The NewYork 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 asdip a toe in the big free agency waters this past winter. Instead, they watchedall the gaudy names (Josh Hamilton, Zack Greinke, Nick Swisher) sign elsewhere whilecounting the walking wounded.
Shortstop Derek Jeter (no set date for return). Third basemanAlex 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 castof characters either too close to retirement age or pure reclamation projects.
The rotation looks archaic but solid, led by C.C. Sabathia, AndyPettitte and Hiroki Kuroda. Phil Hughes, assuming his once-cranky backcontinues to heal, will be the fourth starter, and either David Phelps or IvanNova will take the fifth slot. Reinforcements can be found in the loser of thefifth spot battle as well as minor leaguer Adam Warren and reacquired ex-aceChien-Ming Wang.
The Yankees bullpen could be even better than lastyear, with Joba Chamberlain fully recovered at last, a healthy DavidAardsma, 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 thepast but offers the kind of speed previous Yankees teams lacked. Pencil in a rejuvenatedIchiro Suzuki and Brett Gardner, who missed most of last season, and you’ve gota speedy outfield duo eager to manufacture runs. Eduardo Nunez will get likelyhis final chance to prove his potential is legit as Jeter’s temporaryreplacement at short. Free agent signee Kevin Youkilis will likely play thirduntil A-Rod returns, although Teixeira’s loss may move the former Red Soxstar over to first to spell new pickup Lyle Overbay.
General Manager Brian Cashman deserves heaps of credit forsecuring solid retreads to patch over roster holes in recent years (FreddyGarcia, Bartolo Colon, Eric Chavez and Andruw Jones).
This year, Cashman hopes a new gaggle of castaways (including Overbayand Brennan Boesch) helps the team tread water until its heavy hitters returnto action. Until then, the squad’s pitchers will have to keep games close, andif they remain collectively healthy they should do just that.
Bottom line: This year’s Yankees team is a collection of questionmarks, not a postseason favorite. They’ll repeat as Eastern Division championsif their senior citizens don’t show their age … if Derek Jeter’s ankle injury healsbefore May … if both Granderson and Teixeira return to form … if Youkilis isn’twashed up at 34 … and if all the recent surgery scars don’t become a visualmetaphor for the 2013 Bronx Bombers.
That’s too many “ifs” for Yankee Nation, but more than enough to giveevery other team in the division reason for optimism.