The Yankees’ road to October started Wednesday, when pitchers and catchers reported for spring training in Tampa.
After watching his team come up short in his first three years as manager, Aaron Boone said the Yankees are “absolutely” prepared to win a title this season.
“Talk is always cheap, obviously, at this point, but I really like the winter we had, and the additions we made, I think, are gonna be impactful,’’ Boone said during a Zoom call. “The makeup of this team is of championship caliber. That’s what we’re here to try and accomplish. Hopefully this is the year we get to the top of that mountain. That starts in earnest [Thursday].”
That’s when pitchers and catchers have their first workout at the organization’s minor league complex in Tampa and the Yankees get their first look at some of the arms they will depend upon in 2021, from new starters like Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon, as well as Domingo German, who is returning from his suspension.
And they’ll also be looking at what strides some of their younger starters took during the offseason, from Deivi Garcia to Clarke Schmidt to Mike King, among others, as they wait for Luis Severino to come back from last year’s Tommy John surgery.
“There’s inevitably gonna be unknowns that come up in any season, but certainly in the midst of being in a pandemic, coming off a season of only 60 games, depth is obviously gonna be important,’’ Boone said.
So while they will depend on Gerrit Cole, Taillon, Kluber and Jordan Montgomery, they will also be looking for more development from the newcomers — and that includes veteran arms such as Jhoulys Chacin, a non-roster invite.
“We feel like we have 10, 11 [or] 12 pitchers not just capable of going out there, but going out there and thriving,’’ Boone said. “The starting pitching candidates that we have, I feel like are all capable of being championship-caliber contributors to varying degrees. A lot of it comes with question marks as well. We’ll make sure we do everything to help those guys reach their peak, and that’s going to be a little bit different for each one of those guys.”
Clearly, the fact Kluber, Taillon and German combined to throw one inning last season will present challenges in keeping them healthy and productive this season.
Boone said Kluber (coming off a shoulder injury that limited him to one inning in 2020) and Taillon (who hasn’t pitched since undergoing his second Tommy John surgery in 2019; the first was in 2014) are “ready to go” for spring training.
German, according to Boone, has talked to both the manager and general manager Brian Cashman and is in good standing with the organization.
The right-hander will be among those vying for the fifth starter’s spot.
“I see a lot of competition there,’’ Boone said. “We’ll see how the next five or six weeks unfold. How we even the start the season may look different from where we are in May or June.”
To get through what Major League Baseball hopes will be a 162-game schedule, teams will have to find various ways to get enough innings.
Boone repeatedly said the Yankees would likely get “creative” in how they do that and might discuss using a six-man rotation or piggybacking starters on occasion.
“Those will be things that come up over the year that will be options,’’ Boone said. “There’s nothing we’ve decided.”
“We’ve got to find a way to get over that last hump. We feel we’re very close to that.”