Can you believe 2014 Spring Training is finally here?
Well, technically this coming Friday is the official date when New York Yankees pitchers and catchers are required to report to Tampa, Florida…. the home Spring-time home of the Bronx Bombers. Position players will report on February 19th with the team’s first full workout the day after that.
Actually seeing Tanaka don the pinstripes heightened my excitement and reservations at the same time that a new season is here.
After missing the playoffs last season, I learned nothing is fail-safe anymore for the Yankees.
The fact that this past off-season was full of mega signings makes me more apprehensive about being overly confident and presumptuous that it won’t happen again.
Bottom line is this Yankees team is heading into Spring Training with a lot unknowns and not enough back-up plans… just in case.
Let me just say that Spring Training is not a good deterrent for projecting what a team’s regular season success will be. That is because veterans consider this their warm up, while youngsters are duking it out hoping to earn a spot on the 25-roster. For example this is not a time to judge Tanaka as starter, or David Robertson as a closer.
The Yankees officially announced last week that they had invited 26 additional players (13 pitchers, three catchers, six infielders and four outfielders) to Spring Training, which means they will have 66 participants in total. That number is actually 18 fewer players than last year, which is scary to think about.
So what three situations will I be scrutinizing during Spring Training?
- The fifth starting pitcher competition, which is code for seeing if 25-year old pitcher Michael Pineda can still throw like the up and coming ace the Yankees traded Jesus Montero for two years back. Pineda hasn’t thrown in the Majors since his 2011 rookie, All-Star season after suffering a serious shoulder injury that required surgery. But the 6’7, mini-Sabathia (minus being a righty) just told the New York Post, “I’m the same Michael Pineda. I’m 100 percent now and my body is in good shape.”
- Is Yankees Captain Derek Jeter still a capable shortstop? The Captain not only has his bum leg that kept him out all of last season to watch, but he also fighting father time as he is about to turn 40. Since the Yankees front office neglected to get a practical back up for Jeter if need be, so the pressure is on. Shortstop is the most athletic position on the field, and no World Series Championship team has ever featured a 40-year old at it. Best thing is to keep your fingers crossed from day one.
- Is Mark Teixeira’s wrist good to go yet? The All-Star first baseman has admitted that his surgically repaired wrist sheath was still causing him stiffness. I have read rumors claiming that Tex will not be playing the first half of Spring Training to him not being cleared till possibly beginning of May. And like Jeter, the team needs Tex fulltime because the rest of the infield consists of some combo of Kelly Johnson at third, Brian Roberts at second and Eduardo Nunez off the bench. But without Tex, Kelly would move to first and Nunez would be starting at third. And imagine having to endure Nunez’s defense in the hot corner fulltime, can anyone say terrifying?