We’re back at George M. Steinbrenner Field prepping for tonight’s game with the Red Sox. If possible, there is a big-game feel around the park, even though it’s only Spring Training. YES’ cameras are setting up for tonight’s broadcast and there are already people scalping tickets, as the game is sold out.
The big news of the day is that Derek Jeter has rejoined the team after Team USA fell to Korea in the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic.
Here’s tonight’s Yankees lineup:
Johnny Damon LF
Derek Jeter SS
Mark Teixeira 1B
Hideki Matsui DH
Jorge Posada C
Robinson Cano 2B
Xavier Nady RF
Cody Ransom 3B
Brett Gardner CF
Pitching: A.J. Burnett, Mariano Rivera, Damaso Marte, Edwar Ramirez and Dave Robertson.
Many of the writers in the clubhouse are speculating that this will be the Opening Day lineup, which means Gardner will win the CF job. This obviously remains to be seen, but that’s what people are guessing right now.
Shortly before 2:30, Derek Jeter arrived to the Yankees clubhouse for the first time since leaving for the World Baseball Classic. He greeted A.J. Burnett before heading inside to get changed. Shortly after, nearly every writer in the world converged on Jeter at his locker. The Yankees captain said he feels good physically despite missing much of camp and is excited about getting into the daily routine again.
Editor’s note: Sorry for the paparazzi-style photograph. Jeter was so excited to get into the clubhouse that there wasn’t time to get a “real” camera out.
Jeter tells reporters he was obviously disappointed that Team USA got knocked out, but was happy he got an opportunity to get to know the players he played against for years. When asked what Americans can learn from the Japanese style of play, he joked that he would like to learn how to run down to first before actually hitting the ball.
Joe Auriemma just spoke with Ray Negron about doing a feature with him this Friday. For those who don’t know, Negron is the author of a new book, One Last Time: Good-Bye to Yankee Stadium and asked us to interview Richard Gere about the book as well. Gere will be voicing the audio version of the book. Check back here Friday for the interview.
Reggie Jackson sends his best wishes to Whitey Ford, who will be celebrating his 80th birthday this year. Look for the video on the Yes Network later this season.
After taking his hacks during BP, Jeter continues to get reacquainted with those in the Yankees organization, including YES’ Paul O’Neill.
Its clear that this season’s squad is much more relaxed than the ’08 team at the same time last spring. Seems like Swisher is the ring leader, joking with each player as they swing. He gives each player “two minutes” for hooking… Hooking their ball foul, that is.
Girardi met with the media in the Yankees dugout. The manager plans on having the CF job ironed out by Sunday or Monday. He thinks both Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner had really good springs and that he is happy with both.
Regarding talking to Nick Swisher about Xavier Nady being his right fielder, Girardi said he was pleased to see that Swisher was still the same fun-loving guy after the news broke. The manager compared Swisher’s limited playing time to when he played for the Yankees and shared at-bats with Jorge Posada. According to Girardi, sometimes you have to give up a little to get to your ultimate goal of a World Series championship.
As the fans ready themselves for the start of tonight’s game, many enjoy a little carnival-style pitch-speed game. This little Yankee packs a 40 mph heater. He’s a lefty, too. Perhaps we’re looking at a future major leaguer.
We’re moments away from first pitch. Tune in to YES, as Michael Kay and Paul O’Neill bring you all the action. Then keep it tuned to YES after the game for the Spring Training special, featuring the highly-anticipated Alex Rodriguez interview.
National Anthem, followed by a military flyover. We’re told it was quite emotional. We couldn’t see it from the press box, though.
Tonight’s attendance: 11,113. The largest crowd to ever see a game at Steinbrenner Field.
By Jon Lane
Curt Schilling officially retired today after 20 seasons in baseball. He leaves with a rap sheet of conflicts with players and media a mile long, but I’m not talking about that here. Rather, I recall the night when his grit and guts transformed him to one of the greatest impact players in the game’s history.
I begin with the afternoon of Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS. I’m standing on the field at Fenway Park figuring out my next move when Kevin Millar comes out of the dugout and heads towards the outfield for a workout. The Red Sox were down 3-0 to the Yankees and their dubious history was about to strangle them for the 87th consecutive year. The tension around the team and the city was palpable … or so it seemed.
In response to an inquiry, Millar turned to me and a few of us hanging out behind the first base line. Wearing that infectious — and in this case a devious — smile, Millar said, and I paraphrase, “These guys [the Yankees] had better win tonight. Or else we have Pedro [Martinez] in Game 5 and Schill in Game 6. Once it’s 3-3 anything can happen!” Of course, this eventually became part of Boston lore, but me and this small group of writers were the first to hear it.
The Red Sox won the next two games beginning with a Game 4 rally that started when Mariano Rivera walked Millar to lead off the bottom of the ninth ahead by a run. We’re back in New York for Game 6 and a showdown between Schilling and Jon Leiber, the Yankees’ best postseason starter that October. The Yankees smashed Schilling for six runs in three innings in Game 1. As it turned out, Schilling pitched with a loose tendon in his right ankle and his status for the rest of the series was in doubt. The next few days, Red Sox manager Terry Francona was peppered with inquires as rumors persisted Schilling would give it a go if the series were to extend to six games. When the pieces were put together, a surgical procedure done by the team doctor sutured the loose tendon and Schilling was on the mound for another of one of the Red Sox’s infinite do-or-die games.
Blood seeping through his sock during the game, all Schilling did was pitch seven innings of one-run ball to carry Boston to a 4-2 win, one that wasn’t secured until closer Keith Foulke struck out Tony Clark with two runners on in the bottom of the ninth. Like many of his teammates, Schilling talked tough, standing up to the Yankees’ mystique and aura tag-team, and backed up every word.
Schilling finishes 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA and 3,116 strikeouts, 14th on baseball’s all-time list. Much more important are his postseason numbers: 11-2 (the finest of any pitcher with at least 10 decisions) and 2.23 ERA in 19 career starts. The sock lives in the Hall of Fame. Sock, blood and right foot will reunite in five years. You can love, loathe or not give a damn about Curt Schilling, but you cannot deny his courage and grace under pressure.
By Jon Lane
Refreshed after an off day in the Florida sun, the Yankees return to action tonight against the Red Sox in Fort Myers.
I’ll never forget my first trip to City of Palms Park, which made a one-way, two-hour-plus drive from Tampa seem like 10. It was 2004 and the Yankees’ first meeting with the Red Sox since Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series. There was an overflow crowd outside the ballpark. People looking to make extra bucks were selling souvenir pins for $6 and tickets for at $100-$500 for the privilege of viewing what the Boston media was calling “Game 8.”
Mind you, this was a Spring Training game. The biggest names on the trip for the Yankees were Jorge Posada and Jose Contreras. What certain people sacrifice and put themselves through for the minuscule of pleasures.
Tonight will be different. The rivalry has simmered down (at least for now). There’s neither bad blood spilling over from a near brawl nor heartache over Aaron “Bleeping” Boone. And don’t forget the small detail that the Red Sox have lad this game of one-upmanship since Game 4, 2004 ALCS. Last season they fell to the Rays in seven games of the ALCS in defense of their second World Championship in three years, while the Yankees come off missing the postseason for the first time in 13 years.
For those making the trip, living in New England, subscribers to the MLB Network and/or MLB.TV, or those who get a kick out of refreshing box scores, it’s Chien-Ming Wang against Tim Wakefield. Each will work three innings and the Yankees’ biggest name player on the trip is Xavier Nady. After tonight, the Yankees have an immediate turnaround thanks to afternoon games in Bradenton (1:05) and Tampa (1:15). The YES Network will carry the latter affair against the Astros with A.J. Burnett on the mound (Phil Hughes goes against the Pirates). Be sure to stay logged on all weekend for the latest as Opening Day draws closer.
- Wang comes off allowing a run on three hits with two strikeouts in three innings on March 7, his second start since missing the final 3 1/2 months of last season with a torn Lisfranc ligament of the right foot suffered in Houston on June 15. Before the injury he was 8-2 and won 19 games each of the last two seasons. Not a bad resume for the Yankees’ No. 2 starter.
- Robinson Cano, Damaso Marte and Francisco Cervelli, each returning from the World Baseball Classic, all will likely play tomorrow. For Cervelli, Italy’s ouster is a blessing in disguise. There’s still time to show the Yankees if he’s a reliable option should an injury fell Jorge Posada or Jose Molina.
- Sweeny Murti is
already declaring Brett Gardner the winner of the center field derby. The speedy, gritty Gardner is today’s YESNetwork.com Quick Cut.
- The Yankees bullpen is deep, and if one arm falters
others are waiting, writes Mark Feinsand.
- Very interesting story from Kat O’Brien on what Joba Chamberlain, CC Sabathia, Brian Bruney and Burnett have in common: Tattoos.
Thanks to everyone who shared their takes on this Hughes vs. Chamberlain debate. There were certainly a lot of passionate opinions on both sides. As of 12:25 today, Chamberlain holds a slim lead over Hughes (540-520) in our homepage poll, which will remain active throughout the weekend. I’m wondering whether Hughes’ start on Saturday will further influence the discussion either positively or adversely.
2:22 p.m. Tonight’s Lineup
Brett Gardner CF
Cody Ransom 3B
Juan Miranda 1B
Xavier Nady RF
John Rodriguez DH
Jose Molina C
Shelley Duncan LF
Angel Berroa 2B
Ramiro Pena SS
Robinson Cano has a sore right shoulder and Damaso Marte has pain in his left pectoral muscle, which he told reporters he hurt lifting weights before appearing in the Dominican Republic’s final WBC game. Both were to play tomorrow, but that’s out and instead each will visit a doctor.