One of the joys of baseball is the way it works its way into your life, be it the daily routine of watching the ballgame after work or on a lazy weekend afternoon, the seasonal shift from fresh, optimistic Aprils, to the brutal dog days of August, to the crisp, suspense-filled pennant races and playoffs of September and October, or the annual renewal that comes around each spring. As I begin my fourth full season blogging the Yankees, I've found that similar patterns have emerged in my work. Each spring there are two posts I look forward to with particular enthusiasm. The first is my breakdown of Yankee campers (2004: NRIs and 40-man, 2005, 2006, 2007). The second is my live blog of the first spring training game. In 2004 I actually blogged the third spring game due to the YES Network's broadcast schedule (running upstairs to my desktop between innings to do so). In 2005 I blogged MLB.TV's free-broadcast during a slow day at work in what proved to be the penultimate post on my Big Red Blog. Last year I was reduced to blogging YES's 7pm replay of the spring's opening game, though thankfully with convenience of a laptop.
This year, however, I'm doing this in style. I've taken the day off and am home with my laptop and DVR humming, a two-liter of Coke and a one-pound bag of Bauchman's sourdough "nutzel" bites at the ready, prepared to transmit as much of the action as time and my fingers will allow. All updates will appear in this post (I'm currently updating after each plate appearance at minimum). With that, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present 2007 New York Yankees baseball!
The always reliable Peter Abraham has posted the line-ups prior to the start of the YES broadcast:
L - Denard Span (CF)
S - Nick Punto (3B)
R - Michael Cuddyer (RF)
L - Justin Morneau (1B)
R - Matt LeCroy (DH)
L - Jason Kubel (LF)
R - Mike Redmond (C)
S - Luis O. Rodriguez (2B)
S - Alexi Casilla (SS)
L - Johnny Damon (CF)
R - Derek Jeter (SS)
L - Jason Giambi (DH)
R - Alex Rodriguez (3B)
L - Hideki Matsui (LF)
S - Jorge Posada (C)
L - Robinson Cano (2B)
S - Melky Cabrera (RF)
L - Doug Mientkiewicz (1B)
That Yankee line-up looks good even without Abreu. The Twins appear to have brough their B-squad on the road, with only Punto, Cuddyer, Kubel, and defending AL MVP Morneau appearing from their expected opening day line-up. Punto may not keep the third-base job all year. LeCroy is an NRI. Redmond is one of the best back-up catchers in the business, if not the best. Span was once considered Torii Hunter's successor, but has stalled at double-A. Rodriguez and Casilla are battling for a utility infield job.
The Yankees will start Chien-Ming Wang followed by Phil Hughes, Ross Ohlendorf, Luis Vizcaino, and Mike Myers.
The Twins will start Carlos Silva followed by Kevin Slowey, Juan Rincon, Mike Venafro, and Randy Choate. Slowey is basically the Twins' answer to Tyler Clippard, a highly regarded finesse righty who spend 2006 in double-A. Slowey, Venafro and former Yankee Choate are NRIs.
It's another gorgeous day in north Jersey, the early-week snow having almost completely melted away, but it's rather overcast in Tampa, a switch from last year.
YES begins its coverage with dour, sepia-toned images of last year's ALCS loss, Alex Rodriguez is the first face shown.
As always, the Yankees are sold out. Michael Kay and Ken Singleton are broadcasting the game in black polo shirts. A hightlight reel of Derek Jeter whets the appetite. Singleton reports that Joe Mauer didn't make the trip today. Bummer.
A package piece on the 2007 team includes great footage of Johnny Damon chasing the Philly Phanatic on his ATV and footage of Igawa getting Ryan Howard to swing through a breaking pitch in Japan.
Is there more to Black Snake Moan than an excuse to have Christina Ricci squirm around half-naked for two hours?
Yankees are in their home pinstripes top and bottom, black armband on their left sleeves in memory of Cory Lidle. The Twins are in their blue batting practice tops with their interlocking TC on the left breast and grey pinstriped pants. The umpires are wearing black polo shirts that look a great deal like Kay and Singleton's YES shirts.
Kay reports that Alex Rodriguez lost 12 pounds this winter, decreasing his body fat percentage from 12 to 9 percent. The idea is to increase his agility around third base.
The Yankees take the field . . .
Deh-NARD Span leads off for the Twins against Chien-Ming Wang, who is 27-11 in his major league career and the Yankees' likely Opening Day starter (the Yanks open at home this year).
First pitch is outside for a ball. Second pitch is grounded to short for an out. Wang's in midseason form.
Strike to Nick Punto. High and away, 1-1. Sinking liner to third snagged by Rodriguez on a hop, spins a throws for the second out. There's the first mention of Rodriguez and Mientkiewicz playing high school football together. And actual footage of them playing football! Quarterback Rodriguez wore #13 in honor of Dan Marino. Mientkiewicz was his tight end.
2-2 pitch is grounded to second by Cuddyer to end the inning. Three up, three groundball outs. Classic.
Carlos Silva starts things off with a ball just low to Damon. Damon knocks the next pitch over the right field wall for a leadoff homer. 1-0 Yanks. A nice, easy swing by Damon that just cleared the wall.
Jeter grounds to third on the very next pitch.
Strike to Giambi that looked lower than the ball to Damon. A hair lower for a ball. I should mention that there's no second base umpire in this game. Just three umps: home, first, and third. Giambi, who is coming off wrist surgery, walks on five pitches.
Alex Rodriguez's at-bat gives Kay occasion to talk about the Rodriguez-Jeter situation. Rodriguez swings through a 91-MPH 1-0 fastball, then fouls another one back to go 1-2. Silva hits Rodriguez on the elbow pad to make it first and second.
Matsui up to gratuitous footage of his injury. Ewwww. Good to see him back in action (due to my wedding I missed most of his late-season comeback last year). Matsui walks on five pitches to load the bases for Posada. Did I mention Carlos Silva is a terrible pitcher?
Coaching visit to the mound.
Posada lines a single to right. Giambi scores, bases still loaded for #24 Robinson Cano. Cano fouls off the first pitch, swinging away as always. Takes ball one, swings through a strike, fouls off another. Cano looks good, by the way, something about him looks more mature, more fully developed than in past years. Cano beats out a bounding double-play ball to first to get an RBI on a fielder's choice. 3-0 Yanks.
Now Melky with runners on the corners. Nice to see Melky batting ahead of Minky, by the way. Good work by Joe Torre there. Melky grounds to second to end the inning. Incidentally, one small tweak YES has made to their graphics is that the runners on base in the upper left are now indicated by silver diamonds rather than yellow ones. It's a subtle change from the dark grey empty bases.
Rodriguez talking about his weight loss says that he assumed he could bulk up moving to third from shortstop, but after his poor defensive season last year (not stated but implied), he's come to realize that lighter is always better.
Morneau up against Wang, takes two quick balls. Chopper to second, one out. Replay of the liner to Rodriguez in the first shows that it wasn't hit nearly as hard as I thought and actually bounced half way to third.
LeCory grounds to Wang, who makes a nice play coming off the mound. Two outs.
Hughes warming in the pen. He'll take over next inning.
Kubel flies to deep left for the final out.
Wang finishes his two innings having retired all six batters he faced, five on ground balls.
Incidentally, the new polyester hats don't look any different on TV for the most part. The exception being that they've bulked up the MLB logo on the back of the caps, which is a bit unsightly.
Mientkiewicz grounds out to first on the first pitch while YES shows footage of Mickey Mantle Day.
Damon hits a hard hopper right down the left field line, but Morneau gets over to cut it off and flip to Silva for the second out.
Jeter's at-bat gives Kay occasion to talk about the Jeter-Rodriguez relationship again. Jeter hits a nubber to third. Punto charges and throws it away. Two-out infield single for Jeter, he moves to second on the error.
Singleton says that the other day in BP Giambi hit everything to the left of second base. A good sign that he's looking to exploit the shift this year. Giambi pulls a 1-2 pitch . . . over the right field wall, a two-run, two-out homer. 5-0 Yanks. Giambi crushed that one, if anything he got under it a bit.
Singleton, one of my favorite announcers, reports that new htting coach Kevin Long has reduced Rodriguez's leg kick. Rodriguez looks at a 1-2 strike to end the inning. Here come's Hughes . . .
Here's Phil Hughes. I saw him pitch in Trenton last year. Awesome.
First pitch is grounded to second by Redmond for the first out.
Luis Rodriguez pulls a 1-1 changeup just foul, Hughes then throws two a bit high and outside, then one up and in to walk Rodriguez.
Tough call on a ball on the lower outside corner to Casilla, then way inside. Hughes looks a bit wild today. Odd considering his control is what most impressed me in Trenton last year. Pours in a 2-0 strike. A foul evens it up, then another. Another tough call at the knees for ball three. Hughes hits the exact spot again, but Casilla fouls it off with the runner going. Runner goes, Hughes throws high. Casilla walks, men on first and second with one out for Denard Span. Two of those balls could have been strikes, that walk could just have easily have been a strikeout.
Hughes goes full on Span, who hits a skipper to Rodriguez. Rodriguez gets the force at second, but Span beats out the pivot from Cano. Men on the corners, two outs for Punto. That was more about Span's speed than anything else.
Punto slices a ball to the line in left and Matsu makes a nice sliding catch for the last out, stranding the runners, still 5-0 Yanks.
A get-well message from Mattingly to Bobby Murcer. You can hear the emotion in Mattingly's voice. Bobby's at home and still hoping to make it to spring training.
Here's Slowey for the Twins. Matsui singles to right.
Kay points out that Murcer's retirement made room for Mattingly on the roster in 1983.
Posada walks on four pitches.
Jeter talks about Murcer.
Cano cracks a shot to deep left and Jason Kubel runs it down and makes a diving catch heading toward the corner. Nice play.
Melky grounds to first on the first pitch to move the runners to second and third with two outs and Mientkiewicz up.
Kay's facts check out on Murcer and Mattingly in 1983, by the way.
Minky hits one solidly to right, but right at Cuddyer, stranding the runners.
Hughes back on the hill.
Trivia question is who was the first Yankee to wear #7. The answer can be found on the sidebar (or via the sidebar).
Hughes gets ahead of Cuddyer quickly 0-2. Foul. Ball just low and inside. Cuddyer crushes a looping curve to the warning track in left for a double.
Now Morneau. Good to see Hughes face two of the Twins better hitters. Curve in the dirt moves Cuddyer to third. Hughes is working in that curve this inning. I don't think he threw any in the third. Hughes gets Morneau looking at a perfectly placed fastball on the lower inside corner.
Hughes is pulled having reached his pitch count. He worked 1 1/3 innings, allowed a double, and walked two while striking out the reigning AL MVP. Cuddyer on third is his runner. And underwhelming outing by the man Singleton just called the "Pocket Rocket."
T.J. Beam comes on to finish the inning. He walks LeCroy on his first four pitches, then recovers by going 0-2 on Kubel, who then singles through the hole into right to plate Cuddyer, whose run is charged to Hughes. Men on first and second for Redmond.
Redmond crushes a ball to the warning track in right and Melky makes a great running, leaping catch, then spins to double up LeCroy, who just kept running from second. Inning over 5-1 Yanks.
Damon leads off against Slowey, his third at-bat in four innings.
Damon swings through a 2-2, 77-MPH curve for the first out.
Jeter up and flies out to right on a 1-2 pitch.
Giambi walks on four pitches and is pinch-run for by 18-year-old Jose Tabata. Giambi drew two walks on nine pitches and homered in his three plate appearances.
Rodriguez singles over third to push Tabata to third. Rodriguez is then thrown out trying to stretch what looked like a typical single into a double. He was out by five feet. Inning over.
Ross Ohlendorf takes over on the mound as scheduled.
Other changes: Raul Chavez for Posada behind the plate. Marcos Vechionacci at third for Rodriguez. Alberto Gonzalez at short for Jeter. Brett Gardner in center for Damon.
Luis Rodriguez grounds to second. Ohlendorf is also known for his sinker (though it's not nearly as effective as Wang's--few are), so look for more grounders here.
Casilla grounds a single past a diving Mientkiewicz.
Span hits a DP ball to second, but the return throw from Gonzalez tails into the dirt (Minky dove for it, but couldn't glove it) and Span beats out another. Two outs.
Chavez throws behind Span, who had gone a third of the say to second on a 1-1 ball, but Span just gets back safely. Punto fouls off the next pitch to go 2-2. Punto hops one back to Ohlendorf, who got four ground balls from the four batters he faced, three for outs, one a near double-play, and the one hit just skipping past Mientkiewicz's glove. Good stuff from the key player in the Randy Johnson deal.
Bernie Williams highlight package. Great to see. I'd much rather watch Bernie's highlights than watch the Ghost haunt 2007.
Righty Jeremy Cummings on the hill for the Twins. Matsui at the plate. Matsui hits one headed for right field and Luis Rodriguez makes a nice sliding spinning play to throw him out. Raul Chavez shoots one under the glove of Punto at third for a single. Cano the singles to right. Men on first and second for Melky, one out. Cummings, by the way, is a triple-A starter and an NRI.
Melky swings wildly through an 0-2 pitch in the dirt. Two outs. Mientkiewicz up. Minky's a dirty uniform, high socks guy and not a bad looking fella. I can see him picking up some of Bubba Crosby's old supporters. You know, folks who root for players who look like they're doing more than they actually are. Minky walks to load the bases. That he'll do.
Brett Gardner, who came in for Damon in the top of the inning, gets his first turn with the bags juiced. Baseball Prospectus's Kevin Goldstein pings me to say that Gardner looks like he's 11 years old. I say he looks like the offspring of Darin Erstad and Bubba Crosby. Here's hoping he's better than that and that I have no more reason to refer to Bubba today. Gardner's gone full. He then foul tips one into the catcher's glove to end the inning. The YES theme is played on a mournful saxaphone over slo-mo footage of Bernie going up the tunnel superimposed over a close-up of his face. I couldn't have made that up.
Ohlendorf back to work to Cuddyer.
Josh Phelps in at first base. Cuddyer grounds to third, Vechionacci is like butter over there. One out.
Cairo's in at second, Kevin Thompson is in right, Kevin Reese is in left. Morneau bloops a tweener between Gardner, Cairo and Thompson, the first fly ball off of Ohlendorf and it was a jam shot. LeCroy hits another fly, an out to right for the second out.
NRI infielder Glenn Williams runs for Morneau. Kubel pops out to short. Gonzalez fights the sun, but makes the catch to end the inning.
Allow me to reset the Yankee line-up:
L - Brett Gardner (CF)
R - Alberto Gonzalez (SS)
R - Jose Tabata (DH)
S - Marcos Vechionacci (3B)
L - Kevin Reese (LF)
R - Raul Chavez (C)
R - Miguel Cairo (2B)
R - Kevin Thompson (RF)
R - Josh Phelps (1B)
Gonzalez leads off this inning against sidearming lefty Randy Choate. He drives an 0-2 pitch to deep right for an out.
Wanna feel old? Randy Choate is 31 years old.
Tabata hits a hopper between third and short that deflects off the glove of new third baseman Chris Heintz, who's actually a catcher. E5.
Vechionacci hits a hopper to short that NRI Gil Velazquez swats at like it's a bee, knocking it into center for an E6. Dreadful play.
Kevin Reese hits into a 6-4-3 DP to make up for the two errors. Inning over.
Please forgive me if I fail to get all of the Twins defensive subs in here. YES is half-assing the Yankee subs and completely ignoring the Twins subs. I'm doing my best to spot numbers and consult my roster. I believe they had NRI Jose Morales catching in the last inning, and we saw Heintz and Velazquez at third and short. We know Morneau's out of the game. Beyond that I'm a bit lost.
Here's Jose Vizcaino's Yankee debut.
I think that's Morales at the plate, a switch-hitter batting lefty. It is. Morales singles to right.
Vizcaino, by the way, looks a smidge like Miguel Tejada.
The YES crew is remembering Jim Kaat, who just had knee surgery.
Vizcaino gets Velazquez looking on a slider with nice movement up in the zone.
Alexi Casilla's still in the game, but has shifted to second base from short. He's at the plate now and down 0-2.
Singleton makes a pitch for Marvin Miller for the Hall of Fame. Amen, Kenny.
Casilla flies out to Reese in left for the second out.
Span is also still in the game and down 0-2. He flies to Thompson in right to end the inning. Solid work by Vizcaino, getting ahead. Typical results as well, a strikeout and two fly outs.
Chavez leads off against veteran lefty sidearmer Mike Venafro, another NRI looking to win the LOOGY job in the Twins pen.
The righty-hitting Chavez Ks on high heat . . . from a lefty sidearmer.
Hey is that Oliver Stone? No, it's Miguel Cairo!
Bizzaro Jeter walks on four pitches.
Shot of Yogi slouching in the dugout with his cap pushed forward. Looks like 1984.
Kevin Thompson works the count full, swings through strike three with Cairo running, Morales throws high and Cairo's safe at second with two outs.
Here's Phelps, a hitter I've been anxious to see again. Kay just compared him to Kevin Maas. Ouch.
Venafro hasn't faced a lefty yet, though lefty Brett Gardner is on deck.
Phelps gets ahead 3-1, takes a strike right on the inside corner, a good take, then walks on a pitch in at his feet. Good at-bat.
Gardner's up again with two outs and runners on. He grounds to second to end the inning.
Gotta love that anti-smoking commercial about farting.
Here's Mike Myers against right-hitting Heintz.
Shot of Stump Merrill and Frank Howard in the dugout. Is Oscar Azocar around as well?
Myers goes full on Heintz and gets him to ground back to the mound. Nice play by Myers.
Lefty Garrett Jones, in for Cuddyer, also grounds back to Myers.
Myers strikes out a righty Kay calls Glenn Williams, though his number doesn't match my roster. Turns out that's my roster's fault. Williams is in RF for Cuddyer, Jones is at 1B for Morneau.
Alberto Gonzalez hits a chopper to short for an infield hit off new Twins pitcher Carmen Cali, yet another lefty.
Here's Tabata again. And another infield single, this one a slow roler up the third base line that Cali fields. Neither play resulted in a throw. First and second, none out for Vechionacci.
Nice piece of hitting by Vechionacci who pulls his hands in on an inside pitch and yanks it to right for a single that loads the bases for Kevin Reese with no one out.
Reese still reminds me of Brian Giles. Too bad he doesn't hit like him.
I've been out of Coke for a while now and am freaking parched from al lthese pretzels.
Another DP off the bat of Reese, this one plates a run. 6-1 Yanks. Man on third, two outs for Chavez.
Chavez lines to short to end the inning. I'm getting a drink.
Last licks for the Twins who are down by five runs with LeCroy, Kubel, and Morales due up, or at least their batting spots.
Jose Veras on the mound against someone who's not LeCroy. Looks like NRI infielder Tommy Watkins. Oops, that was NRI catcher Brad King, he grounded out to short. A fly out to center, I think that was Watkins. Now Morales.
Morales flies to Reese in left. Yankees win!
Twins 1 5 3
Yankes 6 11 0
W - Wang
L - Silva
The Yankees are now doing their running.
Thanks to all who have been following along. Here's hoping today's win was just the first of many this year, and that you'll all keep coming back to the Banter to read all about it.