5 Questions the New York Yankees Must Answer During Spring Training
New York Yankees: 5 Questions Left to be Answered
That magical day is almost here – that day filled with love, hope and adoration. Feb. 14, the day when men all over the country search their souls for the perfect way to show how they truly feel about -- making the Opening Day roster. That’s right folks, Pitchers & Catcher’s Day is almost upon us!
The New York Yankees have had one of the most active offseasons in all of baseball this winter. The management has shown a real commitment to winning, not soon, but now. Now the time has come to put up or shut up for a lot of new (and old) Yankees.
Many uncertainties were cleared up during the $471 million offseason spending spree. The Yankees found another stud starting pitcher in Masahiro Tanaka. They signed a long-term and proven catcher in Brian McCann. They bolstered the outfield with two big bats and some speed to boot. They found out, for better or worse, what in the world was going to happen with Robinson Cano.
Things certainly feel a lot more solid than they did at this point last year for the Yankees. Unfortunately in 2013, Spring Training was the place where injuries began to rear their ugly heads and set everything into a playoff-missing tailspin.
Let’s hope the February/March injury barrage of 2013 doesn’t make a repeat appearance. Even if it doesn’t, there are still some rough edges to be smoothed. Here are five questions left to be answered before the Bombers take the field on Opening Day in Houston.
5. Who Will Emerge to Help the Bullpen?
The starting rotation is set aside from a decisive fifth starter, but what about the bullpen? Left-hander Matt Thornton was brought in to replace Boone Logan, but they are most definitely in need of another right-handed reliever. There has been chatter about 36-year-old free agent Fernando Rodney, but the Yankees' brass claims to be done spending.
This leaves in-house options only, and the question will be answered at Spring Training. Dellin Betances gets the popular vote, but other righties Mark Montgomery, Chase Whitley and Robert Coello should get a good look.
4. Will Veterans Be Healthy?
Derek Jeter’s “nightmare” season is finally over, and early reports indicate that the Captain looks as young and spry as ever leading in to camp. But he’s not young – at age 39, the starting shortstop could easily have a setback before the season even begins as we know all too well.
First baseman Mark Teixeira will be on a careful and abbreviated Spring Training regimen as he continues to rehab from a wrist injury that plagued him all of last season. His target is Opening Day, but it’s not a guarantee. And if he’s not ready to go on Apr. 1 that will certainly throw the Yankees’ infield plans for a loop.
3. Who Will Be the Everyday Third Baseman?
The smart money is on Kelly Johnson, but the fact is he’s only played 16 career games at the hot corner. Spring Training attendees who will have their chance to show what they’re made of include perennial utility man Eduardo Nunez, Scott Sizemore, Yangervis Solarte and Dean Anna. Should Johnson slip up, or worse get injured, one of these guys will have to step in.
2. What Will Ichiro's Role Be, if Any?
A case can be made to trade the veteran outfielder, and a good case at that. He batted just .262/.297/.342 in 2013, and with the offseason additions of Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran joining Brett Gardner and Alfonso Soriano, five could be a crowd in the outfield.
Then again, he could make an excellent defensive replacement late in games for either Beltran or Soriano, and his speed on the base paths is miraculously still there as well. He’s also owed $6.5 million in 2014 which is a pretty hefty price tag for a 40-year-old, not-so-every-day outfielder.
1. Who Will Be the Fifth Starter?
With the acquisition of Tanaka, the Yankees’ first four starting pitchers are pretty set in stone with CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kiroda, Tanaka and Ivan Nova. One of the hottest topics in Spring Training this year will be the race for that coveted fifth spot. David Phelps is a front-runner, but Michael Pineda, Adam Warren, and possibly even Vidal Nuno should have a hat in the ring as well.