Yankees manager Aaron Boone spoke at spring training in Tampa, Fla. on Friday afternoon about this season's high expectations, Gary Sanchez's health, his impressions of pitching prospect Deivi Garcia and more.
On what makes him think J.A. Happ can have a bounce-back season
"One, track record. Two, I think when we do a little bit of digging, and this is something we try and communicate with J.A., that the results weren't as good as we feel like he threw the ball last year. And I think if you look at a lot of his outings last year, it felt like there were a number of times that he was pitching really well and then maybe a long ball got him and kind of wrecked the outing a little bit for him. We obviously feel like he threw the ball well down the stretch for us, and even in the playoffs."
"Feel like the work he's done this winter has put him in a good position and comes in at a really good place that I fully expect him to be the J.A. Happ we've seen most of his career."
Happ struggled in his first full season in New York, finishing 2019 12-8 with a 4.91 ERA and 34 home runs allowed in 161.1 innings pitched.
On high expectations coming into this season
"Since I've been here, we've had a championship caliber club and one of those handful of teams that feel that we're truly in that mix. It's been important for me, for us to kind of embrace that, maybe even this year to a different level. I think that's fair. One of my first messages to the guys is 'we'll embrace that every single day,' because those expectations don't go away, especially when you play in New York. We're going to hear about that all the time and you got to be able to deal with it and you've got to be able to play with those expectations and that's my intention."
The Yankees are considered heavy favorites to come out of the AL East, as well as co-favorites with the Dodgers to reach the World Series.
On Gerrit Cole's unusual level of detail on pitching
"He probably goes into the most detail that I've seen. It seems like there's no stone left unturned with him and he really has a specific understanding or intention with everything he's doing. Which I think is valuable, not only for him because his intelligence is part of what makes him great, along with having elite characteristics to his pitches, but his ability to communicate with myself, the pitching coach, catchers, teammates, I think it really benefits him and is hopefully something that speeds up that learning curve for all of us that are trying to learn and support him, as well as speeding up the building of those relationships."
On impressions of Deivi Garcia
"Good, you see why we are excited about him. His ability to spin the ball is something that he's been known for and obviously a guy that at a very young age is rocking it through our system. I think with Deivi and a number of other guys...one of the things that's really exciting for me about this camp is that kind of 15-30 pitcher or maybe guys competing for a spot in the rotation or in the bullpen and then through our 30 guys, there's so many guys that you can really dream upon, that you can really picture having a really good big league career and Deivi certainly falls into that category. It's exciting to see the young arms that are starting to emerge for us."
On Gary Sanchez's conditioning
"I got to see him a few weeks ago in the (Dominican Republic) and felt like he was in a good spot with our strength and conditioning and training evaluations of him on physical day and those first days where we really evaluate things and get a physical picture. Everything looks really good with Gary, so we're excited...I feel really good about it."
Sanchez has missed significant time in both of the last two seasons, and with Austin Romine off the roster, Sanchez could be relied on even more so this season.