Today was the official start of spring training for the Yankees as pitchers and catchers officially report. Manager Joe Girardi held the state of the Yankees press conference today, giving his initial thoughts on the team for the start of camp. He expressed the all his concerns and expectations for the spring, while giving updates on various players. Most of team does not report till February 26, a lot of the young players are already in Tampa getting in as much work as possible.
As expected a bulk of the questions were related to the soon to be 40-year-old slugger Alex Rodriguez. He said that you can’t put expectations on what kind of numbers to expect from Alex, he needs will need the majority of spring training to get his timing down and get back into the feel of the game. Regarding where he will play, Girardi says he’s going to be DHing most the time, but he will talk to him about possibility of playing first base. He wants to have that conversation with him in person. But Joe did acknowledge that A-Rod will probably have to earn his playing time, He’s on our roster, but you have to prove yourself in the sense of playing time,” Girardi said. “We haven’t seen him play in two years.” This shouldn’t be a problem, A-Rod expressed he is willing to help the team however he can.
The rotation seemed to be the biggest concern, Girardi wants to cement down who will be starting and where. Masahiro Tanaka has been throwing, including a side session today and 21-pitch bullpen yesterday. Tanaka says he feels great, better than he did at the end of last year. Girardi believes he is healthy and they are going approach it as a normal spring. Nathan Eovaldi came up as someone Girardi is also excited about, he feels he has legitimate upside and if you look at the rotation right now, he probably is the only definite piece in the rotation you could count on from a health aspect. The topic of a six man rotation did come up, and the team is still discussing it. It is a possibility we could see a sixth starter at the beginning of the season. Again it will all be ironed out as camp rolls on.
The bullpen looks to be the teams biggest strength, while they haven’t named the closer yet, seems Girardi is leaning towards Dellin Betances. Andrew Miller could be used in situational saves, but by the end of camp I’m sure we will know who’s in what roles. That includes all the new arms acquired this off-season.
Didi Gregorius is slated to the shortstop, a huge role to fill replacing the Derek Jeter. Girardi said Didi just has to be himself and not worry about being someone he’s not. His defense isn’t an issue, but hopefully he will show some upside with the bat. Move around the diamond, Stephen Drew will be at second but Jose Pirela and Rob Refsynder will be there pushing Drew and showing what the future holds.
Girardi also said this could be the most competitive camp he’s been involved with. All the young talent this spring and veterans fighting for jobs and secondary roles. He also said that you need to have thick skin if you’re a member of the Yankees. All the media this spring will have the new faces right in the mix. Joe said the “new players who are here who aren’t used to this, they are going to get it right away. They are going to get baptized very quickly.”
For the veterans and the older guys like A-Rod, CC Sabathia, Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira rest is something Girardi will keep in mind this year. We know the injury bug has stricken this team the last few years, but its something all teams deal with. Finally Girardi was asked about the expectations for 2015. He said they expect to compete, they can be a playoff team but all the chips need to fall in the right place. “If you don’t expect to win then you shouldn’t be on the team.”