Lakekand, Fla., February 28, 2011 — The Yanks traveled to Lakeland today, to play the Detroit in Tiger Town. The Tigers have been in Lakeland for decades, and they attract fans of all persuasions from all over baseball to Joker Marchant Stadium. Although the Yanks fell 6-2 to a record of 1-2, the day was as gorgeous as those that preceded it, with the mercury creeping up to 85 degrees, and just in time, too. There’s a cold front expected in tomorrow, and afterward temps should dip well into the 70s, heaven forbid.
If you’re like me, the “it doesn’t matter who wins the game” posture disappears with first pitch, a called strike from Detroit ace Justin Verlander to Yankee Captain Derek Jeter at 1:09 pm. Verlander was effective over two frames, as was CC Sabathia for the Yanks, although the Yanks did drive Justin’s pitch count to 40 due to a second-inning walk to DH’ing Russell Martin and a Francisco Cervelli single, which each batter would repeat in a big threat in the fourth. Rick Porcello, who struggled in 2010, but not against the Yankees, followed with two frames.
Alex Rodriguez laced yet another shot to the wall, this time in left center, leading off the fourth, but when Cervelli singled to left one walk and one out later, Rob Thompson held Rodriguez at third. The Yanks failed to score, however, after a Justin Maxwell strike out and Melky Mesa liner to left. But the Bombers finally broke through in the fifth, as Jeter, facing southpaw Charlie Furbush, singled sharply past short and, although Robbie Cano’s deep drive to left was caught at the wall, Mark Teixeira delivered Jeets with a line double to left center. Andruw Jones, playing right field, delivered a second run with a single up the middle.
The Yankee lead at the time was 2-0, and for good reason. CC struck out two and allowed two hits on back-to-back 17-pitch innings, and Pedro Feliciano deftly pitched his way out of trouble in the third, even if he set the trouble up himself. The lefty specialist allowed two ground singles with one down, then retired righty sluggers Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera on a strike out and a grounder.
Then it got special. Nineteen-year-old Manny Banuelos, yet another dynamite young Yankee hurler, came on and retired Victor Martinez, Jhonny Peralta, and Brandon Inge on 13 pitches, freezing the latter two on deft benders they obviously did not see coming. Inge, in particular, had no chance, swinging and missing on high cheese, and then having to check his pockets after Manny snuck one by that dove toward what they refer to in hockey as the five hole. Oft-injured Mark Prior followed, and although he didn’t appear to have the velocity just yet, he whiffed one and retired three straight on 14 throws.
Nice addition about a guy who, if he ever throws a regular-season pinstriped pitch, will have one of the best and most convoluted Yankee tales to tell since the club selected him in the first round of the 1998 amateur draft; but it’s time to tell the bottom-line tale. The Tigers, after all, won this one, despite the fact that literally every Yankee regular and true prospect is looking truly special this early in the training session.
We go through this every spring, on both sides; teams win (or lose) despite all the promise (or concern) their regulars and prospects show. While keeping in mind that wins and losses don’t matter, the Yanks did lose. They trotted out three guys to pitch the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, and not one of them produced in the way we would have liked. Right-handers Daniel Turpen and D.J. Mitchell pitched an inning apiece around the seventh frame that lefty Robert Fish threw, and each of the three allowed two runs, accounting for the 6-2 final.
Fish almost escaped the seventh inning on a stellar play. Taking the mound with the score now knotted at 2-2, he allowed a leadoff single to Andy Dirks, posted a strike out, then had Clete Thomas line one to deep right center. With the go-ahead run almost certain to score, center fielder Daniel Brewer reached out and snatched the liner barehanded on its first hop, holding Dirks at third. A liner to second almost got Fish out of the frame, but Thomas barely beat Ramiro Pena back to the second base bag, averting the dp. An ensuing Ryan Strieby single plated two to break the tie.
Case Iorg, son and nephew of ex-major leaguers Garth and Dane Iorg, respectively, upped the lead against D. J. Mitchell to 5-2 with a homer in the eighth, and two doubles stretched it further to 6-2, and the game was lost, despite the fact that the amazing Jorge Vazquez added a single and double to his impressive three-game stretch in the latter innings.
So to sum up, Yankee regulars and prospects, guys who will play a big role in 2011 and promise to do so in the years that follow, excelled early. And Derek Jeter, Yankee shortstop, stroked his first hit of the spring and bid for another, on this the 30th anniversary of the day that Don Mattingly was named a Yankee Captain, a predecessor to Derek in that role.
The team visiting historic Joker Marchant Stadium lost this game on the work of players who hope to be the stars of tomorrow, players who did not have a great day, THIS time. If you need to know which player failed most dramatically this time, it was righty Daniel Turpen, who took the mound in the sixth with his team up, 2-0. Turpen did not get whacked around like Fish and Mitchell, the two that followed him, did. He allowed a bloop single to leadoff hitter Brennan Boesch, struck out Thomas, who would cause damage in the next frame, then proceeded to pitch as if he was afraid to throw a ball over home plate. He followed with 25 pitches that led to an infield single and two walks that drove in two runs for the tie.
On this day in 1602, the Salem, Massachusetts, witch hunt began, a historical curiosity perhaps, but also an event that caused death and hardship. If we need to point fingers as to why the team is now 1-2, point them at Daniel Turpen. But if you want to know how this team has come out of the box, take a look at the work of current stars A-Rod, Teixeira, Sabathia, Granderson, Chamberlain, Robertson, Jeter, and Cano, to name a few. And look at the drop-dead outings from Ivan Nova, Hector Noesi, Dellin Betances, Manny Banuelos, and Mark Prior.
Lots of reasons to be confident in the present, and the future.