Developing the 25

First of all, a very Happy Easter to everyone! It’s only right (at least in my mind) that baseball season should start the day after a holiday celebrating new life and spring time.

Rosters have been submitted for Opening Day, which means that the 83 men who showed up back in February have now been whittled down to the select 25. Regular roster members that will begin the 15-day Disabled List are starting pitcher Phil Hughes (back), infielders Derek Jeter (ankle) and Mark Teixeira (arm), and outfielder Curtis Granderson (arm). All of these guys are estimated to see official play time end of April or May. Previously placed on the 60-day DL are pitchers Cesar Cabral and Michael Pineda and infielder Alex Rodriguez.

That being said, that leaves 25 spots to fill. So the starting rotation is CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, Ivan Nova, and David Phelps. Manning the bullpen this year then are pitchers Joba Chamberlain, Cody Eppley, Shawn Kelley, Boone Logan, David Robertson, Adam Warren, and closer Mariano Rivera. Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart are slotted in the catcher’s role. The bench is filled with infielders Robinson Cano, Jayson Nix, Eduardo Nunez, Lyle Overbay, and Kevin Youkilis and outfielders Brennan Boesch, Ben Francisco, Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki, and Vernon Wells.

To make room for Overbay, the Yankees designated pitcher Clay Rapada for assignment. In other words, another one bites the dust.

And that got me thinking again. I was reading a book recently about the development of specialized players. Its unfortunate side effect is that it actually weakens a player. They specialize in one particular area, so they never end up working on and strengthening all these other areas of a player and actually develop into a weaker player. So when the team needs someone who can, for example, pitch more than a handful of pitches every few days to get some solid return on their investment, they can’t depend on someone so specialized that they don’t have the stamina and longevity to do that job.

Perhaps there’s an overall life lesson in that after all. If we focus too much on strengthening one area (like work), we can actually weaken another area (like family). Of course, we can’t do everything perfectly all the time at the same time. But there is a lot to be said for finding a balance and exerting excellence in every aspect as you come across it, not neglecting all else to focus in on one part.

And maybe in baseball (at least on the Yankees), we’re shifting from specialized players to a team of well-rounded ability and skill players. Similar to previous championship teams, the Yankees may have developed a 25-man (or 40, really) roster that can work as a team, without focusing on the individual needs and whims of the superstars or divas-in-training. Of course, where we land somewhere in August may have a completely different look or feel. But for now and today, before Sabathia throws the first pitch of the season tomorrow afternoon, there is such hope and dreams for another championship team and that 28th ring.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 27: MIN vs. NYY — It was chilly (and I’m staying positive)

Tonight’s chilly game started out so good, and then it wasn’t. The Yankees fell to the Twins 6-1, only getting 1 hit (they had 10) and committing 3 fielding errors in the process. David Phelps was in to start and was pretty solid the first 3 innings and had a total of 6 strike-outs, a statistic that would mean so much more if he didn’t also allow 6 hits, 5 runs, and walked 3 batters. After loading the bases in the 4th, the Twins’ catcher Butera hit a 3-RBI double with no outs to start what would become a 5-run inning for the Twins. Phelps had been really outstanding this Spring, but tonight had a little trouble controlling his throws. Maybe it was the cold air, maybe it was a night game, maybe it was just one of those days. Either way, the energy and spirit was more than deflated after this inning, and the Yankees never really recovered.

Robinson Cano was back in the line-up today, fresh off his WBC win and MVP award. He had the only hit and run on the scoreboard for the Yankees tonight, with a 4th inning single and scoring the run off a fielding error on Travis Hafner. I wish I could say better things about the defense, but 3 fielding errors and an apparent lackadaisical attitude isn’t worth dissecting tonight, or for that matter ever.

I will say that the pitching in the later innings was rather good. Mariano Rivera received standing ovations entering and exiting the 5th inning, allowing a single then striking out three straight batters. Consistent again, David Robertson followed him in the 6th, allowing a double but striking out two in a row. David Aardsma, looking ever more like the pitcher we thought we were getting before injuries sidelined much of the last two years, had the quickest inning of the evening, including one strikeout. Boone Logan, also on the mend from a recent injury, struggled a bit, allowing a walk and an RBI single, but there is potential for him to return back to the reliever so relied on last year from the bullpen.

Word came out that Derek Jeter is done with Spring Training games and will probably only play in minor league spring games for the rest of March (not open to the public) to see how his ankle is healing and allowing them some leeway if putting him on the Disabled List for the beginning of the season is necessary. I think most Yankee fans are praying that it isn’t necessary; actually, I think Jeter himself is praying it isn’t necessary. But like one of the players recently said, it’s better that they’re dealing with it now in March than September/October.

And while he, Granderson, Teixeira, and Rodriguez (and a handful of other players) are healing, we must amuse ourselves with little suppositions — the who, what, where, when, and how of the game. Something every critic, analyst, and message board manager is now busy doing — making the predictions and trying to explain why their way is the way the game will unfold. But with the Yankees, it’s never about one particular person or another; it’s always the team. And if they’re still in pinstripes in the Bronx, then anything is possible, no matter who’s on the field and who’s watching from the dugout or training room.

Go Yankees! (Heal up fast, guys!)

Spring Game 14: NYY vs. MIA — Awaiting the surprise in the mundane

Miami took today’s game 6-1, with four of those runs scored on an out (2 sacrifice flies and 2 ground outs). It was Melky Mesa’s offense that really helped keep the game from being a shut-out, going 2-for-4 and scoring off Thomas Neal’s double in the 4th inning. The team, once again, didn’t capitalize on some early opportunities when the bases were loaded. Dan Johnson started at 1st base today, recently becoming one of the front-runners to replace Teixeira for the next 10 weeks. Luke Murton, being the another option, filled in for Johnson in the 7th and had a nice solid hit in the 9th today. Juan Rivera, who started at 1st yesterday, is the other corner fielding option. The Marlins just out-hit the Yankees today 11-5.

Side note: Eduardo Nunez also lost his helmet again every trip down the 1st base line. I think we can officially declare it his trademark for 2013.

Tomorrow is a big day for the Yankees. All the press can talk about is the scheduled press conference that is presumed to be the public statement from Mariano Rivera regarding his expected retirement after this 2013 season. And while I’m in agreement with this assumption regarding tomorrow, I don’t think it would surprise me in the slightest if they announced something like a contract extension for Rivera. It’s the Yankees, so anything is possible.

This could include Jeter’s return this weekend, as hinted at by both Girardi and Jeter. After his surgeon declared him 100% healed, it’s just a matter now of how Jeter wants to work his way back into the lineup, though I think both Yankees fans and Jeter himself are anxiously awaiting his return to the field, even if it’s just as the DH initially.

And a handful of other minor injuries have popped up recently in the bullpen in David Robertson and Clay Rapada to join the growing list of injured and semi-injured players littering the Yankees roster, though these new additions have relatively minor recovery time and we should see them back on the field in no time.

Oh, and the Yankees also have a game against Atlanta tomorrow, but I’m guessing based on whatever comes out of the press conference, the game is little more than a minor note on any report by Saturday night. The Yankees have always been known to defy the odds and do the unexpected. Even when they’re doing something predictable (like say a retirement), they’ll throw in their own twist and make it unpredictable. It’s what keeps us fans on the edges of our seats, anxiously awaiting the new from the “experienced” and the surprise in the mundane.

Go Yankees!