Yankees New/Rumors: Boone Confident, Catcher competition, and Joe Torre’s new job

New York Yankees, Aaron Boone

A daily look at New York Yankees News/Rumors of interest to Yankee fans

Manager Aaron Boone confident going into Tampa:

New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone lives in Greenwich, Connecticut, but for the next several weeks, his home will be George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida, at the Yankee spring training complex.  He is entering his third season of spring training brimming with confidence.  After his first two seasons of 100 plus wins and bright and shiny new pitching ace in Gerrit Cole, Boone is feeling good.  On February 3rd in Virginia Boone loaded his 2018 Mercedes S560, onto the Amtrak Auto Train for the trip to Tampa.

When he arrived he found several players had arrived early at the training complex:  Miguel Andújar, Luis Cessa, Thairo Estrada, Mike Ford, Chad Green, J.A. Happ, Ben Heller, Aaron Judge, Jordan Montgomery, Gary Sánchez, Luke Voit, and Tyler Wade were there eager to get the season going, further encouraging Boone that a high season lies ahead.   Although inspired, Boone was not set back by the recent surgery to pitcher James Paxton.  When speaking about the operation, he said: “I think hopefully this is what knocks it out for good and we can put this past him, and we end up saving some bullets for the end,” Boone said. “We feel good about the surgery and look forward to him being back soon.”

When asked about the rotation with Paxton out for 3-4 months, Boone said: “We’re trying to get individuals ready, and we’re always playing the long game, there’s no question, there’s probably a spot there to be had. There will be some opportunities, but we want guys to get ready for the long haul too. We’ll make a good decision. We have a lot of good options.” Those options are the most likely choice of Jordan Montgomery, who is healthy after missing the last season due to Tommy John surgery. “Monty has proven himself at this level,” Boone said.   The other options include mid-reliever Luis Cessa, top prospect Deivi Garcia, starter Jonathan Loaisiga, and Michael King, according to Boone.

Boone’s new confidence this year is solid. He previously spoke about his hopes for the coming season by saying: “We feel like we’ve been incredibly close now for the last few years, and we’ve added one of the best players in the game to the mix. So that’ll certainly be the goal (a World Championship), and that’ll be the expectation. We welcome that expectation.”

Spring Training to be a competition for a backup catcher:

The Yankees head into spring training with pitchers and catchers reporting on February 11th.  The Yankees will have a new back up catcher this year with the loss of Austin Romine, who became a free agent after the 2019 postseason.  Romine will be catching for the Detroit Tigers this year.  That leaves starting catcher Gary Sanchez and backup catcher Kyle Higashioka to report by the deadline (Sanchez is already in Tampa).  The Yankees in statements have said that they are happy with Higashioka as their backup catcher.  However, their actions don’t back up that theory.

During the offseason, they have acquired Erik Kratz and Chris Iannetta, both to minor league deals.  Due to Gary Sanchez’s injury history, particularly his groin injuries, the Yankees are showing some concern by adding these two veterans.  It now appears they are more concerned as original thought, by adding a third catcher in Josh Thole.   In listing their spring training non-invitees, they cite Kratz, Iannetta, Thole, Winston Sawyer, and catcher Kellin Deglan. That’s five catchers in addition to Sanchez and Higashioka, which is more than usual.

Romine was a homegrown Yankee being in the organization for twelve years.  For most of his time, he bounced back and forth from the minors to the majors.  In September of 2011, Romine was promoted to the major league club after injuries to both Brian McCann and Francisco Cervelli.  During spring training in 2016, he won the backup catcher position over then-rookie Gary Sanchez.   In 2017 he lost out as the starting catcher to Sanchez.  Due to injuries to Sanchez in 2018, he became the primary catcher.  During this time, Romine became one of the premier backup catchers in the business.  With the number of injuries to Sanchez last season, he and Kyle Higashioka (29) assumed most of the catching.

Of Higashioka and the non-invitees, none of them hit well. Higashioka’s defense at the backstop is outstanding.  As the season progressed last year, he did improve his batting average and showed some pop behind the plate, ending the season with a .214 batting average with three home runs in 56 at-bats.   Of the others, Kratz (39) batted .059, Iannetta (36) batted .222 with nine homers in 144 at-bats, and Thole (33) batted .169 with one homer but hasn’t played in the majors since 2016.  I guess that Manager Boone won’t be looking at them for their hitting abilities, but measuring them up to Higashioka in defense of home plate.  During this spring training, it will be a competition, but it will be Kyle’s job to lose.  However, most importantly, with his hitting power, they hope that primary catcher Gary Sanchez will stay healthy.

Joe Torre gets a new job:

The 79-year-old skipper of the New York Yankees, Joe Torre, who managed the Yankees to four World Championships, has a new, less demanding job.  Since 2011 Joe has been Chief of Baseball Operations for the MLB.  Commissioner Rob Manfred announced yesterday that Joe will now be a special assistant to the Commissioner.  In a statement, Manfred said: “I have always appreciated Joe’s great respect for Baseball and his lifetime of contributions to the National Pastime,” Manfred said in a statement. “I am pleased that Joe will remain a valuable resource to us, as he has been for the last decade.”

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