Scranton drops spring opener

The minor league spring scheduled kicked off yesterday, with Triple-A Scranton falling 6-2 to the Pirates’ Triple-A squad on the road. Ian Kennedy got the start, allowing two runs in four innings thanks to a couple of defensive miscues behind him. Chad Jennings spoke to manager Dave Miley after the game, who said he was happy with Kennedy’s performance. There’s no box score available for the game, but Jennings was able to confirm that Eric Duncan, Chris Malec, Colin Curtis, Kevin Russo and Edwar Gonzalez played in the game, while Eric Wordekemper, Grant Duff and Kevin Whelan pitched out of the bullpen. The minor league season begins on April 9th, three days after the Yanks’ season.

Joba, Yanks roll to ninth straight win

I know it’s just Spring Training, but anytime your team wins nine straight games you can’t help but crack a smile. Joba Chamberlain outpitched Jersey’s own Rick Porcello, allowing four hits and a run in 3.1 innings. He struck out five and walked none, throwing 61 of his 41 41 of his 61 pitches for strike. Porcello allowed two runs on four hits in 2.1 IP, uncorking a wild pitch as well. Joba appears to be over his early spring struggles, putting up a 9.1 IP, 9 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 11 K pitching line in his last three starts.

Melky Cabrera went 2-for-3 with a double and a stolen base from the leadoff spot, and was relieved by Brett Gardner who picked up a hit in his only at-bat. Johnny Damon went 1-for-3 with an RBI double, and on top of that he threw a runner out at the plate. You know it’s going to be a good day if Johnny D. guns someone down. Mark Teixeira and Frankie Cervelli also doubled, while Cody Ransom, Jose Molina and Angel Berroa chipped in 1-for-3 efforts. Juan Miranda put the Yanks on top for good with a two run homer off Fernando Rodney in the seventh.

Jon Albaladejo replaced Joba and allowed three hits in 1.2 innings of work, and lowered his spring ERA to 1.08. Mariano Rivera made his third appearance of the preseason, allowing his first baserunner (a hit) and striking out. He needed a whopping 12 pitches (10 strikes) to retire the side. Edwar Ramirez and Jose Veras each gave up a run in an inning of work, and Zack Kroenke picked up the save with with a scoreless ninth inning in his first action since being returned by the Marlins. The 4-3 win was the Yanks ninth in a row.

Cervelli was optioned to Double-A Trenton after the game, joining the six others that were sent down this morning. Al Aceves will face the Rays tomorrow afternoon while CC Sabathia throws in a minor league game. MLB Network is carrying the game, but it’ll be blacked out in the New York area because YES wants it to be. Story of my life.

Hughes, five others sent to minor league camp

Prior to this afternoon’s game against Detroit, the Yanks optioned Phil Hughes to Triple-A Scranton. Hughes made five appearances (four starts) in the preseason, putting up a 15 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 6 BB, 10 K pitching line while working on a new changeup grip. The Yanks also optioned Steven Jackson and Anthony Claggett to Scranton, while Humberto Sanchez was optioned down to Double-A Trenton. Jason Johnson and Sergio Mitre were also assigned to minor league camp. As camp draws to a close, there just aren’t enough innings to go around anymore. (h/t Bryan Hoch)

Trio of homers propel Yanks to come from behind win

Usually when the team has to make a two and a half hour bus trip, just about all of the regulars get to stay home. That wasn’t the case today, as Mark Teixeira, Robbie Cano, Hideki Matsui and Brett Gardner headed to Fort Myers to take on the Twinkies this afternoon. Phil Hughes got the start in place of Andy Pettitte (more on that later) and was solid, tossing four and a third innings of three hit, one run ball. He walked one and didn’t strike out any, but he got by thanks to a 10-3 GB/FB rate. Hughes was taken out after reaching his pitch limit (65 pitches, 41 strikes), and afterward said that he feels strong and ready to go, although he admitted his curve wasn’t cooperating today.

Jason Johnson relieved Hughes and allowed a run in his 1.2 innings of work, while the trio of Anthony Claggett, David Robertson and Kei Igawa held the Twins scoreless over the final three frames. Igawa loaded the bases on a hit and a pair of walks with one out in the ninth, but induced a game ending double play off the bat of Denard Span.The Kei-Man is up to 12.2 scoreless innings, but is anyone have a more under-the-rader spring than Claggett? Including today, he’s allowed just six baserunners (three hits, three walks) in nine innings this spring.

Trailing 2-0 in the sixth, the Yanks got on the board when Teixeira hit his first homer of the spring off Joe Nathan, who I hear is pretty good. Todd Linden – who’s only hit this spring came way back in the first exhibition game – hit a solo homer of his own off the uber-nasty Jose Mijares in the eighth to tie the game. Frankie Cervelli put the Good Guys out in front with a sac fly later in the inning, and Austin Jackson took ex-Yankee farmhand Jason Jones deep in the ninth for an insurance run. Cano went 1-for-3 and made several plays during the five innings he spent in the field, so it looks like the shoulder thing is behind him. Brett Gardner, Jose Molina and Shelley Duncan all contributed 1-for-3 efforts in the 4-2 win, the team’s eighth consecutive.

While all that was going on, Andy Pettitte threw against a team of minor leaguers back in Tampa. He tossed 5.1 innings, allowing one run on three hits and a walk. He also pulled a CC and struck out seven, throwing 44 of his 65 pitches for strikes. Catching him was Jorge Posada, who for the first time this spring played behind the plate on the consecutive days. He caught all of Pettitte’s 65 pitches, and had to make three throws to second base. All three players were successful on their stea attempts, and two of the steals were by runners put on intentionally to test Posada. Although it would have been nice to see him throw someone out, the important thing is that he said he felt fine after the game.

Joba Chamberlain will face Rick Porcello and the Tigers tomorrow afternoon in Tampa. Too bad it won’t be televised, that’s as good a matchup as it gets.

Pics from today’s intrasquad game

Infielders

That shot of some players walking around the infield comes courtesy of longtime RABer Andy in Sunny Daytona (I have no idea who they are, so don’t ask). Apparently Daytona wasn’t sunny enough for Andy today, so he drove across the state to watch a bunch of minor leaguers. We benefit though, because he also got some pictures of Jorge Posada catching, Andy Pettitte walking around the mound, and Mark Melancon in mid-delivery. Pete Caldera also has some pics of Andy pitching, which you can see here and here.

Someone stole a base off Posada, who had to made three throws to second base, all of which went fine. Melancon struck out the side. Andy also send along a picture of the monstrosity he ate for dinner last night. I think it’s sushi. Anyway, thanks to Andy for the pics. I wish I was there.

Quick hits: Jorge looking good, Swisher day to day

Just a couple of notes to hold you over until the chat at 2:

  • The coaching staff is impressed with Jorge Posada’s arm strength. From Mark Feinsand: “I feel good about it, I do. And last night’s the best I felt, because of what I saw,” Girardi said. “When he threw it, I went, ‘wow.’ That’s the expression I used when I looked at Tony (Pena). He said he felt great, and that was really positive.” Hey, we’re looking for any bit of positivity about Posada we can find. His ability to catch will mean a great deal to the Yanks this season (as we’ve said roughly 18 billion times this winter/spring). Jorge will catch for the second day in a row today, a big test for him.
  • According to Joe Auriemma at YES, Nick Swisher is day to day with a bruised lower calf. It doesn’t sound serious at all, just a regular bump/bruise in Spring Training. I don’t think it will affect his competition with Xavier Nady for the right field job.

Checking in on the center field battle

In 17 days, the Yankees will begin their inevitable march toward a 27th World Series championship. Meanwhile, they still have no set center fielder. With Grapefruit League action a-dwindlin’ in Tampa, it’s time to check in on everyone’s favorite positional battle.

We start with a Jayson Stark rumor:

GLOVE AFFAIR: The most-heard observation about the Yankees this spring: That team could have serious, and potentially fatal, defensive issues. They’re range-challenged in left, in right and at shortstop. (Ed. Note: That’s a shot at Jeter.) They have reliability issues at second. Alex Rodriguez is now a major question on every level. And nobody knows what kind of defensive catcher Jorge Posada is capable of being over the long haul. There are rumblings the Yankees are poking around again on Mike Cameron’s availability.

So basically, that paragraph boils down to blah, blah, blah, and oh, yeah, the Yanks are back on the Mike Cameron bandwagon. If Stark’s sources are telling the truth, I’m not really sure what the Yankees see in Cameron. He’s having a terrible spring for the Brewers; he’s old; and he’s not cheap. The Yanks have two center fielders in camp who could do the job, and while Cameron may still be a better defender than Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner, a weaker hitter, is just as good, if not, better at getting to fly balls.

Cameron, a few months older than Johnny Damon, doesn’t fit the Yankees’ move toward younger, more versatile players either. Perhaps the Brewers are trying to stir up interest in a contractual albatross, but I just don’t see Cameron arriving in the Bronx any time soon. Meanwhile, the Brewers are denying any and all trade rumors, and this looks like a big nothing from Stark. Shocking, I know.

Back in Tampa, Bryan Hoch checked in with Melky Cabrera. The displaced starter now battling for his position feels as though he has a shot at the job, and Joe Girardi is conceding nothing. “This offseason, I worked really hard, so when the opportunity came, I’d be ready to play,” Cabrera said to Hoch. “I worked on defense and hitting and was working out every day. It’s helping a lot. I’m ready to go.”

For his part, with a few weeks of spring games left, Girardi is not giving the spot to either player. “Melky’s playing at a very high level, as well,” Girardi said. “I’m happy with the way Melky is playing. He’s really started swinging the bat, and you see him doing little things — bringing the defense in with drag attempts and shooting balls by them.”

For what it’s worth, Brett Gardner is far outhitting Melky in Spring Training. Cabrera is hitting a Melky-ian .250/.341/.361 through around 40 PAs, and Gardner is hitting .382./447/.765 in the same span.

The Yanks though are far from finished with the auditions. According to Hoch, the team likes Cabrera’s arm in center, and the decision may come down to defense, a factor that should favor Gardner’s speed and range. In the end, Hoch notes that the Yanks could carry both players, and considering that Melky is out of options, they very well might so as not to lose the youngster. I wouldn’t, however, pencil in anyone but Gardner for that Opening Day spot quite yet. Who emerges as the center fielder by game 100 is anyone’s guess.