NEW YORK (AP) — Most teams’ fans focus on the opening-day lineup. With the Yankees, the view is further ahead.
Catcher Gary Sanchez, first baseman Greg Bird and outfielder Aaron Judge figure to be on the field when the Yankees open today at Tampa Bay. But the team likely won’t develop into a power until the arrivals of outfielder Clint Frazier, shortstop Gleyber Torres, left-handers Jordan Montgomery and Justus Sheffield, and right-hander James Kaprielian, who will start the season in the minor leagues.
“I think the one thing that I’ve realized in camp is the depth of our young players is bigger than I realized,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
New York made just three additions during the offseason that appeared to be significant: signing closer Aroldis Chapman as a free agent after trading him last July and adding right-handed hitters Matt Holliday and Chris Carter.
“It’s a fine line we’re walking, but one I think we’re doing a good job of doing it,” general manager Brian Cashman said,
New York could not overcome a 9-17 start last year. After getting back to .500, the Yankees sort of contended until September, remaining on the periphery of the wild-card race and finishing fourth in the AL East at 84-78.
First baseman Mark Teixeira retired and Brian McCann was traded after losing the starting catcher’s job to rookie Gary Sanchez in the final two months. Much of the lineup is unchanged, led by outfielders Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury, third baseman Chase Headley and second baseman Starlin Castro.
Shortstop Didi Gregorius is likely out for the first month of the season after straining his throwing shoulder during the World Baseball Classic, and Ronald Torreyes appears to be the likely fill-in.
Gardner is the longest-tenured Yankees player.
“It’s crazy. It feels like just yesterday I was down between A-Rod and Robbie Cano, wearing No. 91,” he said of his locker placement during spring training.
∫ NEW LOOK: Just three players are likely to start today who were in last year’s opening-day batting order: Ellsbury, Headley and Castro. Girardi plans to break up the left-handers at the top, leaving Gardner and dropping down Ellsbury.
∫ ROOKIES TO WATCH: Judge showed tremendous power after his August call-up but must make more contact after striking out 42 times in 84 at-bats over 27 games. No longer a rookie, Sanchez will have to show he can bounce back from pitchers’ adjustments. He hit .345 with 19 homers and 38 RBIs in the first 44 games after his Aug. 3 introduction into the lineup, then finished in a 2-for-29 slide that included one home run and four RBIs.
∫ ROTATION: Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda head an unimposing rotation that went into spring training with Luis Severino, Adam Warren, Bryan Mitchell, Luis Cessa and Chad Green competing for the final two slots. Girardi was waiting until the final week of exhibition games to announce a decision.
∫ FROM THE RIGHT: Holliday was added to bring balance to a batting order that struggled against right-handed pitchers last year, especially with the decline of A-Rod, who was released in August. Carter, who tied for the NL lead with 41 home runs last year, could see time at first base against lefties.
∫ PEN PALS: New York’s bullpen was its strength during much of last season, with the triad of Chapman, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances holding leads. Chapman and Miller were dealt in the summer for prospects, but Chapman was brought back as free agent with a record contract for a reliever. Set-up men will include the losers of the rotation competition plus right-hander Tyler Clippard and left-hander Tommy Layne.