Spring Game 26: DET vs. NYY — That 6th inning again… but the Empire Strikes Back

In one week, the Yankees will be back in the Bronx for Opening Day. But in the mean time, there’s still a week of Spring baseball to play in preparation and still (as of after the game) 37 players in camp to whittle down to the magic number of 25 in the next few days.

Tonight, for the last evening game of the Spring in Tampa, the Yankees hosted the Detroit Tigers. And with a full range of regulars or 25-man roster guys on defense, the Yankees called on bullpen prospect Luis Cessa to start tonight’s game, after some pretty decent relief outings over the Spring. He continued that trend with the lone exception of the 3rd inning, allowing 2 runners on base but then getting out of the inning unscathed. Cessa’s 4 strikeouts over his 3 innings isn’t a bad statistic either.

Barbato continues to make a case for himself in the bullpen as well, with his 4th inning tonight, but it was Chapman and his flawless 5th inning that had the chatter going around the stadium. Easily his best outing of the Spring, Chapman reminded Yankee fans why they should be counting the days until his pinstripe debut (May 9th, if you really want to count down), with 2 fiery strikeouts of his own.

Reliever Nick Goody got himself into a bit of trouble by doing what he was asked to do — throw strikes. The problem with throwing strikes is that sometimes good hitters will hit them and turn them into hits and runs instead. After an initial strike out, Goody gave up back-to-back solo home runs and then a single before getting back in the business of striking out the next two batters. Like I said, a pitcher has to throw strikes, and sometimes batters hit those strikes, and sometimes really good batters hit those strikes right out of the park. No reflection on Goody here with that one. He did his job, but then so did the Tigers’ offense in this inning.

Chasen Shreve came on in the 7th inning to do what he does best — plow through the opposing team’s lineup like it’s no big deal, setting them down in order, and righting the game for the Yankees once again. And it was Diego Moreno who got the last couple of innings for the Yankees’ stable of relievers tonight, working his way effortlessly through the 8th inning and with only a small hit in the 9th that was quickly erased with a snazzy double play (more in a moment).

On the other side of the diamond, the Yankees took their time during tonight’s 2 hour, 24 minute game to get themselves on the scoreboard. Mark Teixeira kicked it in gear with a lead-off solo home run in the 7th inning (there’s something to “God Bless America”, like I’ve said before). And in the bottom of the 8th, with 2 outs, the Yankees grabbed a couple of singles and then Dustin Ackley hit the runners (Silva and Corporan) home with a solid 2-RBI double to give the Yankees the lead.

With that double play by a really great DP duo (Torreyes and Kozma) in the 9th, the Yankees took their victory on a soft ground out to short stop (Torreyes) and Sinatra serenaded the crowd to the parking lot.

Also, kudos to the Yankee pitching staff tonight who racked up 11 total strikeouts of Tigers’ batters (compared to the 3 from the Tigers’ staff).

Final score: 3-2 Yankees.

Roster update: after tonight’s game, the Yankees reassigned Diego Moreno (who got tonight’s win, by the way) to minor league camp. That brings the number down to 37. 12 more cuts to go, and I don’t imagine anyone’s looking forward to the ax (neither the one swinging it nor the one getting it). This is a tough year for this. It usually seems easier with a couple of position exceptions.

Okay, ones to watch tonight (and I’ve mentioned this a couple of times) are Ronald Torreyes and Pete Kozma. They were a powerhouse in the middle infield defense, just showing off their instinct and teamwork with that 9th inning double play. With Kozma’s offensive contribution, he certainly is making a case for himself on the 40-man roster. I don’t think Torreyes is that far behind. Scranton could watch some great defense from those two, though I’ve seen both players in other positions that certainly prove their capacity as utility players.

I remember I had a conversation once with someone whose grandson had his heart set on being a professional baseball player. I think the old school of thought is to be the next Clayton Kershaw (starting pitcher) or Bryce Harper (power-hitting outfielder), but there is so much need for infield utility players — guys who can fill in at short stop or 2nd or even play some outfield — as well as middle relievers (pitchers who fill in the innings between the starter and closer).

And I think we’re moving away from the traditional single slot roles, especially at the minor league level. Players who are more versatile are getting more play time because they can be used wherever whenever, and not just when one guy needs a break. Sure, you’re not going to see utility players or middle relievers on the front of sports magazines (and why is that, by the way?), but they are so ridiculously valuable for every team as reliable, necessary, consistent cogs in the giant organization that is a professional baseball team.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: no video links tonight as there was no broadcast tonight. Wish I could show off Teixeira’s homer or the DP, but you’ll just have to wait for those guys to do it all again. Don’t worry — they will!}

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