Thursday, March 03, 2005

Yanks vs. Pirates, running commentary 

God Bless MLBTV.

Top 1:

Tanyon Sturtze, starting for Randy Johnson and his ouchy calf, takes the mound against this Pirate line-up:

RF - Marcus Lawton
SS - Freddy Sanchez
LF - Jason Bay
1B - Daryle Ward
DH - Craig Wilson
CF - Tike Redman
3B - Ty Wigginton
2B - Luis Castillo
C - Benito Santiago

Sturtze's first pitch is a fastball strike down the middle. He then retires Lawton on a nice play by Tony Womack, charging in to field a chopper in front of second and fire to Tino martinez at first. Sturtze then strikes out Sanchez and gets Bay on a grounder to third on which Alex Rodriguez shows some early spring rust.

Bottom 1:

Good news right off the bat as Joe Torre has Tony Womack batting out of the nine hole:

SS - Derek Jeter
3B - Alex Rodriguez
DH - Jason Giambi
LF - Hideki Matsui
CF - Bernie Williams
1B - Tino Martinez
RF - Ruben Sierra
C - John Flaherty
2B - Tony Womack

Remember, Gary Sheffield (shoudler) and Jorge Posada (neck) are being rested due to aches and pains.

Jeter leads off against Kip Wells by fisting a fly out to right. Alex Rodriguez then follows with a single through the hole into left. Rodriguez has supposedly added 25 pounds of muscle this offseason, but it's difficult to see in a baseball card-sized web video. Giambi follows by drawing a five pitch walk. Wells tries to pick Rodriguez off second but hits Alex in the rear with the ball, which then trickles into center. No advance. Matsui follows by slicing a dying quail to left for a well-placed RBI double. Bernie then grounds out to first on the first pitch he sees to make the score 2-0 Yanks. Tino Martinez repeats the feat to end the inning.

Top 2:

Battling for the first base job, Daryle Ward misses badly on an off-speed pitch from Sturtze, then pokes an easy grounder to Jeter for the first out. Craig Wilson, who has lopped off his flowing blonde locks, falls prey to Ruben Sierra's staircase defense in right. The MLB announcers are having fun joking about Sturtze making John Flahrty work by throwing a lot of split fingers in the dirt. Whatever works, he strikes out Tike Redman to end the inning.

Bottom 2:

Setting the scene, it's an ugly, overcast day at Legends Field in Tampa, which features a large NY behind home much like Yankee Stadium. The Pirates are in their black BP jerseys with yellow stripes through the arm pits and their Pirate head logo on the left breast, and corresponding black caps with yellow brims and the Pirate head logo. The Yankees are in their home pinstripes.

Ruben Sierra leads off wearing #28, having yielded #24 to Tino, who batted in the previous inning. Hitting lefty, Sierra pulls off the ball and pokes one to short for the first out. John Flaherty hits a flare behind second, on which Jose Castillo fails to make an over-the-shoulder catch. Man on first, here's Womack wearing #12.

Alex Graman and Brad Voyles are up in the pen. Why Brad Voyles again?

Womack pokes a slow roller to short for a fielder's choice. Two out . . . and there's the first flashback to Womacks' double in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. Womack steals second easily on a looping curve from Wells to Jeter. Jeter takes a pitch across the knees for strike three. Looked like a ball live, was clearly a strike on the replay.

Top 3:

Alex Graman takes over on the mound. Great two innings for Sturtze, 2Ks and no baserunners. Wigginton grounds out to short during an interview with Sturtze. Graman then walks Castillo. Benito Santiago is 900 years old and my monitor is not helping things. Santiago rips a single followed by another by Lawton to cut the Yankee lead in half. Sanchez then flies out to center for the second out and Bay sets off the Ruben Sierra whirly-gig in right to end the inning.

Bottom 3:

Brian Mallette takes over for Wells and gets Rodriguez to ground out to second on his first pitch. Giambi also swings at the first pitch, grounding out to first. An odd approach against an unfamiliar pitcher. Matsui works the count, but grounds out to third anyway. Whatever.

Top 4:

Graman's back at it. He looks taller than 6'4" (as if 6'4" wasn't tall enough). He strikes out lefty-hitting Daryle Ward to start the inning. Craig Wilson follows with a grounder to third. Rodriguez still looks a little stiff over there. Tike Redman singles through the hole into right during a Kip Wells interview. Graman is out of options this year so these spring training apprearances will likely be his last in a Yankee uniform. Ty Wigginton flies out to center to end the inning as it begins to drizzle.

Bottom 4:

During a Lloyd McClendon interview, Todd Ritchie, who was the trade bait that got the Bucs Kip Wells and Josh Fogg from the White Sox after the 2001 season and is now back with the Pirates fighting for a job, gets Bernie to fly out and walks Tino. Andy Phillips runs for Tino and is retired on a fielder's choice off the bat of Ruben Sierra, who is then run for by Bubba Crosby. The confluence of pinch runners gets a nice accidental Bubba Phillips reference out of Gary Thorne. Flaherty flies out to left to end the inning.

Top 5:

Crosby and Phillips take over at right and first respectively (here's hoping Phillips gets some time at second eventually). Paul Quantrill takes the mound for Graman, who was unimpressive. Quantrill is already leading the league in appearances (ba-dump bump).

And there's Tony Womack's first error of the spring. Get used to those, he's an awful defensive second baseman. On this play, Santiago hit a grounder that took a low hop off the grass and hit Womack right in the shins, deflecting into right. Santiago is given a hit, which is symbolic of this organization's ability to evaluate Womack's skills objectively. If the ball hits you without you having to move, its an error, I'm sorry.

The rest of the inning is then eaten by the internet and we move on to . . .

Bottom 5:

How many times does a guy make an awful play in the field and then lead off the next inning? Here's Womack. As if to underline his own shortcomings, he grounds out to second, where Castillo makes the play perfectly. Rey Sanchez bats for Jeter and grounds out to short. Here's Rodriguez, look for a grounder to third. Oops. That got eaten as well. Let's assume it happened. By the way, the Pirate pitcher was #72, who I can only determine was an unidentified NRI.

Still 2-1 Yanks.

Top 6:

Felix Rodriguez makes his Yankee debut wearing his usual #47.

Ugh. My computer is killing me here. At this point I'm basically watching a film strip. If this keeps up I may bag this diary and get lunch before the game is over. Just a warning.

Some Pirate just singled to center during a Brian Cashman interview (hey, never mind the game, let's talk about steroids!). Piecing it together, the single was Sanchez. Jason Bay made an out. Sanchez then "stole" second on a pitch that walked Daryle Ward. Craig Wilson then followed with a high fly to deep right that Matsui lost in the wind and rain, falling on his knees and allowing it to drop well out of his reach for a game-tying single. Meanwhile, some NRI pinch-ran for Ward and is now on second. Tike Redman creams one to right that gets held up for Crosby for the second out moving the runner at second to third. Wigginton also appears to fly out to right.

The details remain fuzzy because the game announcers talk about nothing but steroids most of this half inning.

Bottom 6:

Giambi leads off against lefty Mike Gonzalez. Looks like Humberto Cota behind the plate. Giambi works the count full and walks on a breakless ball near his head. Giambi is pinch run for by an unidentified player and a pinch-hitter for Matsui (I think Robinson Cano [it was Damian Rolls]) grounds into a double play. Damian Rolls [actually Doug Glanville] the pops out to short for Bernie.

Top 7:

We're well into sub territory here, so forgive me if I miss a few names, as I've been doing over the past inning and a half. Felipe Crespo makes an out batting for Castillo. The replacement catcher is up, but I can't seem to catch his name thanks to this stop-start video. Meanwhile, the Yankees have a lefty on the mound, which narrows the options considerably, though the #38 throws me. Perhaps it's Buddy Groom, which is good, he needs to get a look. Ah, the catcher is Ryan Doumit, and he flies to right for the second out. Ben Grieve would seem to be up for Lawton except the batter appears to be right handed. Giambi interview, nice that this isn't a major news event. I suppose it's fine that they're not showing the game action at this point, but I don't have the sound up loud enough to hear the interview since I'm at work. Woah, we've moved on to the bottom of the seventh!

Bottom 7:

Brian Meadows retires the side, concluding with a strikeout of David Parrish. More steroid talk. Get used to it.

Top 8:

I assume they'll let this end in a tie if it comes to that. 2-2 now entering the top of the eighth. Outfielder Nate McLouth up at the plate for the Pirates. Scott Proctor, now sporting a nice round #40, on the mound for the Yanks. Proctor strikes out McLouth to start the inning. First baseman Graham Koonce meets the same fate. DH Brad Eldred lifts one sky high to center. 1-2-3 inning for Proctor. Good stuff, though be mindful of whom he faced.

Bottom 8:

Hoo boy, an interview with Ty Wigginton! Now this is riviting stuff.

Lefty Cory Stewart on the mound for the Bucs. Lefty-hitting Robinson Cano is hitting in Womack's spot, which means that wasn't him who hit into the DP earlier. Cano grounds out to Crespo at second. Rey Sanchez, #14, lifts one to McLouth in left, two out. Russ Johnson makes the final out. Good to see Johnson getting some ABs, but he'll have to do more with them, unfortunately.

Top 9:

Still 2-2. Instead of Gary Miller interviewing Matsu, they have Miller doing commentary on Matsui being interviewed by the Japanese media. Fascinating. Tom Gordon on to "close." Outfielder Rich Thompson at the plate for the Pirates nubs one infront of the plate, which Parrish pounces on to retire Thompson at first. Jose Bautista's batting wearing #7 for Pittsburgh, that's optimistic. Rey Sanchez makes a nice play on Bautista, charging a ball at short and picking it off his shoe tops. In the walking-back-to-position close up that follows his number 14 gives me a momentary heart attack as I think he's Enrique Wilson. Whomever pops out to first to end the inning.

The managers and umpires discuss the situtation and decide to play the bottom of the ninth.

Bottom 9:

Homer Bush flies out. Damian Rolls (who, it turns out, was the guy who grounded into the DP in the 6th) grounds out. Rolls is wearing #22. He's followed by Doug Glanville, who also has a number in the 20s (and was the guy I identified as Rolls in the sixth), flies out to end the game.

So there you have it. A 2-2 tie without any real offensive stars. My knee-jerk verdict: Tanyon Sturtze and Scott Proctor came away the best. Alex Graman and Felix Rodriguez the worst. Jason Giambi had a good approach at the plate drawing a pair of walks. Tony Womack made an ugly play in the field, which is to be expected. Both Andy Phillips and Russ Johnson got some playing time, though neither did anything to distinguish themselves. Same is true for Glanville, Rolls and Bubba Crosby. I'll take a more acurrate look once the box score is available, but however you slice it, baseball is back in action!

posted by Cliff at 1:23 PM

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Aches and Pains 

The Yankees kick off their spring training schedule today with the usual list of aches and pains. Jorge Posada has a stiff neck. Gary Sheffield is still nursing his surgically repaired shoulder (and poor grasp of contractual obligation). NRI backstop Joe DePastino has a sore back. And, in case you hadn't heard, Randy Johnson has a ouchy calf, the result of running without proper stretching last week.

With full back-page coverage in the local rags (Post: "Nothing To Calf At," News: "Unit's Message: It's just as sore as calf . . . Don't Have A Cow!"), Randy Johnson's left calf has received the bulk of the attention for three reasons: 1) Johnson was scheduled to start in today's spring opener but was scratched in favor of Tanyon Sturtze, 2) Johnson is the Yankees' most significant offseason addition, 3) Johnson is 41 years old.

So it goes when A-Rod and the Red Sox aren't trading barbs. I couldn't care less about those pathetic verbal battles, and pay almost as little mind to these sort of spring training aches and pains. Such "injuries" are a dime a dozen as players begin participating in baseball activities for the first time in four months (note the lack of such aches among the younger and more marginal players who participate in the Arizona Fall League and other winter leagues--DePastino being a 31-year-old catcher), and rarely amount to anything. One should not read too much into a missed start here or there in early March. Teams have the luxury of treating their star players with kid gloves during spring training as well they should, particularly when dealing with veterans on the wrong side of 30 (or 40) who have no competition for their jobs, lest a tweak in early March develop into a DL stint in April or beyond. That none of the three players listed above will start today against the Pirates is a good sign. One would only have reason to worry were Joe Torre to run them out there despite their minor aches and pains.

That said, if any of the players above warrant closer observation it would be Gary Sheffield, if only because Sheffield's aches and pains are the result of a preexisting condition. It's certainly not unusual for a player coming of surgery to have some discomfort in the repaired area, but news that Sheffield overexerted himself in batting practice is troubling. Still, all reports are that Sheff has learned his lesson and expects to take it easy through the rest of spring training in order to be most ready for opening day. Sheffield claims he'll only need about 30 at-bats to be ready for the regular season (as opposed to the 45 or so most starters can expect). Last year, due to time missed after spraining his thumb, Sheffield got 32 spring at-bats, hitting for high average but little power. He then struggled to being the season, not really breaking through until the end of May. That, of course, with a torn trapezius muscle in his shoulder.

That thumb injury, by the way, was more serious than Randy Johnson's recent calf strain. Initial reports suggested that Sheffield could miss the first couple months of the season and he was sent to see a hand expert, took an MRI, and was listed as out indefinitely. One week after he injured the thumb, Sheff returned to the line-up with an RBI single. He then avoided the DL for the entire regular season despite the torn muscle in his shoulder.

Large grains of salt. That's all I'm saying.

In other news, the Mets lost their spring training opener to the Nationals 5-3. The losing pitcher? Felix Hereida. Count your blessings, Yankee fans.

posted by Cliff at 6:55 PM
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posted by Cliff at 2:09 AM

Movin' On Up 

My dear readers, I have some big news. Alex Belth has asked me to join forces with him over at Bronx Banter and I have agreed to do so. This does not necessarily mean the end of the BRB, but it does mean that the majority of my posts, and nearly all of my larger pieces of analysis, will be found on Bronx Banter starting now.

I want to thank all of you for making this site a success over the past 18 months. I started this site as a lark, unsure if there was anyone out there interested in what I had to say, or if I even had that much to say in the first place. In both cases I've been overwhelmed. Your interest and feedback is what has sustained this site, and helped me become part of a remarkable community of writers, thinkers and, I'm delighted to say, in many cases friends. My move to Bronx Banter is a result of one of those friendships and a natural extension of my desire to reach as many readers as possible, but would not have been possible without the interest and support you have all given me here.

For the handful of hardcore BRB devotees out there, worry not. Neither the frequency nor the style of my writing will be effected by the move to Bronx Banter, nor will my addition effect Alex's contribution to the site. Rather, you'll simply be able to get Alex's writing and my analysis in one place rather than two. One stop shopping, two great tastes that taste great together, my chocolate in his peanut butter and his peanut butter in my chocolate, etc. And yes, I will continue to keep the BRB updated as well, with the odd post that might be a tad too personal, off-topic or downright goofy for Bronx Banter (or at least that's the plan right now).

The first major undertaking I'm . . . er, undertaking for Bronx Banter are division previews, the first of which (the NL West) will be available in about a week to coincide with a relaunch of the site. In the meantime, it will be busness as usual here at the BRB, though this post will remain at the top of the page for a while. Scroll down for new BRB posts.

**UPDATE** The relaunch of Bronx Banter is expected to happen this upcoming weekend. In the meantime, I'll do my best to cover the spring training games here.

posted by Cliff at 2:08 AM

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