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Yanks Mash, Relievers Cut

The Phillies made four errors and J.D. Durbin gave up six runs in the fifth inning as the Yankees beat the Phillies 13-4.


S – Melky Cabrera (CF)
R – Derek Jeter (SS)
L – Bobby Abreu (RF)
R – Alex Rodriguez (3B)
L – Jason Giambi (DH)
S – Jorge Posada (C)
L – Robinson Cano (2B)
R – Shelley Duncan (LF)
R – Morgan Ensberg (1B)

Pitchers: Phil Hughes, Billy Traber, Mariano Rivera, LaTroy Hawkins, Brian Bruney

Subs: Wilson Betemit (1B), Chris Woodward (PH/2B), Nick Green (PH/SS), Cody Ransom (3B), Chad Moeller (C), Jason lane (PH/RF), Brett Gardner (CF), Greg Porter (LF), Hideki Matsui (DH), Bernie Castro (PR/DH)

Opponent: Half of the Phillies’ starters.

Big Hits: Robinson Cano (3 for 4) was a double shy of the cycle and drove in five runs, three on a home run to right that Pete Abe says flew “over everything.” Jason Giambi (2 for 2) and Melky Cabrera (2 for 4) also homered. Derek Jeter (3 for 4) and Shelley Duncan (3 for 4) doubled.

Who Pitched Well: LaTroy Hawkins pitched a perfect eighth inning and still boasts a spring ERA of 0.00. Mariano Rivera struck out the side around his first walk of the spring. Brian Bruney also pitched around a walk in a scoreless four-batter ninth (more on Bruney below the fold).

Who Didn’t: Phil Hughes struck out six in five innings, but also allowed three runs, two of them on a Pedro Feliz homer in the fourth. Hughes, who was targeted for 90 pitches, used up 86 of them in those five frames and seven of his nine outs on balls in play came on flies. That combination of inefficiency and fly-ball tendencies is what we were seeing from Hughes last year after he came off the DL, whereas earlier this spring he was back to being the dominant groundballing power pitcher he’d been in the minors. Billy Traber allowed a run on three singles in the sixth. It was the first earned run he’d allowed all spring, though he had allowed a pair of unearned runs (as has Hawkins) as well as a pair of inherited runners to score.

Ouchies: Andy Pettitte made 47 throws off flat ground, but still felt some discomfort in his back. He needs to get a bullpen in no later than Wednesday and start a minor league game on Friday in order to make his Game 2 start. Still, the Yankees expect him to start one of the first five games of the season at worst, which means the rotation should remain intact, though it’s likely to be shuffled. Johnny Damon caught the flu and was sent home. He’s supposed to play today.

Bullpen News: Dan Giese and Heath Phillips have been reassigned to minor league camp. With Traber on the 40-man roster and assumed to be the lefty on the eventual 25-man, that’s not big news. The big news is that Chris Britton was optioned to Triple-A. Britton was given just five innings this spring, which ranked him 15th among the relievers in camp, and that doesn’t even include Joba Chamberlain and Kei Igawa. Britton excelled in those innings, allowing just three hits and walking none while striking out three and allowing just one earned run (1.80 ERA), but once again he’s gotten the shaft. There’s clearly something we’re not being told here. Nonetheless, with Traber in line to be the lefty (Sean Henn has made just three appearances all spring, though he’s also pitched well), and Girardi determined to take a long man (fingers crossed for Darrell Rasner), there’s just one spot left and still six men left in camp competing for it with just five exhibition games left. Here are your contenders in reverse running order:

Jose Veras: Likely the next cut, he’s allowed six runs in six innings despite solid peripherals.

Jonathan Albaladejo: Has been mediocre and inconsistent. He has nine Ks in 8 1/3 innings, but a 4.32 ERA and a 1.56 WHIP.

Scott Patterson: Has been the most dominant and reliable reliever in camp, but his lack of experience above Double-A will likely provide the Yankees with an excuse to farm him out for more seasoning.

Ross Ohlendorf: Ohlendorf and Edwar Ramirez lead the Yankees in appearances this spring. Ohlendorf was on the postseason roster last year, has a 2.35 ERA this spring, and has struck out 8 in 7 2/3 innings against just one walk. That’s mighty fine. Then again, the two home runs he’s allowed and his 1.57 WHIP (the latter the result of a high hit rate, which is a side effect of being an effective groundball pitcher) aren’t, and there’s something to be said for farming him out as he was just converted to relief in the minors last year.

Brian Bruney: Despite the confusion* over the issue, Bruney has an option year left, which removes a perceived edge some believed he had. Still, Bruney has pitched well, striking out eight in 6 1/3 homerless innings and posting a 2.84 ERA. Most importantly, he’s walked just two, resulting in solid 1.26 WHIP.

Edwar Ramirez: After a rough start, he’s put together a strong camp, leading all Yankee pitchers in strikeouts (12 in 7 1/3 innings) and reducing his WHIP to a very respectable 1.09. Most importantly, he’s not allowed a single home run, which was his bugaboo in the majors last year.

Right now I’d say it’s going to come down to those last three: Ohlendorf, Bruney, and Ramirez. I’d be happy with any one of them, particularly as they all have options and can be swapped out as necessary.

*There seems to be some confusion over whether or not Bruney has any options left. Yesterday, Chad Jennings blogged that Bruney does have an option left, but back on March 3, Jennings said he didn’t. Looking back through the transaction listings, Bruney was optioned by the Diamondbacks in 2004, 2005, and 2006, and by the Yankees in both 2006 and 2007, which makes the matter even more confusing as players only have three option years. It seems Bruney slipped through a loophole in the Basic Agreement, which reads as follows:

If a Player is optionally assigned for a total of less than 20 days in one championship season, such optional assignment(s) shall not count as an optional assignment in connection with the limitation upon optional assignments provided for in Major League Rule 11(c). . . For purposes of couting days on option, the date of the optional assignment shall be counted and the date of recall shall not be counted, provided that the date of recall shall be counted if the recall takes place after the start of any Minor League game in which the Player was eligible to play.

Here are the length of Bruney’s optional assignments:

2004: More than two months, total
2005: 14 days
2006: More than two months, total
2007: 17 days

Thus, despite being optioned in four separate years, Bruney has only used up two of his option years.

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