John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |
In a month or so, it will feel as if Spring Training may never end. But for now, as official workouts begin in the next few days, there is hardly a more welcome sight in sports -- especially for New Yorkers looking desperately for a reason to believe the city's championship drought has to end sometime.
Yes, nothing sells hope quite like baseball in the Florida sunshine, especially when there is reason for optimism in Tampa.
Yankees' fans may not understand why Hal Steinbrenner won't flex his financial muscle to sign Manny Machado, but GM Brian Cashman has done enough to all but ensure another October appearance for his team.
They have plenty of proving to do before we even get to Opening Day, but with that in mind, here are the five most intriguing storylines for the Yankees going into Spring Training.
1) Searching For Sanchez
So who is Gary Sanchez, anyway? Is he the budding superstar that started the Baby Bomber parade to the big leagues, hitting home runs at a record pace? He can't be the guy who hit .186 last year, can he?
But, even if he hits again, will Sanchez ever overcome the defensive shortcomings that create debate having him catch post-season games?
Put it this way: If he mashes again at the plate, there will be a lot less talk about his defense. Spring Training or not, everyone will be looking for clues to a comeback season.
2) Bird's Last Chance Saloon
He'll get another shot at first base because Brian Cashman has long believed in Greg Bird, once calling him the best hitter in the organization when still a minor leaguer. And surely he's shown the ability to be a star slugger, from his big September filling in for Mark Teixeira in 2015 to that series-changing home run he hit off Andrew Miller in the '17 ALDS.
But the injuries and inconsistency at the plate have put his career on notice, which means he'll be under great scrutiny this spring -- all the more so if Luke Voit shows that his late-season power surge was no fluke.
3) Who's On First…And Second, Short, And Third As Well?
It should be fascinating to see how the Yankees put the puzzle pieces together in the infield. Put it this way: Even with Didi Gregorius out for at least half the season due to Tommy John surgery, the free-agent signings of Troy Tulowitzki and D.J. Lemahieu raised more questions than they answered.
If Tulowitzki has been promised the starting job, as seems to be the case, Gleyber Torres is playing second, which doesn't leave much room for Lemahieu. Unless the Yankees are concerned enough about Miguel Andujar's defense to have a Plan B in place, that is.
But, if that's the case, they should have just signed Manny Machado and been done with it.
4) Stanton, Year Two
Typically star players seem to feel more comfortable after a year of adjusting to New York, and the Yankees have to hope that's the case with Giancarlo Stanton. Not that they wouldn't take 38 home runs and 100 RBIs again, but there wasn't much doubt he was affected by getting booed at home, where his .229 batting average and .779 OPS paled in comparison to .300 and .921 on the road.
Fans might still be rough on him, after his failures in the ALDS against the Red Sox, but knowing the lay of the land can't hurt. He was accommodating with the media in Year 1, but always with his guard up. Could relaxing a bit in Year 2 help him hit a tough slider?
5)The Severino Enigma
Is he an ace, or a pitcher who can't quite handle the big stage? Was tipping pitches his downfall in the second half last year, or did he pay a price for a heavy workload in 2017?
So many questions accompany Luis Severino into this Spring Training, as he searches for the dominance that has come and gone a couple of times already in his young career. The Yankees may need him to unlock the mystery if they're going to win a championship any time soon.