By Jon Lane
Down the home stretch of their Grapefruit League schedule, the Yankees are back in Clearwater, Fla., for another game against the Phillies (YES HD, 1 p.m.). Joe Auriemma and Chris Shearn are at Bright House Field, where bright and early, Auriemma sat down for exclusive interviews with Brad Lidge, Miguel Cairo and Ryan Howard. You’ll find these conversations with members of the reigning World Champions, as well as a chat with YES’ own Ken Singleton and a lot more, on YESNetwork.com later this afternoon.
Derek Jeter SS
Johnny Damon LF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Hideki Matsui DH
Nick Swisher RF
Robinson Cano 2B
Cody Ransom 3B
Jose Molina C
Melky Cabrera CF
Pitching: Joba Chamberlain, Phil Coke, Brian Bruney, Jose Veras, Edwar Ramirez and Jon Albaladejo.
After a brutal beginning to Spring Training, Chamberlain (2-0, 3.48 ERA) is in a groove. The last time he faced the Phillies he held them to two hits over three scoreless innings in a 12-0 Yankees victory on March 16.
Cabrera has picked up his game too and is batting .295, but Brett Gardner (.409) is riding an eight-game hitting streak (8-for-18). All indications are that Gardner will be in center field Opening Day, but you never know.
This feature on Mark Teixeria, written by Howard Bryant, is a must-read. As Bryant writes, Teixeira is “the latest to try to climb the baseball equivalent of Mount Everest: playing in New York as the top-dollar free agent and coming through on the other side.” It’s a mission where many others, including Alex Rodriguez, have failed.
9:42 a.m. Joe Girardi made the inevitable official when he named CC Sabathia the Yankees’ starter for Opening Day April 6 in Baltimore. Sabathia will also christen the new Yankee Stadium when he takes the mound for the building’s first regular season game on April 16.
Chamberlain will start the sixth game of the season April 12 in Kansas City.
Meanwhile, Girardi will be tinkering with the idea of Derek Jeter leading off and Johnny Damon batting second, an idea Damon endorsed.
1:28 p.m. With one swing, Hideki Matsui staked Chamberlain to a 2-0 lead. With two swings, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard each went yard of the right-hander to tie the game at two. Let the Joba back-to-the-pen cries resume.
1:36 p.m. Great point by play-by-play man Bob Lorenz. Unless the Yankees are blown away, it’s not a wise idea to trade Melky Cabrera yet. Should Brett Gardner lose his hitting stroke, or Johnny Damon be felled by injury, you never know when you may need him. If Cabrera isn’t on the Major League roster, there’s a strong chance the Yankees will lose him because he’s out of options, so why not keep him in reserve and see where his value lies come July?
The Blob, incidentally, is a unique read.
2:09 p.m. Cody Ransom goes yard in the fourth to put the Yankees back on top 3-2. Peter Abraham offered a suggestion to John Sterling for a home run call: “Pay the Ransom!” Here’s one from me: “Handsome Cody Ransom!”
How nasty is Chamberlain’s breaking ball, BTW? Ryan Howard, who homered off him earlier, was left fooled.
2:24 p.m. Through 4 1/2 innings here’s how the revamped top of the order is doing:
Jeter: 2-for-3, two runs scored
Damon: 1-for-3 with with an RBI single that pushed the Yankees’ lead to 4-2.
My colleague, Joe Auriemma, has more on why this can work. Jeter has hit from the top spot before and has enjoyed success.
2:30 p.m. Chamberlain was pulled with one out in the fifth after putting two runners on and with his pitch count in the high 70s. This has been his biggest bugaboo. The Yankees want to see him working quicker innings and there’s a way to go about it. Throughout the spring, Chamberlain has picked the brain of A.J. Burnett, who while in Toronto learned how to pitch effectively and economically from a pretty good source, Roy Halladay.
2:45 p.m. Bad news courtesy of Newsday: Longtime Yankees public address announcer Bob Sheppard is not expected to work Opening Day at the new Yankee Stadium. Sheppard, in his late 90s and the Yankees’ P.A. since 1951, missed the entire 2008 season recovering from a bronchial infection. His wife, Mary, tells Neil Best that warmer weather hopefully may ease her husband’s return.
2:49 p.m. Cabrera works his way back from an 0-2 count to poke an RBI single to right field. Girardi wants to make a decision on who will start in center field by the weekend. While it’s expected to be Gardner, Cabrera is looking like he’ll earn a role on this team.
3 p.m. Edwar Ramirez and his change-up made mince meat out of the heart of the Phillies’ order. I wrote this earlier this spring: When he’s bad, he’s really bad, but when he’s good, he’s real good.
3:28 p.m. This game is officially in the silly stage. Yankees lead 10-2 thanks to a home run from Cabrera. To his credit, the Melk Man didn’t bury his head in his locker after Gardner’s hot start to the spring.