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Around the Empire: Yankees news - 2/25/22

Joey Gallo vs. the shift; First CBT rumblings from MLB, MLBPA talks; Shortstop stopgap off the board; Austin Wells on remaining a catcher; Rachel Balkovec ready for season; Garrett Whitlock reflects on Yankees departure

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Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

CBS Sports | Shanna McCarriston: Joey Gallo’s first taste of Bronx baseball was something out of a Judith Viorst book. That is to say, he had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad [58] day[s]. And the 28 year old slugger believes he knows why. Speaking with Jayson Stark of The Athletic, Gallo blamed elements of the shift for his downturn in form.

“I get the defensive strategies. I do. I am 100 percent not against that… But I think at some point, you have to fix the game a little bit…” Gallo said. “I don’t understand how I’m supposed to hit a double or triple when I have six guys standing in the outfield.”

So he’s not advocating for banning the shift entirely, just the ability of infielders to stand in the outfield. That said, the amount to which the shift neutered his offense is dubious. Yes, he may have lost a hit here or there on a line drive caught in shallow right, but his 38.6 percent strikeout rate and extreme struggles making contact with pitches in the zone after joining the Yankees are probably more to blame. | Andy Martino: MLB and the MLBPA have met every day this week to try to hammer out a deal before MLB’s artificial deadline arrives on Monday. The two sides are still far apart on key economic issues, with arguably the most important item — the Collective Balance Tax (CBT) — so far left untouched.

That could change, according to Martino, as he has reportedly heard rumblings that MLB will drop the loss of draft picks as a penalty for CBT offenders. The MLBPA sees the harshening of penalties — including taking away draft picks and increasing tax rates — as a non-starer, as it would give owners greater justification to treat the luxury tax as a hard cap.

MLB Trade Rumors | Steve Adams: Most reports suggest the Yankees will pursue a stopgap to fill their shortstop vacancy, and one of their main targets may be off the board. It appeared Isiah Kiner-Falefa of the Rangers was made more expendable when Texas signed Corey Seager and Marcus Semien prior to the lockout. However, top prospect third baseman Josh Jung is set to miss around six months after undergoing shoulder surgery. This opens the door for Kiner-Falefa to inherit starting responsibilities at third base, likely killing off any chance he would be traded when the lockout is lifted.

New York Daily News | Kristie Ackert: Yankees’ 2020 first round draft pick Austin Wells earned praise for his left-handed power at the plate, but questions persisted whether he could stick at catcher. To his credit, Wells is committed to improving his defense behind the plate, with several coaches praising the gains he’s made receiving the ball and throwing. | Bryan Hoch: Six weeks after Rachel Balkovec made history as the first woman to be named manager in affiliated professional baseball, the Tampa Tarpons manager is ready to get the season started. Speaking at the player development complex, Balkovec detailed preparations for the coming campaign, spoke of the impact Jasson Domínguez is already having in the clubhouse, and said it’s been fun hearing players call her “Skip.”

NJ Advance Media | Mike Rosenstein: The Red Sox selected Garrett Whitlock from the Yankees in the Rule 5 Draft last winter, and the righty pitcher took a moment to reflect on his departure from the Bronx outfit. He admitted he was disappointed to leave, but also acknowledged why he was left unprotected (he missed the 2020 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery). Whitlock turned out to be a revelation last season coming out of the bullpen, pitching to a 1.96 ERA with 81 strikeouts in 73.1 innings. He will be given an opportunity to make Boston’s starting rotation this season, but is ready for whatever role he is assigned.