Opening day for the Yankees was one to forget. But there are a number of items to take a look at as we look forward to the next 161 games.
Even though the Yankees had lost five straight opening day contests before yesterday afternoon’s debacle, it was difficult to imagine Masahiro Tanaka laying an egg against the Rays.
I mean, did anyone expect Gary Sanchez to throw a ball into right field? Or for the offense to be completely shut down by Chris Archer? No, but these things happen. It was a snowball effect — and besides, this Yankees team was never going to go 162-0.
Though spring stats don’t mean a thing, they give us hope headed into a season of uncertainty.
Yesterday’s 7-3 loss was a stark reminder that this season is still all about transition. We are bridging the gap from overpaid veterans to blue-chip prospects tucked away in the minors. Better times are certainly to come, and while making the Postseason is doable, it won’t be a simple task.
Tropicana Field Is a Joke
If you’ve never ventured to St. Pete to take in a Rays game, count your blessings. A converted arena football stadium turned softball field (that’s right, I said it) — we couldn’t even make it to the opening pitch without a technical glitch of the replay system.
Because of this, unlimited replays were awarded — but it didn’t matter — the umpires blew the “out” call on Matt Holliday in the first inning. I honestly believe this changed the entire course of the game.
The two-run homer that Tanaka gave up to Evan Longoria in the second inning would have been a double in any other ballpark. What kind of outfield wall is missing an entire section, like the one at The Trop? Ridiculous to say the least. Either get the Rays an actual baseball stadium or move them somewhere else.
Masahiro Tanaka Will Be Better
I fully expect the ace of the Yankees’ pitching staff to rebound from his 2 2/3 innings pitched, three earned runs in the first inning, and subsequent 23.63 ERA. After the game, Tanaka admitted to the New York Post:
"“I was a bit hyped up.”"
You don’t say? Tanaka was fantastic this spring — so suffice to say, his lackluster performance was a surprise. Nonetheless, with that looming opt-out clause, Tanaka will look to get back on track in his second start against the Orioles on Saturday.
Girardi’s Lineup Configuration Needs Configuring
The Yankees’ 2-3-4 hitters — Sanchez, Greg Bird and Holliday combined to go 0-for-13, leaving eight runners on base. Punching-Judy lefties Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury had one hit, one walk, and one strikeout between them. Although, they did manage to put seven softly hit balls in play.
I said it all spring — I don’t like Sanchez in the No. 2 hole. It’s a waste of his RBI potential. He needs to bat with runners in scoring position. He’s not a guy you want sacrificing himself.
No way, no how, is Ellsbury a No. 5 hitter. If he isn’t going to bat second, move him to eighth. I get that Girardi doesn’t want to bat Ellsbury and Gardner back-to-back in the lineup, but fifth is a power slot. Easiest scenario is to move Starlin Castro, who was 3-for-4 yesterday, up to No. 2 and slide Sanchez, Bird, and Holliday down a notch.
Obviously, having Didi Gregorius out of the lineup changes things, but the Yankees can’t wait 4-to-six weeks to make an alteration.
The Bullpen Looked Phenomenal
After Tanaka left the contest, four relievers combined for 5 1/3 innings of shutout ball. We all know by now that Girardi loves to change shooters like most people change underwear (a lot).
In what is a great sign of things to come from a problematic area towards the end of 2016 (the ‘pen) — Tommy Layne, Adam Warren, Jonathan Holder and Chasen Shreve gave the Yanks a fighting chance until the very end of the game.
Lack of Bench Depth
When Chris Carter pinch hit for Pete Kozma in the ninth inning, the Yankees were officially out of infielders. Had the game continued, Girardi would have been forced to use Austin Romine at third base — slide Chase Headley to second, and flip Castro from second to short.
In my opinion, that’s way too many moves that severely limit the team’s defensive proficiency — especially in extra innings when defense is at a premium. Alas, none of this happened — but it’s something that should be further examined.