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Yankee4Life

Yankee News For Yankee Fans

576 posts in this topic

I am going to try to update this thread over the course of the season with Yankee news that catches my eye about these overrated SOB's. Feel free to pick a player off the Opening Day roster and scream at him for the entire season. For myself, I had Robinson Cano last year. This year I have Alfonso Soriano. Who else?

Masahiro Tanaka continues to impress with Yankees as he baffles Braves 'A' lineup

In his 41/ 3 innings and 74 pitches, Tanaka was touched for three hits and one freak run, striking out six while throwing no more than a half dozen pitches in the 90-92 mph range.

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Sunday, March 16, 2014, 11:19 PM

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Masahiro Tanaka mixes in a series splitters, sliders and changeups as he keeps the Braves off-balanced in 4 1/3 innings.

TAMPA – In his gradual indoctrination to major league hitters, Masahiro Tanaka had the ante raised just a tad Sunday when he was asked to pitch through a lineup more than one time and Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez obliged by bringing his “A” team to Steinbrenner Field.

If the Braves were expecting velocity, however, it wasn’t much in the offing. What they got was a varied dose of splitters, sliders and occasional changeups, all of which resulted in the kind of day that left them repeatedly saying: “I’d like to see that pitch again.” In his 41/ 3 innings and 74 pitches, Tanaka was touched for three hits and one freak run, striking out six while throwing no more than a half dozen pitches in the 90-92 mph range. According to his batterymate, Brian McCann, who knows a thing about the Braves’ hitters, it was all by design.

“We’re not gonna tip our hand this early in the spring,” said McCann. “He’s trying to execute certain pitches.”

Which, for the most part, he did.

After B.J. Upton lined a single up the middle with one out in the first and then stole second, Tanaka struck out both Freddy Freeman swinging and Justin Upton looking at an 87-mph splitter. In the third inning, he faced his first bit of trouble when Tyler Greene beat out a one-out bunt single and Jason Heyward drew a walk. Tanaka’s response was to strike out B.J. Upton and rookie Ernesto Mejia, who had replaced Freeman when the Braves’ newly-minted $135 million first baseman suffered a bruised thumb gloving a line drive by the Yankees’ Ramon Flores in the second.

“He probably threw a few more pitches than he wanted to,” said Yankees’ acting manager Robbie Thompson of Tanaka, “but his secondary stuff is so good. When he got in trouble in the third, after the bunt and the walk, and gets those two punch-outs…he really battled.”

The only run the Braves were able to muster off Tanaka came in the fourth when, with two out, he walked Dan Uggla, and Tommy LaStella, a 25-year-old rookie second baseman from Closter, N.J., hit a looping fly ball to left field that got caught up in the wind and kept drifting and drifting before bouncing off the top of the wall for a double.

LaStella, a .327 career minor league hitter who hit .343 in 81 games at Double-A Mississippi last year, was the only non-regular in the Braves’ lineup. In all probability he’ll start the season at Triple-A, but if Uggla continues to struggle at the plate as he did last year (.179), the Jersey kid could be seeing The Show in the near future.

“(Tanaka) throws a lot of pitches and he throws them all for strikes,” said LaStella. “He did a good job of keeping us off balance with all his off-speed stuff.”

“He’s got good stuff, no doubt,” echoed B.J. Upton, “very good off-speed stuff — it was hard to get a good gauge. He has the same arm action so it’s hard to pick up the spin on it. He located and made you swing at his pitches. He also had a good guy handling him behind the plate.”

That, of course, was in reference to McCann, who was the Braves’ catcher and an acknowledged clubhouse leader the last eight seasons before signing on as a free agent with the Yankees during the winter. It was the first time the Braves had seen McCann this spring and, for them, that was a bigger deal than seeing the Yankees’ $155 million Japanese pitching prodigy.

Before the game, I noted to Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez how rare it was to see a team bring most of its regulars to a spring training road game. Was it because Tanaka was pitching?

“No, no,” Gonzalez protested. “We have an off day Tuesday and I wanted to give our regulars a lot of at-bats two games in a row. I didn’t even know Tanaka was pitching until (Saturday). I was curious to see him, but the guy I really wanted to see over there was this ‘McCain’ guy they picked up over the winter. I hear he’s a pretty good catcher.”

Still, Gonzalez was like everyone else around the Grapefruit League circuit, curious to see this 25-year-old righthander who generated a wild bidding war last January after compiling a 24-0 record and 1.27 ERA while pitching the Rakuten Golden Eagles to the Japanese league championship. What he came away with more than anything else Sunday was Tanaka’s poise.

“I was impressed with his ability to make his pitches when he got into jams,” Gonzalez said.

“There was life in all his breaking pitches. But this guy has pitched in some big games on some big stages. It’s not like he just came down from Oneonta.”

The way it’s looking for the Yankees, more like from Heaven.


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Soriano hits homers, and then we fall in love with him again.

Nuñez is my pick, and I really expect Roberts, Jeter and Tex to break down at some point during the season. Ellsbury is a strong candidate for this list as well, but like I said, Nuñez is going to be as bad as ever.

I'll be following this thread :good:

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Soriano hits homers, and then we fall in love with him again.

That isn't the case with me. I've hated him for years now.

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Various Spring Training Photos

Adam Warren

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Brett Gardner
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Brian McCann
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Brian Roberts
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C.C. Sabathia
C.C.%20Sabathia.jpg

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Yankees mold Kelly Johnson into their starting third baseman

Johnson, expected to play the hot corner most of the time as the Yankees seek to replace the suspended Alex Rodriguez, is a rookie of sorts at the position, having played only 16 games there in his career.

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Kelly Johnson must adapt to a new team as well as a new position this spring training.

BRADENTON, Fla. — Early in the morning several times a week, before much of the other activity at Yankee camp begins, Kelly Johnson and Mick Kelleher head out to a back field to continue the behind-the-scenes work of building a new pinstriped third baseman. Kelleher brings his primary tool — a fungo bat.

Johnson, expected to play the hot corner most of the time as the Yankees seek to replace the suspended Alex Rodriguez, is a rookie of sorts at the position, having played only 16 games there in his career. Still, the former second baseman has impressed both Kelleher, the first-base coach who also serves as the club’s infield instructor, and Joe Girardi with his spring play so far.

“I think he’s going to do a good job,” Girardi said Monday before the Yankees’ game against the Pirates was rained out. “I’ve liked what he’s done. I don’t really have a lot of concerns about it.”

That’s comforting for a club with abundant infield questions, including whether the other three infielders — Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Brian Roberts — can stay healthy coming off injury-marred seasons.

Johnson’s progress hasn’t come easily. As Kelleher notes, third is a demanding position, perhaps intimidating, even for someone who has played as much infield as Johnson. The 32-year-old Johnson has played 809 of his 960 games in the majors at second. All of his third-base experience came last year.

“It’s a tough transition,” said Kelleher, a big-league infielder from 1972-82 for five teams. “Third is a reactionary position where you don’t know so much the location, the pitch that’s coming. You have that advantage playing in the middle — you get to see the catcher set up, see the signs, can cheat on your ready position, see the bat come through the zone.

“Plus, the angles. There are a lot of angles you have to take because the ball gets on you so fast. There’s a lot of stuff that happens really quickly. If you think you can get in front of all these balls hit a little to your left or right, you can’t. It’s not like shortstop or second base when the ball is on the ground a lot longer and you have time to range around and set up on it.”

Kelleher calls third base “more of a one-handed position. A ‘pick’ position. You’re moving and picking, you’re dancing with your feet, moving left, moving right. That’s where the practice comes in and until you get all that stuff down, it can be kind of uncomfortable.”

One of the other major adjustments for Johnson is the long throw from third to first, a toss so potentially daunting Kelleher jokes that when one walks to third and looks over to first base the immediate response is “Maaaaaaan, where is (first base)?”

“That’s a huge part of making the transition and he’s done that very well.”

Kelleher knows Johnson is still an unfinished third baseman, noting, “We’ve been playing what, two weeks, two and a half weeks?”

But the coach beamed Monday as he talked about how Johnson flawlessly handled a short-hop on a hard-hit ball in Sunday’s game. “You’ve got to use these,” Kelleher said, holding up his hands. “That’s why it’s great to have great hands.”

For now, at least, the Yankees think third base is in good hands with Johnson.

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Various Spring Training Photos

Carlos Beltran
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Cesar Cabral
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Chase Whitley
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David Phelps
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David Robertson
David%20Robertson.jpg

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Impressive Michael Pineda bids for Yankees starting rotation

Pineda has pitched three times this spring, tossing nine shutout innings. He has allowed eight hits and walked only one batter, striking out 14 as he looks to reestablish himself.

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Michael Pineda’s perfect spring seems to have thrust him into the lead for the final rotation spot.

TAMPA — Joe Girardi says he won’t decide on a No. 5 starter for at least another week. Michael Pineda might be making the decision an easy one.

Pineda threw 4 1/3 scoreless innings against the Red Sox on Tuesday, giving up four hits and striking out five without issuing a walk. He threw 45 of his 60 pitches for strikes, his fastball clocking in between 91-94 mph for most of the day.

“This is the guy who we’ve been expecting to see the last couple of years,” Mark Teixeira said. “Now that he’s back in spring training it’s real exciting to see him healthy and pitching well.

“If he’s healthy, if he’s the guy we traded for a couple of years ago, he’s a top of the rotation starter, and those guys don’t come around easily.”

Pineda has pitched three times this spring, tossing nine shutout innings. He has allowed eight hits and walked only one batter, striking out 14 as he looks to reestablish himself (he was an All-Star in 2011 with Seattle).

“I threw the ball great, threw the ball down in the zone,” Pineda said. “I threw a lot of strikes. That makes me happy. I feel better and better. My pitches are a little better and I’m feeling more comfortable on the mound.”

As Girardi said, “It doesn’t look like a guy that’s coming back from a serious injury.”

Pineda’s perfect spring seems to have thrust him into the lead for the final rotation spot, though David Phelps (2.63 ERA in 132/3 innings) and Adam Warren (2.08 ERA in 82/3 innings) have also pitched well.

The Yankees would love to see Pineda bounce back from his 2012 shoulder surgery and be another solid starter to supplement the quartet of CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Masahiro Tanaka and Ivan Nova.

“We’ve got to figure out what’s best for our team as a whole,” Girardi said. “I think he’s getting stronger when he goes out. I think his command was better today — a lot better than the other day. Another good step for him.”

Pineda isn’t spending much time worrying if he could be a No. 5 starter, major league reliever or Triple-A starter. Asked if he believes he has shown enough to win the job, Pineda declined to speculate.

“I don’t know, because I don’t have the control for the situation,” Pineda said. “The only thing I have control is to be ready and pitch a good game every five days.”

Red Sox left fielder Mike Carp has seen Pineda at his best, playing with him in Seattle. Carp had one of Boston’s four hits Tuesday, but he also went down swinging in his other at-bat.

“He looked good; maybe not quite the same he was in Seattle, but he’s getting there,” Carp said. “He’s an imposing figure on the mound. I was curious to see what he would look like and he looked good.”

Boston manager John Farrell was impressed.

“That was quality stuff,” Farrell said. “There was late action on the split and sinker. Recognizing he’s come through a lot physically. I’m sure if he regains close to his previous status it’ll certainly be a boost for that rotation.”

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Various Spring Training Photos

Dean Anna, Infielder
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Dellin Betances, Pitcher
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Derek Jeter
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Eduardo Nunez
Eduardo%20Nunez%20ST.jpg

Francisco Cervelli
Francisco%20Cervelli.jpg

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The thrill and ‘pressure’ of being Derek Jeter’s backup

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Brendan Ryan (left) will be backup for Yankees captain Derek Jeter (right), who is retiring after this season.

TAMPA — “It’s a slippery thing,” Brendan Ryan said Monday morning at Steinbrenner Field, and he wasn’t referring to the rain that ultimately canceled the Yankees’ Grapefruit League game down in Bradenton.

No, Ryan and I were discussing his role this season: Backup for Derek Jeter — and possible in-game defensive replacement — during the captain’s farewell/comeback campaign. It could get hairy. It could be boring. No matter where it lands, the Yankees’ selection of an accomplished veteran for this spot probably will turn out to be a good call.

“I relate to the fans a lot. I still pinch myself,” said Ryan, who turns 32 on March 26. “Here I am: I’m insurance to THE Derek Jeter. That’s pretty special. It’s something I’ll tell my kids about. Whether there’s a tremendous amount of glory or not, I think the experience will be super, super special. Something I’ll never forget.”

Jeter, who took Monday off along with the other veterans who made the Yankees’ trip to Panama, has enjoyed a healthy spring, and that’s paramount after playing in just 17 games last year due to the fractured left ankle he suffered in October 2012. What to make of his .133/.212/.167 slash line in 33 plate appearances? Eh. Not much, although you know many folks would be throwing a party right now if those numbers read more like .300/.350/.450.

What’s indisputable is Jeter turns 40 in June, is coming off the most serious injury of his career and displayed limited defensive range prior to that injury. Hence the Yankees re-signed Ryan — whom they acquired from Seattle last September — to a two-year, $5 million contract over the offseason.

“He was signed to be available to come off the bench,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said of Ryan on Monday. Added Cashman: “We wanted to give Joe [manager Girardi] some choices.”

Will Girardi choose to insert Ryan as a defensive replacement for Jeter late in games the Yankees are leading? “We haven’t talked about it,” Cashman said. The common-sense conjecture is Girardi, understanding Jeter’s profound pride, will begin the season playing Jeter full games and start the defensive superior and offensively inferior Ryan a couple of times per week — and resort to the defensive-replacement idea only by necessity. Ryan also can play second base and third base.

Ryan recalled the came in as a ninth-inning defensive replacement (for Munenori Kawasaki) to help preserve a Mariners combined no-hitter against the Dodgers on June 8, 2012. He understands what it would mean to relieve Jeter late in a game the Yankees are leading.

“It’s not the most enviable position, but it’s nothing I’ll complain about,” said Ryan, who took batting practice Monday and should return to game action this week after being sidelined with a back injury. “There’s definitely a little bit more pressure put in there, but that makes it more fun, too. At the same time, I don’t imagine Jete would be too excited about those situations. Maybe if it’s a need-be.

“It’s a slippery thing. I don’t want to say too much. I have and still do look up to Jete big time. He was basically my favorite player growing up in grade school and high school and stuff. I wanted to look the way he looked taking groundballs and stuff. It’s cool to see how he carries himself and how he’ll treat [uniform] number 104 the same way he treats [Mark] Teixeira. He’s the ultimate example-setter, and I’m going to try to take it all in this year. It’ll be fun to be part of his last hurrah. Hopefully we send him off on a good note.”

The Los Angeles native came up through the Cardinals’ system and served as the starting shortstop for the St. Louis club that won the 2009 National League Central title. Then he went to the Mariners in a December 2010 trade, and he couldn’t hit enough to keep a starting job despite his excellent defense; of active players who have spent at least half their time at shortstop, he ranks second in defensive WAR (as per Baseball-Reference.com) with 14.4. Only the Pirates’ Clint Barmes stands higher, at 16.

So he has been through some baseball battles and appears capable of handling what’s coming. And very happy to be part of it.

“Here, I feel like I’m finally a part of my own peer group. Whether the salaries are the same or not, there’s a lot of us that are the same age,” Ryan said. “We’ve been playing against each other a lot. We’ve been picking each other’s brains on the organization they’ve played with and some of the guys they’ve played with and all of that.”

This whole Yankees 2014 campaign, expensive and out for redemption, is a high-wire act. Ryan doesn’t mind being a safety net.

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Various Spring Training Photos

Hiroki Kuroda

Hiroki%20Kuroda.jpg

Ichiro Suzuki
Ichiro%20Suzuki.jpg

Ivan Nova
Ivan%20Nova.jpg

Jacoby Ellsbury
Jacoby%20Ellsbury.jpg

Joe Girardi, Manager
Joe%20Girardi.jpg

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Yankees' Brian McCann knows good, bad Ivan Nova

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Ivan Nova #47 of the New York Yankees pitches during the 2nd inning of a spring training game against the Washington Nationals on March 3, 2014 at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida.

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Brian McCann has been the Yankees' catcher for a little more than a month, but he already knows nice Ivan Nova and naughty Nova.

How?

Well, the Yankees sent McCann four clips of each starter — two good, two bad — to study in the offseason. McCann's takeaway: location, location, location.

"That's pitching," he said. "If you don't locate your pitches, you're not going to be successful. You've got to have fastball command and when you're behind in the count you've got to be able to throw for strikes. The more times you keep the hitter out of a predictable count, a fastball, the better you're going to be."

Nova was good Nova Wednesday, throwing about 80 pitches over 6 1/3 scoreless innings as the Yankees dropped the Braves, 7-zip, at Champion Stadium.

But not the whole time.

Nova was missing high on his first handful of pitches, manager Joe Girardi said. But the 25-year-old righty adjusted, took a breath, and started hitting the zone low, Girardi said.

That's when good Nova showed up, McCann said.

"He had some really good action on his slider," he said. "His four-seamer today kind of made it sink that much better. He was putting it where he wanted it. He was getting into lefties with his four-seamer and once he established it, it made his two-seamer that much better."

Nova has been more good than bad this spring. The expected No. 3 starter, Nova is 2-1 with a 3.66 ERA and 21 strikeouts while allowing 18 hits and two walks.

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Various Spring Training Photos

John Ryan Murphy, Catcher
John%20Ryan%20Murphy,%20Catcher.jpg

Jose Ramirez
Jose%20Ramirez.jpg

Kelly Johnson
Kelly%20Johnson.jpg

Kevin Long, Hitting Coach.
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Larry Rothschild, Pitching Coach.
Larry%20Rothschild,%20Pitching%20Coach.j

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No wonder Kevin Long looks so happy, Chris Stewart is gone.

Edited by sabugo

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Will Mark Teixeira's surgically repaired wrist hold up all season?

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Mark Teixeira makes a sliding catch of a flyout by Atlanta Braves second baseman Dan Uggla in the second inning of a spring training game in Tampa, Fla

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Mark Teixeira was on all the morning news shows Wednesday.

It wasn't because of the two-run single he hit in the Yankees' 8-1 victory over the Red Sox on Tuesday. It was for holding up two bottles of honey from the dugout as a joke during a seven-minute bee delay in the third inning.

The Yankees are much more focused on Teixeira's wrist bone than his funny bone as he returns from a lost season due to a serious tendon sheath injury.

But "Good Morning America" and its morning-show ilk couldn't resist video of bees swarming leftfield at Steinbrenner Field and a star player inexplicably shaking bottles of honey at the grounds crew.

"What I thought was," Teixeira later explained, "if you could just do a line of honey out to the parking lot, the bees would maybe follow it, and then just leave us alone."

As to how he happened to have two bottles of honey, Teixeira said: "I'm a big peanut butter and honey guy. Love it. So I always know where the honey is."

So now you know that about Mark Teixeira. What you don't know is if his surgically repaired right wrist will hold up all season after the injury limited the Yankees first baseman to 15 games in 2013.

So far, so good, Teixeira said. The results haven't been there -- he's batting .188 with a double and three RBIs in 16 at-bats -- but the absence of pain has Teixeira feeling positive.

"I feel really good," Teixeira said. "I feel really good about my wrist. I feel like it's getting stronger and it'll continue to get stronger all year. And that's the exciting part. It's not like this is a good as it's going to get. It'll keep getting stronger all year."

At least that's the hope. Teixeira first injured the wrist last March in batting practice for the World Baseball Classic. He returned without surgery in late May, but that didn't work out. He had season-ending surgery on July 2.

"What I've been most pleased with is you look at this whole spring training, there's never been a point where he was scheduled to work that he had to say, 'You know, I could use a day,' '' manager Joe Girardi said. "And that's really encouraging to me. Everything that he has been scheduled to do, he has done."

In 2012, Teixeira hit .251 with 24 home runs and 84 RBIs. Including this season, when he will make $22.5 million, the 33-year-old is signed for $67.5 million through 2016.

After adding Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury, the Yankees don't need Teixeira to be an MVP candidate. But they have zero other options at first base if he is unable to play because of injury.

Kelly Johnson, the starting third baseman, is the backup first baseman. Girardi seems to have abandoned an early-spring thought of having Alfonso Soriano work out at first.

So it's Teixeira or bust.

"He's important to our club," Girardi said. "What he does on a daily basis. He's so important."

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Various Spring Training Photos

Mark Teixeira
Mark%20Teixeira%20ST.jpg

Masahiro Tanaka
Masahiro%20Tanaka.jpg

Matt Thornton
Matt%20Thornton.jpg

Michael Pineda
Michael%20Pineda%20ST.jpg

Mick Kelleher, First Base Coach.
Mick%20Kelleher,%20First%20Base%20Coach.

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Jacoby Ellsbury's calf problem not serious

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Yankees' Jacoby Ellsbury strikes out during the sixth inning of a spring training baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin, Fla.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Jacoby Ellsbury skipped Thursday's road trip to JetBlue Park, the spring training home of his former team. But Ellsbury, a frequent visitor to the disabled list with the Red Sox, still wound up in a familiar place that afternoon when the Yankees sent him to an MRI tube for a precautionary test on his ailing right calf.

After the relentless stream of injuries last season, the Yankees have been conditioned to fear the worst from the mere mention of an MRI. This time, however, Joe Girardi was relieved to announce before Thursday night's game that Ellsbury's test came back negative. "This is good news," Girardi said.

Ellsbury's leg may be structurally sound, but the worrisome part is how an injury that initially was described as minor "tightness'' in his right calf wound up resulting in an MRI visit five days later. Clearly, Ellsbury is not healing as quickly as the Yankees expected -- or the calf issue was more serious than previously thought.

Girardi said he is hopeful that Ellsbury will be able to take batting practice Friday, with a possible weekend return. But with Monday's break in the schedule, it seems more likely that the Yankees will wait until Tuesday, when the Phillies visit Steinbrenner Field.

"We want to make sure he's 100 percent before we send him out there,'' Girardi said. "I think he feels it a little bit -- that's why we're just being cautious. We want to make sure he's healthy.''

Given Ellsbury's medical history, that could be difficult to pin down. In two of the past four seasons, he was limited to 18 games and 74 games because of injured ribs and a dislocated shoulder, respectively.

Those were the result of collisions -- much more serious incidents than what he is dealing with now.

The problem with Ellsbury's calf injury is the timing. After this weekend, the Yankees will have only five Grapefruit League games left before the April 1 opener, and Girardi would like to get a few looks at his regular lineup in the last remaining days leading up to Houston.

"I think if he gets three or four games in, he'll be fine,'' Girardi said, adding that Ellsbury could stack up at-bats in minor-league games if necessary.

Ellsbury wasn't available in the clubhouse after his MRI, but he has said getting ready for the season won't be a concern. Through Thursday, he was batting .174 (4-for-23) with two doubles and a home run in nine games. "I'm very confident he'll be ready April 1," Girardi said.

Ryan "in jeopardy" for opener. Brendan Ryan, who last played March 4 because of lower-back stiffness, was scratched from Thursday night's lineup with upper-back spasms and could begin the season on the disabled list because of time lost to injury. Ryan has only eight at-bats to this point and is not expected to play this weekend, raising the possibility he could miss Opening Day. "It's in jeopardy," Girardi said after the Yankees' 3-2 win over the Red Sox. Ryan felt his back tighten up Thursday on a throw during pregame infield practice, and if he's unable to start the season, that will force the Yankees to choose between Eduardo Nuñez, Dean Anna or Yangervis Solarte as Derek Jeter's primary backup.

Masahiro Tanaka will start Saturday against the Twins in Fort Myers, but Girardi refused to reveal when Tanaka will make his regular-season debut. "We're just not ready to share it yet," he said. "I want to make sure that everything goes according to plan, that everyone feels good before we decide to do it." Recent comments by pitching coach Larry Rothschild suggest that Tanaka will start April 4 in Toronto.

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Various Spring Training Photos

Nik Turley
Nik%20Turley.jpg

Preston Claiborne
Preston%20Claiborne.jpg

Rob Thomson, Third Base Coach.
Rob%20Thomson,%20Third%20Base%20Coach.jp

Scott Sizemore, Infielder
Scott%20Sizemore,%20Infielder.jpg

Shawn Kelley

Shawn%20Kelley.jpg

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Ichiro Suzuki's role in flux for Yankees and packed outfield

The future Hall of Famer was in the lineup Thursday night against the Red Sox and was 1-for-4 with two RBI in the leadoff spot as the Yanks won, 3-2. But it remains to be seen what type of role Ichiro will have.

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Ichiro Suzuki could find himself the odd man out in a crowded Yankees outfield.

FORT MYERS, Fla. - With the exception of Jacoby Ellsbury’s lingering calf issue, things have pretty much gone as well as the Yankees could have hoped during the past five weeks.

Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira have been healthy, Masahiro Tanaka seems to be making a smooth transition to the big leagues and the players fighting for jobs are playing well, giving Joe Girardi plenty to think about.

“Don’t jinx anything, man,” Jeter said when asked about the state of the team less than two weeks from Opening Day. “We’re working our way there and headed in that direction.”

With 10 days left until the Bombers break camp, Girardi still has some big decisions to make.

The fifth starter job remains open, as do four spots in the bullpen. The position players appear to be set, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things for Girardi to figure out.

Take Ichiro Suzuki, for example.

The future Hall of Famer was in the lineup Thursday night against the Red Sox and was 1-for-4 with two RBI in the leadoff spot as the Yanks won, 3-2. But it remains to be seen what type of role Ichiro will have during the season, assuming he has one at all.

“When the offseason started he was an everyday outfielder, and then some things changed,” Girardi said. “We signed some outfielders and his role has possibly changed now. But you have to prepare guys as if they’re going to play every day because you don’t ever know what’s going to happen. And we’ve done that.”

With Ellsbury, Brett Gardner and Carlos Beltran inked in as the regular outfielders and Alfonso Soriano tabbed as the primary designated hitter, there isn’t much room for Ichiro to find at-bats.

If Ellsbury’s injury carries into the season, Ichiro would help make up for his loss. But the Yankees insist Ellsbury will be fine, turning the 40-year-old Ichiro into a $6.5 million fifth outfielder who may occasionally spell the 38-year-old Soriano and 36-year-old Beltran.

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Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda also finds himself with an undefined role with the Bombers.

“I have some couple of outfielders who have a little age in them, and you kind of look at that, see how the guys are doing,” Girardi said. “You look at some matchups and if you think a guy needs a day off, you might do that. Maybe if a guy’s a little nicked up you give him a couple of days off. There is no exact plan on how I’m going to do it. It’s just managing a season and how guys are doing.”

Michael Pineda looks to have the inside track on the No. 5 starter job, though David Phelps continued his own impressive spring with six innings of two-run ball against Boston, which played most of its regular lineup.

“I’m not going to try to handicap it,” Phelps said. “I’m happy with the way I’m throwing. Hopefully they are, too. We’ll see what happens.”

Should Pineda get the spot, it would relegate both Phelps and Adam Warren to the bullpen, filling five spots along with Dave Robertson, Shawn Kelley and Matt Thornton.

That would leave two spots open for Dellin Betances, Preston Claiborne, Cesar Cabral, Vidal Nuno, Fred Lewis, Matt Daley, Danny Burawa or Chris Leroux, all of whom have done their part to make a case.

“I think ironing out your pitching staff is a big one, because that’s half of your team,” Girardi said. “What happens to your rotation, and then what happens to your bullpen is a big thing.

“We’re starting to formulate it. Obviously it will be much clearer for us when we decide who our fifth starter is. I don't know if we'll decide it by the end of the weekend, or if we'll wait a little bit longer."

Robertson is locked in as the closer, while the Yankees hope Kelley can step up into the eighth-inning role. Thornton will be the primary lefty out of the bullpen, but the rest of the roles are up for grabs and look to be a fluid situation heading into the season.

“I think that’s something that’s going to have to work its way out a little bit,” Girardi said. “Will it be as clear-cut as last year? Probably not. Not in the beginning. Part of the problem right now is I don’t have all the pieces in the bullpen yet in mind to be able to do that.”

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Various Spring Training Photos

Tony Pena, Bench Coach.

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Zoilo Almonte, Outfielder.

Zoilo%20Almonte,%20Outfielder.jpg

And taking this year off for personal reasons, Alex Rodriguez.

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I have a picture of Yankee catcher Pete O'Brien. It's in .jpg format just like these other ones that I have posted in here and I keep getting a message that "this format is not allowed in here." Very odd.

Let me see if I can do this as an attachment.

Pete O'Brien, Catcher

EDIT: What the hell, this one worked. If anyone wants this photo just click on it and you will see it full sized as it was meant to be.

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Thank god baseball fans don't have to think about him for a year.

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Weight of following Mariano closing in on Robertson

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David Robertson heads out of the dugout and onto George Steinbrenner Field earlier this spring.

TAMPA — David Robertson is barely more than a week away from officially taking over for one of the most iconic players of all time.

He just doesn’t think it actually has happened yet.

“Do I feel like the closer? No,” said Robertson, who is inheriting the role of Yankees closer from Mariano Rivera. “I feel like I’m just another part of the team, kind of like I always have.”

That’s all well and good, but even Robertson knows it’s not true.

“I absolutely know how big a deal this is,” Robertson said before he threw a perfect ninth inning in the Yankees’ 4-0 victory over the Pirates Friday night at Steinbrenner Field. “I’m up to the challenge, that’s for sure.”

Once the team gets to Houston for Opening Day, Robertson believes reality will set in.

“I don’t think I’ll really feel like I’m the closer until then,” Robertson said. “It won’t happen until the games get started.”

Really, though, it has been clear Robertson would be Rivera’s successor since the Yankees didn’t add a closer during their free agency spending spree this past offseason. That eliminated the possibility of a competition in camp.

Manager Joe Girardi said he’s fine with Robertson at the end of the bullpen.

“I’m very comfortable,” Girardi said. “We said all along with the people that we had, it was basically his job. Sometimes through free agency, people are added and then it changes the dynamic. You never commit to someone completely until the offseason’s over. He’s our closer.”

Regardless of the confidence both Girardi and Robertson have that he’ll fit into the role, Robertson enters the season with only eight career saves.

“I plan on doing the same things I did when I threw in the eighth inning,” Robertson said. “Just a little later in the game.”

Robertson didn’t get to spend much time with Rivera during the team’s recent trip to Panama, since as Robertson said: “He had more important people to talk to.”

Rivera did have some words of wisdom for his successor, according to Robertson: “Stay healthy.”

That’s one key, but that’s far from the only thing Robertson has to do to prove he’s capable of doing the job after having mixed results when called upon to fill in for Rivera at various times throughout his career.

Don’t expect Robertson to change how he approaches the game.

“I can’t pitch with an angry mentality,” he said. “I try to stay controlled and keep everything calm.”

No matter how simple he keeps things, Robertson will have to deal with a brighter spotlight than in the past.

“Hopefully nothing changes,” Robertson said. “That would be good. It’s nice to be able to go places and not be noticed.”

Those days are likely over.

One of the things that will stay the same, Robertson insisted, is his music.

He has been trotting into games to “Sweet Home, Alabama” as the setup guy, which is about as different from Rivera’s “Enter Sandman” as one can get.

“I’m sure they’ll want me to change, but I don’t really need to get fired up before I pitch,” said Robertson, who has bigger things to worry about.

“First, let me get some saves before I start thinking about anything else.”

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The "don't let the door hit you on the way out club."

Curtis Granderson

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Joba Chamberlain
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Phil Hughes
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Robinson Cano
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Joe Girardi not ready to say if Francisco Cervelli is Yankees' backup catcher Also, Jacoby Ellsbury (calf) remains on track to return Tuesday, but that could come in a minor-league game, Girardi said.

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Francisco Cervelli (r.) is greeted by Zoilo Almonte after scoring on a two-run RBI double in the fourth.

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Francisco Cervelli made the two-hour trip to Fort Myers on Saturday to catch Masahiro Tanaka, and will catch Ivan Nova in a minor-league game on Monday’s off day. Are those signs that Cervelli has the backup catcher job locked up, and is preparing to work with the Yankees’ pitchers?

Girardi was highly complimentary of Cervelli, batting .455 this spring, but was not ready Saturday to announce a decision. “We’re continuing to evaluate,” the manager said. “He has had a great spring. He probably has the most experience of any of these guys. He looks really, really good.”

FURTHER REVIEW

Girardi won a replay challenge in the third inning, after second base umpire Marvin Hudson called Aaron Hicks safe on a steal. Two umpires donned headsets, and overturned the call; the replay process, which did not officially include the time Girardi was on the field, waiting to hear from his clubhouse whether the call was worth challenging, was announced at 44 seconds. Girardi said it was nice to know that a manager finally had a chance to win an argument. “It feels pretty good, actually,” he said. “I actually think it’s going to work good. I do. There will be glitches every once in a while, and some things might take a little bit longer than they want, but I actually think it’s going to look good.”

CALF THE BATTLE

Jacoby Ellsbury (calf) remains on track to return Tuesday, but that could come in a minor-league game, Girardi said. Ellsbury has not played since March 14. He took batting practice and participated in other baseball activities Saturday. ... Girardi said he will likely announce his fifth starter Tuesday. Michael Pineda, the leading candidate, starts on Sunday. ... The Yanks beat the Twins, 5-4.

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Jacoby Ellsbury set to play for Yankees Tuesday Keeping Ellsbury out of Grapefruit League action will allow the Yankees to backdate a disabled list stint if the outfielder experiences a setback.
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Jacoby Ellsbury is still downplaying his calf issue.

TAMPA ­— Jacoby Ellsbury did running exercises and took batting practice on Sunday and said that the right calf that has kept him out of games since March 14 “feels good.”

Joe Girardi said that Ellsbury will play in a minor league game on Tuesday.

Keeping Ellsbury out of Grapefruit League action will allow the Yankees to backdate a disabled list stint if the outfielder experiences a setback.

Ellsbury continued to downplay the issue.

“I told you from the start, I thought I could play” Ellsbury said. “But it’s one of those things, we have the luxury of spring training and getting100%. That’s pretty much — at this point you don’t want to feelanything in the calf. I play center field, I run the bases, I used my legs.

“So why not be 100 %?”

BETANCES’ BIG DAY

The Yankees lost to Toronto, 3-1, but Girardi was impressed by reliever Dellin Betances, who entered in the seventh with the bases loaded and one out, and struck out Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. Betances is trying to make the bullpen, and has enjoyed a strong spring.

NOVA TIME

The Yankees have an off day on Monday, but Ivan Nova will pitch in a minor-league game at 11 a.m., with Francisco Cervelli catching.

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Masahiro Tanaka set to make Yankees debut April 4
Joe Girardi also said he had decided on a backup catcher, but was not ready to say who it will be. Francisco Cervelli, Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez were all competing for the job.

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Masahiro Tanaka will pitch for the first time in the Majors on April 4.

TAMPA — Joe Girardi did not exactly announce his rotation on Monday, but the Yankees manager left virtually no room for confusion that CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova will pitch in the opening series in Houston, and Masahiro Tanaka will make his MLB debut on April 4 in Toronto.

Girardi said that Sabathia will pitch this Thursday, Kuroda Friday and Nova Saturday (possibly in another minor league game). Asked if it was safe to read into that the order of his April rotation, the manager grinned and said, “You can read, yeah.”

As for the fifth spot in the rotation, all signs point to Michael Pineda winning the job. Girardi said he and his staff had made a decision, but needed to talk to all parties first (David Phelps, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno are also competing for the final spot, and at least two of those pitchers will likely land in the bullpen). An announcement will likely come on Tuesday.

BACKUP PLAN

Girardi also said he had decided on a backup catcher, but was not ready to say who it will be. “That’s another thing that we may wait to announce, but it’s something that we’re pretty sure what we’re going to do,” he said.

Francisco Cervelli appears positioned to win the job over Austin Romine and John Ryan Murphy.

CALF THE BATTLE

Jacoby Ellsbury (calf) remains on track to play in a minor league game on Tuesday. The outfielder has not appeared in a game since March 14. ... Chris Leroux will start for the Yankees in Wednesday’s Grapefruit League game. ... Brendan Ryan (back) has improved, according to Girardi, but there is no indication yet when he will return. Ryan is expected to begin the season on the DL.

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Yankees name Michael Pineda fifth starter

Joe Girardi made the announcement on Tuesday, giving the fifth spot in the rotation to the former All-Star over David Phelps, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno.

pinedaweb26s-1-web.jpgOver 15 spring innings, Michael Pineda gives up two earned runs and strikes out 16.

TAMPA — Michael Pineda has taken the fifth.

Joe Girardi tabbed the former All-Star as the Yankees’ No. 5 starter, giving Pineda a chance to make the Bombers the big winners of the much-maligned 2012 trade that sent Jesus Montero to the Mariners. Pineda had an outstanding spring, beating out David Phelps, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno for the right to round out the starting rotation behind CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova and Masahiro Tanaka. “He threw extremely well,” Girardi said. “It was what we wanted to see from him. He improved with each outing, and at times was dominant. We really liked what we saw.”

In four outings, Pineda allowed two earned runs over 15 innings, a 1.20 ERA. He gave up 14 hits and walked only one batter, striking out 16 as he flashed the form that prompted the Yankees to give up their top prospect for him in January of 2012.

Upon hearing the news, Pineda called his mother back home in the Dominican Republic, then reached out to several other friends and family members. “Everybody is excited because they know I’ve been working hard for the last two years and I want to go back to the majors,” Pineda said. “Today is a big day for me.”

Phelps and Warren are near-locks to open the season in the bullpen, while Nuno might find himself as part of that relief corps or as a starter at Triple-A.

Phelps admitted his disappointment, but he plans to adapt to whatever role the Yankees have in store for him. “My preference is just to help the team win,” Phelps said. “Whatever role they need me, I’m willing to do. Like I’ve been saying from Day 1, it’s a matter of going and getting outs and helping this team win another championship.”

Pineda’s two years in pinstripes have been a disaster to this point, as he struggled during his first spring before blowing out his right shoulder. He returned from surgery to throw 40.2 innings in the minors last season, but it wasn’t until this spring that he looked like the pitcher that had burst on to the scene during the first half of 2011 with Seattle. “He has worked very hard the last two years,” Girardi said. “He’s excited about it but understands he has a job to do.”

Pineda’s problems extended off the field. His work ethic was called into question after he arrived out of shape two springs ago, then he was arrested for driving under the influence in Tampa in August of 2012 while rehabbing from his surgery.

Pineda said he’s learned a lot from “situations that happen with me in the last two years,” and while he never cited the DUI bust specifically, it was clear he was not talking only about his arm trouble. “I learn because I’m a professional player, I need to focus on baseball every day,” Pineda said. “Here, in the Dominican, all the time in the offseason, whatever. I have to continue my work every day and be ready all the time.

“I’m a young guy, but I’ve grown a lot. I’m a better person right now.”

Pineda has thrown his fastball as high as 95 mph. Although he hasn’t reached the 97-98 he did during his rookie season, the 25-year-old seems confident that his shoulder issues are behind him.

“When I’m on the mound I’m not thinking about my shoulder; I feel ready to go,” Pineda said. “The only thing I think about on the mound is making a good pitch and getting an out. I’m not thinking nothing about my shoulder. I’m putting everything in the past. I want to continue my career and I want to be here for a long time.”

Girardi said he knew early in camp that Pineda had a chance to win the job. “Watching him throw his bullpens, I kept saying the ball was coming out easy,” Girardi said. “He looked really good. I’m not surprised the way he’s pitched from what I saw five or six weeks ago.”

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Yangervis Solarte makes Yankees' Opening Day roster; Eduardo Nunez optioned to Triple-A

Team No Nunez has prevailed. Solarte makes the Opening Day roster!

Yangervis Solarte played himself onto the Yankees' Opening Day roster with an incredibly impressive spring training performance, beating out Eduardo Nunez for the final spot on the 25-man roster. The move was announced this afternoon after all other spots on the team had already been filled prior to Saturday's rainout against the Marlins. Solarte and Nunez were left in limbo last night until the decision could be made. Nunez has now been optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

To get Solarte onto the 40-man roster, which currently sits at capacity, the Yankees will need some sort of corresponding move before Tuesday's game against the Astros in Houston. It's possible that some kind of trade is pulled off before then, otherwise someone is likely to simply be DFA'd. There aren't a lot of obvious names that you'd think the Yankees would be in a hurry to part with considering that Ichiro Suzuki and Nunez are probably the two that deserve it most. Neither seems very likely to be dispensed with entirely at this point. It could be bad news for Zoilo Almonte or Cesar Cabral. The latter seems like the better bet, if it came down to those two.

It was reasonable to believe that the Yankees would go with Nunez over the unproven Solarte, simply because of their completely unfounded affection for the error-prone infielder. For all the talk of his potential and bat speed, Nunez had really done nothing to deserve the rope he'd received. He was more than outplayed by Solarte and the Yankees made the right decision, for which we are all grateful.

From 'The Pinstripe Alley'.

To this I say: 'Amen'

Edited by sabugo

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Me neither. I had given up hope on this matter. Finally they saw the light.
Only took them about 4 years.

They could trade him for a reliever with actual MLB experience.

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Derek Jeter leaves Yankees' spring training complex for final time

In an effort to take in as much of his final season as possible, Jeter seemed slightly disappointed Saturday’s game was canceled, though not before he was honored by the Yankees and the city of Tampa during a pregame ceremony.
marlins-yankees-spring-baseball.jpgDerek Jeter's final spring game at George M. Steinbrenner field in Tampa gets rained out.

TAMPA — Derek Jeter walked into Legends Field more than 18 years ago as a fresh-faced rookie filled with hopes and dreams.

Saturday, he walked out of the same ballpark — now known as George M. Steinbrenner Field — one last time as an active player, completing the final spring training of his legendary career.

“It hasn’t really set in,” Jeter said before leaving the stadium. “It’s odd to think that I won’t be back. I’ve been coming here since ’96; the first year it opened was my first year. It will be a little different; it will probably be a little more different next year when spring training starts. Right now, I’m just looking forward to getting to Houston.”

The Bombers’ final game of the spring was washed out as heavy rain blanketed Tampa on Saturday, bringing Jeter’s spring to an end nine innings earlier than expected.

In an effort to take in as much of his final season as possible, Jeter seemed slightly disappointed Saturday’s game was canceled, though not before he was honored by the Yankees and the city of Tampa during a pregame ceremony.

“I’m pretty sure most of the guys in there were hoping that it got rained out so we could just get out of here,” Jeter said. “I just tried to not look forward to the end of it. Most people look forward to the end of spring about two weeks into it, but I just tried to take it day in and day out. That’s what I’ll remember.”

A highlight video that opened with images of a teenage Jeter playing rookie ball was shown on the scoreboard, then Jeter was presented with a key to the city, the first of many gifts he’ll be receiving over the next six-plus months.

“I live here, so now I can do whatever I want when I’m in Tampa,” Jeter said with a grin. “I don’t know how long it unlocks the doors for. It always feels good to be recognized. I spend a lot of time here, I live here in the offseason, so I thought it was very nice.”

marlins-yankees-spring-baseball.jpgJeter shares a laugh with bench coach Tony Pena (c.) and newest Yankee Carlos Beltran (r.) as his final spring training comes to an end.

Jeter finished the spring 7-for-51 (.137) with one extra-base hit and two RBI, but the 39-year-old was encouraged by the way he feels — both physically and at the plate — with the opener only three days away.

“I feel good; that was the most important thing,” Jeter said. “Spring training is a progression, both physically and being game-ready. I feel I’m where I want to be right now.”

Joe Girardi was pleased with Jeter’s work this spring, overlooking the stats and focusing on the way he moved on the bases and in the field.

“I think that his average that will be something that will be talked about, but for me, I think it was seeing him come out and play healthy going back to back, being physically able to do it, not having to force his running,” Girardi said. “It was hard to watch last year. As much as he said he was ready to go, he really wasn’t.”

Jeter isn’t the only one ready to go. With the exception of Brendan Ryan, the rest of the team broke camp without any health issues, a drastic change from a year ago.

The new additions to the lineup such as Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran have made a seamless transition into pinstripes while the entire pitching staff performed well for the past month.

Jeter likes what he’s seen from his teammates to this point, but he knows that none of it means anything come Tuesday. “Everyone tries to have predictions of where they feel each team is going to finish every year, but you have to perform on the field,” Jeter said. “I like the guys that we have. We’re healthy for the most part leaving spring training; that’s always important.

“The key for most teams is to stay healthy, but you’ve got to do your job on the field. It’s a long season and it takes a little while before you really get a great feel for what the team is capable of doing, but I’m pretty optimistic about this group.”

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Derek Jeter eyes last title as Yankees start new season with altered cast

The last time the Yankees missed the postseason, they went out and spent $423.5 million to bring CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett to the Bronx. The trio helped lead the Bombers to a championship in that 2009 season, a feat the Yankees are hoping to repeat with this winter’s additions of Jacoby Ellsbury, Masahiro Tanaka, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran.

yankees-panama.jpgOn deck for Derek Jeter is retirement, but he still has one more big season to play.

HOUSTON – The Yankees worked out at Minute Maid Park Monday, stepping on the same field where their disappointing 2013 campaign ended.

The faces are much different, and so is the attitude. Instead of talking about myriad injuries and retirements, the Yankees are brimming with confidence, eager to get the season started as they seek a return to October baseball.

OK, so there will be some retirement talk this season, too. But Derek Jeter’s anticipation for Tuesday’s opener against the Astros has nothing to do with his farewell tour and everything to do with his quest for one last ring.

“You want to get back to the playoffs,” Jeter said. “That’s what you play for.”

The last time the Yankees missed the postseason, they went out and spent $423.5 million to bring CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett to the Bronx. The trio helped lead the Bombers to a championship in that 2009 season, a feat the Yankees are hoping to repeat with this winter’s additions of Jacoby Ellsbury, Masahiro Tanaka, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran.

yankees-astros-opener.jpgThe Yankees spend big to bring in Japanese phenom Masahiro Tanaka.

“I know what we went through, and how tough of a year it was last year in terms of not being able to make the playoffs,” Sabathia said. “It was disappointing. You work extra hard to put yourself in a position to win games and put yourself back where you want to be. That starts off with trying to win the division.

“The ultimate goal every year is to win the World Series. That’s always in the back of your mind.”

It was on the forefront of Brian Cashman’s mind as the Yankees shelled out big money to fill holes in the rotation, the outfield and behind the plate.

An offense that ranked 10th in the American League in runs scored and 13th in OPS last season has been retooled, giving the Yankees great expectations. “Our goal was to try to attack every area of weakness,” Cashman said. “We had a good offensive balance last year, but we never had a chance to run it out there. If those guys didn’t get hurt, we would have been one of the top offensive teams in the game. But we lost everybody.”

Indeed, the Yankees were without Jeter, Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson for significant time last season, but with A-Rod serving a season-long suspension, Granderson suiting up for the Mets and Robinson Cano taking his talents to Seattle, Cashman is banking on his new acquisitions to carry the load.

“We just addressed as much as we could,” Cashman said. “There’s no doubt we have a lot of talent. Some of those guys we’re going to count on to stay healthy. It’s just a new group of guys. Hopefully they can perform to their track records.”

Can Ellsbury, Tanaka, McCann and Beltran be this year’s Sabathia, Teixeira and Burnett? That’s a pretty lofty bar to set, but even Joe Girardi believes the comparison is a fair one.

“I think it has a lot of the same feel,” Girardi said. “I think there’s a lot of high expectation with the names that we’ve added. We addressed a lot of situations because of all the things that we went (through) last year, and it’s a lot of the same feelings.”

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Yankees’ Solarte continues stunning rise in first start
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New York Yankees' Yangervis Solarte

HOUSTON — The Yankees’ third base situation is hardly settled.

Kelly Johnson has yet to prove he can play there every day and Yangervis Solarte never started a game in the majors prior to Thursday’s 4-2 win over the Astros.

But for one night, it worked, as Solarte made the plays defensively and found a way to collect three hits and a walk.

“There were times I dreamed big for my debut,” Solarte said through an interpreter after the Yankees avoided an embarrassing three-game sweep to the Astros to start the season. “When you see players like [Derek] Jeter, you expect big things for yourself.”

Solarte singled and scored in the second as the Yankees took their first lead of the season and followed that by turning a shallow fly to left into a double when it eluded a diving Robbie Grossman. He scored again later in the inning on a Jeter single.

In the seventh, Solarte picked up his first RBI in unconventional fashion. With two outs, he was fooled by a changeup and popped the ball up. Catcher Carlos Corporan seemed to be under it, but backed away at the last second, allowing the ball to drop for a single, as Ichiro Suzuki raced around from second to score.

Solarte finished his night by avoiding a broken face, when he snagged a liner from Jose Altuve.

“It almost hit my teeth,” Solarte said.

The game was a continuation of a stunning rise for Solarte, a 26-year-old who bounced around the minors and appeared destined to stay there with Eduardo Nunez ticketed for the utility-infield role. But when Nunez couldn’t shake the inconsistency that plagued him throughout his career and Solarte impressed with a solid spring at the plate and versatility in the field, he found himself on the roster after spending the last two seasons in the Rangers organization.

Solarte made his debut Wednesday as a pinch hitter, then started at third Thursday.

“He had quite a night,” Joe Girardi said. “He seemed to be on the ball all night.”

And he was smart enough to talk to Jeter in the infield.

“He just told me to keep going,” Solarte said in English. “Vamos, vamos.”

On Thursday, Solarte listened.

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Tanaka.jpg

TORONTO, CANADA - APRIL 4: Masahiro Tanaka #19 of the New York Yankees delivers the first pitch of his MLB career in the first inning during MLB game action against the Toronto Blue Jays on April 4, 2014 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

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Pressure is on Pineda in Yanks debut
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Michael Pineda

The ocean of money, insane hype and unreasonable expectations fell on Masahiro Tanaka’s head.

While Friday night’s starter against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre is being counted on to bolster the Yankees’ rotation, Michael Pineda is equally important to how this season shakes out.

Tanaka cost the Yankees’ $175 million and will knock down $22 million of it this season. Pineda cost the Yankees Jesus Montero, who has turned into a bust, and will make $538,000 this season.

Tanaka was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in 28 games (27 starts) for Rakuten in Japan last year. Pineda? He appeared in 10 minor league games after missing all of 2012 due to tricky shoulder surgery.

So why is Pineda considered a key? Because the Yankees have spent two years attempting to get him right, and they still believe a healthy Pineda is an above-average major league pitcher.

Saturday against the muscular Blue Jays Pineda makes his Yankees’ debut, but there was a time when not everybody was convinced Saturday would arrive for the 6-foot-7, 265-pound right-hander from the Dominican Republic.

“I had questions,” manager Joe Girardi said “When we watched what he went through there were questions about when we would get him back. Would we get the Michael we had seen before in Seattle with the good slider and the velocity?”

One night after moving Alfonso Soriano from designated hitter to his preferred left-field position, with the hope of getting the right-handed hitter going, Girardi left Soriano out of Friday night’s lineup for what turned into a 7-3 Yankees win over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.

“He is a little off timing wise,’’ Girardi said of Soriano, who was hitless in three games against Houston and whiffed four times. “It’s not really a concern of mine, I know he will get going. He has always been a streaky guy.’’

Soriano to the bench wasn’t Girardi’s only move.

“I had a lineup kind of made up in my mind, and I changed a little bit because of what we went through,’’ said Girardi, whose club didn’t get to the team hotel until 6:30 a.m. Friday. “I made a few adjustments but all these guys will be back in there [saturday].’’

Girardi and others described the flight from Houston as scary because of lightning that filled the cabin and storms that bounced the plane.

“The first half-hour it was OK and then for the next 45 minutes it was knuckleball express, as bad as I have seen,’’ Girardi said.

Joining Soriano on the bench were Derek Jeter and Brian Roberts, who entered the game at second base after Mark Teixeira strained his right hamstring and had to leave in the bottom of the second inning. Dean Anna started at short and Yangervis Solarte at second before moving to third when Kelly Johnson took Teixeira’s place at first.

Dick Groch, the scout who signed Jeter, was on hand Friday night and chatted with Jeter before the game.

Groch, a special assistant to Brewers general manager Doug Melvin, will be following the Yankees, leading to speculation at some point the Yankees will be interested in Milwaukee third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who will turn 36 in June.

Ramirez, a career .286 hitter with 354 homers and an .846 OPS, makes $16 million this year. There is a mutual option for $14 million next season with a $4 million option.

Anna was tagged with a nickname by Girardi before the infielder started in his first major league game.

“Raccoon,’’ Anna said of what Girardi calls him. “It’s because of the nose. I have a little bigger nose. It’s all good, all fun.’’

Anna, acquired from the Padres during the winter for pitcher Ben Paulis, spends the offseason working with kids at the Bo Jackson Foundation outside of Chicago.

Jeter, who didn’t play Friday, needs one hit to tie Paul Molitor (3,319) for eighth place on MLB’s all-time hits list and fourth place on the all-time AL hits list.

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Yankees hurler Dellin Betances gets to show his stuff

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Yankees' Dellin Betances warms up his arm during spring training.

HOUSTON - Contrary to the overwhelmingly negative reaction, there were some bright spots from the Yankees' season-opening loss Tuesday.

Among them was the performance of Dellin Betances, whose brilliant spring earned him a bullpen spot with the Yankees.

The 6-8 righthander pitched a scoreless seventh on Tuesday, retiring the Astros in order. The 26-year-old, whose fastball topped out at 97 mph in the spring when he posted a 0.73 ERA, struck out leadoff man Dexter Fowler and the next batter, Robbie Grossman. He got Jose Altuve, 2-for-3 to that point, to ground to second to end the inning.

"Really good," Joe Girardi said Wednesday. "He threw strike after strike after strike and got ahead of hitters and finished them with his curveball. It was really good to see."

Same old, same old

Girardi ran out the same lineup Wednesday that he did on Tuesday, a rarity in 2013 when injuries hit early in the spring and never let up.

"I'm not so sure how many times I did that last year," Girardi said. "It's nice. Obviously the key is to stay healthy and if we're able to do that you're going to see this lineup a lot."

The lineup Tuesday and Wednesday featured Jacoby Ellsbury leading off, with Derek Jeter hitting second and Brett Gardner batting seventh.

No progress for Ryan

It has been a slow-go for SS Brendan Ryan, out much since March 21 with a pinched nerve in his back, during his rehab in Tampa so far. "He's not doing too much," Girardi said. "He's not really doing any baseball activities. It's more the stretching and rehabbing."

Ryan's injury opened the door for switch-hitting Yangervis Solarte, who can play second, short and third, to make the club after an outstanding spring.

Good luck with that

Girardi said Dean Anna, who won one of the reserve infield spots, would be his emergency third string catcher.

"He doesn't know it but [he would be]," Girardi said with a smile.

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A-Rod’s absence not fazing Yankees
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The Yankees are doing just fine without A-Rod.

A year ago, the Yankees couldn’t escape Alex Rodriguez’s shadow.

Whether it was his involvement in the Biogenesis investigation and ensuing suspension and appeal, his rehab from hip surgery or his midseason return, the third baseman was a seemingly never-ending distraction.

That included Opening Day, when Rodriguez declined to be included in pregame introductions on the field.

This season, he has no such decisions to make and to listen to the 2014 Yankees, the suspended third baseman isn’t at the front of everyone’s mind.

When asked in Houston if he had “spoken to Alex recently,” CC Sabathia said, “Who?”

It was an honest — and understandable — answer, since this team has its own concerns and has almost grown accustomed to being without Rodriguez, who wasn’t around for much of last season recovering from hip surgery and is banned from playing this entire season and playoffs after appealing Major League Baseball’s suspension following the conclusion of the Biogenesis investigation and getting his 211-game ban reduced.

“Since we missed him so much last year, it hasn’t been that awkward,” Sabathia said. “You just keep going on. I mean, we didn’t have [Derek] Jeter for most of last year and we dealt with it. You miss a guy like that, but you find a way to keep going. There’s nothing else you can do about it.”

Jeter and manager Joe Girardi were two members of the organization who said they had kept in touch with Rodriguez since an arbitrator gave him the year-long ban, but both declined to discuss what they discussed.

General manager Brian Cashman said he hadn’t spoken with Rodriguez and added he was “focused on this team and moving forward.”

“Once you get into the thick of things, you tend to focus on what’s in front of you,” Mark Teixeira said.

As for Jeter and Girardi, they each likened Rodriguez’s absence to that of former teammates who have retired.

“It’s the same thing as with Jorge [Posada] or Andy [Pettitte],” the manager said. “You’re used to seeing them every day and it’s different when they’re not around. It’s just weird.”

The main difference, of course, is that both Posada and Pettitte were in Tampa during spring training and will be in The Bronx Monday and the team saw Rivera when the Yankees played in Panama.

Rodriguez has kept a low profile in recent months and his spokesman said he intended to keep it that way. Last year, Ryan Braun visited his teammates at Miller Park while serving his 65-game suspension for his Biogenesis ties, but Rodriguez so far has no plans to do the same thing with the Yankees.

His most memorable moment of last season’s opener came during an odd, hastily arranged press conference in front of the Yankees clubhouse that day, when Rodriguez said, “I don’t need to be introduced to feel like a part of this team. I’ll tell you what. When I get introduced, I want to be on the field and not look back.”

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I just read that the Yankees traded Nunez do the Twins for some A-ball pitcher. How can you not love the Twins? First they take Hughes, now Nunez!

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That's because they are the Twins. I have been a fan my whole life and they make bone-head moves. They could have traded Morneau years ago for something good and did not. And lets not forget the Matt Capps trade for Ramos........

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’Hiro comes home: Tanaka set for Stadium debut
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Masahiro Tanaka throws his first major league pitch against Blue Jays left fielder Melky Cabrera. Cabrera went yard two pitches later.

Masahiro Tanaka watched Ivan Nova get knocked out in the fourth inning and the Yankees get knocked around 14-5 by the Orioles on Tuesday.

Needing a bounce-back performance, the Yankees will turn to the high-priced, high-profile Japanese import for his first home start Wednesday night.

“Win. That’s what I expect,’’ catcher Francisco Cervelli said. “Because he plays on this team and we play to win, every day. That’s our mentality. … We move on, and he’s a great pitcher. He’s going to be fine.’’

After watching the pomp and pageantry of Monday’s home opener, and soaking in the reception he got from The Bronx crowd, Tanaka said, “It felt like home.’’

The 25-year-old right-hander arrived from Japan in January, won his Major League debut Friday in Toronto, and — after being cheered in the home opener — aims for his first victory in pinstripes.

“If you listen to the crowd, yes, of course it makes me feel at home,” Tanaka said through his interpreter.

Despite the Bombers’ seemingly trying to manage expectations and designating Tanaka their No. 4 starter, he’ll have all eyes on him Wednesday. That’s what happens when they acquire a pitcher who hasn’t lost a regular-season game since 2012 and shower him with a seven-year, $155 million deal.

Tanaka was solid in his debut, allowing three runs in seven innings. He was only the seventh big league pitcher since 1900 to win his debut with at least eight strikeouts and no walks in at least seven frames. After allowing a leadoff homer to Melky Cabrera and two more runs in the second, Tanaka found his rhythm and threw five scoreless innings.

“I understand what I did wrong last outing. I’ll make those adjustments and go into the game [Wednesday],’’ Tanaka said. “For me, it’s all about the mechanics of how I pitch. So, that said, I know where I need to fix.’’

It says something about Tanaka that after such an auspicious debut, he was focused on fixing the few things he did wrong. He’s clearly a pitching perfectionist.

“Absolutely,’’ said catcher Brian McCann, behind the plate for Tanaka’s debut in Toronto. “I thought he pitched really well. He hung a split to Melky that got hit out. But after that, he didn’t hang many more splits. So that’s why he is who he is. That’s why he’s had the success that’s he’s had pitching. He’s a perfectionist, and he expects to be perfect.’’

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Yankees place Francisco Cervelli on disabled list

While the Sox manager got tossed after replay overturned the original out call at first, Cervelli strained his hamstring on the play, and will head to the disabled list for what likely will be at least a month.

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Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli sits on the ground after a fielder's choice in which he injured his leg.

John Farrell wasn’t the only loser on Francisco Cervelli’s close play at first Sunday night.

While the Sox manager got tossed after replay overturned the original out call at first, Cervelli strained his hamstring on the play, and will head to the disabled list for what likely will be at least a month.

The Yankees won’t make any roster moves until Tuesday, but it’s likely Austin Romine, who was optioned to Triple-A on April 9, will be recalled.

While the news was bad on Cervelli, X-rays taken Sunday night on Brian McCann's right hand were negative. The catcher, who signed a five-year, $85 million deal in the offseason, was hit on his hand Sunday night by a ball that first hit Red Sox batter A.J. Pierzynski.

SEE YA

RHP Shane Green was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after Sunday’s game. The Yankees will likely add an infielder to the roster Tuesday, possibly Scott Sizemore, who entered the week hitting .344/.436/.500 at Triple-A. . . . Carlos Beltran was named AL Player of the Week after hitting .423 with four doubles, three homers and six RBI.

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Yankees call up Scott Sizemore, John Ryan Murphy
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Scott Sizemore joins the Yankees' infield mix.

The Yankees had hoped not to have a repeat of last season, when their roster featured an almost constantly revolving carousel of injured players and borderline journeymen.

They aren’t having much luck.

Infielder Scott Sizemore and catcher John Ryan Murphy were recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday and will be in The Bronx for Wednesday’s day-night doubleheader against the Cubs.

Francisco Cervelli’s Grade 2 right hamstring strain suffered Sunday night will cost him at least two months, after he was placed on the 60-day disabled list to open up a 40-man roster spot for Sizemore. Right-hander Shane Greene was sent down to Triple-A on Monday.

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Yankees set to get back Teixeira, Robertson
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — An infield that has been propped up by a surprising walk-on gets a big-time scholarship part back Sunday.

And a bullpen that until Friday night was sterling will re-introduce itself to the closer on Tuesday night.

First, Mark Teixeira, then David Robertson will return to the Yankees.

After playing seven innings in the field and getting five plate appearances in an extended spring training intra-squad game Saturday at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Teixeira is expected to be activated from the disabled list and play against the Rays on Sunday.

“I hope so, I haven’t talked to anybody yet, and I’m usually the last one to know,’’ Teixeira said when asked about playing in his first game since April 4, when he strained a right adductor muscle lunging for a foul ground ball in Toronto.

After Saturday’s 16-1 loss to the Rays, Teixeira hadn’t been told he would be activated, but that was the plan.

Teixeira, limited to 15 games last season because of a right wrist problem that required surgery, has played in four games this season, hitting .250 (3-for-12) and looking for his first extra-base hit.

In addition to strengthening his right leg, Teixeira also took advantage of the downtime to work on getting his wrist stronger and becoming more comfortable with it.

“I’ve had a lot of good work in New York and here, so there’s nothing else for me to do,’’ Teixeira said.

Who will go to make room for the switch-hitting first baseman is an intriguing question. Yangervis Solarte, Dean Anna and Scott Sizemore have options and can be sent to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Nevertheless, Solarte, a minor-league free agent who played eight years in the minors with the Twins and Rangers and didn’t taste the big leagues, is batting .351 (16-for-64) with a homer and nine RBIs. The batting average is fourth in the AL and the nine RBIs tied him for the team lead with Carlos Beltran.

So, it’s safe to assume the 26-year-old Solarte won’t be banished. Anna is the best shortstop among the three, and that’s always an ability teams like to have in backup infielders. Sizemore is more of a second baseman/third baseman type who played first base for the first time Thursday night.

Kelly Johnson received the bulk of the playing time at first while Teixeira was out, but he was signed to be the left-handed hitting third baseman. Nevertheless, Solarte has been so good, manager Joe Girardi might ride the switch-hitter as long as he stays hot.

Robertson, who has been out since April 6 with a groin strain, faced five batters and gave up one hit in the same game in which Teixeira played seven frames in the field.

“I’m ready to pitch, spring training is over,’’ said Robertson, who is two-for-two in save chances and has worked three games. “Get ready for Tuesday at Fenway.’’

Right-hander Matt Daley, who was elevated from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to the big leagues Friday night, after the Yankees designated Cesar Cabral for assignment, is the leading candidate to be moved when Robertson comes off the DL.

“I felt great, my command was a little off but I didn’t give up any home runs and the balls in play weren’t hit very hard,’’ Robertson said. “It’s 11 a.m. and no one’s here, so it’s not exactly a real game situation.’’

That could drastically change Tuesday night at Fenway Park, when Robertson could be protecting a one-run lead with a runner on and David Ortiz at the plate.

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Quick Yankee fans! Look at this picture and take it to memory because you never know when he'll get hurt again.

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Mark Teixeira #25 of the New York Yankees singles to right field in front of catcher Ryan Hanigan #24 of the Tampa Bay Rays during the sixth inning of a game on April 20, 2014 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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Jacoby Ellsbury returns to Fenway Park for first time as a Yankee

The last time Ellsbury was at Fenway, he was helping the Red Sox beat the Cardinals to win the World Series, his second championship since breaking into the league in 2007.

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After winning two championships with the Red Sox, Jacoby Ellsbury will step foot into Fenway Park in a Yankees uniform.

BOSTON — CC Sabathia knew it was coming.

The moment he signed with the Yankees in December 2008, he understood it would not be a popular decision with his old fan base in Cleveland. When the Yankees made their first trip to play the Indians in late May, the lefthander understood what was waiting for him.

Boos. Lots of them.

“You expect it,” Sabathia said.

What was the experience like for the former Cy Young winner?

“I didn’t get booed as much as I thought I would,” he said with a chuckle.

That isn’t likely to be the case Tuesday night when Jacoby Ellsbury makes his first visit back to Fenway Park, the ballpark he called home for seven seasons before taking $153 million from the Yankees in December. “When you sign here — especially coming from there — you have to expect it,” Sabathia said. “It’s not going to be a big shock.”

The last time Ellsbury was at Fenway, he was helping the Red Sox beat the Cardinals to win the World Series, his second championship since breaking into the league in 2007.

But no matter how important he was to those two title runs — he hit .348 during those two postseasons — the sight of Ellsbury in enemy colors will likely override any good feelings that might still exist within the Fenway faithful. “You can’t think about what they’re going to do,” Ellsbury said. “In this game, you can really only focus on what you can do, not worry about all that other stuff that you can’t control. We’ll see what happens. I gave the organization everything I had for a third of my life; nine years in an organization, drafted by them, came up and won two World Series. I left it all on the field.”

Ellsbury got his first taste of the other side of the rivalry last week when the Yankees took three of four from the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. But as we’ve seen in the past, going back to your old stomping grounds with “New York” on your jersey is an entirely different situation.

“I’m sure he’ll go through a lot of emotions; that’s where he grew up,” Joe Girardi said. “I’m sure there’ll be mixed reviews. That’s because he’s a great player.”

In 2006, Johnny Damon turned in his red socks for pinstripes, infuriating the fans that viewed him as the face of the 2004 World Series “Idiots” team that ended the Curse of the Bambino.

When Damon stepped to the plate for his first Fenway at-bat in a Yankees uniform, the jeers from the crowd were deafening. Damon’s response? He stepped out of the box and tipped his cap to all four sides of the ballpark.

“There were still some cheers,” Damon said. “The little number of people clapping for me, I wanted to respect them. They understood the business part of it and they understood what I brought to Boston. I wanted to show my appreciation to the fans that got it.”

Ellsbury has tried to downplay the significance of returning to Boston, saying all the right things about the organization and its fans. Ellsbury argued he and Damon weren’t as similar as people think, as he was drafted by the Red Sox and spent his entire career there before this season.

“I can’t compare it with other guys’ situations, but I’m definitely aware of it,” Ellsbury said. “I’ve seen it. I’ve seen how passionate they are. I think they’re all wondering what’s going to happen.”

The anger toward Damon was hardly a surprise after the free-agent-to-be had said months earlier, “There’s no way I can go play for the Yankees.”

Ellsbury never made any such statements, and while some fans might be upset with him for defecting to the Yankees and taking $153 million from the team they lovingly refer to as the “Evil Empire,” it should be noted that the Red Sox made no attempt to bring him back after last season. Few people have been booed as much by the Boston crowd as Derek Jeter, who was standing in the on-deck circle when Damon made his return. He figures Ellsbury will receive a similar reaction, one that shows the impact he made during his time with the Red Sox.

“I don’t necessarily think it’s going to be the whole stadium booing him,” Jeter said. “He helped the team win. You’re always going to have people that boo, but even when they boo, they still have respect for what you’ve done.”

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Masahiro Tanaka makes his Fenway Park debut as Yankees prepare for Red Sox

Masahiro Tanaka didn't pitch in the four-game series against the Red Sox earlier this month in the Bronx, but he'll be on the mound Tuesday night for the opener of this week's three-game set.

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Masahiro Tanaka will get his first taste of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry when he takes the mound Tuesday night at Fenway Park.

BOSTON - With most of the attention being heaped on Jacoby Ellsbury's return to Fenway Park, it's easy to forget that there's another Yankee making his first appearance as a visitor in Boston.

Masahiro Tanaka didn't pitch in the four-game series against the Red Sox earlier this month in the Bronx, but he'll be on the mound Tuesday night for the opener of this week's three-game set.

"I've seen the two teams play and I understand there is a certain rivalry between the two teams going into the game," Tanaka said through a translator. "I'm sure the fans will be heated up a bit and it should be a good experience going up on the mound that day and I'm very much looking forward to it."

According to Tanaka, the biggest baseball rivalry in Japan is the Yomiuri Giants and the Hanshin Tigers, though he admitted his former team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, weren't part of a rivalry that can match the intensity of Yankees-Red Sox. "I'm sure he's looking forward to it," Girardi said. "There's curiosity, probably a lot of things that go through his mind. But everything so far, he's handled pretty well."

WELCOME BACK

David Robertson (groin) is expected to be activated from the DL before Tuesday's game. Girardi has said Robertson will be inserted back into the closer's role. RHP Bryan Mitchell was optioned to Double-A Trenton to open a roster spot for Robertson. … The Yankees optioned RHP Matt Daley to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Monday after designating him for assignment Sunday.

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