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By Sweeny Murti
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You have probably heard it a thousand times — from every manager and coach in every sport — on the first day that a team gets back in uniform for the new season: “If we stay healthy… blah blah blah blah blah.”
The funny thing is that it’s usually the truth. Even with a few holes to fill here or there, most teams go into their new season feeling somewhat optimistic about things going their way if they can stay healthy — especially their star players.
With the Yankees that is true as well, but they open spring training talking about the health of many players, including their biggest stars. Forget that Alex Rodriguez isn’t even here, and won’t be all spring. How about we start with Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and CC Sabathia? You won’t find three bigger stars on one team who all had serious health issues last season, and who are all being counted on to be major contributors again right from Opening Day.
Joe Girardi enters this spring with some holes in his roster and his lineup, but the little bit of unknown surrounding #2 and #42 jumped to the front of Girardi’s mind when asked Monday morning about his concerns heading into camp.
Girardi is right on about one aspect: I’m not sure that any of us will feel 100 percent certain that Jeter and Rivera are back to being Jeter and Rivera until we see them tested in real game conditions. And meaningful baseball, unfortunately for all of us, is still seven weeks away.
Sabathia’s injury was less traumatic and less dramatic, but it was significant nonetheless. Twice placed on the disabled list last summer, Sabathia had a bone spur removed from his left elbow last October. Now he is preparing for another year as his team’s ace, the go-to workhorse, and he said that he already feels the difference in his elbow; he’s able to extend on pitches without pain. That’s something that he wasn’t able to do last year, although the extent of it was hidden from media and fans on a daily basis.
Sabathia’s workload has been nothing short of staggering. He has six consecutive seasons of 200-plus innings. Since his debut in 2001, Sabathia has totaled more than 2,500 regular-season innings and has thrown a major league high of 39,979 pitches. Signed for four more years, I asked Sabathia last week at the Thurman Munson Awards Dinner if he felt the need to reel anything back and pace himself better to stay healthy. As you could guess, he is thinking no such thing.
A lot has been made this winter of the Yankees’ lack of big moves and improvements, and their reliance on lesser names at several roster spots. What gets lost in the shuffle is this: The Yankees are still a team with stars, and they will not go as far as the 23rd, 24th and 25th men on the roster take them. They will go as far as the stars take them.
As we begin 2013, those stars still include Jeter, Rivera and Sabathia — even if there are a few more miles on the treads and a few new parts under the hood.
And yes, they do have a chance to compete. As long as they stay healthy… blah blah blah blah blah.
Follow Sweeny Murti on Twitter @YankeesWFAN.
So Girardi thinks the Yankees can win 95 games. How many do you think the Bronx Bombers will win in 2013? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…