AL East: 'Ageless' Rivera Among Few Healthy Yankees

The New York Yankees may find out the perils of their new, penny pinching ways long before the dog days of summer.

The organization known for its monetary excess didn't so much as dip a toe in the big free agency waters this past winter. Instead, they watched all the gaudy names (Josh Hamilton, Zack Greinke, Nick Swisher) sign elsewhere while counting the walking wounded.

Shortstop Derek Jeter (no set date for return). Third baseman Alex Rodriguez (out until mid-season—at best). centerfielder Curtis Granderson (out until May), first baseman Mark Teixeira (out until late May—at best). pitcher Michael Pineda (out until mid-season, fingers crossed).

That leaves the 2013 Yankees with a serious power crisis and a cast of characters either too close to retirement age or pure reclamation projects.

The rotation looks archaic but solid, led by C.C. Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda. Phil Hughes, assuming his once-cranky back continues to heal, will be the fourth starter, and either David Phelps or Ivan Nova will take the fifth slot. Reinforcements can be found in the loser of the fifth spot battle as well as minor leaguer Adam Warren and reacquired ex-ace Chien-Ming Wang.

The Yankees bullpen could be even better than last year, with Joba Chamberlain fully recovered at last, a healthy David Aardsma, Dave Robertson, Boone Logan and the ageless Mariano Rivera pitching in his last Major League season. 

The opening day lineup will be far less fearsome than in the past but offers the kind of speed previous Yankees teams lacked. Pencil in a rejuvenated Ichiro Suzuki and Brett Gardner, who missed most of last season, and you've got a speedy outfield duo eager to manufacture runs. Eduardo Nunez will get likely his final chance to prove his potential is legit as Jeter’s temporary replacement at short. Free agent signee Kevin Youkilis will likely play third until A-Rod returns, although Teixeira's loss may move the former Red Sox star over to first to spell new pickup Lyle Overbay.

General Manager Brian Cashman deserves heaps of credit for securing solid retreads to patch over roster holes in recent years (Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, Eric Chavez and Andruw Jones).

This year, Cashman hopes a new gaggle of castaways (including Overbay and Brennan Boesch) helps the team tread water until its heavy hitters return to action. Until then, the squad's pitchers will have to keep games close, and if they remain collectively healthy they should do just that.

Bottom line: This year's Yankees team is a collection of question marks, not a postseason favorite. They'll repeat as Eastern Division champions if their senior citizens don't show their age … if Derek Jeter's ankle injury heals before May … if both Granderson and Teixeira return to form … if Youkilis isn't washed up at 34 … and if all the recent surgery scars don't become a visual metaphor for the 2013 Bronx Bombers.

That's too many “ifs” for Yankee Nation, but more than enough to give every other team in the division reason for optimism.


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