By Rich Mancuso/ thenyextra.com
One week done and another to go in the Bronx for the Yankees. On paper, prior to the disruption of COVID-19, this was a team that was built to win during a 162- game season.
Now it’s a truncated 62 games. And from all standards nothing has changed with the countdown to the Yankees first game at the World Series Washington Nationals a little less than two weeks.
Yes, the oddsmakers are certain the Yankees will meet the Dodgers in late October to determine a World Series winner in this unusual season that has uncertainty of avoiding another shutdown for MLB.
Where we stand in a month or so with the Coronavirus could determine if baseball gets to October.
The Yankees are confident about October. And this past week has shown they have every reason to be certain about playing baseball in October.
They are adjusting to the medical protocols. The Yankees have accepted the changes of not being together as a unit in one clubhouse. They dress in different areas, workout at different times. The Yankees have adjusted as they normally do during a normal 162-game season.
A healthy and revived Aaron Judge said this week, “We’ve got four months involved here to win a championship and we want everyone on the field. You can spit, do sunflower seeds and go out to a restaurant once this is all over.”
There have been minor setbacks in this first week of Summer camp. Infielder DJ LeMahieu and right-hander Luis Cessa are isolated at home after testing positive for COVID-19, and results of further testing will dictate their return.
Masahiro Tankaka, concussion protocol, will be monitored next week. There is hope the right-hander will resume throwing next week after taking that fall on the mound off a Giancarlo Stanton liner.
Friday, according to MLB, 27 of 30 teams had a person test positive for COVID. The Yankees were one of those teams through the final round of the intake screening process. Players and personnel will now get tested every other day.
Medical protocols are followed. MLB has made it known that strict guidelines are in place to adhere with those safety guidelines.
Otherwise, it has been business as usual for the Yankees with the unusual circumstances of preparing for a season in the Bronx and ongoing global pandemic. They are basically at full strength.
And the Yankees have the depth, lots of it, something a team needs with a truncated 60-game schedule that adds to their advantage.
Example number one is the absence of LeMahieu, on the 10-day injured list as the protocol of COVID-19. In steps 25-year old Tyler Wade. Thairo Estrada, also getting a look, played 35 games last season.
Wade has been getting good reps at the plate. He was projected to come off the bench, now he could be in that starting lineup and man that infield with Gleyber Torres as the double play unit.
Manager Aaron Boone said about the depth, “We feel like we have options there. We feel we’ll be covered there in the event that if we did have to start the season without DJ.”
Regardless, when, LeMahieu is cleared to play it will be Wade with a roster spot, a role at second base as teams have the opportunity for added depth and the expanded rosters.
This does not mean that LeMahieu will have to fight for his spot in the lineup. He was the Yankees most consistent hitter in the lineup last year, a catalyst in the leadoff spot. His glove was also shining on the infield.
“I’m preparing every day like I’m going to play every day,” Wade said Thursday during the Zoom remote interviews that MLB teams are utilizing because of safety protocols.
A good mindset. The Yankees, though, have shown over the years that they always have the depth and players that can fill in. It makes decisions more difficult for the manager when filling out the lineup.
Other examples: From an injury prone Yankees team of 2019, Miguel Andujar and outfielder Mike Tauchman. Gio Ursehela was the surprise, a valuable addition for the injured Andujar. Tauchman, another find of GM Brian Cashman, filled the void for Judge and Stanton in the outfield.
So the next week will be decision time for Aaron Boone and setting that 30-man roster. The manager may have the advantage over others with this team depth.
Even without Tanaka, and with Gerrit Cole as the top arm, the Yankees rotation has depth. Left-hander Jordan Montgomery, limited to four innings last year and recovering from Tommy John surgery, had good stuff before the disruption of play in March.
Thursday night at Yankee Stadium, in an intrasquad game, Montgomery allowed a run over three innings, three strikeouts, and a walk.
“Good to go,”Boone said. “Stuff-wise really since Spring Training he came in throwing the ball really well. We’ve continued to see that same stuff from the quality of his stuff here in the early going to Summer camp.”
One AL Insider that observed Montgomery in the Spring said, “He has that ability to be number one in any rotation.”
Yes, it is depth that the Yankees have. And this is not covering all the basics of a team that continues to prepare for a championship under the most unusual circumstances during a pandemic.
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