With six days to go before the opener in Toronto, the Yankees have escaped unscathed from injuries affecting their starting lineup and rotation. A job in the bullpen is open, but otherwise, the roster is closed. It’s time to move into the starting gate, and therefore it’s time to check back on how the team looks after six weeks in Florida.
While the Yankees are on an all-systems-go approach to Thursday’s opener again the Blue Jays, Spring Training, while always much anticipated, usually descends into the never-ending streams of meaningless games played in the sun while fans back home struggle to wonder if spring and baseball weather will ever arrive.
Temps in the New York area will climb into the 50’s and 60’s next week. With both the weather and the Yankees intact, it’s time to begin the celebration of the 2018 season, in which the Yankees for the first time in a long time are expected (not hoped) to win it all.
The preseason has been instructive regarding how the Yankees are reacting to that challenge. Where the team had confidence in a player, they moved quickly, making the announcement, for instance, that Jordan Montgomery would indeed be their fifth starter from day one this season.
That announcement, in turn, had a spillover effect sending Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield to Triple-A in quick order. The message should have been clear; we’re going with proven major league experience in a year that promises little room for error.
The same approach extended to the position players and the much-anticipated melodrama associated with the all-out war that was supposed to take place between Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres for a spot in the Yankees infield.
Quickly, Brian Cashman stepped in dissipating the drama, which ended with both sent down to reaffirm, in the case of Torres who looked lost and with Andujar, the chance to refine and advance his skills by playing every day instead of once a week behind Brandon Drury if he stayed with the Yankees.
Depending on how many pitchers Yankees manager Aaron Boone decides to carry (12 or 13), there is one spot open in the bullpen that could be filled this week. Take your best shot at who that might be from the preseason stats assembled so far, but the in-house favorite appears to be Domingo German and his 15 strikeouts in 12.2 innings with a 2.84 ERA.
Tyler Wade has made the team, bringing versatility to the team. Tyler Austin, following a spirited fight, did not. Combined with Ronald Torreyes, the Yankees have themselves a duo armed and ready to step into any infield spot needing Boone’s attention. Torreyes has even been designated as the Yankees “emergency catcher” in the event Gary Sanchez, and Austin Romine both are unavailable.
The main thing is the Yankees are healthy. Both Jacoby Ellsbury and Clint Frazier, who are both DL eligible based on current injuries, are non-essential cogs in the wheel at this point to bring New York the Yankees 28th World Championship.
Frazier is targeted to Triple-A Scranton when he is ready to play following the concussion he suffered limiting him to only two at-bats this spring. A prime lure as trade bait come July, his days in pinstripes may be dwindling, especially with Billy McKinney and Estevan Florial patiently waiting their turn as well.
Ellsbury, meanwhile, remains the thorn in the side of the Yankees, and what to do with him eludes everyone in baseball. True to form, Ellsbury insists he is on the way back, and he can (and wants to) help the team. As with Yankees teams over the last few years, this will continue to be a drama played out over the course of the season.
There is just no reason not to be excited about the Yankees of 2018. The Yankees Depth Chart is overwhelming and does not even consider the young talent in the lower levels of their farm system.
Nonetheless, the real games begin next week with a three-game series in Toronto against an improved Blue Jays team, led by J.A. Happ, who will make the Opening Day Start against the Yankees, who will counter with their newly acclaimed (and justified) ace, Luis Severino.
Biting at the bit? So am I. The players must be too. Still, Aaron Boone rides a treacherous week ahead. He wants to get his regulars set to go with as many at-bats as he can. But at the same time, he knows the real thing is not yet here, meaning how much is too much playing time to assume the risk of injury so close to Opening Day?
Let’s get that first one, then we’ll worry about the rest. Sound like a plan?