The pieces all start to fall into place as Eric Chavez and Ivan Nova lead the Yankees to a 6-4 win over the Astros.
L - Brett Gardner (CF)
R - Derek Jeter (SS)
S - Mark Teixeira (1B)
L - Robinson Cano (2B)
S - Nick Swisher (DH)
L - Eric Chavez (3B)
R - Andruw Jones (RF)
R - Russell Martin (C)
R - Eduardo Nuñez (LF)
Pitchers (IP): Ivan Nova (6), Rafael Soriano (2/3), Boone Logan (1/3), Joba Chamberlain (1), David Robertson (1)
Formidable Opponents: Roughly six of the Astros regulars and their fifth starter.
Big Hits: Eric Chavez (3-for-3) led off the second with a solo homer off Nelson Figueroa, his first round-tripper of the spring, and led off the sixth with a double to start another rally, also against Figueroa. Russell Martin (2-for-2, BB) capped that sixth-inning rally with a two-run triple, though he also snuffed it by being thrown out at home after tagging up on a fly ball to left (prompting a heated argument from Joe Girardi). Back in the second, with two out and one on, Brett Gardner (2-for-4) popped a two-run shot off Figueroa. Ronnie Belliard had an RBI single in his only at-bat to plate the Yankees sixth run. Mark Teixeira walked twice in three trips.
Who Pitched Well: Ivan Nova allowed just one of the first eight batters he faced to reach base, but fell apart with two outs in the third, giving up two runs on a walk, a pair of singles, a wild pitch and a hit batsman. A mound visit by pitching coach Larry Rothschild seemed to settle him, however, as after that Nova retired ten of the next 11 men he faced, allowing just one walk over three more hitless frames. Boone Logan got the final out of the seventh twice, first striking out Michael Bourn, then getting Angel Sanchez to groundout after Russell Martin dropped the third strike on Bourn and threw it away. Joba Chamberlain worked around a Matt Downs double for a scoreless eighth.
Rotation Battle: It's all over but the official announcement, which could come on Saturday. Sergio Mitre was traded to Milwaukee, which means Ivan Nova, Freddy Garcia, and Bartolo Colon will all make the Opening Day roster, and every indication is that Colon will be the one sent to the bullpen due to concerns over his ability to endure a full starter's workload, something he hasn't done since 2005.
Who Didn't: Rafael Soriano faced four men in the seventh. Two of them struck out, the others, third baseman Chris Johnson and minor league outfielder J.B. Shuck, connected for a triple and a double, respectively, plating one run and setting up a second.
Ouchies: Curtis Granderson (oblique) worked out and was cleared to do some light throwing.
Oopsies: Russell Martin allowed a run to score from second on a strikeout in the seventh by making a wild throw to first after a swinging strike at a pitch in the dirt. Jesus Montero was flagged for catcher interference in the ninth, putting the potential tying run on base.
Other: The Yankees could announce all of their final roster moves on Saturday. In addition to naming Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia the fourth and fifth starters and Bartolo Colon the long man in the pen, they are expected to announce that Gustavo Molina will open the season as the backup catcher, with Jesus Montero and Austin Romine both showing the need for more seasoning and regular playing time to start the season and Francisco Cervelli out with a broken foot. It also seems clear that Eduardo Nuñez will be the reserve middle infielder, and Eric Chavez will be the reserve corner infielder. That just leaves the matter of clearing space on the 40-man roster for Garcia, Colon, Molina, and Chavez, and the question of whether or not Curtis Granderson will start the season on the disabled list due to his strained oblique. If so, expect newly-arrived Chris Dickerson to take his spot and platoon with Andruw Jones in left with Brett Gardner shifting to center while Granderson is out. If not, Dickerson has an option remaining and will join Justin Maxwell and Greg Golson in the Scranton outfield. As for the 40-man, by my count the Yankees have 39 men on the 40-man roster (don't forget to count recent waiver claim Jose Ortegano). They can put Damaso Marte on the 60-day DL to clear one spot, and Romulo Sanchez is out of options and not making the team, so that's another spot. I would think Triple-A second baseman Reegie Corona could be safely outrighted off the roster to clear the final spot given that he was a non-entity in camp and is still working his way back from the broken arm that ended his 2010 season.
Next: The Yankees host the Pirates at 1:05. YES will have the game.