5 takeaways from Boone's first spring press conference

March 14th, 2022

TAMPA, Fla. -- The first official day of Spring Training served as an opportunity for Yankees manager Aaron Boone to renew relationships with his players, who filtered into George M. Steinbrenner Field on Sunday morning ready to shake off any rust lingering from the recent lockout.

“I’m just really excited to be back here, seeing the guys roll in,” Boone said. “Obviously it’s a shortened situation, but we’re really excited to start getting after this. I’m excited for the fans. … I think it sharpens just how much you appreciate the opportunity to don this uniform.”

The Yankees open their Grapefruit League schedule on Friday against the Pirates in Bradenton, Fla., with their spring home opener set for March 20 vs. the Tigers. With Opening Day scheduled for April 7 against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium, here are five takeaways from Boone’s first press conference of the spring:

Here today, gone tomorrow
Boone played his cards close to the vest when asked about the Yankees’ shortstop situation, saying that he was preparing as though Gio Urshela would be the Opening Day starter at that position.

Clearly, that will not happen, with New York dealing Urshela and catcher Gary Sánchez to the Twins late on Sunday in exchange for third baseman Josh Donaldson, shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa and catcher Ben Rortvedt.

Perhaps Boone left a bread crumb concerning the blockbuster deal to come when he added: “So we’ll just let that situation shake out. I’m sure there’s still things to be done across the game, and certainly with us, that are going to change that landscape potentially along the way.”

The manager also said that general manager Brian Cashman and the front-office staff were “in overdrive evaluating and having those conversations, whether it’s free agents or through trade markets.”

In it to win it
The Yanks’ 2021 postseason lasted just nine innings, and Boone needs no reminder that the club has not advanced to a World Series since 2009. Boone received a three-year contract extension this past offseason, and the clock is ticking to achieve his stated goal of being the last team standing.

“We can win with what we have,” Boone said. “That said, I know we’re working hard to see if there’s areas where we can make improvements. Obviously with the long freeze through the lockout, things will pick up with earnest right now. The reality is, we have a lot of great people in that room, a lot of great players.

“For all the ups and downs that we had last year, we still managed to get into the playoffs with all of those guys. We also feel like there’s a handful of guys that didn’t have their best year. … There’s no excuses. No matter what happens, we expect to be a great team.”

Ramping up the arms
The abbreviated Summer Camp experience of 2020 could serve clubs well this spring as they aim to ready pitchers for Opening Day. The Yankees already have some pitchers throwing from bullpen mounds -- Clay Holmes, Michael King and Jameson Taillon were among those doing so on Sunday, and Luis Severino tossed a side session on Saturday.

“Most of the guys are in really good shape, have been taking care of themselves and getting after it, but [the team hasn’t] had any eyes or hands on them the last few months,” Boone said. “There’s an urgency that exists with the calendar. That’s going to create some pressure to want to get ready. That can be a really good thing; it’s going to force us to really sharpen our focus very early on.”

Other pitchers performing flat-ground work on Sunday included Nestor Cortes, Chad Green, Lucas Luetge, Jordan Montgomery and Clarke Schmidt. Boone said that the Yanks’ first Grapefruit League games will see mostly Minor League pitchers on the hill, since they have been preparing for weeks.

Andújar in good spirits
Miguel Andújar was among the group of Yankees hitters participating in optional batting practice on Sunday. Andújar was recently the victim of a robbery at his farm in the Dominican Republic, where assailants reportedly took a watch valued at $7,000 as well as a vehicle belonging to the infielder/outfielder’s father.

“He looks great and he seemed good,” Boone said. “Obviously it’s a scary situation and something that we’ll continue to talk with him and support him as he needs, but this morning he seemed good and ready to go.”

North of the border
Boone said that he is “concerned” that the Yankees could face a disadvantage this season for their road games against the Blue Jays, as the Canadian government will not permit players who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 to cross the border. The Yanks’ first visit to Toronto is scheduled for May 2-4.

“It’ll be interesting to say the least how that unfolds,” Boone said. “I think we still have a few guys at least that aren’t vaccinated, so we’ll be monitoring that situation closely and see how that plays out.”

Boone -- who is vaccinated -- said that he considers vaccination “a personal decision,” but one that he would consider discussing with his players.

“I have people in my life that have made choices on both sides,” Boone said. “It’s one of those things that’s kind of polarized us, unfortunately, as a nation and as a world. I’ll certainly communicate with our guys, but in the end, it’s a personal decision.”