Fenway Park Awaits, Tanaka vs Lester in Game 1

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As the idle Yankees prepare for their three game showdown at Fenway Park, it gives us pause for a quick review of the 2014 campaign. After 19 games, the club holds first place in the division with an 11-8 record. Not too shabby considering that included series against the full slate of division rivals. We’re expecting a tight race, wire-to-wire in the East with everyone beating each other up to almost guarantee that a wild card team won’t be coming from this division.
THE ‘HIGH-PROFILE SIGNING’ GUYS : Passing grades on Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann. All have delivered as hoped, while McCann was late to the party with the bat, his work with the pitching staff as been as advertised. Tanaka looks like a battler, with poise and a nasty splitter that has lived up to it’s reputation.
PLEASANT SURPRISES : The pitching. Yangervis Solarte. The bench (Kelly Johnson, Dean Anna, and Scott Sizemore  — who’ll be back!).
Aside from the weekend meltdown in Tampa, the Yankees overall pitching has been better than expected. The “experts” projected a shaky starting rotation and questionable bullpen. Rotation anchor CC Sabathia has gotten off to a slow start with a 5+ ERA, and giving up 6 HRs in 26 innings (ESPN.com projects he’ll give up 251 home runs this season. Yeah, OK.). Hey, it’s still April. Let’s see where we are after global warming kicks in around June.  … Michael Pineda has so far proved doubters wrong with a string of strong outings, and Hiroki Kuroda just needs some run support and he’ll be fine.
The big hit to the rotation so far is Ivan Nova‘s injured elbow, sustained in the 16-1 mugging on Saturday in Tampa. Nova is scheduled for tests with Yankees Head Team Physician Christopher S. Ahmad, MD, and no word on when results will be made public.
With closer David Robinson‘s stint on the disabled list, David PhelpsAdam Warren and Shawn Kelly in particular have stepped up and are getting it done. Matt Thornton has been effective when called on, and we always have Dean Anna if an additional arm is needed.
The lineup has been a consistent threat with Ellsbury, Beltran, and the ageless Alfonso Soriano the most dependable at this point. But unless you were tuned in closely to Spring Training games, few saw Yangervis Solarte coming. The kid can rake! Not saying he’ll replace the former Yankees second-baseman’s power and reliability — but at this point in time, he is! What’s-his-name is batting .268 with 1 HR for the team that screwed us out of Cliff Lee a few years back. Solarte is killin’ it with .328, 7 doubles and .414 OBP.
YANKS -VS- SOX NOTES : Check out Chad Jennings (LoHud) article “Tanaka unfazed heading into Fenway debut” … The series also features Ellsbury’s return to Fenway Park in pinstripes. Crowd reaction should be interesting…
A FUN READ : The 50 Best Baseball Nicknames Ever. ‘Till mañana. Let’s Go Yan-kees!

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