Yankees Thoughts: An Eventful First Week of Spring Training

The Yankees make a lot of headlines in the first seven days of their season

It’s been an eventful first week of spring training for the Yankees. A little more eventful than any Yankees fan should want.

Here are 10 thoughts on the Yankees.

1. It took six days for the Yankees to have their first injury of 2021. Six days. Even for the Yankees that’s ridiculous. Clarke Schmidt was shut down on Monday for the next three to four weeks with a tendon strain in his elbow. The same Schmidt who has previously undergone Tommy John surgery and has had elbow issues since that surgery. When asked how it happened, Schmidt said he was overthrowing in his bullpen session trying to make an impression on the coaching staff to earn a roster spot, likely the fifth spot in the rotation. So that awesome starting pitching depth Aaron Boone mentioned at his spring training-opening press conference and that others like Luis Severino and Aaron Judge have also cited this spring, well, it’s already down one arm.

2. Schmidt was likely seventh on the Yankees’ Opening Day starting pitching depth chart (and eighth if Severino were healthy), so it doesn’t impact the Yankees’ early-season plans … yet. They still have more than five weeks of bullpen sessions, pitcher’s fielding practice and exhibition games to get through unscathed without any of their other starters getting hurt, and that includes Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon who have barely pitched over the last two years because of their own injuries and surgeries. Right now, the Schmidt injury doesn’t hurt the Yankees overall, but that doesn’t mean it won’t before he’s able to return.

3. Judge spoke for the first time in 2021 and gave his annual “I hate to lose” quotes, and vowed to stay healthy this season. He was asked about Fernando Tatis’ 14-year, $340 million and if he had talked with the Yankees in the offseason about a potential long-term deal himself. He said no. Thankfully. It’s not that I don’t want Judge to be a Yankee for a long time, it’s that I need to see him prove he should be a Yankee for a long time. We all know his ability as one of the game’s top players when he plays, but over the last three seasons he hasn’t played much, missing about one-third of all regular-season games since the start of 2019. Judge discussed his offseason workout changes led by Eric Cressey, and maybe that’s what will finally keep Judge on the field for his first full season since 2017. If it’s not, I don’t know what will at this point.

4. On Wednesday, Boone said this about Giancarlo Stanton playing the outfield in 2021:

“I don’t want to be completely resigned to him just being a full-time DH. I think the more he can continue to stay athletic and be an option on defense, I don’t think it’s out of the question. Ultimately, it might be something that actually does help him stay more healthy.”

This is what Brian Cashman said at his end-of-the-season press conference after the Yankees lost to the Rays in October.

“Given the injuries that we’ve experienced with him thus far, I think a safe bet would be to focus with him at the DH level.”

Boone can say whatever he wants (which he does), whether it has any real traction is another thing. I would say the only way Stanton plays the outfield in 2021 is an emergency situation.

5. Brett Gardner is officially back, and that’s bad news for Clint Frazier. Boone has said a few times over this past week that Frazier is the team’s starting left fielder, and maybe he will be on Opening Day, but don’t think for a second Boone won’t inexplicably play Gardner over him. He did so in the team’s most recent games in October when he started Gardner over Frazier in left field in five of the seven playoff games. Hearing Boone say, “I expect Clint to be our left fielder and to be in that starting lineup,” holds no weight after Boone chose Gardner over Frazier and his .905 OPS in the postseason. Boone chose Mike Ford over Frazier as a pinch-hit option with the season on the line! So yeah, I will believe Frazier is the “everyday” left fielder when it happens every day.

6. The Yankees made the Justin Wilson signing official, reuniting the left-hander with the team that traded hi mto Detroit for Chad Green and Luis Cessa. To open a space for Wilson on the 40-man roster, the Yankees designated Greg Allen for assignment, who they had traded for earlier in the offseason. So for now, Mike Tauchman if the next in line to playing time after Gardner.

7. With Wilson back on the team, the Opening Day bullpen pecking order (if all are healthy) seems like it will be:

Aroldis Chapman
Zack Britton
Chad Green
Darren O’Day
Justin Wilson
Jonathan Loaisiga
Luis Cessa
Nick Nelson/Michael King

8. That’s eight relievers. Boone says the Yankees would like to have 13 position players and 13 pitchers on their 26-man roster. Both Nelson and King or another reliever could be on the Opening Day roster and the Yankees could open the season with four starters because of the early-season off days, and call up a fifth starter once they need one. Let’s hope Nelson or King or another reliever in that spot or as the ninth bullpen option only sees a regular-season mound because the Yankees are winning by double digits.

9. I have a feeling the fifth starter spot is going to go to scumbag Domingo German rather than Deivi Garcia. I don’t think the Yankees have kept German all this time through his disturbing actions to not have him pitch for them. It’s a shame and it’s disappointing as a fan of the team that eight percent of the 26-man roster has been suspended for despicable behavior, and 15 percent of the pitching staff. The handling of the whole situation by the Yankees has been an embarrassment. Not as embarrassing as continuing to roster a scumbag like him, but pretty close. The same way Chapman should have never been a Yankee, German shouldn’t be one now.

10. The Yankees will play their first spring training game on Monday. I normally don’t care for any spring training game aside from the first inning of the first one, but I think this March will be different. After the winter weather in New York City for the last month and having only had 67 Yankees games in 2020 and having had no baseball or sports or live entertainment for more than four months nearly a year ago at this time, I welcome meaningless spring training games in 2021.

Subscribe to the Keefe To The City Podcast. New episodes every Monday and Thursday during the offseason.

My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is now available as an ebook!