Boone hopes Yankees ‘get to top of the mountain’ in 2019

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Aaron Boone kept tuning into postseason games, even after his New York Yankees were eliminated by Boston, and he watched the Red Sox win the World Series.

“I don’t know if it was to torture myself or what,” the New York manager said Wednesday as pitchers and catchers reported for spring training. “You put this hat on and this uniform on, to get to wear a big league uniform, you shouldn’t need much motivation, but to watch a team that you know so well that’s certainly one of your rivals celebrate where you want to be, I think that adds a little fuel to the fire, certainly.”

The Yankees went 100-62 in Boone’s first season as manager, their best record since winning the 2009 World Series, and Boone thinks this team could be better following the additions of left-hander James Paxton, reliever Adam Ottavino, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and infielder DJ LeMahieu.

“I feel like as we sit in here in early February on paper we probably look a little bit strong,” he said. “Hopefully this year get to the top of the mountain.”

Expectations are always high with the Yankees.

There’s no question, we’ll embrace those,” Boone said. “I think everyone that’s been here a while and certainly the new guys coming in I think understand what goes along with having the kind of club we potentially have and being within this organization that the expectations are great. We welcome that.”

In other news from Boone’s 30-minute media session:

— He went to the Dominican Republic during the offseason visit catcher Gary Sanchez, who hit .186 and struggled with passed balls last year. Sanchez also had left shoulder surgery on Nov. 8. “I’m really excited about his frame of mind,” Boone said. “A guy that’s frankly very hungry to go and show the world how good a player he is.”

__ Boone thinks CC Sabathia could be ready for the start of the regular season after having a stent inserted on Dec. 11 after a blockage was found in an artery from his heart. The left-hander, who says he plans to retire after this season, probably won’t throw his first bullpen for a couple more weeks.

— Boone expects Luis Severino will be the opening day starter March 28 against Baltimore.

FARQUHAR MOVING FORWARD

Reliever Danny Farquhar’s comeback from a brain hemorrhage stemming from a ruptured aneurysm last April 20 is progressing well.

In camp with a minor league contract, the right-hander says he is feeling great and will be getting his customized pitching helmet Thursday — three days before his 32nd birthday. He had a bullpen session Tuesday and plans another for Friday.

ELLSBURY EXCUSED

Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who didn’t play last season due to a number of injuries, will not report for at least the next couple weeks after experiencing plantar fasciitis during his rehab program following hip surgery.

“It’s really slowed him in his ability to really break through and get to where he needs to be,” Boone said. So, he hasn’t been able to start the baseball activity stuff.”

STAR POWER

Spring training instructors include new Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera, Reggie Jackson, Ron Guidry, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte, Hideki Matsui, Tino Martinez, Willie Randolph, Carlos Beltran, Nick Swisher, Lee Mazzilli, Alfonso Soriano and Stump Merrill.

TRAINER’S ROOM

SS Didi Gregorius (Tommy John surgery Oct. 17) will start hitting with both hands in three to four weeks. … LHP Jordan Montgomery (Tommy John surgery last June 7) is making 50 throws at 90 feet on level ground. He hopes to pitch in a game after the All-Star break break.