TAMPA — This is shaping up to be a good problem for the Yankees to have this spring.
When general manager Brian Cashman and his team extended invitations to spring training to Jay Bruce and Derek Dietrich this offseason, the moves were low risk with a high reward. At the very least, the two veterans would have an opportunity to mentor some younger players and provide some insurance in case anyone gets hurt.
One week into spring exhibition games, however, those two sluggers are making a legitimate case to secure a spot on the big-league roster next month.
"They were brought in to get a legitimate shot to try to find a way to make this roster, and it's a strong roster, but so far, the early returns are strong," Cashman said in a Zoom call on Friday. "They look like they are going to make us have decisions and that's what we want."
Cashman added that he wants to be in the position to make "tough calls" in this business. If Dietrich and Bruce continue to swing it this spring, he'll get his wish.
Both left-handed sluggers have swings that are tailor-made for the short porch at Yankee Stadium. Dietrich has already showcased that pull-side power, homering against the Blue Jays on Wednesday night. The at-bat before Dietrich went yard, Bruce put a double off the center-field wall.
Even before exhibition games began, the two non-roster invitees were making their presence known at camp. In full-squad workouts, both Bruce and Dietrich consistently stood out in batting practice, spending extra time working on their defense and proving they're capable of filling in at a variety of positions this season.
It's the fact that both are left-handed bats on a righty-heavy roster that makes their availability off the bench even more appealing.
"They're demonstrating why we had interest to bring them in. So we'll see what transpires," Cashman added. "We have a number of players that are here from the past, whether it's Mike Ford amongst others, that are left-handed. Whether it's Dietrich, with the viability he has on the infield side, or you have Jay Bruce, and what he provides, potentially at first in the outfield. So it can be some interesting conversations to continue to have and the quality of the people seem really good."
If those two continue to turn heads, the follow-up question would be how this impacts New York's roster construction. Which players would be sent down—or even released—in order to free a spot (or two) on the bench for these experienced assets?
Cashman reiterated that this team has a "very deep" roster, a group of players that can prove they belong with the big-league club over the next month. As of now, it's too early to tell, but Bruce and Dietrich are certainly checking all the necessary boxes to be in the running for a locker at Yankee Stadium on Opening Day.
"I think our staff did a good job of lining some alternative options up and protecting us as insurance policies if injuries hit," Cashman said. "Or, hey, if everything goes perfect, knock on wood, you hope it always does, [Bruce and Dietrich can] force their way into the mix. I'm thankful that we have the depth that we have some considerations like that."
MORE ON BRUCE, DIETRICH:
- Derek Dietrich Is Eager For Opportunity to Don Pinstripes, Slug at Yankee Stadium
- Jay Bruce Is Relishing His First Chance to Play For the Yankees
- Yankees' Star Praises Spring Invitee Jay Bruce: 'I'm Glad to Have Him Aboard'