There are just four men standing ahead of Alex Rodriguez now on the all-time home-run list — Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714) and Willie Mays (660). A-Rod tied Ken Griffey Jr. for fifth by hitting No. 630 in this 5-0 home-opening win over the Angels.
“It definitely means I’m getting old,” said Rodriguez, who has sent up 69 of the homers against the Angels, his top total against any team. “Obviously Griff is special to me because we came up together. It was kind of like the same relationship that Melky (Cabrera) and (Robinson) Cano have with me, kind of flip it a little bit. He was a teammate, he was a brother and a mentor all in one. So it was a special day today.
“You never dream of anything like this. I remember being in a cab when we were about 18 years old. We were in a cab, Derek (Jeter) and I. And we were just thinking if we could ever just get five years in the major leagues, or if we can ever make a million dollars, that would be like the biggest day of our life. So you dream of just being in the major leagues. You never dream of winning world championships or reaching milestones.”
Joe Girardi said the chase for the next milestone will be an “interesting sidebar” this season. …
Hiroki Kuroda scattered five hits, fanned six and walked two over eight-plus in his Bronx debut, a marked improvement from his first start at Tampa Bay. The 37-year-old righty showed why he can be an upgrade as the No. 2 man in the rotation.
“His splitter was good today,” Girardi said. “… Today it appeared to be a strike and then dipped down.”
He became the first Yankees starter to go at least eight scoreless in his first start at Yankee Stadium, this version or the previous one, since Bob Shirley in 1983, and the first to do that in a home season opener since Rick Rhoden in 1988. Kuroda walked off to a standing ovation.
“It’s the greatest feeling in the world,” Kuroda said through interpreter Kenji Nimura. “I’d like to repeat it as much as I can this season.” …
Nick Swisher delivered a two-out three-run double in the first. That means eight of his nine RBI have come with two outs. He’s at .417 (5 for 12) with two homers in those situations, and he has hit safely in six of the first seven games after this 2-for-4 day took him to .250 overall. …
The Yankees won their fourth straight game after losing the first three. They took their 14th home opener in the last 15 tries. And they dropped the Angels to 2-5 in the process. After managing only a single in four at-bats, Albert Pujols is sitting at just .222 with no homers and two RBI. Manager Mike Scioscia knows Pujols will get going.
“Obviously sooner is better than later, but this isn’t about Albert,” Scioscia said. “This about our team doing some things better on the mound and playing a little more fundamentally sound baseball. Albert is going to be there, but we have to be more than Albert and we are.” …
The teams have a Fox game scheduled for Saturday at 1:05. The pitching matchup will be Phil Hughes vs. C.J. Wilson.
Yankees pregame • 04.13.12
Greetings, Brian Heyman here at Yankee Stadium for the home opener against the Angels. Opening Day for me coverage-wise. I’m 0-0.
The Yankees are 3-3, and they have made a change in the batting order. Instead of Curtis Granderson batting second, Robby Cano third and A-Rod fourth vs. the right-hander Ervin Santana, it’s Granderson, then A-Rod, then Cano 2-3-4. Joe Girardi said this will be his regular order now vs. righties. He rethought lefties Granderson and Cano batting back to back. A red flag went up during the Tampa Bay series, according to Girardi.
“We just feel that some of these clubs who have two left-handers and even the one left-hander, it makes it a little more difficult to navigate through,” Girardi said. “So we’re going to go with this and just try to make it more difficult on clubs when to bring the left-hander in.”
Jorge Posada is being brought in to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
“I don’t really consider George an old-timer,” Girardi said. “You think sometimes of people throwing out the balls being retired for a while. I don’t really look at George that way. It was strange not seeing him in spring training this year.”
The fans will treat Posada rather warmly for this appearance.
“I think it’s a moment that he’s looking forward to,” Derek Jeter said. “It’s one he’s going to remember just coming off retirement a few months ago. I’m sure it probably feels a little odd to him coming from playing and then a couple of months later throwing out the first pitch.”
Like Jeter and Girardi, Albert Pujols met the media this morning. The $240 million man is off to a slow start at .217 with no homers and two RBI for the 2-4 Angels. He admits he has been pressing.
“I’m trying to do too much,” Pujols said. “We’re human. I’m a human. Sometimes that’s going to happen. No matter how good you prepare yourself, sometimes you want to press a little bit and try to do too much.”
It figures that Pujols’ Hall of Fame swing will be OK in the end. The Yankees pitchers will have to worry about him now with this switch to the AL.
“Our pitching staff is doing backflips in the clubhouse, real excited about him coming over,” Jeter cracked.
Pujols didn’t sound overly excited about playing at Yankee Stadium.
“I’ll tell you the truth, it’s no disrespecting the history of this organization, the Yankees, but I take it like every other park, getting here early, watching the video, getting prepared for the game,” Pujols said. “You’re out there and it’s just a game. Nothing changes. Obviously maybe the fans are louder. But everything else is the same. The game doesn’t change because you’re playing at Yankee Stadium. The rules are the same.”
Brian Cashman was just on the Dan Patrick Show, and he was asked whether C.J. Wilson is at the top of his offseason wish list.
“I’d say it’s fair to say C.J. Wilson is probably the best pitcher on the marketplace right now since Sabathia’s been taken out and retained here,” Cashman said. “I don’t think it’s a stretch to tell anybody that he’s the most attractive candidate.”
Obviously, in a public interview like this, it’s smart to take everything Cashman says with a grain of salt, but he’s also usually one to hedge on everything. He’s not necessarily a guy who makes declarative statements like that on a whim.
Cashman cautioned that putting Wilson at the top of the list is strictly because of performance and talent. It does not take into account the contract Wilson might be after.
“You have your priority list and how it looks,” Cashman said. “But then it gets rearranged by cost analysis.”
A few other highlights from Cashman’s 10 minutes or so on the show:
• Patrick asked twice about Albert Pujols. “I think he would be on anybody’s wish list,” Cashman said. “In our circumstances, our roster, he doesn’t fit… It’s not an efficient way to try to allocate your resources.”
• Cashman said he never heard from another team about becoming their general manager this offseason.
• Is is better to build a team specifically for the postseason? “I think the (regular season) long haul is a true reflection of what your team is,” Cashman said. “Our team, I don’t think, played up to its maximum potential in October, for that one week.”
• Despite the Phillies being knocked out this postseason, Cashman said his basic philosophy hasn’t changed. “I still think pitching is the key to the kingdom,” he said. “I think that’s the recipe you have to strive for. It doesn’t mean an automatic. Nothing does. But I think that’s the right way to go.”
• Cashman said bringing back CC Sabathia “was not a layup” and there were some nervous moments. “That’s never a fun process,” Cashman said. “But the resolution we’re really happy with, and we know he is.”
• Funny question from Patrick: Does Cashman believe his time with the Yankees will end when he retires or gets fired? “I would say that normally you get fired,” Cashman said, laughing. “I think it’s a healthy way to look at it. I think at some point, they usually tell you to go.”
Random bit of information: Cashman said he could most easily impress Patrick by showing him the Yankees conference room. It was built for draft preparation, and the walls are magnetic so that the Yankees can easily make lists and move names around. Right now, those walls are used to rank free agents by position. During the season, it has every team’s roster.
Cashman said there are five TVs — including one massive big screen — so the executives can watch five games at once, or they can pull up computer information on any of the screens. Cashman said his son plays X-box in there.
“That’s the wow room,” Cashman said. “When people come here, they’re going to get blown away by that.”
Associated Press photo