February 2009

Joba makes first start of spring

Joba-2-28-(2)-250.jpgYankees on YES is back on the air this afternoon live from George M. Steinbrenner field at 1:15 when Joba Chamberlain makes his first spring start against the Minnesota Twins. The Yankees are 2-1 this spring after losing to the Twins, 5-4, Friday at Fort Myers. 

 

Chamberlain showed last season he has the stuff to be an eventual starter, especially when he defeated Josh Beckett and the Red Sox, 1-0, at Fenway Park on July 25. But the Yankees plan on limiting the innings of their prized prospect. He’s never pitched a full season as a starter and had a bout with rotator cuff tendinitis that kept him out for nearly a month and forced him back to the bullpen.

 

About the Twins

Ron Gardenhire is 622-512 with one losing season during his seven years in the Twin Cities, yet taking an inexperienced 2008 club to a one-game playoff against the White Sox is being touted as his most remarkable job. The recent addition of veteran third baseman Joe Crede gives Gardenhire a power hitter who will add pop if he can stay healthy. Francisco Liriano, fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, will also be around for a full season. After a slow start, Liriano went 6-1, 2.74 in second half and was unbeaten in 10 of his last 11 starts and recently decided to not pitch for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.

 

Stay logged on to YESNetwork.com for a game recap and highlights.

 

Generation Trey?

By Glenn Giangrande
If I hear the phrase “Generation Trey” one more time, I’m going to explode.
 
I specifically remember reading an article in which Joel Sherman first coined the phrase and Michael Kay has run with it on Yankees broadcasts ever since. While I understand how it seems like every player has to have a nickname nowadays, it’s inappropriate on a number of levels.
 
First, there is a chance that a not-so-far-off day will come in which two of the three are not going to be Yankees. Who’s to say that Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy will be long for pinstripes? Both have already come close to being dealt away.

Second, should we really be invoking memories of the Mets’ “Generation K,” Bill Pulsipher, Jason Isringhausen, and Paul Wilson? All three were derailed by injuries and health problems, with Isringhausen being the one who fought back to carve out a very respectable career as a closer.

Third and finally, why must we have names for players who have yet to accomplish very much? I understand Joba Chamberlain was a phenomenon a couple of years ago and seems primed for a distinguished run with the Yankees, but give him and the others a chance to develop before even thinking about hitting them with labels.
 
Just let the kids stand on their own. 

Yanks schlep to Fort Myers

kennedy_250_022707.jpgBy Jon Lane
The Yankees left at 8 this morning for the 2 1/2-hour trek to Fort Myers for a game against the Minnesota Twins. Ian Kennedy starts for New York against Scott Baker.

The lineup:
Brett Gardner CF
Cody Ransom 2B
Nick Swisher 1B
Jorge Posada DH
Xavier Nady RF
Melky Cabrera LF
Angel Berroa SS
Justin Leone 3B
Francisco Cervelli C

Note that Nady, Swisher, Cabrera and Gardner all made the trip. Each are competing for playing time in the outfield, while Swisher starts at first base to get some at-bats. Normally, veterans like Posada don’t make these types of trips, but 1) yesterday was his first game action since last July 19 and 2) teams are required to send at least one of their big names on the road.

The Cabrera-Gardner competition will get press throughout the spring, but Nady-Swisher is an intriguing storyline. Speculation over whether either will be traded has died down for the moment. The hope here is that both remain on the roster. Both offer depth, and Swisher’s personality has been refreshing and contagious to a group that needs positive vibes given the A-Rod melodrama and the annual World Series or bust expectations.

You can track today’s game here. I’ll be listening to the Twins’ radio feed and will check in with updates from time to time.

1:24 p.m.: Already 2-0 Yankees and kick-started by Brett Gardner, who led off with a single, stole second and scored on Cody Ransom’s single (Ransom came home with the second run on a throwing error). It’s only Game 3, but you think Gardner is hungry to prove a point?

Ian Kennedy then retires the Twins in order.

1:32 p.m. Justin Leone’s one-out homer puts the Yankees ahead 3-0. It would have been four if not for Angel Berroa’s failed attempt to turn a leadoff single into a double.

1:35 p.m. Gardner, your 2009 Opening Day center fielder, is 2-for-2 with a single and a double.

2:01 p.m. The Yankees have eight hits in 2 1/2 innings, but left the bases loaded without scoring a run. Sound familiar?

Cabrera popped up with runners on second and third and one out. Remember that he’s out of options, so if Gardner wins the CF competition, the Yankees will either have to find a place for Cabrera or risk losing him should he not clear waivers.

2:04 p.m. Kennedy’s line: 2 innings, 1 hit, 0 runs, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts. He left a runner stranded at third to end the second.

2:17 p.m. Gardner drew a one-out walk, the third time he’s reached base. Minutes later he swiped second base. The Twins announcers said he has a little element of Lenny Dykstra, as in when he plays, you notice him.

2:23 p.m. Swisher flies out to end the threat. Still 3-0, Yankees

2:48 p.m. Cabrera grounded out to end the top of the fifth. He’s 0-for-3. Jorge Posada left the game after going 2-for-3. He is 4-for-5 in two games. 3-1, Yankees.

3:02 p.m. Austin Jackson pinch-hit for Gardner, who is batting .429 (3-for-7) with a homer and two stolen bases in three spring games.

3:20 p.m. Competition report: Cabrera finished hitless in three at-bats and is 0-for-5 in two games. Swisher went 2-for-3 and Nady 1-for-3.

4:17 p.m. Yankees lose 5-4 to fall to 2-1 on the Grapefruit Season. The Twins snuffed a late rally in the ninth.

Surprising reaction to the Lightning Rod

arodblog022609.jpgBy Joe Auriemma
With all of the news about Alex Rodriguez and steroids this offseason, you knew that he was bound to get booed at other stadiums around the league. In fact, during the first exhibition game against the Blue Jays in Dunedin, FL, A-Rod did get booed.

What was a little surprising to me was that he got a mixed reaction when stepping up to the plate at George M. Steinbrenner Field in his first “home” plate appearance. Now the Yankees were playing the Rays, who might have had their own fan base at the game supporting the team, but it still was a little shocking.

A-Rod has been accused of having a fragile psyche in the past and does seem to try to hard in key situations, so this was probably not what he needed to hear at the start of the season. The bottom line is that he is under contract to be the Yankees’ third baseman for the next nine seasons. If you are not a fan of A-Rod and what he did, but a fan of the Yankees, it’s really a Catch-22. In order for the Yankees to compete for a World Series, they need A-Rod to produce. There is no way around it.

I’m not saying that fans need to give him a standing ovation, but I hope that the Bronx and the beautiful new Yankee Stadium can be a safe haven for a player that is going to have to deal with a lot of abuse on the road.

The New Stadium
On Wednesday morning I got to see the new Stadium and took a tour of the new Monument Park; the Yankees held an event to put the Babe Ruth monument into its new home. My first reaction was that it’s quite amazing. Yankee Stadium, and from what I’ve seen of CitiField in Queens, are as grand as the city they call home.

As I stood in the new Monument Park, I realized that hitting a home run to dead center will now make the monuments, plaques and retired numbers vulnerable to being hit. Even the restaurant above the Monument Park is bound for an assault from a monster home run shot. It’s going to make the game much more interesting to watch. It looks as if the Stadium is going to be much more fan friendly then the previous facility. The upper deck isn’t as steep, making each seat closer to the field.

I’m certainly going to miss the feeling I got when walking into the old Yankee Stadium, but I think that over time, and when baseball is being played in this new park, that old feeling is bound to come back.

Gardner stakes claim on CF

gardner_250_022609.jpgBy Glenn Giangrande
While I sit here and watch Phil Hughes take his first steps towards erasing his 2008 season, I’m still shocked by what I saw in the box score from Wednesday’s Spring Training opener.
 
Brett Gardner went deep?
 
Sure, it doesn’t have the media relevance that A-Rod’s two-run jack had, but boy oh boy, what a nice way to start the official slate for Gardner, who I fully expect to win the job in center field over Melky Cabrera. He’s not going to be hitting many homers, I know, but I don’t think people who view CF as a position battle will get their money’s worth.
 
In my eyes, Gardner is the clear cut favorite, and if he wasn’t so young and inexperienced, he might’ve been given the job in college, although I think we’d all agree in saying that Joe Girardi is the probably the kind of manager who likes to foster competition when possible. The facts cannot be ignored though. Gardner has blazing speed in the outfield, and while his arm is not at the level of Melky’s, you don’t need to throw the ball in if you can run it down!
 
When he doesn’t start, Gardner can wreak havoc in the late innings as a pinch runner, but I believe that the temptation to have that dimension in the lineup on a regular basis is far too tempting for Girardi. 

And we're off and running ….

By Jon Lane
Game 2 is on the air. Michael Kay and Ken Singleton are in the YES Booth and I’m at MLBAM headquarters to provide some commentary.

Some quick hits from Peter Abraham’s blog:

  • Mariano Rivera has been playing catch and will get on the mound for the first time next week.

  • Brian Cashman has no information as to whether Alex Rodriguez will meet with MLB investigators today and was asked about Yuri Sucart driving his players to and from games.

“It has been handled,” he said. “That’s all I want to say, it has been handled.”

  • George Steinbrenner is at his game. The temperature in Tampa, Fla., is sunny and 73 degrees. Not to shabby, eh?

1:15 p.m. Michael Kay mentioned the team feels relaxed and confident, this in spite off all the A-Rod melodrama. That is a good sign. Bernie Williams threw out the first pitch and looks and feels great. Phil Hughes hits Adam Kennedy to being the game. Not a good start.

1:27 p.m. Hughes survived two hit batsman to get Gabe Kapler to pop out to short, but threw threw 18 pitches (13 strikes), continuing a disturbing trend. Hughes averaged 78.8 pitches in his eight starts last season while pitching into the sixth inning only three times, the last when he went eight strong September 24 against the Blue Jays.

1:32 p.m. Mark Teixeira’s first at-bat as a Yankee ends with him chasing high heat on Wade Davis’ 2-2 pitch as the Yankees go quietly in the first.

1:45 p.m. Alex Rodriguez is met with a smattering of boos, but mostly cheers while stepping into the batter’s box. Like many, Ken Singleton expressed disappointment in A-Rod using PEDs and couldn’t understand why he chose to do it in the first place.
 
A-Rod goes down swinging. The catcalls grow a little louder. It’s plainly obvious he’ll be Lightning Rod all season. What cannot go unnoticed is how Joe Girardi handles the pressure of being asked about this day in and day out.

1:54 p.m. Phil Coke pitches a scoreless third. I like this guy a lot. He works fast, changes speeds and is fearless, and got the third out by breaking Willy Aybar’s bat (with help by a nice play from Robinson Cano). He and Damaso Marte have the potential to be an effective lefty combination out of the bullpen.

1:55 p.m. Jorge Posada crushes one over the right-field fence to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead. That surgically repaired shoulder had better hold up. I can’t stress enough the importance of a healthy Posada to this team.

1:57 p.m. Melky Cabrera flies out to center. He’s already trailing Brett Gardner in the center field derby. This is only the second Spring Training game, and Cabrera’s first, but Glenn Giangrande has already deemed Gardner the winner.

2:17 p.m. A-Rod’s second at-bat is met with louder boos that drowned out some cheers (one man yelling “Go A-Rod!” made it through). Rodriguez wastes Teixeira’s one-out single by grounding into a 5-4-3 double play. No boos, but a collective groan, one all too familiar during A-Rod’s Yankees years.

2:25 p.m. A svelte Brian Bruney works a clean inning, hitting as high as 95 MPH on the radar gun. With Joba Chamberlain the Yankees’ undisputed fifth starter, Bruney has to be the eighth-inning bridge to Rivera. During the top of fifth, Girardi told Kay and Singleton that Posada will start his first game behind the plate on March 15.

2:30 p.m. Posada doubles home the Yankees’ second run. He’s 2-for-2 with both RBIs.

2:59 p.m. The Yankees lowered the price of about 600 obstructed-view bleacher seats at the new Yankee Stadium from $12 to $5. It’s a good deal when you think about it. Fans who purchase these tickets get access throughout the new palace. That includes the sports bar adjacent to the bleachers that I believe will be an open air facility. That to me is a great way to spend a summer’s day or evening, watching a ballgame on site while in the atmosphere of a sports bar. 

3:12 p.m. Remember Shelley “Slam” Duncan? He crushed a three-run home run to left field to give the Yankees a 5-1 lead in the bottom of the seventh. Duncan’s power and energy burst upon the scene in 2007 by hitting three home runs in his first two games and eventually drew comparisons to Kevin Maas, which wasn’t exactly a good thing. Like Maas, Duncan faded and was designated for assignment in the offseason. Having received a non-roster invite to Spring Training, Duncan is trying to bash his way back on the roster. He’ll just have to learn to hit a breaking ball.

3:22 p.m. Three up and three down for Mark Melancon in the eighth. This kid has got the goods to either be a dominant late-inning set-up man and possibly Rivera’s eventual successor.

3:35 p.m. Yankees win 5-1 to move to 2-0 on the Grapefruit season. Tomorrow brings a two-hour-plus bus ride to Fort Myers for the chosen players.

Season premiere of Yankees on YES

hughes_320_022609.jpgBy Jon Lane
The YES Network presents its first Yankees telecast this afternoon at 1:15 when the Yankees host the Tampa Bay Rays at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

New York is off a 6-1 win over Toronto in Dunedin, Fla., where Alex Rodriguez hit a two-run home run in his first game since his admission of using performance-enhancing drugs from 2001-03. Brett Gardner also homered to lead off the game. Brett Tomko started and pitched two scoreless innings.

Today’s starter
Phil Hughes is anxious to rebound from an 0-4 2008 which included a broken rib that ruined his first full season. The right-hander pitched well in the Arizona Fall League, striking out 38 in 30 innings. Right now, Hughes is destined to begin the regular season in Triple-A, but would likely be the first one up in the event of an injury to one of the established starters.

To learn more about Hughes, check out one of YESNetwork.com’s exclusive Quick Cuts.

Today’s lineup
Johnny Damon LF
Derek Jeter SS
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Xavier Nady RF
Jorge Posada DH
Jose Molina C
Melky Cabrera CF

The rotation
Hughes, Phil Coke, Brian Bruney, Damaso Marte, Jonathan Albaladejo, Mark Melancon.

About the Rays
Joe Maddon’s 9=8 motivational slogan, his belief that nine players playing hard for nine innings leads to being one of the eight playoff teams, helped lead the Rays to a surprising AL pennant. His new slogan this year is ’09 > ’08, meaning 2009 is greater than, or better, than 2008. That would mean one thing: a World Series win. It’s going to be hard enough for the Rays to ward off the Yankees and Red Sox, but after what they did last season never put anything past Maddon’s crew. 

A-Rod's called shot, Reggie's disappointment

arod_250_022509.jpgBy Jon Lane
Word from the beat, in this case Pete Caldera’s blog, is that Alex Rodriguez called his home run in the dugout. According to Yankees PR head Jason Zillo, A-Rod told him during batting practice that he’d go yard during his second at-bat.

Reggie Jackson met the media after the Yankees’ 6-1 win and shared an interesting story. A “stern” Hank Steinbrenner told Mr. October to send a message to Rodriguez: “You tell him to hit the damn ball, and hit it when it matters.”

Jackson, who had dinner with A-Rod Tuesday night, said he was “disappointed” and at times angry after learning of A-Rod’s PED usage while with the Rangers.

“I get angry sometimes,” Jackson told reporters. “I’ve been reprimanded by the commissioner and the president of our team. I’ve pleaded with them to understand that I’m personally affected; I’m personally involved. I’m hurt; I’m bewildered. I don’t know that we ever get past it.”

Jackson also related this personal message to Rodriguez, whose 553 career home runs are 10 behind Jackson’s for 11th place on the all-time list.

“My dad said you can control the story as long as you have a chance to hit. Edit your own story with the bat. As long as he does that, he has a chance to change things around him.”

I remember after working a game during I think the 2005 season when Gary Sheffield, in the throes of a slump, delivered a big hit to spark the Yankees to a win. A cordial Jackson chatted with us and told us what he told Sheffield: “As long as you have the bat in your hand, you can change the story.”

Jackson has made it one of his priorities to look after Rodriguez. Now more than ever, A-Rod needs to listen to everything Jackson tells him — and listen very carefully. Jackson’s tenure in the Bronx had absolutely nothing to do with PEDs, but he lived through the good, bad and the very ugly times of the Bronx Zoo. He won two World Championships, came through virtually every time when everything was on the line and weathered every storm that came his way, self-inflicted or not. When Reggie talks, you listen. Bottom line. 

From the in case you care department

pavano_250_022509.jpgBy Jon Lane
I was watching Giants vs. Indians playing on MLB.tv when Tribe commentators Matt Underwood and Rick Manning plugged a live interview with Carl Pavano by saying how he’s fit in as one of the new guys. Manning’s expectation was the the right-hander would “hopefully hold some games for them this year.”

Wearing a slight goatee, Pavano called life in Arizona a nice change of scenery before Underwood brought up an article entitled “Escape from New York.” When asked if it feels like a new beginning, Pavano said every year is a fresh start and that he’s thankful for the opportunity the Indians have given him to fill a need in the back end of their rotation. Regarding if it’s been a seamless transition in the clubhouse — of course you remember Pavano’s wonderful people skills during his tenure in the Bronx — he talked about how “it fell into place,” citing he knew some guys from playing with them in the Minor Leagues.

The interview lasted about two minutes thanks to a quick 1-2-3 inning.

Figure on Pavano pulling a muscle just as quickly during one of his spring starts. It’ll be first reported as a day-to-day injury before the Indians announce their prized acquisition will be transferred to the 60-day DL. In a nutshell, that was Pavano in New York. 

That didn't take long

By Jon Lane
1:04 p.m. First report from Dunedin, Fla., courtesy of Peter Abraham: Leadoff hitter Brett Gardner blasted Brett Cecil’s second pitch over the right field fence to make it 1-0 Yankees. Stepping up to the plate, Alex Rodriguez was booed loudly and jeered about Madonna and steroids before drawing a walk.

Numbers game: Melky Cabrera now wears Bobby Abreu’s old No. 53. Brett Tomko, today’s starter, took Cabrera’s No. 28.

1:20 p.m. Tomko pitched a 1-2-3 first. Talk about a difference of opinion. This from Mark Feinsand of The New York Daily News: Tomko is “a decent pitcher during his career, and could be a find as a long man. It appears to be between Tomko, Dan Giese and Alfredo Aceves for the spot.” Steven Goldman wrote about Tomko this morning and pulled no punches.

Tomko’s line: two scoreless innings, one hit. Jose Veras in.

1:48 p.m. Tied at 1 after Alex Rios’ sacrifice fly. Veras got into immediate trouble after allowing a double, hit a batsman and threw wild pitch. He’s looking smart for declining the Dominican Republic’s invite to play in the WBC. Spots in the underbelly of the Yankees bullpen will be scarce.

2:05 p.m. A-Rod smacks a two-run homer off Ricky Romero to put the Yankees ahead 3-1 in the top of the fourth. Yankees fans cheer, everyone else boos. One pitch before the blast, writes Feinsand, a fan shouted, “That was a steroid-induced foul ball!”

2:18 p.m. 4-1 Yankees at the end of 3 1/2 thanks to Todd Linden’s RBI single off Blue Jays closer B.J. Ryan. This morning, commenting on an earlier entry, The Max touted Linden to start Opening Day in left field. These boys live in an alternate universe, but are a lot of fun.

2:25 p.m. Quick Mets update: Luis Castillo has driven in four runs. Castillo for NL Comeback Player of the Year and Jerry Manuel for Manager of the Year.

2:37 p.m. 6-1 Yankees, bottom 5. A-Rod went 1-for-1 with two walks and two RBIs thanks to that fourth-inning homer. The Bergen Record‘s Pete Caldera gauged a 70-30 cheers-to-boos ratio when Rodriguez stepped up for his final at-bat of the day.

Dan Giese pitched a scoreless fourth, allowing one hit. Hold your breath, Kei Igawa is next in line.

2:49 p.m. Stop the presses! Kei Igawa allowed only a hit in the fifth, striking out one without walking a batter. Igawa = AL COY.

4:02p.m. Yankees win 6-1. David Robertson finished up with two strikeouts and a walk in a scoreless inning. Looks like Robertson and Giese moved up the bullpen pecking order while Veras was knocked down a few pegs.