Despite the fact that I didn't expect to catch much of it due to playing in my first softball game of the year (1 for 2 with a nice ranging catch in my only chance in right field), Alex asked me to write the recap of last night's game in Tampa because he was going to be at Shea taking in his first ballgame of the year. As it turns out, we were both treated to similar games. At Shea, Alex witnessed a 10-3 thrashing of the Mets by the Phillies, with Tom Glavine suffering his third dreadful outing in six starts (3 2/3 IP, 6 H, 8 R, 7 ER, 6 BB, 1 K, 53 percent of 93 pitches for strikes). It is only in comparison to that line, which pushed Glavine's ERA over 7.00, that Kevin Brown's performance in the Yankees 11-4 loss to the Devil Rays last night can look like anything other than a disaster.
In the top of the first the Yankees (with Tony Womack indeed batting second) went 1-2-3 on nine pitches against Doug Waechter. By the time Brown had thrown his ninth pitch in the bottom of the first, the Devil Rays had scored once and had runners on the corners with no outs. Despite the progress he seemed to have made in his previous start, Brown reverted to his bizarre 2005 form by allowing six runs in the first inning before settling down in the following innings.
Curiously, out of the eleven batters Brown faced in the first, he started seven of them out with strikes and never fell behind any of them more than 2-1 in the count. Indeed, Brown didn't walk a single batter in the game and, despite his third pitch being wild, threw 67 percent of his pitches for strikes. All of which would normally be indications of a well-pitched game. Once again, if one were to look at Brown's line for innings two through five (after 92 pitches he was replaced by Mike Stanton to start the sixth) you'd see this:
Still, that first inning was brutal: infield single, wild pitch, RBI single, ground rule double, RBI ground out, RBI single, double, 2 RBI single, single, RBI single, fly out, ground out.
That just won't due. Brown has lost all four of his starts (though it's also true that the Yankees have failed to score more than four runs in any of them), and last night's was the worst of the bunch in that he gave up the most runs and was taken out the soonest. Unfortunately, with the team already dipping into their double-A staff for a replacement starter for Randy Johnson (who, by the way, is less than pleased about not taking his turn), there aren't many options.
I'm more than a little dubious about Sean Henn's ability to make the leap from double-A to the majors. That said, if he pitches well tomorrow, it might be worth while to shift him into Brown's spot and force Brown to work out his problems on a minor league rehab assignment or even a sojourn to Billy Conners' Camp For Pitcher Reeducation in Tampa.
Meanwhile, I was unable to catch enough of the game to get a clear read on the Yankees new defensive alignment, but at the very least they seem to have avoided detection, which is a good thing. Robinson Cano, however, failed to get the ball out of the infield in his first three major league at-bats, grounding out on the first pitch he saw, striking out on four pitches in his next at-bat and rounding out the night with another first-pitch groundout. So in three at-bats he saw just six pitches and took just one for a ball. The three players involved in the revamped defensive alignment went a combined 0 for 11 with no walks and two strikeouts last night as Hideki Matsui went 0 for 4 to push his slump to 3 for his last 28 (though two of those three were for extra bases).
Elsewhere, Tino Martinez continued his hot hitting going 2 for 3 with his third homer of the year. He's now 8 for 20 since Andy Phillips' big debut. Rounding out the hot/cold portion of this post, Jorge Posada added his second homer of the year, but remains just 3 for his last 25 (though two of the three were for extra bases). The other two Yankee runs scored on a Derek Jeter triple that was misplayed by Alex Sanchez in right field.
Speaking of Alex Sanchez, I'm not sure that his home run off of Mike Mussina on Monday got enough play (maybe it did on the broadcasts, which I missed). That was just the fifth home run of Shanchez's career, in 1511 plate appearances. Sanchez made his major league debut on June 15, 2001. Since that date there have been exactly as many no-hitters thrown in the major leagues as there have been Alex Sanchez home runs hit. Those of you who saw that homer on Monday were witness to a truly rare baseball event.
One final note on last nights' game, Felix Rodriguez was taken out of mothballs for his first appearance since last Wednesday and promptly walked the first batter he faced on four pitches. He actually threw 9 of his first 12 pitches for balls, walking two of the first three men he faced before giving up a double to Toby Hall that scored them both. In his next inning of work he reversed the pattern, throwing 10 of his first 12 pitches for strikes, but allowing a single and a double that lead to another run.
However, it's unlikely that Felix is going anywhere soon as, with Steve Karsay designated for assignment to make room for Cano, the Yankees have decided to send Bubba Crosby down to Columbus to make room for Henn/Sturtze. It's just as well, with Bernie on the bench as a fourth outfielder, speedy baserunner, and lefty pinch-hitter, Crosby was very redundant. What's more, Crosby has yet to show any ability to hit major league pitching. Of course, his opportunities have been severely limited. Bubba made just three starts in April and only reached base three times in 13 trips to the plate. His complete lack of production is becoming something of a chicken and egg phenomenon with his playing time, made all the more confusing by his break-out performances in the last two spring trainings.
Meanwhile, Andy Phillips (as well as Felix II) is safe for the time being as Ruben Sierra has suffered a setback in his return from a torn bicep. Sierra had gotten to the point at which he was taking batting practice and hoping to be activated this weekend, but despite swinging free and easy from the left side, he was forced to shut down his session when he felt some discomfort batting righty. The Yankees are concerned that the lingering injury would also prevent Sierra from playing the field as he'd be unable to make throws and thus expect him to take another week or two to come back from the injury.
The irony of all of this is that Sierra should not be allowed to either play the field or bat righty. Which are just two reasons why I'm hoping Phillips can get his act together and Pipp Ruben off the roster, though that might become more difficult with Bernie available to make starts as a right-handed DH.