Spring training kicked off for the Yankees today as pitchers and catchers officially reported to Tampa. The first day of camp provides little in terms of action, but it does come with some interesting notes. While we will have a full breakdown of stories in tomorrow’s Around the Empire, I collected a few of the most salient points worth discussing now.
Boone holds season’s first press conference
For the first time in the 2018 season, Yankees manager Aaron Boone sat down for a press conference. He met with members of the media for a half hour, taking questions on a number of assorted topics. The full session is available to stream courtesy of the YES Network:
A few items stand out from Boone’s interview. Regarding the infield, he’s open to holding a competition. “You know we’ve got several guys now in camp, we’ve got a couple of veteran guys that are a part of the mix,” he explained. “Obviously guys like Gleyber Torres, Tyler Wade, and Miguel Andujar, real opportunities are right in front of them.” It remains to be seen if the Yankees will actually break camp with a pair of rookies at key infield positions, but the chance to do so is there.
Boone also spoke about how he plans to manage the clubhouse. He looks forward to running a looser shift than his predecessor. “It’s really important to me that those younger players feel comfortable in that room, feel like they’re allowed to be themselves in that room,” he noted. “I think when you have strong relationships, you’re able to bring that out in guys.” The Yankees moved on from Joe Girardi in part because they felt he was too intense around a young roster. Boone will try to maintain an easier environment.
One of the more eyebrow raising points of his press conference came during a discussion of center field. Earlier in the offseason, Brian Cashman indicated that Aaron Hicks would be the starting center fielder. While Boone spoke highly of Hicks, he left the door open for competition. “It’s a long season. It’s a long spring training,” he said. “Jacoby Ellsbury, we feel like, has a lot of good baseball left in him. That will be something that plays itself out.” I suppose he has to say that, but I have a feeling this isn’t going to be much of a contest.
Betances and Sanchez describe offseason routines
A player arriving to spring training in the “best shape of his life” has become somewhat of a trope in recent years. The Yankees, however, have a few of those stories this season. Two stand out in particular: Dellin Betances and Gary Sanchez.
Dellin Betances said he hired a nutritionist and weighed in today at 264 lbs. Finished the season at 280. Hopes it will help him repeat his delivery. Happy to have avoided arbitration this year.— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) February 13, 2018
Betances, 29, is coming off a roller-coaster 2017 campaign. His 2.87 ERA looked nice, but his peripherals proved disastrous. He managed an astronomical 6.64 BB/9. His propensity to issue a free pass became so problematic that Betances was unusable down the stretch. Many attributed this to inconsistent mechanics, so perhaps this will help. There are so many variables that go into pitching, though, that for now this gets filed away with the other improved fitness stories.
Gary Sanchez said he did not drop a bunch of weight this offseason. Said he weighs basically what he did at the end of last season. Not surprisingly, winter priority was working on his defense.— Erik Boland (@eboland11) February 13, 2018
On the other hand, for most of the winter we heard stories about Sanchez trying to shed weight. This, of course, had to do with his work behind the plate. The Yankees catcher used today to dispel those rumors. He focused on his catching, but he didn’t drop any pounds. In a way, this is a refreshing comment in a sea of “best shape of my life” stories. Sanchez doesn’t need a complete overhaul, just some quicker reflexes in blocking the ball. I’m perfectly okay with him as is.
Uniform numbers are in
Everyone loves spring training numbers. It’s a time-honored tradition to see what uniforms the non-roster invites will don. The Yankees always run out a few zany ones considering their increasingly large list of retired numbers.
Cue the discussions that Jace Peterson and Danny Espinosa will make the team considering their low numbers.
Also of note, Austin Romine will have number 28, previously worn by Girardi. Romine surrendered number 27 to Giancarlo Stanton, who is somehow on the Yankees. Let that sink in for a minute. It’s going to be a fun spring, isn’t it?