Alex Rodriguez heads list of Yankees to watch during Spring Training
Pitchers and catchers are set to report to New York Yankees Spring Training on Friday, Feb. 20, with the first official workout set for Saturday. With that in mind, let's look at five players to play close attention to as the Yankees prepare for the 2015 MLB season.
How could we not begin here with A-Rod? Or A-Roid. Or A-Fraud. Or A-Whatever name you choose to call him.
Spring Training, at least the beginning of it, will be the Alex Rodriguez show.
All eyes will be on the disgraced slugger as he returns from his year-long Biogenesis suspension.
The Yankees have tried their best to ignore A-Rod up to this point, but they can't do that forever. The circus should begin later this week when Rodriguez holds a press conference to "clear the air" before he officially reports to Spring Training. That press conference might be at Yankee Stadium, an effort to keep the media madness away from the Spring Training facility in Tampa.
After Rodriguez says what he needs to say, whether he means any of it or not, there will be the small matter of figuring out if he can still play. He will turn 40 this season, didn't play last year and played only 44 games in 2013. He has had surgery on both hips. Can he still hit a baseball well enough to be the Yankees' designated hitter? Can he move well enough to play at least some at third base?
Nobody knows. The only thing we do know is that the circus is back in town.
Did the Yankees and Tanaka make the right decision last year when they chose rehab over Tommy John surgery for the partially torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in Tanaka's very expensive and very valuable right arm?
That question will hover over the Yankees every time Tanaka throws a baseball in 2015, and maybe beyond that. The Yankees have to hope that Tanaka, entering the second year of his seven-year, $155 million contract, is still the Tanaka who went 12-4 with a 2.51 ERA before shutting it down due to the elbow injury last season. If he is a shell of that pitcher, if he can't throw that explosive splitter the way he needs to, or worse yet if he shreds the elbow and winds up needing the Tommy John surgery anyway that is a disastrous scenario for the Yankees.
The Yankees acquired the 25-year-old Gregorious from the Arizona Diamondbacks to replace the iconic Derek Jeter at shortstop. He has a reputation as an excellent fielder, but as a developing left-handed hitter who struggles against left-handed pitching. Yankee fans will be eyeballing him at every opportunity to see what he brings to the table.
As big, maybe bigger than how he looks on the field, will be how Gregorious comports himself off the field. Because of who he is replacing Gregorious will face an immense amount of scrutiny. How had handles it will give a hint of whether or not he will utlimately succeed or fail in the Bronox.
Severino is the top-ranked prospect in the Yankees farm system. A hard-throwing 20-year-old starting pitcher, can Severino show the Yankees enough this Spring that, when the inevitable need for a starting pitcher arises during the season, they would call on Severino despite his youth?
What did the Yankees see in this 25-year-old right-handed starting pitcher that convinced them to trade a quality player like Martin Prado to acquire him? Eovaldi has a 15-35 won-loss record in 83 games with the Miami Marlins, but many of his ancillary statistics are intriguing enough that the Yankees believe he could become an effective starter for them. If he can't, the Yankees have a huge hole at the bottom of their rotation.