Game 104: DET vs. NYY — Yankees remain strong, last-minute trade grab

Today was the final day of the big MLB trade deadline, and even the Yankees benefited from some last-minute trade deals. But at the expense of some pretty great prospects. More after the game recap, as they still had to play a game in the Bronx.

The Yankees continued their home stand with this 3-game midweek series against the visiting Tigers. The Yankees are hoping to keep their winning momentum going with this new series, so it was only natural to look to Luis Severino to start tonight’s game. Severino threw 116 pitches in just 5 innings, gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and a run, and still struck out 8 Detroit batters.

The still hashtag-less Severino had his toughest inning was the 4th. With 2 outs, he struggled to get that final out, giving up a single that scored on an RBI double. The Yankees’ defense also earned their 2 fielding errors that inning, though it ultimately didn’t affect the score. It just helped push up his pitch count, which was really the roughest part of his outing.

Tommy Kahnle came on in relief for the 6th inning and had a bit of his own struggles. His lead-off batter was hit by a pitch, moved to 2nd on a single, and then scored on a 2-out single to double the Tigers’ score.

Betances had better luck in the 7th, keeping the Tigers from adding to their score, and Jonathan Holder kept things smooth in the 8th. Holder’s 9th inning, however, wasn’t so smooth. With just 1 out on the board, Holder loaded up the bases with consecutive singles and a hit-by-pitch, before handing over the ball to Aroldis Chapman. A fielder’s choice (or rather a late effort at a double play) scored just one more run for the Tigers before a 3-pitch strikeout ended the Tigers’ last-minute rally.

Meanwhile, the Yankees took their opportunities when they found them. In the 4th, they loaded up the bases with a walk, a fielding error, and a walk. Chase Headley’s double scored 2 runs, and then Todd Frazier’s single scored 2 more. All before the Yankees got a single out that inning, and suddenly the Yankees leapt ahead of the Tigers.

Aaron Judge added an extra cushion to the lead with a 1-out solo home run in the 5th into the left field seats. In the 7th, lead-off batter Ellsbury was hit by a pitch, stole 2nd, and then scored on Clint Frazier’s giant triple. After Judge worked a walk, the Tigers pulled their starter and went to their bullpen. Gary Sanchez’s sacrifice fly scored Frazier for the final Yankees’ run of the night.

Final score: 7-3 Yankees.

Scranton Shuttle: before the game, for fresh arms in the bullpen, the Yankees optioned pitcher Luis Cessa to AAA Scranton and recalled Jonathan Holder, who ended up in tonight’s game.

Okay, the big trade of the day has the Yankees picking up a new pitcher for the starting rotation — Sonny Gray, a 27-year-old starter from the Athletics. In trade, the Yankees sent 3 of their prospects — outfielder Dustin Fowler, infielder Jorge Mateo, and pitcher James Kaprielian. Yes, Fowler and Kaprielian are on the DL recovering from surgeries, which should tell you how valuable both teams think of these players.

Sonny Gray was a first round draft pick in 2011 for the Athletics, after pitching at Vanderbilt. Gray came up in the A’s organization, making his MLB debut in 2013 and the 2015 All-Star team. He’s had a bit of a rough season last year on and off the DL, and another small one early this season. But he’s got the history of consistency and the youth that the Yankees really need for some potential long-term players.

The Yankees also picked up extra money for the international draft market (also called “Future Considerations”) on this trade. They picked up even more when they sent pitching prospect Yefry Ramirez to the Orioles. This is good for the Yankees as they continue to expand internationally and pick up more players in a broader market.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 22: NYY vs. DET — Tanaka Time leads to lucky no-hitter

According to the people that know things, today’s game ended up being the first spring training no-hitter for the Yankees since Guidry and Murray combined for a game against Pittsburgh on March 14, 1983. Not exactly a bad way to spend St. Patrick’s Day — a beautiful sunny day, warming weather (from the recent “cold snap”), the other team in rather bright green hats and jerseys, and a no-hitter. And with the way, Masahiro Tanaka’s been playing this Spring, I think we can consider today a little lucky.

Tanaka got his 4th start this afternoon in Lakeland at the Tigers’ Spring home, throwing into the 5th inning. He gave up no hits, but allowed 2 walks (the only base runners the Tigers got today), and struck out 6 Detroit batters in the process, setting himself up for his 2nd win of the Spring. Tanaka keeps putting up the zeroes on the scoreboard, as so far this Spring, he’s allow no runs and just 2 walks and 3 hits in his 13.1 innings pitched. So with an ERA of 0.00, Tanaka’s biggest contribution is his 19 strikeouts.

Chasen Shreve came on to relieve Tanaka in the 5th inning, adding his own strikeout to the total and continuing the no-hit, no-run streak of the day. But it would be Jordan Montgomery that would solidify things for the Yankees. Montgomery, a young pitcher in the Yankees farm system, is showing some promise this Spring and continued to impress with his hitless, scoreless 4 innings, adding 2 more strikeouts to the collective total.

Now, the Tigers’ pitching staff actually did a pretty good job on their own of keeping the Yankees from doing much. But like so often in these games, all they needed with a single inning, a single opportunity to alter the scoreboard and that made all the difference. For today’s game, it would be the 4th inning.

Holliday led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on a fly out, and then scored on Chase Headley’s double. Rob Refsnyder doubled and scored Headley, and a fielding error allowed Refsnyder to end up at 3rd. After a pitching change took the Tigers’ starter out of the game, Ronald Torreyes’ single easily scored Refsnyder to give the Yankees a comfortable lead.

With the stellar pitching, the Yankees’ offense didn’t need another chance to pad the lead. And, well, they didn’t really get one.

Final score: 3-0 Yankees.

The roster cuts continue today as the Yankees optioned prospect (and outstanding Spring player) Jorge Mateo to Single-A Tampa and reassigned him to minor league camp. Don’t think this is the last we’ve seen of him. That kid has quite the future with the Yankees, even this season.

And last night in San Diego at the World Baseball Classic, the team representing the reigning champs of the Dominican Republic beat the team from Venezuela 3-0, with the biggest difference being the 14 total strikeouts issued by Dominican pitchers (to the 5 by Venezuelan pitchers). Later tonight, in a true American match-up, Team USA faces the team from Puerto Rico in a much-anticipated game (broadcast at 10 pm EST).

Go Yankees!

{I’ve been asked to clarify: Puerto Rico is a part of the United States. And while Puerto Ricans have no voting rights, they are considered US citizens and carry US passports. Puerto Rico is its own country, technically an unicorporated territory and considered a commonwealth of the US, so all Puerto Ricans are also Americans. Much like Canada and Australia are commonwealths of the United Kingdom — their own countries, but part of the British Empire. Cue the rainbow: the more you know… (please, don’t make me explain that one)}

Spring Game 18: ATL vs. NYY — Rough start + error-filled defense + overcast skies = Sunday Sorrows

I sat next to a Tigers’ fan at the game today. Not that they were playing in the same stadium we happened to be seated in (though they were playing at their Spring home just about 30 minutes east of us). But just because he wanted to see a ball game today. I listened to him chat with the man on his other side for most of the game, and they pretty much reminisced about the “good old days” (read: the late 1990s). Towards the end of the game, I just had to explain to them that if they’re judging this year’s Yankees by what they saw today, they’re sorely mistaken. They’re much better than whatever happened on the field, and the visiting Braves certainly aren’t that good.

A loss always allows observers (and participants) to become introspective. You start analyzing every angle, trying to figure out what went wrong and how a single alteration might have improved the outcome. And honestly, I’m not sure if I can pinpoint a single problem with today. It’s just a whole mess of problems that collaborated against the Yankees this muggy, overcast Sunday afternoon.

But I’m left with one question: can I get away with blaming Daylight Savings?

CC Sabathia probably had the worst day (though a few others weren’t that far behind him), getting his second start of the Spring. And after a show of “vintage-CC” last time, I think we were all excited about his outing. Until the 1st inning. The first batter hit into a single (though it was a close call at 1st) and then it all just fell apart. The next player reached on a force attempt thanks to a fielding error (#1). Then 2 consecutive singles scored the first 2 runs for the Braves, and a double scored 2 more. Another single and messy throw put runners in scoring position, and a sacrifice fly scored another run.

And that was Sabathia’s first out of the inning, which he followed up with a great strikeout. But then he struggled to get that 3rd out. A double scored yet another runner, and after giving up a walk, Sabathia’s day was done. I should note here that most of the allowed hits were because the fielders weren’t able to respond quickly and handle the plays that would normally be easy outs for the players on the field (most of them were starters or veterans). But Sabathia, in a post-game interview, took the bulk of the blame himself, as a veteran pitcher usually does. Sabathia, the perfectionist, had a rough day, but, like one reporter mentioned, he could have blamed the defense but chose to shoulder it himself.

Coming on in replacement with 2 runners already on base, Ben Heller closed out the 1st inning by getting a ground out at 2nd thanks to the quick reaction of shortstop Jorge Mateo. Heller went on through the 2nd inning and kept the Braves from adding to their big lead. Chapman and Shreve continued that momentum in the 3rd and 4th, and the defense was starting to really work together, getting 2 double plays (one in each inning), save another fielding error in the 4th (#2).

In the 5th, young reliever Camarena came in and got through that inning quickly, after a lead-off double, but then the defense struggled and under Camarena in the 6th. Two consecutive fielding errors (#3 & #4) and a single loaded the bases (and you could hear the collective groan in nearly 2/3 of the fans in the stadium). But while a sacrifice fly scored one unearned run, Camarena (and the defense) collaborated for a fly out and ground out to get out of the inning.

German pitched his way through the 7th and 8th inning, stopping the Braves from adding to their ever-increasing lead and getting 3 great strikeouts. But in the 9th, Ramirez found some trouble after 2 switch line outs. Two outs and two runners on base with singles, yet another fielding error (#5) allowed another runner to score, putting the remaining two runners on the corners. A big triple (almost an inside-the-park homer thanks to the speed of this player) scored 2 more runners. Even after a hit-by-pitch threatened another base runner, Ramirez dug deep and got a great strikeout to get out of the inning.

The Yankees weren’t exactly blessed in the offense department today. In fact, the Braves pitching staff and defense kept them hitless through 4 innings. It was like the Yankees hit balls directly to the infielders for either line drives or easy out plays. Today’s starting catcher Austin Romine was having a hard time watching the team struggle with what are usually easy plays in the field and getting the ball to him for the outs to make at home. Romine got his own form of revenge, in a way, by getting the Yankees’ first hit in the 5th inning, a 1-out solo home run into the right field seats.

Jorge Mateo followed up that with one of his own to lead-off the 6th inning, a great shot in nearly the same spot for the fans hanging out there. The Yankees would only cobble together 4 total hits (and 2 walks off the Braves’ starter), while the Braves collected 14 hits and 3 walks (and 5 errors and a hit-by-pitch). Yeah, not a good day for the Yankees.

Final score: 10-2 Braves (to be fair, only 4 of those Braves’ runs were “earned”)

Player of the Game: Jorge Mateo. Easy choice today. In the first half of the game, Mateo was easily the best, most consistent infielder. His instincts and sharpness easily stood out in this sloppy defensive game. (Though it should be noted that Romine also did a great job behind the plate.) But then you add Mateo’s big home run in the 6th, his first of the Spring, and you remember why he’s been one to watch for the last two Springs. He’s really something else.

Meanwhile, the first round of cuts were made today, sending 11 pitchers and catchers to minor league camp to finish their Spring — pitchers Camarena, Feyereisen, Lail, Mantiply, Reeves, Rumbelow, Rutckyj, and Sheffield; and catchers Deglan, Diaz, and Saez. This still leaves 56 players in camp, but that count includes currently injured Tyler Austin and the six players representing various teams in the World Baseball Classic.

And speaking of the World Baseball Classic: it’s been quite the last 24 hours for the teams in the WBC. Last night, Venezuela eked out a win over Italy in the 10th inning, 11-10, Puerto Rico beat Mexico 9-4, and the USA fell to the team from the Dominican Republic 5-7. Overnight in Tokyo, Team Israel kept their winning streak alive by defeating Cuba 4-1, and the Netherlands fell to Japan 6-8. Today, the Dominican Republic ended up trouncing the Columbia team 10-3, by racking up 7 runs in the 11th inning alone, and Italy fell to Puerto Rico 3-9.

As I write this, Canada faces off with Team USA. Later tonight, Mexico will face Venezuela (10 pm EST), and the Netherlands will face Israel early tomorrow morning (6 am EST). While there are 6 current Yankees on teams all over this tournament, it’s kind of fun to keep an eye out for former Yankees (like David Robertson, Andrew Miller, Francisco Cervelli, Yangervis Solarte, and Martin Prado) and watching their impact on their national teams. I mean, once a Yankee… and all.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: no video links today. Trust me, there’s not a lot about today’s game you really want to remember. Just savor in the beauty of Romine and Mateo’s great home runs in your imagination, forget the rest happened, and you’re good.}

Spring Game 9: NYY vs. TOR — Prospective hopes, walk-off loss #2

Okay, so apparently, when the Yankees lose games this Spring, they do it at away games by allowing the home team to do so in a walk-off. I’d say it’s gracious, but really, it’s just frustrating.

Luis Severino started for the Yankees this cool afternoon at the Blue Jays spring home, just across Tampa Bay. Severino’s lone problem inning was his first, allowing his lone walk to score as part of a big 2-run home run to get the Blue Jays on the board. But following that, no one would do much of anything for most of the game. Johnny Barbato took over for Severino in the middle of the 3rd, got out of a jam, and breezed his way through 6 outs, setting the pace for the rest of the game.

The rest of the pitching roster maintained that momentum, just waiting for the Yankees offense to do something. Anything really. Actually, in total, the Yankees and Blue Jays were pretty much paired off evenly. Both teams racked up 7 total hits, worked 2 walks, and nearly matched the same number of strikeouts (9 by Yankee pitchers, 7 by Toronto pitchers).

But the problem is always the runs. The Yankees didn’t cross the plate until the very last opportunity, the 9th inning. With 1 out, Castillo singled and Diaz doubled, getting runners in scoring position (and pinch-runner Wade in for Diaz). So infield rookie Ji-Man Choi singled home both runners to tie up the game and force a bottom of the 9th inning.

All those Canadian tourists must have been praying a little hard, especially as the Blue Jays were looking for only their second win this Spring, because the second batter smacked a really big solo home run for a celebratory walk-off win for the Blue Jays.

Final score: 3-2 Blue Jays

Some good news for the Yankees organization. MLBPipeline.com named the Yankees farm system the 2nd best farm system in MLB (just behind the Braves), and anyone who’s been watching the kids in the minor leagues for any length of time (even just this Spring) can vouch for that fact.

The system is packed with talent — Frazier, Kaprielian, Mateo, McKinney, Andujar, and Torres. And we’ve seen the results of the system make their debuts last year and impact the direction of the Yankees in incredible ways in the likes of Judge, Austin, and Sanchez, all three of whom are expected to be on the 25-man roster come Opening Day. (That list includes Austin, who is currently out nursing his broken foot, with hopes of returning in April.)

I remember talking to a friend a couple of years ago, towards the end of Spring Training that year. She was questioning if I thought the Yankees were going to do much that year. I admitted that they would compete hard like they always do, but I just didn’t see them as the championship team they needed to be champions come October (and they weren’t). But I told her to hang on a few seasons because the kids I was watching in Spring were just phenomenal. I’m not sure she really believed me then, but based on some recent online posts, I know she believes me now.

Sometimes, it’s hard to see any good when all you’re shown is the bad. But that’s why paying attention to Spring is so vital. You can see the future on display in all its glory. And I gotta tell you, the future is looks really good. And the future is happening sooner rather than later, folks. Hang on to your hats; this is going to be something to watch.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 8: BAL vs. NYY — The Real Deal, rightly sitting on top

I want to point something out to start tonight’s post: the Yankees are the best team in the Grapefruit League. Currently, they sit at 7 wins and 1 loss, or .875 average. They are technically tied with the Angels for top of the league and the AL, “technically” because the Angels (who play in the Cactus League for Spring Training, in Arizona) have only played 6 games and won them all. Not that I put much stock in how the Spring Training standings result because come April, all those lovely standings go back to .000 and 0-0 and they start all over again.

But it’s worth mentioning because the Yankees like to win and lead, and right now, they are. So take a moment and celebrate. Then realize we’re just 8 games into Spring Training, a 5-week long string of exhibition games that don’t matter for the real win and championship come October.

Tonight, the Yankees played their second night game under cloudy, cooling skies against the visiting Orioles. Adam Warren got the start and breezed through the Orioles until his 3rd inning, giving up a solid lead-off home run to get the Orioles on the board with what would be their lone run of the night. Aroldis Chapman made his Spring debut, throwing his first pitch since Game 7 of the World Series (for the Cubs), and topping out on the radar gun at 100mph. So he’s getting into shape.

Clippard, Layne, Enns, and Gallegos split the rest of the game and kept the Orioles from doing much more. A bit of drama to close out the game, but the Yankees did what they’ve been doing really well so far this year and pulled it together to finish off their opponent. In total, Yankee pitching staff racked up 10 strikeouts and kept the O’s to just 2 hits all night. Not a bad show for the home team.

The Yankees, of course, continued to back up good pitching with their outstanding offense. Matt Holliday began their offense with a lead-off solo home run in the 2nd inning. In the 4th, Gary Sanchez led-off with a double and then scored as part of Greg Bird’s monster 2-run home run (his 3rd homer of the Spring so far, by the way). After Castro hit a 1-out single, Jorge Mateo was brought in as pinch-runner, and he promptly showed off his speed, stealing 2nd and then ending up at 3rd on a short ground out.

With 1 out in the 5th, and runners on the corners, Sanchez’s single scored the lead runner to add another run to the Yankees’ healthy lead. And with Tejada on 1st with a single in the 7th, Billy McKinney smacked a 2-run home run into the right field seats. Then Higashioka doubled and moved to 3rd on a fly out before scoring on Mateo’s big ground-rule double (just missing the back fence before bouncing over the it).

Then with 2 outs and Wade on 1st with a single, McKinney (again) hit a long ball for an RBI double, just inches from being another home run. McKinney’s 2 big hits were just part of the big 14 total hits from all over the roster today.

Final score: 8-1 Yankees.

Players of the Game: Okay, I was sure it was going to be one guy, and then another kind of showed up and proved he was amazing (again, I might add). So I couldn’t pick and now honor two guys. Jorge Mateo came into the game early, replacing Castro and jumping right into the fray by stealing 2nd, barely. He then went 1-for-2 with that big RBI ground-rule double in the 7th, and is currently batting an impressive .333 (and an OPS at .833). Mateo’s been good to watch for the last few Springs, and this might be the year for his breakout, especially if he keeps playing like this.

Billy McKinney went 2-for-2, with 2 monster hits — a 2-run homer and RBI double for 3 RBIs, and is currently batting .600 (with an on-base plus slugging percentage at 2.750, or he’s scary good). Plus, he’s the guy you want hunting down those long fly balls in the outfield, though he didn’t get much work in right field tonight. Look, McKinney is the real deal, folks. It’s really fun to watch him play, like watching this natural ball player do what he was born to do.

Go Yankees!

All the latest updates, farewells, outreaches, and honors… it’s been a busy 5 weeks!

Between the Cubs’ victory parade, postseason awards, Thanksgiving, Winter Meetings, and now the approaching week filled with Christmas, Hanukkah, and the New Year, the Yankees have been everything but quiet and stagnant. Some years, Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman’s job seems to just sit back and watch other teams do the postseason dance that is somewhere between an elegant waltz and a fire-sale at times. But not this year.

Cashman has been busy, even making some pretty big moves. First, in the middle of last month, he traded catcher Brian McCann (and cash considerations) to the Astros for a pair of young pitchers Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman. Sorry, McCann fans, but McCann wasn’t exactly ready to be a once-a-week player with Gary Sanchez taking a much larger (and well-deserved role). This was a good move for everybody.

Earlier this week, as part of the Winter Meetings (hosted at the beautiful Gaylord Resort, just south of D.C.), Cashman also made a play for two big players. First, he signed Matt Holliday, a veteran outfielder who is slated to primarily fill the position previously occupied by Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran (outfielder/designated hitter). Holliday, a 7-time All-Star, began his career with the Rockies, spending 5 seasons there and making a name for himself, before finding a nice home with the Cardinals for the last 7 1/2 seasons, being a crucial part of their 2011 World Series championship. Holliday seems very excited to be playing in New York, which isn’t really surprising as he wore #7 in St. Louis for Mickey Mantle. You know, David Ortiz said once last season that there are two kinds of players — those who were born to play with the Yankees and those born to play against them (Ortiz being the latter).

Another big pick-up was the deal made when the Yankees signed Aroldis Chapman to a 5-year, $86 million deal. Yes, Chapman fans, two of the Warriors Three will be back in the Bronx for the foreseeable future. This time, with Chapman’s shiny World Series ring glaring and pushing the Yankees to give him another one. A physical exam is still pending the finality of this contract, but things look good for the closer to return to Yankee pinstripes for the next five seasons.

Cashman’s focus was clearly on building up the bullpen as most of the roster moves these last 5 weeks. So try to keep up: Branden Pinder was originally designated for assignment early in November, but then was outrighted to AAA Scranton, so we’ll be seeing Pinder again; Joe Mantiply (after being claimed off waivers from the Tigers), Nick Rumbelow, and Nathan Eovaldi were designated for assignment and then released all three of them just before Thanksgiving; James Pazos was traded to the Mariners for reliever Zack Littell; Dustin Ackley was released; Jacob Lindgren elected free agency; and the Yankees then filled a bunch of holes on their roster with minor leaguers Jorge Mateo and Yefrey Ramirez (from the Single-A Tampa Yankees), Ronald Herrera and Miguel Andujar (from AA Trenton),  and Dietrich Enns and Giovanny Gallegos (from AAA Scranton).

But it didn’t stop there. In coordination with the Rule 5 Draft, the Yankees moved some minor leaguers around and said some goodbyes. The Brewers claimed reliever Caleb Smith, the Red catcher Luis Torrens, reliever Tyler Jones went to Arizona, and the Pirates got reliever Tyler Webb. The Yankees themselves picked up a few minor leaguers, catcher Jorge Saez (Blue Jays) and reliever Colten Brewer (Pirates).

All the postseason awards have been doled out, and the Yankees got… two. And nothing went to our Rookie of the Year, Gary Sanchez. No, the big Yankee winner this postseason was Brett Gardner, who took home both the Gold Glove and Defensive Player of the Year for doing the outstanding job we’re used to seeing out there in left field.

However, there are a few alumni honors come next month. BBWAA vote for the Class of 2017, with any new inductees to be announced next month. Several former Yankees grace the ballot this year, none more so than Jorge Posada (the first of the Core Four to reach such an honor). However, the chances everyone seems to hold for Posada (and the few other Yankees alums) seem rather slim, especially as the voters seem to be rather stringent in their voting, less nostalgic as your average baseball fan and more strategic in their selection parameters.

Also selected for Hall of Fame honors this year are current Braves’ president John Schuerholz and former MLB commissioner Bud Selig, both elected by the Today’s Game Committee. Other familiar faces on this ballot, who failed to make the cut this year, include former manager and player Lou Pinella, former players Albert Belle, Orel Hershiser, and Mark McGwire, and former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. Debates as to which of these deserve to be in Cooperstown rage on.

Two other awards honored journalists for outstanding writing and broadcasting — the late Bill King, known for his coverage of San Francisco sports, distinctive facial hair, and his catchphrase “Holy Toledo!”, and veteran journalist Claire Smith, who became the first woman to receive the honor. Neither will be officially in the Hall of Fame, but will be part of a permanent exhibit to honor such journalist excellence and contribution to the game. I mean, without them, our knowledge of the game would not be what it is today, even with direct information like social media. It would certainly make my job a lot harder!

And speaking of Yankee alumni, the Yankees announced that they will be officially retiring the number 2 in honor of Derek Jeter on before the game on Sunday, May 14. Rather fitting really, with the extensive knowledge of how close Jeter is with his family, Jeter’s long-sacred number will become the 22nd one the Yankees send to Monument Park, and with that move, all the single digits (save a zero) are officially removed from jersey circulation. Single game tickets are not directly available yet (though they feature prominently on the secondary online marketplaces), though season tickets and multi-game ticket packages are available.

This week, in Tampa, the Yankees foundation hosted their holiday celebration, led by Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal with special guests Alex Rodriguez, Tino Martinez, and Nick & Joanna Swisher. Hundreds of local children were treated to the Yankees 28th Annual Holiday Concert, complete with gifts and carol singing, in preparation for the holidays. The Yankees also hosted other local community outreaches in New York for the holidays including a Thanksgiving food drive and giving back to the children and families of the Bronx with a great goodie bag full of both basic necessities and special gifts.

Looking ahead, many players have already committed to playing for various teams around the world in the World Baseball Classic this March. The Yankees only current representative is Dellin Betances, who agreed to play for the reigning champions, the Dominican Republic, alongside former teammate Cano. Other former Yankees who will play in the WBC include Martin for Canada and Beltran for Puerto Rico. Betances, who was also recently married, will be an outstanding contribution to any team. Also, a big congratulations to Dellin and Janisa Betances!

As far as everything else, there’s still 63 days until Pitchers and Catchers report for Spring Training. So there’s a lot of time left for the Yankees to do something else, despite reports that they’re pretty much done with big moves this off-season. That statement, however, doesn’t preclude any minor “tweaking”, and you must know by now they love their “tweaking”. Enjoy your holiday season!

Go Yankees!

Game 84: NYY vs. CWS – Shutout by the South Siders

A humid midwestern evening with a heat index in the mid-90s greeted fans tonight at U.S. Cellular Field on Chicago’s south side for the rubber match between the Yankees and the White Sox. Both teams were confident they would win this series, but, as always, there can only be one winner.

Michael Pineda started for the Yankees and had a decent first inning, but quickly gave up 4 runs in the second inning. Over 6 innings, Pineda allowed a final total of 5 runs, 5 hits, and a walk. So other than his brief dip in productivity (early on), Pineda actually did a pretty decent job.  At the bottom of the second, Pineda was able to get the first two batters out, but then Chicago began a hitting streak and gained 4 runs. With a single, passed ball, and a walk, 2 runners were suddenly on base. A single scored the first one, and a ground-rule double scored the other. A double then scored the final 2 runners to give the White Sox a rather hefty early lead.

With runners on the corners in the sixth, a fielder’s choice allowed Chicago’s final run to cross the plate; though the Yankees tried for the standard double play but just weren’t quick enough on that particular play. In the middle of all this, Pineda recorded his 500th career strikeout in the fifth inning; a rather big number for a rather young pitcher.

In his first outing from the bullpen this season, Nathan Eovaldi took over the mound for the Yankees in the eighth and ninth for one strikeout, and despite 2 walks and wild pitch, he gave up no runs during his tenure tonight.

Inning by inning, the White Sox starter shut down any and all Yankee scoring opportunities. The relievers (including a former Yankee reliever) in the final part of the game continued that momentum by the White Sox starter; the Yankee offense could not get past any of the Chicago pitchers tonight.

The Yankees’ offense wasn’t nearly as dramatic or productive, but it was rather heavy on Didi Gregorius (as was the defense tonight, actually). In the top of the second inning, with two outs on the board,  Gregorius stole second base and was called out, but a replay review rather quickly overturned that decision, putting Gregorius in scoring position right up until the next batter grounded out to end the inning. In the bottom of the fourth, Gregorius’ awesome diving stop to end the inning was another valiant attempts by the Yankee defense to stop the advancing South Siders.

With two outs at the top of the seventh, Gregorius (again!) hit a hard line drive down the right field line for a ground-rule double that put him in scoring position but was left stranded at the end of the inning. And in the bottom of that inning, McCann’s quick reaction and strong arm stopped a runner on a stolen base attempt. Bottom of the eighth, a solid double play by Castro and Gregorius ended the inning, in what is becoming a rather instinctive, beautiful, and standard teamwork play for the middle infielders.

And in a last-ditch effort in the ninth, facing a former teammate to many Yankees, and two men on base, a replay challenge overturned what would have been the third out. With Yankee fans hoping this game would not be a shut-out, Headley came to the plate and attempted to get a piece of the ball, hoping to continue the offensive contributions from earlier in this series, but he struck out swinging for the final out of the evening. The Yankees just couldn’t get their bats in order to dent the Sox’s early lead.

Final score: 5-0 White Sox, White Sox take the series 2-1.

News from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: The Yankees continue to be pleased with the progress of their top three prospects Jorge Mateo, Aaron Judge, and Gary Sanchez. Kudos to Sanchez for being chosen to appear in the All-Star Futures Game in Petco Park, San Diego, on July 10. (Mateo was also supposed to participate, but a recent suspension for insubordination forces him to now miss this opportunity.)

Tampa Yankee prospect Ian Clarkin is also garnering positive attention. This young pitcher missed all 2015 due to an arm issue. Now healthy and  working strong, he has a great command of his fast ball, has added new pitches, and is working on his pitching mechanics with successful results. Clarkin is one to watch!

Be sure to vote! The ballot for the final vote for 2016 MLB All-Star Game is available online here. No Yankees in this one, but someone may strike you as deserving of a trip to San Diego.

Go Yankees!