammation but nothing further. He will see a foot specialist tomorrow in the City who will hopefully have a clearer diagnosis and time-table for Bird’s treatment, recovery, and return to baseball activity.

We’re still waiting on a finalized 25-man roster, but that’s pretty much set based on where they’ve optioned everyone over the last week or so. Technically, nothing is set until they make the announcements on Opening Day. And I have a feeling they are waiting on the results from Bird’s appointment before determining who they might need to pull up, like Tyler Austin (who is currently on the 40-man, but not the 25-man), who could certainly cover 1st base while Bird recovers. Beyond that, there is still a question mark on Jacoby Ellsbury’s readiness and whether the 12-13 split will favor the bullpen or the bench.

In other words, there’s still time to sort out details. So be prepared for an onslaught of information once there is information to share.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 28: BOS vs. NYY — Shut out at home again

It’s really only fair. The Yankees totally beat the Red Sox in their Spring home earlier this month, so they decided to return the favor. It was a nice day for baseball, fairly comfortable weather, clear skies. Of course, there were the requisite rowdy fans (on both sides) who try to liven up the rivalry hype without understanding the basic parameters of the long-standing rivalry. (In other words, fair-weather fans who don’t really understand words like teamwork, cheering, and baseball.)

Anyway, the Red Sox paid the Yankees their annual visit, watched by a passionate sold-out crowd, and helmed by Masahiro Tanaka. Today was easily Tanaka’s best start of the Spring, throwing into the 6th inning and getting 6 strong strikeouts. His lone allowed run was a lead-off solo shot in the 3rd inning. With 2 outs, he gave up a couple hits in the 6th, and the Yankees called in Tommy Kahnle for that inning’s final out.

Chasen Shreve came on in the 7th and had a bit of struggles, starting with a solo shot to lead-off the inning. A double then scored on a 1 out single, but then that runner got tagged out trying to stretch the hit into a double. (Seriously, Gardner’s arm is not to be tested.) Dellin Betances celebrated his birthday by having some trouble on the mound in the 8th inning. He gave up a walk and a single before finally getting a strikeout.

Brady Lail came on in relief and got his own strikeout, but then a single scored Betances’ lead runner before another strikeout got him out of the inning. And two more strikeouts later in the 9th, he gave up consecutive strikeouts, unable to find that 3rd out. Reliever Andrew Schwaab came on and gave up an RBI single before finding that 3rd out to end the Red Sox’s rule today.

Yankee pitchers gave up 13 hits today, and still struck out 11 Boston batters. But Yankee batters had much less luck, only collecting 5 hits and striking out 9 times. And, the biggest stat of the day — no runs scored. Shutout again at home. Bummer.

Final score: 5-0 Red Sox

One to Watch: Angel Aguilar came into the game in the 5th (see below) and really did a stellar job at 3rd base covering for Drury. The young infielder could certainly hold his own with veterans on the field.

Next up: the Yankees play their only split squad games of the season. Part of the team will play the final home Spring game against the Blue Jays, while another part of the team will travel to Disney to play the Braves. Pitchers on the schedule are David Hale and Luis Severino, respectively.

Injury: Brandon Drury was hit by a pitch on the elbow in the 5th. He continued the game, even ending up at 3rd on Walker’s ground-rule double. But while the Red Sox were making a pitching change, the Yankees trainer noticed Drury wasn’t moving his left arm well. So they pulled him and sent him for tests, specifically x-rays, which thankfully came back negative. Angel Aguilar filled in for Drury and proved an excellent back-up (see above).

Another lighter note: the Yankees released another ad. This one revised a previous ad they did parodying American Idol, calling it “Roll Call Idol“. In this version, Greg Bird “auditions” to change up his response to Roll Call, being judge by Yankee veterans Gardner, Gregorius, and Sabathia (or their impressions of Simon, Paula, and Randy).

And if you’ve been following all these ads this week, there’s also a ton of outtakes and bloopers to laugh at. (The links for: Roll Call Idol, Didi’s World, Relief Heating Company, and Catch and Release.)

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 25: NYY vs. DET — Sad and soggy vernal equinox

Well, today is the official first day of Spring, though storms slamming the Northeast again and dropping over a foot in some areas certainly lead some to question that term. And here in Florida, we were slammed with our own Spring storm (that actually temporarily closed the airport) — some super heavy rain, a tornado watch, and strong winds. Some local residents are without power as a result, but the storm is continuing its march way across the state as I write this.

And the game between the Yankees and Tigers in Lakeland didn’t escape the storm, with a big deluge in the 5th inning. Two games closer to the Gulf Coast (in Clearwater and Sarasota) were called early or cancelled all together (respectively). The other games in Florida were played on the Atlantic Coast and escaped this afternoon’s mess. But in central Florida, the game played on.

Brady Lail got the start in today’s game, setting a pattern of less than stellar pitching that most of the Yankees’ pitchers certainly continued through this afternoon. In the 1st, Lail gave up consecutive walks that promptly scored on an RBI single and sacrifice fly to put the Tigers in the lead early. Ben Heller came on to finish the 2nd for Lail and kept them to that scored until the 4th inning where he found his own issues. He gave up a 1-out double that scored on a single, and after a double moved runners to scoring position, the Yankees went back to their bullpen again.

Cody Carroll came on to give up a single that scored both waiting runners to push the Tigers further in the lead. He gave up a 1-out solo home run in the 5th just as the rain really started dropped heavily over the open stadium. But despite giving up a couple of hits, Giovanny Gallegos had a scoreless 6th inning to shift the momentum, and JP Feyereisen continued this new wave with a scoreless 7th.

But then the 8th caused its own troubles again. Matt Frawley gave up a lead-off walk that scored on a long triple, and that runner then scored on a 1-out single. James Reeves came on in relief and got out of the inning with 2 strong strikeouts. In one of those weird statistical outcomes, the Yankee pitchers gave up 14 hits but also got 12 strikeouts.

Meanwhile, the Yankees actually got on the board first behind Tyler Wade’s lead-off triple in the 1st inning. Wade then scored easily on Neil Walker’s single. But the Yankees were held off for much of the game from advancing their score. With 2 outs in the 8th, Peterson singled to get on base, and pinch-hitter Jorge Saez smacked a monster 2-run home run up the middle to add a bit to the Yankees’ score. So far behind at this point, the Yankees eventually just ran out of innings for any chance of a comeback.

Final score: 8-3 Tigers

Next up: The Yankees return back to Tampa to host the Orioles tomorrow night. It’s set to be another chilly, dry night, which will be a nice break from the recent heat this week and today’s rather soggy weather. Luis Cessa is currently scheduled to start the game.

Tomorrow night, the Yankees will also formally announce plans for their 2018 HOPE Week (their 10th season). They will honor 5 individuals or organizations who have impacted their community over the week of June 11-15. To kick off this year’s events, they will honor Computer Mentors Group, a non-profit in the Tampa area that helps connect computer professionals with inner-city youth in a local mentorship program.

Another lighter note: The Yankees’ cheesy ads continue to be rolled out. This time, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman will “bring the heat” in a parody of so many low-budget local repair ads. This one features cameos by Sanchez and fellow relievers Robertson, Kahnle, and Green. I am loving these ads by the way.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: no video today again. Is anyone else so ready for the season to start?}