Wednesday, April 6, 2011, 5:39 PM
Today is April 6 and a year ago, Rafael Soriano was in Tampa Bay and was the winning pitcher in a 4-3 Rays' victory over the Orioles. That day, Soriano began a 45-save season by working out of a bases-loaded jam.
Last night, Soriano failed to work out of the same situation as he gave up three walks for the first time as a relief pitcher. Then he did one of the cardinal sins, especially in New York and that was not owning up to it.
Whether he pitches a third straight game remains to be seen, especially since he has thrown 51 pitches during the last two games, but one thing is certain, Soriano deserves a lot of credit for apologizing. Not only did he apologize but he was authentic, engaging and vowed it would never occur again.
"I think it takes character and I think it takes self-evaluation and understanding that you probably should have been there," manager Joe Girardi said. "But as I said, there are going to be days that guys don't feel like talking and I guess it's considered worse to not show up and just give one-word answers and say anything that you don't mean."
Not only did Soriano appear at his locker close to 4:00, he stood there for 10 minutes and explained everything. Below is some of what he said about his actions, blowing off his mother and what happened on the field last night.
"I’m apologizing," Soriano said. "I didn’t talk to you guys last night but the reason I did it is because I got mad because that game CC is supposed to win. That’s why I got mad and I don’t feel comfortable talking to you guys. I know last night, I had to talk to you guys and it will never happen again."
"She called me and I don’t answer my phone too because I don’t feel comfortable to talk to her.” Soriano said with a laugh. “So I feel like that. So I said alright, let me go home and let me relax.”
"I don’t know what happened,” Soriano said. “I feel like I throw a couple of pitches and I felt like I don’t have balance.”
In terms of his role and satisfaction with being a setup man after closing games, Soriano did not outwardly display any problems with it.
"I have to be ready. Last night I think I’m ready to go and I tried to do the best that I can and nothing happened,” the reliever said before later adding. "I’ll (pitch) in the six, seventh, eighth or ninth. It don’t matter. I’m here to win."
Whether or not we see Soriano won't be known until the late innings, but we will see Gustavo Molina catching Freddy Garcia. We also will see Eric Chavez manning third base and Eduardo Nunez at short.
It will be interesting to see Chavez play the field for the first time since April 24, 2009. Injuries have robbed Chavez of most of his range as evidenced by his decline in range ratings from Strat-O-Matic, which gave him a 1 between 2001-06.
As for the Twins, Joe Mauer will not play, which might be good news for Garcia. Mauer is 13-for-31 lifetime off Garcia, whom he saw numerous times when he played with the White Sox.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011, 1:48 AM
In the past two nights Rafael Soriano has thrown 51 pitches, ranging from one extreme to the other.
The first 19 occurred in the eighth inning Monday when he flawlessly protected an 4-3 lead. The next 32 occurred in the eighth inning Tuesday when he came nowhere close to protecting a four-run lead in a game the Yankees eventually lost in 10 innings.
After Monday, Soriano admitted he was still finding his velocity. After Tuesday, he did not admit anything, at least not to the gathering of television, radio and print reporters, who were seeking a few minutes to hear about what went wrong with his command.
So the question is will this be the only time Soriano implodes? Probably not because reality says relievers no matter the talent level, will implode more than once.
The next question is will this be the only time Soriano does not act accountable for not being able to get it done.
For his sake, you'd hope so, because while I'm not a big powerful media guy, the players who don't tend to get bad reputations from media and more importantly teammates.
Even ex-players weigh in, notably Steve Karsay, who tweeted the following when he found out:
"He should face the music. Big deal you have to tell people you had a bad game! Grow up"
Whatever Soriano would have said, would have lasted probably somewhere between five to eight minutes with several different forms of questioning about the events of the eighth inning.
Speaking of questions, the term eighth-inning guy was thrown around numerous times by manager Joe Girardi, who explained why he brought Soriano into a four-run game and why he didn't let him finish.
"Because he’s our eighth-inning guy and you can’t assume. If you’re 4-0 in the ninth, you don’t go to Mo, but you’re trying to get it to that point. We just didn’t get it done.”
"He threw 19 pitches yesterday and he was at 32 today. Physically, I’m not going to blow him out on April 5. He’s not a guy that throws that many pitches in an inning, so I felt it was time to get him out.”
"No. Soriano is our eighth-inning guy and by no means is four runs a game in the bag as we just saw, so you do bring your eighth-inning guy in. You want to give him a clean inning to start, you know that he’s going to face some tough hitters, so that was the guy I was going to go to.”
"I’m going to go to my eighth-inning guy. If you can get in a situation where you don’t have to use your closer, that’s how you get to not using your closer. I have a 41-year-old closer down there, so if there’s nights I can give him off, I’m going to try to get him a night off. By going to Soriano, that’s what you do.”
"I think he’ll handle it well. He’s been a closer in pennant races and in tough situations."
Regardless of your thoughts about Soriano pitching in a four-run game (personally I thought allowing two hits through seven on 104 pitches was good enough for CC Sabathia to begin the eighth but what do I know), he is getting paid a ton to do that sort of job and failed for the first time on the mound and in the accountability department.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011, 6:20 PM
Today is April 5 and 32 years ago Bucky Dent became a Yankee. There are no such momentus occasions unless you consider the unveiling of the lineup against left-handed pitchers as significant.
The Yankees had the same lineup for four games against right-handed pitching and that had Brett Gardner leading off and Derek Jeter. In the small sample size, it did not necessarily work out since Gardner was 2-for-15. So with the first lefty (Brian Duensing) scheduled to pitch against the Yankees, Gardner gets the day off and Andruw Jones makes his Yankee debut.
Yankee Stadium memories for Jones include his two home run in Game One of the 1996 World Series or one of the three mammoth home runs the White Sox hit off Javier Vazquez last May. Jones is a career .261 hitter off lefties though that number since leaving the Braves has been the following:
2008 with Los Angeles Dodgers - .178 in 73 at-bats
2009 with Texas Rangers - .218 in 119 at-bats
2010 with Chicago White Sox - .256 in 86 at-bats
The low numbers with the Dodgers and Rangers can be attributed to injuries, but common sense seems to lead you to believe that the .256 is a sign good health and some power has returned.
Speaking of debuts, Freddy Garcia makes his for the Yankees Wednesday. That will be one day shy of the 12th anniversary of his major league debut for Seattle. That night in the Kingdome against Jerry Manuel's Chicago White Sox, Garcia pitched 5 2/3 innings and allowed two runs and seven innings while throwing 94 pitches.
Consistent outings around that figure will certainly help his cause in keeping his grip on the fifth starter position, something he is well aware of.
"You come here, you have to pitch well," Garcia said. “If you don’t pitch well, they’ll get somebody else just like that. You have to deserve to be here."
Speaking of deserving to be here, CC Sabathia takes the mound tonight and he is 13-8 lifetime against Minnesota. One person he won't be facing is Justin Morneau, who gets the night off and that might have something to with his .154 career batting average off the lefty.
Monday, April 4, 2011, 5:20 PM
Today is April 4 and a year ago Ivan Nova was preparing to spend most of the season in the International League. Tonight he takes the mound for his eighth career start and will be facing a lineup featuring four lefties and two switch-hitters, meaning there will be at least six at-bats to left-handed hitters when he faces the following lineup:
1 - Denard Span CF
2 - Tsuyoshi Nishioka - 2B
3 - Joe Mauer - C
4 - Justin Morneau - 1B
5 - Delmon Young - LF
6 - Jim Thome - DH
7 - Jason Kubel - RF
8 - Danny Valencia - 3B
9 - Alexei Casilla - SS
In his brief time as a major league (42 innings), Nova has allowed three home runs and 10 walks to left-handed hitters.
Nova's season debut is certainly not based on a brief track record against left-handed hitters, but more upon the 20 innings pitched during Spring Training, including the game against Baltimore when he pitched six no-hit innings.
Elsewhere, remember the other day when Brian Cashman claimed the Mets abused Pedro Feliciano during the last years when he led the NL in appearances.
Feliciano didn't necessarily disagree, though he said he was hurt a little when pitching coach Dan Warthern suggested that he was not retained due to overuse. Feliciano is on the DL for the first time in his career and seemed more hurt that the Mets were not willing to go beyond a one-year deal, which is how he landed with the Yankees.
And next month when the Yankees face the Mets, some might be bored about it, but Feliciano might not, especially if you're considering the fact that he said the following while chuckling during his three-plus minutes in front of his locker:
'I will show him in the Subway Series when I strike out Ike Davis and I jump on the mound. That’s for you.
Elsewhere, these are the first meetings with the Twins since Phil Hughes pitched the game of his brief life in securing the ALDS sweep. That was back on October 9, the same night the Rangers began this season with a 6-3 win in Buffalo. While Hughes is fighting the battle of velocity, the Rangers are fighting the playoff battle and it remained a topic for Joe Girardi to discuss before the game.
"The one thing you don't want him worrying about is velocity," Girardi said. "Jamie Moyer is winning throwing 82 mph. Velocity becomes more important when you're not locating because you can get away with but when you locate you can do it. We saw Mike Mussina win 20 games but he topped out at 88."
It was rather apparent Hughes didn't get away with that issue. The question you might wonder is why with someone who turns 25, this is happening since there were six weeks of spring training to reach maximum arm strength and why the comparison is being made to pitchers who were towards the end of their careers.
"He has four pitches and he to mix them and he has to locate them."
And while we're discussing lineups with numerous left-handed hitters, you can expect to see more of Boone Logan, who pitched in the ninth inning Saturday.
Also, Mark Teixeira will be gunning for a fourth straight productive game. He is the 26th player since 1919 to open a season with home runs in his team's first three contests.
Vernon Wells was the most recent before this year and in the fourth game, he went 1-for-4. Brandon Inge also did it two years ago and in the fourth game, the Detroit third baseman was 2-for-4.
In terms of Hall of Famers to do something like that, Willie Mays did in 1971 with the San Francisco Giants as did Billy Williams in 1971 with the Chicago Cubs. Frank Robinson made his debut with the Baltimore Orioles in 1966 after the Reds thought he was washed up by doing the same.
Bobby Doerr also did in 1941 to start the Red Sox's magical campaign of Ted Williams batting .406. The most recent player to do so was also the last Yankee to do it and that was Dave Winfield, who began 1983 in the fashion.
As for the Twins, they are trying to reverse course in New York. If it seems like the Twins never win there, it's correct because they are 1-6 here and the only win was when Jason Kubel did the rare thing of hitting a grand slam off Mariano Rivera on May 16.
Joe Nathan will also make his first appearance here since the 2009 playoffs and yesterday turned in quite a high-wire act in Toronto, one that ended by retiring Adam Lind on a low curveball.
Worth noting is that Bert Blyleven is present for the first time as a Hall of Famer. He will be calling the action as a Twins broadcaster.
Sunday, April 3, 2011, 12:22 PM
Today is April 3 and somehow the Yankees are on pace to hit 405 home runs, a figure that probably won't happen as the Yankees will settle for hitting over 200 or so.
As for reality, the Yankees are attempting to be 3-0 for the first time since the 2003 season when they won their first four - three without Derek Jeter. Phil Hughes was a high school junior at that time and a year away from being drafted and today takes the mound at Yankee Stadium for the first time since his brilliant performance against the Twins in Game Three of the ALDS.
Scouts said in various reports that Hughes' velocity had diminished slightly but the Yankees won't read too much into that, especially since spring training is more about getting your work in as opposed to maxing out the radar gun.
Hughes is throwing a cutter more and a different grip on it that provides depth, meaning movement. So it will be interesting to see how he uses and why he employs that pitch.
Whatever Hughes throws, Jorge Posada might be watching some of it as a designated hitter. Part of the challenge of getting four at-bats is keeping your head in the game and manager Joe Girardi suggests that Posada call some of the pitches from the dugout to keep himself engaged.
Weekends, especially Sunday tend to be quiet, so items going on tends to be minimal, especially early in the year. Mark Teixeira will try to homer for the third straight game and he has never opened a season with home runs in three consecutive games.
Teixeira and the rest of the Yankees will be facing Max Scherzer, who was 1-3 with a 10.38 ERA during spring training. Scherezer had a bullpen session and altered mechanics. Scherzer is trying to avoid his arm getting too long, which is similar to the problem he had last year before turning it around in the second half.
He will be throwing to Victor Martinez, who is catching for the first time since signing with the Tigers in the offseason.
Saturday, April 2, 2011, 2:44 PM
Today is April 2 and three years ago at Yankee Stadium, A.J. Burnett began his 18-win campaign with the Blue Jays by beating the team that later that year would give him a five-year deal. That night Burnett took a shutout into the seventh inning before allowing a home run to Alex Rodriguez.
"A.J. was definitely dominating today. He had a good changeup and breaking ball going tonight.
"He was throwing in the 90s and then he has curveball like that."
Those were the words of then Toronto manager John Gibbons and Rodriguez and as Burnett officially begins Year Three in pinstripes, the Yankees are hopeful those comments will be said numerous times, perhaps something along the lines of 15 to 20 times.
Burnett had a good spring training and a changed mechanical approach that he and the Yankees hope will avoid drifting and staying balanced. Of course, one start good or bad would be difficult to read but without a doubt, Burnett would prefer to have the good kind of start.
Burnett will be pitching to Russell Martin, who called a nice game, scored two runs and swiped a bag two days ago. Martin and the rest of the Yankees will be facing Brad Penny, who last faced the Bombers August 21, 2009 with the Red Sox.
Elsewhere, apparently leading the league in appearances for three years running might cause Pedro Feliciano to miss more time. Now, he is slated to return from a shoulder injury later this month and the fact that the lefty made 266 appearances over the last three years might be among the reasons why.
Feliciano is not the first reliever to lead the league in appearances three straight years. Lefty Steve Kline did it from 1999-2001 with the Expos and Cardinals. In each of those seasons, Kline pitched more innings than Feliciano, whose total was 53 1/3, 59 1/3 and 62 2/3.
Of course those figures are nothing when you look at Mike Marshall. In 1974, Marshall pitched 208 1/3 innings and notched 21 saves in 106 appearances.
Still it's not the way you want your new lefty reliever to begin his tenure, though the Yankees might be better served by Feliciano fully recovering.
As for the Tigers, they have won once in eight games at the new Yankee Stadium and would like to perform similar to when they swept the Yankees at old Yankee Stadium three years ago. One of those keys for possible success might be Brennan Boesch, who a year ago burst on to the scene in Detroit when the Yankees were there prompting one announcer to wonder how he was in the minors at the start of the year.
Eventually Boesch cooled off and but now like Burnett is coming off a good spring and hopes it translates into the regular season.
Thursday, March 31, 2011, 12:12 PM
Today is March 31 and the Yankees are playing a regular-season game before April for the first time. In fact this is their first game in the United States during the regular season before April 1.
In 2003 Alfonso Soriano hit a grand slam off Roy Halladay in Toronto and a year later in Tokyo, Tony Clark and Hideki Matsui hit two-run home runs in a 12-1 win over Tampa Bay.
Mike Mussina was a member of both teams as he was in the middle of a 10-year stint with the Yankees that sandwiched World Series titles 26 and 27.
Mussina was also on the team that last had a March 31 game on the schedule in 2008 and that was ultimately rained out. He won 20 games that year, enjoyed it immensely despite a non-playoff year and was back to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Chances are this will be one of the few games that Mussina gets to watch, assuming he stays since retirement in Montoursville PA keeps him occupied with all the things he wasn't around for during two decades of traveling the country at all hours and living out of hotels.
In between coaching football, basketball and basketball, there is little time for Mussina to settle in front of his TV and watch a game and he is at peace with his decision that often is among the toughest to make in any occupation, especially professional sports.
"Eventually you say you've had enough," Mussina said.
Elsewhere, Curtis Granderson is in the lineup as Jon Lane details and ready to go against the team that traded him for Austin Jackson.
Speaking of Jackson, the former Yankee prospect will become the latest in a long list of opposing players to become the first batter of the new season at Yankee Stadium. Erick Aybar and Grady Sizemore have opened the season at the new place while such notables as Rickey Henderson, Paul Molitor, Wade Boggs, Tim Raines and Dom DiMaggio have been the first hitter across the street.
As for the Tigers, five players made an opening day roster for the first time and 14 have fewer than three years experience. One who doesn't is Miguel Cabrera, who despite his recent issues is a hitting machine, especially against the Yankees. He is a .361 hitter against the Yankees and has hit safely in 22 of 23 games.
And for the manager, with seven more wins Jim Leyland is seven shy of reaching 1,500 wins. When he does, he will be the 19th man to do so.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011, 2:05 PM
Welcome to Yankee Stadium where the Yankees and Tigers are gearing up for the opener of the 2011 season in roughly 24 hours. When we last left you, the Yankees managed to force a Game Six in Texas during the ALCS only to see the series end and their season come to a crashing conclusion.
Many expect the Yankees to return to the end of October again and chances are if those games involve facing a right-handed pitcher, Brett Gardner will lead off followed by Derek Jeter. And since Detroit with throw power arm Justin Verlander, Brad Penny and Max Scherzer this weekend, expect to see that alignment for at least three games.
And since lineups are big a deal in these parts, especially when it involves Jeter, who last batted second during the 2008 season behind Johnny Damon, here's a five-point explanation from manager Joe Girardi:
A - performance against right-handed pitching (.287 batting average, .387 on-base percentage in 2010)
B - high overall on-base percentage (.383)
C -ability to disrupt pitchers
D - probability that he will score from first base on a double
E - high amount of runs scored (97 in 2010)
So if you add 50 to 60 at-bats gained from hitting leadoff against right-handed pitching for someone who mostly spent last year batting in the bottom of the lineup, it makes sense. Of course that is all on the assumption Gardner continues that type of production.
As for the rest of the clubhouse, several new components have been added and one of the bigger ones is pitching coach Larry Rothchild, who replaces Dave Eiland. Rothchild has managed and been the pitching coach of teams such as the 1990 Reds (you might remember the "Nasty Boys"), the 1997 Florida Marlins and the 2003 Chicago Cubs.
I briefly caught up with him and some of what he said was in general terms, but he sounds upbeat about the pitching staff, mostly because with the exception of Pedro Feliciano the group emerged from spring training fairly healthy. Most impressive was Luis Ayala and Bartolo Colon, two pitchers coming off inactivity due to injury. Both possessed good arm strength, velocity and movement on their pitches.
Ayala will become another Met wearing a Yankee uniform when he fills in for Feliciano. Ayala's last significant major league experience was with the 2009 Twins and in the final month and a half with the 2008 Mets trying to replace the injured Billy Wagner.
"This guy's Cy Young, the first two outings. He's coming in. He's throwing the ball good for us. He's getting some big outs. The guy's been around. He knows how to pitch and he got some good movement. If he throws strikes and keeps the ball down, he's going to get a lot of outs."
That what Carlos Delgado said about Ayala in mid-August 2008 and now the Yankees are hoping for the same from him and Colon, whom Girardi likened to Alfredo Aceves in 2009.
Ayala and Colon are hardly the only newcomers to the clubhouse. You can welcome in third baseman Eric Chavez, whose last years in Oakland were derailed by shoulder and back injuries. It is those injuries that slowly made Chavez accustomed to part-time duty and he is ready for it. And when you see Chavez up at the plate, you might see a shorter swing that takes less pressure off his shoulders.
As for what were deciding factors in Chavez becoming a Yankee, one was knowing someone with 10 Gold Gloves (Andruw Jones) was coming here and the second was the interest his wife had in New York. Of course, having the locker next to former Oakland teammate Nick Swisher might also help.
Speaking of Jones, he is glad to be here because of the opportunity afforded him, especially since he anticipates getting at-bats because of the abudnace of left-handers in the league.
Also new is Russell Martin, who said his hip and knee are feeling fine after those areas limited him to 97 games and a .248 batting average. He will look forward to catching CC Sabathia, whom he described as alway being in control.
Then he might catch A.J. Burnett, who currently has a head cold and that would be followed by Phil Hughes, who might unveil a cutter, especially if Sunday is a game where his stuff is not the best. And if he does, he will be detailing it in front of Andy Pettitte's old locker.
And as we conclude this, a "Tribe Called Quest's" Can I Kick It is being blared as the Yankees take batting practice. In terms of starting the 2011 season, that's an emphatic "Yes We Can".
Tuesday, March 29, 2011, 12:50 AM
At some point, likely sometime between June 1-30, Derek Jeter will become the 28th man to reach 3,000 hits and first Yankee to do so. It is a mark with the exception of Pete Rose and Rafael Palmeiro ensures automatic entry into the Hall of Fame.
Of course, everyone wants to know when that milestone will occur. There is not an exact science or reasoning to picking a date. The only way to do it unscientifically is to research when his 74th hit occured in each of his previous seasons with the exception of 2003.
In 1996 when he won the AL rookie of the year, Jeter reached his 74th hit on July 2 during a four-hit performance in a 7-5 win over the Yankees. That day, Jeter's average was .278 and if he takes that long to get it this year, that means the milestone will be reached in the second game at CITI Field against the Mets.
In 1997 when Jeter batted .291, the 74th hit was accomplished June 17 during the first edition of the Subway Series in a 6-3 victory over Bobby Valentine's Mets. If June 17 is the date, then book your reservations for an early workday since the Yankees will be playing a day game at Wrigley Field.
In 1998, Jeter batted .324 so it was no suprise he was nearly at 74 hits in May. The 74th hit occurred June 2 at Yankee Stadium against the White Sox and if that is the lucky date, book tickets for the June 1 game in Oakland or the June 3 game in Anaheim.
In 1999, Jeter was at his best in terms of batting average with a .349 average, so it is not surprise the 74th hit took place June 2 in a 10-7 loss to Cleveland.
In 2000, Jeter was a .339 hitter but it took a little longer for hit 74 due to missing two weeks in May. The hit occured June 21 in a 9-7 loss at Boston. If that is the day, then book a trip to Cinncinnati, the same place where he was named captain and enjoy the view at the Great American Ballpark.
In 2001, which was the last year someone reached the 3,000 hit club (Rickey Henderson), Jeter was a .311 hitter and reached the milestone in a wild Sunday night 8-7 loss at Shea Stadium.
In 2002, Jeter returned to hitting below .300 with a .297 average. His 74th hit was during a 13-5 win over the Orioles on June 4. If that is the date for the milestone, then make sure your Saturday night is spent in Anaheim or watching the game against the Angels.
In 2004, which was the year of the famous 0-for-32 slump, Jeter still hit a a respectable .292. The 74th hit occurred on June 26 in a 9-3 loss to the Mets. That happens to be Jeter's birthday and this year if that is the date, look into watching the series finale at the Stadium against the Colorado Rockies.
In 2005, Jeter batted .309 for a team that needed everything just to reach the playoffs. The 74th hit occurred on June 16 in a 6-1 win over the Pirates. If that is the date, make sure you have a radio at the office, take a long lunch or just skip work entirely and watch an afternoon game at the Stadium against Texas.
In 2006, Jeter reached his 2,000th hit on the rainy Friday night of May 26 against the Royals. During a .343 season that nearly saw him snatch the batting title from Joe Mauer, Jeter's 74th hit was in a 6-5 loss to Oakland on June 11. If June 11 is the date, then get those Saturday errands done early for the 1:05 start against the Indians.
In 2007, as the Yankees fell behind early and eventually were the wild card winners, Jeter turned in a .322 season and that meant his 74th hit occurred during a 7-3 win at Chicago on June 5. June 5 is the final game of the weekend series at Anaheim then tune in at 3:35 PM and order some dinner in if you don't plan on making use of your DVR.
In 2008, the Yankees closed out the stadium and Jeter finished at .300. He was hit by a pitch in late May and hung around under .300 most of the year, so his 74th hit was June 19 at the Stadium against the Padres. If that is the date, then make sure you're either at Wrigley Field or watching on TV for a possible milestone on what could possibly be a Sunday night game.
In 2009, Jeter batted like it was 1999 again by finishing with a .334 clip. He reached the 74th hit on June 12 in a 9-8 win over the Mets that was the famous Luis Castillo dropped pop-up game. Should June 12 be the date, then not only will your under 14 child enjoy a Mark Teixeira bat on bat day, they will have witnessed a milestone.
In 2010, Jeter struggled to a .270 average in his much over-publicized walk year. He still reached the 74th hit on June 6 in a 4-3 win in Toronto. If June 6 happens to be the date, then the fun only doubles since the Yankees also open a three-game series with the Red Sox the following night.
Whenever the date is, plan accordingly and enjoy the milestone.
Monday, March 28, 2011, 11:54 PM
When we last left you and that doesn't count the very sparodic blog posts during the offseason, the Yankees were left wondering how they could get steamrolled in a six-game series to the Texas Rangers and how their championship defense could go up in smoke.
This year, most of the same cast is here with some notable additions and yes I'm aware that some of them would have made the Yankees even better in 2002 and 2003, two years of 100 wins, but that's in the past and so are the events of last October.
So welcome back to baseball, which as evidenced by certain things, still trumps the other sports. And frankly based on my early 8-16 performance with the 2010 Yankees in the Strat-O-Matic computer game, the new season can't come quick enough.
Some say the anticipation for the new season starts the day the old one ends and that definitely is true for the front office, who plans and when those don't pan out turn to a backup plan. In a way, that is essentially what the Yankees did.
The offseason moves were not flashy unless you count paying $11 million for an eighth-inning guy with the ownership going over the GM's head as such. Instead they were fillers for some parts that could use a tuneup and that means Freddy Garcia (fifth starter), Bartolo Colon (long reliever/spot starter), Pedro Feliciano (left-handed specialist to compliment another lefty), Russell Martin (catching placeholder until prospect is ready), Andruw Jones (defensive upgrade over previous man in role) and Eric Chavez (veteran coming off injuries trying to prove he is not an old 33).
It is an interesting group and because of its lack of flash, the Yankees are not being predicted by many if anyone at all to be the World Champions. That falls into the theory of something to prove, which several players seem to be operating under.
Players such as Mark Teixeira, who is trying to prove that his bat will not decline or A.J. Burnett, who would like to show that he is something close to the pitcher he was in 2008 with Toronto or during portions of 2009. It even goes to Derek Jeter, whose quest for 3,000 hits will be part of him trying to prove that the .270 average of 2010 was definitely a fluke.
Whatever unfolds is anybody's guess, though a knock down, drag out battle with the Red Sox for AL East supremacy seems to be likely. Whatever happens, enjoy it from your HD TV, your radio or from your seats at Yankee Stadium.
Monday, February 28, 2011, 10:51 PM
Mark Prior has made 106 major league appearances. None have occurred since August 10, 2006 in Milwaukee and none have occurred as a relief pitcher.
If first impressions mean anything and many times they do not, perhaps Prior could finally suit up for the Yankees. If you're reached this point, you might be wondering suit up, what do you mean?
In 1998, the Yankees actually drafted Prior out of high school with the 43rd pick at the end of the first round and then he turned a significant bonus to pitch at Vanderbilt. Eventually Prior switched to USC and was part of the 2001 draft, the same first round that produced Joe Mauer, Mark Teixeira, David Wright and Jeremy Bonderman.
A year later, Prior was in the majors and a year after that he was wowing the North Side of Chicago, going 18-6. One of those wins was against the Yankees on June 8, 2003.
Since then, it has been one injury after another and a stint in the independent league. Until December, he was not with any organizaton until the Yankees decided to take a chance. Besides scouting, the Cub ties might have factored in as manager Joe Girardi was a catcher on the 2002 Cubs and pitching coach Larry Rothchild was the pitching coach.
Yesterday, he threw a routine fifth inning of two pop-outs and a strikeout that occurred on the split-finger fastball. Many power pitchers have used that pitch and in some ways like a cutter, it is a pitch that might transform a career like it did for Kerry Wood.
It doesn't seem obvious there is a spot and there may be some minor league time, but opportunity tends to arise and Prior could wind up back in the majors either with the Yankees or someone else if he shows to be completely recovered.
"I understand what I signed up for,” Prior said to reporters. "I understand the situation here, my situation. I know I haven’t pitched, I mean, I haven’t really pitched since 2005. Even though I pitched in 2006, it wasn’t really pitching, it was surviving. Or trying to. I understand that just because you go out and throw one inning, that’s not going to make or break what they see and what I feel. I understand that I need to get famliar with the process."
And if he gets familiar with the process, perhaps there will be a role for him in pinstripes.
Sunday, February 6, 2011, 11:55 PM
Much has been written on Andy Pettitte, things such as memories of the first time people heard the name associated with possibly being a major leaguer. Jack O'Connell, the baseball writer has a nice recollection, one that's much better than mine since I was 16 at the time.
Even if your memory isn't the greatest, one thing you can do is look up a career and see various milestones, such as major league debut, first win and so on. So below will be a list of Andy Pettitte's firsts.
First major league appearance: April 29, 1995, seventh inning in Kansas City in relief of Melido Perez
First batter faced: Wally Joyner flied out to center
First strikeout: Joe Vitiello pinch hitting for Bob Hamelin (also Vitiello's major league debut)
First hit allowed: Gary Gaetti single
First earned run allowed: Greg Gagne double
First appearance at Yankee Stadium: 5/2/1995, ninth inning of a 5-2 loss vs. Milwaukee.
First batter faced at Yankee Stadium: B.J. Surhoff
First double play induced: Pat Listach
First appearance in the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry: May 13, 1995 at Fenway Park, relieved Bob Wickman and faced Luis Alicea
First walk: Troy O'Leary
First start: May 27, 1995 at Oakland, 5 1/2 innings, one earned run, seven hits in a 3-0 loss
First home run: Ruben Sierra
First Yankee Stadium start: 6/2/95 vs. California, nine innings, three runs and seven hits in a 3-2 loss. Also first career complete game
First batter faced in a Stadium start: Tony Phillips (also first hit allowed in a Stadium start)
First time Derek Jeter appeared in a Pettitte start: 6/2/95 vs. California, Jeter batted ninth and was 0-for-3 against Chuck Finley. (Also was Jeter's Yankee Stadium debut)
First victory: 6/7/1995 vs. Oakland, 6-1 win, pitched seven innings, allowed one run and four hits.
First time allowing double-digit hits: 6/12/1995 at Detroit, gave up 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings in 6-1 loss against David Wells.
First time allowing more than one home run: 6/17/1995 at Cleveland, gave up a two-run shot to Manny Ramirez and two solo home runs to Herbert Perry, also was the first instance of allowing consecutive home runs.
First time pitching in a 1-0 game: 7/27/1995 at Kansas City, allowed four hits in 7 1/3 innings, walked five. Wickman and Steve Howe finished up.
First time being relieved by Mariano Rivera: 8/1/1995 vs. Milwaukee, allowed two runs and four hits in five innings but walked six in a 7-5 win. Rivera followed by allowing three runs in two innings but became the winning pitcher when Tony Fernandez had a two-run single in the seventh. Also was Pettitte's first instance allowing more than one home run at the Stadium (Greg Vaughn and Jeff Cirillo)
First appearance against the Red Sox as a starting pitcher: 8-16-1995 pitched six innings and allowed four runs and six hits in a 7-4 loss. Opposing starter was Vaughn Eshelman.
First complete game victory: 8-30-1995, fired a five-hitter in a 4-1 victory over the Angels at the Stadium. Only run was an eight-inning single by Rene Gonzales. Also was a game where Pettitte retired the first 13 hitters.
First time facing Alex Rodriguez: 9-4-1995 in a 13-3 win, Rodriguez entered in the fourth and struck out in the sixth.
First playoff start: 10-4-1995, allowed three runs and four hits in seven innings of Game Two against Seattle. Game went 15 innings and Pettitte left trailing 4-3.
First start for Joe Torre: 4-3-1996, pitched 6 2/3 innings, one run and seven hits in a 5-1 win at Cleveland where he opposed ex-Yankee Jack McDowell.
First start in a home opener: 4-9-1996, in the famous snow game against Kansas City, pitched 6 1/3 innings and allowed three runs and six hits in a 7-3 win.
First time Rivera saved a Pettitte start: 5-17-1996, Rivera saved a 5-3 win over the Angels. Pettitte allowed four runs and seven hits in 7 1/3 innings
First time allowing three home runs at the Stadium: 5-22-1996, in a 5-1 loss to Oakland, gave up two home runs to Geronimo Berroa and one to Mark McGwire.
First time pitching on July 4: 7/4/1996 vs. Milwaukee, in a 4-1 victory, Pettitte allowed one run and eight hits in seven innings.
First double-digit strikeout game: 8/4/1996 at Kansas City. In a 5-3 victory, Pettitte struck out 11 in seven innings.
First time Jeter hit a home run in a Pettitte start: 8/14/1996 at Chicago. In a 3-1 victory, Pettitte gets the backing of Jeter, who hit a solo home in the eighth inning off James Baldwin.
First postseason win: In Game Five of the ALCS that clinches the Yankees' first pennant since 1981, Pettitte pitched eight innings and allowed two runs and three hits of a 6-4 victory at Camden Yards. It is the first of 19 postseason victories for Pettite.
First World Series start: In Game One against the Braves, Pettitte gave up seven runs and six hits in 2 1/3 innings of a 12-1 loss that is remembered for Andruw Jones' two home runs.
First World Series win: In Game Five against John Smoltz, Pettitte wins the 1-0 duel by allowing five hits in 8 1/3 innings. It also is the last game played at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium.
First win over the Red Sox: May 31, 1997 at Fenway Park. In a 7-2 win and opposing Tim Wakefield, Pettitte allowed two runs and seven hits in 7 1/3 innings.
First interleague appearance: June 16, 1997 at Yankee Stadium against the Mets. The game is best recalled for Dave Mlicki's performance but Pettitte was on the losing end of a 6-0 game as he allowed five runs and eight hits in seven innings.
First home win against the Red Sox: September 16, 1997 in a 2-0 win. In a dominant showing, Pettitte pitched eight innings and allowed five hits while striking out 12. Reggie Jefferson highlights Pettitte's first double-digit strikeout game at home by fanning three times.
First time pitching at Shea Stadium and first win over the Mets: June 27, 1998. In a 7-2 win, Pettitte allowed two runs and four hits with nine strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.
First grand slam allowed: July 19, 1998 at Toronto in a 9-3 loss. Jose Canseco hit two home runs, including a third-inning grand slam off Pettitte that scored Craig Grebeck, Alex Gonzalez and Shannon Stewart.
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