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The New Season:  Getting Closer.

The New Season: Getting Closer

By Tim Kabel

March 26, 2022

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The Yankees open the 2022 season on April 7th at home against the Red Sox. We are less than two weeks away. I don’t know if the roster is set. The other day, Brian Cashman cleared a spot on the 40-man roster. He usually doesn’t do things like that because he’s bored. He does things with a purpose. Most likely, there will be a move coming. We could all speculate about what it might be but, no one knows for sure. It could be a new centerfielder, or a starting pitcher. Perhaps, it will be something on a smaller scale, like depth at catcher or a middle reliever. We will know soon enough.

Luis Severino pitched for the second time in yesterday’s game. He was shaky again, particularly in the area of control, as he walked four batters in 1.2 innings.

Of note, former member of the Killer B’s and once promising Yankees prospect, Manny Banuelos, pitched two innings. So far this spring, he has pitched three innings, giving up no hits with four strikeouts and no walks. If Joely Rodriguez is not able to pitch at the beginning of the season, it’s possible Banuelos could make team as a lefty reliever. Although it seems as if Banuelos has been around longer than Dick Van Dyke, he’s only 31 years old.

Kyle Higashioka hit two home runs and drove in three runs. DJ LeMahieu, who was playing third base, had two hits. Marwin Gonzalez had one hit and drove in a run. In two games, he is 2-5 with one home run and three RBI. Because he can play virtually everywhere, he has a chance to make the team.

At this point, the lineup is not set, as there are many ways Aaron Boone could go. However, when you contemplate a lineup that includes a full season of Anthony Rizzo at first, a hopefully revitalized Gleyber Torres at second, Josh Donaldson at third base, Aaron Judge, Joey Gallo and Giancarlo Stanton in the outfield or at DH, you can feel fairly confident. At this point, DJ LeMahieu is slated to fill a revolving infield or DH role. The lineup could be very formidable this year.

The starting rotation will be led by Gerrit Cole, followed by, in some order, Jordan Montgomery, Luis Severino, Jameson, Taillon, and Nestor Cortes Jr. So far, Clarke Schmidt, Deivi Garcia, and Luis Gil have looked to be healthy and in very good shape. Garcia, in particular looks as if he may have rebounded from his disastrous 2021 season. Now, this is very early, and the sample sizes are small but, it’s only fair to note positive steps.

Due to the truncated spring training schedule, there will not be a lot of time for evaluations. Also, veteran players will need to begin playing deeper into games and more frequently. This will limit the opportunities for the young players to show they belong. I think this season, it will be less likely for a youngster to crack the roster than it was in years past. However, the fact that rosters will be expanded to 28 for the first few weeks may offset that. At this point, the Yankees look to field a very competitive team. Once Ben Rortvedt is able to play, he will probably split the catching duties with Higashioka. Islah Kiner-Falefa will provide solid defense and steady, if not spectacular offense from the shortstop position.

Centerfield remains an uncertainty. Despite Aaron Hicks’ declaration that he is fit and healthy, and in the words of the late, great, John Candy, “a lean. mean fighting machine”, it remains to be seen what he can provide. Last year, his season ended in May, and he is frequently, if not regularly, injured. In addition, he is now 32 years old, and is not a speedster in centerfield. He may be more suited to the role of a fourth outfielder, or perhaps, a member of a different team. Again, Brian Cashman stated at the conclusion of last season, that he wanted to address or upgrade center field. He has not done that. There are about two weeks left and another move could be made. I’m becoming less of an advocate for trading Gleyber Torres with each passing day. It is easy to forget that he is only 25 years old. If he returns to anything like his 2019 form, he will be a major part of the offense. The best part about that is the better he is, the better the overall offense will be.

Ideally, this year’s lineup will have very few spots where the opposing pitcher can relax and catch his breath. I have heard many people say that Rortvedt will not be a major offensive force. However, he is only 24 years old and played in a mere 39 games last year. I think he should be given it an opportunity to see what he has. It is hard to fully evaluate this year’s team because spring training has been shortened and in addition, there is some uncertainty regarding the final construction of the roster. If there are further changes, those will need to be considered in assessing the team’s chances. However, at this point we can only discuss the team we see in front of us. Anyway, there are less than two weeks left for the team to assume the look it will have for opening day. I can smell the hot dogs already. Although, I frequently smell hot dogs as a matter of course. In fact, my aftershave is hot dog-scented, which may explain a lot of things.

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