April 03 , 2007


Yankees emotions run high


Associated Press/Bill Kostroun
Christopher Lidle, son of former New York Yankees pitcher Corey Lidle who passed away last year, throws out the ceremonial first pitch before the Yankees home opener against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays Monday.

AP Baseball Writer

NEW YORK — Jason Giambi began opening day with a lump in his throat and finished with a smile on his face.
Most of his teammates on the New York Yankees would say the same thing.
In an emotional season opener Monday, the Yankees honored Cory Lidle, welcomed back Bobby Murcer and beat the baby-faced Tampa Bay Devil Rays 9-5 for a satisfying start. Giambi and Alex Rodriguez came through with big hits, and New York even got a few encouraging innings from Carl Pavano.
Giambi, who hit a go-ahead single in the seventh for his third RBI, was a big part of the poignant pregame ceremonies. After a touching video tribute to Lidle, Giambi escorted the pitcher’s wife, Melanie, and 6-year-old son, Christopher, toward the mound before they threw out first pitches.
Lidle and Giambi were old friends and high school teammates. The 34-year-old right-hander was killed in a plane crash Oct. 11 in New York after finishing last season with the Yankees. His locker at Yankee Stadium will remain unoccupied all season, and the team is wearing black armbands on their jerseys in his memory.
“That was probably one of the single hardest things I’ve had to do in my life,” said Giambi, who also hit a two-run single.
Murcer, a longtime Yankees player and broadcaster who is fighting brain cancer, returned to the ballpark and received a huge ovation. He appeared in good spirits.
In addition, the team held a moment of silence for former star Hank Bauer and baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn, both of whom died recently.
“Everybody had a lump in their throat before the game,” manager Joe Torre said. “You couldn’t help but choke up.”
Another familiar Yankee, Bernie Williams, was missing at opening day for the first time since 1991.
The veteran outfielder and fan favorite declined the club’s offer of a minor league contract and never came to spring training. But he called Torre on Monday morning to wish him luck, then chatted with Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada.
With owner George Steinbrenner watching from his luxury suite behind home plate, the oft-injured Pavano pitched his first major league game since June 2005. Jeter hit a tying, two-run single and Rodriguez homered after making an early error to help the Yankees win their 10th straight home opener.
Elijah Dukes homered off Pavano in his first big league at-bat, and fellow Tampa Bay prospect B.J. Upton had two hits, an RBI and a stolen base. The Devil Rays, who fielded the youngest opening-day lineup since the 1983 Minnesota Twins, led 5-3 before Scott Kazmir and his bullpen faltered.
“I was just worrying about not being too amped-up,” Kazmir said. “You know, just overthrowing and stuff like that and I kind of fell into kind of being not as aggressive as I would like to be.”
Luis Vizcaino (1-0) worked a perfect seventh in his Yankees debut. Kyle Farnsworth tossed a scoreless eighth and Mariano Rivera struck out all three batters in the ninth.
Posada also homered for the Yankees, who have won 15 of their past 16 home openers and 21 of the last 24. Center fielder Johnny Damon left in the sixth with cramps in both calves. He hopes to play Wednesday.
Despite some sloppy defense behind him, Pavano took a 3-1 lead into the fifth before running into trouble. Carl Crawford’s RBI single tied it and Rocco Baldelli chased Pavano with a run-scoring single that put Tampa Bay ahead.
“I’m pleased, to an extent,” said Pavano, a free-agent bust since signing a $39.95 million, four-year contract with the Yankees before the 2005 season. “You just want to get out there and compete.”
In an ironic twist, Pavano was handed his unlikely opening-day assignment because several other Yankees pitchers got hurt this spring while he finally stayed healthy and on schedule. The right-hander allowed five runs — four earned — and six hits in 4 1-3 innings. After 73 pitches, he left to a mix of cheers and boos.
“He did well,” Steinbrenner said.
With the score tied at 5, Rodriguez opened the seventh with a hard shot that caromed off shortstop Ben Zobrist for a single. Rodriguez stole second and scored on Giambi’s single off Brian Stokes (0-1).
Bobby Abreu added an RBI single off Ruddy Lugo in the eighth and Rodriguez hit a two-run shot to left-center, making it 9-5. He came out for a curtain call.
Notes: Lidle’s parents and twin brother also stood near the Yankees’ dugout during the pregame tribute. The family stayed for the game and watched from a suite. ... The average age of players in Tampa Bay’s lineup was 24.79. ... Jeter committed one of New York’s three errors.



Debuting Cortland optimistic

Staff Writer

A mix of returnees and newcomers and their respective talents has Cortland High softball coach Mick Lowie cautiously optimistic about the 2007 season, which starts this afternoon when the Purple Tigers visit Fulton.
“The key to success for any softball team is pitching,” Lowie said, “and we’re in better shape than last year, Natalie Mieras is back as a senior and made a great deal of improvement last year. She’s where she was when we finished last season, or better. She throws strikes, and throws harder. I think she’ll be fine.”
Cortland went 1-15 in the OHSL Freedom Division and 1-18 overall a eyar ago.
“(Newcomer) Maggie Reagan throws well for a freshman, and (junior) Jamilla Fort also throws strikes,” added Lowie, Fort earning the team’s lone mound win last year. “She probably doesn’t throw as hard as the other two, but she has a natural curve that really breaks. Overall, we’re going to make other teams swing the bat.”
All three pitchers are right-handers.
The corners of the infield will be anchored by a pair of returning seniors, with second-team all-leaguer Brittany Babcock (.290, three doubles, three triples) at first and Chelsea Snyder (.283, two triples, five RBIs) at third. Also back are seniors Heather Tier (outfield-catcher) and Lauren DiLucci (outfield), plus junior outfielder-catcher Lauren Shirley. Babcock and Snyder are this year’s captains.
New to the team, in addition to Regan, are junior outfielder Regina Montez and sophomores Melanie DelRosario (shortstop), Taylor Foster (catcher, and possibly the starter, according to Lowie), Kayleigh Mital (infield/outfield), Kaleigh Smith (outfield), Megan Turco (first base-outfield), Andrea Turcsik (second base-shortstop) and Alena Turturro (outfield-utility). All of the newcomers are up from last year’s junior varsity team.
“I’m very encouraged with how athletic the new players are,” said Lowie, who noted that even indoors the team was facing live pitching and he was also encouraged by the way they hit the ball. “Certainly several will start, and a lot of them will play quite a bit.”
The key loss from last year’s squad was catcher Rose Dovi, a first-team all-leaguer last season, when she led the Purple Tigers in hitting (.414 average), RBIs (11), runs (15), doubles (five) and triples (four) while also hitting the team’s only home run of the season. Dovi was a tri-captain of the 2006 team along with utility player Megan Eves and second baseman Sarah Chantrell. Shortstop-pitcher Bethanne Barber (.237, five RBIs) was an honorable-mention all-league pick.