TAMPA, Fla. -- Mike Ford was a relatively anonymous invitee to big league camp last spring, blending into the calisthenics groups while wearing uniform No. 74 on his back. There is more name recognition for the slugging first baseman as he reports this year, with higher expectations to match.
After belting 12 homers in his first 143 Major League at-bats, the left-handed-hitting Ford enters the spring in competition with Luke Voit to notch reps at first base. It is possible that the Yankees could open the season with both on the roster, though Ford said it is too early to forecast how it plays out.
"We'll see how it goes," Ford said. "Twelve months ago, I didn't really see it to that extent. It's a great feeling [to be] in my third big league camp, so I'll be a little bit more relaxed and just try to play my game."
A 27-year-old product of Belle Mead, N.J., Ford made his big league debut on April 18 and served three stints with the Yankees, reaching base in his first 14 career games with a plate appearance. One of Ford's finest moments came on Sept. 1 against the Athletics, when he became the first rookie in Yankees history to launch a pinch-hit walk-off home run.
"Obviously it's a short sample size; I'm going to have to keep working on things," Ford said. "People are going to make adjustments, and anyone could be good for 160 at-bats. If I keep working on my craft and making the adjustments, I think that I can prove to myself that I can play there for a little bit longer."
Like the rest of the team, Ford was enthused by the December acquisition of right-handed ace Gerrit Cole, who is expected to report for his first Spring Training with the Bombers' other pitchers and catchers on Wednesday.
"Obviously, just great stuff," Ford said. "He brings a dynamic that's crazy. He bolsters our staff, [which is] already awesome. To have him, probably the top pitcher in the game, I couldn't be happier. I'm definitely glad we got him."
Ford appeared trimmer than last year, which he credited to increased time in a New Jersey yoga studio with the intent of improving flexibility.
"It was the focus of the offseason, just to get my body right," Ford said. "A lot of yoga, a little less lifting. A lot of cardio. Right where I want to be."