As Yankees’ Stars Report to Spring Training, Questions Still Remain
As pitchers and catchers around the league report to their respective training camps, baseball season is officially upon us. All teams must deal with trades, signings, and coaching moves. The goal for most owners and GM's is to avoid drama that could linger into the start of the regular season. For the New York Yankees, drama engulfs the offseason. It's commonplace for the national media to hang on every word uttered by any Yankee employee. From A-Rod to Derek Jeter, the Yankees are left with question marks throughout their team.
1. Can the Yankees expect Mariano Rivera to return to form this season?
If you ask any Yankee fan, the answer would be, "Yes, definitely. He's the greatest closer of all time." There is no disputing that Mo's record 608 saves speak for themselves. The 43 year old veteran can certainly still pitch. In the last four seasons, before Rivera tore his ACL last May, Rivera posted an ERA under 2. Rivera amazingly put up nine seasons before last with 50+ saves. While most closers are just battling to keep their job, Rivera has been the rock of the Yankees since 1997.
Answer: No, Mariano Rivera may never return fully to the form he once had. Considering what Rivera has done, a 50% Rivera is still better than 99% of the rest of the closers in the MLB. The Yankees will be counting on Rivera to be a steady back of the bullpen force, and fans should expect 40+ saves for the ageless Rivera. Don't be expecting an ERA under 2, but knowing Rivera, anything is possible.
2. With Russell Martin leaving for free agency, who will catch for the Yankees this season?
Since Jorge Posada retired after the 2011 season, the Yankees have been looking for a catcher to replace Posada. Realistically, Posada is not replaceable. Russell Martin served as the Yankees catcher last season, and hit for an awfully low .211 average. Martin did add 21 homers, and was reliable behind the plate. This season will feature the future of the Yankees behind the dish. Francisco Cervelli is one option. Cervelli has never played more than 93 games in a single season, though in that 2010 season, he hit .271. Cervelli lacks power but is a consistent hitter who gets on base. The other option is Chris Stewart, though Stewart also lacks experience catching in the MLB.
Answer: The Yankees will employ a committee at catcher this season. Cervelli and Stewart will split time all season long, with young prospect Austin Romine vying for playing time.
3. After the offseason PED revelations involving Alex Rodriguez, will Kevin Youkilis man the hot corner all season?
As many of you know, a report that was released a few weeks ago listed Alex Rodriguez among others as clients of a Miami PED clinic. The Yankees have looked for ways to void A-Rod's contract, but that attempt has not came to fruition yet. The Yankees acquired former Red Sox great Kevin Youkilis this offseason as a third base replacement while Rodriguez recovers from hip surgery. Youkilis had one of his worst seasons last year playing with Boston and the Chicago White Sox. The Yankees are hoping a move to New York could provide a spark for Youkilis to produce like old.
Answer: No, not unless A-Rod is suspended the entirety of the season due to PED reports. A-Rod is still A-Rod, and the Hall of Famer is set to return in the second half of the season. If Rodriguez is still with the Yankees when he returns, there will his position at third waiting for him. Expect A-Rod to play DH on some nights, but he will be able to provide a rest opportunity for Youkilis as the season continues.
4. After breaking his ankle during the 2012 ALCS, will Derek Jeter be able to put up Jeteresque numbers?
The entirety of the New York Yankees fan base let out a huge gasp when Derek Jeter broke his left ankle during last season's playoffs. After recording his 3000th hit during the season, Jeter may have cemented his legacy as the greatest Yankee of all time. And as the greatest Yankee, Jeter exemplifies the Yankee toughness that has been with the team since the days of Babe Ruth. The 38 yr old played a whopping 159 games last season, and managed to hit over .300.
Answer: Yes, Derek Jeter is wholly capable of putting up Jeter type numbers this season. Last season was arguably Jeter's best in a few years, and he will be fine once he fully recovers from his injury. There will be days when the veteran needs a rest, and Jeter will be pushed to DH once in a while. But to be clear, Derek Jeter is still a force in the league, the Yankees' captain, and the heart and soul of the organization.