Yankees report to camp ready to repeat
Pitchers and catchers formally begin Spring Training
TAMPA, Fla. -- The offseason was much shorter than it usually is, but the Yankees wouldn't have preferred it any other way. Now it's time to do it all over again.
Three months after celebrating their 27th World Series championship, the Yankees' pitchers and catchers officially reported to George M. Steinbrenner Field on Wednesday, checking in with manager Joe Girardi as they began the march to their possible title repeat.
As he unpacked his gear in preparation for another Grapefruit League, catcher Jorge Posada said that he popped in the World Series DVD over the winter, just to savor the winning flavor a few more times before the bigger challenge begins.
"It's probably the toughest thing to try to do it again," Posada said. "Everybody plays you a little different when we come to town. You have to be ready, because they're trying to get you. You're the world champions and they're trying to play a little better. It's very challenging."
The report date happens to be more of a formality than an iron-clad rule in many Major League camps, and the Yankees' corner of the universe was no different.
While Wednesday marked the first day of business at the Yankees' spring home, players have been working out on the fields at the Himes Avenue Minor League complex for some time. Local resident Derek Jeter leads the way, kicking off most every morning with a short drive to work from his Tampa home.
In recent days, Jeter has had plenty of company taking ground balls and slicing line drives across the manicured grass of practice Field 1. New acquisition Curtis Granderson arrived over the weekend and said that he was ready to get started with his new teammates.
"Change is always a good thing," Granderson said. "I'm excited to get a chance to go to the defending world champions and learn from those guys over there. They've got great veterans and great players, [a] great coaching staff -- a great organization. I'm looking forward to all of those different things."
In addition to Granderson, who was acquired from the Tigers in a three-team December trade, the Yankees will be welcoming back designated hitter Nick Johnson and right-hander Javier Vazquez, each of whom served stints with the club during the last decade.
Putting a Yankees uniform on for the first time since 2004, Vazquez said on Wednesday that he is looking forward to sliding behind CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte in the rotation.
"It's great to be back," Vazquez said. "It's exciting; it's a blast having CC, A.J. and Andy. They're three great pitchers. I'm very excited to play with these guys."
While many of the roster spots are spoken for, Girardi and his coaching staff will have some hot-button issues to tackle as soon as exhibition games get underway on March 3.
Perhaps most prominent, Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes lead a pack of contenders for the fifth rotation spot in a battle that should continue through most of the spring, with Alfredo Aceves, Chad Gaudin and Sergio Mitre also up for consideration.
"It's one of those things that's not a bad position to be in," Hughes said. "To have three or four very capable guys to battle for one spot, I think a lot of teams would like to be in that situation. I'm not treating this spring any differently than any other. Last year, I just tried to come in and do everything I could do on the mound and see what happens."
The Yankees are also trying to decide how their outfield arrangement will look, having imported Granderson to play a starting role alongside right fielder Nick Swisher. The final spot seems to be Brett Gardner's to claim, but the speedster will face competition for the job from switch-hitting veteran Randy Winn and non-roster invitee Marcus Thames.
|"To repeat, you have to have a good team, and we have a very good team. It's all up to us to put it together like we did last year and click at the right times."|
|-- Jorge Posada|
The group has changed somewhat since the final out of the World Series landed safely in Mark Teixeira's glove on the evening of Nov. 4, with Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui among the pieces that will not be returning for another season.
"We're going to miss them both," Posada said. "They're clutch hitters, guys that were very key for us last year and years in the past. We're talking about two guys that played the game the right way and never made excuses. I think we're going to miss them a lot. Hopefully we've done the right thing of going another way."
But with Granderson, Johnson and Vazquez headlining the revamped roster, Posada said on Wednesday that the Yankees should have a mix that produces plenty of winning baseball deep into October.
"To repeat, you have to have a good team, and we have a very good team," Posada said. "It's all up to us to put it together like we did last year and click at the right times."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.