Monday, April 30, 2012

YCN: Remembering Moose Skowron

My latest piece for the Yahoo Contributor Network is about the loss of Yankees great Bill "Moose" Skowron. Though I never saw him play, I have fond memories of many an Old Timer's Day with Moose, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio and more.

Please click here to read the article.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Andy, Hurry Up

Have you seen Garcia? Have you seen Hughes. Hurry up!

Time to Say Adios to Freddy Garcia

Freddy Garcia was a huge find for the 2011 season - a 12-8 record to go along with a 3.62 ERA in 25 starts (plus one relief appearance.) Based on that performance, the Yankees brought him back for 2012. But this isn't your Father's Oldsmobile Garcia of a year ago.

The 2012 version of Garcia is out of the ball game before most people have settled into their seats. The 35-yr old has lasted just 13.2 innings in four starts and hasn't made it out of the second inning in his last two appearances,. Garcia told reporters prior to Saturday's start that he had made adjustments to his mechanics. Apparently all that did was make the ball go farther for the Yankees opponent (the Detroit Tigers) as he got hammered for six runs in 1.2 IP.

Garcia's record is "just" 0-2 because the Yankees came back from 4-0 and 5-0 to win his other two starts. His overall numbers are awful - 13.2 IP 19 H 20 R 19 ER 5 BB 11 K 3 HR 12.51 ERA.

If for some reason the Yankees don't want to DFA him, they need to at least move Garcia to the pen and switch places with long man David Phelps. The Yankees could also use D.J. Mitchell in Garcia's spot, though the Clemson product was recalled this (Sunday) morning more likely to add another arm to the bullpen (Phelps and Cody Eppley both worked three innings on Saturday).

Update: 1:30 PM 4.29 - Garcia has been sent to the bullpen. No official announcement as of yet, but likely Phelps will take his spot, with Mitchell being a less likely option.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Pineda To Miss 2012..WHAT???

While I was out chasing that little white ball around this afternoon, the Yankees were informing the press that Micheal Pineda will miss the entire 2012 season due to a torn labrum.

I remember the day I heard of the trade that sent Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi to Seattle for Pineda and a prospect. I was sad to see Montero go, but ecstatic to get a young stud pitcher like Pineda. Now I sit here wondering if Pineda has a future.

According to's Bryan Hoch, Pineda will undergo arthroscopic surgery on Tuesday to repair the anterior labral tear. The operation will be performed by Dr. David Altchek (with assistance from Yankees' team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad) at the Hospital for Special Surgery in NYC.

Now the first thing you are thinking is, "Did Seattle send damaged goods?" Brian Cashman emphatically told the press "No" when queried on the subject.
"We had the opportunity to do a full physical exam, which we did, which came out clean. Michael has never had a shoulder issue nor has he complained of one with the Mariners, nor has he ever had any tests on the shoulder with the Mariners. This is just an unfortunate circumstance that can happen. It happened."
Cashman also reported on Pineda's current mental state:
"He's down. I can tell you that obviously he's someone with a bright future that has a lot of things going through his mind about what his future is going to be. He'll get the best medical care possible." 
Pineda raised eyebrows when he reported to Spring Training overweight and lacked velocity on his fastball. Normally lighting up the radar gun in the mid-90's and occassionally higher, Pineda's not-so-fast fastball was clocked at 90-91 mph and didn't improve as camp went on.

It wasn't until he was forced to leave a game against the Phillies on March 30, that the Yankees learned Pineda had been troubled by a sore shoulder for weeks. Afraid of losing out on a spot in the rotation, Pineda kept his mouth shut and tried to pitch past the pain, which was originally evaluated as tendinitis. When Pineda had a bullpen session shut down due to pain this past weekend, the Yankees sent him for an MRI with contrast and that's when the tear was discovered.

The Yankees are optomistic that Pineda will make a full recovery and be back on the mound in a year's time. (Based on what we know from Michael's MRI scan, there is a discrete tear," Ahmad said. "We do feel that tear can be repaired arthroscopically. Based on that, we're optimistic that we can get him recovered."). In the meantime, the Yankees will count on Andy Pettitte's comeback to fill the hole left by Pineda and the ineffective performance, thus far, by Freddy Garcia.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Captain Steers The Ship

A year ago Derek Jeter had to have heard what people - media, fans, the supposed know- it-all's and probably even opponents - were saying when he was mired in a first half slump. But anyone who has ever watched the Yankees should know that you should never count out Derek Jeter or his competitive spirit. Jeter continued his remarkable first half of the season with a four hit performance in the Yankees series opening 7-4 win over the Texas Rangers Monday night.

CC Sabathia was the benefactor of Jeter's hits and a 3-run blast from Alex Rodriguez to pick up his second straight win. The left-hander was at his best from the second through fifth innings as the Yankees built a 7-1 lead. He allowed a solo home run to Josh Hamilton in the 6th and a 2-run single to Craig Gentry in the 7th before he tossed a scoreless 8th inning. Mariano Rivera retired the Rangers in order in the 9th for his 4th save.

Jeter got the Yankees going in the top of the first with single off of Derek Holland, who has yet to beat the Yankees in six career starts. The Yankees loaded the bases on a single by Robinson Cano and a walk to A-Rod. Holland struck out Mark Teixeira for the second out of the inning, but Curtis Granderson came through with a clutch 2-run base knock.

With the lead cut in half, the Yankees took control in the 5th when Chris Stewart drew a lead off walk and Jeter singled. Nick Swisher's sac fly increased the Yankees lead to 3-1 before A-Rod followed a walk to Cano with his 3rd home run of the season. The long blast to center nearly doubled the third baseman's RBI total (4 to 7).


Despite a plus-4.00 ERA, Sabathia is now 11-3 vs. Texas in 17 career starts.

The night was Jeter's second 4-hit game and eighth multi-hit game of the season.

9 Run Comeback Flashback: 1987 Comeback vs. Clemens

As the Yankees were sending the Red Sox to an embarrassing Saturday afternoon, it brought me back to June 26, 1987. The Yankees and Red Sox faced off at Yankee Stadium with Roger Clemens, fresh off his '86 AL MVP season was on the hill for the Red Sox.

Yankees starter Tommy John didn't have a better day than Freddy Garcia did Saturday afternoon. The Red Sox tagged him for just eight runs in 1.1 innings pitched. With Clemens on the mound for Boston, a comeback was not likely down 9-0 in the 3rd.

But Dave Winfield belted a 3-run home run to kick start the bottom of the 3rd. Mike Pagliarulo and Wayne Tollenson combined for thee RBI and Clemens night,despite a 9-6 lead, was done after 2.1 innings. But the Yankees hitters weren't done with reliever Steve Crawford and Tom Bolton.

Gary Ward's 2-run single drove home cut the lead to 9-8 and Don Mattingly followed with an RBI double to tie the game. Though Ward was thrown out at third, Winfield drove in his fourth run in the inning with a single and later scored on a Rich Gedman passed ball for an 11-9 Yankees lead.

Unlike Saturday's game, Boston came back to tie things up with a couple of runs off Rich Bordi in the 4th and the game would eventually head to extra innings. That's when Tolleson delivered the game winner - a single off Calvin Schiraldi - to cap a memorable evening.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Down 9, Swish & Tex Deep Six Red Sox

When Bobby Valentine was introduced as Boston's new manager in December there was skepticism, but overall Red Sox (third world) Nation was happy. Especially when Valentine took shots at the Yankees. Then the season started and the Red Sox were swept in a three game series by the Detroit Tigers.

Entering Saturday's play, Boston was in the midst of a four game losing streak that included a 6-2 defeat at the hands of their bitter rivals on the day they celebrated Fenway Park's 100th anniversary. Valentine had to be stung, who wouldn't be, by the tremendous ovation former manager Terry Francona, who was at the helm of the Red Sox first title in 86 years in 2004 and another in 2007, received when introduced on Friday. But Saturday was to change all that.

The Red Sox pummeled Yankees starter Freddy Garcia (1.2 IP) and continued against the Yankees bullpen to build a 9-0 lead after five innings. This could be the game that could turn everything around in 2012. Tonight, most Red Sox fans are hoping the Mayans are right. The Yankees scored 15 runs combined in the 6th through 8th innings to come away with a 15-9 victory.

Things started out harmless enough- Sox starter Felix Doubront had scattered three hits over the first five innings before he surrendered a solo home run to Mark Teixeira with two out in the 6th inning.. His day ended when Curtis Granderson popped up pitch number 100 to end the inning. And then the fun began.

The Red Sox bullpen has been a mangled, tangled mess so far this season. Boston had acquired closer Andrew Bailey from Oakland during the off-season, but then lost him to thumb surgery. Another trade pick up, Mark Melancon, had saved 20 games for Houston last season, but was sent to the minors after he compiled a 63.00 ERA. The closer role fell to Al Aceves, whom the Red Sox would rather have as a 2-3 inning reliever. So when Dubront left the game, the Yankees had to be happy.

Vincente Padilla was the first victim in the 7th. He loaded the bases on a pair of singles and a walk before he surrendered an opposite field grand slam to Nick Swisher. 9-5, still not so horrible. Robinson Cano's double sent Padilla to the showers and Matt Albers stepped into the punching bag role. He didn't get any help either when shorststop Mike Aviles booted Alex Rodriguez's routine grounder. Teixeira then did something he hadn't done all of last year, belt an opposite field home run. 9-8, the Fenway faithful were in full panic.

Lefty Franklin Morales gave up a single to Curtis Granderson, but then retired the next two hitters to preserve the Boston lead. Rafael Soriano kept the score where it was after he gave up a lead off double in the bottom of the 7th and then it was the Yankees turn to bat and batter the Red Sox bullpen.

Eduardo Nunez led off the 8th with a single, which prompted Valentine to send for his closer, Aceves. The former Yankee walked Derek Jeter, before Swisher tattooed the left field wall for a go ahead 2-run double and his 5th and 6th RBI of the day. With no one out, Valentine inexplicably intentionally walked Cano, only to have Aceves unintentionally walk A-Rod.

With the bags loaded, Teixeira matched Swisher's RBI total  with a rope to right that bounced into the seats for a ground rule double and two more runs. Justin Thomas would come in and give up a 2-run double to Russell Martin (both charged to Aceves) and Junichi Tazawa was touched for an RBI single by Jeter (charged to Thomas).

When the bloodbath was over, Boston relievers had allowed 14 runs, 12 hits, and five walks in three innings.  It got so bad that Valentine was booed with all of the frustration felt in the park. All he could do was tip his cap and hope no one threw anything at him.


Not all the news was good from the Yankees. Michael Pineda suffered a setback in his throwing program (weakness in his shoulder) and will go for an MRI with contrast.

Freddy Garcia better be sleeping with one eye open. Andy Pettitte makes his next start for Double-A Trenton on Wednesday.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Happy Yankeeversary

It was a big day in Boston on Friday afternoon, the Old Town Team was celebrating the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park. A veritable plethora of Boston Red Sox alumni was introduced prior to the game with the Yankees. From 91 year old Bobby Doerr to Carl Yastrzemski to Jim Rice to Johnny Pesky to Rico Petrocelli to recently fired manager Terry Francona. On and on it went. Then the teams got down to business and the Red Sox continued to struggle.

The teams wore throw back uniforms circa 1912, which contained no numbers on the back. But like most Yankees-Red Sox contests over the years, the Yankees got the better of Boston. This time the Yankees crashed the Red Sox party with five solo home runs, including a pair of Eric Chavez blasts, and came away with a 6-2 victory. Ivan Nova was very good for six innings and won his third game of the season. He allowed two runs, seven hits, didn't walk a batter and struck out five. David Ortiz's solo home run in the 2nd inning was one of the few mistake pitches Nova made on the day.

Meanwhile the Yankees took advantage of a shaky Clay Buchholz. The right-hander missed most of last season with a back injury and hasn't looked good so far this season. The Yankees led 1-0 in the 2nd when Nick Swisher hit an opposite field blast for third home run and 14th RBI of the season. Two batters later Chavez hit his first long ball of the season.

Chavez struck again in the 4th with a long blast to deep centerfield for his first multi-home run game in six years. One inning later, Alex Rodriguez, who also had an RBI single in the 1st, took Buchholz deep for his second round tripper of the year.

The Red Sox got a run back in the home half of the 5th on Mike Aviles' RBI double, but that was the last run the Red Sox would score against the Yankees pitching. Cory Wade, David Robertson, Cody Eppley (in his Yankees debut), and Mariano Rivera scattered three hits over the final three innings to seal the win. The Yankees weren't done scoring though- Russell Martin added one more home run when he finished Buchholz's scoring line with a solo blast in the 6th.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Grandy Trifecta Bails Out Hughes

When Curtis Granderson was struggling during the 2010 season, my Dad kept telling me how awful he was;what a mistake the trade had been. My brother and I kept telling him, just wait, this guy is a legitimate star. While we weren't the reason, we were right.

Granderson's bat was sluggish that season until he worked hard with hitting coach Kevin Long to make adjustments. Granderson got hot down the stretch and exploded last year with an MVP type year- 41 HRs, a .916 OPS, 26 doubles, 10 triples, and a league lead 119 RBI and 136 runs scored. The left-handed hitting Granderson was a notoriously poor hitter against southpaws, but actually hit better against left-handers than righties in 2011 (.940 OPS 16 HR in 191 AB).

Thursday night Granderson had the first three home run game of his career. Down 4-0 in the first after some shaky pitching from Phil Hughes and a costly error by Eduardo Nunez, Granderson started the Yankees hit parade with a solo home run in the bottom of the 1st off of lefty Anthony Swarzak. He took the Twins starter deep again an inning later, this time with a man aboard to give the Yankees a 6-4 lead.

In the 4th, Granderson's home run, his 6th of the year, proved to be the difference maker in the Yankees 7-6 victory. This time the victim was Twins' right-handed reliever Jeff Gray.

By the time Granderson stepped up to the plate again in the 6th, many people were no longer thinking about another rough start for Hughes. The right-hander hadn't made it out of the 5th inning in his first two starts and, for a time, didn't look like he would get out of the 1st inning Thursday evening. Granted his pitch count rose quickly in the first frame due to Nunez's throwing error from 2nd base.

Playing in place of Robinson Cano, who started at DH, Nunez fielded Joe Mauer's grounder with one out and one on and lollipopped his throw to 1st base. Mark Teixeira leapt up to grab the errant throw, but couldn't get a tag on Mauer. The Twins took advantage when Ryan Doumit stroked a 2-run single and Danny Valencia added a 2-run double.

Hughes got better as the game went on, but he walked Justin Morneau to start the 6th inning and then surrendered a 2-run home run to Doumit to end his night. But the Yankees bullpen was sharp. Boone Logan finished the 6th and was followed by the usual sequence of Rafael Soriano, David Robertson, and Mariano Rivera. The Yankees closer picked up his third save of the season to salvage a split of the four game series and put the Yankees back above .500 at 7-6.

The story line though was Granderson, who stepped up to the plate in the 6th against Alex Burnett and ripped a hard single to right. Nunez, who was on 2nd base, had to hold up to be sure the ball wasn't caught and had to stop at third. In the 8th, Granderson got one more chance to join the four-home run club, but hit a dribbler. The good news is that he beat the throw to first for a 5-5 night that raised his batting average 75 points.

The Captain Climbs The Ladder

Derek Jeter had just one hit on the night, and RBI single in the 2nd, but it was the 3,110th of his career. That was good enough to tie him with his idol Dave Winfield for 19th on the all-time hits list. Jeter needs 31 hits to catch Tony Gwynn for 18th place.

The Last Trifecta
According to the YES Network, August 14, 2010 was the last time a Yankee hit three home runs in one game. That was courtesy of Alex Rodriguez in KC.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Nick Swisher is...

a) Nuts
b) a Moron
c) Crazy
d) Over Enthused
e) Hyperactive
f) All of the Above

I'll go with f) after this statement from Nick Swisher after yesterday's game.
“We still have to go out and prove it, but I feel like this could be a new generation of the old-school ‘Murderer’s Row.”
Derek Jeter summed it up best, "Easy there, Swish."

Kuroda Shines On Opening Day

Hiroki Kuroda's Yankees debut was less than memorable - 4 earned runs allowed in five-plus innings in an 8-6 loss to Tampa Bay a week ago. But despite being admittedly nervous, Kuroda stepped on the mound for the home opener and pitched a gem and the Yankees beat the LA Angels 5-0.

Kuroda allowed five hits over eight innings, before David Robertson finished up in the 9th, to pick up his first American League victory. Kuroda got an early boost when Nick Swisher delivered a two out, bases loaded double to jump start the Yankees to a quick 3-0 lead in the 1st inning against Ervin Santana.

The former Dodger is now 2-2, 1.71 against the Angels, whom he faced three times in inter-league play. He threw 109 pitches, 71 of them for strikes, walked two and struck out six, including an aggravated Albert Pujols in the 6th.

The Yankees added some tack on runs with a pair of home runs. Alex Rodriguez tied Ken Griffey Jr. for fifth on the all-time home run list with blast number 630, a shot to straight away center field. Curtis Granderson then took advantage of the short porch in right with his second home run of the season.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Bullpen, Ibanez Save The Junk Man

Anyone that ever watched the classic TV series Sanford & Son knows that lead character, and junk man, Fred Sanford (as portrayed by Redd Foxx) would introduce himself with the middle initial G. He would then say what the 'G' stood for and it would always depend on the situation. For example, it stood for 'Grammy' when Sanford met blues legend B.B. King.

If Fred were in Baltimore last night he would have said it stood for Garcia. Freddy Antonio Garcia wild pitched his junk into a 4-0 hole for the Yankees. But the Yankees pen, led by Cory Wade and David Phelps (2.1 scoreless innings each), held Baltimore in check and the Yankees rallied for a 5-4 victory in 12 innings.

Robinson Cano led off the 12th with a double, but stood at third base with two outs after both Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira failed with runners in scoring position (the Yankees were 2-16 on the night with RISP). Newbie Raul Ibanez saved the day though,
when his gapper to right-center one hopped over the fence for a ground rule double and a game winning RBI. Mariano Rivera tossed a scoreless bottom of the 12th for his first save of the season.

Garcia was nothing short of awful...he tossed five wild and walked three in his first start of the regular season. Handed a 1-0, 1st inning lead on a Derek Jeter home run, Sanford, er Garcia, was fortunate the Orioles were as miserable with runners in scoring position as the Yankees were. J.J. Hardy tied the game with a solo home run in the home half of the 1st and the Orioles put another run on the board when a pair of Garcia wild pitches allowed Nick Markakis to come around from second base with the go ahead run.

The O's increased their lead in the 4th when another wild pitched moved Adam Jones to third and enabled him to score on Nick Johnson's ground out. Garcia's final errant toss allowed Robert Andino to score the O's final run in the 5th inning. Garcia got off the hook when the Yankees rallied in the 6th against Orioles rookie starter Wei-Yin Chen. The Taiwanese native pitched the last seven seasons in Japan and is still just 26 years old. He kept the Yankees at bay through five innings before they finally caught up to the left-hander in the 6th.

Singles by Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira, and a walk to Curtis Granderson loaded the bases with just one out. Andruw Jones' sac fly brought home one run and another scored when Mark Reynolds muffed Russell Martin's grounder to third. Brett Gardner's RBI single tied the game and ended Chen's MLB debut. It then came down to a battle of attrition with the both
bullpens stifling any rallies.

Phelps was marvelous in just his second big league appearance. Four of the seven outs he recorded were by strikeout and the right-hander retired all seven men he faced. In fact, the Yankees pen allowed just five base runners over the final 7.1 innings, capped by Wade's clutch performance. The second year Yankee continued to impress and matchEd Phelps' output of four K's in 2.1 innings. he gave way to Clay Rapada with one out in the 11, which enabled Rapada to earn his first Yankees' win.


Derek Jeter's home run in the 1st inning allowed him to reach base safely in five straight at-bats. He went 4-4 in the first game of the series and added a sacrifice bunt as well. The Captain is 13 hits behind Dave Winfield for 19th on the all-time list.

Raul Ibanez not only has 6 RBI, but stole second base Tuesday night. He's halfway to his total of two that he stole last season with the Phillies.

CC Sabathia faces Jake Arrieta in the series finale on Wednesday.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Yankees CAN Win A Game

Ivan Nova proved last night that you can throw Spring Training numbers out the window. Nova, after pitching to an 8.06 ERA in exhibition games, limited the Baltimore Orioles to two runs over seven innings to help the Yankees to their first win, 6-2.

The Yankees have now scored six runs in three of their four games, but last night was their first win. Nova gave up an early home run to Matt Wieters, but scattered 10 hits and mixed off speed pitches with a fastball that averaged 94 mph and occasionally topped out at 96.

Nova got plenty of support in the field and at the plate. Derek Jeter had four hits, plus a sac bunt, run scored, and an RBI. Andruw Jones had a long home run, and he Curtis Granderson scored two runs a piece.

Eduardo Nunez, whose error got the ball rolling in the wrong direction on Saturday, made a leaping grab at third base to take a way a base hit and RBI.

David Robertson and Mariano Rivera, in a non-save situation closed out the win over lefty Brian Matusz.


Joe Girardi used his 4th DH in four games, sitting Alex Rodriguez.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Yankees in Cellar's Market

1966 was a horrible year for New York Yankees baseball. Their stars either retired early or had stayed too long. The Yankees finished 70-89 that year and in 10th place...which was out of 10 teams.

No one is saying 2012 holds the same fate for the Yankees, but the last time the Yankees and Boston Red Sox (who blew two final inning leads on Sunday) started the season with an identical 0-3 record was in that horrid 1966 season.

The Yankees pitching staff only allowed three runs on Sunday, but their bats were put to sleep by a near complete game shutout by Jeremy Hellickson. Only a two out walk to Nick Swisher in the 9th prevented the second year right-hander from finishing off a 3-0 Tampa Bay Rays win.

Phil Hughes made his first start of the season and took the loss. While he had effective stuff, he burned out early and was pulled after 99 pitches and 4.2 innings. Stuff will only get you so far, just ask A.J. Burnett.

The Yankees continued to make the mistake of pitching to Carlos Pena. Already leading 1-0 on a Matt Joyce 1st inning RBI triple, Pena double the score with his second home run and 7th RBI of the series. He later had a near home run turn into a ground rule double due to fan interference.

But the story of this game was Hellickson, who walked four batters, but limited the Yankees to just three hits. All three were doubles (Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Swisher), but the Yankees bats failed in the clutch, much as they did in the entire three game series. Pena's 24 home runs against the Yankees are his second highest total against any one team.

Series Notes

It's only the first series of the season, but a team should be embarrassed when Fernando Rodney saves two games against you.

The Yankees three starters in the series, CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, and Hughes, combined to allow 11 earned runs in 16.1 innings pitched. Mariano Rivera, Clay Rapada, and Boone Logan gave up a combined five additional runs out of the pen.

Eduardo Nunez' season got off to a rocky start in the field Saturday evening. After making an error on the very first ball hit to him in this year's Spring Training debut, Nunez repeated the feat when he started at shortstop behind Kuroda. Unfortunately for Nunez, Kuroda didn't pick him up and gave up a 2-run single to Luke Scott.

Kuroda fooled no one, except maybe his catcher Russell Martin, in his AL debut. The former Japanese star and LA Dodger mainstay, allowed six runs, four of them earned, eight hits, and walked four in just 5.2 innings.

Joe Girardi has fans and media scratching their heads already. He left southpaw Clay Rapada in to face right-handed hitters in Saturday's game despite the fact Rapada cannot get righties out. The result was a pair of extra runs that proved to be the difference in the ball game.

The Yankees had managed just one run off of starter David Price through 6-plus innings, but rallied against the Rays pen in the 9th. Swisher had the big blow with a 3-run home run to pull the Yankees to within two. But after a Robinson Cano walk, Rodney retired Rodriguez, who represented the tying run, with a bounce out to second to end the game.

The Week Ahead

The Yankees move on to Baltimore for a three game set with the Orioles before returning home for Friday's home opener with the LA Angels.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Pena is Mightier Than The Closer

An opening game (opening day is really at me anyway) match up of CC Sabathia and James Shields. You're talking a 2-1/3-2 game! And it the 2nd inning. Only the Rays had already scored four.

Despite a shaky outing from Sabathia, the Yankees led 6-5 in the 9th thanks to an even shakier start from Shields and Raul Ibanez' 4 RBI. And then things got really ugly. Mariano Rivera started his 18th season by blowing the lead and then the game in the 9th inning. I'm sure I'm not the only one who was thinking, "game over" when Mo stepped on the mound.

But Rivera left a pitch up to lead off hitter Desmond Jennings that resulted in a lead off single and Ben Zobrist ripped a cutter up the alley in right-center for an RBI triple. Rivera, who intentionally walked two batters in all of 2011, issues free passes to Evan Longoria and Luke Scott to set up a force at any base.

Rivera struck out Sean Rodriguez, but threw another meatball to Carlos Pena, who drove it to the base of the wall in left-center for the game winner. It was a big day for Pena who was a member of the Rays from 2007 - 2010 and was greeted with a standing ovation his first time at-bat. The 1st baseman, who spent last season with the Cubs, got the fans even louder when he stroked a grand slam off of Sabathia to give the Rays a 1st inning, 4-0 lead.

Some questionable strategy came into play prior to Pena's at-bat when Joe Girardi intentionally walked Rodriguez with two outs and a base open. Though it set up a lefty-lefty confrontation, Pena is a much more dangerous hitter than Rodriguez.

The Yankees had cut the lead to 4-3 with the help of a rare bout of wildness from Shields and took the lead in the 4th when Ibanez blasted a 3-run home run deep into the right field seats. Ibanez had struggled for most of spring training, but had said that it was meaningless. He was right for at least one day. Rivera backed Ibanez's words up by having a great spring training and a really bad opener.


The Yankees looked like the Yankees for much of last season, going 2-11 with runners in scoring position. Though Mark Texeira walked twice, he and Nick Swisher looked off balance most of the day.

No manager love defensive shifts more than Joe Maddon and it paid off on Friday when his strategy took two hits away from Curtis Granderson.