Spring Game 7: WAS vs. NYY — Nova’s back, “jetting” to a win

“Broadway Joe” Namath threw out the first pitch before today’s game to Derek Jeter. Namath was treated to a round of cheers from the crowd and spent about half the game as honorary “co-manager” to Girardi. Jets’ head coach Rex Ryan also spent time in Steinbrenner Field today, and “guest special instructor” Andy Pettitte showed up for his 2-day stint with the Yankees. And compared to the majority of the country, Tampa was not buried under more snow but instead was rather a hot day in the sun.

Starting pitcher Ivan Nova was back to form today in his 3 inning hitless outing against the Nationals. Nova certainly proved why he deserves that 4th starter position in the rotation, complete with 4 very nice strikeouts. Fortunately, he was backed up by a really stellar 2nd inning from the Yankees’ hitters. Brian Roberts and Francisco Cervelli each single; and then Roberts scored on Kelly Johnson’s double. Ichiro Suzuki reached 1st on a throwing error, which allowed both Cervelli and Johnson to score. So when Zoilo Almonte hit a ground-rule double in the deep right field corner, Ichiro moved to 3rd and then scored on Corban Joseph’s single. All with no outs recorded yet in the inning, so then the next two batters finally made those three outs in two plays. But the Yankees were up 4-0.

Following Nova’s stellar outing (pun intended), presumptive Rivera heir David Robertson made his Spring debut, a little rocky to start hitting the first batter, but like “Houdini” and thanks to a great infield again (including a Jeter-induced double play), he was out of the inning in 3 batters. Shawn Kelley took the 5th inning, and save a single solo home run, Kelley was showing signs of his excellent 2013 performance. For the 6th inning, Danny Burawa also struggled at first, allowing 2 singles, one scored when Derek Jeter sort of bobbled the ball and couldn’t fire it to 1st in time to get the runner. But that’s all the Nationals would score, placing the final score at 4-2. So Coello, Tateyama, and Miller each took an inning to keep the Yankees win intact.

Of course, the most amusing part of the game was watching Adonis Garcia’s bat fly into the stands in the 8th inning. Fortunately, it landed on the steps area between the seating areas, and the first guy to the bat walked out of the stadium with some rare game-used equipment.

So I have 2 players to watch from today’s game: outfielder Zoilo Almonte and infielder Jose Pirela. Both guys are really great defenders, quick to action and very reliable, but they both continue to contribute offensively to the game. I know Almonte’s already on the 40-man roster, but Pirela is certainly making his own case for consideration. Again, it’s not just a single game’s splashiness, but rather the consistency of high-caliber, high-quality play that could earn someone notice.

There’s a point during almost every Spring game that I suddenly look out on the field and see all the minor league guys in action and think “there’s our AAA team”. I was only half-joking with my mom at today’s game about wanting to visit Scranton sometime this season to watch these guys on their home turf. The AAA guys are very good, and really, it’s hard sometimes to tell the difference in their level of play versus the “regular” guys. Somewhere the AAA coaching staff has to be breathing a little easier for this upcoming season. The RailRiders didn’t do that well that season, much like their major league counterpart, but I don’t remember feeling this way about the farm system last Spring.

Maybe I’m being overly optimistic again, but I’d rather be optimistic and wrong, than a pessimistic and right.

Go Yankees!

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