After capturing the team’s 18th division title in history, the New York Yankees’ 2012 season ended in dismal defeat at the hands of the Detroit Tigers, who swept the AL East champions in four games. Lingering concerns about the health and rehab of veteran stars Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Alex Rodriguez is just a small part of the distractions that will be thrown at the Yankees clubhouse as they open spring training in Tampa Tuesday.
The 84-man spring training roster excludes third-basemen Alex Rodriguez, who the team decided will stay and rehab in New York in hopes of returning after the All Star break. Rodriguez, who is currently under the highest paying contract in baseball, is under investigation yet again for his reported involvement with performance enhancing drugs. Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli is named alongside Rodriguez in connection with a South Florida wellness clinic, Biogenesis, which allegedly provided performance enhancing drugs to athletes. This will raise even more concern in the Yankees front office as Cervelli was expected to start in the absence of catcher Rusell Martin. Though the developing information and unfolding of the PED investigation will be important the team, it will try to be avoided as a distraction.
There will be mountains to climb offensively as well as pitching due to the departure of players crucial to the Yankees success in 2012. The presence of All-star right-fielder Nick Swisher, now a Cleveland Indian, will surely be missed as his bat was heavily relied on in the heart of the Yankee lineup last season. Closer Rafael Soriano who stepped in nicely to replace veteran closer Mariano Rivera after a foot injury last season, signed a two year deal with Washington last month leaving the Yankee bullpen as one of the team’s biggest question marks coming into this season.
It will be interesting to see how newcomers Kevin Youkilis and Travis Hafner attempt to fill in key spots previously held by two high production players. The signing of Youkilis offseason assured there will be a replacement at third base until Rodriguez is healthy again, not knowing when that will be. Also landing in New York this season is Hafner, a big left handed bat that comes over to help fill the hole left by the departure of Raul Ibanez to Kansas City.
The hopes of capturing a 28th World Championship will rest on the health of ace starter C.C. Sabathia. The Cy Young winning pitcher is coming off of elbow surgery and will be monitored closely as spring training continues. The captain and face of the franchise Derek Jeter will also have a close watch on him as he is just getting back on the field following a foot injury suffered in the 2012 ALCS.