Spring Game 26: BAL vs. NYY — The Judge is in session tonight

The rain yesterday brought in what could be the final real cold front of the season. Not that I’m complaining much because of how much the Northeast is getting bombarded with snow today as well. I’m also not complaining because the weather in Tampa’s going to get back into the uncomfortable range again next week. So while it’s a bit nippy for a Florida evening in late March, it’s a momentary break from the norm.

So, the Yankees hosted the Orioles for their final evening home game of the Spring, behind Luis Cessa who had a bit of mixed results tonight in his 4 innings. He gave up a 2-out solo shot in the 1st, but really pushed through most of those first 3 innings. He got into trouble, though, in the 4th with a lead-off double, a walk, and a ground out to move runners into scoring position. A sacrifice fly scored the first run and a single scored the other before a runner found out why Yankee fans know: “don’t run on Gary”.

David Robertson had an off night (for him) in the 5th inning. He just really had a hard time finding that first out. He gave up a single that scored on a big double and a wild pitch to move the runner to 3rd. But then he got a nice fly out and that put Robertson back in the right frame of mind and plowed through 2 solid strikeouts to close out the inning.

Jonathan Holder showed the powers-that-be that he deserves a shot at that extra bullpen spot with 2 scoreless and nearly flawless 6th and 7th innings. (More on this after recap.) Aroldis Chapman, however, got into his own spot of trouble in the 8th. A sloppy error allowed a runner reach base, who then moved to 3rd on a long double. After a difficult at-bat ended in a 2nd out, a strikeout, the Yankees needed a fresh arm. They called on minor league pitcher Chaz Hebert, who got a strong strikeout to eliminate the threat. He then shut down the Orioles in order to earn his first Spring Training save ever.

The Yankee batters managed to take control of the game fairly early and stay strong thanks in part to some big bats tonight. In the 1st, down by a run, the Yankees loaded up the bases with Judge’s 1-out walk, Stanton’s 2-out single, and Sanchez’s walk. Didi Gregorius powered a big 2-RBI double to put the Yankees in a lead they wouldn’t surrender tonight. In the 2nd, with 1 out, they loaded the bases again with Torreyes’ single, Gardner’s single, and Judge’s walk. This time, it would be Greg Bird to scored 2 runs with his long single. Stanton hit into a fielder’s choice and moved Judge to 3rd where he could easily score when a throwing error allowed everyone to be safe advancing on Sanchez’s at-bat.

Then in the 4th, Aaron Judge hit a nice 1-out solo home run into the right field seating area. The Yankees were unable to do much for the middle of the game, but then they found another opportunity to advance in the 8th. Avelino led-off with a single and moved to 3rd on Gardner’s single. So it was Aaron Judge again to hit a big, no-doubter, 3-run home run to solidify the Yankees’ win tonight.

Final score: 9-4 Yankees

One to Watch: I’ve got to give it to Chaz Hebert, who had a truly stellar outing tonight. He closed out the 8th inning for Chapman, with a threat sitting right there on base, and proceed to power through a quick 9th inning. Of his 4 outs tonight, 3 were strong strikeouts. This was his first Spring Training appearance ever, so it was also his first Spring save. I had to dig up some old statistics on him because until he set foot on the mound tonight, I’d never heard his name, but his dominance impressed me. Apparently, he’s played mostly Single-A and rookie ball with the Yankees since he was signed in 2011. The 25-year-old pitcher even played in AAA Scranton briefly in 2015 before spending all of 2016 on the DL. After spending the 2017 season working his way back, an appearance like tonight could be a sign of a better 2018 season for him.

Next up: the Yankees travel down to Fort Myers to face the Twins. Jordan Montgomery is scheduled to face off with a former Yankees’ starter (now the Twins strongest veteran on their rotation).

Roster moves: Before tonight’s game, the Yankees continued winnowing down their roster by optioning pitchers Giovanny Gallegos and Ben Heller, infielder Tyler Austin, and outfielder Billy McKinney to AAA Scranton (and camp). The latter two were obvious decisions, but there’s been much talk about who will fill out the bullpen and both Gallegos and Heller were contenders. And now, that leaves the final spot to either Jonathan Holder (who had a stellar outing tonight) or Domingo German. However, it’s worth noting that because of how long the season is and how frequently injuries do happen, that we will be seeing many of those names (if not all) in the Bronx in 2018.

It is worth noting that one particular player has made a lasting impression and officially made the starting roster — Tyler Wade is on the team. Boone made this clear after yesterday’s game, and rightly so. Wade has been absolutely outstanding this Spring, undoubtedly earning a spot on the team. We’ve been watching Wade since his non-roster invitee days for the last three Springs, but had a really big Spring last year (.357 batting average). However, he struggled some when he got his MLB call up in the middle of the year (and bounced back and forth a bit). But with consistency this Spring earning him a regular spot (and a batting average of .316 so far), that could help improve his MLB average (.155 last year).

Another lighter note: another new ad was released today. This one features Didi Gregorius and his trademark smile as he greets teammates Aaron Hicks, CC Sabathia, and Sonny Gray hanging out around the batting cages. Gregorius’ positive outlook certainly causes him to see things differently.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: no broadcast, so minimal video links. And tonight, I’m really sorry because there were some great highlights.}

Spring Game 20: PIT vs. NYY — #ElGary is back and it’s awesome

Apparently, the local schools are on Spring Break this week, which could explain why there was a nearly sold-out crowd for a lazy Thursday afternoon at the park against the Pirates. I mean, the Pirates only play their Spring home games about an hour south, so their fans could certainly make the trek northward for a game on a good day. Regardless of the reason, the fans certainly saw an entertaining game.

Sonny Gray got the start this afternoon, throwing 3 innings with a few mixed results. In the 1st, he gave up a lead-off walk who scored on a 2-out 2-run home run to get the Pirates on the board first. In the 3rd, a 1-out double moved to 3rd on a passed ball and then scored on a ground out to add one more run for the visitors. Adam Warren got 2 outs in the 4th before handing things over to Tommy Kahnle to complete the inning and throw through the 5th.

Dellin Betances got his chance in the 6th. He gave up a lead-off single who stole 2nd and moved to 3rd on a strikeout. A 2-out 2-run home run added a bit more for the Pirates’ score. But it is worth noting that all 3 of Betances’ outs were strong strikeouts. Chasen Shreve and Ben Heller split the final 3 innings, adding 2 more strikeouts of their own. In total, Yankee pitchers struck out 12 Pittsburgh batters.

That could certainly seem like a huge blow to the Yankees’ attempts to turn the game in their favor. But with the Yankees, you just never know. In the bottom of the 1st, down 2-0 already, Gardner led-off with a walk and then scored on Aaron Judge’s big double to get on the board. In the 3rd, with 2 outs, Judge worked a walk, and Stanton was hit by the next pitcher to get on base. So it would be Gary Sanchez’s big 3-run home run into the stands in right field to push the Yankees into the lead.

In the 4th, the Yankees loaded the bases with 1 out, 2 walks, and a fielding error. Then Aaron Judge worked another walk to walk in a run (Bird). After another new pitcher, Giancarlo Stanton hit into a little ground out that moved up all the runners and scored Tyler Wade. So it would be Gary Sanchez again, this time with a double to score both runners (Gardner and Judge) to really push the Yankees deep into the lead. Tyler Austin added an exclamation point to the scoreboard with his 8th inning lead-off solo shot.

Final score: 9-5 Yankees

One to Watch: easy today again — Tyler Wade. He’s got it all really. But he certainly shines at defense at 2nd base, perfectly in sync with his right infield partner Greg Bird in fielding those grounders and setting each other up for successful defense. Wade is something to watch on a lot of levels, but he’s certainly proving his worth to the organization in general and this team in particular.

Next up: the Yankees continue their hosting duties this week as the reigning World Series champions, the Astros, come visit tomorrow night (6:35 pm EST start time). Jordan Montgomery is to start the game, and fireworks are to end it.

Before the game, Chance Adams was optioned to AAA Scranton and sent to minor league camp. Adams, the Yankees’ #2 prospect certainly got roughed up this Spring, so it gives him something to work on this season, work out the kinks, challenge himself further, and prepare for a potential breakout in 2019.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 15: NYM vs. NYY — Looming clouds didn’t stop the powerful Yankees

In stark contrast to nearly every other game so far this Spring, the sky was overcast and moody, a heavy feeling in the air with the incoming storm in the area that only cancelled one game (the Twins-Red Sox game in Fort Myers, about 90 minutes south of Tampa). But that certainly didn’t stop the New York teams from meeting at Steinbrenner Field this afternoon before a packed house of over 10,000 fans.

Luis Cessa got the start today and had a bit of a shaky time, ending in the loading the bases with 2 walks and a single in just the 2nd inning. So the Yankees turned to “Houdini”, aka David Robertson, who breezed his way through 2 strong strikeouts to keep the Mets scoreless. Aroldis Chapman had a strong 3rd inning, getting 2 solid strikeouts of his own. Dellin Betances came on for the 4th and allowed a lead-off single and then stole both 2nd and 3rd before scoring on the ground out.

Then going into the 5th inning, the Yankees took the field. And there was no pitcher. The in-between innings clock expired. And no pitcher. Aaron Boone walked over to the dugout from his spot and sent someone into the clubhouse. Apparently, Adam Warren (the next reliever on the list) was just beginning his warm-ups, and Betances was supposed to pitch into the 5th inning. So, Betances is half-way out of uniform when he’s told to suit up and get back on the field. Betances comes back out and pitches to one more batter, giving up a single. By then Warren was good to go, so Betances found his way back to the clubhouse again (after being rather razzed by his teammates on the way).

Warren actually closed out the 5th pretty well thanks to Romine’s stellar pick-off skills, getting 2 batters trying to advance. All three of Warren’s outs in the 6th were strikeouts, but in between, he got into a spot of trouble. He gave up a double that scored on a single up the middle. On that play, 2nd baseman (and top contender for that job) Tyler Wade dove for the ball just behind 2nd but fell on his glove wrong, twisting his wrist wrong. After a few moments and a visit from the medical team, Wade was escorted off the field, flexing his hurt wrist. It’s painful, but fine. He ended up just icing it and hopes to play in Monday’s game.

Reliever Chad Green came on for the 7th. He gave up a 1-out walk that ended up being a fielder’s choice out on a grounder. A wild pitch moved that runner to scoring position who scored on a single. Green then took the first 2 outs of the 8th, before handing the ball to side-arm James Reeves. Reeves kept the Mets scoreless into the 9th inning, but gave up a walk and a ground-rule double to put runners in scoring position. So they called on Jordan Foley, who threw one pitch to get the batter to pop out to 3rd to end the game.

After a lesser hitting game yesterday, the Yankees certainly made up for it today. They kicked off things in the 1st inning. Gardner and Judge each singled, but ended up in scoring position on a slow throw from the outfield. Then Stanton stepped up, but was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Brandon Drury hit a short single to keep those bases loaded and scored Gardner. Tyler Austin hit into a fielder’s choice at 2nd and made it safely to 1st as Judge scored another run. A double play ended that exciting 1st inning.

The 3rd inning looked briefly like a weird replay of the 1st. Gardner singled, and Judge doubled to land them both in scoring position (again). After an out, a ground out still scored the speedy Gardner. With 2 outs in the 5th, Judge worked a walk and then scored on Giancarlo Stanton hit a monster 2-run home run up the middle, his first homer of the year. In the 6th, with 2 outs, Peterson walked and ended up at 3rd on Torreyes’ double. After a pitching change, Kyle Holder doubled to score both runners to keep adding to the Yankees’ lead.

And in the 8th, Diaz led off with a single and moved to 3rd on Peterson’s single. Avelino’s fielder’s choice scored Diaz. Holder singled to load the bases, and Estevan Florial’s single scored Avelino, thanks in part to a fielding error, keeping the bases loaded. Shane Robinson’s sacrifice fly capped off the Yankees’ scoring this afternoon.

Final score: 10-3 Yankees

One to Watch: This was actually a fairly easy choice today. In the 6th, when Wade injured his wrist, Kyle Holder quickly jumped at the chance to make sure that Wade’s efficiency at 2nd didn’t leave a hole. In fact, Holder showed off his stellar defense for the rest of the game, rising to every occasion. Plus, he hit very well, going 2-for-2, with 1 run scored and 2 RBIs.

More camp cuts: Before today’s game, the Yankees optioned pitcher Domingo Acevedo AA Trenton and reassigned pitcher Brian Keller to minor league camp.

Before the game today, Brett Gardner was honored for his continued work with the Taylor Hooten Foundation, an organization that promotes athletics without performance-enhancing drugs. Gardner has been a charter member of its MLB players advisory board and is part of its 2018 campaign and PSA titled “It’s All Me”.

And on a funny note: before Giancarlo Stanton got his 1st homer of the year today, he fouled off a couple of hits. One flew straight back towards the press box and smacked into the window. And yes, it cracked. Previous years have seen cracked windows on the suites and executive offices on either side of and above the press box, forcing the Yankees to invest in shatter-proof windows. Perhaps it’s time for an upgrade for the press too. Gardner actually said it best though: “The press box? I can hit the press box. He needs to hit them in the other direction.” (And he did.)

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 10: TB vs. NYY — The home team won… no, the other home team…

It was a beautiful day today in Tampa — clear, sunny blue skies, and a dip in the weather topped off the temperature in the mid-70s with a slight breeze. And a sold-out crowd to watch the hometown Rays visit the Spring hometown of the Yankees. Like most Rays-Yankees games at The Trop (the Rays’ MLB stadium across the Bay in St. Petersburg), the crowd was split pretty evenly between Rays and Yankees fans in what can only be a strong dual-hometown crowd.

And I still can’t figure out at what point it was blatantly obvious the Yankees had no chance of winning today’s game. Was it the second time Giancarlo Stanton lost the ball in the sun? Was it the lack of solid hits by the Yankees’ offense? Or was it just the slow pace of the first half of the game? No matter how you swing it, the Yankees didn’t have control of any part of today’s game.

Chad Green got the start in today’s game and got off to a pretty good start — a lead-off single was caught stealing (“you don’t run on Gary!”) before he breezed his way through the next 2 outs. But his 2nd inning gave up a single and double to put runners in scoring position. Fortunately, he got lucky and got back in command with a solid 3 outs to keep those runners from scoring.

Unfortunately, Aroldis Chapman’s Spring debut in the 3rd certainly did not go as planned, hitting the lead-off batter with a 97 mph plunk on the back and giving up a single. A ground out got the runner at 2nd, leaving runners in the corners. But Chapman wasn’t in command today, and the Yankees turned to Ben Heller for relief. A sacrifice fly scored the Rays’ first run of the day, but Heller got out of the inning with a strikeout. Heller continued in the 4th with 2 more strikeouts, but then got into his own trouble, putting runners in scoring position with a walk and ground-rule double. A throwing error on the next play allowed another run to score.

So the Yankees called in reliever Raynel Espinal to try to calm the Rays. It didn’t work. A single scored another run before another ground-rule double scored one more. A pop-up in foul territory ended that messy inning. Espinal was given the full 5th inning to try to redeem himself a bit. But he continued to struggle. With 1 out and a runner on 2nd, a double scored yet another Rays’ run.

It is worth noting that up until the 5th inning, the Yankees had minimal breakthroughs off the Rays’ pitchers, getting only 3 hits off the first 3 pitchers in 4 innings. A new Rays pitcher in the 5th gave the Yankees a much-needed opportunity to do more than hit into ground outs. With 1 out, McKinney was hit by a pitch before flying all the way to 3rd on Torreyes’ single. Tyler Wade’s long sacrifice fly scored McKinney to finally get the Yankees on the board.

But down 5-1 at that point, there was certainly not a whole lot of hope to cling to for the Yankees. Reliever Wade LeBlanc, who is a fairly reliable middle reliever, got into his own trouble in the 6th thanks in part to more messy defense. With 1 out, a batter hit the ball to 3rd where it was mishandled, and the out never made. That runner moved to 2nd on a ground out and then scored on an RBI double. But LeBlanc had a much better, cleaner 7th inning.

I will give it to Giovanny Gallegos, who easily pitched his best inning thus far this Spring, a super quick, super strong 1-2-3 8th inning. But reliever Cale Coshow repeated a few of his predecessors’ struggles with some of his own in the 9th. A lead-off single moved to 2nd on a 1-out walk before scoring as part of a 2-out 3-run home run to cap off the Rays’ scoring today.

Yankees’ pitchers gave up 13 total hits and 3 walks, and due to far too many errors, they only gave up 5 earned runs (of the 9 total). On the other side, Yankees’ batters only managed 6 hits and 1 walk. And really, both teams were hitting, so to speak. The Yankees’ batters were just hitting into easy ground outs, while the Rays were finding all the defensive holes.

And those sunny skies that made it difficult for first-time left fielder Stanton to miss two long fly balls out there.

Final score: 9-1 Rays

One to watch: I’m going with Giovanny Gallegos. Seriously, in this game of a lot of messy defense and good offensive hits from the other guys, a single flawless inning that helped moved the pace of the game up felt like the most refreshing thing this afternoon. Gallegos has had mixed results this Spring, but today, he reminded us all why he was a good replacement in that bullpen last year and worth considering for the job again this season.

Next up: An off day! Yep, Monday is no baseball day for the Yankees, so enjoy your Monday. I know I will. But after that, on Tuesday, the Yankees take a 30 minute bus ride east to Lakeland to face the Tigers, tabbing Jordan Montgomery for the start there.

Okay, I promise not to talk about standings again. Because every time I do, they lose the next game. So I’m done until the end of the Spring. I don’t believe in jinxes or anything like that, so I’m thinking it’s more expectations. Let’s just see where we are in 3 1/2 weeks and hope for the best.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 5: NYY vs. TOR — A rather messy way to win a game

I’m not going to lie. There are some games that are just an absolute train wreck. They are definitely more common in Spring Training where it seems more like Little League than professional baseball. And usually, it doesn’t turn out well for one team. But this was certainly a joint effort that somehow ended up in the Yankees’ favor.

The Yankees found their way to visit the Blue Jays’ Spring home in Dunedin (about 30 minutes west of Tampa). Back to being called Dunedin Stadium (and the angels rejoice!), the Yankees were looking to extend their undefeated winning streak this Spring, and it certainly took more than a little effort to get there. Today’s starter Chad Green got off to a great start in his first inning, but then struggled in his second, giving up a 1-out solo home run. A 2-out double was too far, and the Yankees turned to reliever Trevor Lane, who got out of the 2nd and kept the 3rd scoreless.

The Yankees came back in the 4th to advance. Danny Espinosa smacked a 1-out solo home run that bounced off the scoreboard out in left field to tie up the game. Austin Romine followed that up with a solid double, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on a wild pitch to put the Yankees in the lead. Briefly. Because reliever David Hale got into his own set of trouble in the bottom of the 4th. With a 1-out walk lingering at 1st, the defense rose to the occasion to get the out at home on a long double. But then a single tied up the game again and a wild pitch moved the runner into scoring position to do so on yet another single to give the Blue Jays the lead again.

After a scoreless 5th inning on both sides, the Yankees tied up the game in the 6th as last night’s hero Miguel Andujar smacked another home run. In the bottom of the 6th,  after a great 5th inning, prospect reliever JP Feyereisen came back out for the 6th, but then he started struggling too, giving up a lead-off walk who promptly scored on a big triple. So the Yankees turned to Raynel Espinal, but even he gave up a 1-out single that scored another Jays’ run.

In the top of the 7th, the Yankees came charging back as Florial tripled and then scored on Shane Robinson’s sacrifice fly. Then Ryan McBroom led-off a big 8th inning with a solo home run that finally tied up the game again. Wade singled, Higashioka walks, and Diaz hit a sacrifice bunt that was mishandled and thus loaded up the bases, with no outs. A wild pitch moved up all the runners, scoring the go ahead run for the Yankees. After an easy ground out, the Blue Jays went back to their bullpen. It didn’t really help. Florial’s walk loaded up the bases again, and Amburgey hit into a ground out that got the runner at home, keeping the bases loaded. It would be Mark Payton’s bases-clearing double that gave the Yankees enough of a lead to breathe again.

They would need it. Reliever Adonis Rosa had a flawless, 3-strikeout 7th inning, but then floundered a bit coming back out for the bottom of the 8th, giving up a lead-off solo homer and a big double. Josh Rogers came on in relief for Rosa to keep the Yankees in the lead, getting a great double play, a single, and a routine ground out to get out of the inning. But even he had trouble when he came back in the 9th, giving up a lead-off single, a 1-out balk, and a long 2-run home run to put the Jays within a single run. Fortunately, Cale Coshow was able to quickly close out the game in 2 outs to preserve the Yankees minuscule lead.

It’s worth noting that the Yankees’ pitchers gave up 14 hits, while the Yankees’ batters only racked up 9 hits. Stats aren’t always the easiest way to determine how good a game went. But in this case, it’s rather indicative of the kind of messy game the fans in Dunedin got to witness today. But since all that matters (in games that don’t really matter) is the win, I’ll take it.

Final score: 9-8 Yankees

Next up: the Yankees are back in Tampa tomorrow afternoon to host the Tigers again. And they’ll be going for 6 straight wins in an undefeated start to maintain that top spot in both the Grapefruit League and American League so far. I know these standings don’t really count for anything, and they don’t reflect any possible outcome for the rest of the season. But we cling to the good that we can while we can, so that’s where we are.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 4: PHI vs. NYY — Last minute power to continue win streak

The win streak continues on this warm late February night in Tampa. The visiting Phillies certainly played better than yesterday, which pushed the Yankees to be better in the end. And it paid off.

Sonny Gray got his first Spring start tonight and had a pretty good 2 innings. Prospect pitcher Chance Adams got roughed up in the 3rd inning, beginning with a lead-off walk that stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on a sacrifice fly. He then gave up a single that stole 2nd and a walk before Sanchez paired with Gregorius to pick off the runner at 2nd.

Jonathan Heller held the Phillies to that lone run in the 4th, despite a couple hits putting runners in scoring position. Ben Heller’s 5th was another challenge, loading up the bases with 2 walks and a single. A 2-out hit-by-pitch walked in another run for the Phillies before getting out of the inning.

Meanwhile, the Yankees were relatively halted in their offense until that 5th inning. With 2 outs, Drury worked a walk and moved to 2nd when McKinney’s hit into a messy single that was mishandled by the infielder. Tyler Wade then singled to score Drury, as both Wade and McKinney moved into scoring position. But a fly out ended hopes to tie up the game. At least then.

Yankees reliever Brian Keller held the Phillies to a scoreless 2 inning for the 6th and 7th innings. It gave the Yankees offense a chance to catch up in the 7th. With 2 outs, Drury hit a long triple and was pinch-run by minor leaguer Payton who promptly scored and tied up the game when pinch-hitter Miguel Andujar hit a solid double. Then in the 8th, with 1 out and Kratz and Austin on base with walks, pinch-hitter Jorge Saez singled to score Kratz. Austin was right on his tail on the way in, being encouraged home by the 3rd base coach, but the ball arrived home right between Kratz and Austin’s scoring and Austin was tagged out. But it was enough to give the Yankees the lead.

So all they needed was three outs and their win streak could continue. But since when do they make it easy? Yankees reliever Cody Carroll threw a great 8th inning and was looking at continuing that momentum in the 9th. And with 2 quick outs, things were looking up. But a checked swing was ruled a ball (and the entire crowd voiced their displeasure at the umpires), and it wasn’t more than a minute later that the batter hit a long fly ball that bounced off the top of the right field wall. It was called a home run, and just like that, the game was tied.

Into the bottom of the 9th, the game went, with all the hopes and expectations of the lingering crowd. With 2 quick outs, many of the fans were consoling themselves that a tie is still not a loss, comparing how in regulation leagues a draw is still awarded a point (a win is 3 points and a loss is 0 points). But then one nearby Yankee fan remarked that if anyone was going to do something it was going to be Andujar. And boy, did he ever, smacking a big home run right over the left field fence for a beautiful walk-off win.

Final score: 4-3 Yankees

One to Watch: Got to give it to Miguel Andujar tonight. He went 2-for-2, with that home run, plus another RBI, thus responsible for half of the Yankees’ score tonight. Plus, he’s always a great defender. That 3rd base job, or at least, platooning there is looking more and more likely if he can keep playing like he did tonight.

Injury news: in Saturday’s game against the Pirates, Clint Frazier ran into the left field wall (which was really just a chain link fence) rather hard and was later diagnosed with a mild concussion. He is doing better today, but he will be out a few more days and be watched carefully. With the rise of CTE in other sports and its direct link to concussions, athletes and their teams take even slight concussions seriously and proceed with caution. Take all the time you need. I think anyone would prefer a completely healthy athlete to a partially healed one. (Especially their mothers and wives!)

Next up: Yankees head back across the Bay, this time to play the Blue Jays in Dunedin.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: No broadcast tonight means no video highlights for the blog. Sorry!}

Spring Game 1: DET vs. NYY — Starting the season with a W, #MSDStrong

Every Spring Training is like a mini-family reunion for those of us who go every year. Like coming home after a long time, there’s lots of hugging, stories, and updates. Unlike last year, not much has changed at Steinbrenner Field in appearances. But as I was walking up to the main gate, I mentioned that baseball, as unpredictable and evolving as it is, is ironically the stable part of my schedule. Apparently, I’m not alone in that as my Yankees “family” echoed my sentiments.

Anyway, baseball is finally back. And the Yankees had to kick-start it with a nice win. Luis Cessa got the start for this afternoon’s home opener against the visiting Tigers. His lead-off single moved to 2nd on a long fly ball and then scored on another single to get Detroit on the board early. But Cessa, proving he could be the first call in a pitching injury situation, came back in the 2nd for a strong, quick 1-2-3 inning. Ben Heller followed up Cessa with his own fairly strong 2 innings. They were followed by Hale for 2 and then Lail, Coshow, and Gallegos each gave an inning for the final third of the game. Collectively, the Yankee pitchers only gave up 6 hits and 3 walks to the Tigers.

Comparatively, the Tigers pitchers also only gave up 6 hits to the Yankees’ stacked power-hitting line-up, but they also walked 7 of them in the process. After a fairly strong starter gave his 2 innings, each reliever took an inning and really kept the Yankees from doing much more than get on base and feel hopeful. However, one reliever decided to buck that trend in the bottom of the 6th after all the starters and stars exited the game.

Tyler Wade led off the inning with a solid double and then ended up at 3rd on a 1-out balk. After Higashiokka worked one of those walks, Espinosa was hit by an errant pitch to load up the bases. Jake Cave hit into a routine ground out that moved up all the runners and scored Wade to tie up the game. Then it would be today’s replacement DH Jorge Saez to single and score 2 more runs to give the Yankees the lead and eventual win.

Final: 3-1 Yankees

And the return of the One To Watch, the minor league player that caught my attention because he did something worth noticing… Today’s One to Watch: Jorge Saez. The 27-year-old catcher served as the replacement designated hitter today, and it paid off. He went 2-for-3 at-bats, with 2 RBIs that made the difference in the game. The Yankees picked him up off waivers from Toronto after the 2016 season. He spent 5 seasons in the Blue Jays’ minor league system and spent most of last year with AA Trenton. But he’s clearly doing something worth noticing — he’s hitting, and hitting well in moments that matter.

The Yankees head down to Bradenton to face the Pirates tomorrow afternoon, so we’re officially underway with the pre-season. Spring has really begun. Baseball is here again.

Before today’s sold-out game, prior to the national anthem, the Yankees hosted a moment of silence for the 17 students and teachers lost in the recent school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Every MLB team and umpires wore the same “SD” ball caps the sports teams of that high school wear. While the agreement was to wear them just before the game, both teams today wore them throughout the game in their honor. The game-worn caps will be autographed and auctioned off for the Broward Education Foundation, the official fund for the victims and survivors. The baseball and softball teams from that high school were also special guests to the Marlins-Cardinals game in Jupiter, Florida (about an hour north of Parkland). Our hearts continue to be with that community as they recover, and we are proud of the brave who are leading the charge and movement for change.

Go Yankees!