Results tagged ‘ Yankee Stadium ’

Welcome to the party

stadium_350_041609.jpgBy Jon Lane
It’s a bit past 12:30 p.m. and the Opening Ceremonies are under way as 50,000-plus have jam-packed this beautiful new facility, open for business and the first official game between the Yankees and Indians.

John Fogerty and Bernie Williams performed live, and Michael Kay and John Sterling are introducing Yankees alumni. As timing has it, the Milwaukee Brewers play the Mets tomorrow. Willie Randolph is the Brewers’ bench coach and that’s allowed him to participate this afternoon. Our own David Cone received a nice ovation, as did Randolph, Rich Gossage and Tino Martinez.

I’ll be back with much more, including more thoughts on today. A quick update on Xavier Nady: He was to see the team doctor this morning, but told me just before 11:30 he had not yet been examined. Nady was placed on the 15-day DL today and pitcher David Robertson was called up from Triple-A Scranton. Joe Girardi’s reasoning was to wait and see if Nady will in fact miss the season or if the news turns out better than expected.

12:47 p.m.
Indians pitcher Carl Pavano was introduced to loud boos. The one-time Yankees’ colossal failure smirked at the ovation, a few writers up here snickered at the reaction.

12:56 p.m.
The 2009 Yankees were just introduced. Here’s who received the loudest ovations:
A.J. Burnett
Mariano Rivera
Andy Pettitte
Joba Chamberlain
Derek Jeter
Nick Swisher
CC Sabathia

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1:07 p.m.
Two minutes until first pitch. Here’s a shot of the military’s presenting of our colors.

First pitch: 1:09 p.m., a ball to Grady Sizemore. The game time temperature is 56 degrees.
First out: Sizemore grounds out to first base.
First strikeout: Victor Martinez whiffs to end a clean top of the first for CC Sabathia.

1:21 p.m.
The Yankees were happy just to have come home, but especially happy to be in their new digs off a nine-game road trip, the team’s longest to begin a season since 1985. Think about it: You spend six weeks in Florida, come home and instantly fall in love with your new home and three days later have to go away for nearly two weeks. After an 0-2 start in which the worst of cynics declared the season over, the Yankees are home at 5-4 and look to build off two quality wins. Not too shabby.

Hours before the pregame ceremonies, Joe Girardi told the media he had this day circled on the calendar for awhile and that the anticipation was only going to grow as the day progressed. He still takes the same route to the new Stadium (Exit 6) off the Major Deegan Expressway, which takes him directly to River Avenue. He, like everyone else, can’t help notice the venerable “House That Ruth Built” slowly and painfully being dismantled. Normally upon the opening of a new building, the old one is parking lot, but like a stubborn old goat, the original Yankee Stadium still casts a shadow over its plush neighbor.

“It’s strange driving by the old Stadium and it’s still there,” Girardi said.

Babe Ruth built the place across the street. This facility was built by George M. Steinbrenner, regarded as the architect of the Stadium that combines elements of past, present and future. The Boss is in attendance today, but keeping a low profile.

“I don’t think Opening Day is the same without him here,” Girardi said. “This is George’s creation. He’s been part of it for so long. To say the Yankees, you say Mr. Steinbrenner.”

Right after Bob Sheppard’s pre-recorded voice introduced Derek Jeter was something pretty cool. The bat on home plate prior to Jeter’s first plate appearance was used by Babe Ruth to hit the first home run in the first game at the original Yankee Stadium on April 18, 1923. The Babe hit a three-run homer off Boston’s Howard Ehmke to spark the Yankees to a 4-1 win. The bat was taken directly to the Yankees Museum here at the new Stadium, where it will be on display until the All-Star break.

No such luck for Jeter. Facing last season’s Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee, Jeter filed out to center. Johnny Damon, however, is now forever down in history as the first player to record the first hit here: a single to right center field.

1:30 p.m.
Lee, 0-2 with a 9.58 ERA coming in, got into immediate trouble. He plunked Mark Teixeira in the right triceps to put runners on first and second for the Yankees’ newest cult hero, Nick Swisher.

Someone asked Swisher before the game if there’s anybody he’s not best friends with, and I tend to wonder if there’s ever a moment when he doesn’t smile. Probably not. His grin was especially wide after he received a surprise gift in the mail, a shiny new pair of Nikes. If I were to guess, Swisher probably didn’t get a wink of sleep last night.

“If you can’t ready for today, man, you’ve got problems,” Swisher said. “I love what I do. I absolutely love what I do, and it shows. I add that because that’s my personality.”

Taking a break from batting practice, Swisher walked into the clubhouse bellowing like a little kid at the amusement park, “Opening Day! New York Yankees! 2009!”

Swisher’s first official at-bat in pinstripes: a fly out to center field. Jorge Posada came up with two out and Lee’s pitch out already over 20, but grounded to first.

1:37 p.m.
First hit by a visiting player: Ben Francisco’s two-out double to left field. Sabathia worked out of trouble after walking the next batter.

1:47 p.m.
Here in the bottom of the second, Robinson Cano led off with a base hit. Coming off a down 2008, Cano is 14 for 35 (.400) on the season. The Yankees were wise not to trade him, just like they were smart to hold on to Swisher when it was thought they had a glut of outfielders.

1:50 p.m.
Brett Gardner flies out to left to end the second. Off to check out the game atmospheres at the Hard Rock Cafe and NYY Steak

3:06 p.m.
I’m back from checking out the Hard Rock and NYY Steak. While chatting with ESPN’s Hannah Storm, Jorge Posada belted the first home run at the new Yankee Stadium to Monument Park in dead center field to tie the game at 1-1. It was also a milestone homer. Posada’s jack was the 223th of his career, passing Don Mattingly for No. 8 on the all-time franchise list. Ironically, Jose Molina, another catcher, belted the final homer at the old place.

There’s lots of ground to cover about the activities here at Yankee Stadium. I’ll gradually catch up while tracking what’s a tight ballgame.

championships_150.jpg3:21 p.m.
Interesting observation from an ESPN producer standing behind me. This wall behind the bleachers in right field has signs representing each year the Yankees became World Champions. “They didn’t leave room for a new one,” the producer said. Should the Yankees win No. 27, that will be an offseason project.

Meanwhile, Sabathia’s day is done after throwing 122 pitches (70 strikes) in 5 2/3 innings. Not efficient, but he leaves a game tied at 1-1.

3:34 p.m.
Nice job by Phil Coke, who came in with a 9.82 ERA,
to get Sizemore to fly out to left and leave the bases loaded to end the top of sixth. The Yankees have to build off that and get something started here.

3:49 p.m.
The love fest is over (for now). Jose Veras allowed a walk and a double to start the seventh before Jhonny Peralta doubled home two runs. When he’s off his game, Veras, booed off the mound, cannot find the plate and it cost him today.

4:00 p.m.
Today’s attendance: 48,271. Two thousand standing room only tickets were not sold before the game.

Thanks to the bullpen, the natives are now restless. The Indians have exploded for eight runs in the seventh off Veras and Damaso Marte, the back-breaker Sizemore’s grand slam to right field. Since 1998 the Yankees have won 11 consecutive home openers, 16 of their last 17 and 22 of their last 25 since 1983.

It’s 10-1 Tribe after Victor Martinez’s solo shot. Fans hollered, “We want Swisher!”

hrc_150_041609.jpg4:26 p.m.
With the game in the ridiculous stage, here are some highlights on the action at the Hard Rock and NYY Steak from earlier today.

Hard Rock opened at 10 a.m. and was packed to where by 2 p.m. there was a two-hour wait. A few people were getting restless, but the majority were having a blast.

Mike Mancini, hanging out with a group of Connecticut natives at the bar, made a three-hour trip, without a ticket, from Hartford. He was loving the appeal of watching a game within the Stadium confines and a fun atmosphere, certainly not a consolation prize.

“It’s been worth the trip,” Mancini said. “We drove three hours, in traffic, to hang out at the Hard Rock. We’re here drinking with our Pisans and have the beautiful Jillian behind the bar!”

nyysteak_250.jpgRon Lombardi of Mountain Lakes, N.J. is another ticket holder who
explored views from his seats for the first four innings and the Hard
Rock before he and his group settled into the laid-back atmosphere of
NYY Steak. Part of the decor is a wall affixed with signatures from Yankees greats of the past. And although Lombardi had not yet been served his main course, NYY Steak’s greens had him sold.

“This is a steakhouse,” Lombardi said. “The appetizers are good.”

Jacques Lamour, general manager of NYY Steak, told me you can have your initials carved within the bone of the rib eye, one of the many beef options dry-aged for 21-28 days.None of Steak’s dishes are frozen except the lobster tails and ice cream, everything else starts from scratch. If not for a light wallet and work obligations, I would have sampled a cut!

6:02 p.m.
There’s been some confusion over the scheduled examination of Xavier Nady’s right elbow. One day after it appeared his season was over, suddenly there’s a tiny ray of light.

Nady had a second X-Ray late this morning and will visit orthopedic surgeon Dr. Lewis Yocum, known for performing Tommy John surgery and receive a CT scan tomorrow. After that, there will be a closer look of the MRI he received in Tampa to see what’s going on with the bone.

Nady’s was disabled this morning, so it’s not like the Yankees have to make an immediate decision. The medical team is exhausting all options to avoid another Tommy John surgery, which Nady first had done in 2002.

 “If you can avoid surgery at all costs, that’s what you want to do,” Nady said. “If there’s a chance at rehab, obviously that’s the way to go. You want to be 100 percent sure of what’s going on in there, have every test done and look at everything. I went through that surgery before and would like to avoid it myself.”

Not much else to report from the clubhouse except the obvious fact that both Marte and Veras are disappointed with their respective failures. Marte blamed location; all of his pitches were right down the middle. Veras shouldered all the blame because his leadoff walk of Mark DeRosa led to the bottom falling out.

“I’m better than that,” he said.

Outside of Mariano Rivera and Brian Bruney, the bullpen has been either real good or real bad. Today was terrible, but better to figure this out heading into Game 11 than in September.

Countdown to the party

stadium_350_041509.jpgBy Jon Lane
T-minus one day until the official home opener. We were on hand for the workouts and the exhibition games, taking you for tour and providing anecdotes from around the Stadium and in the clubhouse. Expect a lot more Thursday afternoon. Fans will be jacked, CC Sabathia will be on the mound and the Yankees will thrilled to enjoy their new spoils for the next seven days. I’ll be keeping a diary and filing a postgame report. Chris Shearn and Co. will be producing exclusive videos, and Friday, Steven Goldman will provide a unique take on the Stadium’s amenities and dining experiences. This will be a lot of fun and knowing the Yankees there will be plenty of surprises. Gates will be open at 10 a.m. and the team is encouraging everyone to be in their seats by noon for the opening ceremonies.

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A.J. Burnett was amazing Tuesday night. Better than his six no-hit innings was how he, locked into a pitchers’ duel with Matt Garza, kept his composure after the Rays tied the game in the seventh. After the Yankees regained the lead off the Rays bullpen, Burnett pitched a clean eighth inning, the Yankees broke it open in the ninth and Brian Bruney struck out the side to finish it off. Through two games, Burnett is proving wrong those skeptics (me included) who thought it was a risk giving him $82.5 million over five years. There are tell-tale signs he’s no longer a thrower, but a mature pitcher. Shearn has more on Burnett and Brett Gardner, who to date is making him look like a genius.

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Hold your breath and cross your fingers: Xavier Nady is having an MRI done today to examime his right elbow, injured Tuesday in the seventh when he felt a sharp pain while throwing Carlos Pena’s single back to the infield. It’s the same area where he had Tommy John ligament replacement surgery in 2001.

From the sound of it, Nady is headed for the disabled list. That means Nick Swisher will play every day, mostly in right field. Melky Cabrera will be counted on even more to spell Johnny Damon in left. Shelley Duncan, batting .300 with a homer and five RBIs in four games at Triple-A Scranton, would add pop off the bench. None, however, can replace Nady, a steady veteran and a good fit in the bottom of the lineup. The Yankees are wishing Hideki Matsui can play some outfield right now.

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It’s Andy Pettitte against Andy Sonnanstine this afternoon (YES HD, 4 p.m.) as the Yankees finally finish their season-opening nine-game road trip. They’d love to officially open the new Yankee Stadium one game above .500, which considering having to go back on the road after just coming back from six weeks in Florida wouldn’t be too bad. Pettitte is the right guy to have on the mound. He was great in his 2009 debut at Kansas City, yielding one run and three hits over seven innings, and is 15-4 with a 3.63 ERA against the Rays, including 8-2 with a 3.72 ERA in 12 starts at Tropicana Field.

Just like it was silly to go insane over an 0-2 start, it’s completely premature to draw conclusions based on eight games. The best you can do is look at things in stages. Right here, right now, Burnett has been gold and Pettitte is a great bargain.

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movingforward.jpgYankees great Bernie Williams’ new CD, “Moving Forward” has been released. You can meet Williams and receive a signed copy of the CD at 6 p.m at Borders – Penn Plaza. Williams played one of his songs on Good Day New York this morning. His first CD, “The Journey Within” is excellent. Expect more of the same with his second helping and tune into YES next month for his live concert at New York’s Nokia Theatre.

First game impressions

By: Joe Auriemma

It’s the middle of the fifth inning in the first game here at the new Yankee Stadium and I already have some first impressions of the game play at the ball park.

It’s only fitting that Derek Jeter got the first Yankees hit to start things off in the bottom of the first inning.

Robinson Cano, who hit the first home run in the new stadium in the bottom of the second, crushed that ball into the right field bleachers. The bleachers are more set back than in the other stadium, so to hit that ball halfway up in the stands is a big time shot. I told my colleague Chris Shearn that I thought, even thought the ball was a line drive, that it was hanging up in the air more than I remember from the other park.

When Hideki Matsui and Cody Ransom hit their home runs, I felt the same way. The ball is carrying and hanging in the air tonight. I remember that the other stadium it would only really do that when the weather got hot out.

I spoke with YES Network commentator John Flaherty who also made that same observation.

I’m not going to put too much stock into the ball carrying right now until I get more of a sample throughout the season. However, if this trend does continue, this could become a very good hitters park.

Now in the top of the sixth, Mariano Rivera has come into the ballgame for his first ever appearance in the new park. Rivera, who came into his signature song Enter Sandman by Metallica, got a very big ovation from the crowd and with every pitch, flash bulbs continue to light up the stadium.

Photos: Welcome to the new Yankee Stadium

Joe Auriemma is at the new Yankee Stadium today conducting interviews for YES’ parent site (YESNetwork.com). While there, he is also snapping photos of what he sees for your enjoyment. Keep coming back for more photos.

Andy Pettitte takes the field for his first-ever workout at the new stadium
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Russ Salzberg interviews Yankees starting CF Brett Gardner

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Brett Gardner signs autographs for the fans
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The field is ready for its first-ever batting practice
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A look at the stadium’s new HD screen
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(more…)

So it begins ….

stadium2_new_250.jpgBy Jon Lane
William Blake wrote, “The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” At first glance, the new building on 161st Street and River Avenue is a modern-day manifestation of this sentiment.

I was in the building a mere five minutes, and the stadium already made enough of an impression to last a lifetime. For those few moments, it wasn’t only about a day’s work but an appreciation of what it took to get here and the payoff of a collective effort between organization, borough and city.

bernie_250.jpgAs I type, the towering screen above center field is showing Bernie Williams playing an instrumental version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” as part of the Hard Rock Café’s celebratory guitar smash, a ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate the opening of the Hard Rock Café at Yankee Stadium.

I’m barely getting started. Upon my arrival to the Hard Rock at Gate 6, across the McDonald’s on River Avenue at 8:30 this morning, it’s been non-stop touring and picture taking, with a hardy welcome breakfast in between. There’s lots more coming from today’s workouts. The Yankees are back in town, and there’s an exciting team and breathtaking ballpark to discuss.

Right now, Ace Frehley is playing a live version of his hit, “Back in the New York Groove.” You cannot make this stuff up!

11:45 a.m.
The Yankees are in town, back as a unit for the first time since saying farewell on September 21, 2008, but for the first time since 1923, the place next door is silent and empty. No ghosts, no relevance. It’s really strange.

Back at the Hard Rock, once I got a chance to poke around. I played the role of paparazzi. Numerous dignitaries were made available for photo opportunities. Outdoors rehearsing were children from the Bronx-based Renaissance EMS, an organization down the street at 161st and Third that offers music classes to neighborhood kids. It’s an affordable program offering mentorship and education to teach self-discipline through the use of music.

“Kids learn to be disciplined by learning instruments and using that knowledge in a constructive way,” said Wayne Jeffrey, a guitar instructor at Renaissance.

greathall_250.jpgAt the end of the Great Hall, high above the Yankees’ team store, lies a gargantuan high-definition video screen. In between the screen and the main entrance at Gate 4 was a classically designed tribute to Yankees history, photos of the many greats that played in pinstripes.

Lenny Caro, president and C.E.O. of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce, who worked with the Yankees and New York City to make this building a reality, praised the effort in creating jobs during tough economic times. The cynical outlook is that while Johnny Six Figures can afford the best seats and enjoy the luxurious aspects of the new Stadium, Joe Lunch Pail can use the experience of being in the building as a suspension of disbelief.

“It’s hard, I’m not going to say it’s not,” Caro said. “The average guy is not going to come to 10 games a year. He may come to four or five. We need to forget. We get up every morning, put on the news and  you’re depressed in two minutes. If you can get a little sunshine for that day, take advantage of it.”

1:47 p.m.
hal_150.jpgA couple of notable quotes from Hal Steinbrenner, who met the media after Joe Girardi:

On selling a beautiful, but pricey experience during an economic recession:
“We understand a lot of our fans are struggling. This is the worst recession in most of our lifetimes. At the same time, I think baseball has always been an escape for people. What we’re going to provide here is an unbelievable experience for thousands and thousands of our fans. Despite the troubles they’re going through right now, maybe they’ll be able to get away for two or three hours and get their mind off things. We’re going to make that experience tremendous. We see that as our role. We provide entertainment and we’re going to do it right.”

On the perception that the new Yankee Stadium is a splashy and gaudy endeavor being marketed during a terribly tough time for New York City:

“We started building this two years ago and there is  no doubt times were different. I don’t see this as ostentatious or flashy. I see this as classy. We did our best to bring all the tradition this great franchise has had the last century into this ballpark and at the same time make it as nice as we can for our fans. If some people want to call it flashy, so be it. I just think this building is classy and will be here a long, long time.

On whether Joe Girardi will be on the hot seat if the Yankees fail to reach the playoffs:

“I haven’t even thought about it. As far as I’m concerned we’re going to make the playoffs. Our fans expect that every year and we expect that every year; my dad expects that every year. This like that, we’ll cross that bridge if we come to it, but I’m not expecting that at all.”

On whether anything less than a World Series is letting the fans down:

“I can sit up here and say if we don’t win a World Series, we’ve let our fans down. I will stand up here and say that because that’s the mentality of everybody in this organization.”

I’ll have much more on these expectations in my 2009 Yankee Season Preview running this weekend.

Some quick press box nuances before I head down:

In the old place, the writer’s work room and dining area were in the basement, which means you had to take an elevator to and from the press box before and after games. Here, everything is in one spot. The dining room, called Sheppard’s Place after the legendary Bob Sheppard, is across the media working area. From there, a private press elevator takes you downstairs to the clubhouses.

workout_250.jpgThe team is working out down before a select group of about 1,000 fans. I’ll be back later with more observations and a separate diary on reactions from Yankees players.

3:46 p.m.
A colleague and friend said it best: “Today is the happiest day of the year.” (Unless the Yankees win the World Series, that is.)

On the field, in the clubhouse and in the stands, the new Yankee Stadium has everyone at a fever pitch, making it easy to forget that the Yankees still have two games left on their exhibition schedule. There are questions that are overlooked, but not to be ignored:

How long will this freshness, this newness, last? How helpful will a private chef, whirlpools, lap top kiosks affixed in every locker and that incredibly large (100 feet wide and nearly 60 feet tall) Diamond Vision be during the dog days of summer and that inevitable losing streak? This same colleague noted Nick Swisher in the dugout laughin
g with the enthusiasm of a child celebrating a birthday and Christmas on the same day. Will Swisher’s infectious personality help lift this team through the dark days and stop losing streaks before they grow exponentially out of hand?

That’s for another day. Dry runs are set for tomorrow night and Saturday afternoon, and Swisher already picked up on a nuance different from across the street: the wind. Even though this place is one block away and facing the same direction, balls hit into the outfield was moving more towards the right.

score2_150.jpgA preview of the 2009 World Series’ deciding game? Just wondering ….

4:01 p.m.
The blending of today and tomorrow with yesterday is the essence of the new Yankee Stadium. Tony Morante is the Director of Stadium Tours and the team’s resident historian who made his first trip to the original building in 1949.

“They showed that you can put a frieze up with the lights,” Morante said. “And that was a problem we had moving from 1975 into 1976 when the Stadium reopened. They determined they couldn’t do it because it would have been too heavy. This brings back April of 1923 once again. That’s our signature, the signature of Yankee Stadium. That’s the crown that makes it so special.”

frieze_420.jpgMorante and his group are working on getting all 26 championship banners ready for Opening Day on April 16, weather permitting.

“These banners are so fragile, they’ve been pushed aside for 35 years now,” Morante said. “After having them properly restored, they’re still experiencing a lot of oxidation and it’s going to be very difficult for them to weather a lot of storm.”

Thanks for reading everyone. I’m back later with a new entry detailing some great anecdotes from the players, with one, Derek Jeter, looking ahead to the inevitable dismantling of the venerable facility across the street.

Down the stretch they come

stadium_350.jpgBy Jon Lane
T-minus seven days until the start of the Yankees’ 2009 regular season in Baltimore on April 6. However, the team breaks camp on Wednesday and will be in the Bronx Thursday for a workout at their plush new digs. Me and my YESNetwork.com colleagues will be there to document the latest news and initial impressions of the new Yankee Stadium. The next night, the palace receives the first of two dry runs when the Yankees play the Chicago Cubs in an exhibition affair (YES HD, 7 p.m.)

First, the Yankees play another Spring Training game today in Dunedin, Fla., against the Blue Jays. This is their lineup:

Derek Jeter SS
Johnny Damon LF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Hideki Matsui DH
Nick Swisher RF
Robinson Cano 2B
Cody Ransom 3B
Jose Molina C
Brett Gardner CF

Pitching: Andy Pettitte, Damaso Marte, Brian Bruney, Jose Veras , Edwar Ramirez.

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gardner_150.jpgGardner made news this past weekend when he was formally named the Yankees’ starting center fielder. Joe Girardi made it clear that this will not be a platoon situation between Gardner and Melky Cabrera. Gardner will be playing every day until further notice, thus his chance to follow in the steps of Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Bobby Murcer, Mickey Rivers and Bernie Williams – at least until Austin Jackson is proclaimed Major League ready.

Gardner’s been a great story. He’s a spunky 5-10 package who was a walk-on at the College of Charleston. His big-league debut was inauspicious: .153 (9-for-59) in 17 games last season before he was demoted. And while he owns a paltry .228 average (29-for-127) in 42 games, he batted .294 (20-for-68) from August 15 until the end of the 2008 season.

This spring, Gardner hit .385 (20-for-52), with two doubles, two triples, three home runs, six RBIs, with a .448 OBP and was 5-for-7 in stolen base attempts. By way of comparison, Cabrera’s line through Sunday was .340 (18-for-53), 3 doubles, 1 triple, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 2-for-3 in SB attempts, .417 OBP, but his regression (.249 in 2008, including an August demotion) was virtually impossible to ignore.

Gardner provides elements not seen around the Yankees in recent years and his lefty bat adds balance to the lineup, but don’t count out Cabrera. He’ll make the team as a valuable reserve outfielder who can spell Johnny Damon, Xavier Nady or even Gardner (who could shift to one of the corners) late in games with an arm that can be the difference between winning and losing. He’s also only 24, so whether it’s with the Yankees or elsewhere as midseason trade bait, Cabrera still has a chance to prove that last season was an aberration.

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Girardi said he’s thinking of eschewing a long reliever in favor of Jonathan Albaladejo. Why? Nothing against Albaladejo, who’s had a fine spring, but even elite starters get shelled early and there’s that innings limit on Joba Chamberlain. The rest of the bullpen will be feeling the heat, literally and figuratively, once the weather warms up. Brett Tomko, Dan Giese or Alfredo Aceves are better suited to eating innings and keeping the Yankees in the game should they face an early deficit.

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pena_250.jpgDon’t look now, but Ramiro Pena has a realistic shot of making the team as the utility infielder who helps hold the fort until Alex Rodriguez returns. Pena’s glove has been world class since Day 1, but his bat showed tremendous improvement this spring. His chief competition, veteran Angel Berroa, is batting .358, compared to Pena’s .321, but you cannot underestimate the value of a slick glove, especially at shortstop. And giving a homegrown prospect a taste of the Majors bodes will for his future, too.

Bill Madden cites Pena’s progress and Derek Jeter’s declining range to his left. Also, I covered Pena and fellow prospect Jesus Montero at last summer’s Futures Game, when Pena showed off his defensive skills and discussed overcoming a torn labrum in his right shoulder.

According to Peter Abraham, Girardi said no decisions on these roster spots have been made yet and this could carry into the Cubs series.

Tuesday tidings

stadium_450.jpgBy Jon Lane
It’s a wonderful spring day here in the Big Apple. Walking down Eighth Avenue I was greeted with a lovely wind chill that made the real-feel temperature a wholesome 21 degrees. This is the time of year when Mother Nature experiences a few too many Happy Hours.

Anyway, thanks to everyone who joined in on both Chris Shearn’s and Team Tampa’s live commentaries from sunny Florida. The crew has produced a plethora of exclusive interviews and features for your viewing pleasure as everyone gets geared up for the 2009 season. In fact, individual game tickets went on sale on line this morning and will be available and the Yankee Stadium Ticket Office and all Ticketmaster locations starting tomorrow. From what I hear, the new Yankee Stadium is a phenomenal facility, so be sure to be a part of it. Next week, I’ll be getting my first look around and I can’t wait!

Some other random thoughts for a Tuesday:

It’s Red Sox vs. Yankees airing on the YES Network tonight at 7. Afterwords, stay tuned for the premiere of “Yankees 2009: Pride, Power & Pinstripes,” featuring Michael Kay’s exclusive interview with Alex Rodriguez. The New York Daily News grabbed excerpts of the conversation, taped prior to his hip surgery, where A-Rod said he doesn’t want the names of the other 103 players tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs released.

“Well this is really about my mistake,” Rodriguez said. “You know, many nights I fell asleep thinking about who I can blame, and this guy, or that guy. And when I woke up I kept coming back to the same person – it’s me. I mean, there’s no one to blame. I hope those 103 names never come out.”

Kay also asked A-Rod if he’s worried that people may not like him:

“Well, I’ve given up on that!” Rodriguez said. “I’ve given up on that; it’s just the way it is. I mean, look, I feel like right now, that not too many people like me, so I’ve given up on that. As long as my teammates like me, and they respect me, and my two daughters love their daddy, I’m going to go out and do the very best I can. Look, I really screwed up, and for that I’m sorry. I’m just happy to be playing baseball again.”

I’ve written and said this over and over: If A-Rod does what he’s done his entire career, that’s all people will care about. Play the game — and play the game to win.

Because Brian Bruney’s spring ERA is 7.42, Joe Girardi said the Yankees need to find a way to get him going. Don’t get this confused with the manager putting Bruney on notice. He’s still going into the regular season as the eighth-inning man, so please don’t start with the Joba to the bullpen stuff. The operative word in my first sentence is “spring.”

swishnady_250.jpgXavier Nady was named the Yankees’ starting right fielder. This was the featured story in the papers yesterday because quite simply it was the news of the day. In actuality it’s much ado about nothing.

Nick Swisher will get his share of playing time and will thrive when called upon. Yes he was upset and disappointed, but who wouldn’t be? I wouldn’t know what to do with a player who accepts the fact that he won’t play every day. Swisher has a new lease on his professional life and Mark Texieria’s signing failed to dim his bright outgoing personality. He’ll handle this too.

Funny observation from Pete Caldera: “Shelley Duncan to Xavier Nady, upon seeing a bunch of writers speaking to Nady this afternoon: ‘Are you on the same list as Alex?'”

Brett Gardner could grow into the Yankees’ version of Dustin Pedroia, writes Mike Lupica. It’s highly unlikely Gardner will become the AL’s Most Valuable Player, but like Pedroia, Gardner’s small package is saturated with grit, heart and desire. Said Girardi in the story: “There’s no size chart in baseball.”

Derek Jeter looked his age during the World Baseball Classic, writes Jack Curry. Jeter batted an uneventful .276 with no homers, RBIs or stolen bases in eight games for Team USA and faced more questions about his defensive shortcomings. I’m choosing not to worry about it until 2011, but Jeter is 34 years old and if his range is determined to be shot, it’s the outfield, a part-time role or (gasp) farewell to an icon.

Robin Yount was 29 years old when shoulder surgery ended his career as a short stop. He moved to center field to reduce the pressure on his throwing arm and proceeded to bat above .300 four straight years and win an MVP in 1989. The difference here though is Jeter’s arm is fine, so will this perception about his range suddenly improve or disappear when he’s in the outfield? Let’s get there first.

Negron's latest hit


onelasttime_375.jpgBy Jon Lane
Yankees senior advisor Ray Negron has his third book coming out March 17. One Last Time: Good-Bye to Yankee Stadium bids a fond farewell to the venerable Yankee Stadium after 85 years of epic history and tradition. As the new Stadium opens across the street, Ray the bat boy and George Steinbrenner summon some of the greatest players who have worn the pinstripes to this hallowed field for one last game. Think of it as “Field of Dreams” meets the Bronx.

In terms of connecting baseball, children and their parents, few if anyone do it better than Negron. His first two books, The Boy of Steel and The Greatest Story Never Told are both listed in Amazon’s Top Ten list of children’s books. The story of Negron’s life is well-known. At age 16 he was caught by Steinbrenner spray painting a Yankees logo on a Yankee Stadium wall and taken to a police station within the building. While Negron awaited his fate, Steinbrenner decided he would not press charges. Negron was to work off the damages as a batboy, cleaning shoes and doing clubhouse chores. He since lived through the Bronx Zoo years of 1977 and ’78 and remains a close confidant of The Boss through today.

Come August, Negron’s next book will reflect on the 30th Anniversary of the tragic passing of Thurman Munson.

One Last Time: Good-Bye to Yankee Stadium is available for pre-order on Amazon.com. All proceeds will be donated to Yankees Universe and its affilated charitable organizations.

For posterity’s sake, here was the Yankees’ lineup the night of September 21, 2008, the last game to ever be played at the old Yankee Stadium:

Johnny Damon CF
Derek Jeter SS
Bobby Abreu RF
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Jason Giambi 1B
Xavier Nady LF
Robinson Cano 2B
Hideki Matsui DH
Jose Molina C

Here’s the projected 2009 lineup, assuming everyone is healthy:

Johnny Damon CF
Derek Jeter SS
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Hideki Matsui DH
Jorge Posada C
Robinson Cano 2B
Xavier Nady RF
Melky Cabrera/Brett Gardner CF