Monthly archives: March 2006
Fair or Foul?
Does New York have some of the greatest fans in the world, or is this a city of fair weather bandwagon-riding chumps? From my experience, I'd have to say a little bit of both. (Hey, we're the city that has everything after all, right?) For a town that often crows about what tough, loyal fans we have, it's amazing how many native New Yorkers are quick to dump on the local teams in favor of, well, whatever team is currently winning. So weather it was the Bulls and then the Lakers or the Red Sox, there is always a visible portion of the New York population that gravitates to the National team of the moment. However, there are true-blue die-hards here just like there are in Philly and Boston and wherever else you want to mention. (There are Yankee fans who actually rooted for the team prior to 1995--many of whom frequent this blog--and will continue pulling for them when the team isn't winning division titles year after year.) Witness this article today in The New York Times about the Knick fans that have stuck it out through one of the organization's most dreadful seasons to date. These cats pay top dollar for their season tickets, but it will take more than losing and general mishegoss to keep them away.
Thursday's Game - Nieves Say Nieves Edition
You know, Joe Torre has been hinting for a while that Nieves might make the roster, in part because he's out of options, but the idea was so absurd I didn't give it much credence. Then again, ever since the Kevins were optioned down to Columbus, the Yankees have been without a preferable option. A twelfth pitcher is unnecessary, particularly in April, when the schedule is littered with off-days. The thing the Yankees need most on their bench is a big bat, but there are none of those left on the bubble in camp. Second to that, they could use a reserve outfielder who can hit, but those options departed with Reese and Thompson. Popular waiver wire targets Carlos Pena and Erubiel Durazo are both first basemen (though even that's a stretch for Durazo), and both were so bad this spring that the Yankees would be better off having either find his stroke in Columbus than having him warm the bench in the Bronx.
So, Wil Nieves. Whatever. I'd say they're going to have to get rid of him when the inevitable roster crunch arrives, but no such crunch is on the horizon. Scott Proctor will likely get bounced to the minors when Aaron Small comes off the DL and I'm not about to hold my breath for Carl Pavano's return. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see Octavio Dotel activated before Pavano, whose endless injuries are creeping closer and closer to his mangina. Dotel could force Nieves off the roster, though by then Jaret Wright could be ready to hit the DL himself. I suppose the upside of having Nieves on the roster is that he could wrestle the back-up catcher job from Kelly Stinnett, making the Yankees' catching corps seven and a half years younger, but not necessarily any better.
At any rate, here are your 2006 New York Yankees:
1B Jason Giambi (L)
R Andy Phillips (IF)
L Randy Johnson
R Mariano Rivera
DL: R Carl Pavano, R Octavio Dotel, R Aaron Small
Now that the roster is set, my spring training game wraps are kind of meaningless, but since the Yankees wrapped up their Grapefruit League schedule yesterday afternoon, I might as well wrap it up.
Behind their last B-squad line-up of the spring, the Yankees beat the Tigers on the road 4-2
Johnny Damon CF
Subs: Damian Rolls 3B, Wil Nieves C, Rudy Guillen RF, Mitch Jones LF
Pitchers: Jeffrey Karstens, Scott Erickson, Ron Villone, Kyle Farnsworth, Matt Childers
Big Hits: Doubles by Russ Johnson (1 for 2 with two walks) and Felix Escalona (1 for 4). Andy Phillips was 2 for 3 with a walk, scoring twice.
Who Pitched Well?: Jeffrey Karstens retired the last ten batters he faced, allowing just two runs on a walk and two hits in five innings, striking out two. Ron Villone retired the only two batters he faced to finish the seventh inning for Scott Erickson. Kyle Farnsworth pitched around a Delmon Young double for a scoreless eighth. Matt Childers kept his scorless spring intact despite a hit and a walk in the ninth.
Oopsies: A fielding error by Felix Escalona
Ouchies: Johnny Damon said, "I'm as close to 100 percent healthy as I can be." (AP). Jorge Posada (1 for 2, 2 walks) will catch tomorrow's game and will indeed be behind the plate for Randy Johnson in the season opener despite catching just seven of the Big Unit's innings to Stinnett's 22 1/3, largely due to illness and injury.
How'd Randy Do Anyway?: Pitching against single-A Phillies with Torre and Guidry in attendance: 5 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 1 HR, 2 BB, 4 K. If nothing else, I'm sure it was good for Johnson to pitch in relative obscurity while all the flack over his situation with his baby's momma dies down.
Roster News: Scott Proctor has officially made the opening day roster, filling Aaron Small's swing man spot at the back of the bullpen. His spring line: 6 G, 2 GS, 17 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 HR, 7 BB, 14 K, 1.06 ERA, 1-1. With Proctor on the 25-man roster, there is just one spot left which could go to either a seventh reliever or a fifth bench player. That is unless Jaret Wright is put on the 15-day DL since he won't need to start until April 15, in which case the Yanks will have room for both a bench player and another reliever.
Catcher Keith McDonald, meanwhile, was reassigned to minor league camp after going 0 for 3 in yesterday's game.
Tuesday Night's Game
The Yankees were limited to four singles and a walk, losing to the Phillies 3-0 at home.
Johnny Damon CF
Subs: Andy Phillips 1B, Miguel Cairo 2B, Felix Escalona SS, Russ Johnson 3B, Omir Santos C, Bernie Williams RF, Bubba Crosby CF, Luis A. Garcia LF
Pitchers: Scott Proctor, Carl Pavano, Mariano Rivera, Tanyon Sturtze, Mike Myers
Big Hits: none
Who Pitched Well?: Scott Proctor made his second strong start of the spring, allowing just one run on a Sal "Thurman" Fassano homer in five innings while allowing just two other hits, both singles, and a walk against five strikeouts. Mike Myers and Mariano Rivera both pitched perfect innings.
Ouchies: The biggest news is Carl Pavano's return to game action. Pavano, who last pitched with the major league club on June 27 of last year and hasn't pitched in a game of any kind since an A-ball rehab start on August 3, allowed one run on a Shane Victorino solo homer in one inning of work, throwing 11 of 14 pitches for strikes and surviving a dive into first to retire Bobby Abreu on a slow grounder up the line. Jorge Posada also returned to action, going 0 for 3 as the Yankees' DH. He's expected to catch Thursday's Grapefruit League finale. Chien-Ming Wang threw 61 pitches in the bullpen and will take his scheduled turn in Phoenix on Friday. Octavio Dotel threw his first batting practice of the spring. Scott Erickson (remember him?) is expected to pitch in today's game.
Roster Crunch Time: Randy Johnson will start for the minor league campers today, giving Jeff Karstens the major league start. Jaret Wright will start the minor league game tomorrow with Wang and Chacon pitching the two games against the Diamondbacks in Arizona. Though only Johnson and Mussina have been officially announced, barring a disaster start from Wang or Chacon and a dominating performance by Wright (and likely not even then), Wang will start the finale of the A's series with Chacon going in the first game of the Angels series a week from Friday. Wright would then be in line to take the fifth starter's turn on April 15 in Minnesota.
The battle for the last spot in the bullpen, however, has heated up with Ramiro Mendoza (1.93 spring ERA) feeling heat from Proctor (1.06 ERA with the third most innings in camp), Matt Smith (1.69), Matt Childers (0 runs in one start and three relief appearances) and, sadly, Scott Erickson, who will return to action today with a 2.61 spring ERA. I'm still rooting for Mendoza or Smith, preferring to see Proctor find a spot in the Clippers rotation and Erickson find himself in another uniform. Childers is just 27 and is better utilized as roster insurance in Columbus than as a pitcher expected to produce as a member of the opening day roster.
While we're at it, the final spot on the bench seems to be down to Wil Neives (.269/.321/.423 this spring) and Felix Escalona (.263/.333/.421), unless Joe Torre has been seduced by Luis A. Garcia's eleven at-bats, which started with a pair of homers and have since featured three singles in nine trips with just one strikeout and no walks. Nieves is out of options, but just might slip through waivers. Escalona would be my choice, though with the Kevins gone and Russ Johnson not hitting, there's really very little added value to be had with any of these guys. All the more reason to offer Carlos Pena, who could be useful as a lefty bat off the bench later in the season, a minor league deal.
Punks Jump Up to Get Beat Down
Late last week, Buster Olney wrote what we're likely to see at the Yankee-Sox cirucs this year:
There are so many new players -- new relievers, in particular -- on the two teams, and they will tend to be overaggressive in reacting to somebody's getting hit by a pitch in this rivalry. It will be as if Kyle Farnsworth and Julian Tavarez and the others joined a fraternity fight, they know all their new house brothers are watching and they feel a need to demonstrate their toughness. There's almost no doubt that they will have incidents this year, and you almost can assume that Farnsworth or Tavarez or [Taynon] Sturtze will be in the middle of something.
Farnsworth and Sturtze come across like bouncers jacked-up on Red Bull, and Tavarez has the looks of an old-timey bad guy. All that is missing is a mustache for him to twirl as he ties the girl to the train tracks. Even our old pal Beth, a Red Sox fan so devoted that she is generally willing to make apologies for the most boorish BoSox behavior, is having a hard time finding a place in her heart for Mr. Tavarez, who was involved in an incident yesterday with Joey Gathwright of the Tampa Bay Rays.
For all of the hysteria and hype that accompanies the New York-Boston rivalry, both teams have entertained us with a riveting and dramatic brand of baseball for the past four years. Sure, there have been ugly moments, but let's hope things don't get uglier just because they can. Sox and Yankee fans tend to bring out the worst in each other, but lets hope that the two teams continue to bring out the best in each other and remind us how thrilling the rivalry and the game can be.
On the road and without the DH, the Yankees brought along some familiar faces from weeks past, but couldn't outlast the Braves, losing 5-4
Johnny Damon CF
Subs: Miguel Cairo SS-1B, Felix Escalona 2B, Ramiro Pena SS, Russ Johnson 3B, Keith McDonald C (see below), Luis A. Garcia RF, Bubba Crosby CF, Melky Cabrera LF, Damian Rolls PH
Pitchers: Shawn Chacon, Kris Wilson, Kyle Farnsworth, Ron Villone
Big Hits: A two-run bomb by Alex Rodriguez (2 for 3) and doubles by Rodriguez and Giambi (3 for 4). Gary Sheffield was also 3 for 4.
Who Pitched Well?: No one was particularly impressive though Kyle Farnsworth struck out two in a scoreless inning despite giving up a walk and a hit.
Who Didn't?: Chacon ran out of gas in the sixth, leaving the game after 5 1/3 after allowing five runs on three walks and six hits, two of them home runs (a solo shot by Brian Jordan in the fifth and three-run, broken-bat tater by Adam LaRoche in the sixth). That said, Chacon struck out seven and has now struck out 21 in 22 spring innings, though he has also walked 13.
Ouchies: Jaret Wright threw 50 pitches in the bullpen and will pitch in a minor league game Thursday. Aaron Small threw from the rubber for the first time since straining his hamstring. Jorge Posada worked out with the team again and could start at DH today or tomorrow and return to catching before the week is out. Chien-Ming Wang's knee is slightly swollen, but doesn't appear to be an issue.
Bullpen Cuts: Colter Bean was optioned to Columbus and Mark Corey and Dusty Bergman were reassigned to minor league camp. Bean didn't get a good look this spring due to his rehab from an offseason ACL injury. The left-handed Bergman got lit up in five spring innings. Corey pitched well, but is a 31-year-old journeyman with a terrible track record.
So Who's Keith McDonald?: Although I missed it at the time, the Yankees obtained veteran minor league catcher Keith McDonald from the Rangers over the weekend for a player to be named later. This is an encouraging sign as it suggests that they will not add third-string catcher Wil Nieves to the opening day roster simply because he is out of options. The 28-year-old Nieves is preferable to McDonald, who is 33, has played in just eight major league games and, despite playing exclusively in the Pacific Coast League, hasn't hit a lick this decade. But should Nieves land elsewhere, McDonald at least gives the Yankees a capable receiver at triple-A. It's not like Nieves was going to hit anyway.
Sunday's Game - Kevins Declined Edition
Back at home, the Yankees won an ugly 9-8 game against the Tigers.
Johnny Damon CF
Subs: Luis A. Garcia 1B, Miguel Cairo SS, Russ Johnson 3B, Omir Santos C, Bubba Crosby RF, Kevin Thompson CF, Kevin Reese LF, Wil Nieves DH
Pitchers: Chien-Ming Wang, Mark Corey, Tanyon Sturtze, Jose Veras, Dusty Bergman, Ramiro Mendoza, Mike Myers
Big Hits: A two-run dinger by Bubba Crosby (1 for 2) in the eighth was the game winner, Sheffield (2 for 3), Bernie (1 for 4) and Cano (2 for 4) doubled, while Jeter (2 for 3) and Damon (2 for 4) also had multi-hit days.
Who Pitched Well?: Mendoza and Myers finished things off with perfect eighth and ninth innings respectively. Before leaving the game after being hit by a comebacker, Wang allowed two runs on three hits in 2 1/3 innings, but also struck out three against no walks and three of his other four outs came on the ground.
Oopsies: A Jason Giambi throw.
Ouchies: Wang left the game in the third when he was hit in the right knee by a hard one-hopper off the bat of Curtis Granderson. X-rays were negative and Wang returned from the hospital without a limp. Carl Pavano threw 30 pitches in the bullpen and is expected to pitch an inning in relief on Tuesday. Johnny Damon, who has played center in the last two games, reports that he no longer has any pain in his throwing shoulder. Jorge Posada worked out with the team yesterday and will have the spints removed from his nose and his vision checked by an ophthalmologist today. Posada experienced some swelling in his left eye after being hit by Kelly Stinnett's throw on Wednesday, but says his vision has been fine since Thursday.
The Cruelest Cuts of All: Abandon hope all ye who enter here, Kevin Thompson (.383/.420/.532 this spring) and Kevin Reese (.280/.308/.360) were optioned to Columbus, handing the back-up outfielder spot to Bubba Crosby (.161/.188/.387). To put it another way, 28-year-old Kevin Reese, who hit .276/.359/.450 in a full season at Columbus last year and 26-year-old Kevin Thompson, who hit .329/.432/.565 in a half-season at Trenton last year, were demoted in favor of 29-year-old Bubba Crosby who has hit .221/.253/.301 in 163 career major league at-bats. Here's hoping this situation rectifies itself should one of the Kevins have a strong start with the Clippers. Less troublingly, Ben Davis was reassigned to minor league camp. More cuts, which could very well clarify the bullpen situation, are expected today.
Despite Mike Mussina's decision to take his turn with the minor league campers, the Yankees had no problem handling the Devil Rays, dancing all over them to the tune of 10-1.
Johnny Damon CF
Subs: Miguel Cairo 1B, Andy Cannizaro 2B, Felix Escalona SS, Russ Johnson 3B, Omir Santos C, Kevin Reese RF, Bubba Crosby CF, Kevin Thompson LF, Luis A. Garcia DH
Pitchers: Matt Childers, Colter Bean, Matt Smith, Ramiro Mendoza, Matt Corey, Frank Brooks
Big Hits: A no-doubt-about-it homer by Alex Rodriguez (1 for 4), a triple by Derek Jeter (1 for 3), and doubles by Giambi (1 for 3), Sheffiled (1 for 3), Reese (1 for 2) and Thompson (1 for 1) (Sheffield's hitting off the top of the left centerfield wall). Amazingly, the Yankees collected 13 hits by thirteen different hitters.
Who Pitched Well?: Matt Smith threw two perfect innings, Matt Childers, a swing man in the minors, pitched three scorless innings striking out two, though he did walk one and allow four hits. Childers' brother Jason pitched in the game for the Devil Rays.
How'd Moose Do?: 6 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 3 K, 92 pitches, 61 percent strikes
Ouchies: Johnny Damon played the field for the first time since the beginning of the WBC, Jaret Wright threw 21 pitches from halfway up a bullpen mound and 13 more from the rubber. Aaron Small also threw from halfway up a bullpen mound, while Scott Erickson had a regular bullpen session. Carl Pavano was supposed to throw a bullpen but the weather, which was in the high 50s and low 60s, was deemed to cold for him. Jorge Posada has rejoined the team today and will participate in workouts before today's game.
Friday's Game - Papi Choi Edition
Randy Johnson turned in his second consecutive strong showing yesterday, but the Yankees' road lineup of bench players couldn't muster enough offense to make it count resulting in a 3-1 Twins win.
Bubba Crosby CF
Subs: Ramiro Pena SS, Omir Santos C, Kevin Thompson RF, Tim Battle PR
Pitchers: Randy Johnson, Jose Veras, Dusty Bergman
Big Hits: Just a double by Andy Phillips (1 for 3)
Who Pitched Well: As I said, Johnson: 6 1/3 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 HR (Terry Tiffee), 0 BB, 6 K
Notes: Because both of his final two spring starts were to come against the Devil Rays, Mike Mussina will instead take his turn with the minor league campers today against the minor league D-Rays. In his place, Matt Childers will make the major league start.
After the game, the Red Sox claimed ex-Dodger Hee Seop Choi--whose availability has been an inevitability ever since the Dodgers signed Nomar Garciaparra to play first base, if not since the firing of Paul DePodesta--off waivers. Choi is a twenty-seven-year-old lefty-hitting first baseman with a severe platoon split who has yet to live up to his potential. Three years ago, the Twins released another twenty-seven-year-old lefty-hitting first baseman with a severe platoon split who had never lived up to his potential. That player signed with the Red Sox and proceeded to be one of the ten most productive players in the game over the following three years. His name is David Ortiz. Here's a comparison of the two players' careers prior to signing with Boston:
David Ortiz: .266/.348/.461, .524 OWP, 1693 PA
Indeed, the age-27 player Choi is most similar to according to PECOTA is none other than Big Papi himself.
Ortiz's numbers since signing with the Red Sox: .297/.383/.600, .709 OWP, 1891 PA
When Ortiz was available in the winter of 2003, George Steinbrenner instructed Brian Cashman to sign him, but Cashman refused because of the presence of both Jason Giambi, who had just hit .314/.435/.598 in the first year of a seven-year, $120 million contract, and Nick Johnson, a home-grown prospect who was nearly three years Ortiz's junior (incidentally, Johnson, who was the key player sent to the Expos in the Javy Vazquez deal, is also 27 this offseason and has a better career line than Choi or Ortiz at the same age: .265/.383/.437, .587 OWP, 1767 PA).
This year, the Yankees still have Giambi (coming off a .271/.440/.535 comeback season), but their back-up is Andy Phillips, who not only lacks any sort of meaningful major league track record (just 49 career PA), but is nearly two years older than Choi. I've long been rooting for the Yankees to give Phillips a shot because of his minor league numbers, but even I couldn't argue against limiting him to a utility/righty pinch-hitter role, or even dumping him altogether in favor of the younger, more established Choi, whose lefty swing could have been a perfect fit for Yankee Stadium. A Choi/Phillips DH platoon, meanwhile, could have pushed the Yankee offense into 1000-run territory this year. Instead, Choi's presence in Boston will allow the Red Sox to kick the 38-year-old J.T. Snow to the curb and, if necessary, move Kevin Youkilis to third base should Mike Lowell fail to rebound from his dreadful 2005.
But don't blame Brian Cashman, or anyone else in the Yankee front office for that matter. Because of the waiver order--which begins with the worst team in the same league as the waiving team (determined by the previous year's standings through the thirtieth day of a new season), proceeds to the best team in that league, then begins the other league again going worst-to-first--the Red Sox were able to claim Choi before the Yankees got their shot. In a vicious twist, it was the tie-breaker that awarded the Yankees the 2004 AL East title--which proved to be worth little more than bragging rights as the second-place Red Sox claimed the Wild Card, neither team had home field advantage in the playoffs, and both were eliminated in the ALDS--that cost them Choi. This is very different than what happened with Ortiz. Ortiz was released before the Twins had to offer him a contract for 2003, making him a free agent during the winter of 2002-2003. Choi, on the other hand, had already re-upped with the Dodgers by signing a one-year $725,000 deal, thus he had to be waived lest the Dodgers be forced to eat that entire contract. Instead, the Red Sox will assume his full salary and likely paid a waiver price for the privilege. They'll almost certainly get their money's worth, though it's staggering to think that 26 other clubs passed on Choi before the Red Sox put in their claim.
Sorry about the delay on today's post, I was out of commission yesterday as I was in Philadelphia promoting Baseball Prospectus 2006. Before we get to the Yankees 8-1 drubbing of the visiting Astros, I should mention that I'll again be on the road promoting BP06 this Sunday at 1:00 when I, along with Allen Barra and the largest collection of BP authors ever assembled in one place, will take part in a baseball roundtable at the Yogi Berra Museum in Montclair.
Right then. On with it . . .
Johnny Damon DH
Subs: Andy Phillips 1B, Miguel Cario 2B, Felix Escalona SS, Russ Johnson 3B, Luis A. Garcia RF, Bubba Crosby CF, Kevin Reese LF, Kevin Thompson DH
Pitchers: Scott Proctor, Colter Bean, Mariano Rivera, Mike Myers, Tanyon Sturtze, Kyle Farnsworth
Big Hits: Homers by the previously hitless Alex Rodriguez (two-run job, 2 for 3), Matsui (solo shot, 2 for 3), and Garcia (3-run jack, 1 for 1). Garcia is 2 for 2 with two homers, five RBIs, and three runs scored this spring. Gary Sheffield (2 for 3) not only doubled (his first extra-base hit of the spring), but doubled his spring hit total.
Who Pitched Well: Proctor, making a strong argument for his conversion back to starting, struck out four in four scoreless innings allowing just two hits and a walk, all of which came in the fourth inning. Colter Bean, in his first game action of the spring, Mariano Rivera, pitching in back-to-back games for the first time this spring, and Kyle Farnsworth (now that's a Big Three I could learn to love) each pitched a perfect inning striking out one, none and two respectively. Mike Myers pitched around a walk in one hitless inning.
Ouchies: As I said, Colter Bean saw his first game action of the spring after rehabbing from off-season ACL surgery. Jaret Wright played catch for ten minutes before yesterday's game. Peter Abraham reports that his back looked loose. He could return to game action as early as Tuesday. Jorge Posada was released from the hospital yesterday morning and did not attend yesterday's game, but should return to action next week as well.
Wednesday Night's Game: Half-Assed Running Commentary, Rivalry Edition!
With the Yankees and Red Sox playing a night game live on YES, I thought I'd do a running commentary on the game, at least until Becky switches over to the new episode of Lost.
The Yanks are hosting the Red Sox at home at Legends Field. As expected, the YES broadcast is non-stop Johnny Damon for the first 15 minutes. Nauseating. The one bit of "relief" is footage of Jorge Posada being hit in the face with a throw from Kelly Stinnett while playing catch during BP before the game (to bad they haven't started BPTV yet, or whatever it's called). Posada was distracted by another ball and Stinnett's throw hit him in the nose, catching a bit of his left eye socket as well, knocking him down and bloodying his face. He was helped off the field in a daze and pulled from the line-up.
During a terrible version of the national anthem, the camera catches non-roster invitee Enrique Wilson in his Red Sox uniform. Hilarious.
Here's the Red Sox's line-up:
Adam Stern CF
Jonathan Papelbon P
Shawn Chacon is on the hill for the Yanks.
Stern steps in wearing a red jersey, looking like he's still on team Canada. He singles through the right side on Chacon's second pitch.
The defensive alignment shows Bernie in center with Damon, who was seen throwing during fielding drills before the game, as DH. Sigh. I imagine it would make Torre's brain ache to write one of the Kevins in the line-up with the rest of his starters.
Stern takes second on Chacon's second pitch to Cora, Stinnett's throw is up and away to Jeter, thankfully missing his nose. Chacon makes Cora look bad on a slow 12-6 curve for the first out.
J.T. Snow is the first of three former Yankee minor leaguers in this line-up. Chacon gets ahead 0-2, wastes one high and away, then gets Snow swinging on a harder curve over the outside corner.
Manny forgot his uniform and is wearing number 95 with no name on the back (the rest of the Sox have their names on their jerseys). Manny's look this spring is a homeless-man beard and light orange dreads. He works the count full and draws a walk on a fastball just barely low and away.
Mike Lowell, ex-Yankee farmhand #2, is next. Stinnett makes a nice stop on a pitch in the dirt away, 1-1, then again 2-1. Chacon's fourth pitch to Lowell is popped straight up, Stinnett, who wears a regular cap rather than a helmet or nothing at all under his hockey-style mask, makes the catch with his left foot in the right-handed batter's box.
The Yankee line-up, sans Posada:
At least Torre bothered to move Stinnett down to ninth rather than just subbing him in Posada's spot (the original lineup ended Posada-Cano-Williams).
The Sox are wearing caps with red bills and buttons with their red BP jerseys. Whatever. The Yanks are in their blue BP jerseys and pinstriped pants.
Damon shows bunt on Papelbon's second pitch, fouls off a 2-2 pitch, then takes ball three to go full. He chops the seventh pitch to third, Lowell stops it but doesn't field it cleanly, but still recovers to get Damon by a half-step.
Jeter falls into a quick 0-2 hole then works it back full. He then hits a half swing chopper to second and is thrown out easily.
Papelbon looks a bit like a younger Mike Timlin from the back. A big country boy (Timlin's from Texas, Papelbon from Baton Rouge) with a large, square back and skinny legs that taper to the ankle.
Matsui draws a five-pitch walk. Sheffield hits a pitch high and over the plate to center for the final out.
Wily Mo (ex-Yankee farmhand #3) sends his bat flying into the stands striking out on another tremendous Chacon curve.
Mohr swings about a half-hour early on a couple of change-ups for Chacon's fourth strikeout of the game. Makes you think that if Chacon had a strong fastball to go with his curve and change he'd be unhittable. Unfortunately, that's the one pitch you can't teach.
Save for Stern's lead-off single, the Sox have yet to hit the ball fair. As I type that, Huckaby laces a double down the third base line past Rodriguez for a double and makes a Willie Mays Hayes head-first slide into second, nearly stopping short of the bag as Jeter turns to apply the tag. A moment later, the YES camera's catch Jeter rotating his left shoulder with Huckaby lurking to his left.
A grounder to second and a flip to Chacon ends the inning.
Rodriguez makes a nice swing on the first pitch he sees, flying out to the warning track in right center. Jim Kaat argues for Ortiz's 2005 MVP candidacy. Sigh.
Giambi puts a nice swing on a fastball up in his eyes and pops it to center.
Bernie then crushes a ball over the foul pole in left. I can't remember the last time I've seen Bernie hit a ball that hard or show that much bat speed. It would be a lot of fun if Bernie proves me wrong this season. 1-0 Yanks.
Cano grounds to second to end the inning.
Cano bobbles a nice play to his left but stays with it to retire Stern. Cora pops to Jeter. After 2 2/3 innings, Chacon has thrown 68 percent of 41 pitches for strikes. Solid.
Bernie standing in center is clean shaven, hiding the grey in his beard. Having homered in the previous inning, he looks ten years younger.
Snow works a full-count walk.
Kay and Kaat are talking about how Enrique Wilson and Manny are best friends (though they fail to connect the dot back to their days as youngsters with the Indiansremember when Enrique was considered to have potential? Zoinks!) At any rate, the Sox are apparently dreading telling Manny that Enrique isn't going to make the team. Pathetic.
Full-count fastball inside corner Ks Manny, who spins out of the way.
Stinnett doubles. Damon goes 3-0 then singles through the hole into right to put runners on the corners with no outs. A grounder right to the third-base bag by Jeter catches Stinnett taking a step toward home. Lowell chases him down the line and makes the tag himself, holding Damon and Jeter to first and second. Mastui walks on four pitches to load the bases with one out for Sheffield. After 2 1/3, Papelbon has thrown 47 pitches and barely more strikes then balls.
How old is Roger Clemens? One of his closest friends is Al Nipper. Zoinks!
Sheff creams a line-drive foul. Then lifts a rainmaker sac fly to left and all three runners tag and advance, 2-0 Yanks.
Kaat misquotes Yogi: "You can see a lot by observing." I've always enjoyed Kaat, but he's either too rusty or too old right now.
Papelbon walks Rodriguez to reload the bases. Not a good night for the Sox's best young pitcher. Giambi tops one to second. If anyone else was running it would have been close, but Giambi looks like he's running in oatmeal on his way down to first. I may have stolen that simile from Steve Goldman. He can deal, I'm driving him (and Jay Jaffe) to Philly tomorrow (today for those reading this) for our Baseball Prospectus event at the Walnut Street Barnes & Nobel (plug!).
Lowell hits one into the right-center gap, Bernie cuts it off, but with his momentum going away from second, his lollipop throw is too late to catch Lowell, who slides in for a double. Question is, we know Damon's arm is no better, but would his wheels have made the difference there? The play was closer than I would have expected (though not so close that Jeter bothered making a tag).
Wily Mo cracks a two-run homer just as our new puppy pees in the living room. Pardon me for a moment . . .
Okay, 2-2 game, Machado is on with two outs. Stern doubles him home to make it 3-2. Cora grounds out to Giambi to end the inning.
On the penultimate pitch of the inning, Cora lines a hard foul down the right field line that bounces into the Yankee bullpen where Mike Mussina snags it showing off his gold-glove hands. Kaat must not have been looking and as the shot lingers on Mussina joking with catcher Ben Davis, who's wearing Flaherty's number 17, he remarks "as we see Mike Mussina holding a ball in the bullpen." This is just not Kitty's night.
Bernie doubles into the RF gap, another nice swing. He shows his age running the bases, however, and makes an ugly slide trying to avoid the throw. He's lucky he didn't hurt himself. After all that effort he's stranded.
Brian Cashman joins Kaat and Kay in the booth after they inform us that the result of Posada's pre-game accident was a fractured nasal passage that was reset at the hospital. Cashman says Posada will avoid the DL and at worst will miss a week. When last Posada's nose was broken (by an Alfredo Amezaga throw in 2004) Posada missed just four games. Ah, but will it rob him of his power again? Cashman also tells us that Pavano threw 35 pitches in batting practice today and is projected to be activated in late April.
Jeter leads off bottom of the fifth with a single. Lost comes on. Hey, it's spring training.
[an hour later]
With a 5-3 lead thanks to a two-run Luis Garcia homer (yes, this one), Kyle Farnsworth comes on to shut the door for the Yanks.
A group of kids can clearly be heard chanting "Let's-Go-Red-Sox."
Machado hits a grounder to Phillips, who flipips to Farnsworth for the first out (yes, I'll be using that joke all year).
Adam Stern creams a hanger over the right field wall to make it 5-4. If Alex is watching this he's cursing a blue streak over Farnsworth throwing junk with a two-run lead and no-one on. For what it's worth, his fastball is coming in at 93 miles per hour. Now 95.
A comebacker hops right into Farnsworth's glove for the second out.
Ian Bladergroen walks. The last out is a fly out to center. Yankees win, 5-4.
Subs: Andy Phillips 1B, Miguel Cairo 2B, Russ Johnson 3B, Omir Santos C, Luis Garcia RF, Bubba Crosby CF, Kevin Thompson LF, Kevin Reese DH, Felix Escalona PR
Pitchers: Shawn Chacon, Mariano Rivera, Mike Myers, Tanyon Sturtze, Kyle Farnsworth
The Man in the Middle (Book Excerpt)
From "The Last Nine Innings"
Chapter Four: Inside the Diamond
Whenever I'm teaching younger players, what I ask is, 'Can you dance?'" Matt Williams, the Diamondbacks' veteran third baseman who came to the big leagues as a shortstop in 1987, is ruminating about the art of defensive play in the four infield positions. Williams has become a philosopher of the game as he struggles to cool down his intensity and combine his God-given athleticism with his growing knowledge of the game.
Dancingan activity that brings together focus and relaxation, grace and quickness, initiative and cooperationprovides Williams with the concept he needs to play his position. Dancing helps him understand when and how to stay loose but also when to move quickly. Keep light on the feet like a dancer, then you can attack and parry, as the play requires.
"That's all it isyou're just dancing through the ball. When your feet stop, when your feet get lead[en], your hand gets hard, when you don't adjust to a bounce, that's when you make mistakes."
Leading off for the Diamondbacks in the home half of the second inning, Steve Finley hits a 10 fastball up the middle. Shortstop Derek Jeter hesitates briefly before playing the ball to his side. Jeter fields the ball, a hard one-hopper, cleanly. Reaching down with his six-foot-three body, Jeter flips it hard to first in one motion.
"You play short there's going to be a lot of plays that you're off-balance," Jeter says. "You just work at it, practice it, get better with time. Some may be kind of difficult because of how tall I am as opposed to a shorter guy. But that just comes with experience."
Derek Jeter's fielding poses a dilemma. Depending on whom you debate, Jeter is either one of the best fielding shortstops in the gameor he is absolutely, positively the worst. The question is whether to believe your eyes when watching him.
Part of the difficulty in judging Jeter is that he is the winningest shortstop in an era of great shortstops. Players like Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra, Omar Vizquel, Orlando Cabrera, and Edgar Renteria do not have the luxury of playing for consistently great teams. They seem to do more at their positions than Jeter. But Jeter is a winner. He has been on four World Series champions in five years, and now he's playing for a fifth title. He must be doing something right.
When baseball people gather to watch Jeter, they smile. They watch him charge balls in the middle of the diamond, range to the outfield and right-field line to gather pop flies, communicate with pitchers and infielders. They love his hustle, his willingness to risk his body to make a play; whether it's diving three rows into the stands or facing down a base runner barreling into second base. They watch the way he captains not only the infield but the outfield, too. They like the messages he gives other players. Years before, as a youngster, he confronted the Rubenesque pitcher David Wells when Wells had a hissy fit on the mound after an error. Jeter barked back on behalf of his teammates and they appreciated it.
Broadcaster Tim McCarver acknowledges that Jeter sometimes has a hard time picking up sharp hops. "I'm sure there are five or six shortstops who read a ground ball, a hop, better," says McCarver, a Jeter fan. "It's not one of his strong suits. He comes over and up on the ball. Sometimes he charges when he should stay back and stays back when he should charge."
McCarver pauses, looking for context: "But it's almost crazy to talk about that, he does so many things well."
Johnny Damon DH
Pitchers: Mike Mussina, Dusty Bergman, Mark Corey, Scott Proctor, Ron Villone
Big Hits: A solo homer by Cairo (1 for 3), Damon and Jeter were both 2 for 3, Phillips was 2 for 4. On the flip side, Bernie went 0 for 4, grounded into two double plays and left seven men on base.
Who Pitched Well: Scott Proctor walked one and struck out two in two hitless innings, Mark Corey retired the only batter he faced.
Who Didn't: Villone gave up two runs on four hits in one inning. Bergman gave up three runs on three hits in two-thirds of an inning. Mussina, however, takes the cake, giving up ten runs on a walk and twelve hits, including a pair of doubles and four home runs (by Dmitri Young, Brandon Inge, Magglio Ordonez and Alexis Gomez) in just four innings.
Ouchies: Jaret Wright's back spasms will cause him to miss his scheduled start on Thursday (curiously it appears the Yanks has planned to skip Wang's turn which falls on today's off day, though I've not read any explaination as to why, I assume he'll now take Wright's turn on Thursday), but the Yankees are cautiously optimistic beyond that and have yet to determine if he'll even miss a full turn or just have his start pushed back. Scott Erickson also suffered back spasms over the weekend, yet another in a series of fortuitous Yankee injuries dating back to last April. Carl Pavano, meanwhile, is now not expected to be ready by April 15, the day that the Yankees will need a fifth starter. Pavano is scheduled to throw batting practice Wednesday, then again on Saturday and should make his first game start a week from Wednesday or Thursday. That would give him time to make three starts before the 15th, but the Yankees think he'll need 30 to 35 innings to be ready. Same old story. Don't hold your breath for Meat's return. Anyone still curious as to why the Yankees were unable to trade this guy this past winter?
So who will be making that April 15 start? Well, if his back holds up it will be Jaret Wright, who is still supposedly fighting for a rotation spot (a battle Pavano may make moot). If not, there's a chance that Aaron Small could be back from his hamstring injury by then. Failing that, Matt DeSalvo just might get his shot earlier than expected. Indeed, to the delight of many, Joe Torre has said he has no intention of using Scott Erickson as a starter, back spasms or not. From MLB.com:
Torre nixed the idea of using Erickson as a starter, however, even if the rotation has a hole to fill because of injury.
"If he's in the mix," music to my ears.
Dem's Da Breaks
There aren't many games I'd like to read about less than Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. Already the framework for Buster Olney's book about the Yankees' most recent championship run, the game itself is probably one of the single most painful moments of my Yankee life. I'm not asking anyone to cry for me--in the middle of the night after the Diamondbacks won, restless from a lack of sleep, I was able to get some much-need perspective when I realized that the team had in fact just won the three previous titles. Brother, I thought, it could be a lot worse. Still, three outs away? With Marinao on the mound? Man, you'd have to take that everytime, right? After the eighth inning an old friend of mine--a Mets/Red Sox fan--called up and said, "Well, that's about that, huh?" I nearly broke the phone slamming it down. You never make that call, bro. Especially, after those Murphy's Law-defying games at the Stadium.
The 2001 Serious was far more difficult for me to stomach than the 2004 playoff collapse to the Red Sox. Yet the way in which they lost to Arizona was somehow fitting. Here were the Yankees getting spanked around all Series long and if it weren't for two nights of Miracles, there would never have even been a Game 7. But there was, and in the end the Yankees simply got out-Yankeed.
I know my emotions were heightened in the aftermath of 9.11, and there were a lot of people out there pulling for the Yankees (not everyone, cause you'd have been hard-pressed to find a Red Sox or Met fan not cheering for joy once the D-Backs won). In all, they played spirited ball during those playoffs, knocking off superior teams from Oakland and spoiling what could have been a truly historic season in Seattle. What's the old cliche? You can have anything you want, you just can't have everything. Well, the Yankees gave its fans and baseball fans in general an amazing run in '01--exactly what we needed. But they just couldn't do everything, they couldn't get the final three outs.
Charles Euchner's new book, "The Last Nine Innings," tells the story of baseball through the prism of Game Seven. He explores fielding (infield and, in an illuminating chapter on Steve Finley, outfield), baserunning, hitting, pitching, relief pitching, training, and managing. There are good interviews with Matt Williams and Mark Grace, Curt Schilling and surprisingly, Shane Spencer. What distinguishes Euchner's book is that it has an "insider's" feel written from an "outsider's" persepctive. While "The Last Nine Innings" refers to the events surrounding that post-season, the author sticks mainly to the nuts-and-bolts aspect of the game, both in the training room and on the field.
The results are satisfying and surprising, and the book is accesible for the novice fan while absorbing for the die-hard nut too. I had a few minor quibbles--in characterizing Bernie Williams as a guy who is over-looked, I think Euchner himself over-looks him--but I was most taken with Euchner's even-handed writing style. The prose isn't fancy, but clear and to the point. Euchner's book is balanced, fair and informative. It's well worth checking out, even for those Yankee fans who may still be licking their wounds.
Sunday's Game - Roster Extravaganza Edition!
The Yankees shutout the Indians at home yesterday 2-0 behind a fantastic outing by Randy Johnson with all five of the returned WBC players seeing action, but before we get to the usual game-in-a-box summary, I want to address the flurry of cuts the Yankees made yesterday. Here are the players optioned or reassigned to the minors yesterday:
1B - Eric Duncan, 3B - Marcos Vechionacci, SS - Ramiro Pena, C - David Parrish, OFs - Melky Cabrera and Mitch Jones, SP - Sean Henn, RPs - J. Brent Cox, T.J. Beam, Frank Brooks.
Duncan, Vechionacci, Pena, Cabrera and Cox are potential future stars who impressed Torre and his coaching staff this spring, but need further seasoning in the minors. Cox, who will be 22 in June, is the oldest of that bunch. Jones also impressed at the plate but remains a poor defender with high strikeout rates, who, at age 28, has yet to show that he's outgrown triple-A. Sean Henn had an awful spring (9.45 ERA, 6 2/3 IP, 11 H, 7 R, 7 BB, 4 K) and will return to triple-A where he'll slip behind DeSalvo and Rasner on the depth chart. Beam is 25, has never pitched above high-A ball, barely pitched this spring (3 IP) and didn't do well in that limited exposure (6 H, 3 R, despite a solid 4:1 K/BB). Brooks threw just two uneventful innings this spring and will spend the season as a triple-A roster filler. Parrish sucks and proved it by going 0 for 8 this spring.
In addition to those cuts, Senator Al Lieter officially announced his retirement before coming into yesterday's game to get one last out (a groundout by Eduardo Perez). With those eleven men out of the picture for the moment, one can break the remaining campers into four groups: those that have made the 25-man roster, extra catchers, those rehabbing from injuries, and those battling for one of the final spots on the 25-man freed up by one of those injuries. Here's how they break down:
Made the roster (22):
1B - Jason Giambi (L)
R - Andy Phillips (1B/3B)
L - Randy Johnson
R - Mariano Rivera
Extra catchers (3):
R - Wil Nieves
Injured or rehabbing (4):
R - Carl Pavano (mangina)
Batting for a spot (14):
OF - Bubba Crosby (L)
R - Ramiro Mendoza
Taking the second part first, Bergman, Corey and Veras have pitched just five innings combined and Bergman and Veras have pitched poorly at that. I can only assume they're still here just to eat innings. Here are the spring lines of the other five:
Playing in the same Jupiter, Florida ballpark in which they lost to the Cardinals the day before, the Yankees took an easy one from Joe Girardi's baby Marlins yesterday 8-3
Kevin Reese CF
Subs: Miguel Cairo 1B, Kevin Howard 2B, Ramiro Pena SS, Eric Duncan 3B, David Parish C, Mitch Jones RF, Melky Cabrera LF, Russ Johnson DH
Pitchers: Jaret Wright, Dusty Bergman, Ramiro Mendoza, Mike Myers, J. Brent Cox, Ron Villone
Big Hits: A three-run homer in the third by Hideki Matsui (1 for 3, 4 RBIs), a bases-loaded triple by Kevin Howard (2 for 4, 4 RBIs), and what Ken Singleton described as "a ringing double" by Mitch Jones (1 for 2). Kevin Reese was 2 for 4 with a walk and two runs scored.
Who Pitched Well: Mike Myers worked a perfect seventh, striking out one, Ramiro Mendoza allowed one hit while striking out one in a scoreless sixth, but the big story was Wright, who allowed just one run in four innings on three hits and no walks while striking out four. After the game, Wright credited his effectiveness to a new grip on one of his pitches taught to him by Mike Mussina. Which pitch that is, however, seems to be the subject of some debate, as MLB.com reports it's his curve, while our pal Peter Abraham reports it's his slider.
Oopsies: Felix Escalona, Ramiro Pena and Mitch Jones each committed a fielding error.
Ouchies: Robinson Cano got beaned in the left temple by a throw from third baseman Miguel Cabrera while trying to beat out an infield single in the first. Cano was safe, but was removed from the game as a precaution (yielding to Kevin Howard's fantastic day). Cano appears to be fine. Scott Erickson was scheduled to pitch, but instead returned to Tampa with back spasms while Ramiro Mendoza, who I believe to be his primary challenger for Aaron Small's spot in the bullpen, pitched a pretty sixth inning. Jorge Posada (flu) took batting practice and is expected to be in the line-up tomorrow when the team returns to Tampa, as should be returning WBCers Jeter, Rodriguez and Williams (though not Damon, due to his shoulder tendinitis). Bubba Crosby (hamstring) is also expected to return to action tomorrow.
The Yanks lost another snoozer on the road, this one 5-2 to the Cardinals.
Miguel Cairo SS
Subs: Eric Duncan 1B, Felix Escalona 2B, Ramiro Pena SS, Marcos Vechionacci 3B, Wil Nieves C, Kevin Reese LF, Andy Phillips DH
Pitchers: Shawn Chacon, Frank Brooks, Scott Proctor, Ron Villone, Jose Veras, Matt Smith
Big Hits: Doubles by Jason Giambi (1 for 3), Russ Johnson (1 for 3), Miguel Cairo (2 for 4), Kelly Stinnett was 2 for 3 and Kevin Thompson went 2 for 3.
Who Pitched Well: Scott Proctor walked one in two hitless innings. Ron Villone struck out two in a hitless inning, though he walked one.
Who Didn't: Jose Veras gave up four runs (three earned) on three hits without getting an out, though one suspects that Matt Smith, who struck out two and was not charged with a run, but followed Veras by allowing a hit, walking one and uncorking a wild pitch, had something to do with that.
Oopsies: A throwing error by Chacon and a fielding error by Felix Escalona.
Ouchies: The fates are trying to give Joe Torre a message as Bubba Crosby, who missed the first week of spring after being hit on the index finger during a bunting drill, missed yesterday's game due to what is alternately being called a tight groin and a tight hamstring. Doesn't sound like Torre's getting the message, however:
"There was a time last year when he was never a consideration, except as a pinch-runner or as someone you'd put in late in a game. But after Donnie worked with him, I saw a different hitter. He once was a dead pull hitter -- hit the ball in the air and swing and miss. Donnie got him waiting on the ball. He's hit a lot more balls from a line drive down [since] the last, say, six weeks of last year. He's a much better player now." (MLB.com)
Upcoming Schedule: Settle in for a long day of baseball on the tube today as the Yankees play the Fish on YES at 1:00 and the two WBC semifinals air on ESPN at 3:00 and 10:00. A little break in the middle there for dinner, otherwise, baseball all day. Best of all, Becky and I have a brand new puppy to curl up on the couch and watch the games with us. Man, life is good!
Thursday's Split Squad Games
The Yankees dropped a pair of split-squad games to the Tigers and Astros yesterday.
Wednesday the Yankees visited Houston and put the smack down. Yesterday, the Astros returned the favor 10-5.
Miguel Cairo 3B
Subs: Eric Duncan 1B, Russ Johnson 3B-2B, Hector Made 3B, Wil Nieves C, Bronson Sardinha RF, Rudy Guillen LF, Ben Davis DH
Pitchers: Chien-Ming Wang, Mariano Rivera, Kyle Farnsworth, Tanyon Sturtze, Mike Myers, T.J. Beam
Big Hits: Solo homers by Matsui (1 for 2) and Russ Johnson (2 for 2), a pair of doubles by Stinnett (2 for 3) and a triple by Melky Cabrera (2 for 4)
Who Pitched Well: Wang allowed five hits and no walks in four innings and getting ten of his twelve outs on ground balls, but was betrayed by his defense resulting in a pair of unearned runs in the first. Rivera and Myers both walked one in a hitless inning, though Rivera also hit a batter.
Who Didn't: Sturtze and Beam combined to allow seven runs on six hits a pair of walks and a homer (Luke Scott off Beam) in two innings pitched. Sturtze also plunked two Astros. Ugly.
Oopsies: A fielding error by Cano and a throwing error by Ramiro Pena.
Ouchies: Jason Giambi played the field for the first time since before his calf injury. Jorge Posada has a fever, unfortunately an increase in cowbell has not caused the illness to abate. He'll skip the Yankees' two-game roadtrip to Jupiter this weekend.
Joe Torre actually joined his B-squad on the road (Mattingly managed the home game) as it enabled him to have dinner with his old Cardinal teammate Bob Gibson and Gibson's even older teammate Stan Musial. How much would you pay to join that trio for a long, story-filled meal? I'm sure dinner was better than the Yankees 4-3 loss to the Tigers, which was so incredibly dull that the subhead of the game wrap on the Yankees' official site reads: "Rolls, Escalona, Vechionacci drive in runs for New York." Wow, thrilling.
Bubba Crosby CF
Subs: David Parrish C, Jose Tabata RF
Pitchers: Matt DeSalvo, Jeffrey Karstens, Scott Erickson, Sean Henn
Big Hits: None. Not one Yankee had an extra base hit or a multi-hit day.
Who Pitched Well: Really no one, though both Jeff Karstens and Scott Erickson allowed just one baserunner in two innings a piece, both baserunners came on solo homers. Matt DeSalvo allowed just one run on another solo homer in three innings while striking out three, but also walked three and allowed two other hits, and the homer was by Omar Infante.
Who Didn't: No one really stunk up the joint like Sturtze or Beam in the A-Game. Sean Henn got the loss by giving up another run in 1 2/3 innings on two walks and two hits, the second hit being a game-ending RBI single by Nook Logan, though Henn also struck out two.
Oopsies: The Yankees played error-free ball, but the Tigers made four errors behind groundballer Nate Robertson (11 of 15 outs on the ground) and company, giving them a staggering 26 on the spring.
WBC: The USA managed just three hits against Mexico, losing 2-1 and thus losing a tie-breaker to Japan, who will advance to play Korea in the second semi-final on Saturday, the third match-up between the two teams in the tournament and a game I don't plan to miss. That means the Yankees will be back at full force possibly as soon as Sunday's return to Tampa. Bernie Williams is already back in Tampa, where he will work out at the minor league complex while the Yankees are on their two-day road trip. For the record, Derek Jeter went 0 for 4 in last night's game and finished the WBC with a .450/.522/.550 line with a triple and no strikeouts in 23 plate appearances over six games. Alex Rodriguez went 0 for 2 with two walks last night finishing with a .333/.391/.381 line with a double and seven strikeouts in the same number of opportunities. Johnny Damon did indeed pinch run last night, but did not come to bat, finishing the tournament 1 for 7 with a triple and two walks. Al Leiter made just one appearance in the tournament giving up two runs on three hits and a walk in just 2/3 of an inning.
Third Cut: After pitching in the B-game, Matt DeSalvo and Jeffrey Karstens were optioned to Columbus (a.k.a. minor league camp). With that, the Yankees have relocated all of the starters who aren't either going to make the 40-man roster or be considered for work out of the bullpen, which is to say that I believe that the Yankees are currently trying to figure out what Sean Henn might be able to offer in a relief roll. DeSalvo has thus far fulfilled expectations by departing camp as the pitcher most likely to pull a Chien-Ming Wang this season. His final spring line: 8 IP, 4H, 1 R, 1 HR, 6 BB, 5 K, 1-0, 1.13.
The Yankees were exceedingly unkind to ol' pal Andy Pettitte and the Astros yesterday, whooping them 11-1 on their own field.
Bubba Crosby CF
Subs: Eric Duncan 1B, Felix Escalona 2B, Ramiro Pena SS, Omir Santos C, Kevin Reese CF, Kevin Howard DH
Pitchers: Mike Mussina, Ron Villone, Scott Erickson, Ramiro Mendoza, Frank Brooks
Big Hits: Mitch Jones (2 for 5) went deep twice for the second time in three days, Kevin Thompson cracked a pair of doubles in the process of going 4 for 5, Robinson Cano (3 for 4) and Miguel Cairo (1 for 3) also doubled, as did Russ Johnson (1 for 4), who's two-bagger was his first hit of the spring (though he's walked five times and scored four runs), Eric Duncan, who is now slugging .875 this spring, tripled in his only at-bat, Andy Phillips also had a big day going 3 for 4 with a pair of RBIs.
Who Pitched Well: Mike Mussina threw 77 percent of 78 pitches for strikes while allowing just one run on three hits and a walk and striking out eight over five innings. After the game he said, "I did everything I wanted to do, anything I wanted to do, in any count." Scott Erickson worked a perfect seventh. Ron Villone and Ramiro Mendoza each threw a hitless inning walking one each.
The verdict on Johnny Damon's shoulder is tendinitis. The Yankees are taking that as good news and Damon will be limited to pinch-running and pinch-hitting duties for at least the next week be it in the WBC or Yankee camp. The main objective is to keep Damon from throwing, though I tend to wonder if a head-first slide or diving back to first on a pick-off attempt could do just as much damage.
Despite claiming to refuse comment on the fact that Damon's shoulder flare up happened in the WBC, Cashman did say that it was something "that sprung up because he pushed himself." With Korea's stirring 2-1 victory over Japan, the US can advance to the semifinals of the WBC with a victory tonight over Mexico. As WBC rosters can be altered between rounds, here's hoping the US sends Damon back to Tampa if that should happen. Regardless, the Yankees expect Damon to be ready for opening day.
Meanwhile, the big injury news from yesterday is that Aaron Small strained his right hamstring while doing his running on Tuesday and will likely start the season on the disabled list. With Small and Pavano, who threw 45 pitches in the bullpen yesterday, ticketed for the DL there are now two open roster spots for the season's first 15 days.
As I said before, I expect Pavano's spot to be filled by an extra position player much like Andy Phillips did for Kevin Brown last year. The favorite for that spot at the moment is Kevin Thompson, who is hitting .469/.514/.656 this spring, though by all rights Thompson should be given Bubba Crosby's spot on the roster with, say, Felix Escalona (.296/.321/.519) getting the extra spot. Of course, bearing in mind the uselessness of spring training stats, I'd rather see Kevin Reese take the outfield spot as there are still some doubts about Thompson that even his electric spring can't quiet. Either way, don't fret too much about the spot created by Pavano as the last man on the bench won't see a lick of action before the Yankees' need for a fifth starter boots him back to Columbus on April 15.
As for who will replace Small in the pen, you can scratch Colter Bean from your wishlist due to the fact that he's rehabbing from ACL surgery and still hasn't seen game action this spring. You can also cross off the three Columbus starters on deck, DeSalvo, Henn and Rasner (the last of whom has already been reassigned), as they'd be much better off starting in Columbus in preparation for the all-but-guaranteed injury-induced opening in the rotation than languishing in the major league pen. I'm wishcasting for Matt Smith, who despite giving up one monster solo homer has looked sharp to me. The problem there is he's only pitched 2 1/3 innings this spring. More likely we'll be subjected to watching "proven veterans" Ramiro Mendoza and, yes, Scott Erickson battle it out for Small's long relief spot.
Startlingly, Erickson has pitched more innings this spring than any Yankee hurler other than Johnson and Mussina. Gulp. Here are the spring lines of these two old hands:
Erickson: 8 1/3 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 2 ER, 1 HR, 3 BB, 8 K, 0-2, 2.16
If forced to chose between these two, I'd take Mendoza in a heartbeat. My reasons are these:
Prodigal Son: With their 3-2 loss to Cuba, Puerto Rico has been eliminated from the WBC, which means Bernie Williams is on his way back to Yankee camp. Bernie was 2 for 4 with a walk and a lead-off home run in the loss and hit .250/.280/.542 with a double and two homers but just one walk in 25 plate appearances as PR's DH and lead-off man in all six games.
WBC: There are just four games left in the WBC, miraculously all will be shown live on ESPN (all times EST):
Thu 3/16: USA @ MEX (Angel Stadium) 7:30
Korea remains the only undefeated team in the tournament and looks to have the upper hand given their pitching strength and the fact that the final two rounds will take place at the pitching-friendly Petco Park. Indeed, if the US beats Mexico tonight and advances to face Korea in Saturday's second semi-final, I'd expect an easy win for Korea given the USA's inferior outfield defense (Ken Griffey Jr. in center is a nice thought, but an outdated one to say the least) and the fact that Korea already beat them once by a score of 7-3 in a game in which Korea was leading 7-1 after eight innings. Filtered back through Yankee glasses, this means the issue of Damon playing in any future WBC games is a minor one at worst and that Damon, Jeter and Rodriguez (but hopefully not Leiter) will all be back in camp by Monday.
The Yankees lost a close, well-pitched game to the Cardinals who, disturbingly, wore their red home caps on the road. Final score 4-3.
Bubba Crosby CF
Subs: Eric Duncan 1B, Kevin Howard 2B, Ramiro Pena SS, Marcos Vechionacci 3B, Wil Nieves C, Kevin Thompson RF, Kevin Reese CF, Melky Cabrera LF, Mitch Jones DH, Ben Davis PH, Shelley Duncan PH
Pitchers: Randy Johnson, Mariano Rivera, Kyle Farnsworth, Tanyon Sturtze, Mike Myers
Big Hits: Just a solo homer by Robinson Cano (2 for 4). Cano was the only Yankee with more than one hit.
Who Pitched Well: Mariano Rivera struck out two in a scorless sixth. Randy Johnson allowed just one hit through 4 1/3, retiring eleven in a row and needing just 36 pitches through his first four innings. He then gave up two runs on a walk and four more hits (including a homer by St. Louis pitching coach Dave Duncan's son Chris) over his final 2/3 inning. He struck out four on the day throwing 73 percent of 67 pitches for strikes. Johnson will make three more starts this spring.
Oopsies: A throwing error by Kelly Stinnett.
Ouchies: Jason Giambi returned to game action going 0 for 2 with a sac fly, but the big news was Johnny Damon's tired throwing shoulder. Damon hurt his left shoulder diving for a ball early last August, but the reoccurence of soreness has been attributed to typical spring training fatigue. However, because Damon is playing in the WBC and no one in Tampa--specifically Torre, Cashman, or any of the Yankee doctors or trainers--has spoken to him, everyone is overreacting to the lack of information. The fact of the matter is that Damon is resting the shoulder by not playing--he last started on Friday and had a single pinch-hit at-bat on Sunday--just as he would if he were in camp with the Yankees, and could be taken off the US roster and returned to the Yankees if the team advances to the semifinals (which it might not). Damon has a dreadful throwing arm to begin with (Steven Goldman recently wrote that the Orioles' Daniel Cabrera could throw a dead octopus through a brick wall. Damon, like Bernie before him, couldn't throw a brick through a dead octopus.) So as long as the bum wing (which could be fine given the rest) doesn't effect his swing, there's not much cause for concern here. Just be thankful that the Yankees have two of the best cuttoff men in the business in Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano. The more things change . . .
Even five homers by a road-game B-squad couldn't overcome a nightmare start for Jaret Wright as the Yanks fell to the Pirates 9-8
Bubba Crosby CF
Subs: Eric Duncan 1B, Kevin Howard 2B, Wil Nieves C, Kevin Reese PH
Pitchers: Jaret Wright, Scott Proctor, Ron Villone, Matt Childers, Ramiro Mendoza
Big Hits: A lead-off homer by Bubba Crosby (1 for 3), a pair of dingers by Mitch Jones (3 for 5, the third hit being a double), and a pair of ninth-inning taters by Eric Duncan (2 for 2, the first hit being a double) and Kevin Thompson (1 for 2). Miguel Cairo (1 for 3) and Melky Cabrera (1 for 4) doubled.
Who Pitched Well: Ron Villone plunked a batter in a hitless, walkless sixth; Ramiro Mendoza threw a hitless eighth, striking out two and walking one; Matt Childers pitched around one hit for a scoreless seventh.
Who Didn't: Jaret Wright was flat out throwing batting practice. His line says it all: 3 IP, 11 H, 8 R, 1 HR, 1 BB, 0 K
Oopsies: A throwing error by Ramiro Pena and a passed ball by Jorge Posada.
Ouchies: Robinson Cano skipped the game due to a root canal. Joe Torre, in reporting that Tanyon Sturtze felt fine following his return to game action on Sunday, told the media that Sturtze wasn't honest with the team about his shoulder problems last year.
WBC: Bernie went 0 for 3 leading of for Puerto Rico in their first loss of the tournament. In the US's loss to the still undefeated Korea, Derek Jeter went 3 for 4, Alex Rodriguez went 0 for 5 with seven men left on base, and Johnny Damon rode pine behind Matt Holliday and Randy Winn.
Winners (And the Other Guys Too)
Dayn Perry is one of the more genuine and easy-going guys you are ever likely to meet. The fact that he's also a gifted writer and analyst makes his personal charm even more appealing. I've met Dayn on several occasions and while he's exceeingly bright, he isn't a show-off or interested in making you look dumb. In addition to his work for Fox and Baseball Prospectus, Dayn's first book, "Winners: How Good Baseball Teams Become Great Ones (And It's Not the Way You Think)" has just hit the shelves. Perry looks at all of the playoff teams between 1980 and 2003 and examines what makes for success and failure. Combining traditional storytelling--there are absorbing stories about Pedro Guerrero and Cesar Cedeno, for instance--with statistical analysis, Perry's book is a page-turner.
I found a good, Yankee-related excerpt in the chapter:
The Deadline Game (or, Why It's Hard to Win a Pennant in Two Months)
Each year, Major League Baseball circumscribesor perhaps hurries alongits clubs with a pair of trade deadlines. The first, which occurs on the afternoon of July 31, marks the end of the period in which teams can trade players without first passing them through revocable waivers. The second, on August 31, marks the deadline for teams to acquire players and still be able to place them on postseason rosters. In that block of calendar from July 1 to August 31, some of the most memorable (or forgettable, depending upon your partisanships) trades have unfolded. It's a frenzied time for fans, execs, and league organ grinders alike. Rumors scamper about like astonished cockroaches, and saturation-level media coverage causes deep-vein thrombosis in many a fan.
However, of course, there are exceptions, as the Yankees discovered back in 1995:
From "Winners: How Good Baseball Teams Become Great Ones (And It's Not the Way You Think)"
By Dayn Perry
Coming into the 1995 season, the Yankees hadn't made the postseason in 14 yearsthe longest such drought for baseball's most dynastic franchise since Babe Ruth was acquired. What made it all the more rankling for Yankee fans is that, in the unfinished 1994 season, they had a comfortable 61/2-game lead in the AL East at the time of the players' strike and were on pace for 100 wins. Needless to say, the run-up to the 1995 campaign brought with it the usual Yankee mishmash of haughty optimism tempered by trickle-down urgency with the organization. It was time for the Yankees to get back to being the Yankees.
The Yankees brought their starters on the road for a change, but still lost to the Indians 7-5 thanks to the arrival of the real Scott Erickson.
Bubba Crosby CF
Subs: Eric Duncan 1B, Kevin Howard 2B, Ramiro Pena SS, Omir Santos C, Kevin Thompson LF, Melky Cabrera DH, Mitch Jones PH
Pitchers: Shawn Chacon, Sean Henn, Jose Veras, Tanyon Sturtze, Mike Myers, Scott Erickson
Bit Hits: Just a double by Melky Cabrera (1 for 1), Felix Escalona (2 for 3) was the only Yankee with a multi-hit day.
Who Pitched Well: Jose Veras pitched a perfect fifth inning striking out one, Tanyon Sturtze needed just eight pitches in his first game action of the spring, pitching around one hit for a scoreless sixth.
Who Didn't: Sean Henn gave up four runs on four hits and four walks in a single inning, Scott Erickson blew the game by giving up three runs (two earned) on a walk and three hits including a homer by Todd Donovan. Shawn Chacon struck out three in three scoreless innings, but walked four, hit one and allowed two hits in the process. Joe Torre hinted before the game that Chacon has made the rotation, leaving Wang and Wright to battle it out for the fourth spot, with Pavano lined-up to claim the fifth spot which won't be required until April 15.
Ouchies: Tanyon Sturtze made his spring debut. Jason Giambi (calf) started running on Friday and participated in full workouts over the weekend, but won't return to game action until Tuesday because there will not be a DH in today's road game against the Pirates. Carl Pavano threw 40 pitches, all from the rubber in his fourth bullpen session of the spring.
Second Cut, Part Two: Danny Garcia and Darrell Rasner were also reassigned to minor league camp before Saturday's game. Garcia was an afterthought in the infield picture, but Rasner, who pitched well in two appearances (4 1/3 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 HR, 0 BB, 4 K), should be on the short list of call-ups should injuries create room on the pitching staff. Rasner was on Jaret Wright's schedule in the spring rotation.
WBC: Alex Rodriguez (2 for 5) came through with a bases-loaded single with two out in the bottom of the ninth to drop Japan 4-3. Jeter was 1 for 3, Damon struck out in a pinch-hit at-bat.
Chien-Ming Wang did indeed make up for his rocky first outing as the Yankees beat a split-squad Braves B-team 7-3.
Miguel Cairo SS
Subs: Eric Duncan 1B, Felix Escalona 2B, Ramiro Pena SS, Wil Nieves C, Bubba Crosby RF, Kevin Thompson DH
Pitchers: Chien-Ming Wang, Aaron Small, Matt Smith, Mariano Rivera, Kyle Farnsworth, Ron Villone
Big Hits: A three-run homer by Jorge Posada, doubles by Mitch Jones, Robinson Cano and Bubba Crosby.
Who Pitched Well: Wang was razor sharp in his three innings, allowing just one baserunner, a single in the third which he erased on a 3-6-1 double play. The exact opposite of his first start, Wang kept the ball down with impressive velocity, making many (admittedly minor league) batters swing and miss and striking out four. Mariano Rivera and Ron Villone each pitched 1-2-3 innings. Kyle Farnsworth pitched around a hit for a scoreless eighth.
Ouchies: Bubba Crosby played in his first game since getting hit on the index finger during bunting practice a week ago. Jason Giambi (calf) sat out again. Scott Proctor is away from camp due to the birth of his second child.
Second Cut: Philip Hughes, Chris Prieto and Jason Brown were reassigned to minor league camp before the game. According to Peter Abraham, Hughes was on Mike Mussina's schudule and with Mussina scheduled to go five innings in his next start there are simply no innings left for Hughes in big league camp. Hughes didn't pitch particularly well this spring (3.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 2 K), but that's of little concern. Rather, it's impressive that, having never pitched above the Sally League, he got to pitch as much as he did. Jason Brown, meanwhile, got into just one game with a split-squad B-team. A 31-year-old double-A lifer, Brown should have been given the opportunity to play in an A-game, merely as a reward for having stuck around so long. Odds are the only major leaguers he'll share the field with in the future will be on injury rehab assignments. Prieto never should have been in camp in the first place.
The Yankees left their starters at home and fell to the Reds 5-4
Kevin Reese LF
Subs: Danny Garcia 2B, Ramiro Pena SS, Marcos Vechionacci 3B, Omir Santos C, Rudy Guillen RF, Damian Rolls LF
Pitchers: Mike Mussina, J. Brent Cox, Philip Hughes, Scott Erickson
Big Hits: A double and a solo homer by Felix Escalona (2 for 3), doubles by Cairo (1 for 3) and Guillen (1 for 1)
Who Pitched Well: Mike Mussina pitched three hitless innings before giving up three runs (two earned) on two walks and three hits in the fourth. Moose wasn't impressed:
"The first three innings weren't as good as it looked. I threw the ball right down the middle, and they hit some balls hard right at people. For the most part, though, I feel pretty good and I'm getting most of my pitches over the plate or just off, so I'm not complaining." (Yahoo!)J. Brent Cox struck out one in a 1-2-3 fifth. Scott Erickson kept his ERA at 0.00 despite giving up the game winning run on one hit in 1 1/3 innings of work (see Oopsies). Hughes was less impressive, giving up a run on a walk and three hits in two innings despite striking out two.
Oopsies: Rudy Guillen misplayed a single in the ninth allowing the winning run to score from second. Mekly Cabrera and, for the second day in a row, Danny Garcia also committed errors.
Ouchies: Carl Pavano threw 37 pitches (or 35, depending on the source) in a bullpen session mixing fastballs, sliders and changeups all from the rubber. Octavio Dotel also threw from the rubber in his bullpen session.
WBC: In the United States' brutal five-inning 17-0 pasting of South Africa, Damon went 0 for 3 with a walk and a run scored, Jeter went 3 for 3 with a triple, a walk, an RBI and four runs scored, Rodriguez went 3 for 4 with a double, an RBI and three runs scored. In Puerto Rico's 12-2 victory over Cuba, Bernie Williams went 1 for 4, his lone hit being a two-run homer.
The Mysterious Case of Mr. Bean: Solved!
Ask and ye shall receive. Having enjoyed Peter Abraham's on-the-scene blogging for the Journal News, I thought he just might be the man to answer my Colter Bean conundrum. Indeed, an e-mail was all it took. Abraham spoke to Bean this morning and learned that Colter had surgery in October to repair a torn ACL in his right knee. As a result, Bean has been limited to bullpen work thus far this spring, but hopes to get in a game before the spring is over. Abraham promises more on Bean tomorrow.
PS: Don't forget I'll be appearing at Coliseum Books in Manhattan tomorrow at 6pm along with Steven Goldman and Christina Kahrl of Baseball Prospectus.
Thursday's Split Squad Games
In the first of two split-squad contests, the Yankees' A-squad got two-hit by ex-Yank Kenny Rogers and a trio of relievers, including fellow ex-Ranger Colby Lewis, while Randy Johnson and Mariano Rivera combined to yield six runs in a 6-1 loss to the Tigers.
Miguel Cairo SS
Subs: Damian Rolls 1B, Kevin Howard 2B, Eduardo Nunez SS, Omir Santos C, Rudy Guillen RF, Russ Johnson DH
Pitchers: Randy Johnson, Mariano Rivera, Kyle Farnsworth, Ron Villone, T.J. Beam
Big Hits: Felix Escalona (1 for 3) doubled in the third and scored on an out by Miguel Cairo. A Kevin Thompson single was the only other Yankee hit (Thompson was also 1 for 3).
Who Pitched Well: Farnsworth and Villone pitched scoreless innings but gave up a walk and two singles respectively. T.J. Beam made his spring debut by striking out two in two scoreless innings, but gave up three hits in the process. Meanwhile, ex-Yankee Marcus Thames ruined Rivera's one inning of work, in which the Yankee closer struck out the side, with a solo homer, and Randy Johnson gave up five runs (but only two earned due to an ugly Kevin Thompson fielding error in the third) on a walk and seven hits, including a two-run Chris Shelton homer in the first, while striking out three in four innings. The good news: Unit lasted four innings and got his fastball into the mid-90s.
Oopsies: Kevin Thompson's error came on a flyball (it has been alternately described as wind-blown and a ball Thompson lost in the sun) with two out and two on in the third. Both baserunners and the batter, Kody Kirkland, scored on the play.
In the B-squad game, a line-up that included just two members of the 40-man roster and had David Parrish at DH (he went 0 for 5) exploded for 17 hits against Brett Myers and the Phillies, winning 8-3.
Kevin Reese LF
Subs: Selley Duncan 1B, Gabe Lopez 2B, C.J. Henry SS, Jason Brown C, Austin Jackson CF, Jose Tabata LF
Pitchers: Matt DeSalvo, Jeffrey Karstens, Mike Myers, Mark Corey, Jose Veras
Big Hits: The biggest was a first-inning grand slam by Eric Duncan (2 for 4) that gave the Yankees enough runs to win before a single Phillie hitter had come to the plate. Shelley Duncan (no relation, 2 for 2) capped the Yankee scoring with a solo shot in the ninth. In between Kevin Reese (1 for 3), Ramiro Pena (2 for 3), Marco Vechionacci (curiously listed as 0 for 2), and Gabe Lopez (1 for 2) delivered doubles. Danny Garcia went 3 for 3 with an RBI, a run scored and a stolen base, Austin Jackson did the same minus the RBI.
Who Pitched Well: Matt DeSalvo started and allowed just two baserunners (a walk and a hit) while striking out two in three innings. Mike Myers, who also pitched on Wednesday, went 2 1/3 innings allowing just two hits and no runs, Jose Veras struck out two in a hitless ninth, Mark Corey pitched around a hit for a scoreless eighth.
Oopsies: Danny Garcia, in his spring debut, made an error to compensate for his excellent day at the plate and on the bases.
Ouchies: Jason Giambi (calf) took batting practice but was not allowed to run the bases, he's hoping to return to action over the weekend. Bubba Crosby (finger) threw for the first time since the injury. Russ Johnson (back) returned to action as a DH in the A-game. Tanyon Sturtze threw a bullpen session and is schedule to pitch in Sunday's game.
Meanwhile, with four of their starters absent due to the WBC, a lot of new names popped up in yesterday's split squad action. As a supplement to my pre-spring training breakdown of the Yankee campers, here are quick descriptions of the players who participated in yesterday's games were not on that initial list.
Sweet and Meaty
"Outstanding," manager Joe Torre said Wednesday after watching Pavano throw a third time off the mound. "Even though he's a little behind [the other pitchers], I think we're way ahead of where we were last year."
Carl Pavano is making progress while Al Leiter is one step closer to the end of his career. Leiter and Dontrelle Willis were pounded yesterday as the USA fell to Canada. The Americans are now just one loss away from making the Boss sleep just a wee bit better at night.
Wednesday Night's Game
In their third-straight home game, the Yankees picked up their fourth-straight win, 8-3 over a split-squad Pirates team.
Miguel Cairo SS
Subs: Eric Duncan 1B, Felix Escalona 2B, Ramiro Pena SS, Wil Nieves C, Kevin Thompson LF, Kevin Howard DH
Pitchers: Jaret Wright, Darrell Rasner, Scott Erickson, Mike Myers, Matt Childers
Big Hits: Doubles by Jorge Posada (1 for 1 with a walk), Andy Phillips (2 for 3, RBI, 2 runs scored, stolen base), Wil Nieves (1 for 2) and a pair by Kevin Reese (2 for 4), triples by Robinson Cano (1 for 4) and Kevin Howard (1 for 1 with a walk). Jorge and Andy smoked their doubles, Andy's bounding over the center field wall for a ground rule jobby, Reese got his first double by hustling on a ball that fell just fair behind third but ricocheted right to the left fielder.
Who Pitched Well: Distressingly, Scott Erickson once again, walking one and striking out three in two hitless innings. Mike Myers and Matt Childers each threw one scoreless inning allowing a hit each, Childers struck out two. Darrell Rasner struck out three and walked none in 2 1/3 innings, but gave up four hits including a monster home run by Ryan Doumit. Jaret Wright retired the first eight men he faced, then gave up two runs on two walks and three hits and was pulled before ever getting another out.
Nice Play: Marcos Vechionacci put on a show at third making nice plays to both his left and right, including a diving stab of a hot shot on the foul line after which he scrambled to his feet and nailed the runner with a strong throw.
Oopsies: There were no errors in the game, but balls were dropping in all over the outfield as if it was hard for the fielders to see. The YES announcers (Kay and Murcer), however, said that the sky was clear and black.
Ouchies: Gary Sheffield (hamstring) returned to action as the DH going 1 for 2 with an RBI and a run scored (though he didn't run all-out when going first to home on Posada's double off the wall), Jason Giambi (calf) sat out again saying he's improving and might play Saturday, Bubba Crosby (finger) took BP but didn't play, Carl Pavano threw 35 pitches in the bullpen.
Roster news: Torre confirmed that the Yankees plan to break camp without Pavano. Much like they did last year, when they left Kevin Brown behind, the Yankees will use a four-man rotation for as long as the schedule will allow and hope that Pavano will be ready once a fifth starter is required. Looking at the schedule, that should give Pavano until April 15 to get in game shape:
4/3 - Randy Johnson @ Oakland
In the mean time, I expect they'll fill Pavano's roster spot with an extra position player, again like they did last year when they let Andy Phillips sit on the bench until Brown came back. That extra position player will most likely be someone already on the 40-man roster, Kevin Thompson and Kevin Reese (lot of Kevins in camp this year) being the leading candidates. Torre has clearly been impressed with some of these minor leaguers and, according to Peter Abraham, joked after today's game that the four players who left for the WBC would have to earn their way back into the lineup. If only he meant it regarding Bernie. Speaking of which . . .
WBC: Bernie went 1 for 5 with an RBI leading off for Puerto Rico. In the USA's embarrassing loss to Canana, Jeter went 1 for 3 batting second, Rodriguez went 1 for 2 as a mid-game replacement for Chipper Jones, Johnny Damon walked in a pinch-hit at-bat for Matt Holliday (still wondering why the US lost?) and Al Leiter (there you go!) got beat up in 2/3 of an inning, allowing two runs on three hits and a walk.
Kevin Thompson CF
Subs: Eric Duncan 1B, Ramiro Pena SS, Kevin Howard 3B, Omir Santos C, Mitch Jones DH
Pitchers: Shawn Chacon, Sean Henn, Mariano Rivera, Kyle Farnsworth, Ron Villone, Matt Smith
Big Hits: A two-run, two-out, first-inning homer by Jorge Posada (2 for 3) off Brad Radke, doubles by Matsui (2 for 3, his third two-bagger of the spring, Matsui made his first out of the spring today) and Kevin Howard (1 for 2).
Who Pitched Well: Everybody. Aggregate line: 9 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 K. Chacon went three innings giving up a triple to Torii Hunter, a single and striking out two. Mariano Rivera needed just six pitches to get three outs in his spring debut and still managed to ring up a strikeout.
Ouchies: As expected Giambi (calf) and Sheffield (hamstring) did not play. Sheffield took batting practice and said he could have played. Giambi didn't take BP, but stretched with the team and worked out in the weight room. Both are day-to-day. Bubba Crosby (finger) will take BP today and is hoping to return to action by Friday. Russ Johnson left the game early due to a back problem.
WBC: Johnny Damon, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez--batting first, second and fourth respectively--all went 1 for 3 for the US. Damon's hit was a triple. Jeter made a throwing error. Bernie Williams went 2 for 3 from the leadoff spot for Puerto Rico by doubling then driving in the winning run with a single.
By now, most of you have heard about the revelations about Barry Bond's steroid use published in Sports Illustrated. Those come courtesy of an excerpt from Game of Shadows by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, the two San Francisco Chronicle reporters who chased down the BALCO story beginning in the fall of 2003.
Once you get your full of Bonds' juicing regime, might I recommend you turn to Howard Bryant's Juicing the Game, which puts Bonds, BALCO, and Williams and Fainaru-Wada into context by telling the entire history of steroid use in baseball and the resulting scandal. Juicing the Game, which I edited, is now available in paperback with a new epilogue covering the 2005 season and the Palmeiro revelations. If you need further convincing, check out Alex's objective review of the hardcover.
Since I'm on the topic of books I helped bring into existence, I will be appearing at Coliseum Books this Saturday at 6pm with Steven Goldman and Christina Kahrl to promote Baseball Prospectus 2006, to which I contributed the chapter on the Cleveland Indians.
Later that same night I'll be switching gears to attend the book release party for the US edition of Simon Reynolds' Rip It Up and Start Again, a history of postpunk music which I edited. The party may fill up, but it's ostensibly open to the public, so come on out and boogie to some death disco
Finally, don't forget to pre-order Alex's biography of Curt Flood, Stepping Up, which is scheduled for release in two weeks.
While I'm at it, I should thank each and every one of you for your support of this site, which has made our participation in the above projects (Alex's book and my BP chapter in particular) possible.
Where Have You Gone...?
I was upset to hear the news about Kirby Puckett yesterday. Man, 45 is just too young. I was 13-years old when he broke in with the Twins and remember him vividly as an energetic and enthusiastic player. In recent years, a darker, more disturbing side of Puckett was revealed, which underscores not only how human athletes are, but how different they can be from their public persona, and how difficult it is for many of them to adjust to life after the game. Puckett's post-baseball life was evidentally a struggle filled with pain. It got me to thinking, "What if a guy like Derek Jeter ended up in a similar fashion?" It's almost impossible to believe right now--and I say almost, because, really, there isn't much left to shock us these days--but anything can happen right?
Ultimately, I think that Puckett will be best remembered for what he did on the field. I hope the same can be said for the Yankee Captain, who was the subject of a puff piece by Don Amore this morning, but you never know:
"You're talking to a huge Jeter fan," said J.P. Ricciardi, GM of the Blue Jays. "If you throw out the numbers of everything he's done, he plays the game the right way. We tell our young players, `Watch the way Jeter plays and try to be like him.' He doesn't talk a lot of crap. He's the kind of guy, if he were playing in Yankee Stadium and there was nobody in the ballpark, he would still play hard."
Joe Dimaggio never understoood or appreciated the reference Simon and Garfunkel made to him in "Mrs. Robinson." It's okay that he didn't get it, because so many other people did recognize that Dimaggio stood for something, a sensibility, a period of time. Jeter is someone who could wind up in a song like that one day too, don't you think?
Pete Abraham, the Yankee beat writer for the Journal News recently launched a Yankee-blog of his own. It's quickly become a daily stop for me, as Abraham offers some insider tidbits and observations that most of us bloggers just aren't privy to. If you haven't already, consider making The LoHud Yankees Blog part of your regular Yankee rotation--and feel free to drop Abraham a line and let him know what you'd like to see from his blog as the season unfolds.
Miguel Cairo SS
Subs: Eric Duncan 1B, Kevin Howard 2B, Ramiro Pena SS, Felix Escalona 3B, Ben Davis C, Wil Nieves C, Chris Prieto RF, Melky Cabrera CF, Kevin Thompson LF
Pitchers: Chien-Ming Wang, Aaron Small, Ramiro Mendoza, Scott Erickson, Ron Villone, J. Brent Cox
Big Hits: Homers by Cano (one on, 2 for 2) and Nieves (a solo shot that hit the base of the foul pole in right, 1 for 1), Doubles by Matsui (1 for 1, 2 BB), Jones (1 for 4), Thompson (1 for 2) and Duncan (1 for 4). Andy Phillips (2 for 5) picked up three RBIs.
Who Pitched Well: Ron Villone struck out two in 1 1/3 hitless innings, echoing fellow lefty Mike Myers by making up for an ugly first outing in his second appearance, J. Brent Cox pitched a scoreless ninth to pick up the save, Scott Erickson, alarmingly, struck out two and walked none while allowing two hits in 1 2/3 scoreless innings.
Who Didn't: Chien-Ming Wang said he had his sinker working in the pen, but once he hit the mound everything was up, resulting in home runs by Troy Glaus (that'll happen) and Erik Hinske (who you'll recall beat Randy Johnson on a slider in that fantastic duel between Johnson and Roy Halladay last April). I caught the pitch to Glaus on Encore. It sunk, but it started at the shoulders and sunk into the zone where Glaus absolutely creamed it to dead center. It would have been in the black seats in the Stadium (Legends Field, built to the same dimensions as Yankee Stadium, has a large black screen beyond the 408-foot sign representing the black seats, Glaus's shot hit half-way up the screen).
Nice Play: Mitch Jones broke out his canon again, nailing Aaron Hill going first to third on a single, his second outfield assist in three games.
Oopsies: Bad throws by Cairo from shortstop and Vechionacci from third.
Ouchies: Hideki Matsui played the field for the first time and reached base in all three trips to the plate. He stumbled around first base on his first-inning double, but showed no ill effects. Jason Giambi, meanwhile, left the game in the second with a cramp in his left calf and is expected to sit out today's game as well. Gary Sheffield sat out with his sore hamstring and will also miss today's game. Carl Pavano threw another 30 pitches off a bullpen mound, mixing fastballs and changeups, though only ten were tossed from the rubber. Octavio Dotel also threw 30 pitches from the bullpen mound, 15 of them fastballs from the rubber.
M.I.A.: Mariano Rivera did not wind up making his spring debut, the Yankees preferring to give him an extra day of rest after his Saturday bullpen session. He'll pitch today. There are six other healthy Yankee campers who have not yet seen game action: Danny Garcia, Jason Brown, T.J. Beam, Mark Corey, Jose Veras, and, say it with me, Colter Bean, the only one of the six who should be getting a serious look this spring.
The First Cut's the Weakest
The Yankees made their first cuts of the spring on Sunday, reassigning catcher Jose Gil and pitchers Jorge DePaula, Stephen White and Kris Wilson to minor league camp. Of the four, only DePaula saw game action this spring, surrendering three runs on a walk and a pair of homers by Ryan Howard and Aaron Rowand (the latter of whom had been hit on the wrist by Jaret Wright in his previous at-bat). Gil is a low-minors prospect who could use to play more often than he would have with the big boys this spring. White is a mid-level prospect coming off an injury-plagued season who could likely use same. Wilson, 29, is a never-was who won't be, the Yankees having used up their miracle juice on Aaron Small last year. DePaula, now 27 and nearly two years away from his Tommy John surgery, has just reached that status.
Elsewhere, it appears that Al Leiter doesn't really have any designs on breaking camp with the Yankees, but rather signed his minor league deal so that he'd be available for the World Baseball Classic (not that he needed the contract to make the Classic, but that, unlike Roger Clemens, he wasn't guaranteed a roster spot and needed a place to stay in shape and keep his name in the mind of US manager Buck Martinez). Some choice quotes from Senator Al: "This could be the last thing I do, very much so." "My mind was more on this than the other [making the Yankees]." "When this is over, Roger will pitch. For me, this could be it."
For all intents and purposes, this means that Al's minor league deal is something of a sham, and that we can more or less place him on the cut list with DePaula et. al. The primary beneficiary of this revelation is Matt Smith, who looked sharp striking out two in a 1-2-3 ninth in Thursday's opener.
Here's an in-a-box type look at the Yankee action since Friday. Today the Yankees take on the Blue Jays at home at 1:15 with Chien-Ming Wang making his spring debut and Mariano Rivera scheduled to do the same.
Taking to the road (and leaving behind the ouchy Matsui and Sheffield and catcher Jorge Posada), the Yanks rematch with the Phillies, only to lose a high-scoring sea-saw battle in the ninth 11-10.
Kevin Thompson - LF
Subs: Eric Duncan 1B, Russ Johnson 1B/3B, Kevin Howard 2B, Ramiro Pena SS, Wil Nieves C, Chris Prieto RF, Mitch Jones LF, Kevin Reese PH
Pitchers: Jaret Wright, Jorge DePaula, Ron Villone, Scott Erickson, Ramiro Mendoza, Matt Childers, Frank Brooks
Big Hits: Doubles by Cano (1 for 3), Escalona (1 for 2), Cairo (1 for 4), Mitch Jones (2 for 2) and Melky Cabrera (4 for 5). Kevin Thompson went 3 for 3, with a walk, scoring two runs, but was caught stealing for the second time in as many games (though replays showed he was safe in Thursday's game). Jones and Eric Duncan came up with two-out hits in the ninth to cap a two-run rally against Tom Gordon, making his spring debut, to tie the score at 10-10.
Who Pitched Well: Matt Childers pitched 1 2/3 scoreless, one of only two pitchers on both teams, 12 pitchers in total, to escape unscathed (the Phillies Brian Sanches being the other). That's about it.
Oopsies: Robinson Cano misplayed a hard hit grounder up the middle for an error.
Ouchies: After Jaret Wright hit Aaron Rowand in the wrist with a pitch, ex-Yank Jon Lieber plunked Felix Escalona. Escalona was not injured.
Back at home in Tampa, the Yanks stack their line-up, with Matsui making his spring debut, but struggle to score, losing 4-1 to the Reds.
Miguel Cairo - SS
Subs: Andy Phillips 1B, Felix Escalona 2B, Ramiro Pena SS, Omir Santos C, Mitch Jones RF, Melky Cabrera LF, Eric Duncan DH, Kevin Howard PH
Pitchers: Randy Johnson, Scott Proctor, Kyle Farnsworth, Darrell Rasner, Dusty Bergman
Big Hits: Doubles by Posada (1 for 2) and Duncan (1 for 1)
Who Pitched Well: Scott Proctor pitched two hitless innings, striking out three and walking two, Darrell Rasner pitched two scoreless innings allowing just a single.
Nice Plays: Mitch Jones gunned down Austin Kearns at home.
Good Sign: Jorge Posada was behind the plate for Randy Johnson's first spring start. Joe Torre said that the two seemed to work well together and that the whole personal catcher thing was "a non-issue."
Bad Sign: A sign at Legends Field apologizes to fans for the absence of Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Johnny Damon and Bernie Williams (though likely not Al Leiter), all of whom are participating in the WBC. The sign reads
We are sorry that certain players will not be present for portions of spring training. The New York Yankess [sic] did not vote to support this event. Any comments you have regarding the World Baseball Classic should be directed to the commissioner of Major League Baseball or the Major League Baseball Players Association.
Ouchies: Hideki Matsui made his spring debut after missing the first two games with a swollen left knee. Gary Sheffield played the field for the first time after being slowed by back spasms. Bubba Crosby was a late scratch after being hit on his left index finger during a bunting drill. Carl Pavano threw 30 pitches off a mound, his first mound work since August. Octavio Dotel threw 30 pitches from half-way up a mound, his first bullpen session since his June Tommy John surgery.
Back on the road, the Yankees again took a limited squad to face the Blue Jays, pulling off their first win of the spring 3-2.
Melky Cabrera - CF
Subs: Miguel Cairo 2B, David Parrish C, Eric Duncan DH
Pitchers: Mike Mussina, Philip Hughes, Mike Myers, Jeffrey Karstens, Matt DeSalvo
Big Hits: Doubles by Matsui (3 for 3), Phillips (1 for 5) and Cabrera (3 for 5). Phillips' double plated Matsui in the fifth inning for the decisive run. Phillips' excuse-me opposite field shot in Thursday's game remains the only Yankee homer of the spring. Cabrera was 7 for 11 with a pair of doubles on the weekend. He and Kevin Thompson (7 for 11 overall with two walks) are the leading hitters in camp, though Andy Phillips slips between the two with eight total bases. Phillips, Cabrera and Thompson also boast three of the four top at-bat totals in camp (Robinson Cano being the other), proof that the WBC could be very good for farmhands around the league.
Who Pitched Well: Just about everyone. Mike Myers made-up for his opening day performance by pitching 1 1/3 hitless innings. Jeff Karstens struck out two and walked none in 1 2/3 scoreless innings. Matt DeSalvo pitched two scoreless for the save. Philip Hughes didn't pitch particularly well, allowing a run on two walks and a hit in 1 1/3 innings, but picked up the win.
Ouchies: Sheffield was a last-minute scratch due to a tight hamstring tweaked bursting out of the batters box in Saturday's game, Crosby missed the game with a splint on his index finger, though x-rays were negative. Tanyon Sturtze threw batting practice for the first time this spring. Hideki Matsui DHed due to . . . allergies.
Sam Borden delivers the annual Mariano Rivera piece for the News today. Standard stuff, fine enough, but here's what I liked:
"If I have nothing left, I won't be here," he says flatly. "I'll go home. I won't (hang on). If I can't get anybody out, it's time to go home. And I will do that."
That's perfect. I can totally see Mariano just dropping the bomb on us one day and that's that, he's out. Another spring with Mariano is certainly something to be thankful for as a Yankee fan. And that's word to Big Bird.
I love unexpected fat asses, especially in sports. I love watching enormous athletes who have a lot of power but take a long time to gain a head of steam, guys you expect to be faster than they are--Dave Winfield, Keyshwawn Johnson, Bernard King come to mind. And of course I love just straight up fat asses like Dave Kingman, Rob Deer, Pete Incaviglia or Adam Dunn too. Hey, Alfonso Soriano is a fat ass in a skinny body. Being a fat ass is a state of mind more than anything else.
Klap's got an article today on our boy Robbie Cano. The Yankees' second year second baseman has smooth moves and a cocksure disposition. But evidentally, Cano's gotten mad, uh, puffy in the off-season (think Shelley Duvall singing, "And he's Large," in Robert Altman's very weird "Popeye" movie):
There's no mistaking how much bulkier he looks, especially in the trunk area. One scout who's been watching the Yankees recently said: "I wouldn't call Cano fat, but he's going to be slower than last year, and he was slow to begin with.
I laughed out loud when I read this thinking, yup, Cano's definitely in the all-time fat ass club, and he's just a second year player. But the Yankees aren't blind to it becoming an issue--they've got Captain Jeter, MVP Alex Rodriguez, and Sgt Red Ass on the case:
Third base coach Larry Bowa, appointed as Cano's personal tutor, made a point of watching videos of his pupil. Bowa noted how many of Cano's errors were the result of poor concentration, particularly dropped throws from Jeter while standing on second base.
I'll be rooting for Cadillac Cano. Be interesting to see if he embraces the Jeter/Rodriguez work ethic, or if he's content to eat ice cream, hit dingers, and whiff alot like our boy 'lil Soriano, or that chucklehead Mondesi.
On a more personal note, I remember my favorite part of playing baseball in high school was staying late after practice, in April through mid May, until it got too dark to see the ball anymore, taking ground balls. I played second base and it seemed that so long as I wanted to stay out there the coach would be there to hit them. It was something I could do with a lot more confidence than hitting. So I was particularly amped when I read the ending of the Klapisch piece:
"I'm going to teach Robbie that when he's done taking 25 grounders, we're not done. There's 25 more," Bowa said. "There's always going to be 25 more."
That's dope. Got a lot of Fast Eddie Felson circa "The Color of Money" to it. It's so cheesy, but so great. Got to love what Bowa's bringing to the team so far, right?
The Yankees played their first exhibition game of the spring yesterday afternoon, hosting the Phillies at Legends Field in Tampa. Last year, I was able to blog the game live during a slow day at work thanks to a free MLBtv broadcast. This year I wasn't quite as lucky. Instead I present a running commentary on the YES Network's 7:00pm Encore presentation of the game.
Out Of Order
The Yankees take the field for their first intersquad game of the spring today when they host the Phillies at Legends Field in Tampa. With that, one of this offseason's burgeoning controversies will come to a head. Or rather it should have, but the key players will be on a plane to Arizona to join the USA's entry into the World Baseball Classic.
Still, despite their absence, now that Joe Torre will once again be filling out line-up cards on a daily basis there is sure to be a great deal of debate over the issue of who should bat lead-off once the season starts, Yankee captain and 2005 lead-off man Derek Jeter or the newly acquired Johnny Damon, who repeatedly described himself as the best lead-off hitter in the game after signing with the Yankees in late December. Given the bearded Boston baggage that comes with Damon and the reverence afforded Jeter, as well as the considerable lead-off skills of both men, the debate could get ugly. I'm here to nip it in the bud.
Choosing which players take the field is the most important job any manager has. Productive players can only produce on the field, while a team's 27 outs can disappear in a hurry when a manager calls the wrong number. Having chosen a starting nine, a manager can further distribute playing time within a given game by calling on pinch-hitters, pinch-runners and defensive replacements. Often overlooked, however, is his ability to distribute plate appearances via the batting order.
While there's a great deal of debate over the significance of batting order, one thing that's undeniable is its effect on playing time. Each successive spot in the order will receive approximately 18 fewer plate appearances over the course of a full season than the spot above it. This adds up to a whopping 144 plate appearances between the top and bottom spots, but the difference is largely insignificant when deciding between two consecutive spots. For example, the difference between a line-up with a .400 on-base percentage in the lead-off spot and a .300 OBP in the two-hole and a line-up with those two batters switched in the order is just 1.8 outs over a full season (.100 OBP points * 18 at-bats).
The difference between a line-up that starts Jeter-Damon and one that starts Damon-Jeter is even smaller. By the most basic logic, a line-up that puts Jeter ahead of Damon is a better line-up because of Jeter's reliably superior on-base percentage. However, based on a projection using Jeter's career OBP of .386 (his 2005 mark was .389) and Damon's road OBP from 2005 of .342, the difference between the two line-ups is a grand total of less than 0.8 outs over the course of 162 games. That's zero-point-eight, or a fraction of one out. Bear that in mind the next time you find yourself getting worked up over the top two spots in Torre's batting order.
Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? (Here I is)
I've begun to see that the pleasure men take in being with each other -- playing cards together, being in a bar together -- isn't actively anti-female. It isn't against women; it just has nothing to do with them. It seems to come from some point in their lives before they were aware that there were women. They have so much fun together. I really have become much more sympathetic to men because of my job.
I just love this quote--I've used it several times now--because it keeps me in touch what I find so appealing about watching baseball: the companionship, the intimacy, the natural displays of affection that ballplayers share. These days we are reminded at every turn of the distance between us and big league athletes, but we can still observe how these guys pal around, in an unaffected, generous way. Manny Ramirez's infectious warmth spread to the entire Red Sox club a few years ago as teammates would openly hug after they hit a home run. But I remember watching Kevin Brown massage Jon Lieber's shoulder in the dugout as they watched a game--and Brown was supposed to be the biggest ogre going.
Just this morning the Daily News ran a photo of Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter, the two greatest Yankee everyday players of the Joe Torre years. Jeter is seated in the dugout leaning over, blowing some dirt off of his glove. Williams stands above Jeter, his left hand cupped in the middle of the Captain's head. In his right hand is a cup of water which is about to pour over Jeter. His left hand is placed so as to prevent any water from running down the front of Jeter's face, and Williams has a look of concentration on his face. It is a common enough sight, but noteable because of Jeter's casual, almost unaware posture, and the great care Williams seems to be taking; they are completely comfortable with each other. Love that kind of stuff.
"He looked good," Mussina said, after showering and pulling on his bright red Captain America T-shirt. "The ball comes out of his hand real nice. The one day I played catch with him, the ball was coming out of his hand easy and smooth. I hope he stays healthy."
Joe Torre added:
"He's pretty impressive, there's no question, but a lot of things can happen on the way," Torre said. "He just seems pretty grounded for a kid his age and with the stuff he possesses. We'll see. He'll be around for a little bit. As long as we can continue to get him work, he'll be here."
John Harper sat down with Al Leiter who has become close with Alex Rodriguez. Here's Senator Al's take on the man people love to hate:
"In his own way he has learned to be guarded," Leiter said. "I think a lot of it has to do with being labeled when he was a junior in high school as someone so talented that he could someday be the greatest player in the history of the game.
Leiter goes on to say how much Rodriguez enjoys talking about the nuts and bolts of the game--which reminded me of the last game of the regular season in Boston last year, with the Yanks well behind in the game, there was Rodriguez on the bench in an animated discussion with Chien-Ming Wang for several innings. Leiter continues:
A-Rod "gets the mental thing, too," according to Leiter. Conquering postseason pressure is another matter.
If only Rodriguez had a sense of humor like Barry Bonds...
The First Taste
The Yankees played their first game of 2006 yesterday afternoon in Tampa. Well, sorta. They played an intrasquad game with Yogi Berra and Reggie Jackson managing the two squads, but it's something.
As is the tradition, the elder Berra's squad featured the regulars while Jackson's team was loaded with minor leaguers and hopefuls. The reverse was true for the pitchers, as Jackson got to start Mike Mussina, who pitched two scoreless innings against his own kind, while Yogi started things off with Philip Hughes, who hurled a pair of hitless frames against his own kind.
According to a report from Sunday, the remaining pitchers were to be Steven White, Scott Erickson, Darrell Rasner, Matt DeSalvo, Dusty Bergman and Jose Veras for Jackson and T.J. Beam, Jeffrey Karstens, Mark Corey, Frank Brooks and Matt Childers for Berra.
One line-up note for Berra's team: Bernie Williams got his first taste of right field since 1992 (when he was 23), reportedly making a nice snag in the gap on a ball hit by Kevin Thompson.
The reason Bernie was in right was that Gary Sheffield was held out due to back spasms he experienced on Sunday. Sheffield's a back and Hideki Matsui's left knee (Matsui also sat out the intrasquad game due to minor swelling in that knee) are the current crop of spring aches and pains. You all recall how Jorge Posada's stiff neck and Randy Johnson's tight calf derailed their seasons last year, right? No? Oh, that's because they didn't. The reason spring training exists is so that players can get back in game shape and have ample time to nurse such minor boo-boos along the way. There's no point in fretting over each one.
That said, Carl Pavano's back and Tanyon Sturtze's shoulder remain worth watching. There was no new news on either yesterday. Mussina, meanwhile, threw in the intrasquad game to get lined up for his first spring start this Sunday. You'll note that the "Important Dates" section on the side bar has reverted to "Upcoming Schedule." The Yankees kick off their exhibition season on Thursday against the Phillies with Shawn Chacon on the mound. Chacon will be followed by Jaret Wright (who you may recall had a great spring last year), Randy Johnson, Mussina and Chien-Ming Wang in the Pavano-free five-man spring rotation.
Meanwhile, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Johnny Damon are the only Yankees participating in the World Baseball Classic. The US training camp opens Friday at Chase Field in Phoenix. The US squad will play an exhibition against a Giants slit-squad on Sunday in Scottsdale, Arizona, then play their first tournament game on Tuesday, also in Chase Field. Tournament schedule here, TV schedule here.
Meanwhile, back in Tampa, the absence of those three could mean extra long looks for Felix Escalona and Russ Johnson in the infield and Kevin Thompson and Kevin Reese in the outfield. Joe Torre has already said that he will not use Eric Duncan at third base this spring, to allow him to focus fully on continuing to learn first base.
It's a bit fractured, but that's our first taste of real baseball news this spring, so savor it. I'll finally get that line-up post up tomorrow. Then Thursday: baseball!
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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