Spring Games 30 & 31: STL vs. NYY & NYY vs. DET — Lots of home runs, by the other guys

Closing Day at Steinbrenner Field; split squad games; temperatures “feeling like” mid-90s under the blazing sunshine; and major moves, decisions, and injury updates. These are just a few of the things happening in Yankee Universe this Thursday afternoon.

For Game 1, the Cardinals made the trip up to visit the Yankees in Tampa in the last Spring Training home game. They faced Michael Pineda on the mound for a rather rough start for him today. Pineda went 5 innings, gave up 7 hits, no walks, and 6 runs, striking out 4 Cardinal batters. And this made the sea of red crammed into Steinbrenner Field super happy.

In the 2nd, the lead-off batter popped up a ball that McCann lost in the sun and missed the catch as it dropped behind him on the infield. When the batter realized McCann was going to drop it, he took off running to 1st, pushing McCann out of the way as Pineda grabbed the ball and threw down to get the out at 1st. But the runner was awarded the base due to “catcher’s inference“, which doesn’t really make sense as it wasn’t like McCann forced the ball to drop in the middle of the base path. And despite some arguing by Girardi, the sea of red was victorious. For all of two minutes as McCann promptly got the runner stealing second. A 1-out solo home run got the Cards on the board that inning.

They kept adding to their lead, starting in the 4th inning with back-to-back solo home runs, hit right up the middle. Then with 2 outs and 2 runners on base with singles, a long ball eked over the corner of the right field fence for a 3-run home run. And after a final strikeout, Pineda’s afternoon was done. An afternoon I’m sure he has mixed feelings about — as every run was off a home run from a ball perfectly placed in the strike zone.

Chapman’s 6th inning kept the Cards from adding to their ever-expanding lead with a quick 3-up, 3-down inning, with 2 just stellar strikeouts. The final one ended with the batter swinging at a fastball that hit 100 mph (or 99 mph on other radar guns).

But then things got messy again. Swarzak took the mound for the 7th inning, giving up 4 hits, a walk, and 3 runs for just 2 outs of the inning. A lead-off walk scored on a 1-out 2-run home run off the scoreboard. Then Swarzak allowed 2 singles and got another out. Another single scored another run and moved everyone up on a wide throw home from left field. Pinder came in to close out the inning quickly and gave an impressive 8th inning scoreless outing. Tracy, as well, showed off his reliever skills with a scoreless 9th inning.

The Yankees’ offense was stymied for most of the game, until the 8th inning. A lead-off double moved to 3rd on a strikeout-wild pitch-reached 1st safely kind of play by Headley. A 1-out walk loaded the bases before the lead runner scored on Lane Adams’ sacrifice fly. But the Yankees left 2 runners stranded and choked their rally attempt with a strikeout.

In total, the Yankees only got 4 hits and a walk all game, while they gave up 11 hits and 2 walks. Not exactly the best offensive day for the Yankees.

Final score in Game 1: 9-1 Cardinals

For split squad, the Yankees traveling team headed about 45 minutes eastward to Lakeland to the Tigers’ Spring Training facility. Chad Green got the start, and he also got roughed up by the Yankees’ opponents today giving up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 6 runs (5 earned), and striking out just 4 in just over 4 innings. A 2-out double in the 1st scored on a 2-run home run, and then the Tigers followed up with a solo home run to give the Tigers an early lead.

In the bottom of the 3rd, a lead-off single moved to 2nd on a ground out and then scored on a fly out and a throwing error. And a lead-off solo home run in the 4th added yet another run to the Tigers’ score. They repeated that in the 5th, so that a walk and a strikeout later saw the end of Green’s less-than-stellar afternoon.

Tyler Webb came on in relief for Green and quickly got 2 outs to end the inning. He threw a near flawless 6th inning and went into the 7th inning with high hopes. Unfortunately, a lead-off triple scored on a sacrifice fly to mess up Webb’s outing. A double then scored on an RBI single, and a pop up gave Webb the out he needed before turning over the reins to Mullee. Mullee had less luck as he promptly gave up a 2-run home run to pad the Tigers’ lead further. But his 8th inning was scoreless, so there’s that.

Unlike the other game, the Yankees had a bit better luck against the Tigers’ pitching staff, garnering 12 total hits and 3 walks. In the 4th, Castro led-off with a single and scored on Austin Romine’s 2-run home run to get the Yankees on the board. Then in the 6th, the Yankees loaded the bases with singles and 2 outs. A wild pitch scored one run, and Chris Parmelee’s single scored Mateo. Then with the bases loaded again on a walk, the Yankees couldn’t capitalize on it and ground out to end their attempted rally.

In a last-ditch effort in the 9th inning, they loaded the bases up again with 1 out. Jorge Mateo’s single scored 2 runs. But once again, they couldn’t put things together to do more than that.

Final score in Game 2: 10-6 Tigers.

Fun random fact: in total there were 35 strikeouts between the 2 games (and 10 in each game to the Yankees).

And we have roster updates: the Yankees optioned Tyler Olson, Branden Pinder, and Nick Goody to AAA Scranton yesterday. And today, the Yankees reassigned Swarzak and Puello to minor league camp. Both Johnny Barbato and Luis Cessa got final bullpen spots, and Austin Romine was named the official back-up catcher.

Johnny Barbato was also named the Yankees’ outstanding rookie this year. Elected by the beat writers, the James P. Dawson Award was presented to Barbato before the game today, complete with a trophy and a nice watch. Barbato earned 2 saves, a 1.74 ERA, and 12 strikeouts in his 10 relief appearances (in 10.1 innings) this Spring.

Injury updates: okay, here’s the scoop on the 2 injured pitchers from yesterday’s game — Bryan Mitchell and Andrew Miller. Miller chipped a bone in his right hand (his non-throwing hand), and he will be seeing a specialist for further treatment. But he seems determined to pitch come Opening Day (should a closer be needed, that is) despite what common logic (and basic medical advice) might dictate.

Mitchell’s “sprained” toe was actually diagnosed with Grade 3 turf toe on his left big toe and a fracture of the sesamoid bone. Currently on crutches, Mitchell will see an orthopedic specialist in North Carolina (the same doctor who performed surgery on Jeter’s broken ankle in 2012) to see if surgery is necessary. But best estimates will have Mitchell on the DL for 3 months with recovery and rehab.

Now, with Mitchell off the roster with this DL stint, other relievers passed over for the job will now be in contention, but the most popular contender seems to be Kirby Yates. And that 5th starter’s job is still yet to be named, especially after Nova’s beautiful outing yesterday.

Plus, there’s still 2 more Spring games to play against the Marlins in Miami. So there’s still so much left to figure out before Monday. It’s going to be an interesting weekend to wrap up this pre-season.

Go Yankees!

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