Dunedin, Fla., February 25, 2020; Yankees 4, Toronto 1 — Spring Training fans in the Tampa area awoke to overcast skies, but warm temps, Tuesday. As the sun intermittently broke through the cloud cover, we took the warmth as a good sign for Yankee baseball. And we were right to do so.
We joined the Yankees in visiting the totally redone Blue Jays baseball facility in Dunedin, and it couldn’t have been a much better day. Hovering in the low 80s, we “felt the burn” from time to time, but always with a break under the cloud canopy coming just around the corner. Yankee pitching was solid yet again, which was a good thing, as the offense set new records for futility out of the box. The first five guys to the plate, all likely to see significant action in the upcoming season, struck out against two Jays pitchers with not an inning of major league experience between them.
Things then improved briefly, enough to give the visitors a slim lead, as Chris Iannetta and Thairo Estrada used back-to-back hits to collect the game’s first run, a 1-0 lead the visiting Yankees would hold for the next five innings. And their rate of bat-and-ball contact “improved” to .500. (They would strike out for only 11 of the remaining 22 outs.) On the other side of the ball, Nick Tropeano (two innings) and Luis Cessa would survive a Toronto base hit each thanks to two double plays, a conventional 6-4-3 first, then a strike-’em-out, throw-’em out twin killing to close out the third.
The Yanks would threaten in the fourth on a one-out double from Luke Voit — the only hit from batting positions one through four on the day — and a walk, but Estrada failed to drive in the run this time. Young Yankee pitchers, meanwhile, retired seven straight, four swinging, but the tiny lead evaporated when Jays shortstop Santiago Espinal homered off Brooks Kriske. We were heading to the late innings in a tie game again.
Three weeks ago, the Yankees signed 10-year minor league free agent Rosell Herrera, and invited him to Spring Training. Like all major league teams, the Bombers populate their training facility with lots of bodies to play and practice with those certain to travel North, and a group of others with a chance to contribute as the months wear players down. At 27, the switch-hitting Herrera is likely a member of the first group, but his story is not completely written. Listed most often as an outfielder, he has played around the infield too, in the Colorado, Kansas City, Cincinnati, and Miami organizations. The Yankees chose to start him in right field for the Spring opener three days ago, and mysteriously chose to place the too low to ignore number 12 on his back.
Once the Jays tied this game in the sixth, New York immediately responded with a threat of their own, as Kyle Higashioka and Iannetta led off the visiting seventh with a walk and single. One out later, Herrera, who was brought to Dunedin to fill in for Miguel Andujar at third once Miggy got three at bats, strode to the plate and slashed the first pitch on a line deep and just left of center. Center fielder Chavez Young, 22 and in to replace Anthony Alford, did what he could with the liner in a windy outfield, but it caromed off his glove for a triple. Down suddenly 3-1, Toronto righty Philippe Aumont uncorked a wild pitch two throws later, and the 4-1 final score was forged.
So Yankee fans can relax as we absorb the gut punch that top of rotation righty Luis Severino, who missed so much of last season, is out for 2020 and more, with recommended Tommy John surgery. Brian Cashman delivered this news in Dunedin’s TD Ballpark around the same time his team was taking a lead. Someone will have to step up and fill this void, and now that the team has posted a win, we’ll have to go forward. With an 0-2-1 record when they arrived in Dunedin, a win had to happen.
Sixty-three years ago on this day, the gone-much-too-soon Buddy Holly and the Crickets released their big hit, That’ll Be the Day. On Tuesday February 25, 2020, Yankee fans could celebrate,
This Was the Day