Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Thoughts after Yankees' Opening Day loss

A day off after Opening Day takes a little bit of the luster away from the new season beginning, but the New York Yankees have plenty to think about Tuesday after Monday’s loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Yanks are back at it Wednesday evening with Michael Pineda on the mound. Pineda, and Monday’s loser Masahiro Tanaka, can serve the Yankees well this season by making 30 starts apiece, something not many expect to happen.

Pineda looked magnificent this spring and the club hopes that carries over into his first start of the season. Tanaka and Pineda can feed off each other’s success, pushing to be heralded as the ace of the staff.

While Tanaka got the Opening Day start, it is Pineda who might become the leader of this group of pitchers, simply because he seems to be the only one who is not working on his repertoire. Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Nathan Eovaldi and Adam Warren are all dealing with how to best attack hitters; either by working on new pitches or trying to regain control of others. Pineda has his plan set and it was working just about all of last season and during Spring Training.

Is this the same offense?

Brett Gardner’s home run, Alex Rodriguez’s single to center and Brian McCann’s single down the first baseline were the only Yankees hits on the day. The team did not hit a lot of balls hard otherwise. Gardner and A-Rod looked the most comfortable at the plate, and that's saying something since the former put up miserable spring stats and the latter was playing in his first game that counted since September 25, 2013.

The Yankees had two, two-out threats during the game. The first was in the fourth when Mark Teixeira walked and then moved to third on McCann's single. Chase Headley grounded to second base to end the inning.

In the eighth, Teixeira stepped to the plate with Didi Gregorius and Carlos Beltran on second and first respectively. Teixeira didn’t get to do anything however, as Gregorius made a boneheaded decision to try and steal third base. He was out by a mile and took the Yankees out of any chance of building a rally.

The offense, which ranked 13th out of 15 in the American League in runs scored in 2014, is going to need to perform at a much better rate this season in order to remain competitive. The Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles all have potent offenses. The Yankees will have to take advantage of their pitching staffs if they want to contend for the division crown.

Fighting the shift

It was good to see McCann try to lay down a bunt when the infield shift was on during Monday’s game. The next time he came to the plate, the Blue Jays still employed it, but it was not as drastic. McCann's bunt attempt forced the Jays to remain honest.

This spring the Yankees worked on going the other way especially when leading off an inning, and I still say that if the pitch is on the outer half, the Yanks have to try to power the ball through the opening no matter the situation. I don’t believe that it is necessary to have to lay down a bunt, but if a batter finds that easier than adjusting his swing and it puts a runner on base, then so be it.

The bullpen looked sharp...mostly

One positive takeaway from Monday was the work done by the bullpen. They tossed five innings of one-run ball. The lone run was also courtesy of the only hit allowed by the relievers, a home run off Chasen Shreve, who might have been left in for one batter too many. Shreve, a lefty, faced four right-handers, retiring the first three without issue.

Chris Martin struck out three and David Carpenter worked retired all five batters he faced. Justin Wilson made things interesting in his first Yankees outing, walking three hitters, but Esmil Rogers came in to strikeout his only hitter to end the Jays’ eighth-inning threat.

With Tuesday’s off-day, it was wise for Girardi to get many of his bullpen guys some work, especially those who had yet to pitch at Yankee Stadium in pinstripes. Come Wednesday, all will be sufficiently rested, though if the Yankees have their way only Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances will be needed to close out their first victory of the season.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a correspondent for FantasyPros, where he writes a weekly column covering the closer/bullpen situations around Major League Baseball. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.