Yankees pitchers and catchers ready for camp
AP Baseball Writer
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) – Faces change. Sky-high expectations remain the same.
The New York Yankees don’t know any other way.
The defending World Series champions began assembling for the start of spring training on Wednesday, the eve of the first workout for pitchers and catchers.
Manager Joe Girardi doesn’t expect complacency to be an issue for an experienced team that dethroned the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series.
“In a sense you’re supposed to repeat every year. That’s the expectation here. We understand that. … It’s something that the organization has always stood for,” said Girardi, beginning his third spring as Yankees manager.
“So is there a greater sense of urgency to win this year than last year or the year before? I don’t think so. You look at 2010. What we did in 2009 was wonderful, but it all starts over. It takes a lot of hard work. It takes a lot of commitment from everyone in the organization from top to bottom.”
Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui and Melky Cabrera are gone, and Curtis Granderson, Javier Vazquez and Nick Johnson have arrived to help a talented roster chase another title for owner George Steinbrenner.
Unlike 2009, when Alex Rodriguez’s admission that he used performance-enhancing drugs while with the Texas Rangers dominated spring training, the Yankees entered camp this year without the usual distractions associated with baseball’s highest-profile franchise.
Oh yeah, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera are entering the final years of their contracts. Girardi has one season remaining on his deal, too. But nobody seems to be stressing or talking about impending doom.
The Yankees have a policy of not negotiating new contracts until the previous deal expires.
“It won’t have any impact on them,” club co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner said. “They’ll keep doing what they have always done: Win.”
Girardi held his annual precamp news conference in the same tent where Rodriguez addressed the media about his involvement with steroids.
The manager fielded questions for more than 20 minutes before anyone asked specifically about A-Rod and expectations of the star third baseman for 2010.
“I think the expectations he has are different now. The one thing Alex really tried to do last year, to me, was become more of a leader. And he did that. And I think he expects even more out of himself this year,” Girardi said.
“I think he wants to take on more responsibility on a daily basis to be everything that he can be as player and a person. I saw it all last year, and it really helped.”
The Yankees spent generously to improve themselves before last season, signing starting pitchers CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett and first baseman Mark Teixeira, who helped them offensively and defensively.
Granderson and Vazquez were obtained in trades this winter. Johnson and Randy Winn joined the club as free agents.
Now, Girardi has to figure out how integrate the new pieces into the puzzle.
The manager’s top priorities over the next six weeks are to set the batting order, select a fifth starting pitcher and determine whether Granderson will begin the regular season in left or center field.
“I really like the players that are assembled in camp. We just have to figure out exactly how all the parts fit,” said Girardi, adding that’s he doesn’t feel any added pressure because of his contract situation.
“The pressure comes from within. I want to win this year, just as bad as I wanted to win last year and the year before. … It’s something you learn to deal with. It’s something I’ve been dealing with ever since I was a player.”
Girardi reiterated that he’s that he’s also not concerned about the Yankees lacking the motivation and drive necessary to give themselves a chance to defend their 27th World Series title.
“In saying that, it’s something that you will keep your eye out for, always. You never want your team to be complacent. But what I’m seeing today, the shape that people have come in, players getting here early, I think they’re anxious to get going and get back to doing what they love. … I think we have great character in that room, and those guys are hungry to win again.”
All-Star catcher Jorge Posada, who won five World Series rings with the Yankees, agreed.
“It’s probably the toughest thing, trying to do it again. Obviously everybody plays you a little different when we come in town or they come to New York,” Posada said.
“You have to play like a world champion. You have to take pride in what you’ve done. But 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 time.”
NOTES: The Yankees didn’t issue the uniform numbers this spring worn by two key members of last year’s World Series championship team, Damon (18) and Matsui (55), who both left as free agents. Other numbers not in use include those of former manager Joe Torre (6) and former players Paul O’Neill (21), Mike Mussina (35) and Bernie Williams (51).
AP freelance writer Mark Didtler contributed to this report.