New York Yankees Day 1 Spring Training Recap
Despite missing out on the postseason last October, the New York Yankees enter spring training as the biggest story in Major League Baseball.
Yes, the Red Sox won the World Series, the Dodgers carry a $200 million payroll and the Nationals are poised to win big in 2014. But, while compelling, none of their spring training venues can come close to matching the kind of drama and media attention that will surface in Tampa, Fla. at Steinbrenner Field.
Over a four-month span, the Yankees lost Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez, and added Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Masahiro Tanaka. As if that wasn't enough of a whirlwind, Derek Jeter announced that 2014 would be his final season.
For most teams, the first day of spring training is boring. For the New York Yankees, it's must-see television.
Here's a recap of the first day of Yankees spring training.
Reactions to Derek Jeter's Retirement Announcement
For the last two decades, Derek Jeter has been a major part of Yankees spring training. By this time next year, he won't be.
That is going to take some getting used to for a group of teammates that have never worn the pinstripes without Jeter as their captain.
According to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com, both David Robertson and CC Sabathia weren't shocked that their 39-year-old teammate decided to end his career. Yet both were surprised at the timing of the announcement, days before spring training. Per Hoch's notebook:
“It didn’t surprise me,” Robertson said. “I just didn’t think he was going to announce it, but I’m really glad he’s going to make sure to give the fans a chance to come out this year and see him in his final season.”
Sabathia, a teammate of Jeter's since 2009, wished that Jeter could play for longer.
“Not really surprised,” Sabathia said. “You want to think a guy like that is going to play forever. I’m saddened, I guess, because he’s not going to be around.”
Masahiro Tanaka Swarmed by Media, Placed in Mariano Rivera's Locker
On Thursday, a day before the full squad arrived in Tampa, Fla., Masahiro Tanaka threw a bullpen session that didn't "wow" the Yankees, per Dan Martin of the New York Post.
During the first mandatory day of Yankees spring training, Tanaka's biggest challenge was the attention surrounding his every move and the placement of his locker within the clubhouse.
According to Dan Martin of the New York Post, Tanaka has been given Mariano Rivera's old locker at Steinbrenner Field. While the placement of lockers has little bearing on day-to-day performance, it's probably not a coincidence that the Yankees—after shelling out $175 million for the Japanese star—placed him in the locker of their last long-tenured pitching dynamo.
For his part, Tanaka tried to put the focus on his performance.
“I’m very honored to get all the attention, but I need to go out and perform,” Tanaka said through an interpreter in Martin's piece.
According to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com, Tanaka was initially unsure if he should be using the locker.
“One of the staff members actually told me,” Tanaka said through an interpreter. “I was like, ‘I’m not really sure if I should be here.’”
CC Sabathia Down to 275 Pounds
No, your eyes aren't deceiving you. CC Sabathia has lost a good deal of weight.
According to Sabathia, the big lefty weighed in at 275 pounds on the first day of camp. That's the lightest he's been since his early years in Cleveland.
How did he lose the weight? The 33-year-old told Bryan Hoch of MLB.com that the transformation actually began last year.
“I really lost a lot of weight last year,” Sabathia said. “I went from about 315 to like 280. I just did no carbs and then really worked out. This offseason I watched my diet and worked really hard and I lost five pounds.”
Alex Rodriguez's Locker Is Empty
Out of sight, but not quite out of mind.
In a strange turn of events, Alex Rodriguez's old locker is vacant as camp opens, per ESPN New York.
After giving up on his lawsuits against Major League Baseball and the MLBPA, Rodriguez's suspension for the 2014 season is final, leaving no chance that he plays for the team this coming season. However, if he was so inclined, the beleaguered third baseman could attempt to attend camp.
While that's a long shot, his locker is there—unmanned.
Michael Pineda Is in 'Great Shape'
In 2011, during his age-22 season, Michael Pineda was an American League All-Star for the Seattle Mariners. During the first half of that season, the Mariners rookie struck out 108 batters and pitched to a 2.58 ERA.
With numbers similar to what Matt Harvey posted in the first half of the 2013 season (2.35 ERA, 147 SO), Pineda looked to be baseball's next pitching sensation.
When the Yankees traded for him the following winter, production was expected from the young righty.
Thus far, due to shoulder issues, it hasn't happened.
According to Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York, Pineda looks to be in great shape as camp opens. The now 25-year-old will compete for the No. 5 spot in New York's rotation.
Yankees Still Not Interested in Stephen Drew
With Derek Jeter's impending retirement, there's an obvious need for a long-term answer at shortstop in the Bronx.
The notion of Hanley Ramirez is ideal, but it remains to be seen if the Dodgers star will hit the open market next winter.
Right now, the open market has an established shortstop that can provide insurance for Jeter's soon-to-be 40-year-old body and takeover as the full-time starter next season. Despite that, the Yankees still aren't interested in Stephen Drew, per Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York.
The longer Drew remains unsigned, the more this topic will be raised.
David Robertson Downplays Difference Between 8th, 9th Innings
This spring, David Robertson will have an unenviable opportunity: Replacing the best closer in baseball history, Mariano Rivera.
Barring an injury or awful spring training, Robertson is likely to be named the closer some time before the 2014 season opens.
On the first day of spring training, the 28-year-old strikeout machine downplayed the notion of the 8th inning profiling as drastically different than the 9th, per Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York.
"If you make mistakes in the ninth it costs you the game, if you make mistakes in the eighth, it costs you the game," Robertson said. "It is nice to know sometimes you can get away with making a mistake in the eighth and Mo can come in and close it."
Robertson's theory holds water with Mariano Rivera fans. After excelling (130 SO, 2.09 ERA) as John Wetteland's set-up man for the 1996 Yankees, Rivera transitioned to the closer's role in 1997.
Brian McCann Ahead of Learning Curve
When Brian McCann arrived in New York, his bat, leadership and fiery demeanor were highlighted by fans and media around the Yankees.
Yet, his ability to catch at a high level, including handling New York's pitching staff, is a major component to his game.
According to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com, McCann received a gift from the Yankees in November. Upon signing with the team, the seven-time NL All-Star was presented with an iPad to help jump start the process of learning a new pitching staff.
“I got an iPad in the mail two days later with everybody’s two good games, two bad games, all the hitters in the AL East,” McCann said. “As soon as we signed Tanaka, I got all his starts, so I’ve seen it. Now I want to get to know everybody and what their mindset is.”
For a team that will rely so heavily on McCann to mesh with new pitchers and learn the tendencies of hitters in a new league, the gift could keep on giving for the Yankees.
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