Going to have to rain on this parade in just a few paragraphs, but for now, think about the basics of what happened today.
The Yankees beat the Red Sox by seven runs. They had a total of 14 hits, and all but one came from a guy who seems on track to break camp on the big league roster. Mark Teixeira and Alfonso Soriano combined for six RBIs, and every starter reached base at least once. Ichiro Suzuki stepped into the lineup because of what seems to be a minor injury, and he was productive as the No. 9 hitter. Dave Robertson pitched out of a jam with back-to-back strikeouts.
All things considered, this was an awfully good day. And it started with Michael Pineda going 4.1 scoreless with five strikeouts and no walks.
“If he’s healthy, if he’s the guy we traded for a couple of years ago, he’s a top of the rotation starter,” Teixeira said. “And those guys don’t come around easily. You got to really develop those kind of guys. He’s still young and he still has a bright future if he’s healthy.”
It’s March 18. The Red Sox brought a lineup that was awfully light on big league regulars. The game did absolutely nothing to close the gap between a team that won the World Series last year and a team that didn’t even make the playoffs. But like so much about Pineda’s return from shoulder surgery, it was at the very least a positive step.
“He was good, really good,” Joe Girardi said. “Slider was good again. His changeup was good. He used his fastball. His pitch count, he kept it down. Threw a lot of strikes. When he missed, he was down. Pretty good. … I think he’s getting stronger when he goes out. I think his command was better today; a lot better than the other day. Another good step for him.”
Pineda threw 60 pitches, 45 for strikes. His fastball topped out at 94 mph (mostly around 91 mph based on what I saw on television). All five of his strikeouts came on swing-and-miss sliders. He faced four batters with a runner in scoring position, and three of those at-bats ended with strikeouts. The other was a popup. Francisco Cervelli said Pineda’s fastball had good cutting action, his changeup was in the zone, and he was able to add and subtract from his slider when necessary.
Yes, it’s still mid-March. And no, this wasn’t the Red Sox regular lineup. But Pineda looked awfully good again. Hard to make too much of it, but it’s impossible to ignore it completely.
“Last year, when I started doing my rehab assignment, I felt pretty good,” Pineda said. “I threw the ball good. Right now, this is spring training. I’m with the team. There’s better adrenaline. It’s more exciting to see the major-league guys here. It’s making me happy. … I feel like the same Michael Pineda. I have the same mechanics; my mechanics are now a little better. Everything is good.”
· If you didn’t see it in the game post, the Yankees made 12 cuts today. All were pretty inevitable. Ramon Flores was the only one on the 40-man, and he was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The others were C Francisco Arcia, OF Tyler Austin, RHP Bruce Billings, RHP Robert Coello, RHP Brian Gordon INF Corban Joseph, RHP Mark Montgomery, C Pete O’Brien, INF Jose Pirela, OF Mason Williams and RHP Chase Whitley.
· Weirdest moment of the day: just as the bottom of the third inning was getting started, the game was delayed seven minutes because of a swarm of bees in left field. Teixeira came out of the Yankees dugout with two bottles of honey, as if suggesting the grounds crew set some sort of cartoon-style trap. “I’m a big peanut butter and honey guy, love it, so I always know where the honey is,” Teixeira said. “What I thought was if you could just do a line of honey out to the parking lot, the bees would maybe follow it and leave us alone.”
· Immediately after the delay, Cervelli tripled to left-center. It was part of a two-hit day that continues his red-hot spring. Cervelli is hitting .500. “I think the more I play, I feel better,” Cervelli said. “They’ll decide what they want to do. I just come here every day to play. I show up, I get my bat, I get my equipment and that’s it.”
· Pineda has been terrific, but Girardi made it clear that he’s not ready to name a fifth starter just yet. “The other guys are throwing pretty well too,” Girardi said. “We’ve got to figure out what’s best for our team as a whole. We’ll sort that out as we move forward here, but I’m sure we’ll start having a lot of discussions when we get some home games here and talk about how everyone fits.”
· A good day for a rotation discussion? How about the upcoming Monday off day? David Phelps will starts on Thursday, Pineda will pitch on Sunday, and it seems likely Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno will pitch some sort of long relief in there somewhere. Girardi said he’d like to give guys who don’t win the rotation spot a chance to work out of the bullpen at least once this spring, so he’d like to make a decision before the team leaves for Houston. “Obviously the sooner you do it, the easier it is to prepare everyone for what they’re going to do,” Girardi said.
· Get ready for some sort of big league appearance in minor league camp on that off day. Girardi hinted that someone will pitch at the complex that day. Based on the current rotation, I’d guess Ivan Nova might be the one.
· Box score notes: Brett Gardner went 3-for-4 at the top of the order. Soriano, Cervelli and Brian Roberts also had multi-hit games with two apiece. … Zelous Wheeler was the only Yankees player not projected as part of the big league roster who got a hit. Wheeler doubled. … Dave Robertson had runners at the corners with one out in the fifth inning and got out of it with back-to-back strikeouts of Jackie Bradley Jr. and Jonny Gomes. Both went down swinging. … Scoreless inning apiece for Shawn Kelley, Fred Lewis and Matt Daley.
· Travel squad to Orlando tomorrow:
Wasn’t posted before I posted the pregame notes
Pitchers: Dellin Betances, Danny Burawa, Cesar Cabral, Preston Claiborne, Shane Greene, Jim Miller, Ivan Nova, Yoshinori Tateyama
Catcher: Jose Gil, Brian McCann, John Ryan Murphy, Austin Romine
Infielders: Dean Anna, Derek Jeter, Kelly Johnson, Eduardo Nunez, Brian Roberts, Yangervis Solarte, Zelous Wheeler
Outfielders: Zoilo Almonte, Carlos Beltran, Adonis Garcia, Brett Gardner, Antoan Richardson, Alfonso Soriano
· Final word goes to Teixeira: “Good sign for our team. We swung the bats really well today. A lot of good at-bats, swinging at good pitches, and that’s what we do. When we have out full lineup together — we had almost our full lineup today — we grind at-bats, we wear pitchers down, we make them throw a lot of pitches, and we score runs. And that’s what we did today.”
Associated Press photos