New York Yankees Spring Training in 10 Images
As the days of self-quarantine continue to pile up, Spring Training is beginning to feel like a distant memory.
Sure, Grapefruit League play isn't meant to be remembered. Its very purpose is to facilitate necessary preparations for the regular season.
This spring, however, was different than any other version of Spring Training in baseball history. Exhibition games were suspended due to the novel coronavirus pandemic and eventually, players from each respective organization dispersed to their personal homes across the globe uncertain of what comes next.
Specifically at Yankees' camp in Tampa, the virus hit home as two Minor League players within the organization contracted COVID-19. But beyond the unprecedented circumstances created by the coronavirus, there were countless young phenoms taking advantage of an opportunity, heartbreaking injuries to key contributors and of course the debut of Gerrit Cole in pinstripes.
As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Here's ten images – from the USA TODAY Network of photos – that tell the story of an eventful and historic Spring Training for the Yankees.
1. Expectations high, reporters low
Expectations for this Yankees team were through the roof as pitchers and catchers began to arrive in early February. With Gerrit Cole throwing his first bullpen in pinstripes, Gary Sánchez and the catchers debuting new stances and plenty of highly-touted arms getting their work in early on, all eyes were on New York's bullpen underneath the right-field bleachers of George M. Steinbrenner Field.
To get a glimpse of hurlers tossing in the 'pen – here during a Masahiro Tanaka throwing session – all reporters crouched to the dirt and reached to the sky for an angle. This scene was consistent throughout the first several weeks of the spring.
2. Early storylines
Once all players reported to the Bombers' facility in Tampa, early storylines began to take shape.
Injuries plagued this club in 2019 and it didn't take long for them to return this spring. Aaron Judge revealed right shoulder discomfort early and after weeks of uncertainty, he was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his first right rib. Giancarlo Stanton went down this spring as well, suffering a Grade 1 right calf strain during fielding drills.
Once again, however, the next man up mentality that helped New York win a division title last year returned. Miguel Andújar expanded his defensive versatility, lurking behind the sluggers in this photo, shining with his bat in Grapefruit League play.
3. Injuries begin to take a toll
After discomfort in Luis Severino's forearm persisted all offseason, reappearing in February, season-ending Tommy John surgery was prescribed just two weeks after Spring Training began.
With left-hander James Paxton already on the shelf for the first few months of the 2020 campaign after lower back surgery, skipper Aaron Boone had a lot on his mind. Could this team produce without several star players for a second-consecutive season?
4. Opening Day
There was a special atmosphere present at George M. Steinbrenner Field during the Yankees' Spring Training opener. The stadium was packed, the Bombers looked crisp in pinstripes and all signs pointed to another memorable campaign for the sport's most storied franchise.
Little did any of us know at the time that it could be the only Opening Day festivities of 2020 as the regular season is still in jeopardy and no definitive date for an opener has been set.
5. Cole World
Speaking of a special atmosphere, excitement surrounding Gerrit Cole's in-game debut this spring wasn't limited to the confined of George M. Steinbrenner Field. Across social media, everyone was talking about New York's new ace taking the mound for the first time.
Cole pitched just one inning against the Pirates that night, striking out two in one of the most intense Spring Training starts you'll ever see. We'll have to wait a little longer until Cole makes his regular season debut with his new club...
6. All smiles
How about those non-roster invitees and lesser-known players that stood out this spring?
Rosell Herrera (pictured here) was a force to be reckoned with on offense, tying DJ LeMahieu for the most hits on the team with 10 base knocks. Herrera posted a .400 batting average across 11 games, leading the Bombers with seven runs scored. All of a sudden, his name began to pop up in conversations regarding internal outfield depth in replacing Judge and Stanton.
There were hometown Yankees with an opportunity to play for their childhood team as well as younger players not yet on the 40-man roster getting their first shot to showcase their skills to the coaching staff. What happened at the end of Spring Training wasn't ideal, but Herrera's smile is a sign of what's to come – the joy of baseball will eventually return.
A photo of Deivi Garcia – one of New York's top pitching prospects – ended up capturing the entire spring in one image.
At first, as the novel coronavirus spread globally, it was in the background – like the Corona advertisement behind fans in attendance of the Yankees' road game against the Marlins. Then, it became Major League Baseball's central focus as exhibition games were suspended, players permitted to head home and Opening Day was pushed back indefinitely.
8. The new norm
Eventually, everyone was forced to adapt to unprecedented circumstances.
Spring Training usually features increased access for fans and media members alike with players and coaches (compared to the regular season). Instead, as health concerns grew, those perks of baseball in February and March were taken away as a precaution.
Soon, however, just the ability to play (and for fans, watch the game loved by so many) was rescinded as well...
9. Only a matter of time
Here's an image we're all accustomed to seeing nowadays. This fan brought a protective mask to the ballpark as COVID-19 continued to spread.
On March 12, MLB made the tough decision to suspend the remainder of Spring Training contests and postpone Opening Day for two weeks. Then, just four days later, the league elected to push the season back even longer in accordance with the CDC's recommendations on canceling all gatherings for eight weeks.
10. Now what?
Like this image, it's hard to see clearly when it comes to baseball ahead of us.
Reports of the league attempting to bring games back as early as May have circulated this week, but with the coronavirus continuing to spread, only optimists can bank on a return next month.
MLB is currently postponed through May 10 at the earliest. Will we see Yankees on the field before the calendar flips to June? July? Or will this pandemic keep the baseball world dormant until the fall, or perhaps next spring.
Only time will tell.
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