Dan's Dugout: Young Yankees Bring Lots of Talent • Latino Sports


Dan’s Dugout: Young Yankees Bring Lots of Talent


LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – One look at the travel roster the Yankees brought to Disney Thursday speaks volumes about the team’s youth movement.

Even a die-hard fan would not recognize most of the names. Or even be able to pronounce them correctly.

Aside from starting pitcher Michael Pineda, outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner, first baseman Chris Carter, and ex-Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada, these Yankees were a bunch of wanna-bes.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman is making his roster younger

Yankees GM Brian Cashman is making his roster younger

This is a team in transition, a team that got too old to compete and needed to rebuild. General manager Brian Cashman embarked on that task with discipline and vision, restocking his farm system while slicing payroll like a pastrami maker at Katz’ Deli.

Gone are the hefty salaries of Brian McCann, Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, and Andrew Miller, with Alex Rodriguez soon to follow suit into the dustbin of bad-contract history.

In are the first vestiges of a fine future: Aaron Judge, Ronald Torreyes, and Kyle Higashioka among position players and Eric Ruth, Joe Mattingly, Justus Sheffield, and Andrew Schwaab – pitchers whose surnames alone suggest greatness.

Just think: the Yankees may soon have another Ruth and Mattingly.

Manager Joe Girardi encourages prize pupil Aaron Judge

Manager Joe Girardi encourages prize pupil Aaron Judge

Joe Girardi has done a masterful job weaving the new kids in with his veterans; before beating the Braves 8-7 here Thursday, the pinstriped kids had won 10 of 13 exhibition games.

Sure, spring training means bupkis – the original Mets of 1962 went 16-12 in exhibition play before producing a record of 40-120, with two blessed rainouts.

By the time the exhibition season ends, the Yanks will have played 35 games – more than enough time for Girardi to judge Judge and his fellow freshmen.

Even with six Yankees playing in the World Baseball Classic, the team is showing signs of maintaining its old Bronx Bombers nickname. Entering play Friday, the Yanks had hit 18 home runs, tops in the Grapefruit League, and scored 79 runs, which ranks second.

Greg Bird, the Teixeira heir apparent at first base, had connected three times, a team high.

Greg Bird's power has the Yankee chirping

Greg Bird’s power has the Yankee chirping

No one can accuse the 2017 Yankees of getting old. Other than pitchers CC Sabathia and Aroldis Chapman plus newly-signed designated hitter Matt Holliday, the players wearing pinstripes these days are barely old enough to vote.

Torres, picked up from the Chicago Cubs in the Chapman deal at last July’s trading deadline, won’t reach his 21st birthday until December. And he’s probably the hottest of the blue-chip prospects pushing for big-league time this spring.

The youth movement actually started last year; the opening day roster averaged 29 years and 99 days, its youngest since 1992. Of the men who made their Yankee debuts, 10 were appearing in the major leagues for the first time.

A youth movement is rare for the Yankees of the Steinbrenner era. Armed with money and not afraid to use it, the operating philosophy for years was to sign the best players available – even if it meant overpaying fair market value, not to mention offering multi-year deals to fading stars.

Joe Girardi has taken the Yankees to the playoffs five times in nine years

Joe Girardi has taken the Yankees to the playoffs five times in nine years

No more, say Cashman and Girardi.

Now the Yankees will rise and fall on their own merits.

Girardi, the only active manager to lead his team to winning records in each of the last nine years, is about to start his 10th season at the helm. The former catcher ranks sixth in wins among Yankee managers, trailing Joe McCarthy, Joe Torre, Casey Stengel, Miller Huggins, and Ralph Houk. He’s reached postseason play five times with the Bombers.

Elsewhere in baseball:

Players wearing high numbers in spring training are usually ticketed for the minors but Judge, sporting No. 99, figures to be a notable exception this year . . .

Derek Jeter’s number-retirement plaque will be dedicated at Yankee Stadium on Mother’s Day, May 14 . . .

Derek Jeter's plaque will be unveiled on Mother's Day

Derek Jeter’s plaque will be unveiled on Mother’s Day . . .

Catcher Gary Sanchez, second to Michael Fullmer in 2016 AL Rookie of the Year balloting, is one of four Yankees to be honored with bobblehead giveaways, along with Reggie Jackson, Whitey Ford, and Aroldis Chapman . . .

Brett Gardner, not known for his power, led off the game Thursday with a long home run to right against Braves prospect Aaron Blair . . .

The Yankees will play the Braves in a March 31 exhibition game that will be the first contest played in Atlanta’s new Sun Trust Park.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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