Welcome the my fifthannual spring training liveblog. I typically blog the Yankees' first spring training game of the year, but this year the YES broadcast schedule (which omitted the first game of the exhibition season) and reader request have reassigned me to Game 5, which like last year's opener, finds the Yankees hosting the Minnesota Twins.
R - Carlos Gomez (CF)
R - Brendan Harris (2B)
L - Joe Mauer (C)
L - Justin Morneau (1B)
R - Delmon Young (LF)
L - Brian Buscher (3B)
R - John Knott (DH)
L - Garrett Jones (RF)
S - Matt Tolbert (S)
R - Kevin Slowey (P)
The traveling Twins only brought half their starters, but they do have both of the M&M boys (last year they left Mauer behind) and two of their big off-season acquisitions, Delmon Young and ex-Met Carlos Gomez. Injuries to Moises Alou (of course) and Endy Chavez forced the Mets to rush Gomez to the majors last year at age 21, robbing him of a crucial year of development. Many believe that Gomez, who has just 140 triple-A bats under his belt, needs a full season at Rochester this year, but looking at his competition and Ron Gardenhire's lineups this spring, it seems Gomez is the leading candidate to open the season as the Twins' center fielder and leadoff hitter. The pressure to show off some of their return for Johan Santana may also factor in to the team's decision.
Harris came over in the Young trade and is competing with Alexi Casilla for the second base job. Tolbert, starting at shortstop today, is also primarily a second baseman and could factor into that battle as well. Buscher is coming off a huge season as a triple-A Rule 5 pick, but will be 27 in April didn't hit much in his brief major league debut last year. Jones is entering his tenth professional season and also made an unimpressive major league debut last year. Knott is a 28-year-old former Padres power prospect and non-roster invitee.
L - Johnny Damon (CF)
R - Derek Jeter (SS)
L - Bobby Abreu (RF)
R - Alex Rodriguez (DH)
L - Jason Giambi (1B)
S - Jorge Posada (C)
L - Robinson Cano (2B)
S - Wilson Betemit (3B)
S - Melky Cabrera (CF)
R - Ian Kennedy (P)
Joba Chamberlain will follow Kennedy for the Yankees.
Accompanied to the mound by Johnny Damon, two disabled veterans threw out the first pitch to Jeff Karstens and Nick Green.
Ian Kennedy takes the mound wearing number 31 (he wore 36 as a rookie last year). The Yankees are in their blue batting-practice tops with the white stripes down the side, their pinstriped pants, and those impossibly stupid BP caps.
First pitch is a strike on the upper inside corner. Gomez bunts to third on the second pitch. Betemit charges, barehands and nails him. One out.
The Twins are wearing blue BP tops with their TC logo on the left chest and grey pinstriped pants.
Harris singles through the third-base hole on a 90-mph 2-1 fastball from Kennedy.
Kennedy uses the Mussina "drinking bird" bow with the man on first.
Kennedy falls behind, Mauer, spots a couple of strikes on the outside corner, then gets a 4-6-3 DP to end the inning.
Slowey's first pitch to Damon is a strike. The second is lofted to Young in left for the first out.
HEY! Bobby Murcer's biopsy came back as scar tissue! Great news!!!
Slowey's third pitch is a Jeter single to center.
The Twins BP caps are navy with red bills.
Slowey is a control/fly-ball pitcher and starts Abreu out 0-2. Abreu tops the 0-2 to second for a 4-6 force, but the ball was hit too slow for the DP.
Slowey's first pitch to Rodriguez is a strike. Second is a ball just low. Third is even lower, but Alex swings through it, 1-2. Low again, 2-2. Again low, this time something of a cutter tailing in at 93 mph, full count. Hard foul slashed the opposite way. Check swing on a pitch up in the zone. Rodriguez walks to put men on first and second for Giambi.
Slowey drops in a high strike, then a curve in the dirt gets a check swing strike 0-2. High fastball (94 mph) for 1-2. Fastball on the outside corner gets Giambi looking. No score after one.
I really have to take a moment to say how happy I am for Bobby Murcer and his family. They got the best possible news quickly. You can't ask for much more than that. Bobby should be back in the booth this year. I look forward to hearing his voice again.
Morneau starts it off taking a curve in the dirt then a up and away fastball and an inside at the knee fastball to go 1-2. A bad swing at an eye-high pitch fouls it off away. Another curve in the dirt. That pitch isn't looking good thus far. Another pitch up and away fouled off. Kennedy is moving his pitches around very well. Fastball outside misses 2-2. Change below the zone is lofted to center for an out. Morneau was all mixed up in that at-bat.
Kennedy bounces another curve in the left-handed batters' box, 2-0 on Young. Young crushes a 3-1 fastball over the fence in dead center. Just creamed a gut-high fastball that was supposed to be outside and floated over the plate.
Kennedy recovers to go 0-2 on Buscher. Just misses with a fastball outside. Wicked curve, but too wicked, bounces and past Posada. Fastball misses inside. Kennedy's location is getting sketchy here. A fastball on the inside corner is crushed and Giambi leaps to stab it. No, really. Giambi looked fairly athletic on that one. Didn't jump real high, but he was rather cat-like.
Grounder to short ends it. Jeter's throw is up the line a bit, but Giambi applies the tag.
Jorge flies to left. Delmon Young almost loses it in the sun. In fact, he turns his head just as the ball comes to his glove.
Cano laces one over Gomez's head in center for an easy double. Fell just short of the warning track about 400 feet from home.
Betemit laces one even harder and further over Gomez's head, this one hits the base of the wall for an RBI double. Tie game.
Slowey starts Melky off with a 69-mph curve on the outside corner, then a 93-mph fastball on the inside corner 0-2. Something of a slidery thing further inside at 88 mph Ks melky swinging.
Wild pitch in the dirt gets through Mauer's legs and sends Betemit to third.
Damon smacks a hard grounder past Harris's dive at second for an RBI single. Nice two-out RBI there.
Undeterred, Slowey gets out 0-2 on Jeter. Damon goes on the 0-2 pitch. Pitch is in the dirt and Damon goes in to second standing. Slowey falls behind to a full count, then walks Jeter on a pitch inside.
Mound visit by the pitching coach.
Slidery thing for a strike to start off Abreu. Abreu then serves the next pitch into shallow left center plating Damon as Carlos Gomez fires wild up the first base line. That puts men on second and third for Rodriguez who is started off with a curve up and in 1-0.
Rodriguez swings through a fastball to fall behind 1-2, then through another (90 mph down the middle) to strand the runners.
Yanks lead 3-1.
Heath Phillips is in to face lefty Garrett Jones. First pitch is grounded up the first-base line. Phillips fields and tags Jones out.
Totals on Kennedy: 2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 0 K. 34 pitches, 19 strikes. That's just 56 percent, which ain't so hot. He didn't get hit terribly hard except for the Young homer (obviously), but he wasn't particularly sharp.
Phillips strikes out Matt Tolbert (a switch hitter batting right) and gets a grounder to short from righty Gomez to end the inning.
Righty Julio DePaula is in for the Twins.
Giambi hits a line-drive single to left on the first pitch.
DePaula is a 25-year-old rookie whose changeup is his best pitch. He was lit up in his first MLB stint last year, and he's full on Posada right now.
A balk sends Giambi to second. I have no idea what DePaula did.
Posada gets under one and flies out to right. Giambi holds.
YES shows footage of Matsui taking BP today. Pete Abe says "wasn't swinging full go," but it's something.
Cano hits a bouncing-ball single up the middle to plate Giambi, but is thrown out trying to go to second on the throw. Gomez fired wild again, but Morneau cut it off and got Cano dead to rights. He was out by 20 feet.
Betemit strikes out swinging on four pitches.
Stop! Joba Time!
Oh man, I'm doing this sitting Indian-style at my coffee table. I stood up between innings and it sounded like I was made of bubble wrap. Snap. Crackle. Pop.
Oh great, my cable signal is getting sticky. Over to the non-high-def version of YES for a while. Joba's behind 3-0, but I'm not sure why due to the reception. Pours one in high for strike one, then gets a groundout to second.
Mauer chops the 1-0 to first, another nice cat-like play by Giambi for the second out.
Joba behind again 1-0 to Morneau. Ther's that wicked slider, but for another ball, 2-0. Fastball fouled off (95 mph), 2-1. Another fastball high pops off Posada's glove, 3-1. Fastball down the middle (95 again), full count. Slider way inside walks Morneau. Joba's not looking particularly sharp either.
1-0 on Young as well. Oof, squeezed on an inside fastball 2-0. Comes right back same spot 96 mph and Young fouls it off the other way. Slider for a strike 2-2, that was his best pitch thus far. Back inside with the fastball (96), full count. Fastball up (94) is grounded to third, Betemit makes a smooth play for the last out.
Looks like the HD signal is back, thankfully.
Oh man, ex-Yank Randy Keisler on the mound. Man I hated this guy. Bug-eyed whiner who couldn't understand why he was being demoted after being lit up in the majors. He's got some chin scruff going on, so he looks less doofy. Seems to have grown in to his ears a bit.
He gets ahead of Melky (batting right against the lefty) 1-2. Melky Ks on an ugly swing at a pitch tailing low and away.
Keisler ahead of Damon 0-2. Well, well. Keisler has filled out a lot looking at him. Damon grounds weakly to second.
Ah, Keisler is #21 on my list of my least-favorite Yankees of the last 25 years:
With his jug-handle ears and bulging eyes, Keisler looked ready to crap himself on the mound and when he pitched like crap he had the nerve to bitch about being sent back to Columbus. Normally I'd sympathize with a young player's gripes about getting a fair shot with Steinbrenner's Yankees, but a) keep your mouth shut rook and make your statements on the field and b) Keisler, who made his major league debut at age 24, was such a hot prospect the Yanks just flat released him after he missed the 2003 season due to injury.
Jeter grounds harder to second and the ball skips past the sliding try of Brendan Harris for a single. Wild pitch in the dirt moves Jeter up to second, but Abreu pops out to strand him.
Keisler's 32 years old now. Huh. No wonder he's filled out.
Joba back at it, again 1-0. Buscher hits the 1-1 into right for a single, just the third Twins hit of the game.
Again 1-0. Pete Abe reports that Joba threw 19 pitches in the fourth inning.
Knott fouls one off Posada's mask. Nice curve by Joba (77 mph) fouled off by Knott. Fastball on the inside corner at 96 Ks Knott looking.
Garrett Jones, batting lefty, lofts a long fly ball homer to right field on a 93-mph fastball that started inside and drifted over the plate.
Next pitch hits Tolbert in the right heel. Joba's thrown just 15 strikes in 31 pitches thus far.
Gomez hacks at the first pitch and pops to shallow center. Melky makes a nice charging catch.
Hey, finally 0-1! Fouled off 0-2. Harris helps Joba out by hacking at a high fastball. Cano fields behind the bag and flips to Jeter, who just beats Tolbert to the bag. Tolbert kinda steps on Jeter, but no harm to the Captain.
Gomez and Harris really helped Chamberlain out there. Joba didn't look good today: 2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 HR, 35 pitches, about 19 strikes.
Rodriguez flies out to deep center.
Subs are in for the Twins: Felix Molina is at second, Alexi Casilla is at short, Matt Macri is at third base, and Jason Pridie is in right field.
Giambi grounds to short. Casilla backhands and throws and gets Giambi by a step, which is pretty impressive on Giambi's part. Still looks like he's running in slow motion, but he almost got there.
Keisler falls behind Posada (batting right) 3-0. Gimme strike one. Posada tops one to first to end the inning.
Jonathan Albaladejo is on the mound facing Mauer. He brings his right arm real far back in his delivery.
Changes for the Yanks: Shelley Duncan at first, Jason Lane in right, Colin Curtis in left.
Mauer doubles in the gap in left on a good curve ball low in the zone.
Morneau lofts a fly to center. Pinch-runner Jose Morales tags and goes on Melky's arm. Stupid. Melky fires a strike to Betemit and Morales, a back-up catcher, is out by 15 feet.
Young singles to right.
Nice two-seemer inside and down to go 1-2 on Matt Macri. Pitchout freezes Young at first base, 2-2. Curve in dirt: full count.
Albaladejo, by the way, is a tall light-skinned Puerto Rican who's pretty doughy around the middle. He gets Macri swinging on a disappearing pitch on the inside corner. Not sure what it was, maybe a slider. Macri swung and the pitch just dove under his bat.
Former Yankee farm hands Randy Ruiz (1B) and Chris Basak (LF) are in for the Twins. Morales is behind the plate. Lefty Dennys Reyes is on the mound.
Props to YES for doing a much better job identifying the subs today than the did on Sunday, when they largely ignored them.
Cano hits a sharp grounder up the middle for a single and comes out for pinch-runner Bernie Castro.
Betemit, hitting righty, hits a weak bounce to third. Macri goes to second to get the lead runner, but the throw is a bit wide and Molina dodges Castro and misses the catch. Everyone's safe, no outs, first and second. Melky up.
Girardi puts the bunt on, but Melky falls behind 0-2. Two pitches in the dirt make it 2-2. Chopper up the middle is a 6-6-3 DP. Man on third two outs. Castro was going on the pitch, but Betemit wasn't.
Duncan is hitting in Damon's spot. Big swings by Duncan, who whiffs.
Alajandro Machado, pinch-hitting for DH Knott, lines the first pitch right at Duncan for the out.
Brett Gardner's in center. Morgan Ensberg's at third. Nick Green's at second. Castro's at short. Posada's still catching, though.
Pridie singles in front of Curtis in left.
Pridie steals, Posada fires a one-hopper to Green. Pridie looked, out but the tag must have been late. Possibly a busted hit-and-run that worked out for the Twins.
Casilla hits a hard grounder that deflects of the glove of a diving Nick Green on the grass behind second. The ball rolls toward left field and Pridie scores. Tie game.
My mistake, it's Woodward at shortstop. Castro is out of the game.
Albaladejo is down 3-0 on Gomez, who isn't know for his patience. Gimme strike. Swing and miss to go full, but Casilla steals. Lame throw up and away toward shortstop by Posada.
Gomez strikes out on a questionable check swing. That's it for Albaladejo. Eiland takes the ball.
Thus far, Heath Phillips was the only Yankee pitcher who looked good today.
Edwar Ramirez in against Felix Molina. First pitch is wild, clean past Posada to move Casilla to second. Next pitch is a well placed fastball on the outside corner (90 mph). Again, 91 mph, 1-2. And the change (70 mph and diving) finishes him swinging. Nice recovery. Inning over.
Alabaladejo's line: 1 2/3 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 2 K. He was simply too hittable (four hits, including a double, against just five outs, blech).
Pat Neshek is in for the Twins. I love this guy. He's a blogger, he's a great strikeout righty, and he's got one of the wackiest deliveries I've ever seen.
Woodward out on a check-swing grounder to third.
Lane pops the first pitch he sees to short.
Lefty Greg Porter pinch-hits for DH Alex Rodriguez. Porter, who has no chance of making the team, is a big blonde dude.
Neshek Ks Porter swinging. Smooooth.
The best part of Neshek's wild side-arm delivery, by the way, is when his elbows almost touch behind his back as he strides forward.
Ramirez stays in the game. YES shows footage of Edwar's MLB debut in which he struck out Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, and Lew Ford at the Stadium.
Edwar, incidentally, has swapped numbers with Kennedy, taking Ian's old number 36.
Francisco Cervelli is catching.
Ramirez gets ahead of Morales 1-2 then falls behind and walks him.
Ruiz drills a grounder to short. Woodward fields cleanly, but the ball rolls up his wrist a bit on the transfer. They still have time for the DP, but Nick Green's pivot throw is in the dirt and Duncan can't glove it.
Ramirez then plunks Chris Basak in the left kidney and misses dangerously inside to Macri, bringing Eiland out to the mound.
Next pitch is a perfectly placed strike inside. Fastball down fouled off 1-2. Macri hits a grounder down the third base line, not especially hard. Ensberg gloves it but then tumbles over the foul line and all hands are safe. Bases loaded one out. Machado up.
Ramirez gets ahead 0-2. Fastball up floats over the plate and is laced down the line in right, a two-run double. 6-4 Twins. Men on second and third, still one out.
Ramirez is working in a third pitch, possibly a curve, in the mid-80s, which is a nice split between his 90-mph fastball and 70-mph change. Isn't doing him much good right now, however.
Pridie slices an opposite-field sinker to left and Colin Curtis makes a great diving catch to save Ramirez's bacon. Still, that's Edwar's last pitch.
By the way, I love that Geico dug up Michael Winslow.
Machado steals third on Chris Britton's first pitch (Macri had scored on the diving catch by Curtis). Britton's still a big dude, but he's among the Yankees who are noticeably slimmer this spring (Giambi, Bruney, Joba . . .). Just missed low and in on 1-2. Groundball to second ends the inning.
Ricky Barrett, yet another lefty, on the mound.
Big long swing by Curtis, pulls a grounder to first for the first out.
Here's Cervelli, another Yankee youngster who wears his socks high (though no stirrups, unlike Ian Kennedy who rocks 'em old school). Cervelli pulls a high outside pitch to third base. Nice play by Macri for the out.
Sad sight of a kid, maybe 3 years old, wearing a Johan Santana jersey in the background.
Green grounds out for a 1-2-3 inning.
By the way, who the heck is Giuseppe Franco and what qualifies him to be an expert/celebrity endorser for . . . well, anything? And why is it hair stylists always have awfully tacky hair styles?
Carlos Gomez, still in the game, flies out on the first pitch from Britton to go 0-for-5 with a throwing error on the day.
Britton's out, looks like Ohlendorf coming in.
The story of this game is definitely the disappointing pitching all around from the Yanks. Heath Phillips and Britton will be helped by the comparison as they were both perfect.
Here's Ross Ohlendorf, another high-socks guy.
Felix Molina is hacking, 0-2. Niiice curve drops in on the outside corner for strike three called. Beautiful pitch!
First-pitch sinker is grounded weakly by Morales, but right in the hole between third and short for a single. Ensberg and Woodward don't budge.
Randy Ruiz looks stupid on an inside fastball (94 mph) to go 1-2. Ohlendorf is looking really sharp. Curve fouled back. Another curve lower and in the dirt taken to go 2-2. Sinker dives right under Ruiz's swing for the K. Nice work by Ollie.
Yanks need three to tie, four to win. Ensberg, Gardner, and Duncan due up. Duncan's the only one to have hit today, striking out swinging in his only at-bat.
Oswaldo Sosa, a righty, is the new Twins pitcher.
Ensberg: Fastball outside for a questionable called strike. Slider, swingandamiss. Curve outside, 1-2. Curve just low on outside corner, even 2-2. Pitch low and away popped to center. One out.
Gardner takes a curve low for ball one and a slider at the bottom of the zone to even it up at 1-1. Big curve outside catches the corner 1-2. Curve low evens it at 2-2. Slider low grounded to second. Two out.
Duncan up in an on-base rather than a power situation. Takes a strike down the middle, then creams a 90-mph hanging slider waaaay out to left to make it 7-5 Twins. Yeowza!
Woodward up. Singles to left, bringing Jason Lane to the plate as the tying run.
Pitch way outside 1-0. Lane takes a good cut on a slider up in the zone but the pitch was on the outer half and he fouls it back. Takes high 2-1. Another slider high and on the outer half fouled back, 2-2. Inside, full count. Inside corner, Lane thinks he's walked, but he's punched out. Too close to take. Game over.
Twins win 7-5.
That's Girardi's first Yankee loss (for whatever that's worth, which is nothing). Indeed, the story was the stark contrast in pitching between Phillips, Britton and Ohlendorf to the good and Kennedy, Chamberlain, Albaladejo, and Ramirez to the bad. I'll have my usual game wrap later.