The Yankees played their final home game of exhibition season yesterday, prior to which Legends Field was renamed for the Bossman. The Yanks now play a pair of games against Joe Girardi’s old team, the Marlins, in the Fish’s regular season home, Dolphin Stadium, then head north for the final Opening Day at Yankee Stadium.
As for the game, Kei Igawa gave up a bunch of runs early, the Yanks didn’t score much and lost 5-2 to the Pirates.
L – Johnny Damon (DH)
R – Derek Jeter (SS)
R – Shelley Duncan (RF)
R – Alex Rodriguez (3B)
S – Jorge Posada (C)
L – Hideki Matsui (LF)
R – Morgan Ensberg (1B)
S – Wilson Betemit (2B)
S – Melky Cabrera (CF)
Pitchers: Kei Igawa, Jeff Karstens, Scott Patterson, Ross Ohlendorf, Brian Bruney, Josh Schmidt
Subs: Cody Ransom (1B), Bernie Castro (2B), Alberto Gonzalez (PR/SS), Nick Green (3B), Jose Molina (C), Jose Tabata (RF), Jason Lane (CF), Greg Porter (LF), Jason Brown (DH)
Opposition: The Pirates minus Jason Bay.
Big Hits: Homers by Derek Jeter (1 for 2, BB) and Nick Green (1 for 2) and a double by Jose Molina (1 for 2). No Yankee had a multi-hit game.
Who Pitched Well: Scott Patterson had another perfect outing, this one lasting four outs. Patterson has allowed just one baserunner (a double) in 7 2/3 spring innings and struck out seven. Brian Bruney and Ross Ohlendorf both pitched around singles for scoreless innings. Bruney struck out two. Ohlendorf struck out none, but faced the minimum thanks to a Jose Molina pickoff and got his other two outs on the ground. Jeff Karstens pitched around a single for a scoreless 1 1/3 innings and struck out two, but left the game with a groin injury (see below).
Who Didn’t: Kei Igawa gave up four runs on four singles, a double, and three walks in 3 1/3 innings, putting the ball back in Darrell Rasner’s shoe when it comes to the battle for the long-man job in the Opening Day bullpen.
Oopsies: Morgan Ensberg’s third error at first base and a wild pickoff throw by Ohlendorf.
Nice Plays: Molina pounced on Ohlendorf’s wild throw and nailed the runner at second. Jorge Posada picked Nyjer Morgan off first base.
Minor Work: Mariano Rivera, Jose Veras, and Jonathan Albaladejo all pitched in yesterday’s triple-A contest. Mo worked around a walk, struck out a man, and is set to start the season. Looking at the list of pitchers in yesterday’s major league game, I’d say those assignments are confirmation that neither Veras (who gave up two runs in his only inning) nor Albaladejo (who matched Mo’s line) is making the 25-man roster, though neither was among the players officially reassigned yesterday (see below).
Ouchies: Andy Pettitte threw long toss yesterday, will pitch in an intrasquad game on Sunday, and could start the fourth game of the season if all goes well. Karstens did not travel with the team to Miami. He’ll stay behind to get an MRI and will likely land on the DL with a groin injury, leaving Darrell Rasner as the last man standing for the long-relief job. Back in the lineup, Johnny Damon (flu) went 0 for 3 as the DH. Brett Gardner needed his lip stitched up after fouling a ball off his face on Wednesday, but otherwise he’s fine, though a bit tough to look at. Scott Patterson got hit in the hip by a comebacker, but stayed in the game.
Roster Moves: The Yankees cleaned house when it comes to position players, reassigning Brett Gardner, Cody Ransom, Jason Lane, Bernie Castro, Greg Porter, Chad Moeller, and Jason Brown to minor league camp. That leaves the four expected bench players (Molina, Duncan, Ensberg, Betemit) and Nick Green in major league camp. Per Pete Abe, Joe Girardi said that Wilson Betemit has made the team, which means Green will be farmed out as well. So, though it’s still unofficial, you can put that four-man bench in ink. As for the reassigned players, Castro (2B), Ransom (3B), Lane (RF), Gardner (CF), Moeller (C), and possibly Porter (LF) will start for Scranton. I assume catcher Jason Brown will return to his role as an organizational soldier, though every year I expect him to retire and begin his career as a coach.
Incidentally, in that Pete Abe post, Pete writes of Scott Patterson, “The other thing to keep in mind is that he hasn’t been used in any particular role. He’s been the guy who gets two outs after the starter reaches his pitch count. That role doesn’t exist once the season starts.” That role absolutely exists in the regular season (or should). It’s called a “stopper.” He’s the guy you bring in mid-inning to get out of whatever mess the previous pitcher (be it the starter or another reliever) has created to allow a less reliable reliever (think: Farnsworth) to come in the next inning with a clean slate. One of the problems with current bullpen construction is that it typically overlooks the stopper, instead building backwards from the closer, but properly utilized, the stopper is even more important than the closer himself. Of course, back in the day, the stopper and closer used to be one and the same, which is why Goose Gossage is going to the Hall of Fame.
And while I’m picking on poor Pete, here’s another clip that rankled me, “There is very little speed on this team. Damon is probably the fastest guy. A-Rod and Abreu can run. Jeter sometimes. If they make the playoffs, they’ll need a pinch runner (hello, Brett Gardner).” First, let’s worry about the playoffs in September. For now, the starting lineup includes five men who stole 13 or more bases last year, all of whom bat consecutively: Melky Cabrera (13), Johnny Damon (27), Derek Jeter (15), Bobby Abreu (25), and Alex Rodriguez (24). There are no Carl Crawford’s there, but plenty of team speed. The Yankees were fourth in the AL in steals last year. I think what Pete meant was that there’s no speed on the bench. That’s true, but last year the Yanks got just eight stolen bases from their bench, all by Miguel Cairo and they were a better team after Cairo was released. Besides, Gardner is just a phone call away if Girardi decides he wants to repeat Joe Torre’s tendency to take Jason Giambi’s bat out of close ball games.