Yankees counting on return to form for several

Castro, Ellsbury among group of players who could improve in 2016

February 8th, 2016

The countdown for the official report date of Yankees pitchers and catchers to Tampa, Fla., is ticking down -- it's Feb. 18, if you don't already have it circled on your calendar -- and anticipation is kicking into high gear for the upcoming season.

In the first installment of our Spring Training preview package, "On the Rebound," MLB.com will take a look at the Yankees players who are coming into camp eyeing bounce-back campaigns for one reason or another.

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2B Starlin Castro: While the Yanks were encouraged to see Castro respond well to a late-season audition at second base with the Cubs, the fact remains that the three-time All-Star has plenty to prove after losing his shortstop job with Chicago and struggling offensively in two of the past three seasons. This change of scenery may be coming at just the right time.

OF Jacoby Ellsbury: He just wasn't the same player after sustaining a right knee sprain in a May 19 game against the Nationals in Washington. Ellsbury returned to the lineup on July 8, but he batted just .224/.269/.332 in his final 74 games of the season. Manager Joe Girardi even left him out of the American League Wild Card Game lineup against Dallas Keuchel and the Astros.

OF Brett Gardner: After earning his first All-Star selection, Gardner's production fell off greatly in the second half. It was revealed after the year that he required multiple cortisone shots to treat injuries caused by hit-by-pitches. That makes sense, considering Gardner batted just .196/.281/.280 from July 29 through the end of the season.

3B Chase Headley: You might be surprised to learn that Headley led the 2015 Yankees in hits (150). It was an underwhelming year for the 31-year-old, who batted .259 with a .693 OPS and committed a career-high 23 errors -- not exactly what the Yanks were hoping for when they gave him a four-year, $52 million deal after the 2014 season.

LHP Jacob Lindgren: The touted reliever didn't get much of a chance at the Major League level in 2015, making just seven appearances and having his season interrupted by surgery to remove a bone spur from his pitching elbow. Lindgren had a 1.23 ERA in 15 appearances at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last year, and he will compete for a big league job this spring.

RHP Ivan Nova: The Yankees expect a better performance out of Nova now that he is a full year removed from Tommy John surgery. He was just 6-11 with a 5.07 ERA in 17 starts last season, but general manager Brian Cashman has already gone on record saying he believes Nova is the team's best bet to complete 200 innings this year.

LHP CC Sabathia: A 2.17 ERA in his final five starts offered encouragement that his new knee brace is helping. Still, Sabathia is coming back not only from a season that saw him go 6-10 with a 4.73 ERA, but he also spent a month in rehab for alcohol abuse. Expect the 35-year-old to have extra motivation as he tries to lock down a rotation spot this spring.

LHP Chasen Shreve: The 25-year-old was one of the Yankees' better relievers until the final month of the season, when fatigue may have caught up with him. Shreve was shelled for a 13.50 ERA and a .500 batting average in his final 10 appearances (six innings). He was far better from April through August -- 1.89 ERA and a .180 opponents' average in 52 1/3 innings.

1B Mark Teixeira: This could be Teixeira's final season in pinstripes, and he is hoping for a much better conclusion than last year, when a foul ball resulted in a season-ending right shin fracture. When healthy, Teixeira was very productive, slugging 31 homers and earning selection to his third career All-Star Game. The Yanks will need that again, especially with news that Greg Bird is out for the season.