Game 156: BAL vs. NYY — A 1-hit shutout, the new guy, & the veterans

Sometimes in a game, there are one or two guys to talk about. Sometimes there are none (and I hate writing those posts). But sometimes, it’s a whole lot of guys. And honestly, at the end of the day, I’d always rather talk about the team than single out individuals. Because individuals are great, but people on their own don’t win ball games. Teams win ball games.

I mean, it would be unfair to talk about how great tonight’s starter was without mentioning what a great defense was behind him. And if we’re nitpicking here, he could be the best pitcher in the world, but if the team doesn’t hit, they can’t win the game. I think fans love their stars; it’s why specific jersey numbers sell and certain names are chanted and cheered with reverence, but even the guys represented by those numbers all over fans’ backs at a game will tell you that they can’t do it alone. Tonight’s game against the Orioles was proof that the Yankees are a team, and the standout players are many and function to help each other win ball games.

Michael Pineda got the start tonight and proceeded to just dominate the Orioles. He threw 106 pitches over 7.1 innings (yes, just 5 out shy of a complete game), struck out 8 Baltimore batters, and gave up just 1 hit and 1 walk. That means the Orioles were only ever on base twice when Pineda was on the mound (another walk by a reliever was allowed in the 9th to give them a 3rd base runner total). But they couldn’t do much with it. Not with Pineda pitching like… well, Pineda. And not with the Yankee defense at their best as they were tonight. (Like Stephen Drew with 2 outstanding defensive plays tonight — a diving stop in the 1st and a nice grab in the 8th.)

Shawn Kelley came on to get the last 2 outs of the 8th inning and the first batter of the 9th, striking out two of the three batters he faced. He was replaced by lefty Rich Hill for the 2nd out of the 9th, and then David Phelps for the last. Phelps threw just 1 pitch to get the last batter to fly out to right field to end the game. Really good pitching all around. I know some people were complaining about Girardi using 3 different pitchers to get the 3 outs in the 9th. But when you have a bloated roster like they do in September, why not use everyone you can? It’s not like it was a save or tight game at that point.

I should probably mention that the Yankees did a pretty good offensive job today. I mean, not as good as some teams are doing around the league. I have to give some credit to the AL East Division champions (yes, they already secured that title and a spot in October baseball); they must have something that afforded them that title. I don’t know where it was tonight, and I’m really okay with never seeing it at all this week in the Bronx. (Seriously, Baltimore, you got your title already, so any kind of half-way effort you want to put into games is okay with me and about a half-million Yankees fans.)

Anyway, it was the bottom of the 3rd inning, Ichiro on base because of a fielding error, when recent call-up Jose Pirela made his major league debut and tripled to score Ichiro for the Yankees first run. Derek Jeter would later ground out and score Pirela. So in the first inning of his at-bat, Pirela tripled, got an RBI, and scored a run; and that was just the beginning of his night.

In the 5th inning, with 2 outs, Pirela singled and moved to 2nd on Gardner’s walk, and then he and Gardner scored Jeter’s double. In total, Pirela went 2-for-3 in his debut, with an RBI and 2 runs scored; not bad for his first game. And if we’re talking individual stats, it would be worth mentioning that Jeter was responsible for knocking in 3 of the Yankees’ runs tonight, defying most critics once again. And because a 4-0 game just isn’t quite enough, leave it to Chase Headley to hit a solo home run straight into the netting above Monument Park beyond center field to make the game 5-0 Yankees.

And there they sat. 5-0. A win, well-earned by good pitching and good defense and good batting and just by being a team. It’s those kinds of games I can get behind, the kind to celebrate and use as an example. Not bad for a Monday evening in the chilly Bronx on this last day of summer. (Yes, folks, tomorrow is the autumnal equinox.) Sad as it will be to say goodbye to this season, I can’t say I’m not ready for the fall. But isn’t that the way of things anyway? Keep moving forward, anticipating adventures and legends and traditions yet to come, even yet to be born. It’s what keeps hope alive — forward. What is that old Sinatra song? “The best is yet to come…” Bring it!

Go Yankees!

Game 150: NYY vs. TB — Implosion, explosion, protests, and ejections

Okay, let me just say that I have absolutely no idea where to start because I have no idea what happened in Tampa tonight. At some point, everything just kind of imploded and then exploded.

First things first then… Tampa’s “not-a-farewell-tour” rolled out (literally) its ceremony prior to tonight’s game, presenting Derek Jeter with a 16-foot customized pinstriped kayak and a $16,000 donation to Turn 2 ($50 per hit Jeter has made off Rays’ pitching — that’s 320 hits, if you don’t want to do math). Then Soot Zimmer, the widow of Don Zimmer, presented Jeter with a framed Zimmer jersey.

Zim was most recently a special advisor to the Rays, but he was Torre’s bench coach when Jeter was first called up to the Yankees. Zim was a fixture at the ballpark, and I remember him smiling and trotting around even this year’s Spring Training with the vitality of his younger days, despite a stroke some years ago. Zim was a shared legend between the Yankees and Rays, but he passed away in June this year. I know he would have loved to be there tonight to see Jeter off into his retirement properly, and this was a great way to incorporate him and his legacy and impact into a ceremony celebrating the legacy and impact of one who truly appreciated him.

And then there was a game. Last year, I was convinced that certain stadiums were almost bad luck (if you believe in such things) for the Yankees. This year, I’m convinced it’s specific teams that have it out for the Yankees. And with the Rays, I’m absolutely certain… but we’ll get there in a moment.

In the 2nd inning, with 2 outs, Chris Young doubled and then scored on Ichiro Suzuki’s single, giving the Yankees a 1-0 early lead. It didn’t last long, and it would be the only run the Yankees scored all night.

It was Michael Pineda’s turn to start for the Yankees tonight. 100 pitches over his 5.1 innings wasn’t a terrible outing, but certainly not at the level the Yankees needed to win tonight’s game. He allowed just 4 hits, 2 runs (only 1 earned), and 2 walks, striking out 5 batters. In the 5th, a throwing error and a walk put runners at 1st and 2nd; a runner then scored on a missed catching error by Pineda himself to tie up the game 1-1.

Pineda allowed a double in the 6th, and that runner scored on a single (2-1 Rays). This forced Girardi to turn to Josh Outman in relief for the rest of that inning, which he did flawlessly.

But I can’t say much for the 7th inning relief of Esmil Rogers, which in my mind started the implosion. After a quick out, Rogers put runners on the corners with a walk and a single; another single scored a run, and this gave the Yankees enough cause to pass the ball to Rich Hill. But then a single loaded the bases, and another single scored yet another run, keeping the bases loaded.

And so it was onto David Phelps. His first batter hit a sacrifice fly to Ellsbury in center field, but 2 runners ended up scoring. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a 2-run sac fly before. There was some confusion as to whether one runner actually tagged every bag and whether he left too early (he did, by the way); honestly, this began the ultimate confusion spiral that became this game. After some minor protestations from Girardi, which were largely ignored or quickly disregarded by the umpire staff, he officially declared the Yankees playing this game “under protest”.

From MLB.com:

Rule 4.19
PROTESTING GAMES.
Each league shall adopt rules governing procedure for protesting a game, when a manager claims that an umpire’s decision is in violation of these rules. No protest shall ever be permitted on judgment decisions by the umpire. In all protested games, the decision of the League President shall be final.
Even if it is held that the protested decision violated the rules, no replay of the game will be ordered unless in the opinion of the League President the violation adversely affected the protesting team’s chances of winning the game.
Rule 4.19 Comment: Whenever a manager protests a game because of alleged misapplication of the rules the protest will not be recognized unless the umpires are notified at the time the play under protest occurs and before the next pitch, play or attempted play. A protest arising on a game-ending play may be filed until 12 noon the following day with the league office.

Bring on the explosion…

Into the top of the 8th, the Yankees are at bat, with Jeter leading off to a standing and cheering Tampa crowd. And the pitcher hit him. This would make the fifth Yankee batter (well, fourth unless you count Jeter twice now) hit by a Rays pitcher in just 4 games. How do I know this? Because Girardi made a very big point of this when he went storming out of the dugout to argue for the Rays’ pitcher to be thrown out for trying to take out his batter. And do the Rays pitchers get any repercussions for “pitching inside” sloppily? Nope. Scott-free once again. Who gets ejected? Girardi. That’s right. The guy who doesn’t want to see another Headley sprawled out on the ground with a bloody jaw or a severely bruised-up player in the training room AGAIN, he’s the guy that it makes sense to toss from the game.

Now, do I honestly think that the pitcher meant to hit Jeter when the Rays were up 6-1 over the Yankees? No. But it seems the Rays are determined to “pitch inside” a lot. The Yankees all agree that such pitching is necessary at times, but “you’ve got to do it right” so that no one gets hurt. Apparently, according to pitchers and players and coaches alike, if you’re going to “pitch inside”, you pitch in and down and NOT in and up like the Rays have been doing all year and hitting people right and left (literally and figuratively).

Anyway, Maddon (the Rays’ manager) wisely opted to go to his bullpen so as not to risk the wrath of an already heated crowd and clubhouse for hitting the Captain. And the only thing the umpires chose to do was “warn both teams”. Why the Yankees were “warned” at this point, I’ll never understand.

Three outs later and it was the Yankees’ turn to pitch. (Hearing that ticking sound yet?)

Phelps, still on the mound, came into the 8th inning, still shaking off his rust from his recent return to the bullpen. And he did the last thing you want a pitcher to do in this situation. Yes, he apparently hit the batter (though on the replay, he clearly did not and thus everything that followed was a total crock). And because the team was already “under warning”, Phelps was ejected, and according to protocol (that I don’t agree with) bench coach and acting manager Tony Pena was also ejected. Benches were cleared, and some massive “jawing” as it happened between far too many players and coaches and umpires. (KA-BOOM!)

Sometimes, I completely understand why ejections happen; it’s a heated game, adrenaline runs high in a competitive environment, and there are those with a short temper or diva-like attitudes that don’t fare well in such environments at times. But I have to be completely honest, I don’t agree with a single ejection in this entire game. Nor have I agreed with most of these extreme calls at the Trop for the entire series.

Anyway, David Huff came on and pitched the 8th, keeping the score at 6-1 Rays, something the Yankees just were never able to overcome. If I believed in bad ju-ju or whatever, I’d say it was all over the Trop tonight.

Look, I try to stay positive and objective on this blog, but there are days that it’s rather hard to do so. Fortunately, I’m not a journalist, so I can be a little more opinionated than your average sports writer. So I’m going to try to be positive for a minute…

Nope. The only thing I can think of is that old adage, “if you can’t say something nice…” So I’m moving on, closing the chapter on tonight’s game, and hoping for something positive to talk about tomorrow.

But before we go, there’s one more bit of “not-so-positive” news: Martin Prado had an emergency appendectomy last night in Tampa and was placed on the 60-day DL, effectively out for the rest of the season. They called up Jose Pirela in his stead. I was more than a little discouraged after I specifically requested no more bad news on the injury/roster front to wake up to that news this morning. Oh well, wishing Prado rest and healing. At least this is one “injury” that we don’t have to worry about the possibility of a recurrence.

I just thought of some good news: only one more game at the Trop for the rest of the season. I hear angelic choruses warming up…

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 13: TB vs. NYY — Pitching to a tie

There’s an animated movie that’s been in the works for a very long time now called “Henry & Me” about a boy with an illness who encounters Yankee greats of the past and present, including Ruth, Berra, Munson, and Matsui. Spearheading the All-Star voice cast is long-time Yankee fan Richard Gere, who voices “Henry” (spoiler alert: he’s Henry “Lou” Gehrig). Gere brings his sons to a weekend at Spring Training every year, and in return, the Yankees allow him to throw out the first pitch, like he did today. (Oh, and there is finally a release date on the movie — June 15, 2014, about 8 years after it was first announced.)

David Phelps took the mound for start for today’s game against the Rays, and for 5 innings, Phelps continued to prove his solid candidacy for that 5th starter’s spot. He allowed just 3 hits, striking out one batter, and relying on a very good infield today, led almost solely by Derek Jeter. 7 of the 15 outs in those 5 innings were as a result of Jeter’s defense, something that should certainly give those who slam that defense a moment of pause.

Dellin Betances took over for Phelps and continued his march toward a nice bullpen spot. And the Rays and Yankees seemed determined to have a pitching contest for a very quick first 6 innings. And then things started to slow down, as the “replacements” came filtering in.

Bruce Billings got the ball in the 7th, and promptly gives up a ground-rule double, a sacrifice bunt that makes it to 1st and scores the runner on Billings’ throwing error. That runner stole 2nd and then 3rd on a passed ball, and then scores on a single. With only one out, Yankees fans started groaning and Rays fans were on their feet. Fortunately, the next batter hits into a double play lining out and getting the runner doubling off first.

So the Yankees weren’t going to let the Rays’ lead 2-0 stand for long. So in the bottom of the 7th, with one out, Soriano (Ramon Flores pinch-runs) singles and Kelly Johnson (Canzler pinch-runs) gets plunked on the back by a ball, and the Rays don’t hesitate to pull that pitcher before things get out of hand. A wild pitch by the new pitcher advanced Flores and Canzler to 3rd and 2nd, respectively. Brian Roberts hits a sacrifice fly to score Flores and put the Yankees on the board 2-1 behind the Rays.

And thus began the back-and-forth between the AL East rivals. In the 8th, with one out, a Rays batter popped a ball up in the shallow outfield that three Yankees were going for, but the late afternoon sun seemed to cause some confusion, as shortstop Dean Anna couldn’t seem to keep the ball in his glove, and the runner ended up at 2nd and then 3rd on a wild pitch by Danny Burawa. A single scored that 3rd Rays run. Now, Burawa’s fastball approached 98 mph today, and he is certainly turning into a really great pitcher. Both the Yankee and opposing team scouts were very interested in watching him pitch the 8th.

Jose Pirela singled and moved to 2nd on a ground out in the bottom of the 8th. Adonis Garcia singled and moved Pirela to 3rd. A messy pitch allowed Garcia to steal 2nd, and the catcher tried to throw him out and missed terribly, so Pirela scored and the Yankees trailed 3-2 to the Rays. So the Yankees send sidearm Matt Daley to pitch the 9th, who shut down the Rays in 3 batters, striking out 2 of them. Even the umpires seemed impressed by Daley’s pitching.

A last-ditch effort of sorts, the Yankees headed into the bottom of the 9th determined, but got 2 outs almost immediately. But then Gil singled (Antoan Richardson to pinch-run), and Jose Pirela singles and moves Richardson to 3rd. Another wild pitch scores Richardson easily and ties up the game. But they can’t push anything past that. Montgomery then takes the 10th, putting the Rays down in order rather quickly. And at that point, it’s either a win or a tie for the Yankees. But a new Rays pitcher returns the favor and forces the 3-3 tie.

To watch: Danny Burawa (despite the run) is still something, and you can practically feel the heat off his fast ball. Matt Daley’s side arm could earn him a great spot as a one-inning specialist in the bullpen, and he seems to be something to watch. And I have to mention Jose Pirela again, who continues to outshine most of the other “replacements” in the later innings in the batter’s box and out on the field.

A tie isn’t really great as it’s not a win, but it’s always better than a loss, so I’ll take it. It is what it is. And that’s not so terrible going into an off-day.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 10: NYY vs. PHI — A very rainy win and plenty of drama

Waking up this morning to very rainy skies and tornado warnings, it’s almost hard to believe they actually played a game today. Dugouts were quite flooded, the team bus didn’t leave Tampa for the 20 minute drive to Clearwater until 11:15 (almost 2 hours late), and even the power at Bright House Field went out. Finally, about 1:40 pm, the sun came out, and somehow the grounds crew managed to dry the field and the staff in Clearwater dried out the stadium for the scattered die-hard fans to watch the delayed game (for an hour and 26 minutes). And those lucky fans were treated to a couple a fun things — Masahiro Tanaka’s pitching, Mark Teixeira and Alfonso Soriano’s spring debut, and Derek Jeter’s first two hits of Spring. (Of course, the majority of the fans weren’t as excited for such things, as the Yankees were in Phillies territory today.)

Tanaka kept the Phillies scoreless, but then so did the Phillies’ starter to the Yankees. That is until the 3rd inning, when each side gave up a solo home run, Ramon Flores for the Yankees. It was also in the 3rd inning that Jeter broke his 9 at-bat hitless streak with a decent single to left field. He then backed that up with a very nice 2-out double in the 5th inning, but the Yankees left him stranded. I think most Yankee fans are hoping this translates into some decent hits (and potentially runs) back on their turf just across the bridge in Tampa.

Bruce Billings took over for Tanaka for the 4th and 5th innings, and it was the 5th inning that got him into a little trouble. A lead-off walk was virtually erased when catcher John Ryan Murphy caught the runner stealing 2nd. That was incredibly (and ironically) fortuitous because the batter promptly hit a home run to left field (sparing the Yankees a multiple homer for a solo one). But then the next batter gets his own solo home run, and the Yankees are suddenly behind in the score 3-1 to the Phillies. Billings pulls it together and strikes out the next two batters to get out of the inning.

Leroux took the 6th, keeping the score intact. And in the top of the 7th, with 2 outs and a double by Sizemore, Adonis Garcia singles Sizemore home and then advances to 2nd himself on the over throw home. Then back-to-back walks loaded the bases, but the Yankees couldn’t take advantage of that opportunity. So they remained trailing the Phillies 3-2. And then Danny Burawa, about whom the scouts have many positive things to say, took the 7th, again keeping the Phillies from advancing. This proved great for him because of the Yankees’ 8th inning.

Well, before the Yankees even got to their 8th inning, there was a bit of drama (something that clearly fit the bill of today’s agenda, apparently). So with 2 outs, the last batter doubled and tried to stretch it out to a triple, but Garcia (in right) threw it to Solarte (at short, the cut-off man) who threw it to Sizemore (at 3rd) who may or may not have swipe-tagged the runner, though the 3rd base umpire called it an out. Now, with today’s game being able to be challenged on the new replay rules, the Phillies thought this kind of play certainly fit the bill. Here’s the problem: the power had gone out at the stadium and killed all the replay opportunities, so there was no tape to review and make the overall call. So the play stood as is, and the Phillies took their out and took the field. This is one of those opportunities to figure out what’s the back-up plan in this kind of (almost) unforeseeable incident. But in this case, I think the umpires handles it correctly, and not just because it was good for the Yankees, but because I think it was the right call overall. (Which is the whole point of the new replay rules anyway.)

The Yankees weren’t going to waste an eventful trip to soggy Cleawater. Sanchez singled and scored on Jose Pirela’s double to tie up the game. Pirela would end up at 3rd on a fielder’s error and then score on Ramon Flores’ sacrifice fly to push the Yankees over the top 4-3. Pitchers Lewis and Montgomery (who would earn the save) kept that Yankees lead and served them the win.

There haven’t been any real blowout games, and that makes me kind of excited for this year. Tight games are really fun to watch because they keep you on the edge of your seat, knowing that at any moment the tide could turn in your favor (or perhaps not).

Carlos Beltran was originally scheduled to be in the lineup today, but due to his recent bout with injuries (including 2 surgically-repaired knees) and today’s weather, Beltran was scratched from the roster and replaced with Flores. Fortunately, this worked out well for everyone, as Flores is proving to be quite a defender and offensive contributor to the Spring season.

The Yankees also announced that Yankee Stadium will host the Army-UConn college football game in November, something that apparently would make the late George Steinbrenner happy. I always think it’s weird to see Yankee Stadium converted to something that’s not a baseball diamond, but the business side of my brain completely understands using such a great facility for many purposes (concerts, other sporting events, private events, etc.). And who wouldn’t want to have a great time at the Stadium?

I know I always look forward to great times at the Stadium. And this is going to be one great year.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 7: WAS vs. NYY — Nova’s back, “jetting” to a win

“Broadway Joe” Namath threw out the first pitch before today’s game to Derek Jeter. Namath was treated to a round of cheers from the crowd and spent about half the game as honorary “co-manager” to Girardi. Jets’ head coach Rex Ryan also spent time in Steinbrenner Field today, and “guest special instructor” Andy Pettitte showed up for his 2-day stint with the Yankees. And compared to the majority of the country, Tampa was not buried under more snow but instead was rather a hot day in the sun.

Starting pitcher Ivan Nova was back to form today in his 3 inning hitless outing against the Nationals. Nova certainly proved why he deserves that 4th starter position in the rotation, complete with 4 very nice strikeouts. Fortunately, he was backed up by a really stellar 2nd inning from the Yankees’ hitters. Brian Roberts and Francisco Cervelli each single; and then Roberts scored on Kelly Johnson’s double. Ichiro Suzuki reached 1st on a throwing error, which allowed both Cervelli and Johnson to score. So when Zoilo Almonte hit a ground-rule double in the deep right field corner, Ichiro moved to 3rd and then scored on Corban Joseph’s single. All with no outs recorded yet in the inning, so then the next two batters finally made those three outs in two plays. But the Yankees were up 4-0.

Following Nova’s stellar outing (pun intended), presumptive Rivera heir David Robertson made his Spring debut, a little rocky to start hitting the first batter, but like “Houdini” and thanks to a great infield again (including a Jeter-induced double play), he was out of the inning in 3 batters. Shawn Kelley took the 5th inning, and save a single solo home run, Kelley was showing signs of his excellent 2013 performance. For the 6th inning, Danny Burawa also struggled at first, allowing 2 singles, one scored when Derek Jeter sort of bobbled the ball and couldn’t fire it to 1st in time to get the runner. But that’s all the Nationals would score, placing the final score at 4-2. So Coello, Tateyama, and Miller each took an inning to keep the Yankees win intact.

Of course, the most amusing part of the game was watching Adonis Garcia’s bat fly into the stands in the 8th inning. Fortunately, it landed on the steps area between the seating areas, and the first guy to the bat walked out of the stadium with some rare game-used equipment.

So I have 2 players to watch from today’s game: outfielder Zoilo Almonte and infielder Jose Pirela. Both guys are really great defenders, quick to action and very reliable, but they both continue to contribute offensively to the game. I know Almonte’s already on the 40-man roster, but Pirela is certainly making his own case for consideration. Again, it’s not just a single game’s splashiness, but rather the consistency of high-caliber, high-quality play that could earn someone notice.

There’s a point during almost every Spring game that I suddenly look out on the field and see all the minor league guys in action and think “there’s our AAA team”. I was only half-joking with my mom at today’s game about wanting to visit Scranton sometime this season to watch these guys on their home turf. The AAA guys are very good, and really, it’s hard sometimes to tell the difference in their level of play versus the “regular” guys. Somewhere the AAA coaching staff has to be breathing a little easier for this upcoming season. The RailRiders didn’t do that well that season, much like their major league counterpart, but I don’t remember feeling this way about the farm system last Spring.

Maybe I’m being overly optimistic again, but I’d rather be optimistic and wrong, than a pessimistic and right.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 4: NYY vs. DET — Home runs for the win

With a single exception, the Yankees pitching was rather good today against the Detroit Tigers. Combine that with 4 monster home runs, and the Yankees have some fun in Lakeland today and win 7-4. And honestly, it was a rather nice comeback after two back-to-back losses.

Those home runs are why the Yankees racked up 7 total runs in the form of Brian McCann (2nd inning), Gary Sanchez (3rd inning), Jose Pirela (a 2-run in the 7th), and Yangervis Solarte (a 3-run also in the 7th). Technically, the Tigers out-hit the Yankees, but they couldn’t make much happen beyond a handful of doubles and singles, with a single inning exception.

Adam Warren started today’s game and really showed the continuance of his great, sharp pitching, only allowing 2 hits in his 2 innings, even picking off one of their speedier players. He was followed by Kelley, Montgomery, Burawa, and Lewis, who each took an inning and kept the Yankees growing lead intact. Right after the large leap in the Yankees lead at the top of the 7th, pitcher Brian Gordon struggled to keep the itching Tigers from doing anything. Three singles loaded the bases with one out. Another single easily scored a run. And then another single scored another run, and when another runner tried to score, center fielder Ramon Flores threw him out at home to the waiting Austin Romine. A double then scores two more runs, which finalized the score at 7-4 Yankees.

Really, the whole team just kind of worked today. And it was rather encouraging because it was like watching the Yankees again.

I didn’t include my list of players to watch yesterday, partly because I was rather disappointed with the outcome and partly because I was dealing with my own bout of food poisoning. (Better today, but officially off chicken for a while.) So to make up for it today, I’ll mention Gary Sanchez, Jose Pirela, and Yangervis Solarte, for obvious reasons. All three are most likely on their way to the minors this season, but could easily find their way on up. Sanchez is the only one on the 40-man, but Pirela and Solarte are continuing to amaze me.

Sabathia, Kuroda, and Tanaka are scheduled to pitch tomorrow for the first 6 innings, which should be interesting to watch back-to-back starters, rather than a starter followed by a handful of bullpen contenders. I don’t think I’ve ever seen back-to-back starters in Spring Training, at least not in recent history. But again, it should make for a rather interesting game.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 21: MIA vs. NYY — Turning potential into excellence

CC Sabathia started for the first time this Spring and the first time since his elbow surgery last fall in today’s 7-3 win against Miami. Sabathia went five innings, allowing 2 runs in the 1st inning before finding his stride. Another few starts and we’ll be seeing the strike-out king in full force ready for that April 1st start.

Francisco Cervelli cleared a nice solo home run in the 2nd to put the Yankees on the board, plus added some fantastic backstop defense today. Travis Hafner earned his pinstripes today with a beautiful 2-run homer in the 3rd inning, after struggling most of the Spring to find his swing. I cannot wait to see him aim for the 4 train in the Bronx.

However, for me, the game belongs to the prospects. It’s kind of amazing what playing on the field with the veterans can do to boost their confidence, ability, standards, and fancy footwork. Corban Joseph started at 2nd base today and saw some nice defensive opportunities fall right into his hands, which he handled with excellence and encouragement from Jeter (who started at Shortstop again today). Filling in for Jeter in the 6th, Addison Maruszak once again began his march toward the big leagues with his hustle and defense; Maruszak really goes for every opportunity and rarely disappoints. Jose Pirela, entering the game for injured Ronnier Mustelier, proceeded to triple twice and earned an RBI, scoring two of the runs himself; his defense at the corners is pretty good too.

Ronnier Mustelier was rushing for a popped up foul ball when he ran smack into the press pen and its metal barriers at full speed. Shaken a little, bruised on both legs, he trudged his way to the clubhouse, replace by Jose Pirela. Girardi said later he’ll be back by Tuesday. Thank God for nothing serious, but we wish him quick healing and rest to see him back on the field. This is another one with such potential.

Potential seems to be the word of the day, and the advantage of the veterans like Jeter playing on the field with them that potential became excellence. And that’s what should happen in the farm system. Any known player will tell you that’s where they learned their best stuff, where they went from a possibility to a reality. And that’s what I saw today, what I think Girardi and the coaches and scouts see in those higher numbered guys. Like I said yesterday, there’s a thin line between what makes a player ready for the Bronx and what keeps him in Scranton, and today, we saw the next generation of Yankees step up their game and prove why they might be ready for the Show in the very near future. If I had one on, my hat would be off to you guys!

Go Yankees!