New York Yankees: Tampa Bay preview, unwanted baggage?

William Parlee
New York Yankees, Aaron Judge
USA Today

On Friday, the New York Yankees will take on the Tampa Bay Rays in a three-game set at Tropicana Field In Tampa, Florida, and they will be carrying on the plane with them some unwanted baggage. The baggage they will take with them is Aaron Judge, who, just five games into the season, appears to be injured again, a shortstop that already has two errors in his first six games, and a catcher that doesn’t always hustle.

There is a bunch of good and bad news for the Yankee fans to digest in this very young season. After two series, the Yankees have a .500 record. That is both good and bad. At least they haven’t lost 6 straight. In fact, no MLB team is without a win in the first week. But at the same time, the Yankees haven’t won 6 straight. We call the Sox the lowly Red Sox, yet they have the same record the Yankees do. But let’s be real, it’s only one week, and the Yankees are still tunning up, plus they are going to face a much weaker Tampa Bay Rays team the whipped their butts last season.

Let’s examine the good news first. The New York Yankee front office has to be mostly tickled with both the Yankee starters and relievers; they have pitched for the most part really well in the first six games. Some anxiety has been relieved as all the pitchers seem healthy and confident, which was a concern with three starters not having pitched in nearly two years. Domingo German was the only downer in his start, but there is likely nothing to worry about after a stellar spring training. This week Gerrit Cole was totally dominant in his second start throwing to Kyle Higashioka. Yesterday the last Yankee pitcher to start the season, Jameson Taillon, pitched really well, giving up two runs, striking out seven with no walks.

In the first full week of play, the Yankee bullpen has been excellent. Leading the pack is Jonathan Loaisiga; in four innings of relief, he hasn’t allowed a run while striking out 5 and not allowing a walk. In spring training, in 14 innings of work, he allowed 2 runs, striking out 11, walking two with an ERA of 1.26. Next is Luis Cessa, Chad Green, Micheal King, Nick Nelson, Darren O’Day, and Aroldis Chapman, who have not given up an earned run. The only blemish has been Lucas Luetge, who gave up 2 runs in one inning. But the Yankees are not worried about that as he was their second-best pitcher in spring training. In 10.1 innings, he struck out 18 hitters for an ERA of 1.74.

The bad news going into the Tampa Bay series isn’t yet horrible but is concerning. First, the New York Yankees will have to endure the Rays celebrating their division and ALCS win at their home Opening Day celebration at 3 pm on Friday. Baggage to be dealt with includes Aaron Judge. Will he be healthy enough to play? It was revealed Wednesday that he was suffering from left side soreness. Is it an oblique strain for just some soreness? Aaron Judge didn’t seem overly confident that Judge would be in the lineup Friday.

Another baggage they will be carrying is Gleyber Torres, who has committed two errors already in just six games. Gary Sanchez didn’t exactly show a lot of hustle yesterday either. It wouldn’t be an issue, except he has been criticized for lack of hustle several times before. In yesterday’s game, he got a ground ball that he gave up on and was called out at first, barely. But if you watched the tape, he was hardly running when he reached first. The rule is you run like Brett Gardner because you never know someone may drop the ball. As far as Torres is concerned, he made a bad throw that may have cost the Yankees the Orioles’ sweep. Torres has to start charging the ball to give himself more time to throw an accurate throw.

The last bit of baggage the Yankee hope they can leave behind is their lack of hitting with runners in scoring positions. In the first six games of the season, when the bat wasn’t always active, the Yankees went 12 for 51 with runners in scoring position. It’s tough to win games when you leave that many in scoring position. The Yankees have to find a way to hit more consistently, especially with men in scoring position.

Tomorrow the Yankee’s Corey Kluber will make his second start of the season; he will face the lefty Rich Hill. In Hill’s first outing, he gave up 4 runs for an ERA of 9.00. On Saturday, Domingo German will face Ray’s Chris Archer, who has had a horrible start this season. He has an ERA of 13.50, although he has pitched well against the Yankees before. The finale on Sunday will feature an unknown Ray facing Jordan Montgomery, who had an excellent start in his first outing in a game the Yankees won. 7-0.

Over the offseason, the Tampa Bay Rays got rid of two of their best pitchers. They let Charlie Morton walk to the Braves, and they traded away Blake Snell, their ace, to the Padres. On paper, the New York Yankees seem to have the edge on the Rays this season. During this meeting, the Yankee pitchers will have to watch out for Randy Arozarena, who created havoc with the Yankees last season, and Austin Meadows likes to homer off Yankee pitching, however this season he will face a very different rotation.

The game on Friday will be at 3:10 pm and will be broadcast on the YES Network and in Florida on the Bally Sports Sun Network, the old FoxSports. The games on Saturday and Sunday will be at 1:05 pm.