Cano's homer helps Yankees win Grapefruit League openerBombers hit two long balls in 8-3 win over Braves
The Yankees' "opening" lineup featured a mix of regulars, reserves, and prospects, with Almonte, Melky Mesa, and Matt Diaz in the outfield, shortstop Eduardo Nunez and third baseman Corban Joseph flanking Cano and Mark Teixeira in the infield, Austin Romine behind the plate and Juan Rivera serving as the designated hitter.
Almonte's third-inning homer, which came off former Angels closer Jordan Walden, opened the scoring after Mesa had reached on an error.
The Yankees added two more in the inning on a run-scoring ground out by Teixeira and a wild pitch from Walden to take a 4-0 lead.
The Braves countered with a run off the 2012 Eastern League wins leader Brett Marshall in the bottom of the fourth, but Cano's solo homer off Yohan Flande in the fifth pushed the lead back to four. The Yankees' final three runs came in the seventh, when second baseman Jose Pirela, who was 2-for-2 after entering for Cano in the sixth, singled in Dan Johnson before Romine hit a two-out, two-run single to cap the scoring.
On the mound, David Phelps got the starting nod and pitched two innings, allowing three hits but avoiding trouble in the first when Almonte threw out Reed Johnson as Johnson tried to go from first to third on a Freddie Freeman single.
Marshall followed, allowing just one run on one hit while striking out two in his two innings. Nik Turley, Mikey O'Brien, Kelvin Perez, Brandon Pinder and Chase Whitley all pitched an inning apiece.
For the Braves, Paul Maholm started and was nearly perfect in his two innings, but the Yankees victimized Walden in the third and Daniel Rodriguez in the seventh for seven of their eight runs. Atlanta's hitting stars were Freeman (2-for-3, one run scored) and DH Evan Gattis (2-for-3, two RBIs, one run scored), who doubled in the fourth to set up Atlanta's first run and hit a two-run homer in the sixth off Perez.
With their first Grapefruit game behind them, the Yankees can now look forward to Sunday's contest, which is both their home opener and YES Network debut. The Bombers will host the new-look Toronto Blue Jays at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, with coverage set to begin at 1 p.m.