"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Two More Days . . .

The Yankees beat the Blue Jays 5-2 thanks to the healthy return of Mark Teixeira, who took a pitch off his left elbow Monday night, but they have some concerns about the health of their catchers, particularly their backups.


L – Curtis Granderson (CF)
L – Nick Johnson (DH)
S – Mark Teixeira (1B)
R – P.J. Pilittere (C)
L – Robinson Cano (2B)
S – Nick Swisher (RF)
R – Marcus Thames (LF)
S – Ramiro Peña (SS)
S – Marcos Vechionacci (3B)

Subs: Juan Miranda (1B), Kevin Russo (2B), Walter Ibarra (SS), Jose Gil (C), Daniel Brewer (RF), Brett Gardner (CF), Randy Winn (LF), Mitch Abeita (DH)

Pitchers (IP): A.J. Burnett (4 2/3), Royce Ring (1/3), Chan Ho Park (1), David Robertson (1), Joba Chamberlain (1), Lance Pendleton (1)

Big Hits: Doubles by Curtis Granderson (2-for-3), Mark Teixeira (2-for-4, and again quietly raking in camp to a .341/.408/.591 tune leading the remaining campers in slugging), and Ramiro Peña (1-for-3). Robinson Cano had two singles and a sac fly in three trips. Nick Swisher singled twice in three at-bats.

Who Pitched Well: All of the relievers. Royce Ring struck out the only man he faced, lefty slugger Adam Lind, swinging. Minor league call-up Lance Pendleton struck out two in a perfect ninth. Chan Ho Park struck out one in a perfect sixth and now has eight strikeouts against no hits, no walks and just four hits in seven spring innings. Joba Chamberlain worked around a walk, striking out two in a hitless eighth. David Robertson worked around a single for a scoreless seventh, though he struck out no one and uncorked a wild pitch.

Who Didn’t: A.J. Burnett scattered two runs, but allowed seven baserunners (two walks, two singles, two doubles, and a Jose Bautista solo homer) in just 4 2/3 innings while striking out only two. Then again, Joe Girardi said Burnett looked better than he had all spring. Given his 5.12 spring ERA, that’s entirely possible. He did have his curve working and mixed in his changeup, neither of which were the case in his previous start.

Ouchies: Obviously Mark Teixeira (eblow) is fine. Francisco Cervelli and Mike Rivera both have sore hamstrings. Cervelli had an MRI and was diagnosed with a Grade 1 strain that will keep him out of action for the remainder of camp. The Yankees still hope Cervelli can open the season with the team, but if he can’t, the Yankees may have to reach further down the depth chart for a catcher, though Rivera is expected to test out his leg in Friday’s game. Adding to the backstop angst, Jorge Posada was scratched from Thursday’s game due to a sore neck (thus Pilittere batting clean-up). It seems Posada just slept in a bad position. The Yankees expect him to play on Friday. Alfredo Aceves (back) is scheduled to pitch on Friday and is also hoping to avoid extended spring training or a DL stay.

Other: Joe Girardi made it official, Curtis Granderson will be the starting center fielder, playing even against lefties, at least until/unless he continues to struggle against them. Brett Gardner will be the starting left fielder but, like last year, will have to produce to keep his job. I think the Yankees’ best arrangement would have been to put Gardner in center because I believe he is the superior fielder, but I understand Girardi’s thinking that he doesn’t want Granderson to have to change positions if Gardner loses his job. I can’t decide if I agree with it, but I understand it. In a way it seems as if he’s expecting Gardner to fail, but by that same token, why not expect the best from your big new acquisition (that he can be a superlative defender in center and hit lefties). Let Granderson show he can’t cut it before you limit his value by moving him to left and platooning him. I just hope Girardi’s willing to make those moves should it become clear that they’re necessary. I’m sure I’ll be revisiting this in a few months no matter which way things fall.

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1 a.O   ~  Apr 1, 2010 9:54 pm

I agree with you re LF/CF, though not a big deal. And that agreement is troubling to me because you are so badly mistaken on the Red Sux!

Anyway, two days indeed. Thanks, Cliff.

2 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Apr 1, 2010 11:03 pm

I don't think people appreciate how poor the Red Sox were at a variety of positions last year, and they still won 95 games with a 93-win Pythagorean record.

3 Mattpat11   ~  Apr 1, 2010 11:55 pm

I like the move for the reason you said. I really don't expect Gardner to be starting by June, and the less you jerk around Granderson, the better.

4 williamnyy23   ~  Apr 2, 2010 12:03 am

[2] Besides SS, where were they so poor? Below is their OPS by position, compared to the career OPS of the player expected to play that postion this season:
C - .750 / .837 (+.87)
1B - .868 / .878 (+.10)
2B - .819 / .825 (+.06)
SS - .656 / .721 (+.65)
3B - .843 / .779 (-.64)
LF - .913 / .764 (-.149)
CF - .752 / .788 (+.36)
RF - .903 / .896 (-.07)
DH - .777 / .922 (+.145)

Based on the above, I think Boston's chances of improvement rest solely on the shoulders of Ortiz. Excluding him, the net difference between the two years is close to a wash. Now, one could argue that Scutaro really found a new level or Beltre will love the wall (then again, they may revert to their mean), but by the same token, a DL stint by Drew is possible and some regression from other players is also on the table.

Surely, Boston will improve some because of defense, but I think that has been exaggerated because of reliance on UZR. Ultimately, however, the big question is what Big Papi will show up in 2010?

5 williamnyy23   ~  Apr 2, 2010 12:33 am

[4] Just a running commentary on the comparisons above:

C - This difference should be lower because Varitek figures to get at least 30-40 games. Vmart didn't have a strong Fenway split last year, so there that doesn't suggest a Fenway boost. What's more, Vmart hits better when he isn't catching, a trend that was particularly pronounced last seasons.

1B/2B - Youkilis and Pedroia have seemed to settle into a career norm, so they should be right around their targets.

SS - In 2007 and 2008, Scutaro's OPS was .693 and .697. If he reverts to that level, the Sox will not have upgraded by much.

3B - If he can stay healthy, I think Beltre will hit better now that he is out of Safeco. Having said that, he has had two surgeries over the past 2 seasons. What's more, he has a low OBP, so that mitigates against a possible Fenway-based boost in slugging.

LF - Ellsbury wont match Bay's offense. Not much needs to be said about that.

CF - If you dial down his numbers because of a move to the AL, Mike Cameron might not match Ellsbury's offense.

RF - If Drew is healthy, he could match his 2009 output, but then again, he could tail off, or even put up the same numbers, but over 30 fewer games, as he did in 2008. I would hate to be on the healthy side of any bet involving JD Drew.

DH - Again, what Big Papi shows up in 2010? I don't think he'll be as bad as last year, but also have a hard time seeing him reach his career levels. A safe bet is somewhere in the .820-.830 OPS range. I am not sure that's enough.

6 Paul   ~  Apr 2, 2010 8:11 am

On Granderson, it's also the case that you want him in CF going forward. If Gardner doesn't work out this year, they can pick up a corner bat this off-season between Crawford (no thanks) and Werth (yes please). CFs are much harder to come by. Why move the sure thing for the maybe?

[2] That's very true, but 56 of those wins came at home. That has a certain way of skewing things. The context neutral club was 39-42. The righty pull hitters aren't going to help much there. The defense might.

The other problem as I see it is they're depending on too many guys to have years that aren't really consistent with their age (Cameron, Scutaro), position (Martinez - how many games can he catch?), or recent history (Ortiz, Beltre). Of the rest, Pedroia and Ellsbury heavily rely on their home park. The only guys I think they can really count on are Youkilis and Drew. The could get fine offense from the team. But it wouldn't surprise me to see them below 800 runs either, especially if they trade Lowell and Ortiz is done.

[4] I agree with you. I'd just like to point out again that Pedroia is a .750 OPS hitter outside of Fenway.

7 The Hawk   ~  Apr 2, 2010 9:09 am

I'll be shocked if Brett Gardner does anything worth a damn.

8 rbj   ~  Apr 2, 2010 9:51 am

Just gotta say that this has to be one of David Pinto's bestest posts ever:


"Catcher on the Rise?

The Yankees starting and backup catcher are each suffering from minor injuries:

With their season-opener at Fenway Park two days away, the Yankees are hoping that the stiff neck that sidelined Jorge Posada Thursday and the hamstring injury that has Francisco Cervelli in the trainer’s room will both be gone by Sunday.

What if the injuries aren’t gone? This Sunday would be the perfect day to see Jesus Montero rise from the minors."

"It seems Posada just slept in a bad position. The Yankees expect him to play on Friday."

That will be good.

9 Paul   ~  Apr 2, 2010 10:17 am

[8] The Yankees would sooner start PJ Pilitere than Montero on Opening Night. But oh how sweet it would be...

10 Paul   ~  Apr 2, 2010 10:19 am

[7] Want to put some $ on the line? Over .700 OPS with +UZR. Either is false and I lose.

11 Paul   ~  Apr 2, 2010 11:45 am

[10] That's not to say I think Gardner is all that. i just think he'll easily pass the "worth a damn" threshold. He'll provide cheap wins.

12 rbj   ~  Apr 2, 2010 12:33 pm

[11] I think Gardner will be at or slightly below replacement level. But I have yet to see a team where all the starters are above replacement level. Just don't hit into too many double plays.

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