In the first of two games today, the Yankees hosted the Twins, with plenty still to be determined in these final spring exhibitions. All eyes, of course, are on the shortstop position, and in the home half of this split-squad affair, Anthony Volpe got the start up the middle.
Volpe managed to flash an encouraging sign, perhaps one of the brightest he’s shown across an impressive spring. Leading off for the Yankees, Volpe got a taste of top-flight pitching, with Twins top starter Pablo López giving him a little good morning, good afternoon, goodnight action. López struck Volpe out on three pitches, with Volpe looking at a slider for a called strike two, then swinging through another slider for strike three.
In his next at-bat, Volpe got a slider in the zone on the first pitch. Volpe was ready for it, absolutely crushing it out to center for a 2-0 lead:
Volpe’s reputation as a prospect and as a player is one of a good athlete and hitter, yes, but he earns just as much praise for his maturity and baseball IQ. It was all on display in those two at-bats, as Volpe brushed off the rude welcome from López, adjusted, and put a great swing on a mistake from the right-hander. We can’t say for certain, just based on 50 or so at-bats against weak spring competition, that Volpe is ready for the big time. But after what we’ve seen this month, it’s hard not to feel confident that whenever Volpe is tasked with a job in the majors, he’ll find a way to succeed.
On the other side, Gerrit Cole should have fans equally confident that he’s ready for 2023. Making his final tune-up start, Cole actually drove home one of the primary narratives that surrounds spring training, the one that says not to look at the spring numbers because of how many players approach the games differently than they would if they meant something.
The right-hander seemed focused on working his changeup early on, using it in spots he likely won’t during the regular season. He threw the pitch just 8 percent of the time in 2022, but used it eight times during his first turn through the Twins lineup. He shifted more to a four-seamer/slider approach during his second turn, but still ended up using his change 16 percent of the time today.
On the whole, Cole looked solid, and prepared to get the Yankees season started with his full repertoire now sharpened. His velocity was a little down, sitting about 96 mph rather than the 97-plus he’s averaged in his previous spring starts, and he only struck out three batters. But he still appeared strong, only running into trouble in the fifth, when an Andrew Bechtold double drove in a run. Cole finished at 5.2 innings with the one run allowed, along with five hits and zero walks. He tossed 84 pitches on the day, putting him right in line to throw 90-100 next Thursday.
Cole exited with a 4-1 advantage, thanks to a two-run single from Estevan Florial in the bottom of the fourth. The hard-throwing Jimmy Cordero did very fine work in relief, retiring all five batters he faced, three via strikeout. Cordero hasn’t been perfect in spring, but he does now have nine strikeouts against one walk in 10.1 innings, with a 4.00 ERA. He has a solid shot at a bullpen spot.
Albert Abreu took over with one out in the eighth, and quickly allowed a solo shot to Edouard Julien. The Twins put across another run in the ninth, putting together a walk and a couple singles off Abreu to cut the lead to 4-3. With two on and two out, Abreu got ahead 0-2 against Emmanuel Rodriguez, but just couldn’t put the game away. Rodriguez smashed a 2-2 fastball over the center field wall to give the Twins a 6-4 lead.
As ever, Abreu’s stuff impresses, but also as ever, he’s just a little more hittable than you’d want from a high-octane reliever. The Yankees put two on in the bottom of the ninth against Twins reliever Michael Boyle, but failed to complete the comeback.
Also of note from today’s contest was Aaron Judge’s start in left, as the Yankees play around with different outfield configurations. Judge looked comfortable, with the ball finding him several times over the first few innings. He even contributed a defensive highlight, gunning down an overeager Julien trying to take second:
Don't run on our Captain pic.twitter.com/PdlZE4kPrs— New York Yankees (@Yankees) March 24, 2023
That doesn’t quite conclude our coverage for today, as the Yankees are sending a second squad to face Baltimore tonight. That one will go off at 6:05 EST, with Yoendrys Gómez set to square off with Kyle Gibson. The only way to follow along will be via the Orioles radio feed, but Sam will have you covered with a game thread and subsequent recap.