If pitching is going to be the key to success for the Yankees this season, Spring Training has gone a long way toward making everyone feel a little better about the pitchers' chances of carrying the team. Andy Pettitte made his spring debut tonight in Tampa, allowing four hits and three walks, while striking out two in three plus innings. Andy hit Kevin Frandsen with a pitch and he'd come around to score on a hit by John Mayberry Jr., but aside from that, Ol' Reliable looked pretty good in his return to the mound.
Pettitte was followed by Cody Eppley and Mariano Rivera for an inning a piece, with Eppley striking out two and Rivera sitting the batters he saw down in order on nine pitches. The other Philadelphia run came on a home run by Darin Ruf off David Aardsma, who allowed two hits in his inning of work. Jim Miller and Shawn Kelley combined to finish out the game, striking out two batters a piece. All the regular starters have had strong showings this spring, and the bullpen looks to be rounding out nicely as a strength for the team as well.
Offensively, Ichiro Suzuki and Juan Rivera were both 2-3, driving in a run a piece. Suzuki reached base three times and stole second before being lifted for a pinch runner later in the game. Ben Francisco made a good impression in his first at bat with the Yankees, doubling and driving in two runs in the first inning. Hits also came from Kevin Youkilis (double), Gil Velazquez (single), Matt Diaz (single), and Melky Mesa (RBI single), while Derek Jeter walked in his first game back at shortstop since ankle surgery. He didn't get many chances to test the ankle in the field, but he fielded a grounder that went for a force out at second and ran first to third on a single, which was encouraging.
The Yankees forced Cliff Lee out of the game after scoring five runs, but only two of them were earned, thanks to some suspect defense by Philadelphia that led to four errors in the game. The Yankees know all about that this spring, but tonight was an exception. Youkilis and Mesa both made impressive plays defensively and no one committed any errors. Progress!
Jose Ramirez, who was re-assigned to minor league camp earlier this week, gets the start for the Yankees tomorrow as they travel to Dunedin to take on Josh Johnson and the Blue Jays at 1:05 p.m. in an non-televised game.