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Aaron Boone will address the media Wednesday, a day before pitchers and catchers have their first workout in Tampa. Here’s a look at what the fourth-year manager likely will have to address Wednesday and throughout spring training:
How to allocate innings among a new-look rotation: This will no doubt be a fluid situation from Day 1 of spring training until the playoffs. Among the many challenges teams will face this season is how to keep pitchers healthy after last year saw them shut down in the middle of the initial spring training, build back up in the second spring training and throw a limited amount of innings. For instance, Gerrit Cole threw 91 ¹/₃ innings (73 in the regular season; 18 ¹/₃ in the playoffs). How might that atypical workload affect him in 2021?
Though Cole has been among the most durable pitchers in the game, the Yankees expect to rely significantly on Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon and Domingo German, who combined to throw one inning last season (Kluber and Taillon due to injury; German because of a suspension). Deivi Garcia and Clarke Schmidt will also play bigger roles, and the Yankees added some potential depth in Jhoulys Chacin. They’ll have to figure out the best way to deploy their starters.
Bullpen: Aroldis Chapman and Zack Britton both figure to see time as closer, given how the Yankees like to manage their bullpen arms and the lefties are adept at the role. Beyond that, Chad Green and Justin Wilson likely will be a strong lefty-righty duo toward the back end of the bullpen after the Yankees agreed to a deal with Wilson this week. Another newcomer, Darren O’Day, is an experienced right-hander who can serve in a setup role following the trade of Adam Ottavino to the Red Sox that freed up payroll. Jonathan Loaisiga and Luis Cessa can serve multiple roles.
Bounce-back seasons: The Yankees are entering spring training with the expectation that Gary Sanchez will be the regular catcher after he was pushed aside by Kyle Higashioka in the playoffs. With that postseason switch, the Yankees showed they aren’t afraid to take away Sanchez’s playing time if he doesn’t bounce back from what general manager Brian Cashman called a “horrible” 2020. They also added another veteran, Robinson Chirinos, to the mix. And Gleyber Torres remains the everyday shortstop, with the Yankees banking on him hitting like he did in the latter part of last year, while improving on defense.
Lineup health: The Yankees don’t just have health questions in the rotation. They’ve also got to keep Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, among others, on the field. This is Eric Cressey’s first full offseason — and season — as director of player health and performance, and the organization remains confident the overhaul of the department will pay dividends.
Lineup balance: Without Brett Gardner, the Yankees are even more right-handed than they were a year ago. Perhaps newly arrived Jay Bruce helps there, if he can show the last two seasons were an aberration.
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