- Wallace Matthews, ESPN Staff Writer
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TAMPA, Fla. -- The New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers played to a 7-7 standoff, the home team climbing out of the 6-0 hole starter Hiroki Kuroda left them in after four innings to tie it up on Zoilo Almonte's ninth-inning, two-run homer.
But if the game will be remembered at all, it will be for this: It was the first game at The Boss in which a Yankees manager exerted his right to challenge a call under baseball's new replay rule.
It happened in the seventh inning when Tigers second baseman Devon Travis bobbled Brian Roberts' grounder but recovered to nip Roberts at first by a half step. Joe Girardi, who had not used a challenge all game, asked the umpires to take a second look, even though he already knew what the result would be.
"I thought he was out, but I wasn't sure," Girardi said.
It took mere seconds for the umpires to confirm what the manager already knew. Roberts was out. And in truth, all Girardi really needed to do was ask Roberts, not the umpires.
"He did not ask me," Roberts said. "I would have told him no. I appreciate the effort, though."
Girardi, though, was trying out the manager's new toy while he still had the chance.
"I still had my challenge and we're through six innings, so I had nothing to lose, in a sense," he said. "You can't store it. It's not like vacation days. So I used it."
But would Girardi have challenged a similar play in a regular game? "Probably not," he said.
Interestingly, it was not Roberts' first time involved in a historic Yankees moment; he made the last out of the last game at the old Yankee Stadium on Sept. 21, 2008. "Jam shot to first off Mariano Rivera," he said. "Like a lot of at-bats against Mariano Rivera."
Road warrior: The Yankees have split-squad games Thursday, one at home against the Orioles and one in Clearwater against the Phillies. Girardi is remaining in Tampa to watch Michael Pineda start against Baltimore, and also for a very practical reason: He still needs to pack for the team's trip to Panama. The Yankees are leaving on a charter flight at 6 p.m. Thursday.
In his stead, Girardi is sending his bench coach, Tony Pena, to manage the squad that will play behind Ivan Nova in Clearwater. Pena is also going to Panama, and will have to rush back to pack, but that is just one of the differences between being the bench coach and being the manager.
Third-base coach Rob Thomson will manage the Yankees who remain in Tampa for the three games that will be played here over the weekend.
Mark of Zoilo: In addition to his game-tying home run, Almonte also had a single. His spring average is .389. Yangervis Solarte's hot spring continues; he had a hit to raise his average to .622. The magnificently named Zelous Wheeler, whom Girardi refers to as "Wheels," pulled the Yankees to within a run with a two-run, ground-rule double in the eighth. Once again, the Yankees' bullpen performed well. Seven relievers (Chase Whitley, Shawn Kelley, Jose Campos, Fred Lewis, Danny Burawa, Robert Coello and Yoshinori Tateyama) held the Tigers to three hits and one unearned run over the final 6 1/3 innings.
Get used to it, Cap: A sight we are likely to see replayed throughout the season? Derek Jeter's teammates asking him for autographs in the clubhouse, much as they did with Rivera last season. Today, it was Matt Thornton's turn to get the Captain's John Hancock on a baseball. Who will it be tomorrow?
2dDanny Knobler, Special to ESPN.com
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