Season Preview: Re-Tooled Yankees Studs On Paper, But Will Health Hold Up?
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Derek Jeter is saying goodbye. Masahiro Tanaka is saying hello.
Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran are new to the Bronx; David Robertson is new to the closer’s role. And Alex Rodriguez is nowhere to be seen.
Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte have retired, and Robinson Cano has moved to Seattle.
After missing the playoffs for only the second time in 19 years, the New York Yankees will look a whole lot different. And for the first time since 1998, they don’t have baseball’s highest payroll.
“I think it is probably the biggest transition I’ve been through,” manager Joe Girardi said.
For only the second time in team history and the first time since 1947, every position on opening day other than the mound will be manned by a different Yankees playerthan in New York’s previous opener.
New York’s forgettable 2013 season began with an 8-2 loss to Boston, with Kevin Youkilis at first, Cano at second, Eduardo Nunez at shortstop, Jayson Nix at third, Francisco Cervelli behind the plate, Vernon Wells in left, Brett Gardner in center and Ichiro Suzuki in right.
The only holdover for Tuesday’s opener at Houston figures to be Gardner, who has shifted to left. The rest of the starting lineup figures to have McCann behind the plate, Mark Teixeira at first, Brian Roberts at second, Jeter at shortstop, Kelly Johnson at third, Ellsbury in center and Beltran in right.
CC Sabathia will be the constant on the mound. He’s coming off the poorest of his 13 major league seasons at 14-13 with a 4.78 ERA.
“Nobody wants to go through that again,” he said. “It sticks with me a lot. Just being disappointed in not being able to help this team win. I feel like if I could have been a little better we might have made the playoffs. I blamed myself for a long time in the offseason and now I’m over it and ready to go this year.
Here are five things to know about the Yankees going into the season:
JETER’S FAREWELL TOUR: Limited to 17 games last year after breaking his left ankle in the 2012 AL championship series, the 13-time All-Star shortstop said before spring training of his 20th big league season will be his final one. A five-time World Series champion, Jeter got off to a 5 for 44 (.114) start at the plate in spring training. Is it rust for the soon-to-be 40-year-old following four stints on the disabled list last year? Or is he done? The captain’s April at-bats will be scrutinized.
TEX’S WRIST: He saw even less time than Jeter last year, appearing in only 15 games because of a right wrist injury sustained while with the U.S. at the World Baseball Classic. Teixeira had surgery July 2 to repair the tendon sheath and entered spring training slightly behind other players. Also off to a slow spring training start with a .115 average (3 for 26), Teixeira’s bat lacked pop when he swung from the right side, where the right wrist supplies power.
TANAKA-SAN: Here’s a prediction that’s not exactly a leap: Tanaka won’t be able to match his 2013 season, when he went 24-0 and led the Rakuten Golden Eagles to their first Japan Series title. The Yankees paid $20 million for his rights, then agreed to a $153 million, seven-year contract. The 25-year-old right-hander has a dominant splitter; the biggest issue is whether he can make the adjustment to a major league rotation, where starters get four days’ rest, from the Japanese system of six days’ rest.
CC’S WEIGHT and VELOCITY: Sabathia reported to spring training at 275 pounds, 40 below his high in 2010. He gave up a major league-high 122 runs, 45 of them from a career-high 28 homers, according to STATS. His fastball velocity dropped from 93.9 mph in 2011 to 92.4 in 2012 to 91.3 last year, according to fangraphs.com.
AFTER MARIANO: Rivera, the team’s closer since 1997, retired at age 43 following a record 652 saves over 19 seasons plus 42 in the postseason. Robertson, who turns 29 in April, has eight career saves and will have to have the mental toughness to withstand the “He’s not Mariano” headlines every time he blows a lead.
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