By Jon Lane
The Yankees won yesterday. Crisis averted. They will not go 0-162. They will win more than their fair share of games. But be warned, part of a great season is losing around 65 of them. Even that 1998 Yankees team, the one that won 114 regular season games, LOST 58.
In other words, no need to ever stand on the ledge of the RFK Bridge, panic like you’re running from bulls or arrive at work salty because you watched the Yankees actually lose a ballgame the night before. CC Sabathia’s next loss will not label him a bust. Joba Chamberlain’s next bad start will not be grounds for banishment to the bullpen. And the next time Mark Teixeira makes an out won’t devalue him to minimum wage.
Life in Yankeeland can be a lot WORSE. Imagine the scenario conjured up by WFAN’s Sweeny Murti and you’ll get the idea.
Great first start for Nick Swisher, who tied a career-high with five RBIs. Swisher is behind Xavier Nady on the outfield depth chart, but if he keeps up the pace Joe Girardi will have to think twice about keeping him out of the lineup. For now, Swisher’s ability to play in either left or right allows Girardi to rest Nady, Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui and his sore knees. Swisher has been a good soldier, but don’t be fooled. He wants to play every day. Depth, it’s a nice problem to have.
Andy Pettitte makes his 2009 debut tonight, eager to rebound from a down 2008, in what may turn out to be his final season in the Major Leagues. Pettitte is 7-0 in 11 starts against the Royals since August 18, 1999, a favorable trend with the Yankees looking to build off of A.J. Burnett’s fine start. Starters 1 and 1A, CC Sabathia and Chien-Ming Wang, combined to allow 13 runs on 17 hits in back-to-back losses to the Orioles, a team that has posted 11 consecutive losing seasons.
Guess who’s back? It’s Sidney Ponson, who gets yet another chance to revive a career that’s gone south since a 14-6 season with the Orioles in 2003. Ponson went 4-4 with a 5.85 ERA in 16 games last year in New York as the Yankees tried in vain to fill the void created by Wang’s season-ending injury, but he was picked up by the Royals following two solid outings with the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic. This is the seventh team in seven years for the right-hander, who despite a 0-1, 9.58 spring ERA was handed a rotation spot and will be added to the roster today.
Ponson is 6-13 with a 4.89 ERA in 28 career games versus the Yankees, whose top three hitters have owned him throughout his career. Derek Jeter has hit .377 (29-for-77) with five homers, Damon .346 (18-for-52) and Teixeira .533 (8-for-15).
During the WBC, the television broadcasters cited a new and matured Ponson thanks to the birth of his child. But in the past, when you think he’s turned it around, Ponson has let you down (on the field only, as he’s put his personal demons behind him). If he can pitch to at least half the standards set by fellow starters Gil Meche, Zack Greinke and Kyle Davies — they combined to allow one run in 20 innings with 13 hits, five walks and 21 strikeouts against the White Sox — he’ll stick around. If not, this may be the final opportunity for the 32-year-old native of Aruba.
En route to Kansas City, Pete Caldera posed some pertinent questions.
Yet another former Yankee, Jeff Karstens, makes his first start tonight for the Pirates in Cincinnati. But unlike teammate Ross Ohlendorf, also packaged in the trade for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte, Karstens’ spot is already on shaky ground. He comes off a Grapefruit campaign in which he posted a 6.17 ERA.
Enjoy the game. YES’ coverage begins with New York Yankees Pre Game at 3:30 p.m.