The Rays beat the Yankees 4-1 at Legends Field this afternoon, but the big news was a home plate collision with two outs in the bottom of the ninth that sent Yankee catching prospect Francisco Cervelli to the hospital where x-rays revealed a fractured right forearm. The play came with the Rays leading 3-1 in the top of the ninth with two outs and minor league infielder Elliot Johnson on first base via a botched play that was absurdly ruled a single (see below). Willy Aybar doubled to left and Johnson attempted to make it home from first base. As the relay came in from Wilson Betemit via Jason Lane, Cervelli set up in front of the plate. The ball beat Johnson to the plate, so Johnson dropped his head and shoulder and plowed full speed into Cervelli, who was rolled over, but held onto the ball for the out. Cervelli was promptly removed from the game and now has his arm in a cast. This play comes on the heels of another Ray, Carl Crawford, plowing into Houston catcher Humberto Quintaro on Wednesday. Cervelli wasn’t going to make the team, but he is a valuable prospect and could be be hindered by the lost development time. Joe Girardi is not pleased. The Rays and Yankees play twice more this spring (the first coming on Wednesday) and 18 times during the regular season, so we haven’t heard the last of this.
L – Johnny Damon (LF)
R – Derek Jeter (SS)
L – Bobby Abreu (RF)
R – Alex Rodriguez (DH)
L – Jason Giambi (1B)
L – Robinson Cano (2B)
R – Cody Ransom (3B)
R – Jose Molina (C)
S – Melky Cabrera (CF)
Pitchers: Mike Mussina, Chris Britton, Kyle Farnsworth, Jeff Karstens, Jonathan Albaladejo, Ross Ohlendorf
Subs: Shelley Duncan (1B), Bernie Castro (PR/2B), Wilson Betemit (SS), Nick Green (3B), Francisco Cervelli (C), Kyle Anson (C), Jose Tabata (RF), Justin Christian (CF), Jason Lane (LF), Juan Miranda (DH)
Opposition: The Rays’ starters save for Dioner Navarro.
Big Hits: Johnny Damon (1 for 3) led off the game by shooting a double down the left field line off Matt Garza. That was the Yankees’ only extra-base hit of the game. They had just five hits in total and no Yankee had more than one.
Who Pitched Well: Mike Mussina had a monster curveball working and struck out five in 2 2/3 innings while allowing just two hits and walking two. One of those hits just happened to be a wind-blown solo homer by Jonny Gomes. Regarding the walks, Moose was being squeezed by home plate ump Mark Carlson, which is one reason why he only threw 55 percent of his pitches for strikes. It was also the source of some classic grouchy body language on the mound, as you might imagine. Kyle Farnsworth pitched a perfect fifth inning. Chris Britton retired all four batters he faced, one via strikeout. Jon Albaladejo worked around a walk for a scoreless inning.
Who Didn’t: Jeff Karstens wasn’t awful, but he took the loss, allowing the tie-breaking run on three hits and a walk over two frames. Ross Ohledorf pitched in bad luck in the ninth (see the botched grounder ruled a hit in “Oopsies” and add in a passed ball by Kyle Anson that allowed a run to score), but also surrendered a solo homer to Hector Gimenez and a would-be RBI double to Willy Aybar that led to the play on which Cervelli was hurt.
Good Plays: The play that sent Cervelli to the hospital was a great block of the plate. Cervelli has certainly been living up to his defensive reputation thus far this spring. Credit is also due to Wilson Betemit for making a great relay throw from shortstop, and to Jason Lane for hitting the cutoff man. Shelley Duncan made a great leaping stab of a hard hopper over his head, but . . .
Oopsies: . . . he botched the transfer in his attempt to come down and start the 3-6-3 and only got the out at first. In the ninth, Duncan bit on a groundball to his right that was an easy play for the second baseman and in his scramble to cover the bag he both cut off Ohlendorf, who was covering, and dropped the throw. Amazingly, that was ruled a hit. Pressed into emergency duty after Cervelli’s injury, Kyle Anson allowed a run to score on a passed ball during the only at-bat he caught in the game.
Ouchies: Alex Rodriguez singled and walked in his two trips as the DH. Jorge Posada did not play. Both are nursing sore right lat muscles. Hideki Matsui will see his first game action tomorrow as the DH, though Anthony Rieber asks, “Is it the best thing to have him take a 2 1/2 hour bus ride when he missed time last week with a stiff neck?”
More Cuts: The Yankees reassigned five pitchers to minor league camp: Steven White, Steven Jackson, Mark Melancon, Dan McCutchen, and Scott Strickland. Strickland came down with a sore elbow before games started and never saw action this spring. White and Jackson both got roughed up. McCutchen pitched a solid inning (one hit, one K), but he’s pitched just seven games above A-ball and was never a contender to make the team. Melancon pitched one perfect inning, but is coming off a year lost to late-2006 Tommy John surgery. Both Melancon and McCutchen are arms to keep an eye on. White, however, is in danger of losing his spot on the 40-man roster.