Numbers up: Aaron Judge not the only Yankee in the 90s on his jersey
JUPITER, Fla. — When the Yankees are introduced along the baselines at Yankee Stadium for Opening Day on Thursday, some fans may notice how many of the players have NFL-style high uniform numbers, and not just Aaron Judge with his signature 99.
For example, Oswaldo Cabrera wears No. 95. Oswald Peraza is 91. Ron Marinaccio has 97.
In baseball, it used to be that a young player was given a high number in his first big-league spring training and earned a lower one as he moved up the ladder.
“I went from left tackle — 71 — my first camp,” manager Aaron Boone said this past week. “Moved up to inside linebacker — 55 — in my next camp, and then I was 17. Nice progression.”
But with the Yankees having 22 retired numbers, there are slim pickings when it comes to handing out the lower ones. Some players have grown to like their hefty digits and don’t want to switch.
“The first time, I didn’t like it too much,” Cabrera said. “But after I played in the big leagues, everybody started to yell my 95 number. I started to like it. That’s part of me right now. That’s part of my life. So I love that right now. I just want to keep it.”
Other players don’t love sporting a number that used to be more suited to a low-level minor-leaguer who was filling in at the end of spring training games.
“I like 91, but I guess if I’m given an option in the future, I’d probably end up switching to a lower number,” Peraza said through an interpreter.
Peraza said his preferred number “since I was a little kid” is 27. Peraza is Venezuelan, and 27 is the jersey number of his All-Star countryman, Jose Altuve.
Peraza wore the number in the minors, where he'll begin this season, and has it as part of his Instagram handle. But given that 27 with the Yankees belongs to Giancarlo Stanton and his contract runs through 2027 with an option for 2028, Peraza is not going to get it anytime soon.
Plenty of young players don’t really care — they’re just happy to be in the majors and would take any number they’re given.
Others, such as pitcher Clarke Schmidt (No. 86), aren’t sure how they feel about it.
“I go back and forth a lot on that,” he said. “I’m like, ‘I kind of want a lower number.’ Or maybe I can make 86 my own. It’s one of those things where it’s like to be determined. I would love to get down to those low numbers. Maybe that’ll be a goal of mine.”
In all, the Yankees have eight players who have a shot to make the Opening Day roster, have numbers above 80 and already have worn those numbers in the majors. The others are Albert Abreu (84), Greg Weissert (85) and Estevan Florial (90).
Judge is not the first Yankee to wear 99. Outfielder Charlie Keller wore it in 1952 and reliever Brian Bruney had it in 2009. It’s a safe bet no Yankee will ever be issued 99 after Judge retires.
Rookie infielder Anthony Volpe, who wore 7 in the minors because his grandfather loved Mickey Mantle, wore the “double Mantle” -- No. 77 -- this spring.
No. 7, obviously, is retired in the majors by the Yankees. Volpe will wear No. 11 as the Yankees' opening day shortstop.
Domingo German will become the second Yankee to wear No. 0 when he suits up this season. The righthander switched after the Yankees signed Carlos Rodon, who asked for and received German’s blessing to take his old No. 55.
German has said No. 0 represents “a new beginning” for him.
Adam Ottavino was the first Yankee to wear 0. The reliever currently wears it for the Mets.
The Mets, by the way, have eight retired numbers, including Jackie Robinson’s 42, which is retired around baseball. The Mets’ only current 40-man roster player who is expected to make it to Opening Day with a uniform number above 80 is reliever Stephen Nogosek (85).
84 and up
Yankees who wear high uniform numbers:
84 Albert Abreu, P
85 Greg Weissert, P
86 Clarke Schmidt, P
90 Estevan Florial, OF
91 Oswald Peraza, INF
95 Oswaldo Cabrera, OF
97 Ron Marinaccio, P
99 Aaron Judge, OF