The Yankees scored all of their runs off Oscar Villarreal in the seventh inning to win a game that would have been infuriating for Braves fans had it actually counted.
S - Melky Cabrera (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)
R - Andy Phillips (1B)
L - Kevin Reese (RF)
Pitchers: Kei Igawa, Mike Myers, T.J. Beam, Tyler Clippard, Sean Henn, Mariano Rivera, Brian Bruney
Subs: Chris Basak (2B), Angel Chavez (PR/SS), Miguel Cairo (3B), Raul Chavez (C), Bronson Sardinha (PR/LF), Kevin Thompson (CF), Todd Pratt (DH)
Opposition: All but one of the Braves starters.
Big Hits: They all came in the seventh inning against Oscar Villarreal. Hideki lead off with a double and was followed by an absolute bomb by Raul Chavez that disappeared deep into the night over the left field gap, tying the game at 2-2. Chris Basak followed that by popping out to shallow left, but the wind that blew Chavez's drive out to sea blew Basak's ball past shortstop Yunel Escobar and Basak hustled into second for a double. Andy Phillips then bunted Basak to third and Kevin Reese laid down a perfect squeeze bunt to give the Yankees the lead. That was followed by a double by Kevin Thompson for good measure. Incidentally, I was thrilled to see the squeeze bunt. It's baseball's forgotten play. The sac but may be overused, but the squeeze bunt needs to be brought back. I can't remember the last time the Yankees executed a squeeze bunt, in spring training or any other time.
Who Pitched Well?: Tyler Clippard wasn't great, but he was good. In 2 2/3 innings the only hit he allowed was a solo homer by Chipper Jones. In that at-bat, Clippard made Jones look foolish with an 81-mile-per-hour changeup that wowed Ken Singleton and Joe Girardi in the YES booth, then followed it up with a 91-mile-per-hour fastball that Jones was late on. Jones timed his next changeup, however, and deposited it over the wall. Clippard struck out two in his first two innings, but in his third frame he walked two and was pulled with two outs in the inning for Sean Henn, who retired the only batter he faced on a comebacker. Mariano Rivera pitched around a leadoff flare single by ex-Yank Craig Wilson for yet another scoreless inning. Brian Bruney also pitched around a single for a scoreless inning, picking up the save. Rivera and Bruney struck out one man each.
Who Didn't?: Kei Igawa threw three scoreless innings, allowed just one hit, struck out five, and got three of his remaining five outs on pop ups. So why is he here? Because he also walked four, threw more balls than strikes (33 to 29), and exhausted his pitch count an inning ahead of schedule. Joe Torre thinks Igawa's still overthrowing, but both he and Jorge Posada have been impressed by his stuff and his approach. Mike Myers gave up a double to the only batter he faced, lefty-hitting Braves catcher Brian McCann. T.J. Beam inherited that runner and let him score on a wild pitch and a single.
Slick Plays: Brian McCann, leading off the second, lit into a high fastball, sending it into the right center field gap. Melky Cabrera wasn't having it and made a tremendous diving, rolling snag.
Ouchies: Bobby Abreu will take batting practice today for the first time since straining his oblique muscle while doing the same at the beginning of camp. Humberto Sanchez will remain in camp until he throws a bullpen from the top of the mound. He threw from half-way up on Wednesday.
Battles: Raul Chavez hit a game-tying homer in two trips to the plate and nearly threw out an attempted basestealer (super duper slo mo showed he was probably out, but it was to close to call even with the replay) despite a very high throw. Todd Pratt struck out in his only trip as the DH. Andy Phillips hit three grounders, one of which found the shortstop hole for his first hit of the spring, and successfully sac bunted. Phillips has yet to hit a ball in the air in a game this spring. T.J. Beam let his inherited runner score. Sean Henn retired his only batter. Brian Bruney picked up a one-run save.
Before the game, Joe Torre described Chris Britton as "raw" and said that he was rushed in Baltimore and that "he's got a little ways to go yet, because he is young." Torre made sure to point out that he's been impressed with Britton's stuff, his confidence, and his demeanor, and said that Britton is still in the mix for the bullpen, adding "you can't dismiss anybody that's had major league experience at this point." Still, it sounds like Britton's a long shot to head north with the team at this point. Britton has a 2.45 ERA in 3 2/3 spring innings across five appearances. In that time he's allowed three hits and a walk and struck out one. Meanwhile, here's the combined spring line of Brian Bruney, T.J. Beam, Jose Veras, Ron Villone, Sean Henn and Colter Bean:
21 IP, 12 H, 0 R, 7 BB, 16 K
Fortunately, half of the spring schedule still remains. This is a dogfight.
Joe also mused on Karstens (9 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K), the last two spots in the rotation, the possible need for a long reliever, and the shape and size of his bullpen. Give a listen over on LoHud starting at the 3:29 mark. In summary, Torre sounds like he'd rather have Karstens pitching in rotation in Scranton than languishing in the bullpen, and will likely use Pavano and Igawa irregularly in April as the schedule allows/requires while keeping the top three starters on regular rest. As for the pen, with his last two starters pitching irregularly, Torre seems to think those two can eat the April relief innings that might otherwise require a long man. That said, he's still leaning toward a 12-man staff, but said that if a position player really jumps out at him over the remaining two weeks, he could make the team at the expense of the twelfth pitcher.
Notes: As expected, Tyler Clippard was reassigned to minor league camp after the game. Before being reassigned, Jose Tabata was learning about plate discipline from fellow Venezuelan Bobby Abreu.