Tagged: Melky Cabrera

The 411 from Steinbrenner Field

By Joe Auriemma

Joe Girardi spoke to the media and talked openly about the center-field job and who has the edge on winning it — Brett Gardner or Melky Cabrera. Girardi seems to feel that both Gardner and Cabrera could split time at the position when the season begins. He likes how both players are very good defensively, and with the bolstered rotation, these two players would add a spark to the team.

It’s just been announced that Nick Swisher is day-to-day with a bruised lower left calf.

I’ll be blogging again in a little bit.

CC looking to deal aces at Joker Marchant

By Jon Lane
It’s the Big C on the mound today against the Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium. CC Sabathia pitched two scoreless innings in his Spring Training debut last Friday and is right on track for Opening Day April 6 in Baltimore.

From where I sit, Sabathia is already earning his big bucks by establishing himself as an ace with his work ethic and attitude. He’s gone out of his way to integrate himself with his new teammates and has been completely relaxed throughout camp. Yeah, Alex Rodriguez’s tribulations have had Sabathia flying under the radar, but the heat will intensify and Sabathia has shown throughout his career he can handle it.

If the Yankees do not skip Joba Chamberlain’s turn in the rotation, Sabathia will also start the home opener April 16 against his old friends from Cleveland.

Today’s lineup
Melky Cabrera CF
Johnny Damon LF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Jorge Posada DH
Nick Swisher RF
Cody Ransom 3B
Angel Berroa 2B
Ramiro Pena SS
Kevin Cash C

Storylines: Alfredo Aceves, Brian Bruney, Jose Veras, Mark Melancon and Steven Jackson will follow Sabathia … Joe Girardi said on Tuesday that Veras, Edwar Ramirez and Phil Coke have the inside track for bullpen spots based on their performances last season. Ramirez threw batting practice this morning after shut down for two weeks with bursitis in his pitching shoulder. Preceding Ramirez was Mariano Rivera, who told reporters he will throw BP again on Saturday and then should be ready for a game … The Brett Gardner hit parade continued Tuesday night. The spark plug went 2-for-3 with an RBI and is batting .417 (10-for-24). Melky Cabrera, meanwhile, is batting .278 and needs to string together a few good games just to keep pace … Neither Xavier Nady (.211) nor Nick Swisher (.133) are distinguishing themselves in the battle for right field, but being that they’re veterans they’re afforded more slack … The Dominican Republic’s shocking elimination from the World Baseball Classic means Robinson Cano and Damaso Marte are expected back by Friday.

2:15 p.m. Rough day at the office for Sabathia, who was lifted with two out in the second. The Tigers bombed the left-hander for five runs on six hits in 1 2/3 innings, including a two-run shot from Gary Sheffield.

3:48 p.m. Melky Cabrera went 0-for-3 with a walk, dropping his average to .238. It’s March 11 and there are a lot of spring games left to be played, but Brett Gardner is running away with the job of starting center fielder.

The 2 Live Stews

zone80.pngHere’s audio of my appearance on Sports Radio 790 in Atlanta, talking A-Rod, the WBC and CC Sabathia with The 2 Live Stews.

Tonight’s lineup vs. Reds (YES HD, 7 p.m.)
Brett Gardner CF
Johnny Damon LF
Xavier Nady RF
Hideki Matsui DH
Cody Ransom 3B
Jose Molina C
Juan Miranda 1B
Angel Berroa SS
Ramiro Pena 2B

Some random takes about the Yankees and around the league:

  • Maybe the idea of Brett Gardner as the Yankees’ everyday center fielder is not so crazy after all, writes John Harper. The Yankees’ Brett the Jet, is batting .381 (6-for-21) with a team-leading three home runs, four RBIs, six runs scored and two stolen bases in eight games. Conversely, Melky Cabrera is batting .278 with two homers and two runs scored. Of course, there remains a ton of time in Spring Training, and Gardner may easily flame out by April, but here and now he provides elements the Yankees need and Joe Girardi loves: hustle, guts and grit.
  • Anthony McCarron is following Francisco Cervelli’s ride with Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic, which knocked Canada out of the tournament and plays tonight in an elimination game.Cervelli received nice compliments from hitting coach Mike Piazza. Yet I still wonder why he chose to play in the tournament instead of trying to make a lasting impression on the Yankees. Jorge Posada’s shoulder issues won’t have closure until he proves he can resume the full responsibility of a starting catcher. Besides, he turns 38 in August and his contract runs out after the 2011 season. It’s never too early to start thinking about the future. It’s not Jose Molina and it may not be Jesus Montero. 
  • Incidentally, I’m enjoying the WBC. And I’m now a fan of Juan Carlos Sulbaran. Pitching for the Netherlands, the Reds’ 19-year-old Single-A prospect came on in the sixth and whiffed Ivan Rodriguez on three nasty pitches. Later, Sulbaran got Carlos Beltran to ground out with the bases loaded on a 3-2 pitch. It’s do or die for the upstart Dutch team tonight when they face a Dominican Republic group out for revenge, but win or lose, Sulbaran will be around for a long time. Years from now, a Reds rotation of Sulbaran, Johnny Cueto, Edison Volquez and Homer Bailey will be scary good.
  • Don’t look now, but Angel Berroa is 9-for-18 with two homers and five RBIs in eight games. Cody Ransom is 6-for-20 (.300) with an RBI in eight games. Berroa, though, has played all of one game at third base (in 2007) and has hit no higher than .270 since being named AL Rookie of the Year in 2003. Ransom’s the guy to play third in Alex Rodriguez’s absence. He’s more versatile and reliable for the long haul.

Monday musings

pettitte_250_030909.jpgBy Jon Lane
Andy Pettitte his spring debut this afternoon against the Blue Jays. Pettitte and the Yankees, as you know, were at a stalemate before compromising on a one-year deal worth $5.5 million with an additional $6.5 million in bonuses.

Not that Pettitte will rebound from a down season to win 20 games like Mike Mussina last year, but he will be better now that he’s healthy and free from the HGH admissions that weighed heavily on his mind.

Furthermore, having won in New York, Pettitte offers an invaluable intangible to CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and the Yankees’ young arms. His wisdom, experience and insight will become especially valuable late in the season and the take here is that Pettitte still have a few big games left in him.
Today’s lineups
Brett Gardner CF
Melky Cabrera LF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Jorge Posada DH
Nick Swisher RF
Jose Molina C
Angel Berroa 2B
Justin Leone 3B
Ramiro Pena SS

The center field derby
Brett Gardner: 6-for-18, 2 HRs, 5 R, 2 SB
Melky Cabrera: 4-for-15, 0 HRs, 2 R, 0 SB

Don’t look now
Phil Hughes’ Grapefruit line: 7.2 innings, 3 hits, 2 runs, 3 walks, 8 strikeouts, including three hitless innings on Sunday (two walks, four strikeouts).

Andrew Brackman was optioned to Single-A Charleston. J.B. Cox, George Kontos and Kanekoa Texeira were reassigned to the Yankees’ Minor League camp.

Alex Rodriguez is undergoing hip surgery this morning. Pete Caldera of The Bergen Record tracks the A-Rod stock market.

Cody Ransom is getting his share of press. This column by The Record‘s Ian O’Connor is an absolute must-read. This alone makes you want to root for Ransom.

Strictly in baseball terms, the Yankees can get back with Ransom at third base for a month or so. He’ll be that much more valuable to the team once Rodriguez returns.

A few updates from Peter Abraham:

Andy Pettitte’s line: 1 2/3 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 2 Ks, 31 pitches

Dan Giese gave up a solo home run to Russ Adams in the third.

Brett Gardner’s hot spring continues. Gardner went yard with a two-run shot (his third of the spring) to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead in the bottom half of the third. Melky Cabrera was hitless in two at-bats entering the fifth.

Gardner later reached first on a bunt single and was moved to third on Cabrera’s two-out base hit. However, Cabrera got caught between first and second and Gardner, breaking for home, was tagged out. Gardner is 2-for-3 with two RBIs and Cabrera finished 1-for-3 before he was replaced in left field by Austin Jackson.

The news was not so good for Ian Kennedy. The right-hander got tagged for five runs on five hits in two innings, including Travis Snider’s solo homer with one out in the sixth. 

An antidote to Old Man Winter

jeter_250_030409.jpgBy Jon Lane
“Oh I just love the first day of school don’t you?!”
Patty Simcox

“It’s the biggest thrill of my life.”
Betty Rizzo, reeking of sarcasm

Nothing like quoting Grease to get a late start on today’s blog. That sums up how I feel about the wonderful world of winter, especially after spending nearly three hours shoveling two feet of snow off my driveway. Anyone who loves what Mother Nature hammered the Northeast – and parts of Alabama and Georgia – with yesterday is Patty Simcox.

Today baseball casts a bright light on a day in which the high in New York City will reach 25 degrees, and that’s not including a lovely wind chill. The Yankees are back in Tampa, Fla., to host an exhibition affair against the World Baseball Classic’s United States team. Phil Hughes starts for the Yankees against Roy Oswalt, whose teammate will be Derek Jeter. For the first time in his career, Jeter is playing against the Yankees, batting second and playing shortstop for Team USA.

The YES Network airs this live at 1 p.m., so sit back and enjoy what should prove to be a unique game.

The lineups:

Johnny Damon LF
Brett Gardner CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Jorge Posada DH
Xavier Nady RF
Cody Ransom 2B
Kevin Cash C
Angel Berroa SS
Justin Leone 3B

Dustin Pedroia 2B
Derek Jeter SS
Chipper Jones DH
David Wright 3B
Adam Dunn RF
Kevin Youkilis 1B
Ryan Braun LF
Brian McCann C
Curtis Granderson CF

1 p.m. Steven Goldman kicked off a hot debate over Jeter’s future with the Yankees once his contract expires at the end of the 2011 season. If you ask Goldman, the Yankees should not turn a blind eye to Father Time and re-sign him just because he’s Derek Jeter. If you ask Joe Auriemma, Derek Jeter should retire as a Yankee if he’s willing to make a few concessions.

What do you think?

1:19 p.m. Hughes allowed a leadoff single before getting Jeter to ground into a 4-4-3 double play. Jeter had asked to not be pitched inside, but Hughes apparently didn’t get the memo. Chipper Jones then grounded out to end the inning on a nice play by Cody Ransom.

1:29 p.m. Yankees take a 1-0 lead on Jorge Posada’s RBI single. Brett Gardner got it started with a one-out single and scored when Posada, batting left-handed, poked a blooper to left filed. The stats from these games will not count, but Posada (.625-1-3) and Gardner (.500-2-2, three runs scored) have been two of the Yankees’ best players to date.

1:35 p.m. Hughes looks terrific. He’s thrown two scoreless innings and in the second caught  David Wright and Adam Dunn looking at strike three with nasty breaking pitches.

1:49 p.m. Jeter gets revenge on Hughes with a two-out, two-run single to give Team USA a 2-1 lead in the third. That’s it for Hughes. The Yankees don’t want to extend him beyond the 42 pitches he threw in 2 2/3 innings. Hughes looked good and is still building arm strength, but his stamina and high pitch counts have been causes for concern. That’s why it’s a blessing in disguise he’ll likely begin the season at Triple-A. This kid will be an impact player and time is on his side.

2 p.m. Gardner is 2-for-2 and just swiped second base. It remains early in the spring but the Yankees have to be encouraged with the way Gardner is swinging the bat. Gardner’s meager offense is what’s kept him from getting to that next level. If he continues to have good at-bats and create havoc on the bases he’ll be the Yankees’ starting center fielder. Melky Cabrera may push him, and far and away he has the better arm, but Gardner doesn’t think twice about getting down and dirty, and would be more of a spark from the No. 9 spot in the lineup.

2:31 p.m. Gardner slaps a double down the left field line and is 3-for-3. Cabrera isn’t quaking in his cleats, however. He had one down year and remains an asset when his head is in the game. He’s also out of options, which will make for an interesting decision if Joe Girardi does in fact deem Gardner his starter.

2:48 p.m. Phil Coke’s line: 2.1 innings, 1 hit, 0 runs, 0 walks 2 strikeouts. I love the potential of the bullpen’s underbelly with Coke and Damaso Marte serving as the left-handers.

3:07 p.m. Cody Ransom is 2-for-3 with an RBI. Michael Kay and John Flaherty is talking up Ransom as the ideal utility infielder who’d be content being a bench player and ready to play at a moment’s notice. Certainly not an everyday player, but you worry about that only in the event the Yankees lose one of their starters. Ransom looked good in spurts last season and would fit the role player bill nicely from where I sit.

3:35 p.m. Cabrera entered the game for Gardner and struck out looking in his first at-bat. It’s 6-4, Team USA at the end of seven.

4:20 p.m. Yankees lose 6-5. Nice at-bat by Cabrera in the bottom of the ninth. He battled Matt Lindstrom to a full count before slapping base hit to put runners on the corners with nobody out and stealing a base to put himself in scoring position.

Flaherty said it best when he noted that such at-bats is a confidence builder. Judging by the recent performances of Gardner and Cabrera, this competition will go down to Spring Training’s final week, or perhaps by the time the Yankees open their new home April 3 and 4 with two exhibition games against the Cubs.

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.

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.

Figuring out the outfield puzzle

melky_375_021809.jpgBy Jon Lane
Barring a trade, or the Yankees plucking a stop-gap veteran off the scrap heap, Brett Gardner or Melky Cabrera will be the team’s starting center fielder.

Many people wanted to pull the plug on Cabrera; he was almost shipped
to Milwaukee for Mike Cameron. Why give up so soon? He’s only 24 and
had one bad season, which made nearly everyone forget his 16 assists
and 73 RBIs the year before, as well as those sparkling catches in
center that had fans enamored with him. Cabrera’s biggest issue is
maturity, so you hope his demotion to Triple-A last August humbled him.

From the looks of his Dominican League numbers (.312-1-12 in 24 games
for Aguilas Cibaenas) the prognosis is encouraging. Also helping
Cabrera’s cause is him pulling out of the World Baseball Classic. It’s
admirable Cabrera wanted to represent his native Dominican Republic,
but he has too much to prove to the Yankees – and to himself.

There is a lot to like about Gardner’s game. He’s a demon on the bases and goes all-out in every area. He just has to hit; a .228 batting average in 42 games isn’t what the Yankees are accustomed to in center field.

Why trade either Xavier Nady or Nick Swisher? Either (likely Nady) will start in right field. Both offer depth and in Swisher’s case, flexibility. Bear in mind that Hideki Matsui will not see any action in the outfield all spring. He’s coming off knee surgery, so he’ll be a DH for the foreseeable future.

I’m expecting a bounce-back season for Swisher (.219-24-69 in ’08), a genial person who needed a fresh start after his fallout with Ozzie Guillen in Chicago. He’s only 28 and two seasons removed from slugging 35 home runs with 95 RBIs.

A friend of mine had this idea the other day: The Yankees sign free agent Garret Anderson. In theory it’s great. At age 36, Anderson batted .293 with 15 home runs and 84 RBIs, second on the club to Vladimir Guerrero’s 91. When the Angels decided to decline picking up their option on Anderson’s contract, Anderson left Southern California as the franchise’ leader in games played, at-bats, hits, total bases, singles, doubles, grand slams, extra-base hits, career RBI, single-game RBI, and consecutive games (12) with an RBI.

In practice it’s unlikely, though you never know. Anderson would have made $14 million in 2009 and the Yankees do not want to add more to their bloated payroll. Nady or Swisher would have to be dealt and Anderson would have to play every day. He turns 37 in June, so how productive would he truly be?

One person who will not be roaming the outfield for the Yankees: Bernie Williams. The fan favorite was with the team in Tampa today, but he’s not on the roster. He’s working out in preparation for Team Puerto Rico in the WBC.