(up to and including 28th March)
The Yankees have had a good spring training, carrying a 17-12 record into the last few days before the regular season started. In fact, because of the strong performances many of the roster issues sorted themselves and there were few injury concerns to require the roster to be patched.
Here’s a survey of the players who made it through and how they performed in the springtime:
(G=Games, AB=At Bats, H=Hits, HR=Home Runs, BA=Batting Average)
Mark Teixeira. (25) G 13, AB 35, H 3, HR 0, BA .086
Teixeira has had a very tough spring. Coming back off an injury, he has not really inspired much confidence so far. His hands have been alive but his movement has been slow and his bat has been anywhere but where it was required to be. Most worryingly, the Yankees have made little provision if things do not work out for him. They have concerned themselves with assessing cover for the middle infield positions but on the surface paid little attention to Plan B for first base.
Middle infield and third base
Dean Anna. (93) G 22, AB 42, H 11, HR 0, BA .262
Brendan Ryan will begin the season on the Disabled List after missing most of the spring with a pinched nerve in his back. This opened up an extra spot on the roster for an infield spot which Dean Anna has won. Anna, who has no previous Major League experience, will cover for Ryan and will be Derek Jeter’s backup at shortstop and allow Kelly Johnson to spell Teixeira at first base if he continues to struggle. Brian Roberts was one of the infielders who started slowly with the bat but ended up with the best batting average of the group. He looks his age in the field but has paired well with Jeter on double-plays.
Johnson has slotted in well at third-base and whilst he doesn’t have the ability or power, he is not the media headache that Alex Rodriguez was. He will quietly go about his business and do well. Jeter’s bat and feet look slower but it is early days yet and it won’t be the first time that he has had a slow spring and hit the pace from the second or third week of the regular season. Ask me again in May on that one!
So that leaves one Spring Training question still to be answered about the infield and this on the day of the last spring game that the Yankees have. Originally, this was a question with four possible answers. Scott Sizemore was removed from the equation when his spring form faded a little and he fell off the pace his other three competitors were setting. And then there were three! Dean Anna (as we have mentioned) took over from Brendan Ryan when he had to go the Disabled List. And then there were two! Eduardo Nunez. Yangervis Solarte. Nunez was last season’s incumbent of the infield bench slot. Solarte is the surprise. The Yankees have waited and waited for him to slow down. It just hasn’t happened so his .429 average and about as much power as the rest of the infield put together means it has gone down to the wire. Solarte is just as,if not more, dependable than Nunez in the field and would have won this one if it wasn’t for the fact that he is a non-roster invitee. Choosing him adds the wrinkle of finding room for him on the 40-man roster. The two will be playing for the final roster spot in the game against Miami.
Carlos Beltran (36) G 17, AB 51, H 14, HR 2 BA .275
All five outfield spots are filled which is a shame for Zoilo Almonte who batted .410 during the spring and would have brought a younger face to an aging outfield. Ellsbury, who will occupy centrefield the majority of the time, has had a difficult spring with tightness in his right calf limiting him to 9 games and there is a legitimate question as to whether he will be available on opening day. Gardner has been the really exciting player during the pre-season games as he continued to display himself as a great singles hitter and showed teasing speed on the bases. He looks likely to complete the spring with a 100% record in steal attempts.
There was a lot of talk, in some quarters, about how Soriano looked much sharper than he did in 2013 but by the end of the Grapefruit League games his statistics will not look much different than they did then. Ichiro looks his age and he will be the fifth outfielder, who the Yankees would probably accept an offer for if it came to the table.
Francisco Cervelli (29) G 15, AB 37, H 15, HR 4 BA .405
The catcher position has been an interesting one for the Yankees this pre-season. Brian McCann was obviously going be the first choice and he has shown himself to be a much more assertive catcher than those who held the position last year. His batting performance has been slow to move though the gears but he will no doubt get to grips with that as the spring turns into the regular season.
There was a three-way battle for the second spot which Austin Romine and John Ryan Murphy lost to Francisco Cervelli. Cervelli led the team in home runs and was amongst the leaders in batting average so it seems only fair that he should but I have to confess it bothers me. For Cervelli was suspended at the end of the last year for a drugs offence and though he has served his “time” for that, I still find it difficult. Perhaps I will warm to him as the season gets going!
The DH spot seems to be likely filled by committee this season and that is quite unusual for the Yankees. Soriano will probably see most time there in the early weeks unless Ellsbury’s injury means he is needed more in the outfield. Jeter and Teixeira will be used, particularly as they work through the after-effects of serious injuries. Jeter will probably see a considerable amount of time spent there all season. Cervelli is another who will be used there to bring power to a line-up which will likely need it.
Watch out for the next article which will survey the pitchers on the roster…….