CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) — Curtis Granderson and most every hitter at Bright House Field could tell this would be a fun day.
Granderson homered and doubled as the New York Yankees won their exhibition opener, beating the Philadelphia Phillies 8-5 Saturday.
Granderson, who hit a team-high 41 home runs last season to go alongside an American League-best 119 RBIs, said this homer was aided by the wind.
In batting practice, he said, “we were watching the ball just fly out of the ballpark.”
“As long as you put a decent swing on it, you had a chance. But the approach and everything was good,” he said.
Said Yankees manager Joe Girardi: “He’s just picking up where he left off last year.”
The teams combined for four home runs, a triple and seven doubles.
Hunter Pence’s two-run homer gave the thousands of red-clad fans something to cheer about in the first inning.
Pence, who joined the Phillies from the Houston Astros prior to the trade deadline in July, deposited a pitch from Ivan Nova into the berm, the picnic-area-like seating beyond the center field fence. The majority of the announced, sold-out crowd of 10,539 gave their approval with a hearty applause for the first home run of the spring.
“It’s exciting, Day One of spring training, just to get out there, have some at-bats and go play some baseball,” Pence said.
Kevin Frandsen also homered for the Phillies.
Right-hander Jonathan Papelbon pitched a 1-2-3 fifth inning in his Phillies debut. The All-Star closer left the Boston Red Sox as a free agent in November, signing a four-year, $50 million contract with the Phillies.
The Yankees made it 6-2 with a three-run seventh inning. After Chris Dickerson doubled and Dewayne Wise tripled, Cole Garner homered off new Phillies reliever Chad Qualls.
Both teams got encouraging performances from their starting pitchers.
Cole Hamels, the longest-tenured starter on the Phillies staff of All-Star aces, gave up a run on two doubles in the first inning. But in his second and final inning of work, Hamels set down three of the four hitters he faced.
“With spring training, it’s nice to get the opposing team in there and you really get to see what you’re all about and how much shape you’re in and if you’re able to execute pitches on certain counts,” Hamels said. “That’s the main part, just getting out there and into pitching shape.”
Nova had a start similar to Hamels. He allowed Pence’s home run, but retired five of his final six batters in two innings of work. The start was the first for Nova since being pulled from Game 5 of the AL division series with a strained right flexor.
“I feel really good right now,” Nova said. “I feel 100 percent.”
NOTES: Matthew Smith was holding up a poster of photos of his son, Steven Smith, during batting practice and was invited down to the Yankees dugout by Girardi. Steven Smith, a Yankees fan from Scotch Plains, N.J., and a broadcaster for the Double-A Bowie Baysox, was killed in a car accident on the New York State Thruway in December 2010. He was 24. Steven Smith was buried with a Yankees jersey under his suit. It was the first game attended by the father since his son’s death, because he said it would have been too emotional to be at the ballpark last year. Matthew Smith and his wife moved to Clearwater four months ago. “We got the message that maybe a fresh start is the best thing,” he said. Girardi took the poster, which read “PLEASE REMEMBER STEVEN E. SMITH 2/28/86-12-14-10 SPORTS BROADCASTER DIE HARD YANKEES FAN” and planned to have the team autograph it before returning it. Reggie Jackson and Nick Swisher were among those who spoke with Smith. “I just thought it would be nice to bring him out,” Girardi said. “He’s been through a lot in the last year-and-a-half. You can never imagine what people are going through when something like that happens.” … Yankees DH Raul Ibanez made his Yankees debut against his old team, hitting a double and driving in a run. Ibanez signed with New York last month after spending each of the last three season with the Phillies. Ibanez received a warm reception from the Phillies fans before his first-inning at-bat. “My time in Philadelphia — I always say it was nothing short of extraordinary, just an amazing organization with great people, tremendous fans,” Ibanez said. “I’m glad to be able to come back and say hello.” … New York RHP Freddy Garcia will start the Yankees spring home opener against the Phillies on Sunday. … Philadelphia 2B Chase Utley did not start on Saturday and won’t make the trip to Tampa on Sunday when the Phils play the Yankees again. Utley missed the first seven weeks of last season with right knee tendinitis and Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said he was “in no hurry to play” him. … Phillies 3B Placido Polanco, who had double sports hernia surgery in October, also sat out Saturday after resting in Wednesday’s exhibition against Florida State, too. But Polanco said he expects to play on Monday. . Two-time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay will make his spring debut against the New York Yankees on Sunday in Tampa.