Yanks Take Two at the New Digs from the Cubs

Tremendous offensive display from the Yankees the last two days, belting a total of seven homers and working over the Cubs in two exhibition wins–7-4 last night and 10-1 today.  Cano hit the first homer in the new ball park, albeit for an exhibition, a two-run shot last night to get the Yanks on the board.  Matsui banged a two-run homer in the third off the right field pole, and Cody Ransom cranked a three-run shot off the left field pole in the fourth.  All three homers were no-doubt shots. Although all the runs came via the homer, the offense as a whole was productive.  Jeter was 2-2 with a double, Cano was 2-3 with 2 runs and the 2 RBIs, Nady was 2-3 with a run, Matsui was 2-3, and Brett the Jet worked a double that for most mere mortals would have been a plan-ol’ single. He’s amazing and will no doubt make a difference in the lineup.  Matsui is really crucial to the team, with and without A-Rod.  When healthy, the guy drives in runs, period.  They need that from him.  If he can DH and stay healthy, it hurts the team’s flexibility a bit because Jorge is forced to catch or sit, but Matsui’s bat has been nothing short of productive, if not downright prodigious.  I sense 100+ RBIs from a healthy Matsui.

Wang wasn’t great and struggled a bit early, which he at times does.  But in all, it was a decent tune-up before his first regular-season start slated for Wednesday.  The bullpen, however, was tremendous, going four perfect innings in relief.  It started with The Sandman’s perfect sixth-inning stint and carried through with Veras, Edwar, and Albaladejo.  Edwar’s change was dancing, and the others had excellent gas.  It won’t be perfect, and some questions linger, but I love the Yanks’ bullpen.  Love it.  As a unit, it’s terrific.

I didn’t get to see the game today, for my son had soccer then tennis, and my daughter had track then tennis.  Before getting to the Yanks’ blowout, the kids had good sports days.  My son, Captain Handsome, scored his first goal and the team’s first goal of the year, right after I got to the field no less after dropping off GLG at track.  It was a great moment, and he almost looked uncertain about what to do afterward.  He was almost phlegmatic as my wife and I went bonkers yelling.  Great moment for the little guy, though it turned out to be the only goal in a 3-1 loss.  My daughter ran three events in a row–a relay, then the 400 then 200.  She and her team took third (out of seven) in the relay, third (out of seven) in the 200, and fifth (out of seven) in the 400.  Then she did the long jump.  I was amazed that she held up so well, with but brief breaks between the races.  She’ll sleep well tonight, as will my son who, after tennis, had a brisk bout of mud-playing with the neighbor’s son.

I was getting texts from Mike about the Yanks’ exploits today, which were numerous.  Pettite and Burnett had the Cubs on lockdown, with Pettite going 4 strong, allowing 6 hits but settling down, allowing just a third-inning run.  Burnett allowed just 2 hits and fanned 6 in his 4 innings.  But the offense exploded against an explosive pitcher in Rich Harden, pasting three homers–two by Teixeira and one by Jeter, who hit a three-run shot in the third.  Teixeira hit a solo shot in the third, then belted a three-run homer into the upper deck in the fourth.  Shelley the Marauder belted a solo shot off ex-Yankee Luis Viscaino, Nady was 2-3, Ransom 1-1 with 2 walks and 2 runs, Melky hit a double and seems motivated if belatedly, Brett the Jet singled, walked, and scored a run, and Cano was 1-3 with an RBI.  I love that the Yanks worked 6 walks to complement the 11 hits.  I also love that Bruney and Coke combined to strike out the side in the ninth.

To briefly sum up, the Yanks finished a very good ST with two big wins in a new, if grotesquely expensive and class-infused new stadium.  They hit seven homers in the two games against a good Cubs team that many pick to get to the World Series from the NL.  They got a decent start from Wang last night and two good tune-up stints from Pettite and Burnett, with a little work for Bruney and Coke to build up confidence for them, especially Bruney who had a rough ST.  They got myriad offensive contributions in the last two days.  The last two days, with an HDLR thrown in for good measure, were a fine way to usher in the gaudy but loaded new stadium.

Pete Abe says that the Yanks chose to keep Ramiro Pena over Angel Berroa as the utility infielder, with Berroa sent to SWB and Giese DFA’d.  I think that’s a great decision, though I hope they get Giese back.  I like his comportment and ability to fill in as if there were no pressure.  Although Berroa had a very good camp and did nothing to hurt his shot at making the team, choosing Pena for what might be a brief stint during A-Rod’s recovery was good for a few reasons.  Pena is young, 23, and a hell of a glove.  As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, he has a major-league glove.  He hit .277 in ST but may get few opportunities to hit as he backs up.  He’s up for his defensive abilities, which are not inconsiderable.  Should Ransom for any reason falter in A-Rod’s absence, Pena can undoubtedly fill in at least in the field.

But this selection matters for a couple other, less tangible but no less important reasons.  Pena is young, can run well, and uses his bat nicely.  He can be a defensive substitution in the field for anyone, including Jeter–which wouldn’t be a bad thing to save innings, despite the ego bruise.  It might not happen, but Pena’s glove is that good.  He can pinch-run, which really is what at least a bench player or two should be able to do.  Pena adds flexibility, and as we know this team has needed it, especially in the areas of speed and defense, for some time.

But his youth is an equally vital aspect of Girardi’s decision.  That he young and talented is nice.  The team might have its organizational eye looking down the road for a replacement for Jeter, something with which the organization has to come to grips at the very least in terms of the shortstop position, if not advocating a total separation with Jeter the player.  But there’s more to this that I’ve not yet read.  Jim Leyland said something poignant a few years ago when he promoted Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya to the majors, and I think it might be at work with the Yanks.  Moving Pena up sends the message to the Yanks that youth, to some degree, will be served.  More directly, it tells the younger players, especially the deep stock of talented young arms, that youth can succeed and have its collective accomplishments recognized.  I believe that promoting Pena is not only good for the team because of Pena’s attributes, but also because of the long-term carrot it sends to pitchers and position players alike–you can make it to The Bronx.  Joba, Gardner, Coke, and now Pena combined with Wang and Cano from 2005.  It might be subtle and overshadowed by the big-name free-agent signings, but there is an infusion of youth occurring in The Bronx.

Slowly but surely it seems, the Yanks are rolling over the organization.  They’ve added good and talented veterans in Sabathia, Burnett, and Teixeira, with little need for veteran leadership now.  This is an era in which the team needs to find ways to get better and younger where it can.  I’d let Pena play now and then to get him some big-league experience.  He really shouldn’t sit for four weeks until A-Rod returns; that would send a false message of promotion to the bigs.  Plus, Pena has legitimate abilities, especially in the field.  He’s good enough to legitimize discussion, at least, of the eventual transition in a post-Jeter era in the future.  I’m far from a Jeter detractor.  I’ve written that his demise might be too quickly predicted, especially offensively.  But seriously, the Yanks need younger talent and in key positions.  Infield generally, and SS specifically, is one place.  Pena is so good that he deserves some time, attention, mention, and patience.  Good move by the Yanks promoting him.

Published in: on April 4, 2009 at 8:41 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’m really glad the Yanks took these two games. Though they technically didn’t count, they sure felt like they did, and I think they will be all the more encouraging for a great start to the real season come Monday. I can’t describe how excited I am. Looking forward to it.
    Hosting another HDLR for the season and/or home opener J?

  2. it was fun keeping you abreast of all the balls flying out. hey V–we missed yo at the first HDLR…i’m hoping J will be hosting monday.

    good point about the youth movement. I’m happy that D is no longer just being paid lip service. since i predict a huge comeback year for cano i have a feeling he will be less distracted in the fileld. it’s a shame he couldn’t leave his troubles at the plate where they belonged last year, but lets just hope he has matured.

  3. Good to see you, V. I agree, the two Yankee Stadium games sure felt like the real deal to me, win or lose. I think I will open the Digital Living Room for tomorrow’s game, guys. Hope to see you there.

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