Behind a member of the actual starting rotation, Yankees B-team crushed the Blue Jays’ starters hitting behind a replacement pitcher. Final score: 7-2.
L – Johnny Damon (LF)
S – Melky Cabrera (CF)
L – Robinson Cano (2B)
L – Hideki Matsui (DH)
R – Shelley Duncan (RF)
S – Wilson Betemit (1B)
R – Cody Ransom (SS)
R – Jose Molina (C)
R – Nick Green (3B)
Pitchers: Ian Kennedy, Dan Giese, Kyle Farnsworth, Joba Chamberlain, Jonathan Albaladejo, Chris Britton
Subs: Morgan Ensberg (1B), Bernie Castro (2B), Alberto Gonzaelez (SS), Chad Moeller (C), Greg Porter (RF), Justin Christian (CF), Jason Lane (PH/LF), Matt Carson* (PR/DH)
Opponent: The Blue Jays’ starters, including Alex Rios.
Big Hits: Consecutive RBI doubles by Wilson Betemit (2 for 4, BB) and Cody Ransom (2 for 3) in the second inning, a two-run double by Shelley Duncan (2 for 5) in the third, and a monstrous two-run jack to right field by Betemit (batting lefty, of course) in the fifth. Johnny Damon was 2 for 3 with a walk, Robinson Cano was 2 for 4.
Who Pitched Well: Ian Kennedy had a monster curve working as well as a good changeup and used those pitches to limit the Blue Jay’s starters to one run on six hits and no walks over 4 1/3 innings while striking out four. If there’s a knock on his outing it’s that he was a bit inefficient, using 75 pitches and throwing only 56 percent of them for strikes. Chris Britton pitched a perfect ninth, striking out one. Jonathan Albaladejo pitched around a single for a scoreless eighth. Dan Giese walked back-to-back batters in relief of Kennedy in the fifth, but one came on a questionable full-count call and he managed to strand both men.
Making his first short-relief appearance of the spring, Joba Chamberlain looked like the guy who posted the 0.38 ERA down the stretch last year by striking out the side on 11 pitches (nine strikes, of course). Just like last September, Joba was firing laser-guided rocket fastballs and unhittable sliders. Of course, he faced a trio of low-minors nobodies, but the performance was so dominant that it almost made me worry that Joba’s become a bit too fond and too comfortable in this new role, which could prove to be an obstacle to his return to starting. Indeed, check out some of these quotes:
Kennedy: “He looks like a different guy when he starts and relieves. He just goes after guys. I don’t know if he was holding back too much, but he looked like a different guy today.”
Joba: “It felt great . . . it’s like riding a bike. . . . You just attack the zone. You stop worrying about your mechanics and your abilities take over. It was back to the slider that I’m used to throwing, and not babying it. . . . If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Admittedly that bit about “if it ain’t broke” was in reference to his relief repertoire, not the role itself, but I do worry about the fact that Chamberlain suggests he might have been overthinking and babying things while working as a starter this spring. Joba seems to relish the big bad reliever role, but he absolutely must return to starting or he’ll be denying the Yankees and himself a chance to realize his full potential.
Who Didn’t: Kyle Farnsworth struck out two in his lone inning but also allowed a single, a double, a walk, and a run. Many point to Farnsworth’s failings as another reason why Chamberlain needs to be in the pen. If Chamberlain does wind up sticking in relief long-term, Farnsworth’s Yankee legacy will be even worse than his numbers will show.
Nice Plays: A relay from Shelley Duncan in the right-field corner to Robinson Cano to nail David Eckstein at third base trying to stretch a double in the first inning.
Ouchies: A week from tomorrow, Humberto Sanchez will throw off a mound for the first time since his Tommy John surgery.
Roster News: Catcher Kyle Anson was reassigned to minor league camp. He’ll land in A-ball somewhere depending on where Austin Romine and Jesus Montero wind up. In the Cody Ransom article linked to above, Bryan Hoch suggests that Brett Gardner will not make the Opening Day roster:
. . . there may be no room at the inn for Gardner, who could benefit more from playing every day in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre than by riding the bench in New York. Girardi said he has encouraged Gardner along those lines, telling him to keep his head up and wait for his chance.
“I think he’s got a chance to be a really good big league player,” Girardi said. “It’s like the pitching staff here, obviously, we can only take so many when we leave [Florida]. If you don’t go with us when we break camp, you need to be ready at all times, because you never know when that call is going to come.”
*Matt Carson, on loan from minor league camp, got in the game as the Yankees brought a limited roster on the road. Don’t sweat Carson. He’s a 25-year-old outfielder with a career .250/.307/.397 line after six pro seasons. He hit about that in his first full season in double-A last year and won’t crack the starting lineup in Trenton or Scranton this year.
More: In order to avoid giving their divisional rivals an extended look at their starting pitchers with little more than a week left until the regular season, the Yankees will have Chien-Ming Wang and Andy Pettitte pitch minor league games tomorrow and Saturday while Darrell Rasner and Kei Igawa start against the Rays and Jays (who also happen to be the first two teams the Yanks will face in April). Indeed, the Jays did the same with Roy Halladay today, using Kane Davis against the Yankees in Halladay’s place. Speaking of Davis, there was a nice moment early in the game when he threw a looping curve up in the zone to Cody Ransom who crushed the pitch just as it began to break, hitting it so hard that he pulled it well foul. Ransom hit the ball like he knew he was getting a curve, and a close up of Davis on the mound soon after showed him trying and failing to suppress a giggle. Speaking of the broadcast, YES has used Bob Lorenz in the booth twice this week, first at Virgina Tech alongside Michael Kay, then again today alongside Ken Singleton. I don’t imagine the network plans to use Lorenz that way during the regular season, but I’d take him over Kay in a heartbeat (though that has more to do with Kay than Lorenz).