New York Yankees' Spring Training to-Do List
Now that the 2014 spring training is fully underway, The New York Yankees can officially begin their quest to return to the top of the American League East standings and the playoffs.
This camp is certainly going to have a different feel than many of the previous visits to George M. Steinbrenner Field.
This is the first camp since 1995 that Mariano Rivera won't be an active part of.
This is also the last camp that captain Derek Jeter will ever be a part of.
Camp also begins with an unfamiliar feeling of not making the playoffs the previous season.
Despite all that, and a lot of new faces around the ballpark, the key decisions have already been made heading into the season.
What remains is a to-do list that features filling a couple of positions and just getting ready physically and mentally for the 162-game marathon that is right around the corner.
1. Determine the Backup Catcher Position
With most of the starting positions spoken for on the roster, the only real competition to look out for is who plans on backing up newly acquired Brian McCann at catcher.
The contenders heading into camp are Francisco Cervelli and Austin Romine.
Cervelli headed into last season as the starting replacement for the departed Russell Martin. However, he ended with a season he wish he could forget.
Cervelli injured his wrist after only 17 games in April, and by the time he had recovered he had to sit out the remainder of the season because of a suspension due to his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal.
While Cervelli was out, Romine logged valuable playing time as part of a platoon with veteran Chris Stewart.
Romine improved at the plate consistently throughout the season and is two years younger than Cervelli. It is possible because of that and the steroid controversy surrounding Cervelli, that Romine would have a shot at the role.
However, with the Yankees agreeing to a one-year deal with Cervelli to avoid arbitration, and Cervelli's overall better plate discipline, the edge would seem to be leaning towards him.
2. Find a New Setup Man
As mentioned earlier, Mariano Rivera is retired and no longer with the New York Yankees.
Taking over his role as closer is Rivera's setup man David Robertson.
That's great news for the ninth inning, as Robertson has been given the vote of confidence by management to do the daunting task of replacing Rivera.
The bad news is that now leaves the eighth inning void of a true setup guy.
It currently seems that the Yankees may plan on splitting that role between the right-handed Shawn Kelley and the newly acquired lefty Matt Thornton.
The Yankees are in trouble if neither can pick up where Robertson left off, but they could get a boost if a young guy develops quickly.
Dellin Betances was once a top starting prospect for the Yankees until injuries and a transition to the bullpen last season occurred.
Now he might be slated for a long-relief spot in the bullpen, but if successful could always be an option in the eighth.
3. Fill the Fifth Spot in the Starting Rotation
The fight for the fifth spot in the Yankees starting rotation will be the most intriguing battle throughout camp.
In reality, the competition will be between Michael Pineda and David Phelps.
But this position is Michael Pineda's to lose.
He has yet to throw a pitch in a Yankees uniform since being acquired in a trade two years ago with Seattle.
Now, finally healthy and recovered from shoulder surgery, he could give the Yankees a dynamic weapon out of the fifth spot in the rotation.
Early reports out of camp by ESPNNewYork.com's Andrew Marchand is that Pineda looked "Pretty good" and "The ball seemed to leave his hand free and easy."
A positive sign for both Pineda and the Yankees.
4. Keep the Starters Healthy
This to-do list item is a lot easier said than done.
It is also no shock that many of their players are either coming off significant injuries last season or are prone to be a little banged up.
Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira both missed well over 100 games last season due to injuries.
Starting second baseman Brian Roberts has missed at least 100 games each of the last four seasons.
Add in high-priced free-agent acquisitions Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann, each with their own checkered injury history.
Monitoring their at-bats this spring will be crucial, and getting all of them ready and healthy for Opening Day will be a victory in itself.
5. Handle the Increased Media Attention
Joe Girardi has a big task at hand this spring, and this season, for that matter.
The New York Yankees already normally garner a lot of attention from the New York media, as well as nationally and globally.
Throw in Derek Jeter's retirement announcement, the arrival of Masahiro Tanaka and the other big free-agent signings—and the fact that the Yankees missed the playoffs while their rival, the Boston Red Sox, won the World Series—and the media pressure will be enormous this season.
Girardi has to get out in front of this. He needs to use spring training himself to practice and field all the questions he may get during the season.
Girardi was excellent last season and probably deserved to finish higher than fourth in the AL Manager of the Year standings.
His job is much harder this year.