I’ve been very tied up lately with working until the early morning, kids’ activities, and my wife’s birthday Thursday, so this is the first chance to write a quality post in some time. The Yanks cranked four homers (Matsui, Ransom, Swisher, and Melky) Thursday, Jeter hit lead-off and is expected to do so to start the season, and Joba settled down after allowing back-to-back homers in the first to Utley and Howard as the Yanks blew out Philly 10-2. Although he wasn’t at his best, I have to say I’m impressed that Joba settled in fairly well after the homers, allowing just a hit and three walks in the 3 2/3 after allowing the homers. It indicates some maturity from Joba to shrug off the homers and settle into a pretty decent start. I am still a bit concerned with his control, but after a couple dud ST starts, Joba has been good. The bullpen locked things down the next 4 2/3, allowing just three hits and no runs. Bruney had a good inning, with a hit and a K. As we’ve discussed here at The Heartland, Bruney needs to be better. It’s ST, but he’s nonetheless been lousy for much of Spring. I’m fine with Jeter leading off, as long as he can run and be fairly successful. It might be a tacit admission of Jeter’s waning power, and JD takes enough pitches to justify his hitting second. As I discuss below, there may be more to like about Jeter’s hitting first. Melky was 2-4 with 3 RBIs, and Jeter 2-4 with 2 runs.
Sabathia was flat-out dominant last night, pitching into the eighth and allowing just four hits, a run earned, no walks, and fanning seven in a nice prelude to the 2009 season as the Yanks downed Cincy 4-1. Jeter doubled and scored in the first on Teixeira’s RBI single, Teixeira was 2-3, Marte mopped up the eighth and Mariano the ninth on all of five pitches. I’d say he and Sabathia, who will start both the season and Stadium openers, are ready to go. Sabathia just continues to impress, going deep into the game last night on just 93 pitches 68 strikes, getting 14 ground ball outs. He was in total control, pitching like the ace that he is.
New York took advantage of an error in the second to score four runs–three unearned–and get solo homers in the fifth from Teixeira and Cano to beat Atlanta 6-4. Tomko started, went three scoreless innings allowing three hits and a walk with 3 K’s, Aceves allow a run in three innings, and Giese allowed three runs one earned on Pena’s error (who also made a great diving stop and throw). Tomko should be the choice if the Yanks keep a long reliever–and that’s not guaranteed right now based on what Pete Abraham relayed from Girardi about his considering Albaladejo, just as he did last year.
Personally, I’m torn but think Tomko should stay. I like Albaladejo a lot, and want him as a hard-throwing option in middle relief. But I also don’t want a repeat of the Ohlendorf conundrum that occurred last year, when he swung between short and long relief, eventually becoming ineffective in either. We can say, based on the Yankees’ look on paper even without A-Rod for a month-plus, that the Yanks may not need a long reliever as much as more middle relief. But in practice, we don’t know what will occur, and should the Yanks need a guy like Tomko to eat some innings or make a spot start, they’ll rue not having him in such a pinch. Not having a long man will very likely mean at some point that someone will have to assume just that role that rendered Ohlendorf so inefficient last year–putative long man in the face of not having one, while also being used at some point for spot middle relief duty. Plus, given the fine job Girardi and the coaching staff did last year in managing innings for relievers, if the Yanks carry 12 pitchers, five middle relievers plus Mariano should be plenty–especially with a good starting staff that should go fairly deep into games. If the roster were set today, I say keep Tomko–and I didn’t expect to say that a month ago.
Abraham also surmises that Brett the Jet would be the choice for CF if the season started today. Regular readers know where I stand on this. There is simply no replacing Gardner’s speed, as his triple and subsequent run on JD’s slow grounder to first against Boston Wednesday amply attest. He’s a disruptive force who would effectively be a second lead-off hitter should he bat ninth to start the season. It’s another reason why I wouldn’t mind Jeter as the putative lead-off hitter–once the game starts and Gardner gets on base, what’s the difference between Jeter leading off and Jeter batting second if he’s hitting behind Gardner during the game? The key is having Gardner, Jeter, and JD at 9-1-2, as L-R-L by the way, as capable, dangerous, and patient when necessary (such as running situations). I’d like the lineup very much should Gardner start at #9 and show he can hit consistently at the major-league level. Melky has come on lately and has had a very good ST, hitting .346 and coming on of late. But his slow start hurt him, and Melky is an object lesson in the need to do it when it counts. He didn’t and Brett the Jet did. Plus, Melky simply cannot offer the Yanks offense what Gardner does.
I’ve caught a bit of the NCAA men’s tournament in spots the last couple days, and many of the Sweet 16 games were duds. Only Michigan St.-Kansas and Pitt-Xavier were exciting. Syracuse was overmatched against Oklahoma, and Duke got completely shut down by Villanova. Louisville showed Arizona to be the tournament pretender they were when they were wrongly chosen for the field, blowing them out by 39. UNC hadled Gonzaga. Memphis made it a game very late but the Tigers (Memphis and Missouri) surrendered scores of easy baskets to each other, and Missouri led by a lot for half the game. Rob Hummel was the man in the first half for Purdue but, without him, that wouldn’t have been a game in the slightest and wasn’t so close against UConn, anyway. That said, it’s not been a disappointing tournament. I’ve not seen nearly as much as I had wanted, butI’ve been surprised by the lack of upsets and the preponderance of top seeds make it into the later rounds. UConn-Missouri was terrific today, and UConn has made the Final Four from the West for the third time–all from the West bracket.