Believe me folks, I’m as bummed as you are that the Yankees game tonight was not broadcast. For whatever reason, the folks at the YES Network think sports fans in the New York area would rather watch the Nets than the Yankees. Bizarre, I know. I’m especially annoyed that we have been robbed of the chance to watch Corey Kluber’s first game action with the Yankees — something I had been looking forward to eagerly since the day he was signed.
Speaking of Kluber, the two-time Cy Young winner looked awfully sharp for a man who only pitched one competitive inning in 2020. He registered a clean one-two-three first inning to start his Yankees career, including a called strike three on a pinpoint sinker at the top of the zone to Rowdy Tellez to end the inning.
Kluber added two more strikeouts in the second inning, the first a sinker breezed past Danny Jansen and the second a back-foot curveball that Josh Palacios swung over the top.
Kluber’s NYY spring debut: 2 innings, 6 up, 6 down, 3 Ks. pic.twitter.com/rzn85ZDwok— Pete Caldera (@pcaldera) March 3, 2021
All in all, Kluber had about as immaculate a spring debut as one could ask for, finishing the night with three strikeouts and four whiffs on 22 pitches without a baserunner allowed. There were several encouraging signs from the veteran righty. His sinker hovered around 91 mph, which is only a tick down from his most recent Cy Young campaign. Additionally, Kluber used his full five-pitch mix, getting whiffs on each of the curveball, sinker, changeup, and cutter.
The Yankees’ offense got off to a sluggish start, registering their first baserunner in the second on a Brett Gardner walk. They did not show much life in the first four innings, and were neutralized by Jays’ prospect Alek Manoah, who struck out four and hit Judge in the shoulder with a pitch. The Blue Jays opened the scoring in the top of the fifth, with Luis Cessa surrendering a double to Josh Palacios, who later scored on a Breyvic Valera single.
The Yankees would answer right back, putting on quite a power display in the bottom of the fifth. Gary Sánchez crushed a line-drive home run the opposite way to tie the score. Sánchez swung at a first-pitch fastball from Nick Allgeyer, staying with the high and away heater to launch the offering 106.1 mph, 393 feet over the right-center field wall. This was his second homer of the spring, both sporting a pronounced leg kick that I hope to examine for next week. Stay tuned!
Jay Bruce followed El Gary’s home run with a double off the center-field wall, bringing fellow NRI Derek Dietrich to the plate. Dietrich jumped all over a hanging middle-middle first pitch curveball from Allgeyer, yanking a 97.6 mph bullet 366 feet into the right field seats for his first hit (and long ball) of the spring.
Derek Dietrich - New York Yankees (1)* pic.twitter.com/3Sl74PKGL0— MLB HR Videos (@MLBHRVideos) March 4, 2021
The two veteran lefty sluggers are likely fighting it out for the final bench spot on the 26-man roster, and what a battle it could prove to be. Bruce is 3-for-4 in the early going while Dietrich flashed the power that seems tailor-made for Yankee Stadium. If only there were 28-man rosters so the Yankees could carry both guys into the season.
Robinson Chirinos added the final run of the game with a tater of his own in the bottom of the seventh. His home run was also on the first pitch of the at-bat, a grooved 93 mph fastball from Anthony Castro that Chirinos smacked 103.1 mph over the left-center field fence. Chirinos is competing to be the backup catcher out of spring, and has certainly strengthened his case with this swing.
The Yankees travel to Clearwater tomorrow to face off against the Phillies. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 PM ET and will be on MLB.tv since the Phillies are broadcasting it. Be sure to join us in the game thread!