The end of Spring Training – and the start of the Yankees 2011 campaign

By: shortfinals

Mar 29 2011

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Category: baseball, New York, NY Yankees, United States

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The coaching staff have done their work, the training complexes will see no more ‘big leaguers’ (except for rehab work, and other official business), Ron Guidry is packing away his specially made ‘Driving Mr Yogi’ baseball cap for another year, and the rest of the guest instructors are packing to go home. I hope that their luggage is cheap yet serviceable, obeying Yogi’s dictum – “Why buy good luggage, you only use it when you travel”.

The Yankees had an indifferent Spring Training, if you look only at the results (13 – 15 – 3 tied, including today’s last exhibition game against the Detroit Tigers). ‘The Boss’ would have been raging by now. George M Steinbrenner simply hated to lose ANY game, even a Spring Training one, which gave rise to some strange ‘travel’ squads in the past. After all, the managerial staff’s rôle during the pre-season games should be to explore possible lineups, reveal the strengths and weaknesses of the players, assess needs with the GM and ownership, and generally position the club for Opening Day 2011 at the Stadium (against the Detroit Tigers) and the ensuing 162-game campaign, not necessarily win every single pre-season game.

This year we discovered that Brian Cashman can work magic, after all. He knew that he needed to shore up a rotation which had lost the ever-reliable Andy Pettitte, preferably with the talented Cliff Lee. When Lee rejected the Yankees, Cashman was reduced to trying to catch lightning in a bottle with a clutch of veteran pitchers on minor-league deals. The club hoped that either Bartolo Colon or Freddie Garcia would force their way into the fifth starter spot, assuming that Ivan Nova continued to develop into a serviceable ‘Number Four’. In no way would any of the ‘Killer B’s’ (Dellin Betances, Manuel Banuelos, and Andrew Brackman) force their way onto the Yankees rotation, although they all showed enough to have opposing scouts looking pensive, and Yankee fans salivating at our pitching, a few years down the road. Kevin Millwood AND Mark Prior stashed at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre could provide pitching help in the event of injury or loss of form in the rotation and bullpen respectively. It seems that a little bit of elf magic did rub off on Brian Cashman as he rapelled down the Landmark Building in Stamford, Connecticut.

Lest we think that all of Brian Cashman’s moves worked out, Andruw Jones looked out of his depth when facing decent pitching (reflecting his .230 batting average with the Chicago White Sox, last year), but he had a better pre-season than Ronnie Belliard, who was given his release by the Yankees after a truly awful spring. The only surprise is Eric Chavez who, after multiple surgeries, is hitting like the powerhouse he once was; an invitee to Spring Training, he’ll go north with the club as they break camp.

But what of Jeter, A-Rod and Mo, you say? I haven’t the space to lay out all my opinions, but the Captain’s new ‘non-stride’ as he swings is working well, A-Rod is making like Roy Hobbs in ‘The Natural’, and Mo is…..well, Mo – just stunning, not so much a closer, more a force of nature.

Sports Illustrated has already proclaimed the Red Sox as the 2011 World Series Champions (rather risky, given the ‘SI Curse’), and locals here, in the Greater Boston area, are debating which National League team the Red Sox will sweep on their way to the first of many back-to-back World Series.  

I rather like the idea of the Yankees being portrayed as the underdog in the American League East – I think that will make for an interesting and, indeed, driven clubhouse!

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