Bronx, N.Y., May 4, 2013 — Some expressed concern, given the meager results against a good, but not great pitcher, in the 2-0 loss to A.J. Griffin and the Oakland A’s Friday night, that this Yankee team just doesn’t have the offense to compete in 2013. After all, had you been able to see three hours into the future once A’s shortstop Adam Rosales lifted CC Sabathia’s first-pitch 90-mph fastball over the wall in left, the game was over one pitch in. Continue reading
Bronx, N.Y., April 27, 20113 — Despite being confronted with their third straight lefty-throwing starter — against whom the much-injured 2013 Yankee squad have struggled mightily — Saturday afternoon, the Bombers came away with a closely battled come-from-behind victory, for a 3-0 mark on their homestand. Staff ace CC Sabathia surrendered two booming home runs after allowing three in a 5-1 loss his last time out, but he prevailed through eight gutsy, gritty innings to earn the 5-4 win. Continue reading
Bronx, N.Y., April 25, 2013 — Something was amiss at game time in the Bronx Thursday night, as the Yanks prepared to start a homestand vs. the Blue Jays. Returning home from a 3-3 road trip playing on concrete, the Bombers were greeted by a relatively meager crowd, on what in 2013 served as a pretty nice evening for baseball. Continue reading
Bronx, N.Y., April 18, 2013 —The Yankees dropped the final game of their homestand, 6-2, to the Arizona Diamondbacks, seemingly because the visitors were more determined to not leave town without a victory than the Bombers were to deny them one. In a game with weird twists and turns on a few rallies that came up short, the teams were tied 2-2 after 11 on the results of just four pitches, resulting in two singleton homers apiece. Continue reading
Bronx, N.Y., April 16, 2013 — — Hopefully you can wrap your mind around uttering that title in the cadence intended in Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” a Boston tradition in the seventh inning stretch that the Yankee Stadium loudspeakers played following Tuesday night’s third inning in honor of the tragedy at Monday’s Boston Marathon. Ivan Nova survived a conflicted start; Robbie Cano bailed out a Yankee offense primed to put runners on and not score them; and the Yanks beat the visiting D’backs, 4-2. Continue reading
Bronx, N.Y., April 14, 2013 — The Yankees blanked the Orioles 3-0 Sunday night in the Stadium to take the rubber game of their three-game set, a really entertaining series, even if it did show the grand old game’s ugly side a few times. The history-making triple play and a three-run error on Friday were easily offset by Phil Hughes’s worst start in the majors Saturday, but the stunning job turned in by Yankee righty Hiroki Kuroda Sunday both salvaged the weekend for Yankee fans, and treated a national audience to a display of pitching 101. Continue reading
Bronx, N.Y., April 13, 2013 — It was midafternoon in the Bronx exactly 15 years ago that a catastrophic failure ensured a dramatic change in Yankee fortunes. The failure of a beam in the old Stadium’s Loge level made what was planned and feared (by some) inevitable: The Stadium would have to be replaced. Continue reading
Washington, D.C., March 29, 2013 — The Yankees played, and won, their penultimate 2013 Spring Training game a couple of hundred miles south of the Big Apple Friday, but considerably north of where they participated in a difficult camp, dominated by injuries, errors, generally light hitting, and a plethora of game losses. But if the results of this contest are any guide, this team is removed from the one that played its first game one month ago by a lot more than mileage. Continue reading
Spring Training, Week 1, 2013 – Got in late Saturday after finally witnessing a win in Tampa, and vegged much of the day, but I wanted to share some positive impressions on players in camp that we saw from February 26 through March 2. Following a 1-4 stretch during which the Yanks continuously threw the ball away, I thought I might have some trouble filling a baker’s dozen, but as it turns out I’m afraid I’m leaving some worthy candidates out, like Jose Ramirez, Tyler Austin, and Mark Montgomery.
Hats off, too, to Chris Stewart, who has struggled to block the plate, and made a bad throw, but his two-run home run and subsequent peg to nail Tigers rookie league shortstop Brandon Loy trying to steal Saturday contributed more than any other factor to get us a win. Our list of 13 covers three vets pretty much guaranteed significant 2013 innings, four vets battling over extra spots, and six kids, some of with a rep coming in, some not.
The only questions about Brett Gardner appear to be whether he'll be playing more center field or left field, and what spot in the lineup he'll fill most often. Brett covered the outfield like a blanket from whatever position in three games, and was an offensive spark, with his bat and his feet, with two stolen bases and four hits, including a two-out, full-count, bases-loaded triple.
Either one or two outfield positions to Brett's left will be Ichiro Suzuki, an eventual lock for the Hall of Fame who, if he continues playing at a high level, may reach the 3,000-hit plateau in games played on this side of the Pacific Ocean. Ichiro followed an infield single up the middle Tuesday with a liner flicked past the third baseman and a hard tracer up the middle. With a stolen base and a run scored, he appears to be playing the sport at a greater speed than players 10 and 20 years his junior.
Francisco Cervelli, who entered Spring Training with a leg up on one major-league catching job (starter or backup), has done nothing to hurt his chances. He threw out four of the first five runners trying to steal against him, and in two games slugged two doubles with a single and a walk in five plate appearances. Throughout pregame bp on Wednesday, he and Ichiro appeared to be discussing plate approach in between each set.
Leading off the second category, David Phelps had an inside track to a long relief role even if he did not win a starting position. But he has done very well in two starts, just one of which we attended. In his second start on Thursday he increased his scoreless innings streak to five, struck out a batter, and gave up two harmless singles. Rather than working on his repertoire one pitch at a time, he appears to be midseason-ready to throw any pitch, to any batter.
Matt Diaz is one of two right-handed veterans battling for the fourth spot in the lefty-heavy Yankee outfield. He patrolled left field very well, continuously had productive at bats, pulled off a delayed steal that was a thing of beauty, and lost another bag he had stolen when he was punched out for an interference call on Melky Mesa at the plate.
Most surprising and intriguing among the nonroster vets in camp, Dan Johnson opened eyes with solid defensive work at the corners once an early Kevin Youkilis oblique tweak raised the question: Who's at the hot corner should Kevin incur an injury? A guy with poor career offensive numbers, mixed in with some huge postseason and late-season long balls, he's hit in poor luck but lined deep to the warning track a few times in three games.
Of the six young players who opened our eyes, three played the field, three pitched. The five strike outs lefty Vidal Nuno posted in two innings last Monday put him on everyone's radar screen, but he increased the buzz to a roar with three scoreless vs. the Phillies Friday. He shrugged off the two-base error third baseman Addison Maruszak (the other No. 96 in the picture) made against his first batter and threw hard, but displayed a big-league-ready change as well.
Not only was lefty Francisco Rondon handed the ball on Wednesday vs. the Birds already down 6-1, he was paired for his two innings against as high-profile a pitching prospect as there is in the bigs, Baltimore's Dylan Bundy. Dylan who? With a smooth hip transfer the ball explodes from Rondon's left hand. He survived yet another Yankee error that day, and in three innings, including a one-two-three against the Tigers Saturday, struck out four while allowing one single.
With all the talk about the catching battle pitting three veterans sporting middling offensive resumes and young Austin Romine, whose potential has been clouded by injuries, J.R. Murphy came to camp behind young Gary Sanchez, because although his defense is solidifying, his bat seemed "stagnant." I don't need to include the booming double in Fort Myers Sunday after my return; J.R. singlehandedly threatened to beat the Phillies in Clearwater with back-to-back drives to dead center: a home run and a double, good for two rbi's and a run scored.
A name bandied about the last two years, Cuban emigre Ronnier Mustelier may look more like a wrestler or a linebacker, and he's no kid at age 27. A solid defender in the outfield, he showed grit in holding onto a catch in right center Thursday after a violent collision. Ronnier displayed impressive power, here touching up after a long home run Wednesday.
We're finishing our "Therrific Thirteen" with Slade Heathcott, even though he has missed some time with a sprained thumb since his collision with Mustelier. A young man who has turned around a tough life, Slade played a solid center field, and looks primed for a big year at the plate.
Mouse over or touch the images in the slideshow to read my assessment of players we saw in the first week of spring training.
Honorable mention would include a mix of youth and experience as well. Among the vets, both Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira have looked solid at the plate and exceptional in the field, and Ivan Nova and David Robertson have pitched well; youth has served well too, with Adam Warren making two solid starts. Melky Mesa continues to flash a variety of skills, but showed a tendency to strike out in big spots. Overall, I present a glowing look at what we can expect from a team that lost seven straight, and four out of five, with 11 errors, while I was there.