Off to Spring Training

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I’m hopping on an airplane here shortly and heading for Arizona. That’s right, kids, a week in the Valley of the Sun, taking in Cactus League action.  I assure you, though, I won’t be enjoying myself at all. It’ll be all work. Really. Truly!

OK, maybe I’ll enjoy it a little. But I will be working.  As I have done for the past couple of years, I’ll be filing several reports a day from spring training complexes, telling you the stuff I see as I wander around.  Also, because I am now occasionally associated with an actual television network and I am thus, in the eyes of media relations professionals, respectable, I will be doing a handful of interviews with actual baseball players for NBC SpotsTalk.  I’ll try not to be all Chris Farley about it, but I’m not confident (“Remember that time you got that hit in the playoffs? That was awesome”).

Anyway, here’s the schedule for the week:

  • Tuesday: White Sox vs Angels in Tempe: Pujols-a-palooza!
  • Wednesday: Rangers vs Padres in Peoria: Yu Darvish’s first scheduled start!
  • Thursday: Angels vs Indians in Goodyear: I shall stalk my daughter’s favorite player, Shelley Duncan!
  • Friday: Indians vs Brewers in Maryvale: I finally get to give Ryan Braun that hug you readers think I want to give him!
  • Saturday: Reds vs A’s in Phoenix: Manny bein’ Manny!; and
  • Sunday: Cubs vs Dodgers in Glendale: I’ll write an alternate history in which each of these teams are elite and big-spending and I may give Frank McCourt I big, wet sloppy good-bye kiss.

In addition to posting I should be tweeting like crazy too, so give a follow: @craigcalcaterra.

Talk to you from Arizona, ladies and germs. And remember: wear sunscreen.

Joe Girardi won’t use Masahiro Tanaka in Game 7

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The Yankees and Astros are set for Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday, and neither team will hold back as they seek a World Series berth. The Astros are prepared to back starter Charlie Morton with any able-bodied pitcher in their ranks — including Justin Verlander, though A.J. Hinch said it would be a “dream scenario” to get anything more from his ace — while the Yankees are prepared to utilize all but a few of their arms. One pitcher you won’t see? Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who last took the hill for the Yankees during their Game 5 shutout on Wednesday.

Tanaka expended 103 pitches over seven scoreless innings in his last start, fending off the Astros with three hits, a walk and eight strikeouts. He hasn’t pitched on fewer than three days of rest all year, and even with a do-or-die scenario facing the Yankees on Saturday night, manager Joe Girardi doesn’t want to compromise his starter’s ability to stay rested and ready for the World Series.

Girardi will also play it safe with fellow right-hander Sonny Gray, who dominated in a five-inning performance in Game 4. All other pitchers should be available and ready to go, though the club is hoping for a lengthy outing from veteran starter CC Sabathia. Sabathia is no stranger to the postseason: over eight separate playoff runs, he touts one championship title and a collective 4.24 ERA in 123 innings. He held the Astros scoreless in his Game 3 start, blanking them over six innings on three hits, four walks and five strikeouts for an eventual 8-1 win.

Even without Tanaka or Gray likely to take the mound for Game 7, the Yankees will enter the series finale with history on their side. Per MLB.com, they have a 4-3 road record in Game 7s and are 6-7 in all 13 Game 7 finales to date. The Astros, on the other hand, dropped their first and only Game 7 clincher back in 2004, when the Cardinals capped the NLCS with a 5-2 win in St. Louis. The teams are scheduled to face off for the first-ever Game 7 at Minute Maid Park on Saturday at 8:00 PM ET.