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Monthly Archives: March 2007

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Yankees 2, Phillies 0

This game wasn’t nearly as close as the score indicates.

Lineup:

L – Johnny Damon (CF)
R – Derek Jeter (SS)
L – Bobby Abreu (DH)
L – Jason Giambi (1B)
L – Hideki Matsui (LF)
S – Jorge Posada (C)
L – Robinson Cano (2B)
S – Melky Cabrera (RF)
R – Miguel Cairo (3B)

Pitchers: Kei Igawa, Mariano Rivera, Luis Vizcaino, Mike Myers, Colter Bean

Subs: Doug Mientkiewicz (1B), Chris Basak (2B), Ramiro Peña (SS), Angle Chavez (PR/3B), Wil Nieves (C), Bronson Sardinha (PR/RF), Kevin Thompson (CF), Kevin Reese (LF), Andy Phillips (DH)

Opposition: Two-thirds of the Phillies starters, including Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell, but a double-A starting pitcher.

Big Hits: A double by Robinson Cano (2 for 3) in the second that turned into an inning ending play when Jorge Posada (0 for 3), who had been on first base via an error, missed Larry Bowa’s stop sign and was thrown out at the plate. Doubles by Matsui (2 for 3) and Cairo (1 for 3). Melky Cabrera went 2 for 3.

Who Pitched Well?: Everyone. The four relievers combined to allow one hit (off Myers) and no walks while striking out six in four innings. Of particular note, Rivera struck out Ryan Howard on a changeup. Igawa looked sharp in the first inning, throwing first-pitch strikes to all four batters he faced, working down in the zone, and allowing just a bouncing ball single. In the second he was back to his old ways of being wild and up in the zone. He then recovered in the third and would have had a 1-2-3 inning on three groundballs if not for Jeter’s error, which he followed with a walk and another groundout. He got that 1-2-3 inning in the fourth on a pop up and two strikeouts. He was less impressive in his final inning, walking the lead-off man, then having a homer blown back into Hideki Matsui’s mitt by the wind that was gusting in all night, and finally having a ringing line drive head right to Miguel Cairo at third resulting in a 5-4-3 double play. All together he needed 65 pitches to work five innings, allowing two hits, walking three, and striking out three.

Slick Plays: In the first, Aaron Rowand hit a grounder that almost rolled to a stop on its way to the second base position. Robinson Cano charged and made a barehanded flip to Jason Giambi, who made a nice scoop for the out. With one out in the second, Jayson Werth tripped leading off first base on a fly out to center. Johnny Damon flipped to Jeter who, racing into shallow center, spun and fired low to first where Jason Giambi made a great scoop to complete the 8-6-3 double-play. Giambi later made another nice scoop on another low throw by Jeter on the play before Jeter’s error.

Oopsies: Kei Igawa would have had a 1-2-3 third inning on three groundouts to the left side, but Derek Jeter booted the third out. Following singles by Cano and Cabrera in to lead off the fifth, Miguel Cairo popped up a bunt, failing to move the runners. Ramiro Peña made a throwing error later in the game.

Ouchies: Bobby Abreu went 0 for 3 in his spring debut, but didn’t look hindered by his injury in any way, just rusty. Andy Pettitte had back spasms after his workout on Monday, skipped his bullpen yesterday and likely won’t make his scheduled start on Friday, despite his own protestations. The Yankees are playing it safe and don’t consider Pettitte’s back to be a major issue right now.

Battles: Andy Phillips grounded out in his only at-bat from the DH slot. I have yet to see Phillips hit a ball in the air past the pitcher’s mound this spring. Though I admittedly haven’t seen all of his at-bats, I have seen one of his two hits. Will Nieves was also 0 for 1. For what it’s worth, the only Yankee relievers not to allow a run or issue a walk this spring are Mariano Rivera, Scott Proctor, and Colter Bean, their combined line is 19 2/3 IP, 9 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 20 K.

Catching On

Pat Borzi has a nice piece about the relationship between Jorge Posada and Tony Pena today in The Times.

Blue Jays 9, Yankees 1

Chris Britton punches his ticket for triple-A and Miguel Cairo pulls an Enrique Wilson in the outfield. Total score of the last two games: Yankees 9, Opponents 10.

Lineup:

L – Johnny Damon (DH)
S – Melky Cabrera (CF)
L – Robinson Cano (2B)
R – Alex Rodriguez (3B)
L – Doug Mientkiewicz (1B)
R – Todd Pratt (C)
L – Bronson Sardinha (RF)
R – Chris Basak (SS)
R – Miguel Cairo (LF)

Pitchers: Jeff Karstens, Chris Britton, T.J. Beam, Scott Proctor, Brian Bruney, Sean Henn

Subs: Angel Chavez (3B), Wil Nieves (C), Kevin Thompson (CF), Jose Tabata (PR/LF), Andy Phillips (DH), Kevin Reese (PH), Kevin Howard (PR)

Opposition: The second-place Blue Jay’s starters.

Big Hits: A pair of doubles by Robinson Cano (2 for 3) and a third by Doug Mientkiewicz (1 for 3), the last being Minky’s second hit of the spring. Minky also drove in the only run of the game, though it came on a double-play so there was no official RBI.

Who Pitched Well?: Scott Proctor, Brian Bruney, and Sean Henn each pitched a perfect inning, Bruney and Henn both struck out two of the three men they faced.

Who Didn’t?: Jeff Karstens had his first rough outing of the spring, needing 75 pitches to get through 4 1/3 innings, surrendering four runs on six hits, four of them doubles. Chris Britton, who came on in relief in fifth, gave up five more runs on four hits and a walk, the big blow being a three-run homer by Gregg Zaun. Britton was pulled after six batters, having retired just one of them.

Slick Plays: Mientkiewicz came off the bag to save an errant throw by Alex Rodriguez in the first inning, making a swipe tag on Lyle Overbay for the out.

Oopsies: Miguel Cairo had a rough outing in left field, flubbing one catch that was ruled a double and making a wild throw to first to try to double up a runner that was properly ruled an error. He was moved to second base later in the game.

Ouchies: Wil Neives returned to action today. Bobby Abreu will make his spring debut tomorrow.

Battles: Todd Pratt and Wil Nieves both went hitless in three and one at-bats respectively. Andy Phillips singled in his lone at-bat from the DH slot. Chris Britton more or less punted his chances of making heading north with the major league club, inflating his spring ERA to 13.50 after getting lit up in a minor league game in his last outing. Brian Bruney, Sean Henn, and T.J. Beam, meanwhile, still have yet to give up a run this spring.

Notes: Kevin Howard is a 25-year-old utility infielder acquired in the Tony Womack dump whose disappointing showing repeating double-A last year kept him from getting a proper spring training invite.

Say Hey

The acclaimed baseball writer, Charles Einstein died a few weeks ago. His obit is in the Times today. Einstein edited the four volume “The Fireside Book of Baseball,” as well as several books about Willie Mays. Well worth checking out. And he’s the random part: Einstein was the half-brother of Albert Einstein, better known as Albert Brooks.

Yankees 8, Pirates 1

The Yankees batted around against a tired Zach Duke with two outs in the fourth, putting up seven runs before Josh Phelps, in his second at bat of the inning, lined to third to mercifully end the inning.

Lineup:

L – Johnny Damon (CF)
R – Derek Jeter (SS)
L – Jason Giambi (1B)
R – Alex Rodriguez (3B)
L – Hideki Matsui (LF)
S – Jorge Posada (C)
R – Josh Phelps (1B)
L – Robinson Cano (2B)
R – Melky Cabrera (RF)

Pitchers: Mike Mussina, Mariano Rivera, Kyle Farnsworth, Mike Myers, Luis Vizcaino

Subs: Doug Mientkiewicz (1B), Miguel Cairo (2B), Chris Basak (SS), Angel Chavez (PR/3B), Ben Davis (PR/C), Bronson Sardinha (RF), Kevin Thompson (PR/CF), Kevin Reese (PR/LF), Andy Phillips (DH)

Opposition: Jason Bay, Adam LaRoche and a bunch of scrubs.

Big Hits: Jason Giambi hit a grand slam in the middle of the Yankees’ seven-run outburst against Duke. Alex Rodriguez followed with a triple. Chris Basak doubled off Damaso Marte in the eighth, eventually scoring the Yankees’ eighth run.

Who Pitched Well?: Mike Mussina finally had a good outing, pitching five scoreless innings, allowing just three hits, all singles, and a walk while striking out two. Mariano Rivera needed just six pitches to work a perfect sixth, and thus threw ten more in the pen afterwards. Mike Myers pitched around a double in the eighth. Luis Vizcaino pitched around a single in the ninth, striking out one.

Who Didn’t?: Kyle Farnsworth gave up a run on two walks and a hit in the seventh.

Slick Plays: With one out in the fifth Jose Castillo flew out to shallow right with Ryan Doumit on first base. Doumit wandered a bit too far off first and Melky Cabrera fired a strike to Doug Mientkiewicz for a 9-9-3 double play. Later, Minky made a couple of nice plays of his own, one a diving stop to his right on a line drive, the other fielding a short hop on the foul line. Left fielders Hideki Matsui and Kevin Reese both made nice running catches heading back toward the warning track, though Reese’s was more impressive.

Ouchies: Bobby Abreu looked good in batting practice yesterday, ran the bases, and is penciled in as Tuesday’s DH. Humberto threw 25 fastballs in the bullpen and will remain in camp to work with Ron Guidry, throwing another bullpen on Tuesday. Wil Nieves should play in today’s game. Jose Veras (elbow) will play catch today.

Battles: Josh Phelps went 2 for 3 and made a nice base-running play with two outs in the fourth. That came when Robinson Cano hit a grounder behind second base which Pittsburgh shortstop Brian Bixler dove for and stopped on the edge of the infield grass. Phelps, who had taken off on contact, slid in just ahead of Bixler’s flip to second. Andy Phillips grounded out in his only at-bat from the DH slot. Ben Davis did not come to bat.

Notes:

Housekeeping: I’ve fixed all of the MLB hit-chart links on the sidebar. I’ve also deleted all of the Retrosheet links, as all of the splits and game logs on Retrosheet can now be accessed via Baseball-Reference (with the exception of the catch-all “men on” split, but it hardly seemed worth the clutter for that single split seeing as B-Ref provides all of the individual men-on-base situations).

Phillies 3, Yankees 2

Andy Phillips and Carl Pavano collaborated on this loss.

Lineup:

R – Miguel Cairo (2B)
R – Derek Jeter (SS)
L – Jason Giambi (1B)
L – Hideki Matsui (LF)
R – Andy Phillips (3B)
R – Kevin Thompson (CF)
R – Raul Chavez (C)
L – Kevin Reese (RF)
L – Andy Pettitte (P)

Pitchers: Andy Pettitte, Carl Pavano

Subs: Josh Phelps (1B), Chris Basak (2B), Ramiro Peña (SS), Jorge Posada (C), Bronson Sardinha (RF)

Opposition: Most of the Phillies starters.

Big Hits: A double by Kevin Thompson (2 for 4) of former teammate Matt Smith.

Who Pitched Well?: Andy Pettitte was fantastic, allowing just two hits and no walks while striking out four in five innings, retiring the last 13 men he faced in order. He has yet to allow a run or issue a walk this spring while allowing just five hits and striking out seven in ten innings over three starts.

Who Didn’t?: Carl Pavano gave up all three Phillie runs, though Andy Phillips defense helped out there, walking two and allowing four hits in four innings while striking out one and hitting a batter in his bonus half inning in the bottom of the ninth.

Oopsies: Andy Phillips made an error in the sixth, leading to the first Phillie run, then ole’d a possible double play ball with the bases loaded in the seventh, leading to two more Phillie runs. Kevin Thompson dropped a fly ball in Pavano’s bonus inning.

Ouchies: Bobby Abreu, who took batting practice in the cage on Friday, took outdoor batting practice with the rest of the team yesterday, during which he checked his swing a few times with out pain. Wil Nieves did “batting exercises” on Saturday and could return to game action by Tuesday. Humberto Sanchez is scheduled to throw a bullpen from the top of the mound today.

Battles: Andy Phillips went 1 for 4 with a run scored as the third baseman, but struggled in the field, his error and later misplay leading to all three Phillie runs. Josh Phelps walked in two plate appearances. Raul Chavez went 1 for 3. Chris Britton had an awful outing against the Phillies minor leaguers (see below). Darrell Rasner did well against the Devil Ray’s triple-A squad.

Notes: Scott Proctor and Chris Britton threw in a minor league game against the Phillies minor leaguers. Neither did particularly well. Proctor allowed a run on two hits in 1 2/3 innings and struck out no one and Britton got lit up for four runs on three hits and two walks in 1 1/3 innings. Darrell Rasner faired much better against the Devil Ray’s triple-A squad, allowing just one run on one hit and a walk while striking out three in four innings. The Phillies wore green caps and jerseys in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.

Astros 4, Yankees 3

The first three men the Yankee sent to the plate all scored. They were the only Yankees to do so. The penultimate man the Astros sent to the plate scored to end the game.

Lineup:

L – Johnny Damon (CF)
S – Melky Cabrera (LF)
L – Robinson Cano (2B)
R – Alex Rodriguez (3B)
L – Bronson Sardinha (RF)
R – Todd Pratt (C)
L – Doug Mientkiewicz (1B)
R – Miguel Cairo (SS)
R – Chien-Ming Wang (P)

Pitchers: Chien-Ming Wang, Luis Vizcaino, Ron Villone, Colter Bean, Ben Kozlowski

Subs: Andy Phillips (1B), Angel Chavez (2B), Eduardo Nuñez (SS), Chris Basak (3B), Ben Davis (C), Kevin Reese (PR/CF), Kevin Thompson (PR/LF)

Opposition: The Astros starters

Big Hits: A three-run first-inning home run by Robinson Cano (1 for 3). Miguel Cairo was 2 for 3.

Who Pitched Well?: Chien-Ming Wang allowed just one run on four hits while striking out three and walking none in five innings. Ten of his remaining twelve outs came on the ground and he threw 75 percent of his 61 pitches for strikes. Colter Bean pitched a perfect eighth inning, striking out two. Luis Vizcaino pitched around a walk while striking out two in a hitless, scoreless sixth inning.

Who Didn’t?: Ron Villone blew the lead in the seventh by surrendering solo homers to Morgan Ensberg (that’ll happen) and Adam Everett (that won’t). Ben Kozlowski then lost the game by giving up doubles in the bottom of the ninth to the only two batters he faced in the game.

Ouchies: Bobby Abreu took 55 swings against batting practice pitching. The Yankees hope Abreu will be able to play on Thursday against the Reds, the day after the lone off-day in the spring schedule.

Battles: Todd Pratt went 0 for 3. Ben Davis made out in his only at-bat, but did throw out Chris Burke attempting to steal second. Andy Phillips struck out in his only at-bat.

Notes: With Andy Pettitte and Carl Pavano scheduled to be the only Yankee pitchers to see action in today’s game, throwing five and four innings respectively, Darrell Rasner will throw in a triple-A game today while Scott Proctor and Chris Britton will also pitch in minor league games. Eduardo Nuñez, who subbed in at shortstop in yesterday’s game, is a 19-year-old shortstop who didn’t hit a lick in his full-season debut in 2006 after being invited to Yankee camp last spring on the strength of a mildly impressive short-season pro debut with Staten Island in 2005.

Finally, Andy Phillips’ mom has been released from the hospital.

Card Corner

By Bruce Markusen

Mike Easler

Mike Easler—Topps Company—1987 (No. 135)

As a child of the 1970s, I’ve always loved wood paneling in a home. I even appreciate the cheap, cardboard-thin wood that lined the basements of many houses in the northeast corridor during the seventies. Given my affection for wood paneling, it’s not surprising that Topps’ 1987 wood-bordered set ranks as my favorite of the 1980s.

With the wood border providing an ideal framework, Mike Easler’s card rates near the top of my list. This card, No. 135 in the set, gives us a clear view of Easler’s memorable batting stance. Unlike most power hitters, Easler batted out of a pronounced crouch, a pose usually preferred by singles and doubles hitters the ilk of Pete Rose. After attacking a pitcher’s offering with a fierce uppercut, Easler finished off each swing with his signature flourish—an exaggerated rotation of the bat, the equivalent of a helicopter motion. Even as a college student in the 1980s, I used to mimic the Easler “helicopter” during meetings with fellow baseball diehards. No one of Easler’s era finished his swing in such a way, and no one since has matched Easler’s twirling of the bat.

In addition to his distinctive batting style, Easler also had a descriptive nickname. Although most Yankee fans remember Don Mattingly as “The Hit Man,” he was not the first to acquire the nickname. Easler preceded Mattingly as the original Hit Man, a testament to his aggressive style at the plate and his ability to pepper line drives from one outfield gap to another. Unlike most left-handed hitters with power, Easler boasted a particularly effective opposite-field stroke, which he seemed to prefer over pulling the ball to right field. Easler was usually at his best hitting the ball with gusto toward left-center, an ability that he honed during his years at Fenway Park. Easler became particularly adept at hitting “The Wall” at Fenway, an advantage that he would lose during his two stints with the Yankees. Unfortunately, left field at Yankee Stadium has never provided a reachable target for left-handed hitters, and that did not change for The Hit Man, who struggled to fill the shoes of the player for whom he was traded, Don Baylor.

Still, Easler was reasonably productive in his first go-round in Yankee pinstripes. He played well as a platoon DH and left fielder, sustaining a role that he had filled with the Boston Red Sox. Prior to that, Easler had forged a niche as a highly successful part-time player with the Pittsburgh Pirates, which included a cameo during the team’s World Championship season in 1979. That Easler sustained a lasting major league career of consequence throughout the 1980s is testament to his perseverance. For most of the 1970s, Easler bided his time in the minor leagues, save for unproductive cups of coffee with the Houston Astros and California Angels. Along the way, he won two minor league batting titles. Yet, major league scouts didn’t like Easler; they viewed him as nothing more than a platoon player, incapable of hitting left-handed pitching, and regarded him as a butcher in the outfield. They didn’t feel he hit with enough power or possessed enough speed. Even as Easler filleted minor pitching at Double-A and Triple-A, scouts dismissed him as nothing more than a career minor leaguer.

Most players would have been excused for taking their minor league numbers to Japan for a bigger payday, but Easler remained adamant about a career in the major leagues. Easler’s persistence started to deliver dividends in 1977, when the Pirates first brought him to Pittsburgh. By 1979, he appeared capable of contributing in a small role to a World Championship club. By 1980, he had convinced everyone that he belonged in the major leagues for the long haul.

Easler also helped his cause by becoming popular in the clubhouse. Teammates liked him, as did the media. Easler always answered questions from the press after games, regardless of the outcome. Even the most jaded Red Sox reporter, weary from having to deal with “unfriendlies” like Jim Rice and Wade Boggs in an exceedingly difficult clubhouse, could find solace at Easler’s locker. Easler would always talk—no matter what.

Given his sociability, his relentless determination, and his resplendent hitting style, it’s easy to see why Easler became one of my favorites during the 1980s. His 1987 Topps card might not be worth much—it’s a common card from an era in which too many cards were produced to begin with—but it’s still a nice one to have.

Bruce Markusen is the author of seven books, including A Baseball Dynasty: Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s. His newest book, a revised edition of Tales From The Mets Dugout, is now available from Sports Publishing. Bruce is a resident of Cooperstown, NY.

Yankees 3, Braves 2

The Yankees scored all of their runs off Oscar Villarreal in the seventh inning to win a game that would have been infuriating for Braves fans had it actually counted.

Lineup:

S – Melky Cabrera (CF)
R – Derek Jeter (SS)
L – Jason Giambi (DH)
R – Alex Rodriguez (3B)
L – Hideki Matsui (LF)
S – Jorge Posada (C)
L – Robinson Cano (2B)
R – Andy Phillips (1B)
L – Kevin Reese (RF)

Pitchers: Kei Igawa, Mike Myers, T.J. Beam, Tyler Clippard, Sean Henn, Mariano Rivera, Brian Bruney

Subs: Chris Basak (2B), Angel Chavez (PR/SS), Miguel Cairo (3B), Raul Chavez (C), Bronson Sardinha (PR/LF), Kevin Thompson (CF), Todd Pratt (DH)

Opposition: All but one of the Braves starters.

Big Hits: They all came in the seventh inning against Oscar Villarreal. Hideki lead off with a double and was followed by an absolute bomb by Raul Chavez that disappeared deep into the night over the left field gap, tying the game at 2-2. Chris Basak followed that by popping out to shallow left, but the wind that blew Chavez’s drive out to sea blew Basak’s ball past shortstop Yunel Escobar and Basak hustled into second for a double. Andy Phillips then bunted Basak to third and Kevin Reese laid down a perfect squeeze bunt to give the Yankees the lead. That was followed by a double by Kevin Thompson for good measure. Incidentally, I was thrilled to see the squeeze bunt. It’s baseball’s forgotten play. The sac but may be overused, but the squeeze bunt needs to be brought back. I can’t remember the last time the Yankees executed a squeeze bunt, in spring training or any other time.

Who Pitched Well?: Tyler Clippard wasn’t great, but he was good. In 2 2/3 innings the only hit he allowed was a solo homer by Chipper Jones. In that at-bat, Clippard made Jones look foolish with an 81-mile-per-hour changeup that wowed Ken Singleton and Joe Girardi in the YES booth, then followed it up with a 91-mile-per-hour fastball that Jones was late on. Jones timed his next changeup, however, and deposited it over the wall. Clippard struck out two in his first two innings, but in his third frame he walked two and was pulled with two outs in the inning for Sean Henn, who retired the only batter he faced on a comebacker. Mariano Rivera pitched around a leadoff flare single by ex-Yank Craig Wilson for yet another scoreless inning. Brian Bruney also pitched around a single for a scoreless inning, picking up the save. Rivera and Bruney struck out one man each.

Who Didn’t?: Kei Igawa threw three scoreless innings, allowed just one hit, struck out five, and got three of his remaining five outs on pop ups. So why is he here? Because he also walked four, threw more balls than strikes (33 to 29), and exhausted his pitch count an inning ahead of schedule. Joe Torre thinks Igawa’s still overthrowing, but both he and Jorge Posada have been impressed by his stuff and his approach. Mike Myers gave up a double to the only batter he faced, lefty-hitting Braves catcher Brian McCann. T.J. Beam inherited that runner and let him score on a wild pitch and a single.

Slick Plays: Brian McCann, leading off the second, lit into a high fastball, sending it into the right center field gap. Melky Cabrera wasn’t having it and made a tremendous diving, rolling snag.

Ouchies: Bobby Abreu will take batting practice today for the first time since straining his oblique muscle while doing the same at the beginning of camp. Humberto Sanchez will remain in camp until he throws a bullpen from the top of the mound. He threw from half-way up on Wednesday.

Battles: Raul Chavez hit a game-tying homer in two trips to the plate and nearly threw out an attempted basestealer (super duper slo mo showed he was probably out, but it was to close to call even with the replay) despite a very high throw. Todd Pratt struck out in his only trip as the DH. Andy Phillips hit three grounders, one of which found the shortstop hole for his first hit of the spring, and successfully sac bunted. Phillips has yet to hit a ball in the air in a game this spring. T.J. Beam let his inherited runner score. Sean Henn retired his only batter. Brian Bruney picked up a one-run save.

Before the game, Joe Torre described Chris Britton as “raw” and said that he was rushed in Baltimore and that “he’s got a little ways to go yet, because he is young.” Torre made sure to point out that he’s been impressed with Britton’s stuff, his confidence, and his demeanor, and said that Britton is still in the mix for the bullpen, adding “you can’t dismiss anybody that’s had major league experience at this point.” Still, it sounds like Britton’s a long shot to head north with the team at this point. Britton has a 2.45 ERA in 3 2/3 spring innings across five appearances. In that time he’s allowed three hits and a walk and struck out one. Meanwhile, here’s the combined spring line of Brian Bruney, T.J. Beam, Jose Veras, Ron Villone, Sean Henn and Colter Bean:

21 IP, 12 H, 0 R, 7 BB, 16 K

Fortunately, half of the spring schedule still remains. This is a dogfight.

Joe also mused on Karstens (9 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K), the last two spots in the rotation, the possible need for a long reliever, and the shape and size of his bullpen. Give a listen over on LoHud starting at the 3:29 mark. In summary, Torre sounds like he’d rather have Karstens pitching in rotation in Scranton than languishing in the bullpen, and will likely use Pavano and Igawa irregularly in April as the schedule allows/requires while keeping the top three starters on regular rest. As for the pen, with his last two starters pitching irregularly, Torre seems to think those two can eat the April relief innings that might otherwise require a long man. That said, he’s still leaning toward a 12-man staff, but said that if a position player really jumps out at him over the remaining two weeks, he could make the team at the expense of the twelfth pitcher.

Notes: As expected, Tyler Clippard was reassigned to minor league camp after the game. Before being reassigned, Jose Tabata was learning about plate discipline from fellow Venezuelan Bobby Abreu.

Sweet and Meaty

I found a link to an excerpt from Michael Morrissey’s new book on the 2006 Yankees via Was Watching the other day. The chapter covers Carl Pavano’s misbegotten Yankee career. Former Yankee manager Bob Lemon liked calling everyone “Meat.” What do you think he would have called Pavano?

Yankees 4, Twins 1

Rumor has it the Twins were at Legends field last night. There was very little evidence of that.

Lineup:

L – Johnny Damon (CF)
R – Derek Jeter (SS)
L – Jason Giambi (DH)
R – Alex Rodriguez (3B)
L – Hideki Matsui (LF)
S – Jorge Posada (C)
L – Robinson Cano (2B)
S – Melky Cabrera (RF)
L – Doug Mientkiewicz (1B)

Pitchers: Jeff Karstens, Chase Wright, Scott Proctor, Ron Villone, Chris Britton, Kyle Farnsworth

Subs: Andy Phillips (1B), Angel Chavez (PR/2B), Miguel Cairo (PR/SS), Chris Basak (3B), Todd Pratt (C), Bronson Sardinha (RF), Kevin Reese (PR/CF), Kevin Thompson (LF), Ben Davis (DH)

Opposition: The Twins B-Squad with Joe Mauer, Torii Hunter, and Jason Bartlett

Big Hits: Doubles by Derek Jeter (2 for 3), Hideki Matsui (2 for 3), two by Robinson Cano (2 for 3), the first of which drove in in Matsui to start the scoring, and Jason Giambi (1 for 3), whose two-bagger drove in Damon with the second run. Ben Davis tripled to center to lead off the bottom of the eighth in his only at-bat.

Who Pitched Well?: Karstens was flat out dominating. He was perfect through his first three innings, throwing 22 of 27 pitches for strikes. He allowed a single in the fourth, but that was his only baserunner of the night. He struck out four men and needed just 41 pitches (30 strikes) to get through four innings, and looked as good as those numbers with great location and a lot of Twins swinging and missing at breaking balls and changeups. After the game he told reporters that he’s stopped throwing his cut fastball because Mariano Rivera told him it wasn’t fooling anyone. Chase Wright pitched two hitless innings, escaping a one-out bases loaded jam (a hit batsman and two errors, one his own) by striking out Glenn Williams and Jason Bartlett. Scott Proctor pitched around a double in the seventh. Kyle Farnsworth pitched around a Chris Basak error in the ninth for the save.

Who Didn’t?: Walked one of the two batters he faced (though he struck out the other). Chris Britton, brought on to finish Villone’s inning, moved the runner to second on an errant pick-off throw, then gave up an RBI single to Chris Heintz before getting the last two outs.

Slick Plays: Robinson Cano made a nice play ranging in to shallow right on a ball that was a single under Miguel Cairo’s glove the other day, then later made a nice throw across his body while ranging toward shortstop to nail Joe Mauer. Alex Rodriguez made a great dive to snag a liner to his right to end the second.

Oopsies: After Chase Wright hit Rondell White with one out in the fifth, Alex Rodriguez flubbed a sinking liner off the bat of Matt LeCroy for an error. On the very next play, Wright flubbed a slow hopping comebacker then made a bad throw to first to load the bases. He then struck out the next two men to strand all three runners. Chris Britton threw a pick-off throw past Andy Phillips at first base in much the same way that Ross Ohlendorf threw one past Mientkiewicz the night before. Chris Basak booted a ball at third base in the ninth.

Ouchies: Wil Nieves threw yesterday and should play in a game this weekend.

Battles: Todd Pratt delivered and RBI single to the opposite field in two at-bats. Ben Davis tripled in his only trip. Andy Phillips hit a weak grounder to third in his second spring at-bat. Chris Britton allowed his inherited runner to score . . . from first base. Jeff Karstens, meanwhile, has pretty much won the battle for sixth starter/long man (9 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K). All that remains to be seen is if the Yankees need a sixth starter before someone else overtakes him during the regular season, or if they decide to take a short reliever or extra outfielder north instead of a long man.

Cuts: Phil Hughes, Ross Ohlendorf, Matt DeSalvo, and Chase Wright were reassigned to minor league camp yesterday. Tyler Clippard will pitch in tonight’s game and one suspects he’ll be reassigned soon after. Hughes says he will focus on improving his changeup in triple-A so that he can feature it along with his fastball and curve, which are both plus pitches. He leaves camp with a 7.71 ERA having allowed 12 baserunners (6 hits, 6 walks) in 4 2/3 innings and struck out just two. Wright was actually the best of the quartet this spring, posting a 1.35 ERA while striking out seven and allowing just two hits in 6 2/3 innings. Of course he did walk five and hit another. DeSalvo, for all of Torre’s praise, allowed 11 baserunners in 6 innings and struck out just one. He and Ohlendorf both leave camp with 4.50 ERAs. Ohlendorf allowed 12 baserunners in 6 innings, though most of that damage (5 of the 12 runners) came in his final appearance on Monday.

Notes: Andy Pettitte and Carl Pavano will both pitch against the Phillies on Saturday, with Pettitte pitching the first five innings and Pavano taking the last four. Joe Torre will ask Phillies manager Charlie Manuel to have his team hit in the bottom of the ninth even if they’re ahead so that Pavano can get that fourth inning in.

Swanie, How I Love Ya

I’m proud to introduce the first Bronx Banter post by Village Voice sportswriter, Emma Span, who will be contributing twice-a-month for us this season. Dig…

By Emma Span

Spring training is a tough time for sports writers – or, at least, for me. You want to talk about the games, except they’re so utterly unimportant that you often overhear players asking each other who today’s opponent is. And at this stage of March, every statement about a player’s performance has to be qualified by either “Of course, it’s still early” or “It’s only spring training” or “Keep in mind he was just out there to work on his change today.”

It was especially tough to find legitimate news in Port St. Lucie (home of the Mets and an awful lot of strip malls), so I was relieved to arrive in Tampa. The Mets are a pleasant, friendly, likeable group, but the juiciest news items of the week were Duaner Sanchez arriving late to work a few times and Lastings Milledge cutting his hair; I’m counting on the Yanks to liven things up a little. Plus, there were no other female reporters with the Mets, and until I got to Legends Field on Sunday – where there are several – except for the lady at the hotel desk and the girl at Wendy’s, I’d barely even glimpsed another woman in a week. I’ve never been happier to see Suzyn Waldman.

But if the lack of real baseball news can make spring training frustrating, that relaxation is also what makes spring’s odd, enjoyable little moments possible. I’ve been at this job for about seven months now, and I like to think I’ve gotten fairly blasé about the locker room scene. But when Reggie Jackson walks by eating a sandwich, nods, and says hi, I realize – nope. Not quite used to it yet. A friend of mine rounded a corner last week and came face to face with Yogi Berra in a towel, an experience I’m sure, for various reasons, will prove difficult to forget.

Covering the Yankees will probably always be a little different for me because I grew up watching them – though Reggie was before my time. It was all Don Mattingly then, and watching him playing (sort of) first base behind Andy Pettitte in Monday’s simulated game was definitely one of the highlights of spring training thus far. [One note: the Yankees announced yesterday that Mattingly's father had just passed away, after undergoing several brain surgeries this week, and Mattingly had left to be with his family. You'd never have known what he was going through by watching him interact with the players on Monday.]

Legends Field, as some of you probably know, has a fenced-in artificial pond on one side, stocked with enormously fat ducks, geese, and a swan — a very Steinbrennerian touch. As I walked by Sunday afternoon, maybe an hour before the Indians game, I saw Kyle Farnsworth, Brian Bruney, and Scott Proctor grab some bread from a staffer, huddle around the chain-link fence, and start feeding the birds. I’m not sure why, but that tableau completely cracked me up.

Incidentally, I’d always thought swans were supposed to be mean, but Bruney said this one was “sweet,” and lonely because it had just lost its mate. See, you learn something new every day here.

Emma Span, formerly of Eephus Pitch, lives in Brooklyn and writes about sports for the Village Voice. She recently began blogging for them at Out of Left Field.

Reds 6, Yankees 3: Confessions of Alex Rodriguez Edition

The Yanks dropped their second straight game for the first time this spring. Andy Phillips and Brian Bruney made their spring debuts, and eight players, five of them non-roster invitees, were reassigned after the game.

Lineup:

L – Johnny Damon (CF)
R – Derek Jeter (SS)
L – Jason Giambi (DH)
R – Alex Rodriguez (3B)
L – Hideki Matsui (LF)
S – Jorge Posada (C)
L – Robinson Cano (2B)
L – Doug Mientkiewicz (1B)
L – Bronson Sardinha (RF)

Pitchers: Mike Mussina, Brian Bruney, Mariano Rivera, Luis Vizcaino, Matt DeSalvo, Mike Myers, T.J. Beam

Subs: Eric Duncan (1B), Angel Chavez (PR/2B), Chris Basak (SS), Miguel Cairo (PR/3B), Raul Chavez (C), Jason Brown (C), Kevin Thompson (RF), Brett Gardner (PR/CF), Jose Tabata (LF), Andy Phillips (DH), Melky Cabrera (PH), Juan Miranda (PH)

Opposition: Two-thirds of the Reds starters and their ace Aaron Harang.

Big Hits: A ninth-inning solo homer by Kevin Thompson (1 for 2), and doubles by Posada (1 for 3), Sardinha (1 for 2), and Cano (3 for 3); Johnny Damon went 2 for 3.

Who Pitched Well?: T.J. Beam pitched a perfect ninth inning, striking out one. Mariano Rivera pitched around a single for yet another scoreless inning. Brian Bruney made his spring debut and pitched like himself, walking two and striking out two in a scoreless, hitless inning. Luis Vizcaino was victimized by a Doug Mientkiewicz error, allowing one unearned run on that error and a single while striking out one.

Who Didn’t: Mike Mussina gave up three runs (two earned) on five hits, including a leadoff Brandon Phillips home run, and a walk in three innings of work. Matt DeSalvo gave up two runs on two hits and two walks in his two innings, though Joe Torre was enthusiastic about his performance, saying after the game that he thinks DeSalvo’s “throwing the ball really well” this spring.

Oopsies: Fielding errors by Robinson Cano in the first and Doug Mientkiewicz in the sixth both lead to unearned runs.

Ouchies: Humberto Sanchez (elbow) is expected to throw a bullpen from half way up the mound tomorrow with Ron Guidry looking on, after which he should be reassigned to minor league camp. Wil Nieves (elbow) reported that his X-rays and CAT scan were both negative and hopes to return to action by the weekend. Jose Veras has been shut down with elbow pain of his own and is scheduled to have an MRI today.

Battles: Forgotten man Brian Bruney made a solid debut in the fourth inning against the Reds starters, getting his outs on two Ks and a grounder, though he walked two in his lone inning of work. Joe Torre has backed off his suggestion that the Yankees will fill the final bullpen spot with a long man, suggesting that off days could allow them to use the fifth starter as a long man at the start of the season, but Torre has also said that Bruney might be too far behind to challenge for that final spot out of camp. T.J. Beam, another candidate for that spot, was perfect in his one inning, but pitched against the subs in the ninth. Raul Chavez was pinch-hit for with Melky Cabrera and thus never came to bat. Andy Phillips ground into a double play in his first and thus far only official plate appearance of the spring. He did so pinch-hitting for Giambi in the DH slot, so that GIDP was his only participation in the game.

Cuts: The second round of cuts was again limited to players who won’t see the majors this year. They include Eric Duncan, Juan Miranda, Alberto Gonzalez, Brett Gardner, Jose Tabata, Steven Jackson, Jeff Kennard, and Kevin Whelan. Of that bunch, only Miranda, Gonzalez and Kennard are on the 40-man roster, and only Gonzalez is likely to land as high as triple-A come April. Of the eight demoted players, the only one to make much of an impression in camp was Tabata, who lived up to his reputation by leaving major league camp with the team lead in batting average (.462) and on-base percentage (.563) despite being just 18 years old. Gonzalez saw the most action, getting into 11 games and hitting .333 (five singles and a walk), but also undermining his defensive reputation with three errors, one at each of the infield skill positions. Eric Duncan’s game winning homer a couple of days ago was his only hit in ten at-bats (he also walked once). On the pitching side, Kennard was unimpressive in his two innings of work and had a dreadful showing in the intrasquad game, while Jackson was terrible in his 3 2/3 innings (9.82 ERA, 4 BB). Whelan allowed just one baserunner (a walk) in 1 1/3 innings, earning the save in each of his two outings. Supposedly Phil Hughes and Humbero Sanchez will be reassigned after throwing bullpens for Ron Guidry tomorrow.

(more…)

Red Sox 7, Yankees 5

Sure it was Yanks v. Sox. Sure it was tied at 4-4 in the seventh. But it’s still spring training. And I’m not saying that just because the Sox touched up a rattled Russ Ohlendorf to win 7-5.

Lineup:

L – Melky Cabrera (CF)
L – Robinson Cano (2B)
L – Jason Giambi (DH)
L – Hideki Matsui (LF)
R – Todd Pratt (C)
R – Josh Phelps (1B)
L – Kevin Reese (RF)
R – Chris Basak (3B)
R – Alberto Gonzalez (SS)

Pitchers: Carl Pavano, Darrell Rasner, Colter Bean, Russ Ohlendorf

Subs: Juan Miranda (PR/1B), Angel Chavez (2B), Ben Davis (C), Miguel Cairo (RF), Kevin Thompson (CF), Jose Tabata (LF), Bronson Sardinha (DH)

Opposition: The Red Sox full Tim Wakefield lineup (that is, the eight regulars plus Doug Mirabelli).

Big Hits: Chris Basak (2 for 4) tripled leading off the second inning. He’s hitting .444/.444/.778 this spring (8 for 18, double, triple, homer), is leading the Yankees in total bases (14), and made a great diving stab at third base last night, showing off his strong throwing arm. Ben Davis picked up his first spring hit in six at-bats with a ringing double to the gap in left. Hideki Matsui and Josh Phelps were both 2 for 4. Phelps drove in two runners in the process and leads the Yankees with 7 RBIs this spring.

Who Pitched Well: In a game in which no one was especially impressive, I’ll list Carl Pavano here, in part because, now that he’s successfully completed his second outing in an official spring game, I’m taking him of the 60-day DL on the sidebar. In three innings, Pavano allowed two runs on four hits and a walk, striking out two. Really, though, he looked pretty good in the first and third, and gave up both runs with two outs in the second. Not too bad for just his second start. Joe Torre repeatedly says that the results for Pavano don’t matter; all that matters is his comfort and health. After a year and a half of inaction on Pavano’s part, there’s something to be said for that line of thinking, though if he’s not getting more guys out come the end of March, that tune’s going to change.

Who Didn’t: Darrell Rasner didn’t make it through his three innings before exceeding his pitch count, yielding a pair of runs on five hits, including a solo homer by J.D. Drew to dead center. Colter Bean let one of Rasner’s runners score to tie the game for the Sox before getting his two outs. Both Bean and Russ Ohlendorf had almost too much motion on their pitches, both being very wild inside to righties. Ohlendorf even hit two batters. He gave up three runs on those two HBPs, a walk and a single in an ugly seventh inning, but recovered in the eighth to erase a lead-off walk with a double play and record a scoreless frame. One of the announcers on the YES broadcast mentioned that Joe Torre says that you can always tell when the cuts are coming because the young guys start to press. Indeed, the Yankees are expected to announce a good number of cuts tomorrow. One imagines most of them will be starting pitchers as the major league starters will be working five innings in their next turn through the rotation, thus eating up all of those tandem innings. That logic could be applied to the outings of Rasner, Ohlendorf, and Phil Hughes in the past couple of days, the latter two especially.

Oopsies: With Julio Lugo on first representing the tie-breaking run in the seventh, Russ Ohlendorf threw wild to first base allowing Lugo to move all the way to third. I think that throw might have prompted the “pressing” remark.

Ouchies: Bobby Abreu worked out in the outfield yesterday, taking fielding practice. He continues to swing at soft-toss. He’ll be away from the team today, however, as he and Larry Bowa will be attending the funeral of longtime Phillies coach John Vukovich. Humberto Sanchez is said to be making progress, but will likely be optioned in today’s cuts. Todd Pratt made his spring debut, catching four innings, but it looked like his heel was still bothering him when he ran. Then again, maybe that’s just how a guy who looks like Patrick Warburton runs.

Battles: Josh Phelps drove in a pair of runs with a line-drive single in the first, picked up another hit to go 2 for 4, and looked good on defense. Andy Phillips collected a single and a double in nine at-bats against Andy Pettitte in a simulated game yesterday. He should see real game action today. Todd Pratt went 1 for 3, looked comfortable at the plate, and gave off veteran warm fuzzies in the field, framing pitches nicely, getting Pavano to pitch inside to the Red Sox big hitters, and counseling his pitcher on the bench. Darrell Rasner wasn’t as sharp as he had been in his previous two appearances, but his aggregate spring line (2.45 ERA, no walks) still looks good.

Notes: The Yankees will keep Andy Pettitte and Carl Pavano on the same day barring further interruption of their schedules. One of the two will pitch in a minor league game when their turn comes due. Assuming that no one will be skipped for next Wednesday’s off-day, their spot in the rotation synchs up with Opening Day, which suggests Pettitte will get that assignment. However, that off-day falls on Chien-Ming Wang’s scheduled turn. If, rather than pushing everyone back a day, they use Pettitte/Pavano on regular rest on Thursday and leapfrog Wang to Friday, then Wang would be on schedule to start the opener. Either way, it looks like Mike Mussina is out of the running for the honor. Due to the off days on either side of Opening Day, everyone else will be pitching on odd rest in their first start of the season, so breaking up the Pettitte/Pavano tandem by holding one of them back for an extra day won’t make much of a difference. My expectation is that the rotation will be Wang, Mussina, Pettitte, Pavano, Igawa to open the season. Though the Yankees don’t need a fifth starter until the sixth game, so it could be Wang, Moose, Pettitte, Pavano, Wang, Igawa, Moose etc. Also, the order of the last two men, Pavano and Igawa, is supposedly dependent on their performances for the remainder of March, even though Pavano’s is supposedly unimportant.

Incidentally, last night’s game gave us a look at how the Red Sox lineup is likely to shake out to start the season. Removing Tim Wakefield’s personal catcher from the equation, this is the lineup Terry Francona posted:

R – Julio Lugo (SS)
R – Kevin Youkilis (1B)
L – David Ortiz (DH)
R – Manny Ramirez (LF)
L – J.D. Drew (RF)
R – Mike Lowell (3B)
S – Coco Crisp (CF)
R – Dustin Pedroia (2B)

Jason Varitek will likely slot in before or after Lowell. Quick impressions: Dustin Pedroia is really pressing and could force the Sox to use Alex Cora far more than they want to; Coco Crisp looks like he’s going to have a nice bounce back season from his injury-addled Red Sox debut last year.

Rites of Spring

I visited my friend Johnny Red Sox yesterday afternoon. John lives between York and East End on the upper east side, which is, in the words on my late father, “the ass-end of the world.” (When my brother lived in Brooklyn, Pop told him it was “the ass-end of the planet.” Ben said, “Don’t you mean the ass-end of New York?” And Dad replied testily, “You know what I mean.” As if there was a difference.) John I and trooped back west to Central Park. It was brisk and windy but very nice in the sun. Most of the grassy areas were roped-off, but eventually we found a spot to have our first catch of the year.

A father and son were there throwing a ball around. Shortly thereafter, two French kids–maybe ten and seven, respectively–showed up with mitts and an old ball. The older one was serious-minded. The younger kid was bored. Neither instinctively knew how to catch the ball, but the older one was trying very hard. I gave him a head-nod at one point, and you could tell he was thrilled by the gesture.

They moved around nervously as the ball came their way and dropped more than they caught. The younger kid kept catching the ball accidently with his bare hand. Nothing about the catch seemed fun for him. But the older kid was insistent. I caught glimpses of what they were doing as John and I threw the ball back-and-forth. I thought about helping them out but didn’t and got caught up in conversation with John.

When we took a break, I noticed that the two kids had put their gloves down and were now kicking a soccer ball around. Ah, the International version of having a catch. The little one was zipping around the dirt, enthused. The older one was still serious, but working on some fancy kicking moves. When he booted a ball past the little kid he issued an immediate, “Pardon” (my bad).

There was one infield that was open to the public and we saw two high school kids hitting grounders to each other. One stood at home plate with a mitt on one hand and a bat in the other. He dropped the ball from his glove, and smacked a grounder.

When he got back to John’s crib, the last inning of the Yankee game was on and we watched the highly-touted Jose Tabata hit. Did you guys catch that? It was an impressive at-bat. He looked at fastball outside for a ball, swung through a breaking pitch and then was jammed by a fastball that was in on his fists. He took the next pitch outside for a ball, and then looked at another fastball in on his hands, this time for a ball. (I don’t recall but he may have also fouled off a pitch or two.) The next pitch was a fastball on the outside part of the plate. Tabata lined it over the right field fence for a home run.

SI.com’s Bryan Smith was at the game and e-mailed me later. “Jose Tabata is going to be a star. Love the body on that kid.”

Radio Goo Goo

My appearance on Yankee Fan Club Radio this evening can be found here. My segment starts around the 18:50 mark. In it I discuss Phil Hughes and his rough outing in today’s game, Carl Pavano, and, briefly, Roger Clemens.

Indians 4, Yankees 3

The Yankees lost their second game of the spring (curiously both were games against the Indians started by Chien-Ming Wang).

Lineup:

L – Johnny Damon (CF)
R – Derek Jeter (SS)
L – Bronson Sardinha (DH)
R – Alex Rodriguez (3B)
L – Hideki Matsui (LF)
S – Jorge Posada (C)
S – Melky Cabrera (RF)
L – Doug Mientkiewicz (1B)
R – Miguel Cairo (2B)

Pitchers: Chien-Ming Wang, Mariano Rivera, Phil Hughes, T.J. Beam, Scott Proctor, Chris Britton, Ron Villone

Subs: Juan Miranda (1B), Alberto Gonzalez (PR/SS), Angel Chavez (PR/3B/2B), Chris Basak (PR/3B), Raul Chavez (C), Ben Davis (C), Jose Tabata (LF), Kevin Thompson (LF/RF), Brett Gardner (CF), Josh Phelps (PH), Robinson Cano (PH), Kevin Reese (PH)

Opposition: Seven of the Indians starters including Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez, but no Grady Sizemore (who seems to own Wang).

Big Hits: A ninth-inning lead-off, opposite field homer by Jose Tabata. Alex Rodriguez (1 for 2) delivered a two-out RBI-single in the sixth. Bronson Sardinha, a last-minute replacement for Jason Giambi in the three-hole, went 2 for 4. Robinson Cano delivered a two-out, full-count, pinch-hit single in the bottom of the ninth.

Who Pitched Well: Chien-Ming Wang gave up a home run to David Dellucci in the first, but was otherwise outstanding in his first four-innings outing of the spring. Wang struck out four, including Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez, getting the rest of his outs on seven groundouts and a pop up. He tired with two outs in the fourth, issuing a walk after going to three-balls on a batter for the only time in the game and issuing his second ground-ball single of the game, but got the final out on a grounder that ricocheted off Alex Rodriguez to Derek Jeter, who made a great off-balance throw to nail the runner at first. Mariano Rivera allowed his first base runner of the spring on a Josh Barfield double, but retired the other three batters he faced. T.J. Beam got the only batter he faced to ground into a double play to end the seventh in relief of Phil Hughes. Scott Proctor pitched around a single in the eight, striking out two. He continues to look sharp this spring, making good use of his curve. Chris Britton retired the only two men he faced in the ninth and Ron Villone struck out Travis Hafner to finish the frame.

Who Didn’t: Phil Hughes had his second rough outing in three spring appearances, this being the by far the worse of the two. Starting off the sixth inning, his stuff looked fantastic–mid-90s heat and a devastating nose-to-toes curve that came in as slow as 70 miles per hour–and he went right after his first two batters, Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez. Hafner grounded out meekly, but Martinez battled him, eventually singling the opposite way. That seemed to rattle Hughes, who quickly lost that laser-like command that is his calling card. He walked the next batter on four pitches, then gave up an RBI double, a sac fly, threw a wild pitch in the dirt, and issued a five-pitch walk before finally getting out of the inning on a groundout. In the seventh he was greeted by a ringing triple by Hector Luna. His next pitch was in the dirt and Luna was plated on a hard liner to right that Melky Cabrera snagged for a sac fly. Hughes then walked Hafner after going full and gave up another hard single to Martinez before yielding to T.J. Beam.

Oopsies: Brett Gardner hit a bounding seeing eye RBI single in the seventh, but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double, ending the rally. The oopsie wasn’t his, though, it was the umpire’s. Gardner was clearly safe. Chris Basak failed to successfully bunt over the tying runs in the eighth, forcing the runner at third instead.

Ouchies: Jason Giambi was a late scratch due to cramps in his calf. He’ll start tomorrow night’s game against the Red Sox, as will Todd Pratt. Wil Nieves has been shut down due to an inflamed right elbow. He’s had x-rays and an MRI (results pending) and is expected to miss about a week. Bobby Abreu (oblique) hit 20 balls off a tee on Saturday and reported no pain. He hit 25 soft tossed balls in the cage today in addition to some more tee work (roughly 50 swings in all according to Joe Torre). Brian Bruney (back) threw a bullpen today and hopes to pitch in a game in the next couple of days. Humberto Sanchez (elbow) played catch on Saturday and hopes to throw off a mound soon.

Battles: Josh Phelps, up with the Yankees down by two, the bases loaded, a lefty on the mound, and one out in the eighth, hit into a rally-killing double play. Raul Chaves was 1 for 1 with a single. Ben Davis didn’t get a turn at-bat. Beam, Britton and Villone all pitched perfect partial innings.

Notes: Carl Pavano’s absence on Friday night has been revealed to have because of a “severe medical situation” involving his girlfriend, model Gia Allemand. No more details have been made available, but Pavano has said that she’s doing well. Last year’s NL Manager of the Year, Joe Girardi made his 2007 YES debut, partnered with Ken Singleton. The prospect of a Singleton/Leiter/Girardi booth providing hitter, pitcher, and catcher perspectives respectively is awesome.

Radio Ga Ga

Quick programing note: I’m schedule to be a guest on Yankee Fan Club Radio this evening around 6:20 or so. Follow the link and give a listen. I’ll add a link to the podcast/mp3 if, there is one, afterwards.

Yankees 5, Pirates 3

The Yankees continue to get big hits from first basemen with uncomplicated last names. Today, the pride of Florham Park, New Jersey came through with a pinch-hit two run blast to break a 3-3 tie in the top of the ninth.

Lineup:

L – Johnny Damon (CF)
S – Melky Cabrera (LF)
L – Robinson Cano (2B)
R – Alex Rodriguez (3B)
R – Josh Phelps (1B)
R – Chris Basak (SS)
R – Kevin Thompson (RF)
R – Raul Chavez (C)
L – Kei Igawa (P)

Pitchers: Kei Igawa, Steven Jackson, Tyler Clippard, Luis Vizcaino, Mike Myers, Sean Henn

Subs: Eric Duncan (1B), Andy Cannizaro (2B), Alberto Gonzalez (SS), Miguel Cairo (3B), Jason Brown (C), Kevin Reese (RF/CF), Bronson Sardinha (RF), Jose Tabata (LF)

Opposition: Just three of the last-place Pirates starters.

Big Hits: Eric Duncan hit a two-run pinch-hit homer in the top of the ninth of Pirates closer Salomon Torres to win it. He was 0 for 8 with a walk before that blast.

Who Pitched Well: Kei Igawa had a strong outing when Ronnie Paulino wasn’t at the plate. Paulino touched Igawa up for a two-out double in the first and a two-out, two-run homer in the third. Otherwise, Igawa struck out four and walked none allowing just three other hits, all singles, in three innings, with just two of his nine outs coming in the air. Certainly his outing was a huge improvement over his spring debut. Tyler Clippard kept pace with the rest of the Yankees young arms with two more scoreless innings, allowing his first hit in four spring innings (he still hasn’t walked anyone) and striking out one. Luis Vizcaino allowed a hit and a walk while striking out two in a scoreless inning, which seems to be his way of doing things. In four spring innings he’s allowed six base runners and struck out five. Mike Myers retired the only two batters he faced in the ninth and Sean Henn struck out his only man to pick up the save.

Who Didn’t: Steven Jackson was again unimpressive allowing a run on four hits and two walks in his two innings and striking out no one. He did get five groundball outs and a double-play, however.

Battles: Raul Chavez went 0 for 3, but did gun out Chris Duffy on the bases. Josh Phelps had his first bad day of the spring, going 0 for 4 with two strikeouts, though he still managed to drive in a run on a groundout.

Notes: As expected, Pavano returned to the team today. He threw for ten minutes in the bullpen and is schedule to start on Monday against the Red Sox. Andy Pettitte will pitch a simulated game back at Legends Field and Andy Phillips will hit against him with the hope of getting into an actual game on Tuesday. Catcher Jason Brown was on loan from minor league camp. He’s a 32-year-old career minor leaguer out of USC who’s had a total of 41 at-bats in triple-A, has never seen the majors outside of spring training, and has a career minor league GPA of .226.

Yankees 5, Devil Rays 1: Dov” Pavano? Edition

Big story of Friday night’s game was that schedule starter Carl Pavano did not take the ball. Instead he was excused from the team to attend to an unspecified personal issue. According to the Yankees, Pavano should return to the team this weekend and his departure had nothing to do with an injury or the lawsuit stemming from his August 2006 car crash, which was made public Friday morning but was actually filed two months ago according to Peter Abraham, who broke the story. Joe Torre supported Pavano’s decision to attend to the matter and Brian Cashman, while refusing to divulge Pavano’s personal business, described it as a “legitimate reason.” As with Meat’s “heavy legs” during workouts in late February, this would be something of a non-story had it involved any other player (imagine, for example, that it was Jeffrey Karstens rather than Pavano who missed his scheduled turn tonight for personal reasons and was supported by both the manager and the GM–no big deal, right?).

Update: Per Joe Torre’s post-game press conference, Pavano came to him with the issue forty minutes before game time, but was reluctant to leave, only deciding to do so after Torre and Guidry insisted it was the right thing to do. He should return to the team tomorrow and could even pitch in tomorrow’s game (Torre said that was unlikely since it will be a day game, but wouldn’t rule it out).

Undisturbed by Pavano’s departure, the Yanks waltzed to a win against the Devil Rays.

Lineup:

L – Johnny Damon (CF)
R – Derek Jeter (SS)
L – Jason Giambi (DH)
R – Alex Rodriguez (3B)
L – Hideki Matsui (LF)
S – Jorge Posada (C)
L – Robinson Cano (2B)
S – Melky Cabrera (RF)
L – Doug Mientkiewicz (1B)

Pitchers: Jeffrey Karstens, Chase Wright, T.J. Beam, Kyle Farnsworth, Ben Kozlowski, Jose Veras

Subs: Eric Duncan (1B), Chris Basak (2B), Alberto Gonzalez (SS), Angel Chavez (PR/3B), Ben Davis (C), Kevin Thompson (PR/RF), Brett Gardner (CF), Miguel Cairo (LF), Juan Miranda (PR/DH)

Opposition: Most of the last-place D-Ray’s starters.

Big Hits: A solo homer by Jorge Posada (1 for 2), his second of the spring. A double by Melky Cabrera (2 for 3). Doug Mientkiewicz walked twice and singled, his first hit of the spring in his 13th at-bat.

Who Pitched Well: Almost everyone. Jeff Karstens allowed just two hits (including a Jonny Gomes double) and walked none while striking out four over his three innings. Three of the other five outs he recorded came on the ground. Chase Wright traded in those two hits for two walks, also striking out four in 2 2/3 innings. T.J. Beam came on to get the final out of the sixth on a grounder. Kyle Farnsworth pitched a perfect seventh, striking out two and getting a groundout. Jose Veras gave up a double and a walk in the ninth, but got a grounder and two strikeouts to end the game.

Who Didn’t: Lefty Ben Kozlowski had an odd go in his first appearance of the spring, allowing the only Devil Ray a run on two walks and a hit in his lone inning of work. Then again, he also struck out the side.

Ouchies: Todd Pratt caught a bullpen session yesterday and ran in the outfield with no pain. He’ll test himself by running the bases before seeing game action. It turns out Bobby Abreu has not been swinging a broom stick, but has been doing twisting exercises and is indeed hoping to swing a bat this weekend. Mariano Rivera’s allergies kept him out of last night’s game. He threw in the bullpen instead.

Battles: Ben Davis struck out in his only at-bat and is 0 for 5 this spring. T.J. Beam got the out he was asked to get, though he’s only pitched two partial innings this spring. Jeff Karstens has now thrown five scoreless innings this spring allowing four hits, walking none, and striking out five. Darrell Rasner, who pitched on Thursday, has thrown five scoreless innings allowing three hits, walking none, and striking out three.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver