Andruw homers in first at-bat with Yanks
Signed as a threat against southpaws, slugger wastes no time
NEW YORK -- In his prime with the Atlanta Braves, Andruw Jones used to come into seasons realistically expecting to belt at least 30 homers and drive in 100 runs, playing in 150 or more games.
At this stage of his career, Jones is carrying more tempered expectations. Signed by the Yankees to provide a power threat against left-handed pitching, the 33-year-old contributed with his first crack in Tuesday's 5-4 loss, homering off the Twins' Brian Duensing.
"It feels good, getting the first hit and the first home run out of the way right away," Jones said. "You settle yourself down a little bit and just let the game come to you. If you look around, we're doing our jobs. We've just got to keep pushing."
Jones became the 13th Yankees player in the post-expansion era (since 1961) to homer in his first at-bat with the team. Curtis Granderson last did it on April 4, 2010, at Fenway Park.
Jones hit .230 with 19 homers and 48 RBIs in 107 games for the White Sox last season, though he posted a .931 OPS against left-handed pitching, hitting .256 (22-for-86) with eight homers and 23 RBIs against lefties.
"If you look at what he did against left-handers last year, he's extremely productive," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said before the game. "He's got a lot of power in his bat, and he stole some bases [nine]."
Taking over the role that Marcus Thames filled last season for the Yankees as a masher to threaten lefties, Jones said that his main objective for 2011 is to stay consistent offensively.
"You keep working on things you need to work on to stay focused and have a good approach going to the plate," Jones said. "I think through the years, going out there and playing every day was different. You knew if you don't get it done today, you're going to be in the lineup tomorrow, so you can do it tomorrow.
"Knowing you're not going to be in the lineup tomorrow, you've got to wake up one more day and make a difference."
Jones hasn't hit above .270 since he was on the Braves in 2003, one of his five All-Star seasons, but he said that he is using that number as one of his goals for 2011.
"If it's .270, .280, that's good," Jones said. "I just make sure I'm driving the runs in when there's people on base. I think that will be fine."
With Jones wedging into the lineup as the left fielder, Girardi allowed Brett Gardner -- with two hits in 15 at-bats coming in -- to take the evening off, though he later entered as a defensive replacement and went 0-for-1 to lower his average to .175.
Girardi said that Curtis Granderson might get the day off Thursday, when Jones plays against Minnesota lefty Francisco Liriano.
"The one thing you want to do is you want to get Andruw Jones going the way we did last year with Marcus," Girardi said. "We put Marcus in there against lefties early. We believe that both of our lefties, [Gardner and Granderson], can hit lefties, but you don't want a guy to go two weeks without playing."
Inconsistent Soriano expects better
NEW YORK -- The early returns on Rafael Soriano's first three appearances as Mariano Rivera's new bridge are in, and they show two good outings and one awful one.
Before Tuesday's four-run appearance, which wasted a terrific start by ace CC Sabathia, Soriano had expressed to reporters that his arm was not yet feeling in midseason shape.
"I feel good and ready to pitch," Soriano said. "I don't feel like my fastball is 100 percent. I get people out. That's the good part."
According to brooksbaseball.net, which analyzes PitchF/X data, Soriano's velocity maxed out at 92 mph on Monday, with his average fastball speed just a tick below 91 mph. He had similar numbers on Tuesday, maxing out at 93 mph but averaging 90.
Soriano said that he warned Yankees manager Joe Girardi that might happen because of the colder April weather in New York.
"When I come here in April, I don't feel 100 percent," Soriano said. "The fastball is not what it will be in May or something like that. I told the manager, 'Right now, you're going to see 88, 90, 92, 91. The last three years, I do it like that.'"
Pitch velocity has been a topic in the Yankees' clubhouse; right-hander Phil Hughes also wasn't able to get his fastball above 91 mph in his first start on Sunday, hovering mostly around 87-89 mph.
For Soriano, who saved 45 games for the Rays last season to lead the American League and scored a three-year, $35 million contract, coming in for the eighth inning has been a change of pace.
"It's different, but the hitters are the same," Soriano said. "You've got to be careful anyway, because the hitters are the same. If I don't do my job in the eighth, they're paying me to set up for Mariano. To me, it's important."
Chill in the air, Yanks won't overwork CC
NEW YORK -- As CC Sabathia walked off the mound to an ovation after working his half of the seventh inning on Tuesday, the Yankees' ace was sure his workload was complete for the evening.
Sabathia was at 104 pitches and had retired the final 17 Twins batters he faced, allowing just two hits, but the calendar was not in his favor to go back out there for the eighth inning.
"I know [manager] Joe [Girardi] and how he is," Sabathia said. "It's early in the season, and he's trying to protect us. I kind of had a feeling that was my last inning."
The Yankees' manager backed up that thought process when Sabathia got to the dugout, though it didn't work out, as the Bombers allowed four runs in the eighth and went on to lose, 5-4, in 10 innings.
"At this point in the season, he's over 100 pitches," Girardi said. "You have to be smart about him. We have a long ways to go -- this isn't August or September, this is early April. It's very cold, and you have to be smart about it."
Sabathia said he was pleased with his own part of the outing, in which he walked one and struck out six. The Twins didn't do any damage against Sabathia after Jason Kubel and Danny Valencia stroked one-out hits in the second inning.
"I just felt pretty good," Sabathia said. "I was trying to pound the strike zone and use both sides of the plate, and get ahead.
"I threw the ball a lot better today. My offspeed pitches were pretty good. I'm still struggling with my changeup a little bit, so we'll work on that in the bullpen."
Sabathia said his arm felt fine after seven innings, but he didn't toy with the idea of putting up a fight and campaigning for the eighth inning.
"What's the point of arguing?" Sabathia said. "When he makes the decision, that's what it is. That's what I like about Joe."
Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano and Derek Jeter received their 2010 Rawlings American League Gold Glove Awards in a pregame ceremony on Tuesday. ... On Monday, Ivan Nova became the first Yankees rookie to win a start in the team's first four games since Al Leiter did so in 1988, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. ... The Yankees used the same defensive alignment and starting lineup for the first four games of the season, marking the first time they had done so since 1987. ... Tuesday's paid attendance of 40,267 was the lowest announced in the brief history of the new Yankee Stadium, edging Monday's announced attendance of 40,311. ... With his 2,929th career hit on Tuesday, Jeter surpassed Al Simmons for sole possession of 35th place on baseball's all-time list. Jeter is 3-for-18 (.167) this year.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.