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MLB New York Yankees

The New York Yankees Need to Avoid Distractions and Become a Team in Tampa

George Steinbrenner Field

The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees have many questions and concerns going into the spring, but they must avoid the distractions and become a team – a team that can again contend in the AL East.

February is an exciting time of year for all Yankees fans, as the start of the regular season is a month closer, but it must be all business for the Yankees’ players. As great a time of year as it is, sadly, there are only a few teams that really have a legitimate shot at a title. Are the Yankees one of those teams?

The Yankees have been in the news lately, as usual, it is their very expensive problem child, Alex Rodriquez.

Again, he is bringing distractions, again it involves his possible use of PEDs and again A-Rod is not around to answer, leaving the rest of the team to deal with this distraction. Not only is he not around, the Yankees have shipped him off to a secret location to rehab his hip, and avoid the media.

The Yankees haven’t even stepped on George M. Steinbrenner Field, in Tampa Florida, for Spring Training, and players are being asked about Rodriquez. Derek Jeter was the first, but his comment was until Rodriquez spoke, he had nothing to say. From now on, it is time to give Rodriguez as much attention as he will get playing time during the season: none.

The Yankees’ future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera is back, after tearing his ACL last season, shagging fly balls during batting practice. Rivera says he will report to camp earlier than he usually does. Even though veterans like Rivera are given a lot of leeway on when they need to show up for camp, Rivera wants to get to Tampa and get it going as soon as the doors open. Rivera is very excited to be back on the field and recently said, “I’m going to show up right on time and it’s going to be great. I can’t wait to get there.”

It is a good sign for the Yankees that Mo is ready to go and that his rehab from the torn ACL is going well, he has even started throwing.

This season, the Yankees have more questions heading in to training camp than any in recent memory, one question will be who is going to play center field. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he isn’t ready to make any final decisions this soon, with Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner both battling for the spot in center, it isn’t exactly a bad situation. Gardner, like many in pinstripes, is coming off an injury; he was out for most of 2012, but he is healthy and ready to compete with Granderson for center field.

This is not that big of a problem for the Yankees. Having to choose between two speedsters that can cover so much of the outfield is a good thing, and the only real problem may be if Gardner who gets the nod over Granderson, because Granderson will have to adapt to playing left.

If it does happen, Granderson should be okay because he is a great defensive outfielder. Last season, he didn’t commit a single error on defense. The reason there will be a competition for the spot is how highly the Yankees think of Gardner and his speed in center. It is great to have two really good players at one position, but sometimes teams and managers over-think and maybe Gardner should be in left full-time – why fix something that isn’t broken?

Kevin Youkilis is another interesting story going into camp; he is a man the Yankees know very well, just not in pinstripes. Youkilis looks like he may be the man at the hot-corner all year, so he needs to step-up and bring it for the Yankees like he did against them. Youkilis has always had a very unique batting stance, but he has not only changed teams – he has changed stances heading into the 2013 season. Youkilis is working on lowering his hands and crouching more to get more balance with his shortened swing. He has also been practicing with less of a leg kick to give himself more power.

Youkilis being a Yankee adds more fire to the already heated rivalry with the Boston Red Sox; being married to the sister of Massachusetts’ golden-boy, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, should only add more fuel to the fire for the already passionate fan bases.