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.