Craig mentioned earlier how Joe Girardi’s over-managing in the first inning resulted in Carlos Pena hitting a grand slam against CC Sabathia. Well, Pena wasn’t doing playing hero in his first game back in Tampa Bay.
The Yankees actually rallied back from the early deficit, handing the ball to all-time saves leader Mariano Rivera with a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the ninth. However, he quickly gave up a single to Desmond Jennings and a triple to Ben Zobrist to erase the lead. Girardi then called for back-to-back intentional walks to Evan Longoria and Luke Scott to load the bases and set up the force play. Rivera was able to get Sean Rodriguez swinging for the first out of the inning, but then Pena hit a long fly ball to left field which Brett Gardner let fall for the game-winning hit. It was a 7-6 walk-off win for the Rays in a thrilling opener.
Couldn’t imagine a better homecoming for Pena, but something tells me we’ll get at least a couple “Is Mariano Finally Done?” columns on our doorstep tomorrow. Suckers.
Free agent right-hander Ervin Santana picked up a minor league deal with the White Sox, according to various reports Friday. Per Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com, Santana will make $4.33 million if he manages to crack the major-league roster this spring. Any official confirmation from the team is still dependent on the results of a physical.
The veteran righty hasn’t seen any action in MLB for some time. He was laid low by prolonged discomfort in his right middle finger last spring, and underwent a capsular release/debridement procedure that kept him off the mound for all but 24 2/3 innings of his 2018 campaign with the Twins. When healthy, however, he’s been as durable and productive as they come. Santana earned his second career All-Star distinction in 2017 and pitched to a 16-8 record in 33 starts with three shutouts, a 3.28 ERA, 2.6 BB/9, 7.1 SO/9, and 2.9 fWAR through 211 1/3 innings.
Barring further complications with his pitching hand, the 36-year-old should be a stabilizing force for the White Sox’ rotation in 2019 — assuming he can beat out southpaw Manny Bañuelos and right-handers Jordan Stephens and Dylan Covey for a back-end role, that is. According to FanGraphs, the club’s starters ranked worst in the league in 2018 with a collective 5.07 ERA, 5.18 FIP, and 3.1 fWAR.