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!

Roster maneuvers & potential shiny hardware for the mantle… is it Spring yet?

It’s officially the off-season now. The Cubs have had their victory parade last week through the streets of Chicago, ending with a big party in downtown where the Cubs players, coaches, and executives celebrated with millions of Chicagoland faithful. And a big congratulations to them. (And no, I don’t think it’s going to take another 108 years for their next win.)

In the meantime, the Yankees have made some early off-season moves in preparation for whatever’s up Cashman’s sleeve this off-season. The Cubs claimed reliever Conor Mullee off waivers on Wednesday, and on Friday, the Yankees activated some of the injured players off the 60-day DL like infielder Dustin Ackley and pitchers Nathan Eovaldi, Chad Green, Branden Pinder, and Nick Rumbelow. They also selected the contracts of Kyle Higashioka and Domingo German to add to the roster.

Now, GM Cashman is looking to add to the roster for the 2017 season, but in one particular category — pitching. And if you look at the roster now filled with Baby Bombers like Judge, Austin, Bird, and Sanchez, the need for consistent pitching (starters and relievers) is really the biggest drought on the team. Following the 2017 season, many of the veterans’ contracts are up (including Cashman and Girardi and the entire coaching staff, I might add), which could mean a virtually brand new team in the next few years.

But all this should put you in a pretty good outlook for the next season. I was at Steinbrenner Field today and saw all the progress they’re making on the stadium. They’re building new patios and special loge seating, rebuilding the gift shop, redoing the main entrance and bridge from the parking lot, and (most importantly) installing new seats. (Yankee Stadium is also getting a bit of a face lift, but more on that in a later post.)

Today, the Yankees released their tentative Spring Training schedule, with the opening day on Friday, February 24 against the Phillies, an afternoon home game. There are 35 scheduled games, 17 home games, and an exhibition game against Team Canada (March 8). They will close out their Spring in Atlanta with an exhibition game to inaugurate the Braves’ new park (SunTrust Park) on March 31. (The Yankees will play their season opener April 2 at the Rays, and home opener April 10 against the Rays.)

Mark your calendars: Pitchers and catchers report February 13, with their first workout February 14 (Happy Valentine’s Day, Yankee Universe!). Position players report February 18, with the first full-squad work out scheduled February 19.

It should also be noted that the World Baseball Classic is also scheduled this March (March 6-22). This means that instead of Spring Training, many of the players will be spread all over the world with their home country to try to bring home the honor, like the Dominican Republic did in 2013. Host cities include Seoul, Tokyo, Miami (Marlins), Jalisco (Mexico), San Diego (Padres), and Los Angeles (Dodgers). After qualifying rounds this year, the competing countries in the WBC will be South Korea, Chinese Taipei, Netherlands, Israel, Japan, Cuba, China, Australia, USA, Dominican Republic, Canada, Columbia, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Italy.

And the biggest news of the day is that Gary Sanchez is up for a pretty big award. In addition to being up for the online eSurance (voting ends November 11) Rookie of the Year award (joining Teixeira for some pretty great moments this season), Sanchez is also up for the BBWAA Rookie of the Year Award. The BBWAA are responsible for selecting, nominating, and awarding several important honors every year in addition to the Rookie of the Year including MVP, Cy Young, and Manager of the Year. They also define who’s gets into the Hall of Fame.

Sanchez is up against the Indians’ outfielder Tyler Naquin and Tigers’ reliever Michael Fulmer for the AL Rookie of the Year. In the NL, the nominees in the same category are Maeda (Dodgers), Turner (Nationals), and Seager (Dodgers). Winner in both leagues will be announced next week on November 14. And yes, I do think that Sanchez deserves the AL honor, even without my own Yankee bias in there. Seriously, Sanchez took the entire league by storm this season, and just changed the landscape for the Yankees in the latter part of the year, keeping postseason dreams alive right up until the end. (By the way, my vote would be Seager for the NL, if I actually had a vote that is.)

Other nominees: Manager of the Year (awarded November 15) — Banister (Rangers), Francona (Indians), Showalter (Orioles), Baker (Nationals), Maddon (Cubs), and Roberts (Dodgers); Cy Young (awarded November 16) — Kluber (Indians), Porcello (Red Sox), Verlander (Tigers), Hendricks (Cubs), Lester (Cubs), and Scherzer (Nationals); and MVP (awarded November 17) — Altuve (Astros), Betts (Red Sox), Trout (Angels), Bryant (Cubs), Murphy (Nationals), and Seager (Dodgers). (If you must know, these are all rather deserving men, but my choices are Francona and Maddon, Kluber and Hendricks, Betts and Bryant. But they don’t ask me.)

Anyway, we’re knee-deep in this off-season, almost shoulder-deep in awards season, and it’s a little exciting to think about what 2017 could hold. Spring Training is just over 3 months away, and it’s when the slate is wiped clean and anything is possible. And it’s the one time when everyone is on that even playing field. We didn’t know the Cubs would be world champions this time last year, and we don’t know who will be celebrating this time next year. Fingers crossed it will be certain pinstriped crew from the Bronx.

Maybe cross the toes too…

Go Yankees!

Game 146: NYY vs. BOS — Seriously?!

I have to say this game drove me nuts for a lot of reasons. I mean, mostly because the Yankees had this game. They played really well. And then they just let it all slip away in the very last inning. It’s the worst possible result of “it ain’t over ’til it’s over”. And of course, it was against Boston, in front of a sold-out crowd in Boston, to start this long weekend series in Boston.

Anyway, leading up to that, Masahiro Tanaka certainly stayed in command of the game tonight at Fenway in a rather strange way — without recording any strikeouts at all during his outing. Tanaka threw 93 pitches (61 of them strikes, by the way) over his 7 innings, only gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and a run. But no strikeouts, something he’s never done in his entire MLB career. But that does say a lot about the Yankees’ defense, though. It should be noted that in his last game, he struck out 10 batters. (But more on that later.)

The lone run the Red Sox made under Tanaka’s watch was in the 3rd inning. A lead-off walk moved to 2nd on a ground out and then to 3rd on a single. The bases were loaded with another walk before a sacrifice fly scored that lead runner. But Tanaka got out of the jam with a pop-up on the next batter. Like I said, the defense was good tonight under Tanaka.

In the mean time, the Yankees earned themselves a healthy lead thanks to a poor outing by the Red Sox starter. In the 1st with 1 out, Ellsbury singled and ended up at 3rd on Sanchez’s ground-rule double. He then scored on Starlin Castro’s single. Sanchez scored on Billy Butler’s sacrifice fly. (No, that’s not a misprint, more on that later.)

In the 3rd, with 1 out, Castro doubled and then scored on Butler’s RBI single. Gregorius’ double put runners in scoring position, where Butler then scored on Chase Headley’s single. That would be it for the Red Sox starter, and the first reliever promptly shut down the rally in that inning. He had a bit more trouble with Gardner in the 4th. Gardner led-off with a walk, stole 2nd, and took 3rd on a passed ball. He then scored 2-outs later on Castro’s single to solidify the Yankees’ nice lead.

The rest of the Red Sox bullpen shut down the Yankees batters fairly well, adding 6 more strikeouts to their total over the next 5 innings. The Yankees’ bullpen wasn’t so lucky.

Adam Warren came on in relief of Tanaka in the 8th, but had a bit a trouble, giving up a big 1-out solo home run to the retiring Red Sox power-hitter. (Random trivia: Ortiz has 53 home runs against the Yankees, the 4th most all-time behind Jimmie Fox, Ted Williams, and Manny Ramirez — all mostly Red Sox players, by the way.) A single, a wild pitch, and a walk put Warren into a jam, but he worked his way out of it in the end.

Tommy Layne came on for the 9th inning to start things right, which he does with a fabulous 3-pitch strike out. Layne is a specialist reliever, so the Yankees go to a new pitcher — Blake Parker, who has his own 3-pitch outing hits his batter. Oops.

So it’s on to Dellin Betances. But Betances has struggled lately and continued to do so tonight. First, the batter advanced on defensive indifference (not uncommon in the 9th inning), and Betances walks the batter. Both runners advance to scoring position on defensive indifference (okay, maybe throwing on that one would’ve been smart). The next batter hit into a fielder’s choice, which instinctively meant the out was at home. And it was, as part of a rundown (and those are always entertaining).

Now, with 2 outs, the Yankees just needed that final out for the win. But it wouldn’t come. Two more singles scored two more runs, and with 2 runners on base, Betances threw a 99 mph fastball to someone who hits well off fastball, who also promptly hit the ball to center field for a big 3-run walk-off home run.

Final score: 7-5 Red Sox.

First up, Tanaka: so, according to some random trivia hounds, Tanaka came into tonight’s game with a record of 6-0 with a 1.94 ERA over his previous 7 starts, walking off the mound tonight with a season ERA of 2.97. This makes him the AL ERA leader. Joining the likes of 1997 David Cone (2.82) and Andy Pettitte (2.88). The last Yankee to lead the AL in ERA was back in 1980 with Rudy May. This was also Tanaka’s 9th start with at least 7 innings pitched and 1 run or less allowed, officially the most in the AL.

Okay, roster news: the Yankees transferred Nathan Eovaldi from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL, effectively removing him from the 40-man roster. Eovaldi, as you might remember, is currently out with a right elbow tendon injury and currently healing from his second Tommy John surgery.

And then, the Yankees opted to sign Billy Butler. Now, if that name sounds familiar, you probably remember the uncomfortable situation between then Royals’ rising star Butler and then Yankees’ star Robinson Cano leading up to and including the 2012 Home Run Derby and All-Star Game. A quick recap: Cano was the HR Derby captain after winning the previous year and was tasked with filling out his AL team, and after toying with the idea of choosing the “hometown hero” Butler, he opted to choose better hitters (who went on to trounce the NL players).

But Kansas City fans got rather “enthusiastic” with their vitriolic jeering during the HR Derby, the Red Carpet parade, and the All-Star Game. All while Butler remained rather silent, almost soaking in the fan loyalty and shrugging off the caustic treatment of Cano (and to some extent Jeter and Granderson, who were also at the 2012 ASG). To this day, Royals fans still maintain their hatred to the now Mariners’ infielder, though Butler would sign with Oakland last season and be released this season shortly after an “unspecified altercation” in the clubhouse.

After his release, Butler considered calling it quits for this season, but then when interest from Detroit and New York, he made a deal with New York, who were looking for someone with some consistency against left-handed pitchers. Which I can understand because who doesn’t want to be a Yankee. Butler made his debut with the Yankees tonight and contributed a lot to the Yankees’ lead. But as he’s yet to perform in front of the sometimes hostile Yankee crowd (who are known for their rather long memories).

Go Yankees!

Game 121: NYY vs. LAA — Lucky numbers 7 & 17 & 0

It was certainly “Tanaka Time” tonight at Angel Stadium in Anaheim in the first game of the weekend series. Masahiro Tanaka threw 100 pitches just shy of 8 full innings, giving up just 5 hits and striking out 9 Angels’ batters. He was running a bit of a no-hitter, getting 11 straight outs into the 4th inning. Actually, the 4th inning was rather traumatic when the lead-off batter attempted to bunt and fouled the ball right into his own face. X-rays were negative, but I can’t imagine he’s going to be too comfortable any time soon.

Anyway, Tanaka gave up a couple of singles in the 4th before getting another 7 straight outs through the 6th. A single to lead off the 7th and suddenly he was back in the groove for 4 more outs. And then he was coming to the end of his time tonight. With 2 outs and runners on the corners with singles, the Yankee starter was out.

Layne came on but walked the batter to load up the bases (the only walk allowed by a Yankee pitcher tonight) before handing the ball off to Adam Warren for a 6-pitch strikeout to end the only threat from the Angels all night. Yates breezed his way through the 9th inning to close out the game and hand Tanaka his 10th win of the season.

The Angels’ pitching staff had a bit of worse luck against the Yankees’ batters. Jacoby Ellsbury kicked off the game with a solo home run to start the Yankees’ runs tonight. In the 3rd, Ronald Torreyes doubled and then scored on Ellsbury’s single.

And then it was the big 5th inning. Ronald Torreyes led off the inning with his first MLB home run, a big one out to the left field seats. Didi Gregorius added another run via his 1-out solo shot to the corner right field seats. Then Gary Sanchez knocked a really nice deep hit that bounced off the right-center field wall, so he rounded 2nd and was thrown out in the relay at 3rd; it was recorded as a double but an out at 3rd. But then Brian McCann capped off the 5th inning run rally with his own solo homer over and out to right field.

That kicked the starter out of the game and shifted things at first for the Yankees, but they weren’t done. In the 6th, with 2 outs and Hicks on 2nd, Hicks scored on Torreyes’ single. Ellsbury’s single forced that reliever out of the game, and the new pitcher promptly gave up a ground-rule double to Gregorius who scored Torreyes and put runners in scoring position. A walk to Sanchez loaded the bases, but the new pitcher buckled down and stopped the Yankees at lucky number 7 for the runs.

Other amazing numbers from tonight: 11 total strike outs by Yankee pitchers, 15 total hits by Yankee batters, and #17. Ronald Torreyes wears #17, and tonight, he went 4-for-4, with 3 runs scored and 2 RBIs.

Final score: 7-0 Yankees.

Roster news: Chase Headley was out of the game tonight (ceding his fielding position to the amazing Torreyes tonight) with Achilles’ tendinitis. With yesterday as an off-day and being off tonight, the Yankees are hoping that will help with healing. And Nathan Eovaldi had the Tommy John surgery today in New York with a surgical team headed by team doctor Dr. Ahmad. Because it is his 2nd in his life, the healing and rehab might take a bit longer, an estimated 18 months taking him deep into the 2017 season before resuming baseball activities and working his way back up to the big league level.

The Yankees continue their West Coast trip this weekend with the Angels before heading up the coast to Seattle. They are looking to take advantage of both teams’ lower position in the standings to boost their own and make that big push for the postseason, even if it’s one of the Wild Card spots. And until that ultimate elimination number and they still have a chance, they’re going for it with gusto, boosted by the likes of the Baby Bombers that now also include Torreyes apparently.

Go Yankees!

Game 119: TOR vs. NYY — A delay can change everything

Before tonight’s game, dark clouds hovered close by. And like it does so frequently for these late summer storms in New York, the air was sticky and humid. The actual temperature and “feels like temperature” were miles apart. So when the rain began to drizzle, it was a bit of a relief. Even when the skies began to thunder and lightning and the heavens opened up, the change in the atmosphere was rather foreshadowing of things to come. Sometimes, a 42 minute rain delay can change everything.

Things started off rather well for the Yankees actually. Starter Michael Pineda was in fine form tonight, throwing just 68 pitches through his 5 innings, giving up just 4 hits and no walks, striking out just 2 Toronto batters, but keeping them completely scoreless. It was rather fun to watch actually.

The Yankees batters were slowly racking up the points. In the 1st, with 2 outs, Didi Gregorius got things started with a solo shot to 2nd deck in right field. Then repeating the pattern in the 2nd, Gary Sanchez hit a 2-out solo home run to the visitor’s bull pen. With 2 outs and Castro and McCann on base with singles in the 4th, Sanchez again hit a monster home runto safely ensure the Yankee lead as the darkening skies actually started raining as if in response. (Baby Bombers, indeed!)

So with the Yankees up 5-0, in the middle of the 5th, the Blue Jays taking their positions on the field, but the umpires, realizing that the rain was getting worse, called for the tarp. Both Pineda and the Toronto starter were done with that long of a delay. Which was a shame for the Yankees. Not so much for the Blue Jays.

Well, they did add a bit in the bottom of the 5th when the delay was over. With 2 outs (because how else did the Yankees set up their scoring tonight?), Headley doubled and then scored on Gregorius’ single.

And you’re thinking (like everyone else was at this point): 6-0 lead, sounds good to me. Now just close up this puppy and we can go home. And you’d be wrong, of course. Because the delay seemed to remind the Blue Jays they were at risk of losing the lead in the AL East, and they came back screaming and kicking as only the Blue Jays can.

The Yankees bullpen with few exceptions certainly took quite a hit tonight. Anthony Swarzak came on for the 6th. A lead-off double scored on an RBI single complicated by a throwing error. Then Swarzak zoned in to get 2 great strikeouts. But a big 2-run home run edged the Jays closer, only to be followed up immediately by a solo shot. That was it for Swarzak, and Tommy Layne came in to close the inning out cleanly. Then Tyler Clippard sailed his way through the 7th inning in 14 pitches and 2 strikeouts, giving Yankee fans a small modicum of hope.

And then it was Adam Warren for the 8th inning. Warren certainly had an off-night tonight — a lead-off walk, a 2-run home run to tie up the game, a pop-up out, a single, and a 2-run home run to give the Jays the lead. Not exactly a pleasant way to get one out. Chasen Shreve came on and had an even tougher night (another rarity here, really), failing to record even one out. A hit-by-pitch, a walk, and a single loaded the bases. A single scored a run, keeping the bases loaded, and a walk scored another run and kept the bases loaded. (Shreve’s theme tonight apparently.) Blake Parker came on to get those final 2 outs, but it wasn’t as clean as necessary — a fielder’s choice scored one more before a double scored another.

Yes, if you’re capable of following that one, the Blue Jays scored a total of 8 runs in the 8th inning. Parker had an easier time in the 9th, shutting down the Jays in order. But it was much too late to do something like a 7-run home run to win in the final inning of the game.

That rain delay midway through the game certainly divided the game between when the Yankees were in charge to when the Blue Jays took control. You can imagine I liked the first part of the game better.

Final score: 12-6 Blue Jays.

Okay, so I might have underestimated a recent injury report. Nathan Eovaldi‘s elbow injury is very serious. He has torn the flexor tendon off the bone and damaged the ulnar collateral ligament. This will require 2 surgeries to repair, including his 2nd Tommy John surgery (his first was during high school). He mentioned that the pain was certainly different this time around, more of an annoying ache than sheer pain as it was last time. Due to it being his 2nd TJ surgery, the recovery time could be a bit longer, so he will miss at least 18 months of baseball activity.

So let’s be real here: his 2017 season is going to be watching games from his couch. This does complicate things further because his contract is up at the end of 2017. I don’t see any reason why the Yankees won’t try to negotiate with him for the future as he was one of the better starters in this season (and since the Yankees picked him up). The only reason he might go elsewhere is if the Yankees sign a big name young starter or two between now and the 2018 season.

But who knows? If this game reminds us of anything is that life throws you a curve, and sometimes it just pummels you in the 8th inning, but it’s not about staying there. It’s about getting up, working harder, and getting back in the game to try again. Because one of these days, it’s going to go your way. Because it just has to. It’s how it works.

Go Yankees!

Game 115: TB vs. NYY — Alex says “farewell”… for now

On a Friday evening at the stadium, you can expect to find a band playing in the concourse, people milling about after work in everything from suits to full-on Yankees gear, that constant hum and chatter from the thousands in anticipation of a new series and the weekend in the city. Of course, it wasn’t an ordinary game, and the crowd was littered with #13 jerseys. The air was hot and sticky, as the sky above darkened as if Nature itself knew that it was going to be one of those days.

Of the 46,459 people packed into the stadium, just 5 (and those closely related to them, hanging out in the special suite to watch the whole event) mattered the most to the one man everyone was there to see. Before the game, the tarp on the field, the smell of rain in the air, the announcer called for one of the last times: “Alex Rodriguez!” Rodriguez came jogging onto the field in front of the infield tarp to the roar of the crowd, pointing to specific people and sections (including a special nod to the “A-Rod! A-Rod!” cheering Bleacher Creatures) for his pre-game ceremony.

The Yankees escorted out Rodriguez’s mother (Reggie Jackson did the honors), his sister and brother (by Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro), and his daughters (escorted by surprise guest Mariano Rivera). A few special messages, like from his first pro manager with the Mariners Lou Pinella (who is now part of the Yankee organization too). The Steinbrenners also presented Rodriguez with an encased 3rd base signed by the whole team and a framed #13 jersey to commemorate his final game and season in pinstripes.

Just as he was being presented these gifts, the nearby lightning and thunder turned into a bit of rain. Which turned into quite a bit of rain. The Florida residents (the Rodriguez and Steinbrenner families) meandered their way off the field, while the poor New Yorkers were jogging up the steps heading for cover. (We Floridians don’t flinch much when it comes to inclement weather, as it usually has to be like “ark level” weather for us to really care.)

So for 30 minutes, the Yankees and their fans waited for what would be a rather interesting final game for #13. See, in the scope that would be tonight and will be the events of this weekend, the Yankees are still in a bit of a Wild Card race, just 3.5 games out of the Wild Card. And tonight, they start their weekend series against the Rays.

And CC Sabathia got the start tonight, and despite a bit of a disappointing 1st inning, he certainly pulled it together for the most part for the rest of the game. He threw 100 pitches over his 6 innings, gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and 3 runs, and a nice 7 strikeouts. A lead-off 4-pitch walk was quickly erased with a snazzy double play, but then a solo home run (by the Rays’ leading run-producer) got the Rays on the board first.

But it wasn’t like the Yankees were going to let them get away with it for long. In the bottom of the 1st, Gardner took an errant pitch of his foot/ankle and kind of hobbled his way down to 1st. He stayed in the game (with what will probably be a nasty bruise for the next few days), which is a good thing because when Alex Rodriguez stepped into the batter’s box (amid a standing ovation of fans), his 1-out double to shallow right field easily scored Gardner to tie up the game.

In the 3rd, the Rays worked a 1-out walk and a 2-out single to put runners on the corners. Another single scored the lead runner before Sabathia got a strikeout to end the inning (a fairly common theme for both starters tonight actually). The Yankees answered back in the bottom of the 4th, after Rodriguez’s 2nd at-bat turned into a little ground out, Teixeira got on base with a single and moved to 3rd on Gregorius’ nice 2-out double. Starlin Castro’s big single then scored both Teixeira and Gregorius to put the Yankees in the lead.

But in the 5th, a Rays’ lead-off double moved to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt and then scored on a sacrifice fly to tie up the game again. (Rodriguez’s 3rd at-bat in the bottom of the 5th was a simple 3-pitch strike out.) In the bottom of the 6th, the Yankees finally dented into the Rays’ starter. Teixeira led-off with a single and a stolen base (his 2nd of the year), and 2 outs later, Castro’s 2-run home run gave the Yankees a lead they’d never surrender tonight.

With both starters out of the game, the Yankees secured their lead and continued the excitement of the night, while the Rays seem to do what they do most of the year as they kind of gave into the inevitable. For the Yankees, relievers Clippard and Warren breezed through the Rays’ line up in the 7th and 8th innings, keeping the Yankees firmly in the lead.

Aaron Hicks led-off the 7th inning with a great solo home run to the left field seats to give the Yankees that total security they were looking for in the game. Three batters later, Rodriguez’s final at-bat ended in another little ground out, but fans (perhaps knowing it was the last) almost refused to stop cheering him on. A brief conversation with Girardi and Rodriguez was headed to the clubhouse with a big smile on his face.

In the 9th, Chase Headley stood at the top of the steps that lead to the clubhouse from the dugout, waiting. Alex Rodriguez jogged his way up those steps, nodding and smiling at the regular 3rd baseman. In his hand, a black fielder’s glove. Yes, Alex Rodriguez was going to play 3rd base for the final time. And the crowd exploded in cheers and support. For a few moments, the only person on the field was Rodriguez with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen, eyes shining, and a glimpse of that kid who just wanted to play ball nearly skipping his way to the hot corner.

Dellin Betances took the mound for this final inning and got his first strikeout. And suddenly, Rodriguez made his way back across the field, hugging his way off as Ronald Torreyes came out to replace him. Apparently, Rodriguez specially agreed to Girardi’s allowance but only for 1 batter; Girardi was willing to have him out there longer, but I think Rodriguez knew he was out of practice and didn’t want to screw anything up for the team. Because that’s the kind of player he is.

A strike out (and overturned challenge) later, the count 1-2, the entire stadium on their feet, the batter sort of half-swung at the final pitch and was ruled out, and Betances gets the save.

Final score: 6-3 Yankees.

Alex Rodriguez was allowed one more chance to be on the field to greet his teammates in that “good game” winning line they always do, getting the game ball from Betances himself. But then he kind of hung out on the field for a bit, asking silently for a moment to himself. He wandered over to where he used to plant himself on the infield, defending 3rd base, crouched down, and gathered a handful of dirt, shoving it into his back pocket for safe keeping. Before he was finally ready to face the media. Between interviews, he signaled for his daughters to join him on the field, and they were handed on over the barrier and ran across the field to their dad to envelop him with the biggest hugs.

{Media links: articles covering the final game on MLB.com — by reporters Hoch, BloomSuss, Kaneko, and Needelman; statements from former teammates, Rodriguez’s pre-game press conference, Rodriguez’s interview with FOX, Headley on being “replaced”, Girardi’s post-game press conference, and Rodriguez’s post-game press conference.}

And there were some roster moves: the Yankees placed Nathan Eovaldi on the 15-day DL (retroactive to August 11) with his right elbow tendon injury. This is not good news in the long run, but it doesn’t seem to be a tear or something to be surgically repaired but rather a rest-and-see kind of thing. They also recalled Luis Severino from AAA Scranton.

And as promised, following tonight’s game, the Yankees officially released Alex Rodriguez as a player. He adamantly reminded interviewers from the field to the post-game press conference that he is still part of the organization. And he is. They will continue his contract as a special adviser and instructor, especially in relation to all the young prospects in the organization. Rodriguez may not be playing in a Yankee uniform any more, but he’s still very much part of the team.

After all, once a Yankee, always a Yankee.

Go Yankees!

Game 113: NYY vs. BOS — The “normal” of Fenway is anything but…

So the fact that the game was over 4 hours, injuries happened, bullpens were depleted, and the Fenway faithful booed Yankee players with gusto, definitely means it was a typical Yankees-Red Sox game.

Nathan Eovaldi started the game tonight and plowed through the 1st inning 3-up, 3-down before leaving the game with “elbow soreness”. He was promptly packed away and sent back to New York for testing. And once the Yankees opened the bullpen door, it revolved and never looked back. Chasen Shreve came out in the 2nd and kept the Red Sox scoreless. In the 3rd, Shreve loaded up the bases with a single, a 1-out double, and a hit-by-pitch.

So it was onto newly signed Blake Parker. A fielder’s choice gave up the Red Sox’s first run putting runners at the corners before Parker got out of the inning with a fly out. He came back out in the 4th to load up the bases himself with 1 out. A fielder’s choice again scored a run, and the Yankees went to Nick Goody for relief. Goody and Tommy Layne kept the Red Sox from adding to their score through the 5th inning.

Layne came back out in the 6th and put runners on the corners with a walk and a single. So it was Tyler Clippard to take control. A single scored a runner, keeping runners at the corners, and a fielder’s choice again score another run. A solid double had a runner going for home before a fantastic relay from center field got the runner out at home. Despite an intentional walk and a wild pitch that put runners in scoring position, Clippard got himself out of the inning.

Clippard gave up a hit in the 7th, but Adam Warren’s relief was the beginning of the end of the Red Sox offense. Warren sailed his way through the 7th and 8th innings in just 28 pitches before Dellin Betances’s 9th inning was just flawless.

The Yankees seemed rather stymied some against the Red Sox starter, but their ability to push up the pitch count on tons of foul balls got him out of the game in the 6th inning, but not before giving up a lead-off solo shot to Didi Gregorius in the 5th inning to get the Yankees on the board. Once the Red Sox were into their bullpen, the Yankees started in on a late offensive rally beginning in the 7th inning.

With Gregorius and Sanchez on base with singles, Austin Romine’s single scored Gregorius. In one of his last appearances at Fenway, Alex Rodriguez then pinch-hit for Hicks and flied out, but still moved Sanchez over to 3rd. The Red Sox went to their bullpen and got a strike out, but the Yankees weren’t done yet. Jacoby Ellsbury’s single scored Sanchez, and Chase Headley’s single scored Romine to tie up the game. Another pitching change, and the bases were loaded with Teixeira’s walk. So Starlin Castro’s beautiful double scored 2 more runs to give the Yankees a nice lead.

And they didn’t look back. Gary Sanchez led-off the 8th inning with an amazing solo home run straight up the middle of Fenway. This was Sanchez’s first MLB homer, and it was just glorious. Romine then walked, and the Red Sox once again changed pitchers. Refsnyder singled, and the wild pitches began. The first one moved Refsndyer and Romine to scoring position. Then with the bases loaded due to Ellsbury’s walk and an out, the second wild pitch scored Romine and moved runners up again. Then after another out, the final wild pitch scored Refsnyder to cap off the Yankees’ rally.

The Yankees’ offense got 15 hits tonight, and Gary Sanchez hit 4 of them. Sanchez had a truly amazing night tonight, going 4-for-5, with 2 runs scored (one of those his 8th inning home run). Currently, Sanchez’s average is one of the best on the roster, albeit it’s based on a small sample size. But clearly, this guy, who’s been itching to make an impact on the team since March, is making an impact on this team. And that’s making all the difference.

Final score: 9-4 Yankees.

Okay, since I mentioned them, there were quite a few injuries in this game. Eovaldi’s “elbow soreness” is worrisome. And hopefully, it’s just some overuse aching. But this could also be a sign of something worse, like the need for Tommy John surgery due to a torn ligament. And the Red Sox had their own share of injuries — a player exited early due to “right calf tightness” (probably a weird cramp or strain) and one of the fan favorites took a nasty foul ball off his shin (though x-rays came back negative).

Some roster moves: The Yankees activated pitcher Blake Parker (who pitched in tonight’s game), sent Bryan Mitchell to the Single-A Tampa Yankees to continue his rehab assignment, and optioned Luis Severino to AAA Scranton.

I also expect with the exhaustion of the bullpen tonight that we’ll get some announcements tomorrow about a fresh arm or two called on from Scranton. That and I’m sure the ideal situation would be to have Pineda be strong and in it for most of the final game tomorrow night.

But then there’s never anything “normal” about a rivalry game. And that’s the most normal thing about them.

Go Yankees!