Raul Ibanez said he wasn’t surprised the Orioles decided to pitch to him last night. When they intentionally walked Curtis Granderson, Ibanez assumed they wanted to face him. Light-hitting backup catcher Chris Stewart was on deck with two outs and a base open, but Ibanez didn’t expect to be walked as well.
“I wasn’t sure what they’d do there,” Joe Girardi said. “They tried to get Ibanez out, and they had two strikes on him, but Raul put a good swing on a good breaking ball.”
Sitting in the press box, the choice seemed easy to me. Not sure I would have let Ibanez swing the bat in that situation.
If you look only at the raw numbers, Ibanez has been struggling. Last season’s numbers were bad, his spring numbers were bad, and he came into last night’s game having gone 0-for-4 in his last start against the Rays. But after watching Ibanez in the last two weeks of spring training, the Yankees had to feel good about their chances.
Ibanez is with this team to serve a specific role — to hit right-handed pitching — and he’s been doing that since mid-to-late March. He hit three home runs late in spring training, and he hit another one on Opening Day, and off the bench last night he went 2-for-3 with a game-winning double that bounced over the wall.
It might be too early to be sold on Ibanez as a regular designated hitter, but it was also premature to consider him finished two weeks into the exhibition schedule.
“It definitely feels great any time you can help out the club,” Ibanez said. “As a team, we battled back and stayed after it. Our bullpen did a phenomenal job. It was a collaborative effort. … These guys have always made me feel like I belong, and I’m part of this team. I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help. It’s about winning baseball games and (last night) we were able to do that.”
Just a heads up, I’m going to host a chat here on the blog at 4 p.m. today. I’m going to try to get to as many questions as I can before I have to go down stairs to talk to Joe Girardi. Stop by if you can.
Associated Press photo