New faces grab spotlight at start of Yanks camp
With pitchers and catchers reporting Friday, Bronx Bombers sport fresh look
TAMPA, Fla. -- The nameplates hanging over the player lockers at George M. Steinbrenner Field should be a valuable reference tool this weekend as a Yankees roster stocked with new faces mingles for the first time.
Yankees pitchers and catchers are due to report on Friday, with the clubhouse open to the news media for an hour beginning at 10 a.m. ET. Manager Joe Girardi is scheduled to conduct a news conference to kick off the spring at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Report day is typically used for physical exams and dropping off equipment, but starting catcher Brian McCann may want to use the afternoon to begin acquainting himself with a new pitching staff after playing his entire career to date with the Braves.
"It will take some time to learn the personality of our staff," Girardi said. "I think you can truly only do that when they get in season, because Spring Training is really a more relaxed atmosphere. But he can do that. He's had to do that in Atlanta as the pitchers changed over the years."
McCann was a top target of the offseason for the Yankees, as they viewed upgrading behind the plate as a major priority. McCann has hit at least 20 home runs in six consecutive seasons, and the lefty-hitting slugger expects that Yankee Stadium's short right-field porch will help that streak continue.
"I just try to keep my head down and continue to play hard," McCann said. "I've had a really good career up to this point, and I want to add on to what I've been able to accomplish. I want to win championships, and I think this place allows me to do all those things. This was a perfect fit for me."
The Yankees' pitchers and catchers take the field for their first official workout on Saturday, and right-hander Masahiro Tanaka is scheduled to throw his second bullpen session since arriving in Florida. That event figures to be a centerpiece attraction of the day.
Yankees captain Derek Jeter will continue working out at the Minor League complex until position players are due to report on Wednesday. Jeter will then publicly address his decision to retire at the conclusion of the 2014 season.
The team's first full-squad workout -- featuring new additions like Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson -- is scheduled for Thursday.
Looking ahead at the Yankees' starting rotation, CC Sabathia continues to be looked at as the ace. He hopes to bounce back from a season in which he lost a career-worst 13 games and turned in a 4.78 ERA, the highest of his career.
Hiroki Kuroda, Tanaka and Ivan Nova fall in line after Sabathia, and Girardi said that the competition for the fifth spot should be "wide open." Michael Pineda, David Phelps, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno are the leading candidates to claim that spot.
"The thing that it does, it affects your bullpen," Girardi said. "Trying to iron out your bullpen, you probably can't iron it out until you have a fifth starter."
And New York's bullpen will be a focal point, as David Robertson prepares to inherit the closer's role from Mariano Rivera. The all-time saves leader recently offered a vote of confidence, saying that he believes Robertson is ready for the challenge.
"We've got our future closer right here," Rivera said on Jan. 25, pointing to Robertson at an event in New York. "You've got to respect that."
Shawn Kelley projects to be promoted to the eighth inning after recording 12 strikeouts per nine innings last season. The Yankees also signed Matt Thornton to a two-year, $7 million contract in hopes he will continue being effective against left-handed hitters.
Preston Claiborne, Dellin Betances and Cesar Cabral all spent time with the Yanks at the big league level last season, and they will be strongly considered for bullpen jobs as the Grapefruit League schedule plays out.
Workouts at Steinbrenner Field run through Feb. 24, and the Yankees open their exhibition schedule on Feb. 25 with a 1:05 p.m. ET home game against the Florida State Seminoles.
The Yanks' first Grapefruit League contest is on the road against the Pirates in Bradenton, Fla., on Feb. 26, and New York will host Pittsburgh as its first Major League visitor of the spring on Feb. 27 at 1:05 p.m. ET.
The Yankees' spring slate is highlighted by a pair of exhibitions in Panama City against the Marlins, dubbed the "Legend Series" and to be played March 15 and 16, with Rivera in attendance.
New York wraps up the spring schedule on March 29 against Miami at Steinbrenner Field. The Yanks will open up the new season where their 2013 campaign ended, with Opening Day scheduled for April 1 against the Astros in Houston.