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Yankees’ Clint Frazier outlines spring training, regular season missions — February 18, 2017

Yankees’ Clint Frazier outlines spring training, regular season missions

clint-frazier

Yankees outfielder prospect Clint Frazier takes a break during a recent practice day at the club’s minor-league complex in Tampa.

By Randy Miller

TAMPA — Clint Frazier, a big return in the Yankees‘ fire sale last summer, can’t wait to meet the established veteran who has the starting job that figures to be his some day.

Brett Gardner is still the Yankees’ left fielder of the present.

Frazier, one of baseball’s best prospects as a right-handed hitter with power, probably is their left fielder of the future.

When this changing of the guard will occur is anybody’s guess. Maybe it’ll go down this season, maybe not until next season, but none of that will matter this spring when Frazier, 22, hopes to bond with Gardner, 33.

Both are country boys — Gardner is from South Carolina, Frazier from Georgia — and perhaps can develop a big brother/little brother-like relationship.

Frazier and Gardner will be on the same field beginning Sunday when Yankees outfielders and infielders join the pitchers and catchers for a first full-squad spring training workout.

“I’m excited to meet Brett Gardner, a guy that I can probably learn some stuff from overall, and I want to see what he’s got to help me out there in the outfield,” Frazier told NJ Advance Media after a workout this week at the Yankees’ minor-league complex. “It’s his spot and he’s earned the right to go out there and have it every single day, so I’m going to try to do what I can to learn from that guy.”

This is the first big-league camp for Frazier, who was drafted fifth overall in 2013 by the Indians and traded to the Yankees last Aug. 1 in a 4-for-1 that sent All-Star reliever Andrew Miller to Cleveland.

“I think for me the biggest thing is take everything I can out of the guys that are here,” Frazier said. “You’ve got a lot of really good guys here.”

Gardner has been one of them, but his time with the Yankees appears to be running short. He has two seasons to go on a four-year, $52-million contract, but is a strong candidate to be moved anytime from now until the 2018 trade deadline for obvious reasons: Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury is untradeable because of his monster contract.

And so, with the Yankees going young at some many areas and Frazier likely to be knocking at a first big-league chance in the next year or two, a starting job needs to open up.

“I want to play in the big leagues, and I’ve got to go out there and prove myself,” he said. “I’ve got to be a good teammate and a good player and stay healthy, so when all three of those things come together I think I’ve got a good chance to accomplish the dream.”

Frazier wasn’t satisfied with his 2016 progress, which nevertheless included a promotion from Double-A Akron to Triple-A Columbus before his trade. He missed about 20 games due to hamstring injuries and his hitting mechanics were out of whack following his trade, and that led to decent yet disappointing final numbers: .263 average, 16 homers, 55 RBIs in 119 games.

Frazier already is optimistic that he’ll be a lot better in 2017 because he’s fixed his timing issues over the winter and has felt great at the plate during recent batting practices.

“I can feel a difference in the way that I’m seeing the ball in BP,” Frazier said. “I’ve got pitches in live BP and it felt good. I felt like I was able to slow the ball down and kind of get back to myself. I didn’t swing, but it looked like a beach ball coming in.”

When Frazier swings, the ball can go a long way. Scouts rave about his bat speed, which some call legendary.

Frazier feels pressure to live up to his status as a top prospect — he’s ranked 24th by MLB Pipeline, 27th by ESPN’s Keith Law and 39th by Baseball America — but he says that “a lot of that was internal pressure that I put on myself” and that he’s “kind of gotten used to people coming out and expecting something out of me.”

Frazier isn’t campaigning to steal anyone’s job, but he is on a personal mission to get to the majors in 2017.

“I don’t know where I’m going to start, but I know where I want to finish,” he said.

Goose Gossage rant: Comparisons to ‘1-inning’ Mo Rivera are ‘insulting’ —

Goose Gossage rant: Comparisons to ‘1-inning’ Mo Rivera are ‘insulting’

goose-gossage

New York Yankees guest instructor Rich “Goose” Gossage speaks with a member of the media during a spring training baseball workout Friday, Feb. 17, 2017, in Tampa, Fla.

By Randy Miller

TAMPA — In a wide-ranging, cutting interview, Hall of Fame reliever andYankees great Goose Gossage on Friday ripped called Mariano Rivera and Aroldis Chapman “one-inning” relievers whose greatness couldn’t be compared to his.

Gossage spoke to NJ Advance Media in the home dugout at Steinbrenner Field while the club was going through a spring training workout.

Gossage doesn’t believe Rivera, the MLB saves leader, is the greatest reliever of all-time, and he insists he is offended when fans and reporters compare him to Rivera.

Before he was done, Goose took shots at Bud Selig, Barry Bonds, today’s sabermetric general managers and especially pitchers, who he calls inning-counting babies.

NJ Advance Media: What do you think about the Yankees’ offseason moves? Aroldis Chapman is back. Matt Holliday is here. A lot of young players. Do you like what’s going on?

Gossage: “Well, spring is the eternal optimist and we are in the spring time. So we’re just going to have to wait and see. There are so many question marks in how guys are going to perform. You know what? Numbers can be very misleading.”

NJAM: What do you think about Chapman returning?

Gossage: “Well, they’re one-inning guys.”

NJAM: And you often were a three-inning guy, right?

Gossage: “Yeah, it’s totally different, so don’t even compare me here. Chapman’s great. Mo (Rivera) was great … for one inning.”

NJAM: Do you miss the old days?

Gossage: “I would like to see these guys come into more jams, into tighter situations and finish the game … (come in) in the seventh, eighth or ninth innings (with runners on). I don’t think they’re utilizing these guys to the maximum efficiency and benefit to your ballclub.”

NJAM: Do you think pitchers are being babied nowadays?

Gossage: “Oh, absolutely. A hundred pitch counts are killing these kids. Yeah. I think they’re killing their endurance.”

NJAM: I look at the innings you pitched as a reliever and it’s crazy compared to now. I remember Mike Marshall won 15 games and pitched 200 innings as a Dodgers reliever in 1974.

Gossage: “Oh, yeah.”

NJAM: How do you fix it?

Gossage: “It’s funny. And they’re killing them in the process. Agents are bad. Agents create a lot of this pressure by protecting their kids, and in return they’re really killing these kids. They’re turning them into a bunch of babies, a bunch of pampered babies. And they’re letting money dictate this whole thing. When we made $18,000 … they didn’t care.”

NJAM: Is that what you made early in your career?

Gossage: “I made $12,500 my first year in the big leagues in 1972. So I’ve seen money dictate this whole game. It’s changed every facet of the game.”

NJAM: Is it going to get worse?

Gossage: “It’s not going to get any better. It’s getting more to five innings, see you later (for starting pitchers). They are creating these guys, I think, because the more money they make, the more they’re babied. It’s funny.”

NJAM: There may never be another 300-game winner again.

Gossage: “There never will be. Never. There may not be a 200-game winner. They may not be another 200-game winner! Is anybody ever going to go into the Hall of Fame? How are you going to set the benchmark up here (in the majors)? And now you’re going to five and fly? Five innings and these guys are looking over their shoulder. The first thing they ask when they come in the dugout is, ‘How many pitches do I have?’ If we’d ask that back in the day, and I’m not comparing old school to new school, but I’m just saying they would say, ‘Son, get your ass out there and when you get tired, we’ll come and get you.'”

NJAM: Quality start … three earned runs, six innings. That’s a 4.50 ERA.

Gossage: “Ah! … And let me tell you something, these guys that pitch one inning with the three-run lead (and get a) save. It shouldn’t even be a save for one inning and a three-run lead. This is not a knock against Mo. I’m just trying to make a point that I’d like to know how many of Mo’s saves are of one inning with a three-run lead. If everybody in that (bleeping) bullpen can’t save a three-run lead for one inning, they shouldn’t even be in the big leagues. I’d like to know what percentage of Mo’s 650 saves [652] or whatever he’s got are one inning. I’ll bet it’s over 20 percent. Look it up.”

NJAM: I think a lot of newer Hall of Fame voters just look at save totals and that’s why it took longer for you to get in. But you came into games in the seventh inning a lot of times.

Gossage: “I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but let me tell you, over the course of a season every one of those outs is like the ninth inning. That is like a ninth-inning out.”

NJAM: I voted Bruce Sutter as well as you for the Hall because I thought you guys were clearly the dominating guys of your era.

Gossage: “We were workhorses. Starters still prided themselves in finishing what they started and when they got in trouble, that’s when we came into the game. I’d like to know how many of my saves … how many inherited runners I came in with and a guy like Mo, how many inherited runners did he come in with? My point is not to knock what Mo did. I’m saying that he could be utilized more efficiently and more beneficial to your team by bringing him into games earlier.”

NJAM: What do you think about Chapman. He got onto a conference call after he re-signed with the Yankees in December and said that he felt overused by the Cubs last year in the offseason. Joe Girardi asked about that the other day and said, “He got a World Series ring out of it.”

Gossage: “They created it. They have created this.”

NJAM: Would you like to talk to Chapman?

Gossage: “There isn’t nothing I can do. The horse is out of the barn.”

NJAM: You mention Mo, but I think he was the one guy who at least was used in the eighth at times by Joe Torre

Gossage: “Bullshit! … That’s postseason. He never did it … Very seldom in the (bleeping) regular season.”

NJAM: Did you ever talk to Mo about it?

Gossage: “I told him. Yeah, we did it on (the) Michael Kay (TV show). Don’t compare me to Mo or what they do today. They’re one-inning guys. I take exception to that. Don’t even (bleeping) put me … closer wasn’t even a coined phrase.”

NJAM: So when people say Mo is the greatest reliever ….

Gossage. “(Bleep). That’s bullshit. Do what I did and we’ll compare apples to apples. Or Sutter or Rollie Fingers, the guys that set the bar. I’ll tell you what, setup guys have a harder role today than closers today.”

NJAM: Why is that?

Gossage: “They come in with inherited runners. They come into jams.”

NJAM: You have to like then what Terry Francona did with Andrew Miller in the playoffs last year. He used him as early as the fifth inning.

Gossage: “Ah, man. Yeah, of course you (like seeing that). … They’re creating these guys and turning them into a bunch of fricking soft (wimps).”

NJAM: The Blue Jays GM suggested this week that MLB should shorten games to 7 innings.

Gossage: “Well, here we go again. Baseball is being run by a computer. That’s it. Replay … they can take replay and shove it up their ass. It’s taking all the character out of the game. You’re not going to have managers (like) Billy Martin or Earl Weaver or Lou Piniella coming out of the (bleeping) dugout and bringing people out of their seats. Whether you were the home team or the visitors, (fans) loved it. That’s character. That’s gone. Why do we have to control everything? Let me tell you something: Those of us who played the game like we played it (from my era) gave up a long time ago trying to control this game. You let it come to you, and whatever happens then dictates what you do.”

NJAM: I guess you hate the sabermetrics of baseball.

Gossage: “Oh, you know what it is: These guys don’t know baseball, so they’ve got one thing to tell them how to do it, and that’s numbers. And they won their rotisserie leagues at (bleeping) Harvard and all these (bleeping) Ivy League schools, and that’s all it is. And they think they’re (bleeping) general managers! And that’s the way the game has gone. They’re taking all the character out of the game and creating a bunch of soft guys.”

NJAM: When I covered the Phillies, Charlie Manuel used to say, ‘Watch the game, son. Watch the game.” Pat Gillick, a Hall of Fame exec, used to tell me, ‘Watch with your eyes and see if the guy can play.”

Gossage: “There it is. Absolutely, absolutely! Look at San Francisco. They’ve won three out of the last six World Series or whatever it is. They’ve got an old-school person at the top (in executive VP of baseball operations Brian Sabean) who takes into consideration the little things that players do that don’t show up in those (bleeping) statistics.”

NJAM: It’s going to get worse?

Gossage: “It’s going to get worse. The horse is out of the barn. It’s gone. And who knows where this game is going to go. They’re going to do away with umpires. We’re not even going to have umpires on the field. Why would we need umpires? Robots. That’s what it’s become. Players are becoming robots. They’re turning them into it.”

NJAM: Who’s the greatest reliever of all-time in your mind?

Gossage: “I don’t know. But you can’t compare to what I used to do with Mo did.”

NJAM: They named a relief award after Mo. Are you OK with that?

Gossage: “No. I wished I had pitched one inning. I might be still pitching at 65. I already had won the Firemen Award in ’75 and then (the White Sox) came to me in the offseason and said, ‘Hey, Goose, would you start? We need starters.’ I said, ‘Hey, I’ll do whatever you guys want me to do.’ I had 15 complete games. … You know what? I don’t want this to be a negative thing, but if we don’t say anything nothing is ever going to happen. Not that even if I say anything (will change things).”

NJAM: I get email from fans all the time who are upset when Girardi takes a pitcher out after five or six good innings.

Gossage: “How about the (2016) World Series. The kid [Josh Tomlin of Cleveland] has got a shutout (through five innings) and they take him out of the game. You could get an idiot who doesn’t even know what a baseball is and manage a baseball game because it’s so cookie cutter. A hundred pitches, goodbye. Bring in your lefty to face a guy. Bring in your next lefty in the sixth inning. Bring in a righty, righties are coming up. That’s why they need (bleeping) eight relievers in the (bleeping) bullpen.”

NJAM: I remember Dellin Betances being asked late last season if he was available after he had pitched three times in four days or something like that, and he said, “Are you trying to kill me?”

Gossage: “I think I pitched seven days in a row, if I remember correctly. That was not the norm. There is a fine line in killing a kid (by overworking a lot nowadays) and not, where we built up endurance.”

NJAM: You always used to hear the Japanese pitchers threw a lot and didn’t worry about pitch counts, but that’s changed, too.

Gossage: “They were workhorses, and they kind of took it to the other extreme. … And I’m not taking anything away from what Mo did, but don’t compare me to him. It’s insulting. It really is.”

NJAM: One other subject: I’ve been a Hall of Famer voter for 12 years and some players from your era don’t want the PED guys in. What’s your stance?

Gossage: “You know what? They talk about Barry Bonds. He broke the most sacred record in the record books, the home run record. He broke it. Ken Griffey Jr. was supposed to break that record and he didn’t make the end of the race because he broke down. And Bonds had the greatest years of his career the last four or five years. That doesn’t happen. That doesn’t (bleeping) happen. So I think Bud Selig should have reinstated that damn record. Make a (bleeping) statement! … Just be realistic and don’t poo-poo it. Don’t say that he was a Hall of Famer. He broke the most sacred record in the books because of steroids. And because the Bash Brothers (Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire) and Bonds’ ego couldn’t deal with the guys across the (bleeping) bay (playing for Oakland).”

NJAM: I tell people to read “Game of Shadows” and then tell me if you think Bonds is a Hall of Famer.

Gossage: “Absolutely. And we’re going reward these (bleepers). There are probably a couple of (PED users) in there already. You know the way (2016 nominee) Pudge (Rodriguez) answered his question (when Canseco said he shot him up with steroids).”

NJAM: Pudge responded, “Only God knows.”

Gossage: “Yes or no. How about a yes or (bleeping) no?”

Dellin Betances Loses Arbitration Hearing —
Yankees already lose 2 baby bombers to injuries — February 17, 2017

Yankees already lose 2 baby bombers to injuries

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Tyler Austin of the Yankees reacts after his ninth inning game-winning home run against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 8, 2016.

By Randy Miller

TAMPA — So much for Yankees rookie Tyler Austin competing for the starting first baseman job this spring.

The club won’t have its first full squad workout until Saturday, and already he’s had two bitter pills to swallow … first the late free agent addition of slugging first baseman Chris Carter that probably cost Austin a realistic shot at beginning the season in the majors and now a serious injury … a broken foot.

Austin, who hit four homers in 31 games for the Yanks last season after getting an August call-up from Triple-A, fouled a pitch off his left foot during live BP earlier this week at the minor-league complex and the soreness turned out to be a fractured navicular bone.

Just like that, Austin will be sidelined for about six weeks … all of spring training.

“He was fighting for that first base spot and it’s unfortunate,” Yankees managerJoe Girardi said. “A young man here trying to get better and facing live BP, and he hit a ball off his foot.”

Austin took batting practice at the Yankees’ minor-league complex on Thursday, but hasn’t been able to run due to soreness. He alerted the Yankees on Friday morning, and that led to X-rays and an MRI.

The X-ray showed nothing, but they got an MRI (on Friday) morning and that’s when they found (the fracture),” Girardi said.

Outfielder Mason Williams, another young player who had a short stint with the Yankees late season, also already is injured.

Williams’ issue is an inflammation in his left patella tendon that is expected to sideline the 2010 fourth-round draft pick for two weeks.

“He had it earlier this winter, it went away, and now it came back,” Girardi said.

“So to be cautious, we’re going to try to take two weeks. So he won’t be doing any baseball activity for a while. So hopefully it goes away in two weeks.”

7-inning games? MLB GM proposes wacky rule change —

7-inning games? MLB GM proposes wacky rule change

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Joe Girardi #28 of the New York Yankees pulls Michael Pineda #35 of the New York Yankees from the game after giving up a two run home run to Mark Trumbo #45 of the Baltimore Orioles in the fifth inning during their game at Yankee Stadium on September 30, 2016 in New York City.

By Joe Giglio

As baseball attempts to turn over every rock to shorten games and hasten the pace of play around the sport, ideas are being offered at every corner.

The latest, from an actual Major League Baseball general manager, could be the most radical–yet simple–one to date: Cut two innings off the game.

MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince rounded up MLB executives after commissioner Rob Manfred’s Spring Training Media day earlier this week. The question proposed to those willing to answer:

If you could install a Major League rule change for one day, just to see how it affects the strategy or the action, what would it be?

Here’s how Ross Atkins, Toronto Blue Jays general manager, answered: Seven-inning games.

His thought process, and how long it should be in for:

“That’s not something you’d test in Spring Training [or for one day],” Atkins said. “That’s something you’d test over the course of a season. I understand the complexities of that, I understand why you wouldn’t try that. But if it is just a test, I would love to know what the results would be at the end of that.”
“I wonder how it would impact so many different contributing pieces,” Atkins said.

The results would likely be drastic. From less at-bats (counting stats for hitters, changing career numbers) to scoring (22 percent of the game would be gone) to the rise of the ace (guys like Clayton Kershaw, Noah Syndergaard and Max Scherzer could routinely pitch complete games), baseball would be totally different.

It would also take less time to complete each game.

Marlins sale from Jeffrey Loria to Kushner family held up by ambassadorship appointment — February 16, 2017

Marlins sale from Jeffrey Loria to Kushner family held up by ambassadorship appointment

jeffrey-loria

In this April 7, 2015, file photo, Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria speaks with reporters before the Marlins met the Atlanta Braves in a baseball game in Miami. The Kushner family, which has close ties to the White House, has put the brakes on its negotiations to buy the Marlins because of a report team owner Jeffrey Loria may be nominated by President Trump to become ambassador to France. Joshua Kushner, whose older brother is an adviser to the president, has a preliminary agreement to buy the Marlins. But in a statement released late Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017, by Kushner’s brother-in- law, Joseph Meyer, the family expressed concern the deal might “complicate” the ambassadorship appointment.

By Joe Giglio

During Jeffrey Loria’s time as a Major League Baseball owner, he’s rarely been called anything close to an ambassador–for the game, fans of the Miami Marlins, fellow owners or the players.

But sports, politics, international affairs and money are suddenly colliding in Florida.

After reports surfaced last week around the Kushner family–yes, the same family with Jared Kushner, the senior advisor to President Donald Trump and husband to Trump’s daughter Ivankain talks to buy the Marlins,the connection took one step further on Wednesday.

Jeffrey Loria: U.S. Ambassador to France.

While that, on it’s surface, is a strange sentence for baseball fans to read, it does add a conflict of interest to a potential Major League Baseball team sale. Well, at least it did.

According to a statement put out by the son-in-law of Charles Kushner–Jared’s father–the potential purchase of the Marlins is off if Loria is nominated by the White House for the prestigious role.

“Our family has been friends with Jeff Loria for over 30 years, been in business together, and even owned a AAA baseball team together,” Kushner’s son-in-law, Joseph Meyer, said in a statement, per ESPN.
“Although the Kushners have made substantial progress in discussions for us to purchase the Marlins, recent reports suggest that Mr. Loria will soon be nominated by the President to be Ambassador to France. If that is true, we do not want this unrelated transaction to complicate that process and will not pursue it. The Kushners remain interested in purchasing a team and would love to buy the Marlins at another time.”

For now, baseball fans will have to sit through the idea of Loria continuing to own the team–at least until another serious bidder steps forward.

Yankees’ Justus Sheffield’s bold plan: Earn a spot in rotation this spring —

Yankees’ Justus Sheffield’s bold plan: Earn a spot in rotation this spring

justus-sheffield

Yankees left-handed pitching prospect Justus Sheffield is expected to open the season in Double-A, but hopes to work his way into the mix for the two open big-league rotation spots.

By Randy Miller

TAMPA Yankees pitching prospect Justus Sheffield has a quote on his Twitter profile from 19th century philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson that reads:

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

The Yankees’ intended 2017 path for the top left-hander, who might have the best arm in their system, probably is to start out at Double-A Trenton and then see what happens.

Sheffield, 20, says he’ll be fine with that if things shake out that way after his first big-league spring training, which opened Wednesday for Yankees pitchers and catchers.

His plan?

This outgoing Tennessee young man who wears a big diamond stud in his ear and drives an Audi A7 wants to … go instead where there is no path and leave a trail — pitch his way into the mix for the Yankees’ two open rotation spots and then shock everyone by winning one of them.

“Yeah, obviously that’s a goal,” Sheffield told NJ Advance Media. “You never know what can happen. I’m going to go out there and give it my all and show everybody what I’m capable of because you never know what opportunities are going to come up.”

That’s mighty ambitious for a 2014 first-round draft pick who hadn’t been out of A-ball until debuting in Double-A in his first 2016 start, but stranger things have happened.

Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia is proof. He pitched in high-A and Double-A as a 19-year-old in 2000, then double-jumped his way to the majors the following spring and won 17 games as a 20-year-old rookie for the 2001 Cleveland Indians.

Interestingly, Sabathia singled out Sheffield during an interview on Tuesday when talking about the Yankees’ loaded farm system.

“I really want to see Justus,” Sabathia said. “I’ve heard a lot about him. I’m excited to get a chance to see him throw.”

Sheffield, who was traded to the Yankees last Aug. 1 in the deal that sent reliever Andrew Miller to the Indians, really wants to learn from Sabathia.

Their bodies are very different — Sheffield is 5-10, 195 while Sabathia is 6-6, 300-plus — but there are similarities.

“CC’s left-handed and it’s pretty wild that he was with Cleveland,” Sheffield said. “I’d definitely like to like to pick his mind.”

Sheffield, who was 10-6 with a 3.09 ERA in 25 starts last season for high-A Lynchburg, high-A Tampa and Trenton, would like to pick it all season long. Of course, he’s a real long shot to avoid even a fairly quick demotion to the minor-league camp, but perhaps an opportunity will arise if most of the current contenders for the Yankees’ two rotation spots — Luis Severino, Luis Cessa, Chad Green, Bryan Mitchell, Adam Warren — don’t impress or suffer injuries.

“I feel like if I just go out there and have fun and play my game and get my work in, I think things will go OK,” Sheffield said. “Obviously, I’d love to be up in the big leagues.”

Why Yankees legend says Didi Gregorius, not Gleyber Torres, is SS of future — February 15, 2017

Why Yankees legend says Didi Gregorius, not Gleyber Torres, is SS of future

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Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius, left, and the Gleyber Torres, a shortstop ranked by Baseball America as the club’s top prospect.

By Brendan Kuty

TAMPA — At least one Yankees legend thinks Didi Gregorius could hold off top prospect Gleyber Torres and stay at shortstop a long time.

Bucky Dent, who helped the Yankees to two World Series wins in the 1970s, said that while he’s heard from friends in baseball that Torres is “the real deal,” Gregorius’ experience under the Bronx’s pressure sets him apart.

“I’ve talked to some people about (Torres),” Dent told NJ Advance Media at theThurman Munson awards in Manhattan last week. “He’s got a bright future. But I think Didi has built himself. He’s done it in New York. It’s going to be interesting to see what they do.”

Dent could speak from experience.

He was the shortstop when the Yankees took home world championships in 1977 and 1978, when he was the MVP. Dent was also an All-Star with the Yankees in 1980 and 1981.

Dent would go on to work for years in the Yankees’ minor league system and manage the major-league club for parts of two seasons. He last coached in the majors as the Reds’ bench coach in 2007.

“Didi has been a tremendous player over the last year,” the 65-year-old said. “To come into New York, to play behind a guy who is a Hall of Famer, a guy like Derek Jeter. To grow into the position and develop the way he has developed the last year or so — I give him a lot of credit.”

Gregorius had a big 2016.

The Netherlands-born shortstop hit 20 home runs — more than double his career high. He also posted a career-high batting average (.276). His biggest problem, hitting against lefties, actually became a strength as he posted a .320 batting average vs. southpaws.

Torres, however, is charging fast.

MLB.com ranked Torres baseball’s fourth-best prospect and the best in the Yankees’ farm system. Last year, he became the youngest player (age 19) to win the Arizona Fall League MVP and batting title. He’s set to start the season at Double-A Trenton.

“(Gregorius) just needs to keep playing the game the way he’s playing. He’s developed every year,” said Dent, who added he’s only spoken to Gregorius briefly at Old Timers’ Day games. “Last year, he hit left-handers really well. The first year he struggled defensively. He’s become a really outstanding defender. He’s cut down on his mental mistakes and he keeps growing every year. That’s what happens in New York. … to be able to play under this pressure day in and day out, and to play behind a guy like Derek Jeter, I think he’s done a fabulous job.”

10 takeaways from Yankees’ CC Sabathia, who makes bold statements in first spring interview —

10 takeaways from Yankees’ CC Sabathia, who makes bold statements in first spring interview

cc-slobathia

Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia gets loose during a spring training workout in Tampa on Feb. 14, 2017

By Randy Miller

TAMPA — CC Sabathia has a corner locker at Steinbrenner Field, the spring homeof the Yankees, and the big lefty was there on Valentine’s Day morning spreading some love in a pre-workout interview.

Before heading outdoors on reporting day for pitchers and catchers, Sabathia sounded like he was drinking Yankees Kool-Aid the way he was talking up teammates.

The 2017 Yankees aren’t being picked to do much this year because several young and inexperienced ones will be playing key roles, but Sabathia remembers last season’s playoff push after the club’s summer fire sale and foresees something special brewing.

Here are 10 takeaways from Sabathia’s first interview of the spring:

1. Sabathia thinks people who believe the Yankees’ rotation is their Achilles will be proven wrong. He thinks the Yankees can have a strong top three in Masahiro Tanaka, himself and Michael Pineda, and he thinks the two open spots will be in good hands with five capable top candidates: Bryan Mitchell, Luis Severino, Luis Cessa, Chad Green and Adam Warren. “I think the staff will be good,” Sabathia said. “Look at the arms that will be battling for that last spot. There’s some great talent. Mitchell came up and pitched great for us last year. Sevy I think will bounce back. Chad Green … There are some guys down there that can really make an impact on the rotation. I feel good about what they can do.”

2. Sabathia has a hunch the Yankees will get a great season from Pineda, who can become a free agent after the 2017 campaign. The righty impressively struck out 207 over 175 2/3 innings last season, but struggled to a 6-12 record with a 4.82 ERA in 32 starts. “I always feel that big Mike is … I always says going into spring training this is the year he’s going to win the Cy Young. He’s just got so much talent and he just needs to put it all together. I think that (his contract situation) could motivate him. He works really hard and he’s always asking questions and he just wants to be that great pitcher, so I think it’ll all come together for him. Hopefully this year.”

3. Sabathia says he’s “recovered pretty quickly” from last October’s right knee surgery that was described as a routine cleanup. “I feel good and feel like I’ll be ready to go,” he said.

4. Sabathia gave the Yankees 30 starts and 179 2/3 innings last season, and he says he’d “sign up for that” again this year right now.

5. Sabathia will turn 37 in July and he’s in the final season of a five-year, $122-million contract, but he says 2017 won’t be it for him as a pitcher. “Last year to play? No,” he said.  “If I’m healthy and able-bodied to play, I’m going to play as long as I can. It just depends on me being healthy.”

6. Sabathia is intrigued about seeing the younger prospects who are in big-league camp, especially a fellow left-hander who was a big part of the Yankees’ return last July when All-Star reliever Andrew Miller was traded to Cleveland. “I really want to see Justus (Sheffield),” Sabathia said. “I’ve heard a lot about him. Lefty … I’m excited to get a chance to see him throw.”

7. Sabathia is fine with most people picking Boston to win the AL East and the Yankees to miss the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons. “It’s a tough position to be in as far as (the Red Sox) because of the expectations,” he said. “For us, we can just kind of fly under the radar and kind of do our thing and hopefully make a run at it. It’ll be a little more comfortable for us because nobody’s expecting anything out of us.”

8. It’s well-documented that Sabathia’s improved cutter played a big role in his successful reinvention last season from power to finesse pitcher, but he also become more studious in regards to learning opposing hitters’ trends. “I watched video (earlier in my career),” he said, “but not really with the intent that I have now of trying to figure out what to do to guys and try to figure out how to navigate a lineup.”

9. Sabathia likes the direction the organization veered toward last summer and can’t wait to see what the Yankees can accomplish this season. “It’s exciting for sure,” he said. “We’ve got some good young talent in here. It wouldn’t be that exciting if the guys weren’t good players, but the guys are good players. So it’s a lot of fun to see what these guys are going to be able to do for us this year.”

10. Everyone knows the backend of the Yankees’ bullpen should be a big strength again with Dellin Betances setting up closer Aroldis Chapman, but Sabathia also likes the other relievers and feels they also can be a big weapon. “We’ve got (Tyler) Clippard back. We’ve got Adam Warren (if he’s not starting). We’ve got (Luis) Severino if he doesn’t make the rotation. He was great in the bullpen. We’ve got guys that can bridge the gap and kind of make the game shorter and help our team win games.”

Rob Refsnyder doesn’t know what happens next — February 13, 2017

Rob Refsnyder doesn’t know what happens next

By Dan Martin

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TAMPA — As fans clamor for the new generation of Yankees to rise through the minors and take The Bronx by storm, one of the players who used to grab their attention is wondering about his future.

After a disappointing 2016, Rob Refsnyder admitted he couldn’t predict how this season looks for him

“I don’t know where I fit on the roster,” Refsnyder said on Sunday after taking batting practice with Aaron Judge at the team’s minor league complex. “We’ll see what happens. I’m going about my business and try to improve my game because I wasn’t happy with the way I played last year at all. On the offensive side, I felt like it was the bare minimum I could have contributed. I want to do a lot more.”

Refsnyder struggled at the plate all season and finished with an OPS of .637, while bouncing around defensively.

“I was learning a bunch of new positions last year, so I focused a lot more on hitting this offseason,” Refsnyder said. “I felt like I haven’t been focusing on offense as much as should have.”

That focus continued this weekend. After arriving in Tampa on Saturday night, Refsnyder said he called Judge, and they decided to add an unscheduled workout Sunday, which was supposed to be an off day.

It’s understandable why they would want the extra work, both coming off rocky seasons — albeit for different reasons.

A year ago, Refsnyder played 27 major league games in the outfield, 25 at first base and just eight at second.

And he was mostly dreadful offensively. After hitting a double in each of his first four starts, he had just five extra-base hits (all doubles) in his next 52 games and was unable to capitalize on the opportunity presented by the rash of injuries the Yankees faced at first base.

This year, with Greg Bird expected to get the bulk of playing time at first and Matt Holliday and Chris Carter capable of filling in, Refsnyder may have even less chance to play. Ronald Torreyes proved a capable utility infielder, and there are prospects on the way if the Yankees need more outfielders.

If Judge delivers what the Yankees hope he will in right, Refsnyder could be out of luck — and Refsnyder is confident Judge is ready to take the next step.

“I know he’s trying to simplify a lot of things,” said Refsnyder, who hit with Judge this offseason in California and Arizona. “This is a big year for him. His impact can be more substantial than most guys because of his body type.”

Refsnyder has seen Judge up close, making stops together throughout the minors. Now Refsnyder will be 26 next month and Judge 25 in April.

“He put in a lot of work,” Refsnyder said. “I think last year he got a short sample size and you want to do as much as you can. But you look at his track record, he gets to a level, gets his feet wet and then has success. I attribute that to his work ethic. He’s willing to try new things, and I’m looking forward to see what he does.”