The Yankees took on the visiting Minnesota Twins Friday at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. The Bombers’ David Phelps took to the mound as he attempted to keep up with fellow fifth starter candidate Michael Pineda. Pineda shined once again yesterday, striking out five in 2 2/3 innings.
Phelps’ day started out shaky, with several pitches missing the zone, before allowing a 1st inning double to Aaron Hicks. After getting Brian Dozier to ground out, Phelps issued a walk to Jason Kubel, and then fanned Oswaldo Arcia. With 2 outs in the inning, Chris Colabello singled to bring in Hicks, giving the Twins an early 1-0 lead. The opening frame didn’t get easier for Phelps, as he issued a balk, moving the runners up to second and third before finally getting Wilkin Ramirez to fly out to Ellsbury to end the top of the 1st.
The Yankees came firing back, as Ellsbury drove a lead-off double to the right-field gap, followed by a ground-rule double by Brian Roberts to drive in Ellsbury, notching the score at 1 apiece. Mark Teixeira gave the Yankees the lead with a single that drove in Roberts, and he advanced to second on an errant throw by the left fielder, Ramirez. After a Brian McCann ground out, Teixeira scored on an Eduardo Nunez ground out, ending the scoring flurry at 3-1 Yankees at the end of the first.
After a fielding error, David Phelps breezed through the second inning to maintain the Bombers early lead, as the Yankees went down without a fight in the second as well. Just when it appeared that Phelps had settled down, the Twins were on the attack once again in the top of the third inning. Brian Dozier led off with a home run to left, cutting the Yankees lead to 3-2. Phelps took control after that, retiring the Twins in order. Phelps once again found trouble in the top half of the fourth, after retiring the first two hitters of the inning, he allowed a single and a double before getting out of any further trouble with an inning-ending ground out.
To begin the 5th inning, David Herndon replaced Phelps, and issued a walk to Brian Dozier to begin his day. After allowing Dozier to steal second, Kubel moved him over to third with a ground out to Roberts. After a strikeout to Arcia, a single off the bat of Colabello was deflected off the mitt of Yankees’ third baseman Rob Segedin, which trickled into left field, allowing Dozier to come home, tying the score at 3-3. Herndon got out of the inning with a force out to end the Twins half of the fifth.
Caleb Thielbar repalced Twins starter Kyle Gibson, who didn’t show much against the Yankees through four frames. The Bombers went down in order in the bottom of the fifth. Manny Banuelos, who struggled in his first live pitching action last week, replaced Herndon in the top of the 6th, along with a slew of changes for the Yankees defensively. Banuelos left off from his last start, yielding a lead off single to Deibinson Romero to start the inning, and moved to second on a walk to Josmil Pinto. Danny Santana also worked a walk to load the bases for the Twins with nobody out. Banuelos came back and struck out Hicks, but then the bottom fell out, as Manny gave up a ground rule double to Eric Farris, which scored both Romero and Pinto, and allowed Santana to move up to third. Banuelos’ day was over, as Fred Lewis replaced the young lefty, and allowed one more run to come across the plate on an infield ground out. Lewis then allowed an RBI single to Arcia, which scored Farris. A strikeout ended the damage, as the Twins took a commanding 7-3 lead.
Mark Teixeira attempted to get the Yankees going in their half of the sixth by drawing a lead off walk, but the effort was for not, as Austin Romine erased both himself and pinch runner Francisco Arcia with a ground ball double play. The inning ended on an easy fly out by Carmen Angelini. Lewis remained in the game for the Yankees to begin the 7th, but after a walk and two singles loaded up the bases for the Twins, the spring surprise, Dellin Betances came on in relief to try and keep the deficit at four runs, and that’s exactly what he did. Betances struck out Hicks, and forced Farris into an inning-ending force out of Santana at second base. Betances once again showed the Yankees brass that he could be a highly-valuable asset out of the bullpen in 2014. The Yankees went down in order in their half of the seventh to keep the game at 7-3 Twins.
In the 8th inning, neither team did any damage, and Betances continued rolling, throwing another scoreless inning of relief. He was relieved in the top half of the 9th by James Pazos. He immediately plunked the first hitter he faced before getting out of the mini-jam with a double play and a strike out. Arcia, Romine and Angelini went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 9th to secure the 7-3 victory for the Twins. The loss drops the Yankees to 8-7 during the Grapefruit League Exhibition season, while the Twins’ victory helps them improve to 6-7.
David Phelps final line was 4 innings pitcher, 2 earned runs, on 5 hits, while striking out four. With today’s performance, you have to believe that Pineda is now a full length ahead of Phelps for the fifth and final starter’s job in the rotation. Dellin Betances has yet to allow an earned run through 8 innings of relief work this spring. Ellsbury, Roberts, and Teixeira–all projected Yankees regulars accounted for the only three hits in the contest for the Yankees. Just over 9,300 people were in attendance of the game today.
The Yankees split squads return to action tomorrow, as the Yankees travel to take on the Baltimore Orioles at 1:05 p.m. ET, with the game being on MASN, and the other split squad opens the “Legends Series” in Panama, honoring former Yankees’ closer Mariano Rivera against the Miami Marlins at Rod Carew Stadium in Panama City, with the first pitch scheduled for 8:05 p.m. ET.