Yanks' shortstop battle brewing and other storylines as camp opens

5 big takeaways from Boone's remarks as Spring Training begins

February 15th, 2023

TAMPA, Fla. -- and stood side-by-side on a dewy practice field outside George M. Steinbrenner Field, the new top of the Yankees’ rotation embracing an opportunity to inspect each other’s fastballs in person. Soon, their shared push toward October begins for real.

Cole, Rodón and Luis Severino were among the Yankees hurlers to clock a light workout on Wednesday morning, with pitchers and catchers reporting to camp.

Even with Frankie Montas set to undergo surgery on his right shoulder and Nestor Cortes bowing out of the World Baseball Classic due to a right hamstring strain, manager Aaron Boone is optimistic about the squad assembling in the Florida sunshine over the next several days.

“There’s excitement,” Boone said. “Losing Frankie is clearly a blow, and unfortunately we haven’t gotten to see him pitch like the pitcher we know he is, but we also feel very confident. With the depth that we’ve built up, we feel very good about the rotation that we will potentially go north with.”

Here are five takeaways from Boone’s first press conference of the spring.

1. The short story
There projects to be a spring battle for at-bats at shortstop, where will look to hold off prospects Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe, plus . Boone said that he is “really excited about penciling in any [of those] names,” noting that Peraza played well in September after a strong Triple-A season, and that Kiner-Falefa had “a really good winter, and Year 2 here could be better for him.”

Boone said that the Yankees believe Volpe (the club’s No. 1 prospect and the No. 5 prospect in all of baseball, according to MLB Pipeline) “is going to be a great player in this league,” and he lauded Cabrera’s multi-positional versatility. Boone said there is no one outcome he is rooting for, and he hopes that “the guys will continue to make it hard, because they all bring something potentially special to the table. We’ll let that play out.”

2. Opportunity knocks
Cortes’ injury is considered minor enough that he should have enough time to be ready for Opening Day. Boone pictures and leading the cast of candidates to assume Montas’ place in the rotation, which likely would have been the No. 5 spot.

Boone said that he is encouraged by how Germán came into camp, saying that the righty’s “work has been excellent, and he’s in great shape.” Four years removed from a 2019 season in which he went 18-4 with a 4.03 ERA, Germán “certainly understands where he’s at in his career and the opportunities that are in front of him right now,” according to Boone.

3. King of the hill
’s recovery from a right elbow fracture has gone well, and the Yankees are planning on the right-hander being ready to begin the season in the bullpen. Boone said that the club would continue to discuss King’s role; he was excellent as a multi-inning reliever who could give some of the high-leverage bullpen arms days off, but the 27-year-old is also capable of pitching in shorter stints. Boone said that “there wasn’t a more valuable guy in the sport” before King’s injury last July, and the manager is “really encouraged about where [King is] at physically.”

4. Left turns
An offseason move didn’t materialize, so the Yankees’ left-field competition appears to be between and Cabrera. Boone said that he hopes Hicks will exhibit “that hunger to kind of show the world that, ‘Hey, I’m still a guy that can be impactful.’” The Yanks seem reluctant to slot Cabrera in only as a left fielder, hoping the switch-hitter can help at other positions. A trade also remains possible.

“We always get focused on the Opening Day situation, but that can change 10 days, two weeks, a month into the season,” Boone said. “We’re prepared with what we have. We feel like we have good options.”

5. Play it, Mr. DJ
Boone said he is “really excited” about ’s physical conditioning, coming off a season in which the infielder was affected by a fractured toe and damaged ligament that left him unable to play in the postseason.

LeMahieu has been working out for weeks at the Tampa complex and “looks really good, and [is] moving really well,” according to Boone. The club will continue to monitor LeMahieu and remain mindful of the issue, but as of right now, he’s expected to begin the season on time and will be seeing action at first, second and third base.