Just a few late afternoon notes on this first day of the offseason:
• A source said this morning that the Yankees have been granted a fourth option year for outfielder Eury Perez, the 24-year-old claimed off waivers from the Nationals at the end of September. Perez has speed and pretty good minor league numbers, and he could be a right-handed fourth outfielder candidate next season. The fact the Yankees can send him to the minors, though, makes it a little easier to keep him on the 40-man roster.
• Along those same lines, I was told that “it does not appear” that Austin Romine will qualify for a fourth option year. That means he’ll be out of options next season. He’ll either have to make the big league team or face the uncertainty of waivers (assuming the Yankees don’t make a move with him this winter).
• Here’s an interesting idea: George King reports a belief that the Yankees are interested in talking to Raul Ibanez about becoming their hitting coach. It’s an interesting idea mostly because Ibanez really does carry himself like he’s a coach already. He communicates well, and the Royals basically treated him as a coach through the playoffs. Ibanez has no coaching experience, and there’s no telling whether he’d even want the job, but it’s an interesting possibility.
• While the Yankees will surely be in the market for some third base help this offseason, they could face some competition from their rivals in Boston. Jon Heyman reports that the Red Sox are interested in both Pablo Sandoval and Chase Headley as alternatives to Will Middlebrooks. This surely comes as little surprise, but it further supports the idea that signing Headley is going to require basically a full-time job and a significant contract. He’s not likely to rejoin the Yankees strictly as a backup or alternative to Alex Rodriguez. Most likely, bringing Headley back basically means giving him the third base job.
• The Baseball Hall of Fame announced the 10-person ballot being considered on the Golden Era ballot this winter. The group will be reviewed and voted upon at the Winter Meetings on December 8. Here are the candidates: Dick Allen, Ken Boyer, Gil Hodges, Bob Howsam, Jim Kaat, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, Billy Pierce, Luis Tiant and Maury Wills.
Associated Press photo
One day after announcing the Alex Rodriguez injury, Brian Cashman was approached by various trade and free agent options.
“I’ve had a few of maybe the names I wouldn’t have thought of – lesser names that I wouldn’t have an interest in – volunteer their services for that position,” Cashmans said. “I’ve had some people suggest, ‘Hey, my guy who plays second base, he can swing over to play third.’ That type if stuff. I don’t have an interest in stuff like that. … I did have one irresponsible ask (in a trade suggestion), which I assume has everything to do with yesterday’s announcement. I’m no longer talking to that club.”
Although Cashman expects the market to continue its rapid development — “It seems like this is a market flush with money, the way it’s acting,” he said — but he plans to remain patient. Cashman said he believes it’s possible he could complete a move before these meetings end on Thursday morning, but he feels no need to force the issue.
“The preference is always to get your problems solved and get them fixed,” he said. “But the realistic side of that is that it’s going to take time and you have to solve it over time. If you don’t feel comfortable with the solution, you shouldn’t solve it until you feel comfortable. I’m prepared to drag this thing out.
“Hopefully everybody else is, too.”
• Cashman admitted to speaking with the agents for five different players: Kevin Youkilis, Eric Chavez, Raul Ibanez, Ichiro Suzuki and A.J. Pierzynski. Those were the only names specifically mentioned, and Cashman confirmed that he’s had discussions about each one.
• Despite talking to Pierzynski’s camp, Cashman was as firm as ever in his belief that the Yankees will have an in-house starting catcher next season. “I think our catching will come from within, personally, as we are right now,” Cashman said. “I’d be surprised if it didn’t.”
• Cashman on whether he needs to stick with one-year deals: “Optimally that’s the best way you’d like to go, but it might not be the way I have to go. It just depends on the player and the dollar amount.”
• Earlier today, Joe Girardi said the Yankees need a third base solution that’s capable of playing the position all year because of Alex Rodriguez’s uncertainty. Cashman disagreed. Sort of. “I was just looking to someone who can get there for three months at the very least,” Cashman said. “If it’s somebody that’s good enough to go the whole way, fine, but there’s not a lot of choices out there. I’m not going to limit it by looking at it that way. I understand what he’s talking about – you need to have the protection – but it’s a very limited sandbox to play in.”
• With Ichiro and Ibanez in the mix, Cashman indicated that he’s willing to use an all-left-handed regular outfield. “Beggars can’t be choosers, so to speak,” Cashman said. “If I’m in a situation where we have equal righty or lefty bats, you can gravitate one way or the other, but it doesn’t match up that way. … If we did (sign another left-handed outfielder), we’d need two outfield bats, one from the right side, one from the left side. If we wanted to put another left handed bat in, and it’s all three left handed outfielders, I would say focus on me adding another right-handed bat too, in the Andruw Jones category.”
• To be clear, in no way did I think Cashman was talking about bringing back Andruw Jones, he was just referring to a right-handed outfielder who strictly plays against lefties.
• Will Brett Gardner be in center field next year? “I see Gardner and Granderson both as center fielders,” Cashman said. “Currently Gardner is our left fielder and Granderson is our center fielder, and if we so choose to make a change, we’ll have no problem doing so. But that’s not something we’re talking about right now.”
• By the way, forgot to mention earlier that Girardi said Granderson had his vision checked and it’s fine. There was some speculation that maybe his vision caused last year’s second-half struggles. Apparently that’s not the case.
• Cashman on Chavez: “We know him very well and he had a hell of a year. He’s put himself in a very strong position, I think, in a marketplace that is thin at that position. That will run interference with our interest level, I would think, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t make something happen there. We’ll see. We’re engaged.”
Associated Press photo
Yankees postgame: Winning the marathon • 09.22.12
This was a marathon five-hour, 43-minute roller-coaster ride at Yankee Stadium.
“It was like we played two games today,” Eduardo Nunez said.
The Yankees’ 10-9 win in 14 marked the franchise’s second-ever comeback victory from four runs down in extra innings. And it came after Baltimore had cut the lead to a half game with an extra-inning win in Baltimore. The Yankees survived despite pinch runner Melky Mesa’s baserunning problem in the 14th when he missed third and had to go back — in his MLB debut.
“I told you all along that I like the fight in these guys,” Joe Girardi said.
Raul Ibanez became the first Yankee to come on as a pinch hitter and send up at least two homers since Steve Balboni in 1990. Ibanez, who arrived with two hits in his previous 45 at-bats, had a big game with the two long balls, including the tying two-run shot in the four-run 13th, and a double in the 12th, the inning when he tried to plow over catcher Derek Norris. But Ibanez couldn’t dislodge the ball.
“He plays extremely hard,” Girardi said.
Ichiro Suzuki went 3 for 5 with two walks and a sacrifice, so he’s now at a sizzling .700 (14 for 20) over his last five games.
Ivan Nova had mixed feelings afterward. This was the shortest start of his career, 2 1/3 innings. You would think, barring injury, that Nova wouldn’t be starting in the postseason after all this erratic work, especially in the second half.
“He just didn’t seem to have his real good command,” Girardi said.
He gave up three runs, five hits — four for extra bases — and two walks.
“It’s not a good feeling,” Nova said. “… The bottom line is we won. We’re still in first place.”
The Yankees won their seventh straight to retain their one-game edge over the Orioles. There are 11 games to go.
“It’s exciting for baseball,” Girardi said.
In Sunday’s series finale, the pitching matchup will feature Hiroki Kuroda and A.J. Griffin.
Freddy Garcia struggled a bit in the heat and humidity, allowing five hits and four walks in five innings. But he only cracked for two runs in this 6-2 victory over the Mariners.
“Freddy battled,” Derek Jeter said. “Freddy has been around a long time. He knows how to mix things up.”
Garcia snapped a three-game winning streak and became the first Venezuelan to reach 150 victories in the majors.
“I still have the record,” said Garcia, who’s also the 12th Latin American-born pitcher to win at least 150. “For me, it’s another win. Hopefully more are coming.”
Garcia is 3-3 with a 3.95 ERA in seven starts since rejoining the rotation July 2.
“You’ve got to feel good about it after I pitched four games in April and I didn’t do my job and they sent me to the bullpen,” Garcia said.
The bullpen backed him up rather nicely this time, four hitless innings between Boone Logan, David Robertson and Rafael Soriano.
“It’s one reason why we are where we are,” Jeter said.
Ibanez is another reason. He has a knack for big hits, even at age 40. This time, he hit a long solo homer in the fifth to make it 4-2, then worked the count full and delivered a two-out, two-run bases-packed single in the sixth to set the final margin. Ibanez said he tries to keep any emotion out of the at-bats in these important situations.
“Raul is one of those guys who never tries to do too much and can relax in those situations,” Girardi said. “That’s why he comes through a lot.”
Ichiro Suzuki came through with a double in the seventh to tie Don Slaught’s record for longest hitting streak at the start of a Yankees career at 12 games. Of course, if you saw it or heard about it on the radio, it was a gift from the sun god. Center fielder Michael Saunders was blinded by the light and the ball fell for a gift double.
“As a hitter, I was hoping that ball would drop,” Suzuki said through an interpreter. “But at the same time, I understand the outfielder’s feeling, how tough it is to fight that sun. So I felt for him a little bit.”
Andy Pettitte was due for another X-ray today on his fractured left ankle. After the game, Joe Girardi said Pettitte was “definitely better.” He’s exercising and playing catch. The Yankees are still hopeful he’ll be back in September.
The Yankees finished the homestand at 4-5. They had dropped the first two series, to the Red Sox and the Orioles.
“We won a series leaving and I think it’s important because we have to get back to winning series,” Girardi said. “We lost some really tight games. Hopefully this will get us on a really good streak.”
They head to Detroit for four and then to Toronto for three. Monday night’s pitching matchup features Ivan Nova and Justin Verlander. I’ll have more on that in my 9 a.m. post.
The Yankees may not be overwhelming with runners in scoring position, but Joe Girardi has to like his power potential. The majors’ leading home-run-hitting team scored all its runs on homers in the 4-3 win over the Mets. The Yankees are up to 42-28 overall and 41-15 when they launch at least one homer.
“When you think about our club, they’re in scoring position when they walk to the plate,” Girardi said. “That’s the kind of club we have. They hit the ball out of the ballpark and we win games.”
Terry Collins said: “They can get you in a minute. There’s not a guy in the lineup who can’t hit the ball out of the ballpark.”
Still, the Yankees were getting nowhere with Chris Young, who owned a two-hitter after six.
“He was using his fastball, sneaky fastball,” Raul Ibanez said. “You look up and think it says 84, 85 and it seems a lot harder than that.”
But Ibanez erased the 3-0 lead with one swing against Young before Eric Chavez delivered the go-ahead shot off Jon Rauch. Ibanez now has 11 homers and 35 RBI.
“He’s just a guy who gives you a solid at-bat every time he goes out there,” Girardi said.
Ibanez said: “I was just trying to get a guy in. … I think it was a big lift for us.”
The bullpen provided another big lift, going 3 1/3, allowing no runs and two hits, and picking up eight of the 10 outs via strikeouts.
“Outstanding again,” Girardi said after using five guys to navigate through.
Boone Logan certainly did his job against two lefties with the potential tying run at third in the seventh. The lefty fanned Lucas Duda and Dan Murphy to end the inning.
“I think the consistency of his slider has been much better,” Girardi said. “And he has grown as a pitcher.”
David Robertson walked two and fanned three in the eighth.
“I’m at the point where I might be able to use him two games in a row,” Girardi said.
Russell Martin left in the ninth with stiffness in his back. Girardi said he will be a reserve tonight.
The Mets were the ones who struggled with runners in scoring position, going 1 for 14.
Collins was shorthanded because Ike Davis had to be scratched with food poisoning and Frank Francisco was unavailable due to a sore left oblique.
This game drew the largest crowd in Citi Field history, 42,122.
Tonight’s Subway Series finale on ESPN has the marquee matchup, CC Sabathia vs. R.A. Dickey.
A first-inning decision to intentionally load the bases had backfired, but the Yankees offense had rallied. CC Sabathia’s fastball command had been erratic, but he’d settled down. Dave Robertson had put the tying run at third base, but he’d struck out three in a row.
The Yankees had been in trouble all night, but it was only when they seemed to be in safe hands — arguably the safest hands in the history of the game — that Opening Day unraveled into a stunning one-run loss.
“(Mariano Rivera) is not going to be perfect the whole year,” Joe Girardi said. “But I believe he’s going to be really, really, really good. … We’re pretty used to seeing him do it. We’ve seen it over 600 times, so when it doesn’t happen, you’re a little shocked.”
The pitch Rivera wanted back was a 1-2 cutter to Desmond Jennings. It was a leadoff single, the least damaging hit of the inning, but it was a legitimate mistake. Rivera wanted the pitch down, he left it up, and everything soon spiraled. Both Rivera and Russell Martin seemed to think the Zobrist triple was a good pitch, Zobrist just did a good job with it. Loading the bases was an obvious decision, and the Sean Rodriguez might have been pivotal if not for Carlos Pena’s three-hit, five-RBI day.
“After we got that strikeout, I thought we had a chance,” Martin said. “It’s a tough spot. You try to get out of those situations, but it’s easier said than done.”
Even for the greatest of all time.
“It’s my fault,” Rivera said. “I felt good. I’m not going to make excuses for what happened. I just left the ball over the plate. It’s bad. You don’t want to start a season that way, but thank God it’s only one game.”
• What a strange night of managerial decisions. The Yankees twice intentionally loaded the bases, the Rays put on a suicide squeeze with two strikes, and at the end the Yankees had five infielders playing on the edge of the grass while two outfielders played extremely shallow.
• Girardi said intentionally loading the bases in the first inning was because of the matchup and because of the opposing starter. CC Sabathia had great numbers against Carlos Pena, and Girardi expected a low-scoring game against James Shields. “Sean Rodriguez has hit (Sabathia) hard,” Girardi explained. “And it’s not something I’ll do a lot in the first inning with CC, but as I said, Shields has been pretty tough on us. … I felt good about CC getting him out, but it didn’t work.”
• Sabathia on the decision to load the bases: “I knew I had some success off him, but like I said, it’s a lefty so I knew if I make the right pitches then we get out of it. … It was a lefty, so I felt like it was the right move.”
• Pena on his reaction to walking Rodriguez in the first inning: “I was like, ‘Woah, they are walking Sean to get to me.’ After you get past the first, initial shock, it’s time to get to business.”
• Although the grand slam came on a 3-2 pitch, Sabathia was behind 2-0 and 3-1 in the Pena at-bat. Fastball command was an early problem for the Yankees ace. The third-inning Longoria home run came on a 1-0 pitch. “Early in the game, he wasn’t really where he wanted to be,” Russell Martin said. “But as the game went along, it looked like he started to get that comfort level back.” Sabathia pitched his final 3.2 innings scoreless.
• I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’d ever actually seen a true five-man infield. I’ve seen some shifts where an outfielder plays extremely shallow, almost in the infield, but in the ninth inning the Yankees had five true infielders, all playing on the edge of the infield grass. Eduardo Nunez was playing up the middle. “Man, it has been a while,” Teixeira said. “They never ask me to go to the middle. But that was the right call there.”
• Raul Ibanez had never hit an Opening Day home run until today. It was his 14th time on an Opening Day roster and his 11th start. In the final two weeks of spring training he hit .304 with three homers, and had a fourth home run opportunity robbed by an over-the-wall catch. “Spring training’s over now and everything that happened before today is really irrelevant,” Ibanez said.
• Shields had gone at least seven innings in 11 straight starts. Tonight he lasted five innings and gave up all six Yankees runs. “I don’t ever remember scoring that many runs off him,” Teixeira said. “He’s been really tough off us. We did get a lot of guys on base, but it’d be nice to get a couple more.” The Yankees were 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
• The Rays have now won five straight against the Yankees for the first time in franchise history.
• Pena was 0-for-11 with three strikeouts in his career against Rivera. He was 4-for-35 against Sabathia, including an 0-for-14 slump with 11 strikeouts.
• Alex Rodriguez has hit safely in all eight Opening Day games he has played with the Yankees, the longest streak for the franchise since Lou Gehrig hit safely in 12 straight Opening Day games from 1926 to 1937.
• I don’t think anyone expects Rivera to blow a save or for Sabathia and Shields to be knocked around on the same night, but there was something very familiar about the Yankees opener. “It was a good four-hour game,” Girardi said. “We’re back. Nothing’s changed.”
Associated Press photos
When he looked into the stands, Joe Girardi saw his old friend Dante Bichette holding a video camera. When he looked onto the the field, Girardi saw Dante Bichette Jr. rounding the bases.
Could he imagine the feeling of ever watching his own son hit two home runs in a big league spring training game? Girardi leaned back and smiled.
“Hopefully I’ll get that chance,” he said.
This afternoon, Bichette Jr. came up from minor league camp to get a couple of at-bats against the Astros. First time he went to the plate, he swung at the first pitch and hit a wind-aided home run to right. Second time he went to the plate, he again swung at the first pitch, and hit a legitimate shot to center field.
“I was lucky to make contact with the first two swings, and they went pretty far,” Bichette Jr. said. “I’m happy with that. I was just trying to hit the ball, that’s all. … Family is the world to me, so my Mom and Dad here is everything. It’s a family effort, everything that’s happened so far, so having them here is perfect.”
Bichette Jr. grew up 20 minutes from this ballpark and played here in high school. Hard to imagine he ever had a day quite like this one, though. The wind got harsh as a line of bad weather moved through the area, and that helped the two teams combine for nine home runs. Bichette’s first was a product of that wind. The second one surely got some help, but he hit it pretty hard.
“It was pretty special,” Girardi said. “The second one, he really hit. Seeing his mom and dad, who we’ve been close to for a long time, his little brother; they played on this field a lot. They greew up in the area, so he’s been on this field. It’s pretty neat.”
Did Girardi say anything to Bichette Jr. in the dugout?
“I don’t know, honestly,” Bichette Jr. said. “I don’t remember any of them. It was kind of surreal.”
• If you missed it in the game post, the Yankees final diagnosis of Cesar Cabral is a stress fracture in his olecranon (essentially the tip of his elbow). Girardi said it’s the same injury Warner Madrigal had last spring, and an injury Jonathan Albaladejo had at one point. “It’s frustrating because he had a really good camp for us,” Girardi said. “I can’t tell you what was going to happen, but he had a good camp for us.”
• Francisco Cervelli was taken out of the game after being hit by a pitch in the forearm, but he’s fine. Girardi said there are no concerns about it.
• Certainly the conditions didn’t help, but Adam Warren conceded that he “just wasn’t sharp” this afternoon. He allowed six runs on 10 hits through 5.2 innings. He walked none and struck out three, but said his command was bad from the very beginning. He did feel better as the game progressed, he said. Four of those runs came in the second inning.
• Girardi on Warren: “I thought he threw the ball better than the numbers indicated. It’s a windy day, an extremely fast infield — not great conditions to be a pitcher here. I thought he threw the ball better than what it indicated.”
• The game was called in the middle of the ninth inning because of steady rain. Each team agreed there was no sense taking the risk of injury. “We just said, ‘If it starts raining any harder, we don’t want to get anyone hurt,’” Girardi explained. “It kind of stopped a little bit, they put down some Diamond Dry, and then it started raining hard again. So, that’s it.”
• Clay Rapada gave up a home run to a lefty today, but it was hit to right field, where the wind was carrying fly balls over the wall. Hard to think the Yankees make too much of that.
• Raul Ibanez now has three home runs in his past five games. He’s also raised his spring batting average more than 100 points in that time.
• Curtis Granderson went 3-for-3 to raise his spring average to .381. He’s looked really good at the plate from the very beginning of spring. … Bichette, Ibanez, Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira each had two-hit games. … Jose Gil got a start and had another hit. A 1-for-4 day dropped his spring average to .455. … Doug Bernier also had another hit and is having a nice spring of his own. He’s hitting .344 and has played very good defense all over the infield, particularly at short. … Preston Claiborne got in the game and pitched the final two innings for the Yankees. He allowed two runs, one of them on a homer.
• After the game, the Yankees got back on the bus to go to Tampa. When they get back, the guy who are making the road trip to play the Marlins will join their teammates for a flight to Miami. Tomorrow is a day game followed by a night game on Monday. I’m going to hit the road myself. Long drive ahead of me.
Assocaited Press photos
It was the first four innings that Hiroki Kuroda held the Braves scoreless. It was in his last three innings that he gave up a couple of runs. In spring training, though, results are only part of the story, and Kuroda was much happier with the way he finished today’s next-to-last spring start.
“In the beginning I didn’t feel right, but I was able to make adjustments,” he said. “… Every game that I start I have to make some kind of adjustment, and I was able to do that the last few games that I pitched in spring training. I think I’m ready for that. I just hope I don’t get hurt.”
As long as he remains injury free, the Yankees seem happy with their offseason free agent signing. Pitching outside of the National League West for the first time, Kuroda has been exactly what the Yankees were expecting. He doesn’t overwhelm hitters, but he mixes pitches and throws strikes. Today he struck out six and walked none.
“I was pleased with what I saw, really pleased,” Joe Girardi said. “He’s the guy that I thought we were getting.”
The Yankees have planned all year to slot Kuroda into the No. 2 spot in the rotation, and that’s exactly where Kuroda will open the season, as the game-two starter against Tampa Bay. That leaves him lined up to start next month’s home opener.
“I try not to think that far ahead,” Kuroda said. “I’m just focused on this next start that I have to do.”
• More good news on Nick Swisher who managed to get 10 at-bats at the minor league complex today. He’ll go back to the complex tomorrow, and Girardi said he might play the outfield depending on how he feels. Girardi doesn’t expect him to take so many at-bats this time.
• In case you missed it, the Yankees announced today that they’ve claimed catcher Craig Tatum off waivers from the Diamondbacks. The signing seems to make sense given the Austin Romine setback, but a Yankees source also confirmed that Tatum is out of options, meaning he can’t be sent to the minor leagues. Hard to imagine him getting the backup catcher job ahead of Francisco Cervelli. Kind of a head scratcher.
• Speaking of minor moves, Sweeny Murti reported this afternoon that the Yankees have signed Jack Cust to a minor league deal. That would seem to be clear insurance just in case Raul Ibanez can’t shake off his rocky spring. Cust is also a left-handed hitting designated hitter.
• Speaking of Ibanez, he went 1-for-3 today and very nearly had his second spring home run. He was robbed by Jason Heyward’s leaping catch over the wall in right field.
• Speaking of struggles, Cory Wade gave up another run this afternoon. The big hit was a double by Eric Hinske, and Girardi said he felt that was the only truly bad pitch Wade threw (he left it up). Wade has a 7.27 ERA this spring and hasn’t looked sharp, but Girardi made it clear that he’s planning to have Wade in his Opening Day bullpen.
• One more Wade note: Just a few days ago he threw a three-inning simulated game. The Yankees want him to be a little bit stretched out so that he could give multiple innings if necessary. The loser of the rotation competition will likely be the regular long reliever. “You’d like to have two guys down there that could really give you some multiple innings,” Girardi said.
• The Yankees settle for a 5-5 tie after George Kontos gave up a two-run homer in the ninth inning. Kontos stayed in to pitch a scoreless 10th. … Eric Chavez went 3-for-4 including a double and an RBI single. He brought his average up to .235. … Eduardo Nunez’s strong spring continued with two more hits for a .393 average. … Justin Maxwell took an 0-for-2.
Associated Press photo
Ibanez: “The feel today was much better” • 03.24.12
“I was definitely not feeling very good at all,” Ibanez said. “K-Long, he’s diligent, and he’s probably the hardest working guy I’ve ever seen. He sticks with you and sticks with it and stays positive, and he works. He works tirelessly and stays positive and he’s been very, very helpful. … We did a lot of work yesterday with Kevin and Reggie (Jackson) was out there. It was very helpful, and I felt like today I felt a lot better at the plate.”
Ibanez homered today. It was one swing that probably doesn’t mean much in the big picture, but that one swing that might be at least an indication that Ibanez is starting to find his timing again.
“It’s one at-bat, but the feel today was much better than it has been,” Ibanez said.
Said Joe Girardi: “It’s good for him to get that hit like that for us, drive the ball like he’s capable of doing. It’s good to see. You see a guy (exhale) a little bit, so it’s good.”
With Opening Day less than two weeks away, Ibanez probably doesn’t have enough time to make his spring numbers nice and shiney — right now he’s hitting .075 — but these next few days could be key in getting Ibanez where he wants to be heading into the opener.
“This part of spring training is definitely the most important part because it’s kind of what you want to take into the season with you,” Ibanez said. “This part is definitely more important especially when you go into it … especially when things are wrong.”
Freddy Garcia could have made things easy for the Yankees this afternoon. Instead, he might have made things harder. Showing absolutely no rust in his first start back from a swollen right hand, Garcia pitched 4.1 scoreless innings with four strikeouts and two walks. The only hit he allowed was a comebacker — of course — that glanced off his leg.
“Freddy was great today,” Joe Girardi said, not even waiting for a reporter to ask him a question. “I mean, everything; slow curveball he used to get ahead in the count sometimes, located his fastball, his split was good, his backdoor slider was good. He had it all. We got him to 64 pitches, so I was very pleased.”
Garcia doesn’t have the longterm upside of Phil Hughes, Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova — which means the Yankees might choose to cut him out of the rotation regardless of results — but he’s been very sharp this spring. Garcia ERA is down to 2.92, and he’s looked very much like the guy who pitched so well for the Yankees last season.
“Last year, I signed a minor-league deal and came to spring training to earn a spot,” Garcia said. “Everything was harder for me because I had to come here and pitch really good and show them I can pitch in this league. (This winter) I signed early, but they signed guys and (Girardi) said he liked competition, and we’re in competition. I like that. It’s making my thinking straight. I concentrate better on what you’re doing.”
After last week’s hand injury — on a comebacker in Dunedin — Garcia might have fallen to the back of the pack, but he looked today as if he hadn’t missed a step. Whether you believe him or not, Girardi has said the Yankees will take their five best starting pitchers, and right now Garcia has been more consistent than anyone but Phil Hughes.
“I have to worry about myself and go out there and pitch,” Garcia said. “The way I pitched today, you know, I needed it.”
• Raul Ibanez’s two-run home run in the seventh inning not only gave the Yankees the lead, it also snapped him out of a hitless streak dating back to March 10. “It felt good to be able to make a left turn instead of a right turn,” Ibanez said.
• Ibanez credited extra work with Kevin Long. The two spent an extended session in the cage yesterday, and Ibanez said it paid off. “I felt like I was in a better position to hit,” he said. “And in a better position to take a good swing.”
• Because the Yankees are facing a left-handed starter tomorrow, Ibanez will go to the minor league complex to get at-bats. It’s not uncommon for big league hitters to leadoff every inning in minor league spring training games. They can often get more at-bats by hitting in multiple games. “I told him, as many (at-bats) as he wants,” Girardi said.
• Garcia was fine after being hit by a Jhonny Peralta comebacker in the third inning. He quickly dismissed the training staff and stayed in the game, but it was kind of freaky to see a pitcher hit in his first game back from a comebacker. “It happened to me twice,” Garcia sad. “But it’s nothing to worry about.”
• Dewayne Wise continued his strong spring training with a game-winning, two-run double in the 10th inning. The Yankees went into extras after the Tigers tied the game with two-runs in the ninth. Both runs came off D.J. Mitchell, who was pitching his third inning of work and seemed to lose the strike zone a little bit.
• Another strong showing for Cesar Cabral who had one strikeout in a hitless bottom of the 10th. The Rule 5 pick has 12 strikeouts and only one walk this spring.
• Justin Maxwell picked up his fourth stolen base of the spring as part of a double steal in the 10th inning. Maxwell stole third. … Jose Gil’s batting average is down to .563 after a 1-for-2 day. … Mark Teixeira and Colin Curtis also had hits today. … Boone Logan retired the two batters he faced, and Kevin Whelan retired the three batters he faced.
• Although Joba Chamberlain is being released from the hospital tomorrow, Girardi said he’s not sure when Chamberlain will stop by Yankees camp. Girardi expects Chamberlain to be in camp again at some point, but it might not happen right away. “He’s not capable of driving, so we might see him next week some time,” Girardi said. “It just depends what he wants to do.”
Associated Press photos