John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Ah, spring training. In some ways it's the best time for baseball writers, a time when players, managers, and executives are more relaxed and willing to talk before the pressure of the long season takes hold. 

I first went to spring training in 1982, and suffice to say we writers were a lot more relaxed as well in those days, before Internet deadlines and social media changed everything about the job. 

The quotes aren't nearly as colorful these days, when players seemingly live in fear of the Twitter reaction to even the smallest misstep, but as I head to Florida to write about both the Mets and Yankees for SNY, there's still nothing better than baseball and sunshine in February.

With that in mind, I offer four of my favorite or most memorable experiences covering spring training over the years. Time and space restrictions meant leaving out some gems, from Sid Fernandez pointing a gun in my face one year, to John Franco leading a team-wide media boycott, to getting wind of Sandy Alderson's then-laughable 90-win prediction. 

Maybe some other time. For now I opted for these: 

1. The Picture-Day Fight, 1989

Talk about a godsend for a beat writer. On an otherwise sleepy spring training morning, chaos erupted out of a routine team-picture gathering when Darryl Strawberry and Keith Hernandez squared off and started throwing haymakers. 

In truth, nothing was all that surprising from those 1980s Mets, but there was a back story that made this drama especially fascinating. 

By September of the 1988 season, Strawberry had emerged as the favorite to win the NL MVP Award. He would ultimately lose out to the Dodgers' Kirk Gibson in a vote that would never happen today, as it was based largely on intangibles. But it didn't help that teammate Kevin McReynolds finished third, taking four potential first-place votes from Strawberry as well.  

Late in that '88 season, Hernandez privately had told some of the beat writers that he thought McReynolds was more deserving of the award, saying he'd been more clutch. You had to factor in the love/hate relationship Keith had with Darryl, but as one of the most analytical players of his time, his word still carried weight. 

Fast-forward to spring of '89: Then-Daily News writer Bob Klapisch felt Hernandez was trying to run him off the beat because of his infamous ghost-written David Cone column that riled up the Dodgers in the '88 NLCS. So one day early in camp, he made a point of telling Strawberry how Keith had been politicking against him. 

That same night the two players had words at a local bar, and had to be separated by teammates. Strawberry didn't reveal the source of his anger, but it spilled over the next morning on picture day, as all hell broke loose. 

I was the beat writer for the Post at the time, and I remember walking into the clubhouse after the dust settled, seeing Hernandez and Klapisch going nose-to-nose, screaming at each other until Davey Johnson finally intervened. 

Yep, by then word had gotten to Hernandez that Klapisch had whispered in Strawberry's ear. 

"Don't ever come near my locker again," Keith yelled. 

These days, with players ever wary that confrontation could land them in a viral video, such writer-player fireworks rarely happen. In those days, especially on those raucous Mets' teams, it was practically business as usual. 

2. The Lockout Basketball Games, 1990

As something of a pre-cursor to the 1994 players' strike, MLB owners locked players out of each team's facility in 1990 just as spring training was about to begin.

With several Mets' players already in Port St. Lucie, their workout options were so limited that they gathered daily at a Little League complex just up Prima Vista Blvd., mostly just to throw the ball around a little before heading to the nearby outdoor basketball court for some full-court pick-up games. 

I talked my way into the game, along with a couple of other beat writers to help fill out five-man teams, and we went up and down the court for more than an hour. I was instantly reminded these guys weren't professional athletes for nothing, as some I hadn't thought of particularly athletic showed off some serious game. 

Not everybody, but, heck, even Mackey Sasser could shake and bake. 

Anyway, what I remember most was Ron Darling being the best player on the court, at least for the first couple of days. Then a minor-league pitcher named Terry Bross showed up to play -- the same 6-foot-8 Terry Bross who had started for St. John's a couple of years earlier. 

Much to his chagrin, Darling had to match up with the big guy on both ends, and, well, he wasn't heard from quite as much.

In any case, for four or five days, the beat never seemed so much fun: Show up at the Little League field, play full-court hoop and then grab a player for an interview to write a feature for the next day's paper. No Twitter, no video, no internet deadlines, and the players didn't even mind having us around. 

But then Strawberry showed up. This was only a few weeks after he'd made headlines by reportedly pulling a gun on his then-wife at his home in Los Angeles, and when he arrived in Port St. Lucie, he wasn't in the mood to talk about it.

So someone made arrangements and suddenly the basketball game was moved inside to a local high school -- off-limits to us writers. 

Too bad. I heard Straw could really play, but I never got to see it, and I kid him to this day about getting us booted from the game. 

Soon enough, the owners relented, camps opened, and it was back to the grind of covering a real spring training. I know, I know…nice work if you can get it. 

3. Joe Torre Unplugged, 2006

As I noted in a column for SNY recently, getting to write the late Mel Stottlemyre's autobiography was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my career. One small part of it was the rare opportunity to sit and talk with Joe Torre as something closer to a confidant than a newspaper columnist. 

Or at least that's how it seemed to me.

By the spring of '06, I'd written countless columns about Torre, and while we had a good relationship, it was all business.

Unlike some other managers over the years, Torre didn't do many individual interviews, and rarely if ever did he go off-the-record to make a point or curry favor with a writer. Yet he was so good at charming us with his storytelling in group sessions that he was great writing material. 

When I sat down with him in the dugout that morning before a spring training workout in '06, I wasn't really looking for anything but detail on his relationship with Stottlemyre, whom Torre had come to love like a brother during their years together as manager and pitching coach.

However, Mel apparently had told Torre that he could trust me completely, and so from the moment we began talking, I realized this was anything but the media-session Torre. Instead, it was as if he'd granted me access into his inner circle, and suddenly he was dropping F-bombs left and right, and dropping the hammer on certain people he didn't necessarily care for. 

He never felt the need to tell me anything was off the record, clearly trusting that this was information to be used as background for the book, or not at all in some cases. 

Not that it was anything scandalous. More memorable was Torre's tone, as he routinely offered unfiltered opinions in a manner unlike anything I'd ever heard from him. He talked that way for some 45 minutes as I sat practically spellbound.

Finally, we were done, and after I thanked Joe for his time, I walked away wondering if I now had a different relationship with the Yankee manager that might benefit my column writing as well. 

Turns out I didn't. Torre was cordial as always when we spoke after that, but even when I managed to grab him occasionally on the side after a group session, I never heard anything even vaguely resembling that day in spring training of 2006.

Yes, being in the inner circle proved to be fleeting. And quite remarkable.  

4. Catching Santana, 2010

I had just finished putting the gear on, ready to go behind the plate, when Johan Santana let me know this was more than a publicity stunt for him. 

"Cup check," he said as he smacked me in the groin with his glove. "I'm going to have to bounce a slider in the dirt to get Ryan Howard out, and I'm going to need you to block it." 

Wait, what? Fortunately, I was indeed wearing a protective cup, but suddenly I wondered what I had gotten myself into, asking for the opportunity to catch Santana and write about it for the Daily News.  

Actually, I was shocked that Jay Horwitz had talked his bosses into letting me do it, but the Mets had bottomed out in 2009, and I guess they figured they could use anything resembling good publicity. 

So there I was in Fort Myers, Fla., where Santana lived, a couple of days before he was to report to spring training, on a ballfield at Florida Gulf Coast University about to get an up-close look at what it was like to catch the Mets' ace. 

I was counting on my old college shortstop skills to get me through it, and I was pretty confident because that winter I had been catching bullpen sessions for my son, Chris, who was pitching at Muhlenberg College. 

That said, I hadn't expected Santana to ramp up the expectations for me by announcing that he was treating this as if he were pitching a simulated game against the Phillies lineup, going batter-by-batter against Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Howard, etc. as he would for real in a couple of months. 

"You're calling the pitches," he told me. "You have the scouting report?"

In truth, Santana was being a great sport about the whole thing, but he did want to get something out of this throwing session, and he brought an intensity that had me feeling pressure not to screw up behind the plate. 

And with that Shane Victorino stepped into the batter's box, at least in Santana's mind, as the two-time Cy Young Award winner went to work. 

He was throwing about 88-90 mph, he estimated, but as I saw from behind the plate, the left-hander threw with a short-armed delivery that made it look as if the ball was coming right out of his ear -- creating deception that made him sneaky-fast. 

Also, I saw that his trademark change-up came out of the exact same slot with the same arm speed, making it look like a fastball until it hit the brakes in flight and dived downward as it neared the plate. No wonder nobody could hit that pitch, I remember thinking.

Anyway, all was going well until Santana, trying to be precise, walked Utley with two outs, bringing up Howard. As promised, he threw a slider in the dirt that the Phillies' clean-up hitter may or may not have chased, and though I blocked it, the ball caromed far enough off me that Utley would have been able to advance to second base.

"What'd you think, I was going to throw him a cookie?" Santana barked as I scrambled to retrieve the ball. "Now I'm in a tough spot."

I was pretty sure he was kidding, but he wasn't smiling. Fortunately, he went on to throw a perfect slider on the corner to strike Howard out and escape the inning. 

At that point Santana did smile as he walked toward me, and, sensing he was done, I asked, "You good?"

I think he misinterpreted my comment, as if I was asking for feedback on my performance behind the plate.

"It was painless," he said with a shrug. 

I took that as a compliment. 


MARTINO: Yankees set to face tough decisions about who to keep >> Read More

RELATED: Jacoby Ellsbury likely to start season on injured list >> Read More

RELATED: CC Sabathia thanks Yankees 'for believing in me in 2008' >> Read More

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Mar 21, 2019; Tokyo,JPN; Seattle Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki (51) tips his cap after being removed from the game during the eighth inning against the Oakland Athletics at Tokyo Dome. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports  (Darren Yamashita)
Mar 21, 2019; Tokyo,JPN; Seattle Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki (51) tips his cap after being removed from the game during the eighth inning against the Oakland Athletics at Tokyo Dome. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports (Darren Yamashita)

Former Yankees outfielder and Mariners legend Ichiro Suziki retired after Thursday's game in Japan, the Mariners announced in a statement.

"I have achieved so many of my dreams in baseball, both in my career in Japan and, since 2001, in Major League Baseball," Ichiro said in a statement. "I am honored to end my big league career where it started, with Seattle, and think it is fitting that my last games as a professional were played in my home country of Japan."

Ichiro, 45, played in only 15 games last year before he stopped playing, only to return for Seattle's two-game regular-season series at Tokyo Dome. He went 0-for-4 on Thursday before he was removed from the game, leaving the field to a standing ovation.

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New York Yankees starting pitcher Domingo German throws a pitch during the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at George M. Steinbrenner Field. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Yankees starting pitcher Domingo German throws a pitch during the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at George M. Steinbrenner Field. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

Domingo German takes the mound as the Yankees face the St. Louis Cardinals in a Grapefruit League game on Thursday at 1 p.m. at Roger Dean Stadium.

Yankees notes

Outfielder Aaron Judge leads the Yankees with six home runs and 15 RBIs this spring. ... Matt Lipka and Billy Burns are in a tie for second on the team in stolen bases (four), trailing only Estevan Florial (five).

Tags: Domingo German, St. Louis Cardinals
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Mar 20, 2019; West Palm Beach, FL, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Jonathan Holder (56) delivers a pitch against the Houston Astros during a spring training game at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports (Steve Mitchell)
Mar 20, 2019; West Palm Beach, FL, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Jonathan Holder (56) delivers a pitch against the Houston Astros during a spring training game at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports (Steve Mitchell)

The Astros and Yankees were stuck in a pitcher's duel on Wednesday afternoon, but it was Houston coming away with the 2-1 win in the end. >> Box Score

Things to know about Wednesday's game...

1) The Yankees, once again, went with an opener as Jonathan Holder got the ball for the first two innings. He was stellar, allowing no hits and only one walk to move his spring ERA to 0.87. 

Tags: Clint Frazier, Gary Sanchez, Houston Astros, Jonathan Holder, Luke Voit, Scott Thompson
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Feb 14, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA;New York Yankees starting pitcher Luis Severino (40) throws a bullpen session as manager Aaron Boone (17) looks on during spring training at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
Feb 14, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA;New York Yankees starting pitcher Luis Severino (40) throws a bullpen session as manager Aaron Boone (17) looks on during spring training at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

While the Yankees will be without injured ace Luis Severino for a while longer, he took a big step on Wednesday toward a return, throwing on flat ground

Severino had been shut down since March 5, and GM Brian Cashman announced last Friday that the best-case scenario for Severino would be a May return -- confirming the timeline an orthopedic surgeon gave SNY earlier this month. 

The 25-year-old Severino does not have any structural damage in his shoulder, but he is basically re-starting his Spring Training as the team prepares for Opening Day in just over a week. 

Tags: CC Sabathia, Domingo German, Luis Cessa, Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Danny Abriano
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New York Yankees first baseman Greg Bird doubles during the third inning against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Yankees first baseman Greg Bird doubles during the third inning against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

The Yankees head to West Palm Beach to take on the Astros on Wednesday at 1:05 p.m.

Yankees notes

The Yankees continue their experiment with using an opener as Jonathan Holder gets the start. ... Both Luke Voit and Greg Bird are in the lineup as their battle to be the starting first baseman continues. ... Clint Frazier starts in right field a day after starting in left. ... Gary Sanchez is behind the plate for the second straight day.

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Tags: Clint Frazier, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Houston Astros, Jonathan Holder, Luke Voit
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Oct 16, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez (47) pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first inning in game four of the 2018 NLCS playoff baseball series at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports (Richard Mackson)
Oct 16, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez (47) pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first inning in game four of the 2018 NLCS playoff baseball series at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports (Richard Mackson)

As his free agency dragged into mid-March, Gio Gonzalez chose the Yankees because, well, he had nowhere else to go.

The veteran lefty told reporters Wedneday morning that the deal he accepted with the Yankees is the only offer he received. Gonzalez's one-year, minor-league deal carries a base salary of $3 million and he can earn $300,000 for every MLB start, with a maximum possible value of $12 million.

"They gave me something I couldn't turn down," Gonzalez said, per MLB.com. "I was like, 'Let's do this. Let's go to work.' I can't be ungrateful. This is a pretty great opportunity."

Tags: Gio Gonzalez
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Yankees saving up for Judge 00:01:19
The Yankees missed out on a chance to sign Mike Trout, but their recent trend of saving their money could signal an Aaron Judge deal.

Mike Trout and Alex Bregman may have been the latest players to secure long-term extensions on Tuesday, but for Didi Gregorius and Dellin Betances, they will have to wait. 

According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees are "nowhere close" to a deal with either player despite interest in extending both of them earlier this spring, as SNY's Andy Martino reported. 

The two players, who are both eligible for free agency after the season, were thought to be next in line for extensions after the Yankees struck team-friendly deals with Luis Severino and Aaron Hicks at the start of Spring Training. 

Tags: Dellin Betances, Didi Gregorius
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Mar 8, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Dellin Betances (68) throws a pitch during the fifth inning against the Detroit Tigers at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
Mar 8, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Dellin Betances (68) throws a pitch during the fifth inning against the Detroit Tigers at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

Dellin Betances' difficult Spring Training ended on a sour note. 

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Tuesday the reliever will begin the season on the Injured List. Betances struggled with his fastball velocity throughout camp, and he was officially diagnosed with a right shoulder impingement and inflammation after undergoing an MRI. 

His rehab will consist of anti-inflammatory medicine and rest. He will be shut down from throwing for at least three days. 

Tags: Dellin Betances
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Mar 19, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge (99) celebrates with his teammates after scoring a run in the third inning of the spring training game against the Tampa Bay Rays at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports (Jonathan Dyer)
Mar 19, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge (99) celebrates with his teammates after scoring a run in the third inning of the spring training game against the Tampa Bay Rays at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports (Jonathan Dyer)

Luis Cessa was stellar once again while Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez lead the Yankees to another Spring Training win in a 6-2 victory over the Rays. >> Box Score

Things to know about Tuesday's game...

1) The Yankees decided to experiment with an opener against the team that lived by them all last season. Chad Green did allow one run on two hits while striking out one before handing the ball over. 

Tags: Aaron Judge, Chad Green, Gary Sanchez, Giancarlo Stanton, Greg Bird, Luis Cessa, Luke Voit, Scott Thompson
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Oct 9, 2018; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Aaron Hicks (31) reacts hitting a pop out during the third inning against the Boston Red Sox in game four of the 2018 ALDS playoff baseball series at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Oct 9, 2018; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Aaron Hicks (31) reacts hitting a pop out during the third inning against the Boston Red Sox in game four of the 2018 ALDS playoff baseball series at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

Aaron Hicks had a second cortisone shot in his back over the weekend, and he declared himself pain-free Tuesday. 

The next step for the outfielder, who has already ruled himself out for Opening Day next week, told reporters the next step in his rehab process will be to take swings without any pain. 

After Hicks' first cortisone shot, the pain dissipated but returned when he started taking cuts again. This time around, he wants to be sure that same issue won't repeat itself. 

Tags: Aaron Hicks
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Mar 18, 2019; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) hits a two run triple during the fifth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports (Butch Dill)
Mar 18, 2019; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) hits a two run triple during the fifth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports (Butch Dill)

So now we know Mike Trout, baseball's first $400 million man, almost certainly won't ever be bringing his talents to the Bronx, and in a sort-of-related matter, Aaron Judge is currently sporting a rather insane 1.061 slugging percentage in the Grapefruit League, hitting extra-base rockets all over Florida. 

How is it related? Well, with Trout agreeing to a 12-year, $430 million contract extension with the Angels, it's only natural to ask: when do the Yankees lock up Judge?

I'd say the sooner the better, before he wins the AL MVP award in 2019 and his price begins to climb toward Trout territory.

Tags: Aaron Judge, John Harper
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On the morning after Derek Jeter announced his retirement during spring training of 2014, I happened to be in Angels camp in Tempe, Arizona. At that time, a manufactured storyline was going around that Mike Trout could replace Jeter as the "face of baseball."

As Trout fielded questions about this topic, he was affable, engaging -- and clearly uninterested in being anything other than a great ballplayer for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He was more goofy younger brother than international celebrity, and that seemed fine.

The news on Tuesday morning of Trout's 12-year, $430 million agreement with the Angels, first reported by ESPN, closed off any remaining chance that Trout can ever rise above niche recognition from hardcore baseball fans.

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Yankees saving up for Judge 00:01:19
The Yankees missed out on a chance to sign Mike Trout, but their recent trend of saving their money could signal an Aaron Judge deal.

The Yankees passed on signing Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, and never got the chance to lure Nolan Arenado to the Bronx. They're also not going to have a chance to pitch the best player in baseball on the idea of putting on the Pinstripes.

Mike Trout, who had been due to hit the free agent market after the 2020 season, has agreed to a 12-year deal worth $430 million to remain with the Angels, reports Jeff Passan of ESPN

His deal averages out to $35.83 million, and eclipses Harper's as the biggest in the history of North American sports. 

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Oct 16, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez (47) pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first inning in game four of the 2018 NLCS playoff baseball series at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports (Richard Mackson)
Oct 16, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez (47) pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first inning in game four of the 2018 NLCS playoff baseball series at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports (Richard Mackson)

Gio Gonzalez could be in line for quite the payday with the Yankees. 

Nearing a Minor League deal with the club, the left-hander will have a base salary of $3 million. After that, he can earn $300,000 per start, with a maximum total of $12 million this season, per Jon Heyman. 


Mar 1, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA;New York Yankees left fielder Giancarlo Stanton (27) singles during the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
Mar 1, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA;New York Yankees left fielder Giancarlo Stanton (27) singles during the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

The Yankees will face the Rays on Tuesday at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. First pitch is set for 1:05 p.m.

Yankees notes

Chad Green gets the start as the Yankees experiment with using an opener. ... For the second straight day, the Yankees are rolling out a typical top-four of the lineup, with Brett GardnerAaron JudgeGiancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez getting things started. ... Clint Frazier starts in left field, while Greg Bird gets the nod at first base. 

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Tags: Chad Green, Luis Severino, Tampa Bay Rays
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New York Yankees outfielder Clint Frazier hits a sacrifice fly scoring infielder Miguel Andujar during the sixth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Spectrum Field. (Douglas DeFelice/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Yankees outfielder Clint Frazier hits a sacrifice fly scoring infielder Miguel Andujar during the sixth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Spectrum Field. (Douglas DeFelice/USA TODAY Sports)

The Yankees will be without Aaron Hicks for at least the opening series of the regular season due to back stiffness that has required two cortisone shots. With back issues, reducing the pain while getting up to game speed is difficult and can often linger well beyond the original diagnosis.

The Yankees will have to make a decision on who will take the newly vacant roster spot and they have two choices: Clint Frazier or Tyler Wade.

Which player makes the most sense?

Tags: Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner, Clint Frazier, Giancarlo Stanton, Tyler Wade, Chris Carelli
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Mar 13, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Chad Green (57) throws a pitch during the fourth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
Mar 13, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Chad Green (57) throws a pitch during the fourth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

The Rays were one of the teams at the forefront of the "opener" phenomenon in baseball, in which a reliever starts the game and gives way to a parade of relievers the remainder of the contest. 

On Tuesday, the Yankees will use the tactic against Tampa Bay in a Spring Training exhibition at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. Reliever Chad Green will start for New York, while Luis Cessa, who normally operates as a starter, will be available out of the bullpen. 

Green was a starter during his junior season at Louisville in 2013 and for his first three seasons in the Minor Leagues. The right-hander has made nine starts for the Yankees in his career. Meanwhile, Cessa has started 19 games, with 24 relief appearances.  

Tags: Chad Green, Luis Cessa
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Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Gio Gonzalez throws a pitch in the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Miller Park. (Benny Sieu/USA TODAY Sports)
Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Gio Gonzalez throws a pitch in the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Miller Park. (Benny Sieu/USA TODAY Sports)

Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The Yankees needed starting pitching depth, especially after learning last week they will be without injured ace Luis Severino until at least May.

And while we can file the signing of veteran lefty Gio Gonzalez into the "why not" category, we can also look at recent history and see it as unlikely that Gonzalez will be much help.

Tags: Luis Severino, Andy Martino
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New York Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka throws a pitch during the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at Champion Stadium. (Butch Dill/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka throws a pitch during the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at Champion Stadium. (Butch Dill/USA TODAY Sports)

Masahiro Tanaka threw five solid innings and Luke Voit hit his fourth home run of the spring as the Yankees beat the Atlanta Braves 7-4 on Monday in a Grapefruit League game at Champion Stadium.

Things to know about Monday's game

1) Tanaka struck out seven batters and allowed one run, two hits and two walks in five innings, lowering his spring training ERA to 3.00. The lone run he allowed came on a Nick Markakis solo homer.

2) Voit hit a solo homer in the second inning off Braves RHP Bryse Wilson that gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead, and Ryan Lavarnway added a two-run single later in the inning that made it 3-0.

Tags: Aaron Judge, Atlanta Braves, Luke Voit, Masahiro Tanaka, Stephen Tarpley
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Aug 19, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez (47) throws to the Miami Marlins during the second inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Mills)
Aug 19, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez (47) throws to the Miami Marlins during the second inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Mills)

The Yankees are nearing a deal with free-agent LHP Gio Gonzalez, SNY.tv's Andy Martino confirmed.

New York would sign Gonzalez, 33, to a minor-league contract worth $3 million should he reach the majors, according to The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal.

Gonzalez's contract, according to Rosenthal, also contains an opt-out clause for April 20 should he not be on the MLB roster by then and additional incentives for games pitched.

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Mar 7, 2019; Clearwater, FL, USA; New York Yankees outfielder Estevan Florial (92) safely slides back into first base during the third inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Spectrum Field. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports (Douglas DeFelice)
Mar 7, 2019; Clearwater, FL, USA; New York Yankees outfielder Estevan Florial (92) safely slides back into first base during the third inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Spectrum Field. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports (Douglas DeFelice)

Yankees prospect Estevan Florial will wear a cast for "a few weeks," according to Aaron Boone, after suffering a non-displaced fracture in his right wrist during Saturday's game.

An MRI revealed that there is more damage than initially known from X-rays, but it won't affect Florial's timetable.

"He had a second little fracture in there, which, in the grand scheme of things, is inconsequential because it heals along with the other one," Boone told reporters on Monday. "It's very similar. It should be - I think from a prognosis, it's very similar from what we anticipated, after getting all the images and after seeing the hand specialist."

Tags: Estevan Florial
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Mar 1, 2018; Clearwater, FL, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury (22) works out prior to the game at Spectrum Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
Mar 1, 2018; Clearwater, FL, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury (22) works out prior to the game at Spectrum Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

The question surrounding Jacoby Ellsbury for some time now has been will he ever play for the Yankees again? 

But with Ellsbury finally healthy enough for some baseball activities and reporting to Yankees camp, the question has actually become when will he play for the Yankees again?

"As far as a timeline of when I'll be playing, we're not sure yet," Ellsbury told reporters on Monday. "But definitely headed in the right direction."

The 35-year-old missed the entire 2018 season because of injuries. He initially suffered an oblique strain in spring training last year and while rehabbing suffered a hip injury. After undergoing hip surgery in August, an old plantar fasciitis issue resurfaced and delayed his 2019 return.

Tags: Jacoby Ellsbury
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Mar 3, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka (19) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports (Butch Dill)
Mar 3, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka (19) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports (Butch Dill)

The Yankees head to Disney to take on the Braves at 6:05 p.m. on Monday.

Yankees notes

Masahiro Tanaka makes his penultimate Spring Training start before taking the hill on Opening Day. ... The Yanks are rolling out a strong top-four Monday with Brett GardnerAaron JudgeGiancarlo Stanton and Luke Voit, who continues his bid to win the first-base job.

Tags: Aaron Judge, Atlanta Braves, Brett Gardner, Luke Voit, Masahiro Tanaka
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New York Yankees relief pitcher Dellin Betances throws a pitch during the fifth inning against the Detroit Tigers at George M. Steinbrenner Field. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Yankees relief pitcher Dellin Betances throws a pitch during the fifth inning against the Detroit Tigers at George M. Steinbrenner Field. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

Yankees manager Aaron Boone is hopeful RHP Dellin Betances can build his arm strength back up with a week and a half remaining until Opening Day.

"I do think he's healthy and fine, it just taking him a while to find the arm strength," Boone said, according to the New York Daily News' Kristie Ackert, after Betances pitched in a Grapefruit League game Sunday for the first time in a week. "Talking to him again today, he kind of said it feels akin to what he feels basically every spring training early, but just hasn't broken through yet. He was efficient with his pitches, threw strikes today. Had a nice, easy inning. Hopefully this next week,10 days he can start to find that arm strength and build on it a little bit."

Tags: Dellin Betances, Gary Sanchez
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New York Yankees shortstop Tyler Wade and first baseman Luke Voit high five as they workout at George M. Steinbrenner Field. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Yankees shortstop Tyler Wade and first baseman Luke Voit high five as they workout at George M. Steinbrenner Field. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

Aaron Hicks revealed Sunday his sore back will cause him to miss Opening Day and begin the season on the Injured List. 

But Hicks' injury has left manager Aaron Boone and Yankees management with a conundrum regarding the entire construction of the roster.

Several factors will play into who ultimately sees the bulk of reps in Hicks' absence, including how many pitchers the team decides to roster on Opening Day and whether Clint Frazier and Tyler Wade are worthy of possibly seeing significant playing time in the outfield, according to George A. King III of the New York Post

Tags: Aaron Hicks, Clint Frazier, Tyler Wade
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Mar 17, 2019; Clearwater, FL, USA; New York Yankees pitcher James Paxton (65) throws a pitch in the first inning of the spring training game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Spectrum Field. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports (Jonathan Dyer)
Mar 17, 2019; Clearwater, FL, USA; New York Yankees pitcher James Paxton (65) throws a pitch in the first inning of the spring training game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Spectrum Field. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports (Jonathan Dyer)

The Yankees' offense stayed hot with three home runs and New York pulled away late to secure a 7-3 victory over the Phillies on Sunday at Spectrum Field in Clearwater. >> Box Score

Five things to know from Sunday's game

1. James Paxton turned in 4 1/3 hitless innings, but allowed one earned run on two walks with four strikeouts. The lefty lowered his Grapefruit League ERA to 1.54.

Tags: Gleyber Torres, Greg Bird, Luke Voit, troy-tulowitzki
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Mar 17, 2019; Sarasota, FL, USA;New York Yankees infielder Luke Voit (45) warms up prior to the game between the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports (Douglas DeFelice)
Mar 17, 2019; Sarasota, FL, USA;New York Yankees infielder Luke Voit (45) warms up prior to the game between the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports (Douglas DeFelice)

The Yankees' regulars flexed their muscles in Sunday's 5-3 split squad win over the Orioles. >> Box Score

Five things to know about Sunday's game...

1) Luke Voit crushed a two-run home run in the first inning, his third of the spring, as he looks to secure his spot as the starting first baseman on Opening Day.

Tags: Luke Voit, Miguel Andujar, Baltimore Orioles
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Oct 16, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez (47) pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first inning in game four of the 2018 NLCS playoff baseball series at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports (Richard Mackson)
Oct 16, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez (47) pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first inning in game four of the 2018 NLCS playoff baseball series at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports (Richard Mackson)

The Yankees' interest in free agent pitcher Gio Gonzalez has evolved into an offer, but a gap still remains between the two sides, according to Jon Heyman

While the two sides remain apart, Heyman added there remains optimism a deal could still get done. 

Gonzalez, 33, is one of the top remaining free agents available with less than two weeks until the start of the season and would give the Yankees some depth as they prepare to begin the season with ace Luis Severino on the injured list. 

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Mar 7, 2019; Clearwater, FL, USA; New York Yankees pitcher James Paxton (65) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Spectrum Field. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports (Douglas DeFelice)
Mar 7, 2019; Clearwater, FL, USA; New York Yankees pitcher James Paxton (65) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Spectrum Field. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports (Douglas DeFelice)

The Yankees split up on Sunday and have a good chunk of their major-league talent going against Jerad Eickhoff and the Phillies at 1:05 p.m. in Clearwater, Fla. 

Yankees notes

Greg Bird will bat third and get the start at first base against the Phillies as he carries a .344/.488/.542 spring slash line while he makes his case to be on the Opening Day roster. ... DJ LeMahieu and Troy Tulowitzki will bat 1-2 while Gleyber Torres and Gary Sanchez are the other Yankees' regulars in the split-squad game. 

Tags: Greg Bird, James Paxton, troy-tulowitzki
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New York Yankees first baseman Luke Voit hits a three-run home run during the fourth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Yankees first baseman Luke Voit hits a three-run home run during the fourth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

The other half of the Yankees split squad head to Sarasota, Fla. on Sunday to take on the Orioles at 1:05 p.m. 

Yankees notes

Luke Voit will bat third and play first base while his competition does the same in the Yankees' other split-squad game. Voit has been productive so far, hitting .286/.394/.536 with two home runs and eight RBI in 33 plate appearances. ... Miguel Andujar returns to the lineup after getting Saturday off and Clint Frazier is batting cleanup.  

Tags: Luke Voit
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New York Yankees center fielder Aaron Hicks at bat against the Toronto Blue Jays at George M. Steinbrenner Field. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Yankees center fielder Aaron Hicks at bat against the Toronto Blue Jays at George M. Steinbrenner Field. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks has officially declared himself out for Opening Day. 

The 29-year-old told ESPN's Coley Harvey that he received a second cortisone shot for his lower back injury on Sunday but expects to return for the Bombers' second series against the Tigers on April 1. 

GM Brian Cashman cast doubt on the possibility of Hicks being ready by Opening Day on Friday, saying that the outfielder would probably need some more at-bats before he can re-join the team by then. 

 

Tags: Aaron Hicks
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Feb 14, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia (52) throws during spring training at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
Feb 14, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia (52) throws during spring training at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

CC Sabathia took the next step toward a return to the Yankees' rotation on Saturday, throwing his first simulated game of the spring after previously having thrown bullpen sessions.

Sabathia is working his way back from a heart procedure and knee surgery. He won't be ready for Opening Day -- and must serve a five-game suspension to begin the season -- but his trajectory seems to put him in line for a mid-April return.

The veteran lefty threw 32 pitches on Field 2 while facing DJ LeMahieu, Troy Tulowitzki and Kyle Holder

Tags: CC Sabathia
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Mar 16, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Estevan Florial (92) singles during the fourth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
Mar 16, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Estevan Florial (92) singles during the fourth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

Estevan Florial, ranked as the Yankees' top prospect by MLB Pipeline entering 2019, suffered a non-displaced right wrist fracture on Saturday, as revealed by X-rays, according to the Yankees. Florial was sent for X-rays after a hard collision with the outfield wall during Saturday's game.

Aaron Boone initially described the X-rays as precautionary. The Yankees said Florial will undergo further testing on Monday.

Tags: Estevan Florial
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New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge celebrates with teammates after hitting a two run home run during the fifth inning against the Detroit Tigers at George M. Steinbrenner Field. (Butch Dill/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge celebrates with teammates after hitting a two run home run during the fifth inning against the Detroit Tigers at George M. Steinbrenner Field. (Butch Dill/USA TODAY Sports)

The Yankees displayed their power for the second straight day, bursting for 17 runs in a 17-7 win over the Blue Jays on Saturday at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla. >> Box Score

Five things to know about Saturday's game...

1) Aaron Judge is absolutely locked in at the plate. The Yankees' slugger crushed his sixth home run of the spring -- which leads the majors in Spring Training - and did it while the Blue Jays aligned their outfield with four outfielders. He finished 1-for-2. 

Tags: Aaron Judge, J.A. Happ, Toronto Blue Jays
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Mar 3, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) runs the bases after hitting a two run home run during the fifth inning against the Detroit Tigers at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports (Butch Dill)
Mar 3, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) runs the bases after hitting a two run home run during the fifth inning against the Detroit Tigers at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports (Butch Dill)

The Toronto Blue Jays tried to get creative to slow down Aaron Judge on Saturday by using four outfielders in their defensive alignment. 

It turns out it does not really matter how many outfielders you use when the Yankees' slugger is at the plate. 

Judge responded by hitting a towering shot over the wall that left the premise of George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla. on Saturday. 

Tags: Aaron Judge, Toronto Blue Jays
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New York Yankees starting pitcher J.A. Happ works out during spring training at George M. Steinbrenner Field. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Yankees starting pitcher J.A. Happ works out during spring training at George M. Steinbrenner Field. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

J.A. Happ toes the rubber for the Yankees as they face Thomas Pannone and the Blue Jays at 1:05 p.m. at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Yankees notes

Aaron Judge hit his team-leading fifth home run on Friday, which is also tied for the league this spring, and is hitting .321 (9-for-28) with a 1.406 .OPS this spring. ... Clint Frazier is back in the lineup batting seventh as he tries to make his case for the team but is hitting just .167 (5-for-30) with two extra-base hits. 

Tags: Domingo German, Toronto Blue Jays
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Oct 16, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez (47) pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first inning in game four of the 2018 NLCS playoff baseball series at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports (Richard Mackson)
Oct 16, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez (47) pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first inning in game four of the 2018 NLCS playoff baseball series at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports (Richard Mackson)

As the Yankees ponder whether to fill the early-season holes left by Luis Severino and CC Sabathia with in-house options or to add a veteran starter, they're linked with one free agent in particular.

Jon Heyman reported Friday that the Yankees "maintain some interest" in lefty Gio Gonzalez, though there are no signs that a deal is imminent. 

Severino will miss the first month of the season with rotator cuff inflammation while the start of Sabathia's season will be slightly delayed because of a five-game suspension he has to serve and his recovery from a heart procedure and knee surgery.

Tags: CC Sabathia, Domingo German, Luis Cessa, Luis Severino
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'Machado Kid' joins BNNY 00:00:56
Jacob Carpenter went viral with his take on why he didn't want Manny Machado on the Yankees. Watch more Yankees and Jets takes on BNNY.

Nearly one month later, Jacob Carpenter's mind hasn't changed.

The "Machado Kid" who went viral in SNY's video of his reaction to Manny Machado signing with the Padres is still glad that the star infielder didn't end up with the Yankees.

"I'm definitely happy that Machado did not sign," Carpenter said while he was an in-studio guest on Baseball Night in New York.

Tags: Manny Machado
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Mar 12, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia (52) prior to the game against the Baltimore Orioles at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
Mar 12, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia (52) prior to the game against the Baltimore Orioles at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

Many wondered all offseason if the Yankees were going to pony up to sign either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, and CC Sabathia admitted there was a degree of surprise that the Yanks didn't add one of the stars. But ultimately, Sabathia believes the Yanks will be just fine without them.

"A little bit (surprised,) but we didn't need either one of them," Sabathia said on WFAN's CMB program Friday. "We've got a really good right fielder, we've got a really, really good third baseman. So I think we're fine. I think if we needed those guys it'd be a different story, but I think our team is set the way it is. It's good."

Tags: Bryce Harper, CC Sabathia, Manny Machado
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Mar 3, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) runs the bases after hitting a two run home run during the fifth inning against the Detroit Tigers at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports (Butch Dill)
Mar 3, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) runs the bases after hitting a two run home run during the fifth inning against the Detroit Tigers at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports (Butch Dill)

The Yankees' bats exploded on Friday in a 14-1 win over the Red Sox at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla. >> Box Score

Five things to know about Friday's game...

1) Aaron Judge seems ready for Opening Day. The Yankees slugger smashed his fifth home run of Spring Training, a three-run shot to right-center field, and finished the day 2-for-2 with a double. 

Tags: Aaron Judge, Luke Voit, Miguel Andujar
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Mar 9, 2019; Sarasota, FL, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Luis Cessa (85) throws a pitch during the first inning of a game against the Baltimore Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports (Butch Dill)
Mar 9, 2019; Sarasota, FL, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Luis Cessa (85) throws a pitch during the first inning of a game against the Baltimore Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports (Butch Dill)

With Opening Day less than two weeks away and Luis Severino officially out until May, the Yankees have a major decision to make on how to handle their starting rotation. 

Manager Aaron Boone has announced Masahiro Tanaka as the Opening Day starter, followed by James Paxton and J.A. Happ, but after that still remains a mystery. 

CC Sabathia is also not expected back until mid-April, but because of the off days built into the Yankees' schedule, they really only need one spot starter to fill the void until Severino returns. 

Tags: Domingo German, Luis Cessa, Luis Severino
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Yankees hit with injury bug 00:01:00
New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman revealed Luis Severino and Aaron Hicks will start the season on the IL. Sweeny Murti analyzes the impact.

The Yankees are going to be without their ace for at least the first month of the season. 

General manager Brian Cashman announced on Friday that the best-case scenario for Luis Severino would be for a May return, confirming what an orthopedic surgeon told SNY earlier this month. 

Severino, 25, is still in the midst of his two-week shutdown period after feeling soreness in his shoulder and would have to start his throwing from scratch once he resumes. 

Tags: Aaron Hicks, CC Sabathia, Luis Severino
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New York Yankees relief pitcher Domingo German throws a pitch during the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Dunedin Stadium. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Yankees relief pitcher Domingo German throws a pitch during the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Dunedin Stadium. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

Domingo German and the Yankees face Hector Velazquez and the Boston Red Sox in a Grapefruit League game on Friday at 1:05 p.m. at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Yankees notes

Aaron Judge leads the Yankees with four home runs in spring training. ... Both Luke Voit and Greg Bird have thrived this spring as they battle for a spot on the 25-man roster. Voit has a .280/.400/.520 batting line with two home runs and six RBIs in 10 games, while Bird is slashing .357/.471/.571 with one home run and six RBIs in 12 games.

Tags: Domingo German, Boston Red Sox
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New York Yankees infielder DJ LeMahieu catches a ball thrown from home plate in a steal drill during spring training workouts at George M. Steinbrenner Field. (Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Yankees infielder DJ LeMahieu catches a ball thrown from home plate in a steal drill during spring training workouts at George M. Steinbrenner Field. (Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports)

When we think of a club's overall success, it typically and rightfully relies upon the performance of the starters. However, the production from the bench players is of great importance understanding there will be injuries and performance issues along the way.

The Yankees have a couple of players considered locks to make the Opening Day roster as bench options, a handful of potential choices for the final spot on the bench and a long shot to be among the reserves late in the season.

Tags: Austin Romine, Clint Frazier, Greg Bird, Chris Carelli
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American League outfielder Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees holds up the trophy after winning the 2017 Home Run Derby at Marlins Park. (Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports)
American League outfielder Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees holds up the trophy after winning the 2017 Home Run Derby at Marlins Park. (Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports)

Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge will earn $684,300 this season.

The Home Run Derby champion, based on the new deal the MLB and MLB Players Association reached, will receive $1 million.

Yet Judge, the 2017 champion who didn't want to defend his crown in 2018, doesn't think the money means he'll compete in it again.

Tags: Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton
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Mar 2, 2019; Bradenton, FL, USA; New York Yankees pitcher Luis Cessa (85) throws a pitch in the first inning of the spring training game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at LECOM Park. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports (Jonathan Dyer)
Mar 2, 2019; Bradenton, FL, USA; New York Yankees pitcher Luis Cessa (85) throws a pitch in the first inning of the spring training game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at LECOM Park. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports (Jonathan Dyer)

Luis Cessa is making it very hard for manager Aaron Boone to solidify his rotation after yet another stellar outing on Thursday. 

Cessa went a strong four innings, allowing no runs and just two hits and a walk while collecting three strikouts against the Blue Jays. The walk was Cessa's first this spring, and his ERA fell even further to 0.69 over 13 spring innings. 

"I thought his two-seam fastball was really good again, which is really encouraging," Boone told NorthJersey.com's Pete Caldera about Cessa latest outing.

Tags: Luis Cessa
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Mar 14, 2019; Dunedin, FL, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Luis Cessa (85) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Dunedin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
Mar 14, 2019; Dunedin, FL, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Luis Cessa (85) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Dunedin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

It was a pitcher's duel in Dunedin on Thursday afternoon, as the Yankees and Blue Jays ended up in a 1-1 tie at the end of nine innings. >> Box Score

Five things to know about Thursday's game...

1) Luis Cessa is making it hard for the Yankees to leave him off their 25-man roster when camp breaks after another solid start. He didn't allow a run and only two hits over four innings. While moving his ERA to 0.69 this spring, he collected three strikeouts as well.

Tags: Gleyber Torres, Luis Cessa, Miguel Andujar, Scott Thompson
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Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred gestures while speaking during a Major League Baseball owners meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018 in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) (Ben Margot/AP)
Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred gestures while speaking during a Major League Baseball owners meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018 in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) (Ben Margot/AP)

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred's desire for more action and less dead time in baseball is at the heart of the rules changes that were announced on Thursday, and with that in mind, here are the three I believe are most noteworthy:

1) The three-batter minimum for relievers, which goes into effect in 2020, and makes for intriguing strategy decisions as well as fewer late-inning pitching changes.

2) A 28-man September roster, as of 2020, which will finally bring an end to the ridiculous practice of essentially having unlimited substitutions in the final month of the season.

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MLB commissioner Rob Manfred addresses representatives from the grapefruit league during the annual spring training media day at Hilton in West Palm Beach. (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred addresses representatives from the grapefruit league during the annual spring training media day at Hilton in West Palm Beach. (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

The MLB and the MLB Players Association announced an agreement on Thursday that includes changes to the rosters, game play and the All-Star voting process over the next two years.

In 2019, the changes include:

  • The elimination of August trades, meaning July 31 will be sole MLB trade deadline.
  • The maximum number of mound visits per team will be reduced from six to five.
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