Got four starters on the DL? No problem, call up a kid with just two starts above A-ball, knock the opposing starter out in the second inning, and coast to an easy win. The Yankees made it look just that easy last night.
Rookie Chase Wright made his major league debut with a Sean Henn-model glove on his right hand, a steady rain falling on his head, and no where near the reported 38,438 fans in the stands on a cold Tuesday night in the Bronx. Wright went full on his first batter, Cleveland's Grady Sizemore, and just missed outside for ball four. He then walked Jason Michaels on five pitches to put two men on for Travis Hafner. That drew an early mound visit from his new pitching coach, Ron Guidry. After an enthusiastic pep talk from Guidry, Wright got Hafner and Victor Martinez to ground out (plating a run in the process) and Ryan Garko to line out directly to Derek Jeter.
The Yankee offense then took some of the pressure off the rookie by plating a pair of runs in the bottom of the frame on a Damon walk, Jeter single, Alex Rodriguez RBI single, Giambi walk to load the bases, and a Jorge Posada sac fly to dead center that just missed being a game-breaking grand slam.
Wright again put the first two men of the inning on base in the second via a single and a walk, but again retired the next three in order, this time without yielding a run. Then the Yankees broke the game open for real.
After Melky Cabrera grounded out, Doug Mientkiewicz cracked a solo homer (no, really!) to the short porch in left. Johnny Damon doubled, moved to third on a Jeter groundout, and scored on a Bobby Abreu single. That brought Alex Rodriguez to the plate. Can you say two-run homer to the retired numbers? I knew that you could. That made it 6-1, but the Yankees weren't done. Jason Giambi followed with a single and Jorge Posada, having just missed that salami in the previous frame, cracked a two-run jack of his own, his 200th career home run. That made it 8-1 Yanks and bounced Jake Westbrook from the game with two out in the second.
That pretty much decided things. Wright gave up a solo homer to Travis Hafner in the top of the third and another run in the fourth when an Andy Marte single plated a leadoff double by Casey Blake, but that was all the Indians would get. Wright pitched around a Hafner single in the fifth to qualify for the win, leaving after having thrown 104 pitches in five innings. Ultimately, the game was a rousing success for Wright, who allowed just three runs on five hits in his five innings, four of those five hits coming off the bats of Hafner and Blake. After walking the first two men of the game, Wright settled down to walk just one more batter while striking out three and, despite his early jitters, wound up throwing 59 percent of his pitches for strikes, further indication of the degree to which he settled down in his latter innings.
The Yankee bullpen turned in four perfect innings split between Brian Bruney, Mike Myers, and Chris Britton, the last of whom retired the side in the ninth on nine pitches in his Yankee debut. The offense, meanwhile, added another two-spot against Roberto Hernandez in the seventh without the benefit of a hit when Robinson Cano drew a one-out walk (his fifth walk in the last four games--though one of those was intentional), Andy Marte booted a Melky Cabrera grounder, Mientkiewicz walked to load the bases, and Josh Barfield fired a would-be double play pivot directly to a fan four rows behind the Yankee dugout to let Cano and Cabrera in. Final score, 10-3 Yankees in Chase Wright's first major league win.
Notes: During the YES broadcast, Michael Kay noted that a Roberto Hernandez pitch clocked at 92 on the YES gun registered as 96 on the Stadium scoreboard. Bear that in mind the next time you see Mariano Rivera throwing 97 (as the scoreboard said he was on Opening Day) or Kyle Farnsworth in triple-digits. As for Wright, it looks like Kevin Goldstein had it, uhm, right. I saw him hit 89 MPH once, but never crack 90 on the YES gun. Joe Torre put in subs Miguel Cairo at short, Kevin Thompson in right and Wil Nieves behind the plate in the ninth inning. Nieves actually pinch-hit for Posada in the eighth and popped out. Nieves has come to the plate 15 times in a Yankee uniform over the last three years and has yet to reach base or even record a sacrifice.
Injuries: Jeff Karstens pitched four dominant innings for Tampa on Monday and will likely be announced as Saturday's starter today. The decision to activate Chien-Ming Wang to start on April 24 will depend on his workout on Thursday. Hideki Matsui will play for Tampa on Friday and could be activated for the first game of the Yankees' series against the Devil Rays on Monday.
Tributes: The Yankees are not only the only team in baseball with an active player who wears number 42, but were also the only team in baseball that didn't have some sign or plaque on display in their ballpark that acknowledged Robinson. Until yesterday, that is. The Yankees unveiled a new plaque dedicated to Robinson in Monument park before yesterday's game, though it doesn't contain any reference to baseball having retired his number. The Yankees also acknowledged the 56th anniversary of Bob Sheppard's first game as Yankee public address announcer by having Sheppard read the lineups of that 1951 game between the Yankees and Red Sox. Meanwhile, the flags were at half-mast in recognition of the Virgina Tech shootings, which prompted Joe Torre to take a strong pro-gun control stance when questioned about the murders.