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
Robinson Cano 2B
Jason Giambi DH
Jorge Posada C
Andy Phillips 1B
Mitch Jones RF
Russ Johnson 3B
Kevin Thompson LF
Miguel Cairo SS
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:
If forced to chose between these two, I'd take Mendoza in a heartbeat. My reasons are these:
Save for the high walk total, Mendoza has outpitched Erickson this spring
Erickson last posted an ERA below 6.00 in 2004 in eight starts with triple-A Norfolk. His mark there was 4.50. Mendoza posted a 1.50 ERA in 11 appearances from Rookie ball through the majors while rehabbing last year, striking out 19 in 18 innings (most of those innings coming in triple-A) and walking just two. Mendoza also posted a 3.52 ERA in 30 2/3 innings with the Red Sox in 2004. The last time Erickson had a single-season major league ERA that low was 1992 (though in fairness, Erickson is a starter and did post a 3.69 mark in 1997). Erickson's lowest single-season major league ERA this decade was 5.55 in 2002.
Mendoza is more than four years younger than Erickson.
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
Sat 3/18: CUB @ DR (Petco Park) 3:00 - semi-final 1
Sat 3/18: TBD @ KOR (Petco Park) 10:00 - semi-final 2
Mon 3/20: Winner 1 @ Winner 2 (Petco Park) 9:00 - Championship Game
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.