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The Yankees ended their six-game road trip on a strong note against two AL East rivals Sunday afternoon. The day after CC Sabathia’s near no-hitter A.J. Burnett pitched seven strong innings and Jorge Posada and Alex Rodriguez drove in two runs apiece to lead the Yankees over the Tampa Bay Rays 7-3.

Burnett allowed two runs and six hits as he earned his first win of the season. Burnett gave up singles to Jason Bartlett and Carl Crawford to start the game then limited Tampa Bay to four hits over the next six innings.

Joba Chamberlain pitched the eighth, allowing a RBI triple to Crawford. Mariano Rivera worked a scoreless ninth in a non-save situation.

Posada’s two-run homer off Randy Choate gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead in the sixth. Rodriguez doubled off the wall in left field to drive in two to make it 6-2 in seventh, and Nick Swisher added a solo homer in the eighth off Andy Sonnanstine.

In a note that Chad Jennings wrote on LoHud, Swisher made a split-second decision to bring his warm-up bat to the plate. That 34-oz bat is three ounces heavier than his regular bat. He promptly hit a home run.

Burnett, who walked three and struck out one, worked out of a jam in the sixth after the Rays loaded the bases, helped by Evan Longoria’s infield pop single that struck one of the catwalks in the domed stadium before falling to the field. Burnett improved to 12-4 lifetime against the Rays, including 6-2 in 11 starts at Tropicana Field. He was 4-0 with a 1.97 ERA in five starts against Tampa Bay last season.

Bartlett singled leading off the first, stole second and scored on Crawford’s single. Carlos Pena later grounded into a force play to drive home Crawford.

Curtis Granderson’s RBI double began New York’s comeback against Rays starter James Shields in the second inning. Granderson got two hits today to raise his season average to .348. The day after getting three hits in his last three ABs, Mark Teixeira went 0-4 on his birthday. Although Tex is having a slow start, the Yankees are fueled by Rodriguez and their new #5 hitter, Robinson Cano, who’s leading the team with a .360 average.

The Yankees are off tomorrow (again) before starting their homestand with their own Opening Day at Yankee Stadium. They will host the Los Angeles Angels and will present their players with their World Series rings. Present will be former Yankee Hideki Matsui, who is now a member of the Angels. He’ll more likely be greeted by the Yankee faithful for his World Series game six masterpiece.

Andy Pettitte will pitch the home opener against Ervin Santana. Pregame ceremonies will start at 12:15 and the game will start at 1:05 p.m.

(Photo above from the AP)

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Two nights ago the Yankees bullpen was simply awful. Chan Ho Park and his teammates allowed 4 runs on 6 hits and 2 walks in just 2.2 innings, blew a two-run lead and the game. Last night the combination of Alfredo Aceves, Damaso Marte, Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera shut down the Red Sox and led the Yankees to victory, 6-4 over the Sox.

Aceves threw two perfect innings on his way to the win. Marte retired the only batter he needed to, David Ortiz. Joba threw the ball better than he has in a long time. And Mo was Mo.

Joba was the biggest story tonight for the Yanks, especially after that shaky performance on Sunday. For this one night, he look a lot like the Joba of old. Maybe he wasn’t throwing as hard, but he was just as dominating. With the tying run on second base and one out in a noisy Fenway Park, Joba came in to strike out Adrian Beltre and J.D. Drew on nine pitches. Behind 2-1 in the count, Joba got Drew to swing and miss on back-to-back sliders to end the inning. Joba then threw in one of his fist pumps.

A.J. Burnett lasted just five innings. He made two major mistakes in the game, both to Victor Martinez. The first coming with the score tied in the 3rd when Martinez launched a two-run homer. Then, with the score now tied at three in the 5th, Martinez struck again with an RBI double. In five innings Burnett allowed 4 runs (3 earned) on 7 hits and a walk, and struck out 5.

Jon Lester was no better for Boston, although early on it looked like he would be. In 5 innings he allowed 4 runs on 5 hits, walked 3, and struck out 4.

Nick Swisher got the Yankees on the board with an RBI double. He’s now 3-for-7 on the young season and has looked very good.

Lester would hold the Yankees off the board for the next two innings and by the fifth they were finally able to break through. Curtis Granderson and Derek Jeter started the inning with back-to-back singles. Lester then loaded the bases for Mark Teixeira by hitting Nick Johnson with a pitch. Tex didn’t do much damage, but he hustled his way out of a DP and drove in the Yankees second run. Alex Rodriguez tied the game win a line drive RBI double into the left field corner. Robinson Cano then gave the Yankees the lead with a sac fly, and Cano had a solo homer in the ninth to give the Yankees an insurance run.

It took the Yankees four months to get their first win against the Sox last year. This year it took them only two days. Tonight they should go for their second victory over the Sox. Tonight should be another battle with Andy Pettitte facing former Angel, John Lackey as he makes his Boston debut. Game time is 7:10 p.m. and you can catch the game on YES and ESPN2.

A few things to think about and read about today while the Yankees play their last spring training game. Andy Pettitte took the ball in the game this afternoon.

  • New York Yankee Manager Joe Girardi made it official Thursday — Curtis Granderson will play center field and Brett Gardner left field.
  • Something to think about: Assume 12 pitchers, and assume Mariano Rivera, Joba Chamberlain, Damaso Marte, David Robertson, Alfredo Aceves and Chan Ho Park make the team. Who gets the last spot? Boone Logan? Sergio Mitre? Royce Rin
  • Both Jorge Posada and Francisco Cervelli are hurting as the regular season approaches. Today Mike Rivera started in the backstop, but Giardi is optimistic that both of them (and Damaso Marte, who is also experiencing tightness/soreness in his throwing arm) will be ready for the regular season.
  • A.J. Burnett was happy with his final spring start, especially the way he was able to use his new changeup.
  • This is one of those funky locker room moments between athletes. Pat Venditte autographed a ball for Curtis Granderson.
  • Murray Chass has penned his thoughts on the American League East.

It’s sunny in the northeast — enjoy your weather! Let’s hope it continues until Sunday!

The Yankees took some time Tuesday to enjoy a little team bonding sponsored by skipper Joe Girardi.  The team haded over to a video arcade this morning for a little fun and Girardi set up three competitions – Indy Racing, Skeeball and Pop-a-Shot (arcade basketball).

AJ Burnett took top honors in the racing, relief pitcher Andrew Brackman took the skeeball competition and minor league pitcher Royce Ring took the Pop-a-shot contest.  Mark Feinsand of the Daily News was the beat reporter who attended the games and took the following comment from Mark Teixeira about the day:

“The highlights were A.J. Burnett just smoking the field in the video game racing, and Royce Ring being probably the best Pop-A-Shot basketball player I’ve ever seen,” Teixeira said. “Those two were hands-down the best at those two events.”

Doing things like this is huge for team chemistry and is going to help with all the new additions on the team this year.  With virtually an entirely new bench and several new pitchers, keeping the same fun and light-hearted clubhouse feeling from last season is going to be crucial to repeating as world champs.

Last season the Yankees had a pool tournament which was won by Mariano Rivera.

One story that I enjoyed finding out about Yankee traditions is that Yogi Berra has his golf clubs shipped to Tampa. These clubs were at first stored in Joe Torre’s office. Now they’re in Joe Girardi’s office.

Guess who was at the camp today? None other than Yogi.

The Yanks had a bunch of bullpen sessions. Both Hughes and Chamberlain threw today. The aces of the team — Sabathia, Burnett, Pettitte, and Vazquez are all not pitching for a few days as to preserve their arm for a possible long season ahead of them.

Chad Jennings has photos and a summary of today’s workout. He reports that Pettitte feels good, even though he did the most innings since 2002, and Pettitte says it’s because the team was able to preserve the starters in September for the playoff run.

Enjoy the photos and the summary from Chad!

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