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News » New York Yankees Inside Pitch 2009-05-12

New York Yankees Inside Pitch 2009-05-12

New York Yankees Inside Pitch 2009-05-12
Not many people would have expected the Yankees to be staring up at the Blue Jays in the middle of May. The next three days, when the teams face off in Toronto, could indicate whether the standings are just an early season quirk or a sign of things to come.

The Blue Jays (22-12) will get to find out how they stack up against the AL East; they've played only three games thus far against divisional opponents. The Yankees (15-16) have plenty of reason to feel as if they are somewhere near full strength for the first time this year.

The return of third baseman Alex Rodriguez on Friday would seem to be somewhat negated by the absence of catcher Jorge Posada, once again one of the best-hitting backstops in the game when he went on the disabled list with a hamstring strain last Tuesday. Still, Rodriguez's homer on his first swing Friday is one more than place-holders Cody Ransom, Angel Berroa and Ramiro Pena produced in 98 at-bats.

Johnny Damon is also doing his best to minimize the impact of Posada's absence. With nine homers, 25 RBI and a .610 slugging percentage, Damon is on pace to shatter his previous highs in those categories. While he may not remain on pace for 50 homers and 138 RBI, playing half his games at the hitter-friendly new Yankee Stadium makes a career season quite possible, even at age 35. Damon is hitting .358 with six homers, 13 RBI and a .755 slugging percentage at the new park.

Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher and Melky Cabrera also have exceeded expectations, while struggling first baseman Mark Teixeira is a noted warm-weather hitter (his career average before May 1 is .249 but .294 afterward).

The bullpen is still in tatters, with Hall of Fame-bound closer Mariano Rivera (four homers allowed) slow to round into form after offseason shoulder surgery and only rookie left-hander Phil Coke distinguishing himself in a setup role.

But CC Sabathia was dominant in a four-hit shutout of the Orioles on Friday, giving the Yankees reason to hope he is ready to bust out like he did for the Indians last May. A.J. Burnett, who will start Tuesday night's series opener, and Andy Pettitte have pitched into the sixth inning nine times in 12 starts while Joba Chamberlain has recovered from rough first innings in each of his last two starts to strike out 17 batters.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: May 12, 2009

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