Saturday, March 7, 2009

Beasts from the Far East: Wang and Matsui Revive Yankee Confidence

After a tumultuous 2009 season that saw the Yankees finish six games out of the Wild Card race, the Bronx called for change.

It is well documented that Brian Cashman gave $423.5 million in commitments to just three players in hopes of revitalizing the roster.

On Friday night, one of those investments gave a glimpse into the kind of performance that is to be expected of him this season.

CC Sabathia pitched two strong innings in his Yankee debut, and virtually went the entire outing without throwing a pitch outside of the strike zone. He also collected two strikeouts.

The “three-headed blank check” of Sabathia, Burnett, and Teixeira will undoubtedly play a major role in the success or failure of the Yankees this season. The uncertainties surrounding Alex Rodriguez have only added to the pressures they face.

Meanwhile, two players used to being at the center of the team’s core have gone somewhat unnoticed this spring.

The recent comebacks of Chien-Ming Wang and Hideki Matsui will be as important to the 2009 Yankees as the health of Alex Rodriguez.

Wang is a pitcher that has compiled a 46-15 record over the past three seasons, which represents a winning percentage of 75 percent. His heavy sinker is the perfect compliment to the flame-throwing of Sabathia and Burnett.

Matsui is a patient and disciplined hitting machine, collecting 100 RBI seasons in his sleep when healthy. He has arguably been the best clutch Yankee over the last six years.

Yankee supporters can find an excellent silver lining in Saturday’s spring training loss to the Braves. Wang and Matsui were a part of the same game for the first time since June 15 of last season.

Wang looked fantastic is his second start of the spring. His fastball had great life, and it was on a sharp downward plane all game long. Seven of the nine outs that he recorded were via a groundout or strikeout.

More importantly, Wang bounced off of the mound to field a bunt from the first batter of the game. He showed solid mobility, and shoveled the ball with his glove to Teixeira for the out.

Matsui’s day could be considered a success simply by his participation. However, he did show signs of his improving health.

With a runner on first in the fourth inning, Matsui was able to drive the ball through the right side of the infield. Though seemingly routine, this is a great sign for Yankee fans.

To drive an inside pitch to right field, Matsui is forced to rotate his hips and apply large amounts of torque to his knees.

It is this same torque that allows a hitter to generate power, something Matsui struggled with last season while attempting to play through injuries.

Sportswriters will continue to use names like Teixeira, Sabathia, Burnett, Rivera, Jeter, and Rodriguez ad nauseum for the duration of spring training.

Do not forget about the “beasts from the far east”, as the Yankee season may hinge on their success.

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