What a strange beginning to the 2014 season for the NY Yankees. The opening day Yankee lineup had two career minor leaguers. Dean Anna and Yangervis Solarte had the distinction of being the only two players in a major league starting lineup that played in 500 minor league games. After only three appearances Mariano’s designated successor David Robertson went on the DL. After 4 games Mark Teixeira went on the DL. Brendan Ryan, Jeter’s backup went on the DL before opening day. Jeter has missed the last two Red Sox games. It took 6 games before the unlikely Brett Gardiner hit the Yankees first home run in 2014. The heralded Masahiro Tanaka gave up a home run to the first batter he faced. In game 12 Brian McCann hit 2 home runs, Carlos Beltran, Alfonso Soriano and Kelly Johnson also homered for the Yankees, who entered the game with only 7 home runs in their first 11 games. In game 13 on Sunday Francisco Cervelli pulled his hamstring running to first base forcing Carlos Beltran to play first base for the first time in his ML career. So the right fielder replaced the catcher who was playing first base. What is this Little League where every child gets to play every position? Replacing Beltran in right field was Ichiro Suzuki. The baseball Gods smiled on the Yankees because in the 8th inning with the Yankees winning 3-2 Suzuki made a game saving catch that Beltran would never have reached. After 13 games, the Yankees known as “The Bronx Bombers” have hit 13 home runs and have 11 stolen bases. If it wasn’t for the 5 home runs in game 12, they would have had more stolen bases than home runs. In 2013 the Yankees hit 144 home runs and stole 115 bases.
At the end of Sunday, the Yankees were tied for first place with the Blue Jays and the Rays all with 7-6 records. The Yankees just finished winning 3 out of 4 from the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. The good and bad of instant replay were exposed against the Red Sox on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, Dean Anna slid into second base and was ruled safe. Clearly, the replays showed he was tagged out with his foot off the base. After Red Sox manager Farrell called for instant replay, the safe call was upheld. Fast forward to Sunday, Cervelli was called out at first base. This time manager Girardi called for instant replay and the out call was overturned. Farrell went ballistic and was thrown out of the game.
So why are the Yankees tied for first place? One reason is their pitching. With Robertson on the DL, Shawn Kelley has 3 saves and Michael Phelps has one save. The Yankees’ closers are 6 for 6 in saves. Pineda has looked like the Pineda the Yankees thought they were getting when he arrived two years ago. Tanaka has been as good as advertised. CC is no longer the ace of the staff but will straighten himself out as the season progresses. Kuroda has pitched well with 2 wins. After a slow start Nova had a good game in Sunday’s win against the Red Sox yielding just 2 runs in 7 innings. I would say whichever one of these five starting pitchers you consider as the fifth starter, that pitcher would be the best fifth starter in the majors. Dellin Betances, whose fastball is clocked at 95 mph, has found his niche as a one-inning reliever. David Robertson, Dellin Betances, Matt Thornton, Cesar Cabral, and Adam Warren as 7th and 8th inning specialists have pitched a total of 16.2 innings without yielding a run. The bottom line is the pitching can only get better with the return of David Robertson. The hitting has also been good. After 13 games, the Yankees as a team compared to the other 29 teams rank 4th in AVG, 6th in OBP, 8th in SLG, 5th in OPS, and 2nd in SB.
Yankee fans don’t get too giddy. There are still major questions hanging over the Yankees. Can Jeter and Teixeira stay healthy and be effective players? With an average age over 33, can their core positional players stay healthy for the entire season?