Scott Thompson, SNY.tv | Twitter |
It's been said for the past two seasons, but third time's the charm: Yankees manager Aaron Boone has some high expectations this season.
"World Series or bust" has been the mantra for this loaded Yankees roster, and though they've made the postseason in both of them, they couldn't make it to their desired destination to compete for the franchise's 28th title.
There were holes on each of those rosters entering spring training, of course, but it's hard to find one this season unless you want to be nitpicky. Gerrit Cole is the expected answer to the starting pitching question that had lingered over GM Brian Cashman's roster. And if they can stay away from the injury bug -- that didn't even faze them last season anyway -- the Yankees would definitely have what it takes to win it all this season.
Everything starts in Tampa this week with the Yankees reporting for spring training, and Boone will have his reunion with the media on Wednesday to discuss those expectations and much more for the first time.
Here are five questions the Yankee skipper should be answering when he talks to reporters...
Do you have any expectations for the fifth starter competition?
The Yankees won't be starting the year with their complete roster. Domingo German was already missing the start of the season as he serves the rest of his 81-game suspension, and he figured to be the fifth starter in the rotation. And now, James Paxton will be missing some time after getting a cyst removed in his lower back.
In turn, J.A. Happ, who wasn't traded in case a starter potentially got hurt, will slot into the No. 4 hole in the rotation. So a fifth starter will be determined outright in camp. Jordan Montgomery figures to be that man, but Boone will certainly be looking at everyone in play.
Could minor league fast-riser of 2019, Deivi Garcia impress enough to break camp with the pinstripes? How about Jonathan Loaisiga or Michael King? It'll be interesting to hear what Boone has to say on the matter.
How about the catching competition?
It may not be as big as a rotation piece, but the backup catching position is totally up for grabs at Yankees camp. Behind Gary Sanchez are four veteran catchers all vying for the same spot, and that's probably what Cashman wanted when trying to find the replacement to Austin Romine.
Chris Iannetta figures to be the favorite here, after he said a minor-league deal with the team that he hopes will turn into a big league contract. But there's also Kyle Higashioka, Eric Kratz and Josh Thole as well. Higashioka has caught these pitchers before, so he has the upper hand there.
What does Boone want to see from them? Better defense? Who has the best bat? We're curious.
What is your plan for Miguel Andujar?
He wasn't traded this offseason, and coming off a torn labrum, Andujar is currently without an everyday role with this team.
Cashman said that third base is Gio Urshela's to lose, and rightfully so after he more than exceeded expectations when he took over for Andujar after his injury early in the season. And there's the prospect that we could see Andujar at first base to see how he would play there. Luke Voit, though, is the obvious starter at the position.
Andujar's bat is too valuable to just sit on the bench, so Boone's plan for him will be one of the big storylines.
Will you be more cautious with playing time here after injury-laden season?
When camp was just about to break last season, the wheels began to fall off. Dellin Betances was shut down with a shoulder impingement, and it would lead to his injury-filled year. Then, right as the season began, Andujar suffered a torn labrum after playing just 12 games, and Giancarlo Stanton would play in only three games before hitting the IL for the first time in his disappointing 2019 campaign.
The Yankees set the league record for most injured players to hit the IL, so you can bet Boone will have his eye on every player that complains in the slightest about feeling something out of whack.
For his everyday players, though, does that mean limiting spring training reps, especially toward the start of the regular season?
Is there a different message being preached to this World Series-caliber roster?
As we mentioned before, Boone and the rest of his team realizes their expectations to get to the World Series this season. But it's been the case for awhile now, so does Boone have a different message for his group?
The championship window for the Yankees is still very much open, but look at it this way: Gleyber Torres is entering Year 3. Aaron Judge is going into Year 4, and so is Luis Severino if you want to exclude his handful of games last year. Sanchez will be in his fifth full season in pinstripes.
These core players -- ones that many believed would be the next foundation for a Yankees dynasty -- are still in their primes and have accomplished so much already. But they're missing that one, very precious thing.
Cashman has put the necessary around this foundation to compete for that title, and it will be up to Boone to once again lead them the best way he knows how to reach that goal. Does he have a different philosophy this time around? And if so, why does he think it can end this World Series drought for the Bombers?