100-win Yankees limp into season with many injuries
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The New York Yankees open the season with likely baseball’s most accomplished injured list.
Luis Severino, CC Sabathia, Dellin Betances, Didi Gregorius, Aaron Hicks, Jordan Montgomery and just-about-forgotten Jacoby Ellsbury all start on the sidelines.
Still, the Yankees have among the most formidable lineups in the major leagues, a power plant that includes Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez.
“We’ve taken hits. It’s not the way you would draw it up, but at the same time it’s part of the playing season where you’re going to be down for a period of time,” general manager Brian Cashman said. “So when you’re dealing with them, then there’s degree of hits and these are resolvable ones. These have expiration timing tags to them. For that, you’re thankful.”
New York went 100-62 last season for its best record since 2009, yet finished eight games back of the AL East champion Boston Red Sox, who won the World Series for the fourth time in 15 seasons. Last year’s Yankees set a major league record with 267 homers, three more than the 1997 Seattle Mariners. New York was the first team with a dozen players to reach double digits in long balls, and the first with 20 or more from all nine spots in the batting order.
This year’s lineup figures to have another blast.
“Get this whole team healthy, we’re going to crush the record that we set last year,” Judge said.
New York didn’t pay luxury tax last year for the first time since the penalty on high-spending teams started in 2003, showing unusual restraint. The Yankees shot back up this year after adding Adam Ottavino and DJ LeMahieu, acquiring James Paxton and re-signing Sabathia, Zack Britton, Brett Gardner and J.A. Happ.
Gardner and Sabathia are the remaining links to the Yankees’ last World Series title, in 2009.
“It has flown by, but it’s been way too long,” Gardner said. “I know the front office and the ownership, obviously, they go out of their way to try and put the best possible team on the field every year and it’s been a disappointing 10 years. And I know for our fans it’s been disappointing, too. But as one of the guys that’s been in this room the whole time, it’s been just as disappointing, if not more so, for me. And I’ve lost probably more sleep over it than just about anybody.”
The Baby Bombers of Judge, Sanchez, Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar helped draw an AL-high 3,482,865 fans at home last year, an average of 42,998 per game. That was up from 3,146,966 in 2017 and New York’s highest at home since the dwindling days of the Derek Jeter-Mariano Rivera era in 2012. There were 23 home sellouts, the most at new Yankee Stadium, which opened in 2009.
“The expectations are great. We welcome that,” second-year manager Aaron Boone said.
The Yankees open the season March 28 at home against the Orioles
New York failed to sign Patrick Corbin, making Paxton the biggest acquisition to bolster a rotation that includes Sabathia (38) and Happ (36). Ottavino, the first No. 0 in Yankees’ history, joins an already standout bullpen led by Aroldis Chapman and Britton, who while not a new face has a new spelling — he switched from Zach. Troy Tulowitzki was signed for the minimum salary to play shortstop until Gregorius returns this summer from Tommy John surgery.
ROOKIES TO WATCH
Left-hander Stephen Tarpley could be the only rookie on the opening day roster, filling an opening created when Betances got hurt. Touted 21-year-old outfielder Estevan Florial hit .355 in 13 spring training games before breaking his right wrist.
WHAT’S UP, DOC?
Severino (right shoulder inflammation) will miss April, Sabathia (knee surgery and heart stent) will likely miss the first few weeks and Hicks (back) and Betances (right shoulder inflammation) also are sidelined. Gregorius (elbow ligament replacement on Oct. 17), Ellsbury (left hip surgery on Aug. 6, right foot plantar fasciitis) and Montgomery (elbow ligament replacement on June 7) are longer-term rehabs.
Sanchez hit .186 with 18 homers and 53 RBIs last year, led the major leagues with 18 passed balls and was behind the plate for 45 wild pitches, raising his two-year totals to 34 passed balls and 98 wild pitches. First baseman Greg Bird had surgery March 27 last year to remove a broken spur on the outside of his right ankle. He did not play for the Yankees until May 26 and wound up with a .199 batting average, 11 homers and 38 RBIs over 82 games. Tulowitzki missed last season with Toronto because of surgery on April 2 for bone spurs in his right and left heels, started spring training slowly but has started to show some life at the plate. Touted outfielder Clint Frazier sustained a concussion Feb. 24 last year making a leaping catch and was limited to 15 major league games and 54 in the minors. He was hitting below .200 in spring training.