Yankees hope aged team is team for the ages
October baseball is almost a divine right in the view of the New
York Yankees. They’ve made the playoffs in 17 of the last 18
seasons, their fans block out autumn nights for baseball months in
advance and clubhouse celebrations break out with regularity.
But there are doubts this year. Lots of them.
Nick Swisher is gone. So are Russell Martin, Raul Ibanez, Eric
Chavez and Rafael Soriano.
Derek Jeter will start the season on the disabled list. He’ll be
joined by Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Phil
”Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us,” ace CC Sabathia said.
”We’ve got guys in here who can hopefully step up and try to fill
the void until these guys get back.”
The power supply seems a bit depleted, especially while they
wait for the return of Jeter, Teixeira, Granderson and A-Rod, who
combined for 100 home runs last year. Add in Swisher, Martin and
Ibanez, and that’s 164 of the team-record 245 hit by the
”I anticipate it’s going to be different because we don’t quite
have the home-run hitters that we’ve had in the past,” said Joe
Girardi, starting his sixth season as manager. ”So, we’re going to
have to find different ways to score runs. I think when you look at
our club this year, there’s more speed.”
Older clubs generally aren’t known for swiftness, and the
Yankees once again will be among the majors’ elderly. Hoping their
veterans age like wine and not become akin to rotary phones in the
wireless era, New York counts on the health of a pitching staff
closer to AARP than MVP.
Mariano Rivera, the 43-year-old reliever who is the greatest
closer ever, returns for a valedictory season after missing most of
2012 with a torn knee ligament. Just hearing Metallica’s ”Enter
Sandman,” Rivera’s introductory music, makes the Yankees and their
fans feel better.
”I can’t say anything else other than he has been absolutely
amazing to watch,” Andy Pettitte said. ”You don’t have to worry
about him when he walks out there and takes that mound.”
Pettitte, who turns 41 in June, was 5-4 with a 2.87 ERA in 12
starts last year, when he missed almost three months because of a
broken lower left leg, sustained when he was hit by a line drive
off the bat of Cleveland’s Casey Kotchman on June 27.
Hiroki Kuroda, 38, became the Yankees’ most consistent pitcher
last year and went 16-11 with a 3.32 ERA in his first season in
pinstripes, leading New York with 33 starts and 219 2-3
More is expected of Sabathia, who turns 33 in July. He was 15-6,
3.38 ERA, slowed by trips to the disabled list for a strained groin
and an inflamed elbow – which needed postseason surgery. With
Hughes still coming back from a spring training back injury. Ivan
Nova (12-8, 5.02) and David Phelps (4-4, 3.34) also will be in the
rotation when the season starts.
”There’s been a lot of talk about our age, but I like having
those veterans,” owner Hal Steinbrenner said. ”I like the age. I
like the experience. And I think it’s great for the young players
to have that around. Injuries are a big part of it. We’re just
going to have to keep our fingers crossed that we don’t get any
strange injuries like Andy last year, and Mo.”
With the departure of Soriano, who signed with Washington, a
larger bullpen burden will fall on David Robertson, who never
completely bounced back from a strained left oblique last May, and
Joba Chamberlain, who returned in August from 14 months of
On the offensive side, all the major additions are members of
the 30-plus club. Kevin Youkilis (34) was brought in to play third
base while A-Rod’s hip heals, and Vernon Wells (34) was added in
the final week of spring training to fill a corner outfield spot
while Granderson’s broken forearm gets better. He’ll be joined in
the outfield by Brett Gardner, limited to 17 games last season
because of an elbow injury, and Ichiro Suzuki (39), who revived his
career after he was acquired from Seattle last summer.
Travis Hafner figures to get a lot of at-bats at designated
hitter, if he avoids injuries that have limited him to fewer than
100 games in four of the last five seasons. Juan Rivera is the
fill-in at first base until Teixeira returns from a wrist injury
and Eduardo Nunez until Jeter’s left ankle recovers sufficiently
from surgery last October.
Francisco Cervelli, dropped to Triple-A for almost all of last
season, is likely Martin’s replacement behind the plate.
Even the general manager is wounded. Brian Cashman broke a leg
and dislocated the ankle skydiving in Florida during spring
training while raising funds for the Wounded Warrior Project.
He knows George Steinbrenner wouldn’t have tolerated any
whining. He’d insist an aged team become a team for the ages.
”I was raised under the Boss, and with the Boss there’s no
excuses,” he said. ”So these are the obstacles you deal with, and
you find ways to get over. No one cares about anything else. All
they care about is the bottom line is what you put in that win
column. We’re not going to allow this to bury us. We’re just not.
AP freelance writer Mark Didtler contributed to this report.