The Yankees are riding high from a home opening weekend that included winning a series against a very good Angels team. The Yankees now stand at 5-4 through the first nine games and welcome the Twins into town for a four-game set.
Freddy Garcia is starting the first game of the series after he turned into Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn in Baltimore in his first start. Garcia had five wild pitches after having only four all of the 2011 season. With Andy Pettitte's return to the Bronx looming, Garcia and Hughes certainly have to pitch very well to make their case to stay in the rotation.
“I thought his start the other day was very uncharacteristic of Freddy,” Joe Girardi said in his pregame press conference. “With all of the struggles he had, he really could have only given up one run in a sense. Wild pitches came into it, an error came into it, only gave up four hits, but his command really got him in trouble that day. If you had to try to give a reason why, I would say more the weather affected him more than anything else that day.”
Speaking of Andy Pettitte, he continues to impress as he makes his way back to the Major Leagues. In two starts down in Class-A Tampa, he has pitched seven innings, allowing just four hits and one run, while walking no one and striking out five. His ERA is a mineicule 0.57. In fact, in his start yesterday, he threw four scoreless innings and looked very impressive.
One concern that has been brought up by Yankees fans early on in the season is that CC Sabathia has not looked like the lights out ace he's been in his three-plus years in New York. He's given up nine earned runs in his first 12 innings of work this season. Velocity has not been an issue thus far as he's struck out 15.
With that being said, both Girardi and Sabathia did not seem too concerned. When Sabathia was asked how he felt to this point he said, “I think velocity is a lot better this year than it was last year and the year before that this early on.”
Girardi echoed his sentiments by saying, “CC's notoriously been a slow starter. Anytime CC struggles a little bit, people are like 'uh oh' in a sense. I mean, this guy has won 19, 20 and 19 for us. Two of the Aprils he had were not real good in that stretch, so to me, I look it as CC kind of going along with his normal progression, and as it starts to get warmer, and we know he likes the heat, he really starts to pitch better.”
Both manager and player are very wise to not be concerned this early on. March and April have been Sabathia's worst months throughout his All-Star career. He is just 17-14 with a 4.18 ERA in 52 starts when you combine the two early months of the season. The 4.18 ERA is the highest ERA of any of the months he's pitched in. In fact, since joining the Yankees in 2009, he's started 18 games in March and April. He's just 6-4 with a 3.63 ERA, allowing eight home runs, walking 42 and striking out 113.
The Twins version of the M&M boys are in town and are finally healthy. It's been awhile since a fully healthy Twins team has come into New York.
Last year, Joe Mauer, the 2009 AL MVP, just played in 82 games and had a .287 average with just three home runs and 30 RBIs. This year Mauer is hitting .242 with a home run and five RBIs. Justin Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP, has been battling injuries and concussions for the past two seasons. He's played in just 159 games since the 2009 season. In 2011, in his limited time, Morneau hit just .227 with four home runs and 30 RBIs and is looking for the ultimate comeback season.
“Well, it's a totally different lineup,” Girardi said before the game about Mauer and Morneau. “I mean, we've seen them the last year a lot of times without those two, and you know, it's the heart and soul of the lineup. You take the heart and soul out of any lineup they're a lot different, so I noticed they split up their lefties today. Put the hammer in between, (Josh) Willingham, who's a very good hitter and has had success against us, so their middle of the order is very strong.”
Of note, Justin Morneau will be playing his first game at first base tonight after being the primary DH for the Twins to this point in the season.