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Yankees 3, Braves 2
2007-03-15 20:16
by Cliff Corcoran
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

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.

Lineup:

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.

Comments
2007-03-16 02:57:18
1.   Jim Dean
Excellent as always Cliff.

Let's not forget Clippard's line:

6.2 IP 2H 1ER 2BB 4K

Not too shabby, especially since the one run was that Chipper Jones homer. Hopefully that performance locks up his rotation spot in Scranton. Still, if Karstens is going to be there too, I can't see who's left out:

Hughes, Sanchez, Karstens, Rasner, Clippard, Dorf

That's six. Maybe between them taking it easy with Hughes and Sanchez (for different reasons) and Karstens or Rasner coming up, there's room enough for everyone.

BTW, pitching comparison (granted different quality of hitters):

NYY: 34 IP 36H 15ER 14BB 23K
AAA: 33.2IP 28H 10ER 11BB 22K

And Hughes pitched the worst of the youngsters.

Igawa meanwhile has 12K's in 7IP but with 7BB. There's something there - hopefully it only gets better.

2007-03-16 04:19:19
2.   RIYank
Two *Chavez*es in the line-up -- no wonder GWB hates the Yankees.
Cliff, when you say the squeeze isn't used enough, was that an aesthetic judgment or a saberscientific one?

OT: great hoops last night. That almost goes without saying, but every year I am re-delighted.

2007-03-16 06:17:48
3.   Dan M
Cliff - an aside question: I noticed in BP2007 that an unusual amount of players are listed with 12/31/1969 as their birthday, such as Roger Clemens, Tom Glavine, Julio Franco, El Duque. Yet, they all are listed with different ages (and I know for a fact that Roger's birthday is in early August). Is this an oversight, or some kind of inside joke I'm missing?
2007-03-16 07:04:37
4.   monkeypants
It wouldn't be spring training without panic and hand-wringing. Here's my turn: the pitching really has been great, but is anyone concerned at how little the team is hitting this spring? I know, spring doesn't count, lotsa starters are sitting, etc. But many of the runs scored have been off of the other teams' scrub pitchers, also. I guess I am just having nightmares about aging players losing a tick, and a weak bench, and...

Ah, spring training.

Maybe I should just think of ol' Earl Eaver ("the pitchers are ahead of the hitters").

2007-03-16 07:18:22
5.   joejoejoe
After listening to the audio of Joe Torre over at LoHud I'm starting to think he'll take an extra position player until he needs a 5th starter.

Question: Can you send players on your 40-man roster up and down to the minors as much as you like? I imagine that players like Karstens or Rasner might be up and down due to the odd hamstring pull or tweak in the starting rotation. Is there any consequence to a player running out of options? Does it matter if the player accepts the demotion or not?

2007-03-16 07:27:51
6.   OldYanksFan
I think Kei has looked great.
He's a control pitcher... his walks obviously due to the situation. The fact that he's racking up K's is a very good sign.

Our kids have been hitting very well, another good sign. We have a lot of depth and I'm not concerned about our initial 25, as time and performance may call for a number of roster changes.

Karstens has certainly been good news.
SP is rarely exciting, but I think we have seen Cashman's philosophy (young guns and farm hands) look good. Boy, I hope Tabata stays healthy... and we see him in 2009 or 10.

2007-03-16 07:35:20
7.   mehmattski
5 An "option" is simply a year when a player on the 40 man roster can be shuffled between the 25 man roster and the minors as much as the team wants. Only a player who has five years service time can refuse an option assignment. However, after three calendar years have passed since the date of the players' first appearance on a 25 man roster, he has to pass waivers before he is optioned to the minors.

http://mlb4u.com/wiki/index.php/Options

2007-03-16 07:43:56
8.   Cliff Corcoran
3 That was a database error. Most of the players born before 1/1/70 had their birthday's default to 12/31/69. Fortunately there are a limited number of players 37 and older. All of the listed ages for those players, however, are correct.

2 It's mainly a personal strategic preference. If you're tied or down by a run and that run is on third in the late innings, you should have the ability/option of squeezing that run home. I've seen the Yankees lose too many games in which they've stranded that tying or winning run 90 feet away in the late innings, including Game 4 of the 2003 World Series (the infamous Jeff Weaver Game). This is especially bothersome as one of the advantages of having Mariano Rivera should be that the Yankees can use one-run strategies in the late innings with more confidence.

2007-03-16 08:16:00
9.   YankeeInMichigan
7 "However, after three calendar years have passed since the date of the players' first appearance on a 25 man roster, he has to pass waivers before he is optioned to the minors."

That's not quite correct. The "service time" (used for right to refuse an option, as well as for arbitration and free agency) is based on the calendar date of the first appearance on the 25-man roster. The three-year rule is based on "option years." A player has three option years, which need not be consecutive. Teams will sometimes creatively utilize the AAA shuttle to save a player's option. I recall a column by Paul White of USA Today chronicalling an option-free year on the Columbus Shuttle for Randy Choate.

Actually, there is no such thing as "passing waivers before he his optioned." Once a player is out of options, he cannot play in the minors while on the 40-man roster (except for a rehab assignment). If a team wants to demote a player, it must remove the player from the 40-man roster. Whenever a player his removed from the 40-man roster (even if he is not out of options, such as Matt DeSalvo this winter) he must clear waivers.

Recall that, when Jason Giambi was struggling in 2005, the Yankees were considering optioning him. His 5 years of service gave him the right to refuse, but he would not have had to clear waivers, since he had never used up his three options. (Interestingly, the Yankees were considering DFA-ing him -- i.e. removing him from the 40-man -- nonetheless. They knew that he would clear waivers, and they would have been exempt from paying luxury tax for his days off of the 40-man roster.)

I believe that the only non-5-year player on the Yankees' 40-man roster who is out of options is Sean Henn.

2007-03-16 09:12:14
10.   Dan M
Thanks, Cliff. And to give credit where it's due, so far I've found that BP2007 has noticably fewer typos/mistakes than previous editions. Great work!
2007-03-16 09:16:23
11.   Cliff Corcoran
9 Andy Phillips and Wil Nieves are also out of options.

10 Thanks, Dan. Next year we'll do even better!

2007-03-16 09:19:05
12.   joejoejoe
7 9 Thank you for the explanation.
2007-03-16 11:37:50
13.   Jim Dean
And Minky with a solid 1 for 20 this Spring!

How low can he go? (Doo-do) How low can he go? (Doo-do) How low can he go? (Doo-do)

Limbo!

How low can he go? (Doo-do) How low can he go? (Doo-do) How low can he go? (Doo-do)...

2007-03-16 12:28:22
14.   YankeeInMichigan
Just noticed that, in 4.1 innings, Wang has 3 Ks to go along with his 8 ground-outs. Wow.
2007-03-16 18:36:05
15.   Rich
Does Bruney have any remaining option years?

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