Before he joined the Yankees on Friday, Alfonso Soriano was last teammates with Derek Jeter in September 2003, nearly ten years ago. Jeter once again made his triumphant return this afternoon, having recovered from a quad injury suffered in his 2013 debut on July 11. In that first game back, Jeter singled in his first at-bat, swinging at the first pitch he saw. He did that once again today, swinging at the first offering from Rays starter Matt Moore, sending it beyond the fence in right-center field for a solo home run.
Both Moore and Yankees starter Phil Hughes allowed five runs. Wil Myers was the source of the Rays’ offense, as the rookie hit two home runs and drove in four. For the Yankees, Soriano homered in the third while Ichiro Suzuki went 4-for-4.
Closer Mariano Rivera pitched a scoreless top of the ninth, holding the score at five apiece. For the Rays, lefty Jake McGee took the hill for his second inning of work in the bottom half of the inning. He walked Brett Gardner to start the frame, then allowed the Yankees’ speedster to advance to second on a wild pitch. In what was a controversial decision, manager Joe Maddon ordered his pitcher to intentionally walk Jeter to put runners on first and second with no outs, bringing Robinson Cano to the plate. To the dismay of Yankees’ fans, Cano struck out looking, not even able to advance one or both runners.
Soriano happily played the role of hero, grounding a single up the middle, allowing Gardner to sprint the 180 feet to home plate for the walk-off victory. To recap: Jeter and Soriano both homer, Soriano keys the walk-off, and Rivera goes home with the win. Just like old times.
With the win, the Yankees are only 2.5 games out of the second Wild Card in the American League and sit in fourth place in the AL East, 7.5 games behind the first place Red Sox. The Rays fall to second place, a half-game behind the Red Sox. The AL East is shaping up to be an exciting division to watch in the final two months.
This shouldn’t cause any controversy, lead to a lot of people saying dumb things or provide fodder for jokes at all. Nope, none whatsoever:
In what promises to be a bombshell move, if executed, all-time great slugger Barry Bonds is under consideration to become Marlins hitting coach.
Team higherups have quietly been discussing this possibility for weeks.
That’s Jon Heyman, who reminds us that Bonds has worked with the Giants in the spring in recent years. And who, no matter what else you can say about him, was one of the greatest hitters the game has ever seen. Also worth remembering that despite his controversial past, that greatness came not just from physical gifts, naturally or artificially bestowed. It came from his approach, preparation and strategy at the plate. No one can teach a hitter to hit like Barry Bonds, but you’d think that hitters could be taught to try to approach an at bat the way Barry Bonds would. And who better to do it than Barry Bonds?
That is, if Bonds is willing to drop his seemingly ideal retired life in San Francisco, move to Miami and work for Jeff Loria for nine months a year. Which, eh, who knows? But the possibility of it is pretty fascinating to think about.
Veteran catcher Brayan Pena has agreed to a two-year, $5 million contract with the Cardinals, who’re investing much more than usual in their backup for Yadier Molina.
After bouncing around for a decade without getting even 250 plate appearances in a season Pena signed with the Reds and topped 350 plate appearances in both 2014 and 2015. His production didn’t improve any, as Pena hit .263 with five homers and a .652 OPS in 223 games as a regular.
Pena’s best skill is rarely striking out, which enables him to hit for a decent batting average, but he has very little power and swings at everything. He struggled to control the running game this season at age 33, but has a decent throw-out rate for his career.
Making a multi-year commitment to Pena suggests the Cardinals are no longer counting on Molina being the same type of workhorse behind the plate, which certainly makes sense given his age and injury history. Pena will replace Tony Cruz, who’s been Molina’s understudy since 2011 while hitting just .220 with five homers and a .572 OPS in 259 games.
It’s a pretty slow offseason so far. We’ve had a couple of minor signings. I guess Jordan Zimmermann is sort of a big deal. But it’s a lot more quiet so far this year than it was this time last year. I suppose there’s no real rhyme nor reason for it. Baseball offseason is long, there is no salary cap and thus there’s no rush to do things too quickly.
So, while we wait, here’s Andrew McCutchen doing his best to kill time until spring training starts:
Veteran outfielder Chris Young thrived in a platoon role for the Yankees this past season and now he’s headed to the rival Red Sox to fill a similar role, signing a multi-year deal with Boston according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com.
Young was once an everyday center fielder for the Diamondbacks, making the All-Star team in 2010 at age 26, but for the past 3-4 years he’s gotten 300-350 plate appearances in a part-time role facing mostly left-handed pitching. He hit .252 with 14 homers and a .773 OPS for the Yankees, but prior to that failed to top a .700 OPS in 2013 or 2014.
Given the Red Sox’s outfield depth–Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Brock Holt even with Hanley Ramirez back in the infield–Young is unlikely to work his way into everyday playing time at age 32, but he should get another 300 or so plate appearances while also providing a veteran fallback option. And it’s possible his arrival clears the way for a trade.