Spring Game 33: NYY vs. MIA — And it’s off to the Bronx

The Yankees played their final Spring Game in Miami this afternoon. And all I can say is I’m glad the pre-season is over. (I’ll be doing a Spring wrap-up tomorrow night in preparation for the start of the regular season this Monday.)

In their final game, the Yankees started things off with Jacoby Ellsbury’s lead-off solo home run to right field for an easy run to start the game. Unfortunately, that is the extent of the Yankees’ run-scoring today. Not that the Marlins were any better in actuality.

Luis Severino got the start, a rather rocky start. Well, a rocky start for Severino, and he still manages to strike out 6 Marlin’s batters in 5 innings. Anyway, he gave up 3 hits, a walk, and 2 runs (though just 1 was earned). In the 1st, a single, a walk, and a ground out put runners in scoring position, and a sacrifice fly scored a run to tie up the game. In the 3rd, a batter reached on a throwing error and wound up scoring on a 2-out single a little later.

And that was the grand total of scoring from either team today. The Marlins rotated through their bullpen keeping the Yankees from doing much — just 4 allowed hits and a walk, striking out 6 Yankee batters. And the Yankees were about even with their bullpen display — 3 allowed hits, 4 walks, and a solid 10 total strikeouts. Chapman, Miller, Yates, and Barbato threw the last 4 innings for the Yankees, keeping the Marlins off the bases (save a few stragglers) and keeping the Yankees within 1-run and anticipating the Yankees offense would pick up at some point. It did not.

Final score: 2-1 Marlins.

Roster update: the Yankees traded Carlos Corporan to the Rays for cash considerations. Of course, the general consensus was a groan because he got traded to a division rival and not say San Diego where the Yankees won’t have to face his solid defense on a semi-regular basis. Which is a really great compliment to the catcher. Best of luck!

And that was Andrew Miller who got some pitching work in today, despite the chipped bone in his catching hand. People have dubbed him quite the “gamer” for playing through, but really, what else could he do? He can still pitch. (Clearly.) So game on, gamer.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: once again, no broadcast = no video highlights. Wasn’t really a highlight-worthy game, so no worries! Enjoy your weekend!}

Spring Game 29: NYY vs. ATL — Braves blanked, pained pitchers, Disney ditties

It’s a small world after all…” nope. “When you wish upon a star…” nah. “A dream is a wish your heart makes…” not that either. But whenever I write about the Yankees visiting the Braves, it cannot go unmentioned that the Braves’ Spring home is at the Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World, just outside of Orlando. Look, it’s a great stadium, one of the best ones in the Grapefruit League, something I’d expect being as it’s Disney and all. But I can never seem to find the right Disney pun for these games, and for that reason (okay, not the only reason), I’m glad I’m not blogging for the Braves where a requisite Disney reference would be almost demanded on every home game. (Though I’m sure by the end of this post I’ll think of some obscure reference, even if I have to call my Disney-obsessed friend to help me out.)

So, the Yankees made the I-4 trek eastward to Disney to visit the Braves, with several key players to watch as the clock is ticking down to wind up Spring Training in these last few games. Ivan Nova (in contention for that 5th starter’s spot against Sabathia) put up his best outing this Spring with pretty decent case — allowing just 2 hits, 1 walk, and no runs, striking out only 2 batters (but getting lots of ground outs) over his 6 innings. Nova was certainly in near-SuperNova form today. But the conversation seemed to go towards Sabathia in the long run due to his veteran status (more than anything else) and the fact that Nova does have a brief stint in the bullpen on his resume. Nova will be an easy slide into the rotation, however, should anything happen. (Though this is still pretty much conjecture without an official announcement, so I could be really wrong come tomorrow night when the final list is to be released.)

Then, with no score on either side of the diamond, the Yankees called on Andrew Miller who promptly took a comebacker off his right wrist. Throwing down his hat in anger (already thinking how awful to start the season with something terrible like a broken hand), Miller was escorted off the field with a severe bruise appearing on that right wrist. He was sent back to Tampa where x-rays came back negative. As a precaution, they will run a CT scan and do other tests if necessary, but basically, it seems that Miller will be nursing a rather sore right hand for a bit. (Thank goodness he’s a lefty!)

Dellin Betances came on to complete Miller’s 7th inning, getting 3 quick strikeouts. Later, after chatting with Miller, Betances seemed rather unconcerned about Miller’s injury, even commenting that they’ll probably have a nice laugh about it later but that he (and we) will be praying for the best in the mean time. Smart man.

The day after Bryan Mitchell was told he made the 25-man roster, Mitchell managed to load up the bases with a hit and 2 walks but still managed to get out of the 8th inning with no runs scored. However, on the last play, Mitchell went to cover 1st on the ground out and came up limping after spraining his toe. There shouldn’t be much there, but he will be sent for precautionary tests like an MRI just in case.

“Poor unfortunate souls…” (found one!)

Anyway, reliever Kirby Yates closed out the Yankees’ stellar pitching today with a beautiful 9th inning, with 2 strikeouts. Conversations are very much circulating for filling out that 25-man roster, with Yates’ name in that mix, rightly so. I think tomorrow’s announcement will mostly confirm many of these “conversations”, but I do expect a few surprises. They do like to keep the waiting public on the edge of their seats sometimes.

And while the Yankees did rack up 10 total hits (to the Braves’ 4), the Yankees didn’t break through that scoreless streak until the 8th inning. Fowler and Fleming led-off with back-to-back triples to get the Yankees on the board. Fleming then scored on Austin Romine’s 1-out RBI single to complete the scoring for the day. It would be enough.

Final score: 2-0 Yankees. (“I can go the distance… I know every mile will be worth my while…” my Disney friend will be proud.)

Of course, Romine is that other name frequenting conversations due to that back-up catcher’s job. However, today is the last day of Corporan’s contract’s opt-out clause, so an email was sent out to 29 clubs this morning in hopes that someone needs a solid back-up catcher. And believe me, based on what I’ve seen in Spring Training, I can think of at least four teams that clearly do (and that’s just in the Grapefruit League). But then again, nothing’s official yet.

Ronald Torreyes was told today that he made the 25-man roster as the back-up infielder. Most definitely a well-deserved promotion for the young infielder. He’s been on our radar here for some time, making the “One to Watch” a few times. It will be good to see him make his pinstriped debut soon. Congrats!

And seeing as it’s Wednesday, and there’s just one more home game (2 more games in Miami against the Marlins Friday and Saturday) before Opening Day on Monday, I’ll just leave you with the ultimate Disney reference before I “Let It Go“…

“Hakuna Matata…” (okay, maybe it wasn’t as difficult as I thought!)

Go Yankees!

{Media note: No video highlights today… and the best Disney reference to use when you don’t know what to say… “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!”}

Spring Game 18: ATL vs. NYY — A Soggy Saturday

There always seems to be one day in March every year that is questionable at best as to whether the game will actually go on that day. Today was such a day. In fact, normally, I get to the park kind of early, but today, we waited to leave until about an hour before the scheduled start time. I should note that it was pouring rain the entire walk from the car to the gates. Umbrellas (that aren’t allowed in the stadium) were everywhere. And those awful plastic glorified garbage bags they have the nerve to tell you are “rain ponchos” were being sold for $10 a pop by the scalpers in the petting zoo in the parking lot.

At first, the 1:05 pm game was delayed 25 minutes. But the closer we got to the initial start time, the harder the rain seemed to pour down from the sky. The radar showed a massive, bright red mass over west-central Florida. People were packed together like sardines (or pickles) along the concourse, something all the vendors took advantage. We were camped out on the cold, hard cement of one of the breezeways next to a young family, while the adults around us stood to wait out the storm (and looked at us like we were crazy for thinking that the floor up against the wall was a decent place to hang out for the next hour or so). It was at this point they announced an indefinite rain delay. So why should I keep standing?

About the second assumed start time, they announced that the game would start at 2:10, just over an hour delay as they were taking the tarp off the soggy field and drying the field. Of course, the irony is that they first must dry it before they wet it down again. I don’t know. I don’t question the grounds crew’s methods if the field looks pretty and the guys don’t get hurt during the game.

We wiped down our seats and sat for what ended up being a rather easy going afternoon game, with the rain holding off for most of it (save for some initial sprinkles). And on with the game…

Michael Pineda got the start today against the visiting Braves and really did a pretty good job. Between his great pitching (4 innings, 4 hits, no walks, 1 run, and 4 strikeouts) and the team’s solid defense, it was a nice way to kick off the game. The run he allowed came in the 3rd inning when a lead-off single stole 2nd base, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on an RBI single. But that would be it for the Braves under Pineda’s watch.

Let me talk about that 1st inning defense for a minute. Okay, so the Braves’ lead-off batter starts the game off with a solid double into the corner of left field and then steals 3rd base successfully. But then, something just switches on for the Yankees. The next batter lines out directly to Chris Denorfia in left field (1 out) who fires it perfectly to Corporan at home for the tag out of the runner going home (2 outs, double play). And then to cap off this crazy inning, a former Yankee fan favorite flies out deep to right-center field and Jacoby Ellsbury goes running for it, dives and catches the ball as he tumbles around the warning track. Said former Yankee literally tips his cap to Ellsbury, and the crowd is on their feet cheering for the outfielder as he jogs into the dugout.

The Yankees answered back this offense with their own contribution in the 4th inning, easily the most interesting inning the whole afternoon. Gregorius led-off with a walk, and then Teixeira hit a nice single to get some runners on base. Carlos Beltran then singled home Gregorius, moving Teixeira all the way to 3rd before Chase Headley’s double scored Teixeira leaving runners in scoring position. And it was Starlin Castro’s single to score Beltran that would cap off the Yankees’ mid-game rally of sorts before the next two guys struck out and ended the inning.

With Pineda out of the game, the Yankees started their inning a piece bullpen relief. First up, the struggling Aroldis Chapman, whose back-to-back doubles led off his inning to score another run before Chapman found his focus and got his 3 outs. Chasen Shreve’s 6th inning continued to cement Shreve’s invaluable contribution to the Yankees’ bullpen with a perfect inning. He was followed by Goody, Moreno, and Yates, all of whom have had some rough innings this Spring, but turned out 3 scoreless innings for the Yankees today.

Neither team scored after that Braves run in the 5th, as the game kind of found a bit of a back-and-forth pace for the rest of the Saturday afternoon. The clouds never did quite clear up, keeping at bay whatever storm seemed to plague the surrounding area. But never Steinbrenner Field. “Somebody Up There” clearly wanted this game to go on today.

Final score: 3-2 Yankees.

During the 5th inning, Ellsbury got plunked on the right hand today while at bat. And everyone held their breath. But while very sore and bruised, x-rays and CT scans came back negative, meaning he will have the next 2 weeks to recover, heal, and prepare for Opening Day. Should there be any issues, the Yankees’ 4th outfielder Hicks will substitute in center for a few games, as is his job.

Sorry, another day where none of the minor league guys stood out much. The only exception would have to be Denorfia’s massive throw from left field to get the runner trying to go home in the 1st inning. But Denorfia isn’t exactly an “up and comer” in his career. So I guess my person is actually no one once again. It’s harder to do this when more guys get reassigned to minor league camp as the Spring winds down.

And speaking of which, after today’s game, Gamel was optioned to AAA Scranton and reassigned to minor league camp. Joining him there are pitchers Cloyd, Montgomery, Pestano, and Bleier, and infielders Diaz and Solano. With just two weeks left until Opening Day, this is going to happen more and more to get the team whittled down to its 40-man and 25-man rosters just in time. On a personal note, they keep cutting some of my favorite ones to watch from Spring games, but I have no doubt it’s not the last time I’m going to see some of these guys again. Maybe even up in the Bronx this year.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 15: TOR vs. NYY — Pitchers & Starlin shines tonight

Continuing the string of evening games this week, the Yankees hosted the Blue Jays tonight at Steinbrenner. And coming off the win against the Red Sox yesterday, the Yankees were hungry for another one, and things looked hopeful with Brett Gardner making his Spring debut and Nathan Eovaldi with the start.

Eovaldi’s first inning was simply flawless, showing off that “Nasty Nate” stuff that made the Yankee fans love him. Even when he struggled through his 2nd inning, he was still pretty solid despite 2 walks, as he was able to get the other batters to ground out, strike out, and fly out to get out of the inning scoreless, a pattern most of the Yankees pitchers would continue through the evening.

Pestano’s 3rd inning relief gave up a hit, but kept the scoreless streak alive, something Chapman continued in the 4th inning (his best all Spring so far) with 2 nice strikeouts in 3 consecutive outs. Reliever Diego Moreno’s 5th inning was flawless with his own 2 strikeouts. Then Pinder racked up 2 strikeouts of his own in the 6th inning, and James Pazos joined the parade with his own strikeout in his own flawless inning.

However, in an outing out of the ordinary for the reliever this Spring, Bleier struggled his way through the 8th inning some. A lead-off ground out opened the inning, but a pair of doubles (one scoring the other) chipped away at the Yankees’ scoreless hold over the Blue Jay before a solid strikeout closed the Blue Jays’ attempt to make something of this inning.

Yates came on to close out the game in the 9th, and despite a nice strikeout to start things going, the next batter’s solid triple (the ball went deep into the corner of right field) and a walk, Yates buckled down (thanks in large part by some excellent catching and game calling by Carlos Corporan behind the plate tonight) and got a strikeout and a fly out to end the game. Though for a second, it looked like the slight collision might cause some trouble (this is why you call the ball, guys!), but it all worked out in the end. And believe me, it was that kind of game, that kind of moment where you really weren’t sure what was going to happen when Sinatra started playing over the PA system.

The Yankees did their offensive damage early in the game, and because of some just phenomenal pitching tonight, kept the Blue Jays from doing much more than that pesky 8th inning attempt. In the 2nd inning, with 2 outs and Headley on base with a single, Starlin Castro hit a solid home run right over the right-center field fence to put the Yankees up early and as it turns out just enough for the win tonight.

Look, I really do want to recognize the Yankee pitchers tonight who were just amazing — 13 combined strikeouts (to the Blue Jays’ 3, by the way). Just great command from nearly everyone on the roster tonight.

Final score: 2-1 Yankees.

The Ones to Watch tonight: I’ve got to give it to the star reliever Moreno and the infielder Pete Kozma. Moreno, as I’ve already mentioned was just flawless on the mound tonight, coming in and commanding the game from first to final pitch of his outing. And Kozma worked the “Hot Corner” (3rd base) tonight with some snazzy defense. There wasn’t much that got by him, and his arm to get the outs at 1st (for example) was spot-on accurate, quick, and efficient. Nice going, guys!

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 14: NYY vs. BOS — 8th inning messy win

They call it “Fenway South” because they built Jetblue Park in Fort Myers to look like Fenway Park up in Boston, complete with a big wall out in left field painted Fenway green. However, the comparison is missing something very important about the original — its historic charm. When you walk through Fenway, you just know that where you’re walking is in the footprints of people who once rooted for the likes of Ruth and Williams over the past century. In Fort Myers, it’s just a park that happens to resemble some famous park in a few ways. Truth be told, I compared the similarity to a high school production of a big Broadway musical — an attempt at the bells and whistles without the polish and professionalism.

Okay, enough Red Sox bashing… can you tell who the Yankees visited this evening?

Yes, today, the Yankees played their first evening game of the Spring just a couple hours south at the Red Sox’s Spring Home. And it was Ivan Nova to start the game and be on point. He threw 4 innings, gave up 3 hits, a walk, and a run, striking out 4 batters, easily his best outing of the Spring so far. The only run the Red Sox scored off Nova was in the bottom of the 1st inning — 2 runners led off with singles to land them on the corners so that the big power hitter ground into a double play that scored the lead runner.

Bryan Mitchell came on in relief and kept the Red Sox to that one run in his 3 near perfect innings — just 1 hit allowed, no runs, no walks, and 1 strikeout. This outing earned him the win (more in just a moment).

Then Nick Rumbelow came on in the 8th with another rough outing. A lead-off single and a wild pitch landed a runner at 2nd. Then (1 out and) 2 more singles loaded the bases so that a single easily scored a run, but kept the bases loaded. A pop-up and a ground out got Rumbelow out of trouble, but it was another sticky inning for the reliever.

In the bottom of the 9th, Nick Goody came on in relief and had the worst outing of his Spring and still managed to keep control of the game — a ground out, 2 singles, a fly out, an RBI double, and a pop-up. So tonight’s Yankees pitchers gave up 11 hits and 1 walk, and struck out 6 Boston batters.

But on the other side of things, the Yankees faced an old foe as the Red Sox starter (former Rays/Tigers’ starter Price) who put in 4 innings of his own, giving up just 3 hits, no walks, and 1 run to the Yankee batters, striking out 6. The only run he gave up was a 2-out solo shot into the Red Sox bullpen out in center field by Aaron Hicks.

Then the Red Sox went into the bullpen and held down the Yankees’ batters to the 1-1 tie for 3 innings with 3 relievers putting up zeros and striking out 4 batters overall. But that 8th inning made the night for the Yankees. The new reliever hit Diaz to lead off the 8th inning. And after a strike out, he gave up a double to Gamel to put runners in scoring position. Cesar Puello singled home both Diaz and Gamel and then moved to 2nd on Carlos Corporan’s ground out. Silva reached on a messy throwing error, which also scored Puello, and then stole 2nd. And with Torreyes on with a walk, Cito Culver’s nice double in the left field corner scored Silva and Torreyes and had the Red Sox calling for a new reliever to get out of the inning.

The Yankees took one messy inning and made it work for them today. And as always, a win against the Red Sox (even a rather sloppy one, at least on their side) is always a good feeling. Honestly, the Yankees needed a win today.

Final score: 6-3 Yankees.

The “one to watch”: I’ve got to give it to Cesar Puello today mainly because of his offensive contributions in that 8th inning. He went 1-for-2, with a run scored, 2 RBIs, and a stolen base. In other words, getting Puello on base tonight was a dangerous thing, a good thing for the Yankees. Puello showed off some very great base running. And he held his own out in right field in the latter part of the game too. Not a terrible way to get people to remember your name.

Also, the Yankees announced HOPE Week this year to be held June 6-10. HOPE Week is my absolute favorite week of the season because it’s when the Yankees select 5 special organizations and people to give back and honor for their year-long service to the community. It reminds everyone to be people of generosity and serve our communities in significant ways because together we can make a difference and change this world.

Go Yankees!