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Yankees 3, Pirates 4: First game of the spring in the books

The Yankees jumped out to an early lead, but ultimately fell to Pittsburgh in the spring opener

MLB: New York Yankees-Workouts Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Well. If I am going to watch the Yankees lose to the Pirates, then spring training is definitely the time that I want it to happen. Despite jumping out to an early lead, the Yankees were unable to hold on for the victory in their 2022 debut, though the young prospects and a couple regulars made it an engaging afternoon.

The first inning... what a beautiful way to start the spring. New Yankee Isiah Kiner-Falefa ripped the second pitch he saw from Pirates starter Wil Crowe into the left field corner for a leadoff double. IKF’s first hit of the exhibition season and had him standing at second with a 3.000 OPS.

Three batters later, Austin Wells, PSA’s No. 9 prospect and a late replacement at DH after the Luke Voit trade, singled up the middle to put the Bombers on the board:

It was 1-0, Yankees, after the first ribbie of the spring from the talented up-and-comer Wells. José Peraza followed that with an RBI groundout to second base, and the Yankees led 2-0 after the top half of the first.

Hayden Wesneski, PSA’s No. 8 Yankees prospect, took the slab in the bottom half of the first. His fastball sat in the mid-90s, topping out at 97, so the velocity was there. He might have been fighting some adrenaline though, as his control was awry in the top of the first.

After falling behind the Pirates leadoff hitter, Wesneski then plunked former Yankee Greg Allen. Twice, actually. The first time, the umpire called a foul tip, but then Wesneski hit him again. Wesneski then showed off his slider, the pitch that FanGraphs as a 60 value on, to strike out former Red Sox infielder Michael Chavis swinging. Ultimately, Wesneski escaped the first with no damage done. Wesneski’s second inning was much less stressful than the first: three up, three down, with another strikeout on that slider.

Wesneski came back out for the third and was not quite so successful, as he surrendered a 429-foot leadoff dinger to Pirates shortstop Cole Tucker. The young right-hander bounced back nicely, retiring the next three Pirates in order, including a swinging strikeout of Greg Allen with the slider. Wesneski’s final line: 3 IP, 2 H, I ER, 1 BB, 4K. His velocity topped out at 96.8 MPH and he generated 7 swings and missed on his 48 pitches. That’ll do, young man.

The Yankees’ bats stayed quiet for a while, but IKF’s second hit of the day provided some excitement amid the quiet. After he reached first, manager Aaron Boone lifted him. Into the game came top prospect Anthony Volpe.

The Pirates took the lead in the bottom of the fifth inning, when Allen took advantage of the wind blowing out to center field and lofted a two-run dinger off right-hander Braden Bristo, who replaced Wesneski in the fourth inning.

In the top of the seventh, we finally got a look at Volpe at the plate. The young shortstop came to the dish with two out and no one on and struck out looking on a 95-mph fastball. Ah well. Nowhere to go but up from there. The Pirates tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the inning. After the second misplayed fly ball of the day by the Yankees outfield resulted in a double, Pirates second baseman Nick Gonzales knocked an RBI single.

In the top of the ninth, the Yankees got one run back. Catcher Rodolfo Durán, who replaced Rob Brantly earlier in the game, crushed a solo homer 394 feet to left field on a full-count changeup. Alas, with a runner on second and Volpe in the on-deck circle, Michael Beltre struck out swinging to end it. A walk-off Volpe dinger would have been sweet.

Miscellaneous

Gleyber Torres had a nice first game of the spring, hopefully forecasting better things to come in a crossroads 2022 season for the still-young second baseman. In the top of the first, he showed a keen eye to draw a full-count walk, and then in the third, he sharply rapped a 93-mph fastball into right field for a solid single.

Prospect Watch

Austin Wells: Knocked an RBI single up the middle in the first inning after replacing Voit in the starting lineup. Finished the day 1-for-3 with the RBI.

Anthony Volpe: Entered the game in the top of the fifth inning as a pinch-runner for Kiner-Falefa. Struck out looking in the top of the seventh inning. Made a slick defensive play to begin a 6-4-3 double play that ended the eighth inning.

Everson Pereira: Entered the game in the top of the fifth inning as a pinch-runner for Joey Gallo. Struck out on a check swing in the top of the eighth inning.

One spring game down. Up next: the Baltimore Orioles. Tune in tomorrow at 1:05 pm ET as another New York pitching prospect, southpaw Ken Waldichuk, toes the slab for the Bronx Bombers.

Box Score