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02/23/2013 5:12 PM EST
Cano homers as Yankees beat Braves 8-3
NY YANKEES 8, ATLANTA 3

By PAUL NEWBERRY
AP Sports Writer

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) -- While a bunch of aging stars try to get
healthy, the New York Yankees have a chance to check out their
younger players at spring training.



Zoilo Almonte homered and threw out a runner from right field,
Francisco Cervelli began his pitch to win the catching job, and
David Phelps threw two scoreless innings as New York defeated
the bumbling Atlanta Braves 8-3 in its spring training opener
Saturday.



Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira were about the only big names
making the trip for the Yankees, with Derek Jeter, Alex
Rodriguez, CC Sabathia and Mariano Riviera among those still in
various stages of rehab.



"I'm never going to say that injuries are a good thing," New
York manager Joe Girardi said. "But this will give the kids a
chance to grow up a little bit."



Cano also homered for the Yankees, who took advantage of three
Atlanta errors and a passed ball. Freddie Freeman bobbled a
ground ball at first, new third baseman Chris Johnson missed a
popup near home plate, and second baseman Dan Uggla skipped a
throw on a routine grounder.



New York broke a scoreless tie in the third with four runs off
another Braves newcomer, Jordan Walden, though only one was
earned because of two errors. Still, it wasn't as if Walden
fooled anyone, surrendering a homer to Almonte on a 1-2 pitch
and a double to Eduardo Nunez. The Yankees' fourth run trotted
home on a wild pitch by the big right-hander, who took the loss.



The one bright spot for the Braves was Evan Gattis, trying to
win a job as a backup catcher and outfielder. He doubled to set
up Atlanta's first run, then drove a two-run homer halfway up
the left-field berm in the sixth, cutting the Yankees' lead to
5-3.



"It was definitely good to see live pitching again and be in
game situations," said Gattis, who quit baseball for several
years after high school, bouncing around the county doing odd
jobs and pursuing spiritual enlightenment.



New York put it away with a three-run seventh.



Phelps, who went 4-4 with a 3.34 ERA last season, is hoping to
claim a spot in the Yankees rotation. He gave up three hits but
earned the win, getting a lot of help from his teammates. In the
first, Almonte made a perfect throw to get Reed Johnson trying
to go from to third on a single. Cervelli ended the next inning
by throwing out Todd Cunningham trying to steal second base.



Phelps said the banged-up roster "is good to a certain extent."



"You'll get to see a lot of the younger guys," he said. "Look at
what happened last year. We had a lot of young guys, including
myself, come up and help the team out. You'll get a chance to
see more of the younger guys this spring - find out who they
are, how they play and what you can expect out of them."



Cervelli went hitless at the plate but knows his chances of
winning a starting job will largely be determined by his skills
behind the plate. He's also brought a new attitude to camp,
conceding he took it the wrong way when the Yankees demoted him
to Triple-A last season.



"My first two or three months in Triple-A were bad. There was a
lot of frustration," he said. "But little by little, I realized
that things happen for a reason - a positive reason."



His parents played a big part of the turnaround, traveling from
their native Venezuela to spend three weeks with their son when
he was at his lowest point.



"When your mind is not there, it's hard to put things together,"
Cervelli recalled. "But my family told me, `Hey, you came to the
States to play baseball. Be a man. Grow up and play some ball."'



NOTES: Atlanta starter Paul Maholm pitched two hitless innings.
The Braves appear to be setting up their rotation to have Kris
Medlen start on opening day, followed by Mike Minor, Tim Hudson,
Maholm and most likely Julio Teheran, who will start Sunday
against the Pirates in Bradenton. ... Adam Warren gets the start
in the Yankees' spring home opener Sunday, when they host the
Blue Jays in Tampa.



---



Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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