The Yankees defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 4-0 Saturday afternoon in a highly anticipated spring training game at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Many were looking forward to this game because it had been known for a few days that Masahiro Tanaka would be pitching against another team for the first time after coming over from Japan.
Before Tanaka came in, CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda each pitched two scoreless innings. Sabathia allowed two hits and struck out one during his two frames. He will be the team’s No. 1 starter for the sixth year in a row. Kuroda, who had a 3.31 ERA last season at age 38, only needed 17 pitches to get through the third and fourth innings. The Yankees could not have asked for their No. 2 starter to be more efficient.
After Ichiro hit an RBI single for the first run of the game in the fourth, Tanaka would make his long awaited appearance in the top of the fifth. In his two innings, he allowed two hits, three strikeouts and did not allow a walk. He definitely did not disappoint in his first outing of spring training.
The first batter that Tanaka faced hit a weak single to center. Tanaka ended the fifth inning with a swinging strikeout on a 3-2 count. To begin the top of the sixth, he struck out Ben Revere, who had a .305 average with 22 steals last season, with his signature splitter. Also in the sixth inning, Tanaka was able to strike out Domonic Brown, who had 27 homers and 83 RBI in 2013, with a high inside fastball. Tanaka’s ability to strike out Revere and Brown proves that he could be able to live up to the expectations since they are established major league players.
In the seventh inning, Dean Anna, who could be a back-up middle infielder if he has a great spring, made a web gem caliber play at shortstop. A grounder was hit in the hole between short and third and he put enough on his throw to just barely throw out the runner at first. This is the type of play that Derek Jeter has made many times in his career.
Dellin Betances and Ceasar Cabral were the two pitchers that came in after Tanaka for the Yankees. Cabral could be the second lefty after Matt Thornton in the bullpen and Betances, who was switched from starter to reliever last season in AAA Scranton, could be a set-up man to David Roberton. Betances, the 25-year-old from Brooklyn, needed 30 pitches to record 1.2 scoreless innings.
Austin Romine, who is competing with Francisco Cervelli to be Brian McCann’s back-up catcher, had this to say about Tanaka’s splitter: “I’ve never seen a ball move like that before. It’s special.” Some have called Tanaka’s split fingered fastball the best in the world.
This spring training game was unusual because the expected first three starters in the rotation each pitched. Joe Girardi said that this was pitching coach Larry Rothschild’s idea. Today’s game was definitely a big deal in Japan because Kuroda, Tanaka and Ichiro all appeared for the Yankees. The YES broadcast even showed a monitor that was only focused on Tanaka.
Even though the Bronx Bombers scored four runs, what will be remembered from this game is that Sabathia, Kuroda and Tanaka all appear to be on the right track early in camp.
Joe Torre, who won four World Series championships (1996, 1998, 1999, 2000) in his 12 seasons (1996-2007) as the manager of the Yankees, has been unanimously selected into the Hall of Fame.
The Yankees made the playoffs in each of those 12 seasons while advancing to the World Series six times. The Yankees lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2001 World Series and to the Florida Marlins in 2003 Fall Classic. Torre will always be remembered fondly by Yankees fans partly because he led the Yankees to their first World Series victory since 1978, as well as their first dynasty since the late ’50s to early ’60s when the team won four in six years.
Torre grew up in Brooklyn and went to James Madison High in Sheepshead Bay. After high school, Torre was signed as an amateur free agent by the Milwaukee Braves. He continued to play for the Braves when they moved to Atlanta, then was eventually traded before the 1969 season to the St. Louis Cardinals after a feud with management over his salary and then after two sub-par seasons the Cardinals traded him to the Mets before the 1975 campaign where he would play his final three seasons of his career.
In his 18-year career, he played in 903 games as a catcher, 787 games as a first baseman and 515 games a a first baseman. He had an outstanding .990 fielding percentage behind the plate. Offensively, he recorded 2,342 hits, 252 homers, 1,185 runs batted in and a .297 batting average. He won the Most Valuable Player Award in 1971 when he led the NL in average, won the Gold Glove Award in 1965 and was a nine-time All-Star. This amounts to a borderline Hall of Fame career as a player.
Torre managed 14 seasons before truly making a name for himself as the manager of the New York Yankees. His only previous season before 1996 that he was a manger of a team that went to the playoffs was when his 1982 Atlanta Braves team won the their division. Other managing jobs included the Mets for five seasons and guiding the Cardinals to better records than was expected of them at the beginning of the seasons.
However, his decade plus tenure with the Yankees truly was outstanding and he proved that he could manage under pressure. The 1998 team that won 114 regular season games is recognized as one of the best overall teams in baseball’s storied history. Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte, who are collectively known as the core four, came of age under Joe Torre’s guidance. Those four are all Yankee legends and they speak glowingly of Torre.
He handled the bullpen very well and knew when to give a reliever multiple innings or only a few batters. It certainly helped that he had Marino Rivera for the ninth inning for all but the 1996 seasons.
Joe Torre and his wife created the Joe Torre Safe at Home Foundation, which is in response to Torre being a victim of an abusive father when he was growing up. His physical abuse had been a secret for many years. He and his wife started the Foundation in 2002 to educate children about the topic of domestic abuse. The Foundation has a mission of: “educating to end the cycle of domestic violence and save lives.”
Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox were also named Hall of Famers on Monday. Below is Torre’s reaction to Meredith Marakovits, of the YES Network, on being inducted into the Hall of Fame.
The Yankees finished their west coast road trip against the Seattle Mariners, Oakland Athletics and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim with a disappointing 4-6 record. They will now start a nine game homestand. The Yankees will play the first of two games tonight against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Los Angeles will play a regular season series in New York City for the first time since they were known as the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956. The Yankees have played the Dodgers 11 times in the World Series, including the classic three homer run game by Reggie Jackson, and the game in which Jackie Robinson sole home against Yogi Berra.
The Dodgers are managed by Don Mattingly who played for the Yankees his whole career. Don Mattingly had his number 23 retired by the Yankees after hitting 222 homers, driving in 1,099 runs, slugging 442 doubles, recording 2,153 hits and ending his career with a .307 average. Mattingly, along with Joe Girardi, were the two candidates who were in consideration to replace Joe Torre after the 2007 season. This is the first time that they will go head-to-head since then.
The Yankees come into the series struggling on offense, as mentioned in the previous post, but hopefully their game against the Angels on Sunday, where they scored six runs, is a sign that their bats are coming alive. The Dodgers have lost three out of their last four games, and are in last place in the National League West.
Their pitcher in the opening game of the series, Hyun-Jin Riu, will be a challenge for the Yankees offense, but it is possible that pitching in Yankee Stadium for the first time will throw him off his game. In his last six starts the rookie Riu has a 3-0 record with a 1.94 ERA. However, he pitches much better against righties than lefties, which could be a good sign for Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki.
Brett Gardner has a .294 average and two homers against lefties and Ichiro has a .358 average and four RBI against southpaw’s this season.
Phil Hughes will be the starting pitcher who will oppose the National League Rookie of the Year candidate. Hughes has been the definition of inconsistent this season as he has a 4.89 ERA. He had an awful start in his last outing, but in his first start of the road trip, against Seattle, he threw seven shutout innings with seven strikeouts.
If the Yankees are lucky he will throw a quality start tonight given the pattern of his last two starts. On the other hand, Hughes has a 6.52 ERA at Yankee Stadium this season. But, the Yankees are facing an NL team, and Hughes has a 1.93 ERA in two starts this season against NL opponents.
Another factor that will make this series intriguing is that the Yankees will get a look as Puigmania. Yasiel Puig, the rookie outfielder from Cuba, who was called up as a result of injuries to Carl Crawford and Matt Kemp, has hit an astounding .479 in 13 games, with four homers and 10 RBI. Based on the 13 games that he has played so far he deserves a spot in the All-Star game at Citi Field.
Both teams are struggling coming into the game, but the Yankees need to show signs of offensive ability back in the Bronx against the inter-city rivals from back in the day.