TAMPA, Fla. — The first official day of spring training was an opportunity for Yankees manager Aaron Boone to rekindle relationships with his players, who headed to George M. Steinbrenner Field Sunday morning ready to shake off of any lingering rust from the recent lockdown.
“I’m really excited to be back here, to see the guys coming up,” Boone said. “Obviously it’s a shortened situation, but we’re really excited to start getting through this. I’m excited for the fans. …I think it reinforces how much you appreciate the opportunity to put on this uniform.
The Yankees open their Grapefruit League schedule on Friday against the Pirates in Bradenton, Fla., with their spring home opener scheduled for March 20 against the Tigers. With opening day scheduled for April 7 against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium, here are five takeaways from Boone’s first press conference this spring:
Gio is the shortstop – for now
Gio Urshela ended 2021 as a Yankees shortstop, and while many fans are clamoring for the addition of a first free agent like Carlos Correa or Trevor Story, Boone said he’s preparing as if Urshela will open the season in this position. Gleyber Torres could also see some reps in the spring at shortstop, although he’s more focused on second base.
“Obviously we have some young guys knocking on the door and we’re really excited in [Oswald] Peraza and [Oswaldo] Cabrera who are here,” Boone said. “So we will let this situation deteriorate. I’m sure there are still things to do in the game, and certainly with us, that will potentially change that landscape along the way.
Boone added that he sees DJ LeMahieu spending most of his time at third base. When asked if he expected the Yankees to acquire another shortstop, Boone said general manager Brian Cashman and front office staff were “in overdrive to assess and have these conversations. , whether through free agents or through trade markets.”
In to earn it
The Yanks’ 2021 playoffs lasted just nine innings, and Boone needs no reminder that the club hasn’t reached a World Series since 2009. Boone received a three-year contract extension during of the last offseason, and time is running out to achieve his stated goal. to be the last team standing.
“We can win with what we have,” Boone said. “Having said that, I know we are working hard to see if there are areas where we can make improvements. Obviously, with the long lockdown freeze, things are going to pick up in earnest right now. The reality is that we have a lot of great people in this room, a lot of great players.
“Despite all the ups and downs we had last year, we still managed to get into the playoffs with all these guys. It also feels like there are a handful of guys who didn’t have their best year. … There are no excuses. No matter what happens, we expect to be a great team.
The abbreviated 2020 summer camp experience could serve clubs well this spring as they aim to prepare pitchers for Opening Day. The Yankees already have pitchers throwing relievers — Clay Holmes, Michael King and Jameson Taillon were among those who did on Sunday, and Luis Severino pitched a side session on Saturday.
“Most of the guys are in really good shape, looked after them and looked after them, but [the team hasn’t] had eyes or hands on them for the past few months,” Boone said. “There is an urgency that exists with the calendar. This will create some pressure to want to prepare. This can be a very good thing; it’s going to force us to really sharpen our focus early on.
Other pitchers doing flat-field work Sunday include Nestor Cortes, Chad Green, Lucas Luetge, Jordan Montgomery and Clarke Schmidt. Boone said the Yanks’ early Grapefruit League games will mostly see Minor League pitchers on the hill because they’ve been preparing for weeks.
Andújar in a good mood
Miguel Andújar was part of the Yankees batting group participating in optional batting practice on Sunday. Andújar was recently robbed at his farm in the Dominican Republic, where the attackers allegedly took a watch worth $7,000 along with a vehicle belonging to the infielder/outfielder’s father.
“He looks great and he looked good,” Boone said. “Obviously it’s a scary situation and something we will continue to talk to him about and support him as needed, but this morning he looked good and ready to go.”
North of the border
Boone said he was “concerned” that the Yankees could be at a disadvantage this season for their road games against the Blue Jays, as the Canadian government will not allow players who are not vaccinated against COVID- 19 to cross the border. The Yanks’ first visit to Toronto is scheduled for May 2-4.
“It will be interesting to say the least how this plays out,” Boone said. “I think we still have at least a few guys who are unvaccinated, so we’ll be watching this situation closely and seeing how it goes.”
Boone – who is vaccinated – said he considers vaccination to be “a personal decision” but would consider talking to his players.
“I have people in my life who have made choices on both sides,” Boone said. “It’s one of those things that polarizes us, unfortunately, as a nation and as a world. I will definitely communicate with our guys, but ultimately it’s a personal decision.