USA TODAY Sports
It was a loss in the Grapefruit League, but a win in the league of life, as Jeter and Rivera successfully returned to the Yanks while Jose Ramirez impressed on the mound.
The big story of the day was Mariano Rivera's announcement of his planned retirement following this season, but it was also both his and Derek Jeter's first time back in game action since their injuries last year. Jeter kicked off his game with a typical line drive single to the opposite field on the first pitch from Mike Minor, prompting a rousing ovation. Most of the game was carefree and enjoyable for the Yanks, as they got to watch pitching prospect Jose Ramirez dazzle in four innings of one-hit, four-strikeout shutout ball.
Ramirez's pitching impressed everyone, including YES broadcaster David Cone and manager Joe Girardi. FanGraphs writer Marc Hulet noted that Ramirez had some "easy 95 mph velocity," making it a "killer change of pace" from his already-potent changeup. He has not allowed a run in nine Spring Training innings now; in fact, only five batters have even reached base against him. Baseball-Reference's new OppQual stat shows that hitters facing him were around the major-league level in his previous two appearances. Since he started this game facing a Braves lineup that had only two players without big-league experience, that OppQual will stay about the same. The bottom line is that the 23-year-old has really opened some eyes this Spring following a strong season in High-A Tampa. The Yankees will have to keep a close eye on him as he develops further in Double-A Trenton.
Mo made his Spring debut the next inning, and it was about what one would expect from Rivera. In a stress-free, 1-2-3 inning, he got Dan Uggla to pop up to second base and struck out Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson on cutters that stayed over the plate.
The offense was kept in check by Minor, Luis Avilan, and Anthony Varvaro, who combined to shut them out through six innings. Players receiving days off today included Francisco Cervelli, Brett Gardner, and Kevin Youkilis. Joba Chamblerain and his creepy mustache (#JobaStacheMustGo) followed Mo by retiring the side in order, but the Braves rallied for a run against LOOGY candidate Francisco Rondon.
Righty Tylor Pastornicky tripled against Rondon with one out in the seventh, and a couple at-bats later, Uggla drove him home with a broken-bat single to center. For what it's worth, Rondon did retire all three lefties he faced in that inning (Jordan Schaefer, Freddie Freeman, and Juan Francisco). The Yankees might take him or Josh Spence on the Opening Day roster if the injuries afflicting lefty relievers Boone Logan and Clay Rapada drag on for awhile.
Ronnier Mustelier tried to spark something in a pinch-hit appearance with two outs in the seventh by lining a triple to right-center field off Dusty Hughes. Travis Hafner walked, but possible outfield candidate Thomas Neal struck out to end the threat. Reliever Cody Eppley tossed a scoreless frame with two strikeouts in the eighth, then Jim Miller came on to pitch the ninth. Schaefer led it off with long ground-rule double to right field, and he eventually came around to score on a sacrifice fly in which Slade Heathcott's throw from center field was slightly off the target.
A ninth-inning rally against Braves reliever Alex Wood on a couple weak singles and an error brought Neal up with the bases and one out with the tying run at second. He grounded out to finally put the Yanks on the board. The game came to an end on the next at-bat when Addison Maruszak bounced back to the mound.
In other, minor news, the Yankees cut two pitchers from camp today--Kelvin Perez and Tom Kahnle. Even though the latter tossed a pair of scoreless innings, it is not surprising since Kahnle has only pitched one game above A-ball. Perez, however, pitched poorly. As Tanya tweeted, "These are the tough and fair consequences of making the Cardinals announcers yell and scream more, Perez."