The March Family Yankees: Heroes of Spring Training
Spring has sprung in Tampa, Florida. Not the season, but Spring Training! As the Bombers start another potential title campaign, let’s also remember some of the best Yankees to have fantastic Spring Training appearances. Some of these players turned their Spring Training success into regular roles in the Bronx, others never made it to the show. However, they all made an impact on Yankees’ fans for their hard work and dedication to the game back in March. Please note that many of these players are more recent because they were from my childhood, so I may miss some great Spring Training performances from before the 2000s.
Yes, Bird had a great second half run in 2015 and a massive home run against Andrew Miller in the 2017 playoffs. However, Yankees fans saw his most potential in March. His career .3111/.433/.647 slash line. His best run came in 2017, when he hit eight home runs and 15 RBIs in 23 games with more walks (12) than strikeouts (10). Alas, Bird never reached the heights of his 1.080 career OPS in spring training, but he’s got one more chance to thrive with the Rangers this season. Stay tuned.
Before he was big sexy, before his viral home run against the Padres, before he stole the world’s hearts, a 37-year-old Bartolo Colon came into Spring Training in 2011 trying to rebuild his name. The former Cy Young Award winner had just missed the entire 2010 season with injuries and was a non-roster invitee for the Yankees. He showcased his trademark command, posting only one walk with 17 strikeouts in 16 innings for a 2.25 ERA. Colon earned a spot in the Yankees’ bullpen for his efforts and was quickly promoted to the Bomber’s starting rotation after Phil Hughes got hurt. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Most Yankees fans know him by the name “El Chato.” The Mexican professional baseball player opened people’s eyes with an impressive display of power also back in 2011. He hit three home runs and three doubles in 20 games while hitting .412 with a .765 slugging percentage. Unfortunately, “El Chato” never made it to the Majors, but the now 37-year-old is still kicking it in Mexico, where he’s hit 286 career home runs, according to Baseball Reference.
The year 2011 was a great year for Yankees’ spring training studs (remember Freddy Garcia?). And yes, this is the Mark Prior you’re thinking of, the one who dominated baseball in the early 2000s with the Cubs. Injuries famously derailed his career and ended his Major League career early in 2006. He did play in the minor leagues attempt several comebacks, including one with the Yankees. He did well in Spring Training, posting a 1.04 ERA in 8.2 innings over nine games with 12 strikeouts. Prior briefly showed signs of the pitcher he once was in Spring Training.
You know he had to be here. Crystal’s one at-bat made him worthy of appearing in this article.
This left-hander showcased his potential in two great spring trainings back in 2012 and 2014. He struck out 22 batters in 20.2 innings compared to eight walks for a combined ERA of 1.31. Like Prior, injuries prevented him for making a major impression in the Bronx, but Cabral showcased his talents in March and February for two seasons.
Another lefty who made an impression, Rapada came into Yankees’ camp looking to make a name for himself after posting an ERA just north of six in 2011 with the Orioles. He posted a 0.90 ERA in 12 games with 13 strikeouts in 10 innings. That performance led to a 2.82 ERA as a LOOGY (RIP) in 70 appearances in 2012. Rapada only made four more Major League appearances since that season, but Rapada is another success story to come out of the Yankees’ Spring Training camps.