AL East: 'Ageless' Rivera Among Few Healthy Yankees
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
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.