TAMPA, Fla. — Joe Girardi said it during his spring training kickoff news conference on Feb. 18 and said it again Tuesday, the afternoon before his club’s spring training opener.
“I feel good about this team,” the Yankees manager said. “Obviously you have to play the games, you can’t just feel good about them on paper, you have to go out and perform.”
That performance element of the spring officially begins Wednesday at Steinbrenner Field when the Yankees play the Tigers. Righthander Luis Severino, terrific a year ago after his call-up in August, will start for the Yankees.
Severino is one of six starters competing for five rotation spots though, assuming good health for all involved, the 22-year-old will be a part of the group, along with Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia and Nathan Eovaldi.
Ivan Nova, slated to start Thursday’s game against the Phillies at home, likely will start the season in the bullpen.
Girardi has made sure to stress, however, that Severino’s career is only 11 starts old and a rotation job needs to be earned.
“It’s dangerous when you have a young player to anoint them and put pressure on them, so we want to see what he does this spring and how he handles it,” Girardi said. “I’ve always felt it’s one thing to come up and do well, it’s another thing to perform when you’re expected to do well. You have to learn as a player how to handle both situations. There’s nothing that tells me he won’t handle this well but you have to go through it before you make a decision.”
The rotation is fairly set, as are most positions, though the battle for backup catcher is one to watch over the next month. Prospect Gary Sanchez is the favorite but the 23-year-old, signed as an amateur free agent in 2009, will have to outperform veterans Austin Romine and Carlos Corporan.
The Yankees were off Tuesday but spent 10 a.m. until noon participating in a variety of team-building activities set up by Steve Shenbaum of Game On, a Bradenton, Florida-based company that has worked with the team before. “You play games to learn how to do different things and get to know each other,” Girardi said. “I think that’s important.” . . . Brett Gardner, held out of full batting practice outdoors because of a bone bruise in his left wrist, will take full BP indoors Wednesday morning . . . Girardi said Shreve, who took a line drive off his backside during live BP Monday, possible could “be down” a couple of days . . . Eovaldi (groin) will throw a bullpen Thursday.