Masahiro Tanaka allowed his first earned runs of spring training in his start against the Mets

Masahiro Tanaka

Masahiro Tanaka

Masahiro Tanaka allowed his first runs of spring training and the Yankees lost to the Mets, 7-2, at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa.

This was Tanaka’s final line against the Mets: 4.2 IP, 4 hits, 3 runs, 2 earned runs, 1 BB, 7 Ks and 1 homer. Forty seven out of the 59 pitches that Tanaka threw were strikes. Tanaka allowed a homer to John Mayberry Jr. in the fourth inning. In the fifth inning, Tanaka allowed a ground rule double to center to Nick Castellanos and then Juan Lagares hit a homer to center off of Dellin Betances for Tanaka’s second earned run.

Tanaka now has a 1.74 ERA in three starts (10.1 innings) during spring training with 12 strikeouts, six hits and only one walk. After the unearned run scored off of him in the first, Tanaka really improved his effectiveness until Mayberry’s homer. Also, after allowing his first walk of the exhibition season in the first, he then bounced back to strike out Mayberry on a swinging slider and then struck out Kirk Nieuwenhuis looking to end the first. His seven Ks and only walk proves that he is ready for the regular season.

Cole Figueroa and Didi Gregorius scored the only Yankees’ runs. Chase Headley, who is now hitting .316 in spring training, hit a two-out double in the third to drive in Gregorius for the first run. Gregorius has proven that he deserves to not platoon since he has been able to hit lefties and righties.

Alex Rodriguez went 1-3 with a single and gave praise to Gregorius in a story by Ken Rosenthal. Brian Cashman said on Wednesday that A-Rod has proven that he deserves to be the everyday DH. According to Bryan Hoch, Cashman said that “A-Rod has shown enough to be trusted as the full-time DH. Cashman had no expectations coming in.” Given Rodriguez’s two homers and .290 average in 31 at-bats he definitely appears ready to be the full-time DH.

Also on Wednesday, Cashman announced that Adam Warren is the favorite to be the No. 5 starter. Warren, who has a 2.77 ERA in four starts (13 innings), has pitched better than his competition for the final spot in the rotation.

“There’s a Secretariat right now in this race for me that’s got a number of lengths ahead of the field,” Cashman said. “Warren has certainly got a big lead in this.” Warren, who dominated in 69 appearances in the bullpen last season and has only made three major league starts, will get his fifth start of the spring on Thursday when the Yankees play in Port Charlotte against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Warren will return to the bullpen when Ivan Nova comes off of the disabled list most likely in the end of May or beginning of June. Warren proved that he is definitely valuable out of the bullpen, but he also could be more effective as a starter than the other options that the Yankees have based on his performance in spring training and his stats in the minors.

In 2012, with Triple-A Scranton, Warren had a solid season with a 3.71 ERA in 26 starts, while striking 107 batters and walking 46.

Hideki Matsui and Derek Jeter competed in a Home Run Derby in Japan for charity

Derek Jeter and Hideki Matsui at the charity baseball game in Tokyo.

Derek Jeter and Hideki Matsui at the charity baseball game in Tokyo.

On Saturday, Derek Jeter and Hideki Matsui, who were teammates for seven seasons while Matsui was on the Yankees, reunited on the diamond as they participated in a charity baseball game at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo to support children affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disasters. Jeter has said that Matsui was one of his all-time favorite teammates. Jeter accepted Matsui invitation to come to Japan on the four-day trip to help with the activities.

When they were teammates from 2003 through 2009, the Yankees made the playoffs in every season except 2008, and advanced to the World Series in 2003, the ALCS in 2004 and won the World Series in 2009. Matsui was on the field during Jeter’s number retirement ceremony last September to show his respect for his Hall of Fame career.

Matsui, who is now a special assistant to General Manager Brian Cashman, and Jeter were managers of two middle school teams that played a three-inning game in Tokyo. Matsui’s team won the game 2-0, according to the AP.

“Jeter played a big role in all of this,” Matsui said. “The kids had a magnificent day. Hopefully, when they go back to their everyday lives tomorrow, they’ll have new dreams to sustain them.”

Jeter and Matsui, who is also known as Godzilla, conducted a youth clinic and participated in a Home Run Derby. Before coming to the U.S. to play with the Yankees in 2003, Matsui played his home games at the Tokyo Dome with the Yomiuri Giants for 10 seasons, and he highlighted the home run derby by slugging a booming homer over the right field wall at his old stadium.

The Captain enjoyed his visit because he got to see Japan from Matsui’s perspective as well as experience Japanese culture. Jeter has said that he wants to be able to do more traveling in retirement and that is exactly what he was able to do here.

This trip was made even better because they were able to raise money to help children who were hurt by the devastating earthquake/tsunami. Jeter is grateful that Matsui invited him and he was able to give back just like he does with his Turn 2 Foundation.

It was a wonderful few days,” Jeter said. “Hideki showed me around, I got a chance to go see his hometown, I got a chance to see sumo wrestling and to top it off today was this great charity event.” Matsui was able to organize a baseball themed event that truly helped the kids of his country.

The Mets scored four runs off of CC Sabathia at Tradition Field

CC Sabathia talking to Larry Rothschild during spring training in 2014.

CC Sabathia talking to Larry Rothschild during spring training in 2014.

The Mets beat the Yankees, 6-0, on Sunday afternoon at Tradition Field in Port St. Lucie. The Mets hit four homers and the Yankees only had three hits. This was CC Sabathia‘s line against the Mets: 2.2 IP, 4 ER, 5 hits, 3 homers, 4 Ks

CC Sabathia allowed an inside the park home run to Juan Lagares to lead off the game. Jose Pirela, who was playing center field, crashed into the wall in center trying to make the catch and ended up having to go to the hospital as a result of a concussion.

Also, in the first inning, Mets first baseman hit a deep homer to right off of Sabathia, which proves that he isn’t all the way back. However his velocity was there again as he threw a 94 mph fastball in the first, he struck out David Wright on a 93 mph inside fastball and struck out Michael Cuddyer on a 92 mph fastball in the first.

In the second inning, Sabathia bounced back from his rocky first inning. He struck out Wilmer Flores on a high outside fastball and then struck out Ruben Tejada on another high outside fastball. Matt Reynolds grounded out to Didi Gregorius to end the inning. However, in the third inning, David Wright hit his second homer of the spring, and Sabathia would allow one more run.

The positive sign that Sabathia can take away from this appearance was that his fastball was consistently between 92 and 94 mph in the first two innings. This helped him record four strikeouts and makes his change, which was 86 mph, much more effective. However, the negative sign is that he allowed four earned runs after allowing two in his first start. This gives him an 11.57 ERA in 4.2 innings.

It will be important for Sabathia to limit the opposition to one earned run or less in his next start so that he will be able to finish spring training and go into the regular season with confidence. He needs to locate his pitches and not allow one run to lead to three or four. It also didn’t help that his fastball reverted down to the upper 80s in the third inning. However, Sabathia still seems confident going forward.

“I said to Larry (Rothschild) that I felt a lot better than I did last spring,” Sabathia said of the Yankees’ pitching coach. “I would rather get my (butt) kicked like I did today than give up no runs and felt like I did last year.”

Chasen Shreve, who will likely begin the season with Triple-A Scranton, allowed three hits and two runs in the eighth inning. Shreve now has a 5.87 ERA in 7.2 innings after having a 0.73 ERA in 12.1 innings pitched (15 games) with the Atlanta Braves last season. Shreve will be an asset in the Yankees bullpen this season, but he needs some more experience at Triple-A.

Matt Harvey got the start for the Mets and limited the Yankees offense to only two hits in 5.2 innings. The only highlight by the Yankees offense while the Mets ace was pitching was when Mark Teixeira led off the top of the second with a single and then stole second as Duda wasn’t holding him on. Teixeira only has seven steals in his previous four seasons.

Scott Baker, who is still a possibility to be the fifth starter, pitched 4.1 innings scoreless while recording two strikeouts and only allowing one hit. Baker, who in 2011 had a very good 3.14 ERA in 23 games (21 starts) in the last of his seven seasons with the Minnesota Twins, has a 4.32 ERA in 8.1 innings pitched so far. He is known as a pitcher who pounds the strike zone and limits his walks, and he he has done that in spring training as he has seven strikeouts and zero walks.

Either Adam Warren or Esmil Rogers will likely be the No. 5 starter, but this appearance by Baker should keep him in the consideration. Baker can be relied on to keep the team in the game while not allowing many free passes to the opposition. If Baker is not chosen to be the No. 5 starter, he will be valuable insurance pitcher in Triple-A in case a starter struggles or has an injury.

The Yankees will play the Washington Nationals at Space Coast Stadium at 1:05 p.m. on Monday afternoon.

Michael Pineda had six strikeouts and zero walks in the Yankees win over the Astros

Michael Pineda pitching earlier in spring training.

Michael Pineda pitching earlier in spring training.

On Saturday afternoon, the Yankees beat the Astros, 3-2, at George M. Steinbrenner Field in a Grapefruit League game. They now have a 12-7 record in spring training.

Michael Pineda got his third spring training start and even though he allowed his first two runs of the exhibition season his strikeout to walk ratio was outstanding. This was his final line against the Astros: 3.2 IP, 4 hits, 2 ER, 0 BB and 6 Ks. He threw 42 out of his 56 pitches for strikes.

Chris Carter hit a two-run homer in the first inning after George Springer tripled in what would turn out to be the only runs that Houston scored. After allowing those two hits in the first inning, six of Pineda’s next 11 outs came via the strikeout. He now has 12 strikeouts and only one walk in his 8.2 innings pitched in spring training.

Spring training is for getting players ready for the regular season and Pineda has proven that he definitely appears ready to continue where he left off last year. In 2014, Pineda made 13 starts and had a 1.89 ERA, 0.825 WHIP, 59 strikeouts, 0.8 walks walks per 9 innings and only seven walks in 76.1 innings. He will form what will be the best No. 1 and No. 2 starter combo in the AL East with Masahiro Tanaka.

Five other Yankees pitchers combined to allow only one hit to the Astros. Justin Wilson, Andrew Miller, Andrew Bailey and Nick Rumbelow combined to pitch 4.1 innings while holding the opposition hitless and recording seven strikeouts. The emerging relief pitcher Jacob Lindgren pitched the ninth inning, allowed one hit and a strikeout, and got the win as a result of the walk-off by Jake Cave.

Cave hit a sac fly in the ninth inning to score Slade Heathcott as he dove into home plate for the winning won. Nick Noonan and Aaron Judge scored the other two runs in the ninth. Reggie Jackson has compared Judge to Dave Winfield, and Cave, who will likely play at Double-A and Triple-A this season, is hitting .417 with five RBIs after hitting .294 in High-A and Double-A last season.

Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira and Didi Gregorius were the only players who will make the 25-man roster who had a hit. Teixeira had two, Beltran had one and Gregorius also had one.

The Yankees will play the Mets in Port St. Lucie on Sunday at 1:10 p.m. The game, which will be on YES and SNY, will be watched by many in the Tri-State area. CC Sabathia will make his second exhibition start for the Yankees after having an injury-filled 2014, and Matt Harvey will make his third start of spring training after missing last year due to Tommy John surgery.

Esmil Rogers was not effective for the first time during spring training

Esmil Rogers pitching last season for the Yankees.

Esmil Rogers pitching last season for the Yankees.

On Thursday, the Yankees lost to the Philadelphia Phillies, 7-3, at George M. Steinbrenner Field, as fifth starter candidate Esmil Rogers made his third start and fifth overall appearance of spring training. He now how has a 2.89 ERA in 9.1 innings with 10 hits and nine strikeouts. He had a 0.00 ERA before last night’s game.

Rogers did not exactly help his cause as he allowed three runs on five hits, which included a homer Cody Asche, in 3.1 innings. He threw 44 out of his 64 pitches for strikes and had three strikeouts and one walk. Adam Warren and Rogers are likely about even right now since Warren has a 3.38 ERA in his three starts (8.0 innings), but Rogers’s next two starts will really determine if he is the fifth starter or not.

All of my career I’m a starter, so I feel comfortable for a start,” Rogers said. “I just want to be here to be part of the team.”

As previously stated, Warren proved last season that he has a lot of value in the bullpen as a result of his 2.97 ERA in his 69 games as a relief pitcher during last year’s campaign. He threw 78.2 innings and had 76 strikeouts and only 24 walks.

However, Girardi has praised Warren for being a four pitch pitcher. Warren has a fastball, change up, curveball and slider in his arsenal and has been a somewhat rare reliever as he uses all of his pitches out of the bullpen instead of primarily throwing two like many relief pitchers.

Even though he throws four pitches and has the ability to start, he is still likely more valuable in the bullpen since the No. 3, 4 and 5 starters might not be able to go very deep into games and he will give the bullpen more depth and effectiveness. Girardi has said that nobody has been eliminated form the competition, which means that Bryan Mitchell, Scott Baker and Chase Whitley still have a chance, which means that these next two weeks will be important in deciding roles. Spring training stats usually don’t matter very much, but they do for the candidates competing to be the No. 5 starter.

Nick Goody, who pitched 15 games in the bullpen last year at Double-A Trenton, allowed a solo homer to Darin Ruf in the eighth. Chasen Shreve, who will either start the season at Triple-A or in the Bronx, allowed three runs (two earned) in the ninth on three hits. This was by far his worst appearance of spring training as the talented lefty had only allowed one run in his previous five games.

It was an offensive struggle for the Yankees as they only had four hits against five Phillies pitchers. Chase Headley continued his productive exhibition season with his second homer and Didi Gregorius hit a single and his average is now a solid .280. If Gregorius can hit .270-.280 with 10-15 homers and 10-15 steals it will be a productive season for him based on all the runs he will save defensively.

Alex Rodriguez went 0-3 and now only has one hit in has last 12 at-bats, which has lowered his average from .455 (5-11) to .261 (6-23). It’s too early to really evaluate him, and it was not realistic for A-Rod to hit at a .455 clip for the rest of spring training, but he needs to show some power and consistency. If he continues his slump it will make sense for him to platoon with Garrett Jones at DH.

On Friday at Joker Marchant Stadium, Warren will make his fourth start of spring training, and Alfredo Simon will get the start for the Detroit Tigers. These final 16 games of spring training will help determine who will be the No. 5 starter, who will be the backup catcher, what Rodriguez’s role will be and who will be the final two members of the bullpen.

Sabathia had an encouraging first start of spring training even though he allowed two runs

CC Sabathia during spring training last season.

CC Sabathia during spring training last season.

The Yankees lost 4-2 to the Toronto Blue Jays at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Tuesday, but a few positives can be taken out of this game. CC Sabathia made his first start of the exhibition season, Mark Teixeira hit his first home run and Jose Pirela continued to make his case to be the back-up middle infielder.

After only making eight starts last season and missing the final 5.5 months as a result of having a stem-cell shot in his right knee, Sabathia came away from his first competitive innings since last May pain free. He allowed four hits, two runs, zero walks and had two strikeouts in his two innings. Also, 22 of his 31 pitches were strikes.

According to Mark Feinsand, a scout’s radar gun in the first inning clocked Sabathia’s fastball at 90-92, with an average of 91. A YES Network radar gun even clocked him a 96 mph in the first inning. That average fastball is a few mph faster than it was last season, and it also means that he could get up to an average of 93-94 mph by the regular season.

These are Sabathia’s two strikeouts. One came in the first inning against Josh Donaldson and the other was in the second. He retired the side in order in the first stanza and allowed all of his hits in the second. Sabathia came away pleased with his performance overall based on being able to throw his fastball with some velocity.

Obviously you don’t want to give up runs, but its spring training, it is what it is,” he said. “Just being able to command the baseball, let it go, throw it hard, it feels good.” His strikeouts came on a change to (former All-Star) Donaldson, which he will be throwing a of this season, and a letter-high inside fastball to Dalton Pompey.

He might have allowed no damage in the second if Chase Headley was playing third instead of A-Rod. Rodriguez barely moved on a hard grounder hit near him to leadoff the second and then the two runs scored with two outs. If Headley was playing third it could have been an out instead of a single.

It’s a positive sign that Sabathia had no pain after his 31 pitches and seems optimistic about the season. Sabathia has pitched 200 innings eight times in his career, and GM Brian Cashman said that he expects that again from him this season.

The first run that the Yankees had came when Stephen Drew hit a single that scored Garrett Jones. That was Drew’s first RBI and he is now only hitting .143. The Yankees need him to find his swing during spring training so that he will be the hitter he was during the 2013 season.

Two innings later, Teixeira hit an impressive opposite field homer for his first round tripper since September 21. The Yankees need Teixeira to slug 25-30 homers this season.

Dellin Betances gave up a run on two hits in his inning pitched, and Kyle Davies, who hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2011, allowed the fourth Blue Jays run in his inning pitched. Justin Wilson, who will likely primarily pitch in the seventh inning, allowed a hit and a strikeout in his inning pitched.

Pirela continued to be the offensive standout of spring training as he hit a triple in his only at-bat after replacing Drew. That was his second triple of the exhibition season and he now has nine hits in 20 at-bats (.450). Brendan Ryan is getting close to being ready to play in a game again, but Pirela is much better on offense than Ryan is, which means that he should be able to show what he can do in the beginning of the season as the back-up middle infielder.

As of last night, every starter has made (at least) one exhibition start and has either dominated or in the case of Sabathia showed more velocity than expected. Sabathia will look to build on this in his next start while continuing to threw his change and locate and command his fastball with similar velocity.

Esmil Rogers should be the No. 5 starter instead of Adam Warren

Esmil Rogers.

Esmil Rogers.

As a result of Chris Capuano straining his right quadriceps a few days ago covering first base there is now an open competition for the No. 5 starter in the rotation. The candidates for the final spot in the rotation include Adam Warren, Esmil Rogers, Chase Whitley and Bryan Mitchell.

Mitchell and Whitley will likely come in third and fourth because they have less experience than the other two. Mitchell allowed four runs on six hits in one inning in his start on March 11. He has a 9.00 in four innings so far in spring training.

He is thought of highly in the organization, but he needs more time to develop at Triple A. The 23-year-old made eight starts and nine appearances last season at Triple-A and had 3.67 ERA with 34 strikeouts and 16 walks. The hard-thrower needs to improve his strikeout to walk ratio, as his walks are far too high. That is a solid ERA and an improvement from the 4.84 ERA he had in 61.1 innings at Double-A last season, but he has not proved himself long enough with the RailRiders yet.

Whitley is a 25-year-old who was drafted by the Yankees in the 15th round in 2010 who made 12 starts and 24 total appearances for the Yankees last season. He pitched well in his first few starts, but he had trouble pitching deep into games and being effective the more appearances he made. He had a 5.23 ERA in 75.2 innings with a very high 1.480 WHIP. He makes more sense in Triple-A or in the bullpen.

Whitley has pitched seven innings (one start and three relief appearances) so far in spring training and has not allowed a run. However, that does not prove very much for him as a starter because he was only primarily facing major leaguers in one of those appearances. What that does prove is that he might be better suited for a role as a relief pitcher since he was also successful in the bullpen in the minors as he had a 3.06 ERA in 67.2 innings at Triple-A in 2013 while making 24 of his 29 appearances in the bullpen.

Either Rogers or Warren could be effective in the two months until Ivan Nova returns but Rogers could get the edge because Warren proved last year that he has the ability to pitch very well in the bullpen. In 2014, Warren had a very good 2.97 ERA in 69 games (78.2 innings) coming in from the bullpen. His 76 strikeouts and 24 walks were both higher and lower than in 2013 and he has said that he has embraced his new role as a reliever (even though he wants to be a starter).

According to Brooks Baseball, in 2014, Warren primarily threw a four-seam fastball (95mph) and slider (87mph), while also mixing in a circle change (86mph) and a knuckle curve (82mph). He fits better as a reliever since he has two primary pitches with the ability to mix in others. He would give the bullpen five potentially very reliable options with him and Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, David Carpenter and Justin Wilson.

Rogers, who is entering his seventh MLB season, has made 43 MLB starts, which is many more than any other possible No. 5 starter. He has a 5.54 career ERA, but that is inflated due to his 3.5 seasons pitching for the Colorado Rockies where he had an ERA above 6.13 in two of those seasons. He knows how to get outs and according to Bryan Hoch, “he has been particularly impressive to manager Joe Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild this spring, as they believe his stuff seems crisper and seems to be more consistent.

The 29-year-old Rogers has six strikeouts in six innings pitched and hasn’t allowed a run during spring training. He has pitched in four games and two of those have been starts. Rothschld has taught Rogers to be more steady with his glove, and Rogers thinks that his adjustment has helped him. He now holds his glove in front like Masahiro Tanaka. The Yankees should go with the pitcher with the most experience especially since Rogers seems to be improving.

Michael Pineda pitched like the ace that he is capable of being

Michael Pineda

Michael Pineda

During Saturday’s split squad 4-1 win against the Detroit Tigers, Michael Pineda threw 34 pitches in three innings and didn’t allow a hit. Pineda recorded four strikeouts and in the second inning he struck out Nick Castellanos swinging on his way to striking out the side.

“I’m happy,” Pineda said. “My changeup and all my pitches were very good. The command is still good.”

Yankees bench coach Rob Thomson was interviewed during the game and said that his slider looked good and he liked the confidence that he is showing on the mound. Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka could both serve as aces at the top of the rotation, and it is a positive sign that they both didn’t allow a run in consecutive spring training appearances.

Pineda, who is 26 years old and his only injury-free major league season came in 2011 with the Mariners, will try to stay healthy for the whole season during the 2015 campaign. If he can stay healthy while pitching like he did last season, he will greatly improve the team’s chance of making the playoffs. Last season, Pineda made 13 starts, threw 76.1 innings, had an outstanding 1.89 ERA, a 0.825 WHIP, 59 strikeouts and only seven walks.

After pitching two scoreless innings in his first spring training start on March 9, he pitched one more inning with similar dominance. He is an imposing figure on the mound at 6-7 and 260 pounds and his size helps him make his four-seam fastball (93mph), slider (85mph), change (88mph) and sinker (91mph) more effective. Pineda and Tanaka are capable of being the best one and two starters in the American League East this season.

On offense, for the team’s first run of the game, Didi Gregorius hit a sac fly to right to drive in Mason Williams after his triple in the third inning for the team’s first run. Williams is an outfield prospect with a lot of potential who underperformed last season as he hit only .223 at Double-A Trenton. He was rated the 41st best prospect in baseball before the 2013 season.

In the sixth inning, second baseman Stephen Drew hit a single to load the bases and then two runs scored on an error after first baseman Mark Teixeira hit a ground ball. Those were all the runs the Yankees would need as the Tigers only had one runner cross home plate.

The Yankees lost their other game played on Saturday to the Blue Jays, which means that their Grapefruit League record is 8-5. Esmil Rogers got the start with Joe Girardi watching and he is a possibility for the open 5th starter position. Rogers, who pitched for the Blue Jays in 2013 and part of 2014, pitched three scoreless innings. He allowed four hits and had three strikeouts.

The only run that the Tigers scored came off of Dellin Betances, who could be the closer this season. Betances allowed two hits and a balk, but his spring training stats don’t matter nearly as much as they did last season when his dominance helped him make the team. Andrew Miller, who could also be the closer, struck out two in the fifth, Nick Rumbelow, James Pazos, Jaron Long and Jared Burton combined to allow only one hit in the final four innings.

Masahiro Tanaka was very effective in his spring training debut

Masahiro Tanaka pitching during spring training.

Masahiro Tanaka pitching during spring training.

On Thursday night, Masahiro Tanaka had a promising first start of spring training. The Yankees ended up beating the Atlanta Braves, 3-2, and he threw two perfect innings, striking out a pair and getting four weak ground balls. He only threw one ball out of his 19 pitches and didn’t allow a ball to get out of the infield.

Tanaka, who had an outstanding 2.77 ERA in 20 starts last season, easily made it through his two innings of work and it was decided that he would throw about 15 more pitches in the bullpen to get up to his pitch count. In his first two innings in a game since allowing five earned runs in 1.2 innings to the Red Sox in his final start of the season, he threw 15 out of his 19 pitches for strikes. He pitched like he did last season when he was the ace of the staff when healthy.

“He made it look easy,” Joe Girardi said. Girardi also thought that the four groundouts that he allowed were a positive because the defense will be very reliable at every position this season. Mark Teixeira, Didi Gregorius and Chase Headley are all elite defensively and Stephen Drew will be getting better everyday at second. According to Marly Rivera, an AL scout categorized Tanaka’s splitter as excellent and said that his fastball velocity was down in the second inning to 88-89 mph.

This is a positive sign because Tanaka came away feeling back to normal with his splitter working just like it did last season. He said after the game that he was not even thinking about the partially torn UCL while he was pitching. He will likely pitch three or four innings during his next appearance. Tanaka, who missed 2.5 months last season, will have to stay healthy the whole season for the Yankees to make the playoffs and this is the first step in his doing so.

Gregorius hit a triple to the warning track in left center and was safe after diving into the home plate side of third. He was hustling the whole time and would score the Yankees’ first run on Brett Gardner’s fielders choice. Scott Baker relieved Tanaka and pitched the third and fourth innings. He pitched a perfect third and fourth inning and even though he isn’t on the 40-man roster Girardi said during the game that he is a candidate to be the 5th starter based on his experience and ability to throw strikes.

The other two runs were driven in by an up-and-coming prospect and a minor league free agent that the Yankees signed. Jake Cave, who is an outfield prospect that hit .294 between high-A and Double-A last season, hit a ground rule double to center in the seventh to tie the game at two. Nick Noonan, who gives the Yankees Triple-A infield depth and could be the shortstop at Scranton after previously playing in the Giants organization, would later hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Jose Pirela for the team’s third and final run.

Also on Thursday, the other Yankees starter with injury question marks, CC Sabathia, had his first simulated game of the spring. The six-time All-Star had a 5.28 ERA in eight starts last season and missed most of the campaign due to right knee inflammation. The Yankees need him to be able to pitch 200 innings this season.

He is healthy and is one step closer to doing that as he threw 29 pitches in his sim game while mixing in some changeups, cutters and sliders. Girardi said that he was pleased with the movement on his pitches and that he will pitch in a game next week. Thursday was the most important and significant day of spring training so far for the Yankees because Sabathia and Tanaka were both effective in their respective performances.

Stephen Drew was named the starting 2nd baseman & Hideki Matsui has a role in the front office

Hideki Matsui

Hideki Matsui

On Tuesday, the Bronx Bombers officially gave Hideki Matsui, who played for the Yankees from 2003-2009, a role in the front office. His title is special advisor to the general manager.

Matsui, whose nickname was Godzilla while playing, will work closely with General Manager Brian Cashman and Player Development Vice President Gary Denbo. He will spend most of this upcoming season traveling through the Yankees’ minor league system and focusing on aspects of hitting with managers, players and batting coaches.

In Matsui’s seven seasons with the Yankees, he had a solid .292 average with 140 homers, 597 RBIs and a .370 on-base percentage in 916 games as a DH and outfielder. He was an All-Star in his first two seasons with the Yankees after coming over from Japan, and in his second season he had a .298 average with 31 homers, 108 RBIs, 34 doubles and a .390 on-base percentage in 162 games.

Matsui played in the World Series with the Yankees in 2003 when they lost to the Florida Marlins in six games. In 2009, he was MVP of the World Series when the Yankees beat the Philadelphia Phillies in six games. In that World Series, he had an outstanding .615 average (8 for 13) with one double, three homers and eight RBIs. He was known as a clutch hitter who played the game the right way.

Based on what his role will be this season, he could be a hitting coach in the future. Some of the knowledge that he will be able to teach the minor league players will be how to be selective at the plate, how to take what the pitcher gives you by hitting the ball the other way, how to advance runners with less than two outs and how to deal with the media the right way since he had experience answering lots of questions from reporters in Japan and this country.

This role makes sense for Matsui (even though he might need a translator at times) because the young up-and-coming players will be able to relate to him and he will have advice to offer the players and hitting coaches.


It was also announced on Tuesday that Stephen Drew will be the Opening Day second baseman. This was not all that surprising because the Yankees signed the veteran to a one-year, $5 million contract in the offseason, but the Yankees could have waited until later in spring training to see if Jose Pirela and Rob Refsnyder continue to hit the way they have so far.

The Yankees are thinking that Drew, who missed spring training from 2012-2014 due to injury the first two years and not having a contract last season, will have a productive start to the season as a result of being healthy and playing in all of spring training.

He was not able to recover from his late start to the season as he had a .162 average with seven homers and 26 RBIs in 85 games with the Red Sox and Yankees last season. If he can hit the way he did in 2013 or better, when he helped the Red Sox win the World Series, then he will be worth having in the lineup. In the 2013 season, he had a .253 average with 13 homers, 29 doubles, eight triples, 67 RBIs and had a .333 on-base percentage. That was his third highest on-base percentage of his nine-year career.

Drew is still learning second base after playing shortstop his whole career before being traded to the Yankees in the middle of the 2014 season, but this spring training should allow him to further get used to the different nuances of playing second. He made four errors in his 34 games played at second with the Yankees last season, which isn’t that bad since he was learning the position on the fly.

The Yankees plan on having a short leash with Drew if he still can’t hit when the regular season starts. This means that Refsnyder and Pirela will still compete to see who will deserve to be Drew’s back-up and replace him if he can’t produce offensively.

Refsnyder projects to be the better player in the long run based on the overall offensive skills that he displayed last season, but Pirela has the edge right now because he is older, hit .333 in seven September games in 2014 and offers more versatility defensively as he can play second, short and left field. In five games played through March 10, Pirela has a .455 average (5 for 11) with three RBIs. That is a small sample size, but he proved to be able to hit for a high average when he had a .305 average in 581 at-bats with Triple-A Scranton last season.

I’m very thankful to the Yankees for this opportunity,” Pirela said. “They’ve given me plenty of opportunities. I just want to continue doing my job and I just hope to keep getting a chance to show what I can do.

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