New York Yankees News: MLB.com says the Yankees are number 3 in the power rankings

New York Yankees, Gerrit Cole

This is a week of great excitement for the New York Yankees and all the other MLB teams; spring training is in full swing, and the Yankees have their first exhibition game this Sunday against the Blue Jays at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida. In just a few days, the long wait during a cold winter that saw the coronavirus surge will be over, and fans can again enjoy baseball games, even if they are only training games; some may even be in the stands according to local health policy.

Today MLB.com has released the first power rankings of the season. The New York Yankees came in at number 3 of the 30 teams. It’s not surprising that the World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers, with their amazing pitching rotation, came in as number one. Following them is the San Diego Padres, a team that did the most to improve their team in the offseason. They now have a pitching rotation that nearly rivals the Dodgers.  The Yankees could be number one, but with questions revolving around the pitching rotation’s stability, the placement is not without reason.

The voters for MLB.com were Alyson Footer, Anthony Castrovince, Jesse Sanchez, Mark Feinsand, Nathalie Alonso, Mike Petriello, Sarah Langs, Andrew Simon, David Venn.

# 1 Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers have the best and most proven pitching rotation in baseball. The old saying that good pitching outweighs good hitting is true, and has worked for the Dodgers winning their first World Series since 1988. The Dodgers had beat the Yankees in the World Series only three times, once in 1955 when they were the Brooklyn Dodgers and again in 1963 and 1981.

The Dodgers record during 2020 would equate to a 116 game winning season if it were 162 games. The Dodgers have Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler leading the way for a staff that has a 3.02 ERA for the season, the best in baseball. This year they have David Price, who opted out last season back with the staff. The Dodger’s biggest move is acquiring the reigning Cy Young Award winner in Trevor Bauer to add to an already scary starting rotation setting up for a fight as to who will be the starting ace.

# 2 San Diego Padres

As I said in my introduction, no team did as much to improve their team like the San Diego Padres, so much so that the Padres will likely be barking at the Dodgers’ heels all season who are in the same division. Last season they got shot down, losing Mike Clevinger to Tommy John Surgery and Dinelson Lamet with an elbow ailment that caused him to miss games late in the season and all the postseason games. For a team that hoped to contend, this was a big blow.

The season the Padres are taking no chances. The acquired Black Snell from the Tampa Bay Rays; he will certainly be the ace for the Padres. They also acquired Yu Darvish, who will follow him in the rotation. If Dinelson Lamet is healthy, he will be number three. He pitched to a 2.09 ERA last season. The Padres also got Joe Musgrove from the Pirates. Add to that they have Ha-Seong Kim and three major league-ready pitchers in the minors. The fight for the NL West is going to be very interesting.

# 3 New York Yankees

The New York Yankees have not won a World Series since 2009. Before the 2020 season, the Yankees went out and got the best pitcher in baseball Gerrit Cole to get to a 28th World Championship. The Yankees depended on the rotation that included Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, J.A. Happ, and Jordan Montgomery to get them there. But for the fourth year in a row, it didn’t work out, mostly attributed to the pitching.

The Yankees basically scraped the rotation by letting Tanaka, Paxton, and Happ walk into free agency. That created the biggest change in the look of the Yankees in years. They hired two-time Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber and traded with the Pittsburgh Pirates for starter Jameson Taillon. The starting rotation will now be Gerrit Cole, Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon, Jordan Montgomery, and most likely Domingo German. Still, if they don’t go with German, they have a bevy of major league-ready pitchers to go to.

The Yankees have one of the most powerful hitting lineups in baseball, including last year’s batting champ and last season’s home run winner.  How the New York Yankees do in 2021 is all about the health of the lineup and the pitching staff that have three pitchers that didn’t pitch last season.

# 4 Atlanta Braves

The Atlanta Braves are always contenders, and this season will be no different. They have won three straight NL East titles and have improved the team over the offseason to make that again a reality. They added pitchers Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly to the mix. Their starting rotation will be Max Fried, Charlie Morton, Ian Anderson, Mike Soroka, Drew Smyly, and Kyle Wright; the Braves use a six-man rotation.

With Marcell Ozuna’s resigning and having Freddie Freeman healthy again, the Braves are in a pretty good place. Freeman had one of the worst cases of the coronavirus in baseball but rebounded to win the NL MVP Award last season.

# 5 New York Mets

This year, it may be a surprise, but the Mets will be contenders this season also; the Mets and the Braves will likely fight for first in the NL East. The Braves made upgrades in their pitching, but so did the Mets. The Mets win out for having the best ace in Jacob deGrom. He is followed by newly acquired Carlos Carasco, Marcus Stroman, Tiajuan Walker, David Peterson, and Joey Lucchesi. The Mets also use a six-man rotation.

Much of the hype this year for the Mets is its new owner Steve Cohen and his attempt to make the Mets the best team in New York. He showed that commitment by getting the services of the best shortstop in baseball in Francisco Lindor.

Rounding out the top ten are number 6, the Chicago White Sox, who made several upgrades, the Minnesota Twins, the Toronto Blue Jays, the Tampa Bay Rays, and finally the Houston Astros. The Boston Red Sox are number 19, and the Orioles, Rockies, and Pirates anchored the list.

The ratings are from MLB.com, but the commentary is from this writer. EmpireSportsMedia.com’s Columnist is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. You can follow him on Twitter @parleewilliam.

After big win at UFC Vegas 19, what’s next for Tom Aspinall?

This past weekend at UFC Vegas 19 was a card of the heavyweights. Out of the six main card matchups, half took place in the heavyweight division. The fight that opened the card was one that a lot of folks were paying attention to.

One of the best prospects in the division, Tom Aspinall (10-2), took on former UFC heavyweight champion, Andrei Arlovski (30-20, 2 NC). The matchup was incredibly intriguing and had a great story behind it.

UFC 70 took place in England and a young Tom Aspinall was in attendance. He was just a kid and he got to witness Andrei Arlovski fight Fabricio Werdum in the co-main event. Watching Arlovski made Aspinall want to become a mixed martial artist.

Fast forward 14 years and Aspinall was fighting the very man who inspired him to become a professional fighter. Sure, Arlovski is not the same anymore at 42 years old, but he had just won two straight in 2020 over top heavyweight prospects.

The fight was going to be a tough test for Aspinall. Aspinall is so exciting due to how well rounded he is. He’s known for his incredible striking, however, his ground game is sensational and he showed that off at UFC Vegas 19.

In the first round, Aspinall hurt Arlovski on the feet. For a minute, it looked like he was going to get his third straight first round knockout in the UFC. However, Arlovski stayed composed and the fight continued.

In the second round, after some back and forth on the feet, Aspinall shot in for a beautifully timed takedown. While along the fence, Arlovski tried to stand and Aspinall locked in a rear-naked choke for the win. If you would’ve blinked, you would’ve missed Aspinall’s third UFC finish.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 19?

Aspinall made his debut with the UFC back in July and he’s already 3-0 with three stoppages. As mentioned, he’s got sensational striking and he just showed how slick he is on the ground. He looks to be the total package.

After the fight was over, Aspinall called for one of the other heavyweight winners on the card. He said he knows he wouldn’t get the winner of the main event, but any other winner would do as he builds up.

Personally, I think that one of the other winners from UFC Vegas 19 makes for the perfect fight. That winner would be Chris Daukaus (11-3). Daukaus made quick work of top ten contender, Alexey Oleynik on Saturday night.

Like Aspinall, Daukaus is now 3-0 with three stoppages in his UFC career. Daukaus earned a contract on The Contender Series and he hasn’t looked back. Both of these men look like great prospects for the heavyweight division and I would love to see them square off.

Former Mets slugger Yoenis Cespedes to hold a showcase in early March

New York Mets, Yeonis Cespedes

The 2020 season didn’t go like Yoenis Cespedes or the New York Mets had planned regarding to controversial slugger. After not playing since 2018 because of multiple heel surgeries and a freak ankle surgery, he returned last campaign.

After a few games and 34 plate appearances (.161/.235/.387 line with a couple of home runs and four RBI) he decided to opt out of the season citing concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Mets have managed to significantly reduce his salary because the accident that resulted in his broken ankle occurred in his farm.

Now, the former Mets’ slugger is free to sign with any team he wants, but his market hasn’t been particularly active given that he hasn’t played much in the last two years and he is now 35 years old, not to mention that he is virtually a DH at this point given his multiple lower-body surgeries and the National League, as of now, won’t be fielding a DH spot this year.

According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the mercurial slugger “intends to play in 2021” and will hold a showcase for interested teams on March 2.

The former Mets’ outfielder will try to impress

He will likely try to prove that not only he can still be a difference-maker in the batter’s box, but that he is also in good overall shape.

Per Rosenthal, the showcase will take place in Fort Pierce, Florida.

By now, it’s not easy to envision Cespedes receiving a major-league deal somewhere unless he impresses in his workout.

It’s not clear if the Mets and Yankees will be interested in Cespedes. It is believed that he didn’t go out in the best terms last year, but it’s important to note that the Wilpons are no longer in charge.

For his career, Cespedes has a .273/.327/.497 line with a 124 wRC+ in 834 games, hitting 165 home runs in the process.

Report: Artemi Panarin to take leave of absence from the New York Rangers

New York Rangers, Artemi Panarin

Larry Brooks of the New York Post has reported that New York Ranger‘s star forward Artemi Panarin is taking a leave of absence from the team in wake of a politically motivated article from Russia. The article states that his former Vityaz head coach alleges that the ex-forward of the Moscow Region club beat an 18-year-old girl in Riga, Latvia in 2011.

The backlash seems to have come from a July 2019 interview with the Vsemu Golovin YouTube channel and eviscerated Putin. It was a bombshell interview in which the 2020 Hart trophy finalist – barefoot in his living room in Saint Petersburg – criticized Putin’s entire regime.

Brooks reports that Andrei Nazarov, who is currently the head coach of the KHL’s Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk, has repeatedly criticized Panarin for the forward’s outspoken beliefs regarding Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s regime. Nazarov is a known Putin supporter.

The New York Rangers have released a statement that reads: Artemi vehemently and unequivocally denies any and all allegations in this fabricated story. This is clearly an intimidation tactic being used against him for being outspoken on recent political events. Artemi is obviously shaken and concerned and will take some time away from the team. The Rangers fully support Artemi and will work with him to identify the source of these unfounded allegations.

 

New York Jets: A fullback could create new offensive avenues

Employing a fullback would be a familiar way for the newly minted New York Jets coaching staff to find an offensive spark.

The modern NFL is one ruled by “Big Offense”, an athletic denomination ruled by a deity known as fantasy football. Scoring four touchdowns in a losing effort has become more common and no less frustrating. Three of the seven highest-scoring games in NFL history have come in the last decade.

These phenomena and more have made the New York Jets’ offensive ineptitude all the more impressive from a macabre standpoint.

Enough has been written about how the Jets have lacked a true franchise quarterback solution since the Nixon resignation, but last year’s edition hit astonishing new lows. They failed to break the 300-yard plateau in all but five of their games last season. The two-touchdown threshold was crossed only seven times. New York has been victimized for two of the six shutouts tallied over the past couple of seasons.

In short, the Jets’ offense could use whatever help it can get. New assistance can spawn from the annals of NFL history if they’re willing to try. Reviving old properties appears to be good enough for Hollywood, so why can’t it work for the Jets? No one’s saying, of course, that the Jets have to go too far…so don’t expect to see, say, the T-formation or goalposts in the middle of the end zone at MetLife Stadium next season. But the team could be well-served by employing the services of a fullback as they start to traverse a new era.

Now, the fullback hasn’t fully gone the way of the single-bar facemask just yet, but it’s certainly an endangered species. We’re certainly far beyond the days where the man in the role was a household name on a championship team like Daryl Johnston, Mike Alstott, or even William “Refridgerator” Perry. But there appears to be a correlation between teams that employ a fullback in their modern roster and recent success.

“Not every team uses my position,” Derek Watt, then of the Los Angeles Chargers, told Nick Wagoner and Eric Williams of ESPN in 2019. “But teams that do, at least a handful that remained in the playoffs late last year, a majority of them had a fullback on the roster. I’m not saying that correlates to anything, but those teams that made it deep in the playoffs did have a fullback. That’s just an observation.”

Watt, now with the Pittsburgh Steelers, was sixth-round pick of the Chargers in 2016 and worked his way into the lineup during the 2018 season. A year after, Watt earned 10 touches (7 carries, 3 receptions), all but three of which went for first downs. To his point about fullbacks and postseason endeavors, three of the eight Divisional round participants (Baltimore, San Francisco, Minnesota), used a fullback on over 30 percent of their offensive (Patrick Ricard, Kyle Juszczyk, and C.J. Ham respectively). Others, Tennessee, have used tight ends (like Jonnu Smith) in the spot. The tournament’s Super Bowl champion, the Kansas City Chiefs, has kept 2014 All-Pro Anthony Sherman on retainer for the past eight seasons.

The Jets are no strangers to fullback endeavors, as the turn of the century has seen them employ crucial contributors like Richie Anderson and Tony Richardson. Names from the past include Brad Baxter, Roger Vick, Mike Augustyniak, Clark Gaines, and future Super Bowl MVP and Hall of Famer John Riggins. New York has mostly eschewed the concept since the end of the Rex Ryan era, when he tried to replace the retiring Richardson with Lex Hilliard and John “The Terminator” Conner. XFL draftee Tommy Bohanon was briefly considered during Todd Bowles’ time with offensive coordinator Chan Gailey.

Adam Gase attempted to turn 2019 draftee Trevon Wesco into a bit of a power option, and the concept somewhat paid off during his rookie season. Wesco earned three first downs on four touches during his debut campaign, but Gase mostly abandoned the concept when a fullback gambit failed to yield a first down in an early crucial juncture of the Jets’ loss to Arizona last October.

With the Gase era mercifully over, you’d think the Jets would be wise to cut off all ties from the previous regime, include those established in the starting lineup. But the Jets are now armed with a coaching staff that knows how to work the position and how to tinker with it to achieve maximum firepower.

If the Jets are to reintroduce a fullback to their lineup on a consistent basis, their timing will likely never be better. Robert Saleh and his San Francisco (including new offensive boss Mike LaFleur) imports know what it’s like to reap the benefits of a fullback’s work, having played witness to the rise of Juszczyk (pronounced YOOZ-check) over the past four seasons in the Bay Area. Each has ended in an invite to the Pro Bowl, including the virtual edition held last month. Those in Baltimore previously saw what Juszczyk was capable of when he first joined the team as a fourth-round pick in 2013. But Juszczyk truly began to hone his powers with the 49ers, his dominance perhaps summitting last season. Not only did Juszczyk score a career-best six touchdowns, but his blocking helped pave the way for a rushing unit decimated by injuries. Two of those rushers, Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr., earned at least 4.8 yards per carry with triple-digit carries. In the aforementioned 2019 playoff run, Juszczyk became the first fullback since Alstott to score a touchdown in the Super Bowl.

During his opening statements, Saleh hinted that the Jets hope to emulate the offensive gameplans Kyle Shanahan has established. In addition to the work he put in with Juszczyk over the past four seasons, Shanahan would also utilize Patrick DiMarco as a receiver during his time in Atlanta under Dan Quinn.

“Mike LaFleur has been with Kyle for I think he’s going on eight years now of professional football, which has been his entire career and nobody in the world knows it better than he does,” Saleh said, per notes from the Jets. “To be able to have him and to get John Benton along with us as run game coordinator, we’re really excited about them being able to install the system and implement the vision that we all want to see.”

Wouldn’t you know it, a certain 49er is up for free agency.

Juszczyk is set to hit the open market following the expiration of a four-year, $21 million deal inked in 2017. Nothing more needs to be said about the Jets’ blessed cap space situation, so a slightly larger deal would definitely be something worth investigating. The work Juszczyk did with his blocking last season would also help soothe some concerns the Jets have about their primary run game, which is out of sorts after the highly publicized Le’Veon Bell departure. His blocking can bestow confidence to a rushing attack that’s currently poised to be led by 2020 fourth-rounder La’mical Perine.

Taboo as the position may be, it’s a risk the Jets almost can’t afford not to take. Even if they miss out on Juszczyk, the upcoming draft provides several attractive backup plans like Senior Bowl standout and Cotton Bowl Classic MVP Rhamondre Stevenson out of Oklahoma, who could be worth looking at with one half of their third-round pair.

The modern NFL’s focus on offense makes the Jets’ ineptitude all the more shocking. It may be time to go against the trend in a more positive, refreshing way.

“When you look at the teams who are doing well, particularly late in the season, they typically have a power formation—or what I call ‘big-boy football,'” Earnest Byner, a former fullback and three-decade NFL veteran as a player and coach. told Brent Sobleski of Bleacher Report in 2016. “When it comes down to it, those teams are going to get you into a box and beat you up.”

“this sets the tone for a comeback of two-back offenses. When you need him, you better have a guy who can put a helmet on the linebacker to get the runner to the second level.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

UFC books Alex Perez – Matt Schnell

The UFC has finalized a very solid flyweight matchup that will take place in May. First reported by MMA DNA, the promotion has booked a matchup between former title challenger, Alex Perez (24-6), and Matt Schnell (15-5).

The fight will take place on May 15th. For Alex Perez, this will be the first time that he’s fought since his failed attempt at becoming champion at UFC 255. Perez took on Deiveson Figueiredo in the main event that night.

Originally, the champion was supposed to fight Cody Garbrandt that night. However, after Garbrandt had to pull out with an injury, Perez got the opportunity of a lifetime. The chance at UFC gold and a PPV main event.

Perez had won three fights in a row and was 11-1 in his previous 12 fights. He appeared to be a formidable challenge for the UFC champion, however, it didn’t play out that way in the cage. Perez was submitted by Figueiredo in just under two minutes.

Alex Perez entered the contest ranked fourth in the flyweight division and he stayed put after the loss. He will now have a chance to get back on the right track when he takes on another top UFC flyweight in May.

Big UFC Flyweight Matchup

Standing across from Perez in May will be Matt Schnell. Schnell will make the walk in May as the seventh ranked contender in the UFC’s flyweight division. This fight is a massive fight for him in getting to fight a former title challenger.

Schnell made his UFC debut back in 2016 and started his career with the promotion getting finished in two straight fights. With his back against the wall, Schnell then won four fights in a row in the flyweight division.

That winning streak found him fighting Alexandre Pantoja in December of 2019. Pantoja was able to win that fight by knockout in the first round. Schnell made his return just last month when he defeated Tyson Nam by split decision.

It’s very clear to me that Schnell is one of the better flyweights in the UFC. This is his chance to bust into the top five. If he comes out and gets the win over Perez in May, he could be on his way to making some noise in the division.

Yankees’ Corey Kluber takes huge step forward in recovery process

New York Yankees, Corey Kluber

The last two seasons for New York Yankees pitcher Corey Kluber haven’t gone as anticipated. He’s only pitched 36.2 innings since 2019, lasting just 1.0 innings before picking up a serious shoulder injury last season.

The issue was so serious it shut him down for the rest of the year, and the 2-time Cy Young award-winning pitcher took his talents to free agency after the Texas Rangers rejected his $18 million contract option.

Nonetheless, general manager Brian Cashman saw that as an opportunity, inking him to a one-year, $11 million deal this past off-season. If all goes well, Kluber will end up being an absolute steal on the free-agent market, but they are betting on him to be his 2018 self, which is two years removed and several injuries in the hole.

Kluber enjoyed his first throwing session with catcher Gary Sanchez on Sunday, and everything seems to be progressing well up to this point.

“He’s come in here having thrown live and even been more strenuous than [Sunday] was,” skipper Aaron Boone said. “It was good to get Gary with him in a live setting. Another good step forward in the process for him.”

Boone also stated the session was “good” for Kluber, who’s working his way back from a serious shoulder injury he suffered in his first start last year.

Just two years ago, Kluber threw 215 innings and earned a 2.89 ERA. He struck out 222 batters, allowing 69 earned runs. With Gerrit Cole slotted just ahead of him, the Yankees have the potential to be an extremely efficient starting rotation, barring any injuries. Considering Cashman was forced to be extremely frugal with his spending this off-season, he was forced to take necessary risks on injured players with high upside.

The Yankees also acquired Jameson Taillon in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates, considering all the great things Cole had to say about his former teammate, the expectation is that he could end up being a dominant starter for the Bombers as well.

I have to say, I was a bit skeptical entering the off-season after these moves, but things seem to be progressing nicely, and both starters are healthy and ready to go. That is the best-case scenario up to this point.

New York Knicks quietly keeping tabs on CJ McCollum

New York Knicks, CJ McCollum

The New York Knicks have actively been considering trading for a star this season, especially with the rise of Julius Randle and the establishment of Immanuel Quickley. The Knicks are playing above expectations, inching out an impressive win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday evening. Winning by just four points, Randle scored 25, RJ Barrett contributed 21, and the remainder of the starting five put up no fewer than 10 points. All around, the Knicks were impressive, as they are just one game away from a .500 record.

As they push for a potential playoff spot as the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, there is still plenty of time for New York to fall back into old habits. However, under new coaching and management, they seem to be a more disciplined and refined team.

To assist them in this impressive turnaround, acquiring a premium player in a trade seems like a good move, but it could be extremely costly. The Knicks would realistically have to give up multiple first-round picks and possibly a young player, as reported for the acquisition of Bradley Beal. It isn’t likely they’re going to offer up RJ Barrett anytime soon, but rather try and utilize pieces like Kevin Knox to get the ball moving.

According to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News, the Knicks have been “monitoring” star Portland guard McCollum.

What would McCollum offer the New York Knicks?

McCollum is a dominant player who has increasingly gotten better over the past few seasons. He’s averaging 26.7 points, 5.0 assists, and 3.9 total rebounds per game over 13 starts. McCollum has been dealing with a left mid-foot fracture which he suffered on January 16 against the Atlanta Hawks, but he’s inching toward a return in a little over a week.

With 72 games in a regular NBA season, McCollum has proven to be healthy over the last six years, so I wouldn’t consider this injury anything too problematic. The Knicks likely have their eyes set on multiple options they can target in a potential trade. If there’s any time to inject a premium player into their lineup and completely revitalize this turnaround, it is now.

CJ offers a consistent shooter from the field, a fantastic three-point shooter, and also plays solid defense. The question is, will the Trailblazers even be willing to include him in a trade.

After brutal knockout loss at UFC Vegas 19, what’s next for Curtis Blaydes?

Curtis Blaydes, UFC

This past Saturday at UFC Vegas 19, Curtis Blaydes (14-3, 1 NC) and Derrick Lewis (25-7, 1 NC) went head-to-head in the main event. Blaydes entered the contest as a huge betting favorite, however, Derrick Lewis was always one shot away from changing those odds.

Early on in the fight, Curtis Blaydes was actually getting the better of the striking. I was very impressed with his ability to control distance and he was doing a fantastic job of mixing in jabs with calf kicks.

A few times it appeared that Lewis was actually hurt by Blaydes at UFC Vegas 19. However, Blaydes was playing with fire by not going to his bread and butter which is his wrestling. In the second round, Blaydes did try going to his wrestling.

However, Lewis defended the takedown well and the two went back to striking. Blaydes tried again for another takedown and Lewis put his lights out with a brilliant uppercut. The knockout loss at UFC Vegas 19 snapped a four-fight winning streak for Curtis Blaydes.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 19?

Curtis Blaydes has only lost to two men inside the UFC. The down side for him is that those two men make up 50% of the heavyweight contenders ranked in front of him. Another problem for Blaydes is that he’s already defeated many of the contender ranked behind him.

To give him a fresh look, I think we should look to this upcoming weekend’s main event for his next fight. UFC Vegas 20 is being headlined by Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Ciryl Gane. Blaydes has fought neither one of these men.

I think a great next fight for Blaydes would be fighting the loser of that matchup. Whoever loses will still be a top ten contender and will be in a similar position as Curtis Blaydes. I fully expect Blaydes to bounce back after this loss. He’s still one of the best heavyweights in the UFC without question.

Yankees’ catcher Gary Sanchez discusses the adjustments he made during the offseason

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez

After batting .147 with a 68 wRC+ and a 36% strikeout rate in 2020, New York Yankees‘ catcher had to expect the writing on the wall as the team advanced to the playoffs, even if he said over the offseason that he deserved an explanation for his postseason benching.

But now, he is trying to leave 2020 in the past and instead focus on a promising 2021 season, one in which the New York Yankees are, once again, the favorites in the American League to advance to the World Series.

Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman said during the offseason that the catcher job in 2021 was Sanchez’s to lose, so the Kraken entered spring training with the mindset of a starter.

When the 2020 season ended, Sanchez worked in Tampa, Fla. with hitting coaches Marcus Thames and P.J. Pilittere, and also played in the Dominican Winter League. He even made a couple of mechanical tweaks that he believes can help him rebound in 2021.

“It’s a little early right now to really give you a true answer, but I definitely feel good with the adjustments I’ve made,” Sánchez said through an interpreter, per MLB.com. “I think they’re going to be key. They’re going to make a difference. I feel great and I definitely think this year is going to be different.”

The Yankees want him to get better

Showing a desire to get better, playing in winter league in the middle of a pandemic, and discussing the subject with no issues are signs that the Yankees’ backstop is indeed trying to move on and working on showing his full potential this time around.

According to Bryan Hoch of the Yankees’ official MLB site, the coaches pointed out to Sanchez that “keeping his weight back, placing more pressure on his right leg to let the pitch travel further, then striking the ball with a compact swing” is the right recipe.

Sanchez hit several homers in batting practice, so the adjustments may be starting to work.

“I think he looks really good,” manager Aaron Boone said. “I feel like he’s got a really good routine going right now that he’s frankly helping to drive. He’s made some adjustments offensively, shortening up his swing. So I would say here in the early days, he’s doing quite well.”