Opening Day Blues
If A-Rod is the best they got Yanks are in trouble
By Rich Mancuso
BRONX, NEW YORK, APRIL 7- There were no remaining members of the “Core Four” at Yankee Stadium Monday afternoon. Derek Jeter was not spotted in the house for the first time in 20 years. But Alex Rodriguez returned and there was the unexpected fan reaction that said all was forgiven for A-Rod. The unfortunate result was the same that was seen last season in the Bronx as the Yankees got off to a bad start with a 6-1 loss to Toronto,
And there was Masahiro Tanaka on the mound which paved the way for more questions. The velocity from his fastball did not do the job. The five runs, four earned, and a two-run home run in the third inning off the bat of Edwin Encarnacion was too much to overcome. More so, the manager Joe Girardi was not concerned that there was anything wrong with the recurring issue of a right elbow that will be monitored each time he takes the mound.
The right elbow will continue to be a question and each pitch will be monitored. It has been a concern since last July when the inflammation was detected, and If the Yankees do not have an effective Tanaka they could be one arm short than they need.
“There is nothing wrong with him,” Girardi said. “The first two innings he looked pretty good.” However, the Yankees need more than 4.0 innings from Tanaka and he will be watched and monitored more and more during his next start Sunday evening against the Red Sox.
Tanaka got out of the third inning with 54 pitches and Girardi did say there were “a lot of bad counts.” That is usually a sign that something may be wrong, but Girardi even during his pre game meeting with the media was putting a quick end to any reports that a diminishing fastball was a cause for concern about a partial tear of the ligament in his right elbow.
This was the first game of a long season. The struggles of Tanaka, the Yankees failure to get the hits and drive in runs was so reminiscent of last season. That single for Rodriguez to right center in the fifth inning, his first since September 22 of 2013, drew a nice ovation from the 48,469 fans that sold out opening day in the Bronx and it was the second hit of the day off Blue Jays starter Drew Hutchison.
“I think we live in a forgiving society overall,” commented Girardi when asked about the reaction Rodriguez received. “We live in a society that gives people second and third chances, fourth, fifth. I’ve seen it with some of the players when I was here early who had a lot of chances and came back.”
Girardi inserted Rodriguez in the lineup as the designated hitter. The manager said he will give him an opportunity to play the field and perhaps then it will be known how effective Rodriguez will be. The Yankees need Rodriguez to be a cog in the lineup, and of course a good spring on the field and a new attitude helped to get the fans back in his corner. The controversy for now seems to be a thing of the past.
“I have to admit, it definitely felt good," said Rodriguez. "That's for sure. I have a lot of love for the city of New York, especially our fans. "But let's make it clear the fans don't owe me anything. I've said all along during spring training, the part of feeling like a rookie is I have to earn their cheers and their respect."
Yes his looks were good at the plate, and Rodriguez batted seventh in the order. But the Yankees had silent bats again and on Opening Day they hoped for different results. And newcomer Didi Gregorius took responsibility for an attempted steal of third with two men on and two outs in the eighth inning.
The botched attempt to steal came at a wrong time, a bad decision that Girardi could not comprehend. That was a minor part of this first Yankees loss of the new season with 161 games left to play, and of course the old baseball expression is tomorrow is another day.
This day though, with Tanaka on the mound and Alex Rodriguez back on the field did not go the Yankees way.
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