Very quiet morning here in Tampa, so we’ll start with an Associated Press story about yesterday’s first day in Panama. The Yankees in Florida are on their way to Sarasota right now. The Yankees in Panama have a game tonight.
PANAMA CITY (AP) — The New York Yankees prepared Friday for a pair of exhibition games against the Miami Marlins in the home country of Mariano Rivera, the retired career saves leader.
A fundraising dinner for Rivera’s foundation and the games Saturday and Sunday at Rod Carew Stadium highlight a weekend that is a tribute to the pitcher, who retired after last season.
Rivera told reporters Thursday night before the Yankees’ split squad arrived that “I feel like a peacock.”
He said “it was my dream to bring my team and my teammates to enjoy my homeland.”
Appropriately, the Yankees players were wearing Panama hats when they got off their plane. On Friday, a group of players visited the Panama Canal, a waterway built by the United States a century ago that is credited with spreading the baseball tradition in the Central American nation.
No ships crossed during the team’s visit, but the players and manager Joe Girardi took pictures and signed autographs for tourists at one of the canal’s viewpoints.
“You never think they could fit a ship through this canal, but somehow they do,” said David Robertson, who has taken over Rivera’s role as closer.
Later on Friday, Robertson and the Yankees captain Derek Jeter visited the Children’s Hospital of Panama, along with Rivera.
“The children were very happy,” Rivera said at the dinner to raise funds for that hospital. “We want to help and that’s what this is about.”
The Yankees hadn’t visited Panama since 1947, when they played several games against the then Brooklyn Dodgers. A year before that, their roster included Joe DiMaggio when they played a Panamanian team.
Rivera said he was happy Panamanian families who cannot travel to the United States will be able to watch the Yankees play this weekend. The 44-year-old Rivera, a native of the fishing village of Puerto Caimito, spent his entire 19-year career in the major leagues the Yankees.
Both the Yankees and the Miami Marlins only traveled with part of their squad, leaving the rest to play split-squad games in Florida. The Marlins arrived in Panama City on Friday.
· Pitching coach Larry Rothschild seemed to hint that Masahiro Tanaka will start either the fourth or fifth game of the regular season so that he can get an extra day of rest relatively early. “I think we weigh the schedule a little bit, where he can get extra rest in the season to try to keep him strong through the year,” Rothschild said. “We’ve got the 13 games in a row to start. That’s going to impact when we decide to pitch him.” By pitching the fourth game of the regular season, Tanaka would make his second start on normal four days of rest, then he’d make his third start with an extra day. Wouldn’t get that extra day if he pitched either the second or third game.
· Rothschild indicated that the schedule, more so than any similarities between Tanaka and Hiroki Kuroda, will determine when Tanaka makes his first start. The smart money seems to be on Tanaka opening the season as the No. 4, with Kuroda and Ivan Nova pitching the second and third games.
· Eduardo Nunez was scheduled to have today off even before he was spiked yesterday. Nunez said he’s perfectly fine and could have played. He’ll go through regular drills today.
· Brian Roberts fouled a ball off the inside part of his left knee yesterday. He also said he’s fine and plans to play his scheduled five or six innings today.
· Russ Canzler was scratched from today’s road trip because of that hip stiffness that showed up yesterday. He’s not going to do any drills today, only treatment. Seems to have been a nice bonus for Kyle Roller, who wasn’t on the list to come up from minor league camp but now finds himself in the lineup at DH.
· Nunez, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Mark Teixeira are all scheduled to stay behind in Tampa and got through regular batting practice. There were no bullpens or live BP sessions scheduled. Really light day today.
· Today’s second string: C Pete O’Brien, 1B Zach Wilson, 2B Rob Refsnyder, SS Cito Culver, 3B Rob Segedin, LF Ben Gamel, CF Jake Cave, RF Taylor Dugas.
· Today’s scheduled relievers: Brian Gordon, Mark Montgomery, Danny Burawa, Diego Moreno and Joel De La Cruz (Shane Greene, Manny Barreda, Graham Stoneburner, Branden Pinder and Charlie Short are also making the trip)
Associated Press photos