YANKEES 8, BRAVES 3
By PAUL NEWBERRY
KISSIMMEE, Fla. — While a bunch of aging stars try to get healthy, the New York Yankees have a chance to check out their younger players at spring training.
Zoilo Almonte homered and threw out a runner from right field, Francisco Cervelli began his pitch to win the catching job, and David Phelps threw two scoreless innings as New York defeated the bumbling Atlanta Braves 8-3 in its spring training opener Saturday.
Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira were about the only big names making the trip for the Yankees.
“I’m never going to say that injuries are a good thing,” New York manager Joe Girardi said. “But this will give the kids a chance to grow up a little bit.”
Cano also homered for the Yankees, who took advantage of three Atlanta errors and a passed ball. Freddie Freeman bobbled a ground ball at first, new third baseman Chris Johnson missed a popup near home plate, and second baseman Dan Uggla skipped a throw on a routine grounder.
New York broke a scoreless tie in the third with four runs off another Braves newcomer, Jordan Walden, though only one was earned because of two errors. Still, it wasn’t as if Walden fooled anyone, surrendering a homer to Almonte on a 1-2 pitch and a double to Eduardo Nunez. The Yankees’ fourth run trotted home on a wild pitch by the big right-hander, who took the loss.
The one bright spot for the Braves was Evan Gattis, trying to win a job as a backup catcher and outfielder. He doubled to set up Atlanta’s first run, then drove a two-run homer halfway up the left-field berm in the sixth, cutting the Yankees’ lead to 5-3.
“It was definitely good to see live pitching again and be in game situations,” said Gattis, who quit baseball for several years after high school, bouncing around the county doing odd jobs and pursuing spiritual enlightenment.
Atlanta starter Paul Maholm pitched two hitless innings. The Braves appear to be setting up their rotation to have Kris Medlen start on opening day, followed by Mike Minor, Tim Hudson, Maholm and most likely Julio Teheran, who will start today against the Pirates in Bradenton.