I'm hoping to wear that headline out this year. There have been a lot of pleasant surprises thus far this spring, including the number of players who showed up in legitimately fantastic shape, but the best news of all has been the performance of Phil Hughes, who has restored confidence in his legs following last year's hamstring and ankle injuries, and has thus recovered the snap on his curve, the hop on his heater, and is back to inducing groundballs. This afternoon he took on the Minnesota Twins, who didn't know how good they had it when the Yankees offered Hughes in package for Johan Santana, and kept his spring record hitless over four innings as the Yanks went on to win 6-4.
S - Melky Cabrera (CF)
L - Robinson Cano (2B)
L - Hideki Matsui (DH)
R - Shelley Duncan (1B)
R - Morgan Ensberg (3B)
R - Jason Lane (LF)
R - Jose Molina (C)
R - Chris Woodward (SS)
R - Jose Tabata (RF)
Pitchers: Phil Hughes, Kei Igawa, Alan Horne, Jeff Marquez, Chase Wright, Scott Patterson
Subs: Juan Miranda (1B), Bernie Castro (2B), Alberto Gonzalez (SS), Nick Green (PR/3B), Kyle Anson (C), Colin Curtis (RF), Austin Jackson (CF), Brett Gardner (PR/LF), Greg Porter (DH)
Opposition: The Twins' B-squad with Delmon Young and Justin Morneau.
Bit Hits: Doubles by Jose Molina (1 for 3), Morgan Ensberg (1 for 2, BB), and Greg Porter (1 for 1, BB). Chris Woodward was 2 for 3.
Who Pitched Well: Phil Hughes sailed through four hitless innings only allowing a pair of walks as he tired in the fourth. He struck out just one man, but got seven others out on the ground. Kei Igawa walked the bases loaded in the fifth, but stranded all three runners and allowed no hits over two scoreless innings. Scott Patterson retired the only man he faced. Though Igawa allowed that grand slam against SFU, during regular exhibition action those three pitchers have combined for 12 scoreless, hitless innings.
Who Didn't: Chase Wright allowed two runs, one earned, on two walks and a single while getting just two outs in the ninth. Jeff Marquez allowed two runs, one earned, on two hits (one a double by minor league catcher Eli Whiteside) and a walk in one inning of work. Alan Horne pitched a scoreless seventh, but allowed a single, uncorked a wild pitch, and walked two.
More Cuts: Wright, Marquez, and Horne were all reassigned to minor league camp after the game, which was likely to happen even if they had pitched well. Like McCutchen and Melancon from yesterday's cuts, all three are worth tracking this season. Horne and Marquez should be the top two starters in the Scranton rotation and could return as spot starters or long-relief help during the year. If all goes according to plan, both will be in the running to replace Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte next spring. Wright is less exciting, but as a lefty who has his first major league win under his belt, he could pop back up if he is able to right his course in the minors. I'd expect him to start the season in the Trenton rotation with McCutchen, but he could sneak into the Scranton quintet depending on how the chips fall at the end of camp. Chad Jennings of the SWB Yankees blog has been doing some good work on the bullpen battles and believes that with these cuts every remaining pitcher in camp is legitimately fighting for a spot on the 25-man roster.
Oopsies: A throwing error by Colin Curtis and a boot by Alberto Gonzalez, the latter Gonzalez's second error of the spring.
Ouchies: Per Pete Abe, Francisco Cervelli is expected to miss eight to ten weeks and could have a pin inserted in his arm to aid his healing. In his first game action of the spring, Hideki Matsui (knee/neck) went 0 for 3 and grounded into a double play, though supposedly the double play ball was smoked to Justin Morneau, who turned the 3-6-3. Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada (right lats) are expected to play the field in tomorrow's game against the Reds.