Spring Game 24: NYY vs. TOR — Mitchell’s showcase & Refsnyder’s face (day 2)

So, a Happy Birthday to Rob Refsnyder, who took a grounder off his face at 3rd base today for the second day in a row late in the game (the 8th inning today). Not exactly how he expected to celebrate his 25th birthday, I imagine, but hopefully, with some ice and some rest, the day can end a bit better than this “lowlight” from this afternoon for him.

The Yankees traveled across Tampa Bay to Dunedin to face the Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium (Boaty McBoatface is a better name in comparison, by the way). While the Blue Jays have been fairly successful in Spring Training, since winnowing down their team (like everyone is doing with a little over a week left of March), they haven’t seen that success continue much recently. This, of course, works out well for the Yankees today.

Right off the bat (pun intended… now), lead-off batter Aaron Hicks smacked a solo home run right up the middle by the scoreboard to get the Yankees on the board quickly. And thanks to some ridiculously amazing pitching by starter Bryan Mitchell, the Yankees defended that lone run lead for the first half of the game. Mitchell is becoming a strong contender for some long-term relief in the bullpen, with today’s game being the cherry on top of a fantastic Spring for him (a 0.74 ERA going into today’s game, a 0.61 ERA by the end of his 4 scoreless innings). Today, he gave up just 1 hit and struck out 4 Toronto batters.

But the Yankees found that slip away some with the change of pitching in the 5th inning. Swarzak’s 5th inning tied up the game with consecutive doubles. A single moved the runner to 3rd and a sac fly scored him to give the Blue Jays a slight edge over the Yankees.

For all of like 8 minutes.

At the top of the next inning, Puello led-off with a ground-rule double, moved to 3rd on Beltran’s single, and scored on Alex Rodriguez’s nice single to re-tie up the game. When Teixeira reached base on a dancing fielder’s choice, Beltran’s pinch-runner Silva scored to give the Yankees back the edge.

For all of like 20 minutes.

Swarzak had a much better 6th inning, getting a nice quick three outs. Then it was onto Moreno for the 7th who gave up a 1-out double that scored on a 2-out double to tie up the game once again. So it was onto Pinder, who despite giving up a hit and a walk, still managed to get out of the 8th inning unscathed (and by luck of the bat, earn the win today). In the 9th, Romero on 1st with a walk and 1 out, the Blue Jays attempted a pick-off as he went for 2nd, but the catcher’s throw was off and Romero made it safely to 2nd. And as it turns out, the catcher, perhaps a little rattled by that throwing error, then missed a catch which allowed the young prospect to run the 90 feet home and give the Yankees the 1-run lead.

The Yankees clung to that lead under reliever Mullee to finish off the 9th inning with 3 nice strike outs for the save. In total, Yankees pitchers got 11 strikeouts from the Blue Jay batters (to compare: Yankee batters got just 2).

Final score: 4-3 Yankees.

Roster update: Before the game, the Yankees announced they were optioning relievers Pazos and Rumbelow to AAA Scranton and reassigning them to minor league camp. The response is mixed as Pazos has done an excellent job this Spring and Rumbelow, well, hasn’t. Also, just after the game, Chris Parmelee was reassigned to minor league camp. Truth be told, Parmelee gets to be the 1st baseman in Scranton this season all because Bird is recovering for his shoulder surgery this year.

But like I’ve said before, just because they’re not making Opening Day roster doesn’t mean they won’t be playing in the Bronx this season. If they do well in Scranton, that “Scranton Shuttle” we saw so much of last year due to injuries will feature many of these familiar faces.

Not really a “one to watch” today in my Spring parameters. Honestly, as the Yankees whittle down their Spring roster in preparation for April 4, the prospects become less and less as the other spots under competition become something to witness. Like Mitchell’s near flawless outing today. Seriously, he’s been flying under the radar for awhile, but he’s really showing why the Yankees picked him up in the first place. He’s consistent and on-point and not afraid to just go for it.

You know, one thing I notice with some of the younger pitchers is that they let the pressure of the game get to them, feeling like it’s all up to them to make sure the runners don’t get on base. So they often then pitch around the strike zone and end up walking batters or hitting them or throwing wild pitches. But here’s the thing: if you want to get the outs, you have to throw strikes. You have to trust that your defense will be there to field the grounders, catch the fly balls, and make the plays they need to make to help the team get the necessary 3 outs each half-inning. When they remember to throw strikes and trust their defense, they get guys out with strike outs like it’s second-nature (with a handful of grounders and fly balls for the other 7 guys behind them).

I think that’s the lesson many of these guys need to learn and remember every Spring (even the old veteran ones) — you play a team sport. Trust your teammates to do their jobs while you do yours. Baseball is a team sport, which means that the team statistics matter more than the individual. Trust goes a long way to building a team. And it’s teams that win championships.

Go Yankees!

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