The official announcement of the Yankees’ fifth starter will be the big news today, but Wednesday’s headline was the performance of fourth-starter Javier Vazquez, who carved up an admittedly weak Nationals lineup as the Yankees cruised to a 3-1 win. Well, that and the fact that Ramiro Peña will once again be the Opening Day utility infielder.
R – Derek Jeter (SS)
L – Nick Johnson (DH)
S – Mark Teixeira (1B)
R – Alex Rodriguez (3B)
L – Robinson Cano (2B)
S – Jorge Posada (C)
L – Curtis Granderson (CF)
S – Nick Swisher (RF)
L – Brett Gardner (LF)
Subs: Juan Miranda (1B), Kevin Russo (2B), Ramiro Peña (SS), Francisco Cervelli (3B), P.J. Pilittere (C), Greg Golson (RF)
Pitchers (IP): Javier Vazquez (6), Damaso Marte (1), Mariano Rivera (1), Mark Melancon (1)
Big Hits: A triple by Alex Rodriguez (2-for-3), Doubles by Nick Swisher (1-for-3), and Nick Johnson (1-for-3, BB).
Who Pitched Well: Javier Vazquez needed just 77 pitches to get through six innings plus one batter. He didn’t issue a walk and allowed just one run on four singles while striking out six. Mark Melancon pitched a perfect ninth striking out two. Mariano Rivera worked around a double for a scoreless eighth, striking out two as well.
Who Didn’t: Vazquez gave up a single to the only man he faced in the seventh. Damaso Marte then allowed that inherited runner to score on a double by former Yankee Alberto Gonzalez, though Gonzalez was the only baserunner Marte allowed in his one inning of work.
Oopsies: Brett Gardner was caught stealing second by the former Yankee battery of Brian Bruney and Wil Nieves.
Cuts: The first real significant batch:
Kevin Russo: Russo hit .333 in camp, but Russo has always hit. The issue is that he’s not really a viable shortstop, and twith Alex Rodriguez now six years and one hip surgery removed from the position, the Yankees likely reasoned that they couldn’t go into the season with Russo as Derek Jeter’s sole backup at the position. Russo moved his name toward the top of the list of replacement bench players, but with the Yankees hoping to get 150 games or more out of each of their infielders, they properly opted to go with Ramiro Peña’s glove and versatility over Russo’s batting-average-dependent offense. It will be interesting to see if the Yankees stick him back at second base in Scranton or give him more exposure at short and third in the hope of increasing his defensive value.
Juan Miranda: Miranda didn’t hit much in camp and, as Scranton’s first baseman, will have to fend off the advances of Jorge Vazquez while battling with Jesus Montero to be the first name called when Nick Johnson goes down with an injury. Given that Miranda’s also in the last year of his contract, success in Scranton could just as easily get him traded as promoted.
Greg Golson: Golson hit .300/.364/.550 in camp and struck out just four times in 20 at-bats, which offers some hope that the tweaks made to his swing and approach by Kevin Long are already yielding results. If Golson can control the strike zone, he has the tools (speed, power, glove) and athleticism to be an upgrade on Brett Gardner, but he’ll have to prove it over a larger sample as Scranton’s center fielder.
Mark Melancon: Melancon was fantastic in camp, but there’s just no room in the Yankee bullpen: Mariano Rivera, Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes, Damaso Marte, David Robertson, Chan Ho Park, Alfredo Aceves, Sergio Mitre. That’s seven. I’d like to have seen Melancon make the team over Mitre, but as I explained Tuesday night, I’m kind of okay with Mitre making the team, particularly given how strong the rest of the pen seems to be. Had Melancon pitched better in his extremely brief major league opportunities last year, he might have had the edge. As it is, he’ll likely force his way onto the major league roster in the first half of the season.
Jonathan Albaladejo: Albaladejo made the Opening Day roster each of the last two seasons but got hurt in 2008, failed to distinguish himself in 2010, was lit up in camp this year. If there’s no room for Melancon in the bullpen, Albaladejo has no chance. He should follow Edwar Ramirez out of the organization shortly.