Tag: Jacoby Ellsbury

Ellsbury Sets MLB Single-Season Record with 9th Catcher’s Interference

New York Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury broke an obscure record during the first inning of Tuesday’s 7-1 thumping of the Baltimore Orioles, becoming the first player in MLB history to reach base on a catcher’s interference nine times in a single season, per MLB Stat of the Day.

Stepping up to the plate with nobody on base and one out in the bottom of the first, Ellsbury appeared to hit a routine grounder to Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy on a 1-2 offering from Baltimore starting pitcher Vance Worley.

After briefly glancing backward, the 32-year-old speedster hustled down the first-base line and even came within a half-step of beating the throw, nearly taking advantage of the soft contact that was caused in part by the collision between his bat and Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph’s glove.

While catcher’s interference is often a difficult call, home plate umpire Todd Tichenor didn’t have much trouble with this one, as Joseph’s catcher’s mitt instantly fell off his hand.

Worley then induced a double play to escape the opening frame unscathed, but Yankees second baseman Starlin Castro hit a two-run homer the next inning, providing all the runs that would ultimately be needed.

One of the true oddities of baseball, catcher’s interference counts as an error against the catcher and a plate appearance for the batter, but it isn’t recorded as an at-bat and also isn’t factored into on-base percentage.

The Bronx Bombers apparently have a knack for this unusual play, as the old single-season record of eight was set by Yankees outfielder Roberto Kelly in 1992, per YES Network on Twitter.

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Jacoby Ellsbury Injury: Updates on Yankees Star’s Hip and Return

Jacoby Ellsbury‘s injury woes have cropped up again as the New York Yankees star outfielder left Friday’s game against the Boston Red Sox with a hip injury. It’s unclear when he’ll return to the field. 

Continue for updates. 

Girardi Comments on Ellsbury’s Injury, Recovery Timeline

Saturday, May 7 

Yankees manager Joe Girardi told reporters Ellsbury is “sore” and noted there is no plan to put him on the disabled list at this point.  

Ellsbury Out vs. Red Sox

Saturday, May 7

Ellsbury did not play Saturday against Boston.

Injury-Prone Ellsbury Still Productive for Yankees  

Ellsbury was plagued by injuries in 2015. He suffered a sprained right knee May 19, 2015 in a game against the Washington Nationals that landed him on the disabled list before he was able to return on July 8. He was able to stay healthy for the rest of the season, but he only played 111 total games. 

The 32-year-old outfielder has had injury problems in the past, playing fewer than 100 games in 2010 and 2012 as a member of the Boston Red Sox. He struggled in his first two seasons with the Yankees, posting a .265/.324/.387 slash line, and he was off to a slow start in 2016 entering Friday (.216/.315/.380). 

Ellsbury’s defense has also suffered because of injuries and playing center field into his 30s. FanGraphs‘ metrics indicate he’s cost the Yankees four runs with the glove since 2014, after posting positive runs saved totals each season from 2010-13. 

The Yankees came into 2016 with high expectations following a playoff appearance last season, but the core of this roster is old with players like Ellsbury, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Brian McCann all over 30 years old. Rodriguez and CC Sabathia were placed on the disabled list this week. 

Ellsbury’s health will be a key component for them keeping up with Boston and the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East because of his ability to change a game with his legs on the bases and in center field.

Right now though, the Yankees would settle for him being able to stay on the field. 

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Jacoby Ellsbury Steals Home in Yankees’ Win over Rays

The Jet stole home! The Jet stole home!

In this case, “The Jet” was not beloved Sandlot character Benny Rodriguez but the New York Yankees‘ own Jacoby Ellsbury.

With two on and his team trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the fifth inning Friday night, the center fielder went for it against Tampa Bay Rays lefty Matt Moore.

Per Bryan Hoch of MLB.com, Ellsbury said:

You’re trying to score a run, but guys get fired up. It doesn’t happen very often. As a player, you’re like, ‘Hey, did that just happen?’ And then when you’re running down the line, you’re just hoping you’ve got a big enough lead and everything works out. It’s exciting. It’s the ultimate adrenaline rush for a basestealer.

He would know. The 32-year-old speedster stole home against the Yankees in April 2009 as a member of the Boston Red Sox.

The Yankees went on to win the game 6-3.

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Jacoby Ellsbury Injury: Updates on Yankees Star’s Knee and Return

New York Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury was forced to exit the team’s May 19 game against the Washington Nationals with a knee injury. 

Continue for updates.

Ellsbury Suffers Knee Injury vs. Nationals 

Tuesday, May 19

Erik Boland of Newsday reported Ellsbury left Tuesday night’s game with a knee injury. Trainers checked on him in the top of the fourth inning while he was running the bases. He was removed from the lineup after scoring on a Chris Young single and replaced by Carlos Beltran on defense in the bottom of the inning.

After the game, Jack Curry of Yes Network reported that Ellsbury will make a trip to the disabled list.

Ellsbury is a crucial piece of the Yankees lineup. Keeping him healthy is vital in order for the Yankees to get men on base at the top of the lineup and wreak havoc on the bases.

For the most part, the injuries he’s dealt with throughout his career have been relatively minor, though there were a couple of exceptions during his time with the Boston Red Sox. Rib problems cost him a majority of the 2010 campaign, and a shoulder injury sidelined him for an extended stretch in 2012.

This season, he’s battled through oblique and hip ailments. The good news for the Yankees is that neither issue was overly serious. They will hope that’s the case once again.


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With Jeter Gone, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner Are 1-2 Nightmare

With five weeks of the 2015 MLB season complete, we’ve gotten a pretty good look at the post-Derek Jeter New York Yankees. And sappiness be damned, they just don’t quite look the same without him.

There’s one way, however, that this has been a very, very good thing.

With Jeter safely retired—and evidently disconnected altogether—Yankees skipper Joe Girardi has an option that eluded him in The Captain’s final season in 2014: The option to place center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and left fielder Brett Gardner in the top two spots in the lineup.

So, that’s what he’s been doing. And so far, it’s working like a charm.

After floundering in 2014, the Yankees’ offensive attack has gone retro in 2015. The Yankees came into the week scoring 4.85 runs per game, a massive improvement over last year’s 3.91 runs per outing.

This is a key reason why they’re out to a somewhat surprising 21-12 start that has them in first place in the AL East. And if you’re looking for reasons for why it’s happening, it’s all too appropriate that Ellsbury and Gardner might be Nos. 1 and 2 on the list.

Offensively, the two left-handed batters have been downright terrific in 2015. Courtesy of FanGraphs, here’s where their numbers stood coming into play Monday:

*Important note: All stats past this point are current through play on Sunday, May 10.

In a year in which the average OPS is only .710, Ellsbury and Gardner’s OPS’s highlight them as the clearly above-average hitters that they’ve been. So does wRC+.

For the layman, that’s “Weighted Runs Created Plus,” which measures a player’s total offensive value on a scale where 100 represents average. Ellsbury and Gardner have thus been safely above-average hitters and are certainly outperforming their own standards. Gardner’s 137 wRC+ puts him on pace to beat his 112 wRC+ from 2010. Ellsbury‘s 134 wRC+ puts him on pace to beat his 150 wRC+ from 2011.

And as you’d expect from a pair of speed demons like Ellsbury and Gardner, they’re also tearing it up on the basepaths. As the YES Network noted on Twitter:

Add it all up, and FanGraphs‘ “Offense” metric says Ellsbury has been worth 6.7 runs above average and Gardner has been worth 6.3 runs above average.

That doesn’t quite make them baseball’s top offensive duo, mind you, as that’s less than half of the 28.3 runs above average that slugging Los Angeles Dodgers teammates Adrian Gonzalez and Joc Pederson have combined for. 

But if you go looking for a better one-two punch at the top of a lineup, you’re not going to find one.

Each of Ellsbury‘s 142 plate appearances have been out of the leadoff spot, so his .341 average, .415 on-base percentage and .812 OPS are entirely leadoff numbers.

As for Gardner, 107 of his 115 total plate appearances have come in the No. 2 spot. In those 107 plate appearances, he’s hit .308 with a .394 OBP and an .834 OPS.

So, let’s ask a question: How many other teammates have logged as many as 100 plate appearances in the top two spots in the lineup and, from those spots, have hit at least .300 with at least a .390 OBP and at least an .800 OPS?

Here are your answers:

  • Have hit at least .300: Zero.
  • Have OBP‘d at least .390: Zero.
  • Have OPS’d at least .800: Zero.

As they say, there you have it. In 2015, Ellsbury and Gardner have been a one-two punch unlike any other.

Given that the top two spots in the lineup come up more than any other two spots, this is quite the advantage for the Yankees. And while other teams could hypothetically seek to replicate it by putting their two best hitters atop the lineup, that wouldn’t necessarily mean creating a carbon copy of the Ellsbury-Gardner duo.

For one, it’s not easy to find two guys who can match their speed. But more importantly, it’s not easy to find two guys who have the goods to put said speed to good use.

As Gardner put it to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com: “We take a lot of pride in getting on base, and that’s our job at the top of the lineup. We feel like we’re two leadoff hitters, and we can get on base for those guys in the middle of the lineup and give them RBI opportunities.”

By getting on base as frequently they have, Ellsbury and Gardner have certainly been producing like “two leadoff hitters.” But they’ve also been acting the part, as they’ve been tough outs in more ways than one.

There are two primary guidelines for hitters who desire to be tough outs: Don’t strike out and take your walks. And in this day and age, you can add a third: Don’t give the defense an excuse to shift. 

Ellsbury and Gardner have been doing all three of these things, as we can see here that they’re striking out less, walking more often and going the other way more often than the average hitter:

The value of their walks is self-explanatory. Same goes for balls in play, especially given that both are hitting over .360 on balls in play. And though logic says those averages will come down eventually, they’ll come down slowly if Ellsbury and Gardner maintain their opposite-field dominance. On balls to left field, Ellsbury is hitting .429 and Gardner is hitting .379.

Between what they’ve done in the box and what they’ve done on the basepaths, Ellsbury and Gardner have been about as valuable to the Yankees offense as you’d expect. They’ve scored 47 of the team’s 149 runs. For perspective, the Yankees’ primary one-two hitters in 2014 scored 134 of the team’s 633 runs. We’re talking an increase of roughly 21 percent to roughly 32 percent.

And yes, given that Ellsbury and Gardner were there to fill the top two slots in the Yankees lineup last year, you can’t help but wonder what might have been.

Though Gardner and Ellsbury both saw their share of action in the leadoff spot in 2014, the two appeared in the No. 2 hole only 37 times. The bulk of the No. 2 plate appearances (619 to be exact) instead went to Jeter.

That didn’t go well. In hitting just .256 with a .617 OPS, Jeter qualified as the seventh-worst hitter in MLB. Largely as a result of that, the Yankees’ No. 2 spot—which is arguably the most important spot in the lineup—finished ranked No. 21 in wRC+.

Hindsight isn’t needed to see that this was a problem. People in the media (such as Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York) started questioning Jeter’s spot in the lineup in early May. As time went on, it became fair to wonder, as Howard Megdal put it at SB Nation, if “one player’s historic contribution to the team and/or ego was seemingly being put ahead of team goals.”

For his part, Girardi tried to defend Jeter’s ongoing role in the No. 2 spot. But every time he did, he effectively confirmed that Jeter’s past was taking priority over his present. In June, his rationalization for continuing to bat Jeter second was that he was “a guy who’s [always] responded.” In September, Girardi defended Jeter on the basis that he had always “been clutch” when the pressure was highest.

Apart from some short-lived hot streaks here and there, Jeter never made good on Girardi‘s confidence. And though it certainly wasn’t the reason, having such an easy out in the No. 2 hole was certainly a reason why the Yankees scored fewer than four runs per game for the first time since 1990.

Maybe things would have been different if Ellsbury and Gardner had been the one-two punch from the get-go. Both ended up being solidly above-average offensive producers, so maybe the Yankees would have avoided scoring fewer than four runs per game. And had they avoided that fate, they might have won more than 84 games and had a shot at giving Jeter a proper send-off in October.

Maybe, indeed. But with the way things are going now, that serene sound you’re hearing is the water underneath the bridge. 

The way they’re hitting this year, it certainly doesn’t look like the Yankees missed their final chance at getting the most out of Ellsbury and Gardner’s respective primes by denying them the opportunity to be a one-two punch in 2014.

Better yet, the 2015 Yankees look more deserving of such an awesome one-two punch than the 2014 Yankees. Unlike last year’s Yankees, this year’s Yankees have healthy and effective versions of Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira. They also have Michael Pineda to play the ace role vacated by Masahiro Tanaka and an elite bullpen capable of protecting any lead.

Having Ellsbury and Gardner atop the lineup would have made the 2014 Yankees better. But this year, having them atop the lineup is making the Yankees legitimately dangerous.


Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted/linked.

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Jacoby Ellsbury Injury: Updates on Yankees Star’s Abdomen and Return

New York Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury was held out of Tuesday’s lineup against the Toronto Blue Jays with an abdomen injury.

Continue for updates. 

Ellsbury  Out vs. Blue Jays with Abdomen Injury

Tuesday, March 17

According to Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York, manager Joe Girardi said the injury occurred on Sunday before the Yankees’ game against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Matthews provided more details on the specifics of the injury, which was originally deemed a quad injury: “And it turns out the ‘quad strain’ is actually a strain of the rectus abdominus, a muscle in the right side of Ellsbury’s lower abdomen, which Girardi insisted is no more serious than the originally reported injury.”

Girardi commented on his decision to leave Ellsbury out of tonight’s lineup: 

[Ellsbury] came in today and said he felt it a little today when he coughed. He didn’t ask out of the lineup, but I said, ‘I’m not going to play you then.’ And I’m not going to play him tomorrow, then we’ll go from there. … The doctor wasn’t too concerned. And I’m not too concerned. … 

We’ll give him a couple days and see where he’s at. If it takes a week, it takes a week. Right now, my plan is to give him two days. I told him, ‘I’m not going to play you today and I’m not going to play you tomorrow. Let’s see where you’re at Thursday.’

Ellsbury is coming off a somewhat disappointing 2014 campaign. Expectations were high for the Gold Glove outfielder after he hit .298/.355/.426 in his final season with the Boston Red Sox. The Yankees signed Ellsbury to a seven-year deal worth $153 million.

Although his home runs and runs batted increased in 2014, his number of stolen bases declined, while his slugging percentage fell by seven points. And that’s to say nothing of his 27-point drop in both his batting average and on-base percentage.

That’s not to say Ellsbury was terrible last season, but he finished with the ninth-highest WAR (3.6) among center fielders, according to FanGraphs. Ideally, New York would get more out of a guy earning a tad over $21 million a year.

Injuries are always a bit of a concern for Ellsbury as well. He’s only played 150-plus games twice in his eight-year career and missed 232 games between his 2010 and 2012 seasons.

Nobody’s expecting the 31-year-old to repeat his incredible 2011 season, but he’ll certainly have to deliver in 2015 for the Yankees to be serious contenders in the American League East.

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New York Yankees: A Healthy Tanaka Can Lead Yanks to Playoffs

The New York Yankees have a ton of question marks heading into spring training. It will be the first time in a long time without Derek Jeter at shortstop. Alex Rodriguez will likely lead the league in publicity, but he may or may not hit. And there is no clear-cut choice to start at second base.

But the biggest concern might be ace pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.  The Yankees signed the Japanese star to a seven-year, $155 million contract last January, and even though he pitched wonderfully in his first 20 starts of big league action, a huge scare jolted the organization when he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow in July.

After throwing his first bullpen this spring, a 21-pitch session at the Yankees’ spring training facility in Tampa Bay, he said he feels better than ever.

“I actually feel a little bit better than last year,” he told ESPN.com. “My overall body and health is better.”

When healthy, Tanaka is an absolute beast. He is already one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball, and he makes opposing pitchers very uncomfortable by repeating his delivery and mixing his pitches with tremendous efficiency.

Last year, he used his fastball, splitter, slider and curveball with impeccable variety.  But the thing that makes him to most effective is his ability to repeat his delivery.  He threw his fastball 40.6 percent of the time and his splitter 25 percent of the time, according to Fangraphs. Those two pitches have about a five mph difference, and when the batter cannot tell what pitch is coming until it is out of the pitcher’s hand, it is nearly impossible to hit.

But even if he comes back and pitches similarly to how he did last year, will the Yankees even be able to contend?

On the surface, it looks like 2015 will be a bleak year for the Bronx Bombers. In Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA rankings, the Yankees are projected to finish fourth in the American League East with a record of 80-82. But they do have some talent on the roster, and manager Joe Girardi has shown he is willing to be creative if it will help the team win.

There is a chance the Yankees start the season with a six-man starting rotation.  Pitching coach Larry Rothschild hinted at that possibility to reporters last Wednesday, per Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News.

While it is definitely unorthodox, teams generally use five starting pitchers, and it actually makes a lot of sense for the Yankees because the rotation has a history of injury.

Tanaka is coming off of surgery, CC Sabathia is coming off of knee surgery, and Michael Pineda spent time on the disabled list last year with a strained back muscle

The Yankees acquired Nathan Eovaldi in the offseason in exchange for Martin Prado, and the hard-throwing righty should be ready to contribute immediately in the upcoming season. Adam Warren and Chris Capuano are two quality arms that would likely thrive out of the bullpen, but if management decides to go with a six-man rotation, one of those two would be the sixth starter and the other would be the club’s main long reliever.

That rotation, although injury prone, has the potential to be among the league’s best. Tanaka is an ace, Sabathia used to be an ace, and Pineda still has his better days ahead of him.

Sabathia has been brutally ineffective in the past two seasons, but one scout is confident that he has what it takes to resurrect his career going into his age-34 season. The scout, quoted in an article written by Andrew Marchand of ESPN.com, feels Sabathia is smart enough to be successful even though he doesn’t have the dynamic arsenal he once did.

“When a guy gets into their 30s, they have to have a second career,” the scout said. “I always felt CC could do that because he really knows how to pitch.”

If Tanaka returns from injury fully healthy, Sabathia has a good season and Pineda builds on his excellent 2014 when he went 5-5 with a 1.89 ERA and a phenomenal 59-7 strikeout-to-walk rate, the Yankees will have one of the best starting rotations in the American League.

In the bullpen, things look bright as usual.  While former closer David Robertson opted to sign with the White Sox in the offseason, the Yankees were able to lure Andrew Miller to the Bronx.  Miller will pair with breakout star Dellin Betances to form one of the most formidable late-inning reliever duos in the MLB.

The offense, however, does not look nearly as promising as the pitching staff. 

The Yankees finished 13th out of 15 American League teams in runs scored last year, and the starting lineup is filled with players who are past their primes.

Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner are both solid, speedy outfielders at the top of the order, but after that, Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann, Chase Headley, Alex Rodriguez, Didi Gregorius and Stephen Drew are either unproven or over the hill.

It’s not entirely hopeless, though. 

Beltran is only one year removed from hitting .296 with 24 home runs in his age-35 season with the Cardinals. He is a good enough hitter to continue to produce even as he ages.

Teixeira struggled last year with a career-low .238 batting average on balls in play, according to Fangraphs. He was one of the best power hitters in the game as recently as 2012, and while he might never hit over .230 again in his career, he could easily hit 30 home runs in 2015.

Catcher Brian McCann faced big expectations when he signed with the Yankees last offseason. His powerful left-handed swing was supposed to result in huge home run totals in hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium, but he struggled mightily all season.  However, he told Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News that he expects to have a huge bounce back in his sophomore season wearing pinstripes.

Third baseman Chase Headley is a steady third baseman, great defensively and a solid hitter, but he is not the type of player who can anchor a lineup. He is a nice complementary piece, but if he is forced to be the go-to guy in the middle of the order, the Yankees are in trouble.

And then there’s Alex Rodriguez. He will undoubtedly command a huge crowd when he arrives at spring training, but if he can hit, nobody will care about his questionable past. Despite the fact that he has been arguably the most criticized player in sports for the past few years, he is still a gifted hitter. If he can get in a groove, he could have a decent season playing as the designated hitter.

Finally, Didi Gregorius and Stephen Drew are good defenders but don’t provide much with the bat. Rob Refsnyder may have a future at second base, but it is unclear whether or not he will have an opportunity to crack the big league club in 2015.

All in all, the roster does not look intimidating. The Yankees have the potential to be a good pitching team and a decent hitting team, especially if Tanaka comes back strong from surgery. He is the key.

If Girardi can count on Tanaka every fifth (or sixth) day to flummox the opposition with his filthy fastball-splitter mix, the Yankees will be in a good position. But if Tanaka shows some of the ill effects of elbow surgery and the Yanks are forced to rely on Sabathia and Pineda, it could be a long year.

The Yankees likely won’t make the playoffs. They are just too old, and there are too many questions regarding the team.

But with the way the postseason now works, with two wild-card spots, anything can happen. Last year seemingly every team had a chance to make the playoffs until the final days of the regular season. The Yankees have a chance to be one of those teams, and a healthy Tanaka would drastically improve their chances.

And if the Yankees did find a way to qualify as a wild-card team, a healthy Tanaka would ideally pitch the one-game playoff in an attempt to take the team to the ALDS for the first time since 2012. 

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Yankees’ Jacoby Ellsbury Records 1,000th Career Hit

New York Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury recorded the 1,000th hit of his career in Monday’s 8-1 win over the Kansas City Royals, per MLB Milestones on Twitter.

Entering the game with 998 career hits, the 30-year-old outfielder singled off Royals pitcher James Shields to open the contest but then went hitless in his his next two at-bats. Facing Shields for a fourth time in the seventh inning, Ellsbury laced an RBI single to right field, reaching 1,000 career hits while extending the Yankees’ lead to 4-1.

The speedy outfielder then made No. 1,001 count, hitting a two-run homer off Royals reliever Francisley Bueno in the top of the ninth inning. With 11 homers this season, Ellsbury already has the second-best single-season total of his career, trailing only the 32 that he shockingly hit for the Boston Red Sox in 2011.

Set to turn 31 on Sept. 11, Ellsbury is only now reaching 1,000 career hits in his eighth season because of the number of games he’s lost to injury. Following his late-season 2007 debut, Ellsbury averaged just 113.7 games per season for the Red Sox from 2008-2013. He logged just 18 games in 2010 and 74 in 2012 sandwiched around his outlier near-MVP season in 2011.

Though it may take a while for the injury-prone label to wear off, Ellsbury has played in 126 of the Yankees’ first 129 games this season after playing 134 games for the rival Red Sox last year.

The early career injuries killed Ellsbury‘s chances of ever reaching 3,000 hits, but 2,000 should be doable.

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Jacoby Ellsbury Injury: Updates on Yankees Star’s Calf and Return

After signing Jacoby Ellsbury to a huge contract this offseason, the New York Yankees are looking to protect their investment. For this reason, they are remain cautious with Ellsbury‘s recent calf injury.    

The former Boston Red Sox star was slated to face his former team on Tuesday. However, he was kept out of the lineup due to his apparent calf issue. Bryan Hoch of MLB.com reports that he will be kept out multiple days:

According to Jorge Castillo of the Newark Star-Ledger, Ellsbury explained by saying, “It’s just something we want 100 percent before I step on it. It’s not one of those things where I try it on the field and see it how it is. I’ll know when I’m on that field that it’s already 100 percent.”

The outfielder signed with the Yankees this offseason for a seven-year, $153 million deal. He is coming off a solid season in which he helped the Red Sox win the World Series with a .298 batting average and a league-leading 52 stolen bases.

In reality, New York is hoping he can replicate his 2011 season, when he had a .321 batting average with 32 home runs to finish second in the MVP voting behind star pitcher Justin Verlander.

However, he first must learn how to stay healthy more than half of the year after suffering injuries in both 2010 and 2012.


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Twitter Reacts to the Start of New York Yankees’ Spring Training

Entering the official start of spring training 2014, one thing is clear: the New York Yankees are Major League Baseball’s most talked about team.

The newest edition of spring training in Tampa Bay for the Yankees took on an entirely different feel when Derek Jeter announced his upcoming retirement back on February 12th. The face of the sport (no offense, Eric Sogard) will arguably be the story of the season as the most recent era in team history comes to a close. Let’s just hope the Jeter Farewell Tour comes with better gifts than the Mariano Rivera one did (really, Texas Rangers? Cowboy boots for a guy from Panama?)

However, the truly most important story lines for the Bombers in spring training are to see what they can expect to yield from their off-season spending spree and how a roster with a surprisingly high number of question marks despite the payroll comes together.  

Can the trio of Jeter/Mark Teixeira/CC Sabathia bounce back from rough 2013? Can Jacoby Ellsbury stay healthy? What exactly can we expect from Masahiro Tanaka? Does David Robertson really have what it takes to replace Mariano Rivera? There’s only one place that has all these answers: Twitter. 

To make the playoffs this year, the Yankees will most likely need to build on last year’s 85-win campaign. That total might sound easy to build off considering the winter’s price tag, but as Ken Davidoff of the New York Post tweets, maybe the Yankees weren’t actually that good. 

A 79-win caliber team minus that team’s best player, one Robinson Cano? Sounds like a tough task to overcome for Joe Girardi. That’s why the quartet of Carlos Beltran, Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Tanaka could make or break the year for New York.

However, all four of those signees come with question marks (at this point, the question mark might as well be the team’s logo this year). We don’t know how Tanaka‘s stuff will translate. Ellsbury‘s games played per year have as been inconsistent as anyone in the league over the course of his career. Beltran is not exactly a spring chicken. McCann is probably the surest bet of the bunch, but even he is beginning 2014 on the wrong side of 30.

One of Ellsbury‘s former managers thinks that success will follow, as long as he stays on the field.

McCann is expected to be a staple in a Yankee lineup that could very well be formidable. Even if McCann has a “down year,” it would be almost impossible for his season to qualify as a positional downgrade from 2013, as MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch points out.

When Tanaka signed, there were two numbers that stood out: a 24-0 record last year in Japan, and a $155 million contract. Critics of the deal have theorized that Tanaka‘s performance won’t match the payday, but Sports on Earth’s Jonathan Bernhardt says even if he’s not great, it’ll be okay for New York.

“If it turns out that New York paid superstar money for a pitcher who is merely very good, fine; the Yankees are a license to print money, and young pitchers who are “merely very good” don’t grow on trees.”

One player who is no lock to make the Opening Day roster, but could make a difference is the enigma known as Michael Pineda. It’s been two full years since we last saw the right-hander in a Major League game, but ESPN’s Buster Olney says there is reason to be optimistic. 

There’s been much talk about Jeter’s last year and what it means for the franchise in the long-term, but in the short-run, no one really knows what to expect from the captain. 

Before his spring training debut on February 27th, Brian Cashman made it clear that on his list of concerns, Jeter is no where near the top, according to Newsday’s David Lennon.


In case you hadn’t heard, Rivera is no longer active. In his place is Robertson, a very good reliever in his own right, but someone who has little experience ending games in big spots. That won’t stop Robertson from thinking he can pitch at an elite level, according to ESPN’s Ian O’Connor.

There’s no doubt the Yankees have upgraded since the end of last season. However, they have some ground to make up in the division. The Red Sox are the reigning World Champions, the Rays have one of the best rotations in all of the league, and the Orioles made some moves late in the off-season to bolster their roster.

The most important Yankee might very well be Teixeira. The Yankees’ infield could potentially be a trainwreck, but if Teixeira can somehow re-create his first three years in the Bronx this year, that could theoretically change the entire lineup. 

Jeter’s last year will be a season-long parade of honors and accolades, but a 39-year-old who might as well not have played in 2013 with a severe ankle injury is as big of a question mark as it comes. It would be very Jeter of Jeter to hit .320 this year, but somewhere in the .280 range is more realistic, if not maybe a best-case scenario for New York. 

Sabathia made news in the off-season for his weight loss, but his season will ultimately come down to another type of loss: velocity. 2013 was arguably the worst season of Sabathia’s career, but he’ll still take the mound April 1st when the Yankees open their season in Houston. His development in spring training could be the most important thing for Girardi & Co. as the team tries to avoid a second straight postseason-less year. 


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