As the Yankees begin Spring Training down in Tampa, Florida this week, there is one position battle I am going to focus on that is not considered a position battle. When the season begins on April 1st, there will be a large spotlight on one position on the diamond in the eyes of fans and experts alike. When the Red Sox come to the Bronx on April Fool’s Day, the player I am focusing on could be a nice break from the dark cloud that has loomed over the Yankees’ head this winter that has the feel of a winter storm Nemo cloud (Alex Rodriguez). Most of you will think that battle is at the catching position. That is an issue, but in this article, I want to focus on the hot corner.
Yes, I am talking about the former goateed, now clean shaven and bald headed Kevin Youkilis. After all the turmoil Youkilis went through with his manager last year, all the lights on him won’t feel as big, especially with the cast of characters around him in the lineup. It is not 2008, so I don’t expect big things from Youk in terms of his overall 2013 production. I liked the move by the Yankees to bring him in when the Alex Rodriguez surgery news broke. Although his bat has not been what it was in 2008-2010 (.300+ average all three years), he still is a decent defender at the third base position.
For Youkilis, I care more about his production in April and May this year. For the beginning part of this season, the Alex Rodriguez injury and PED news will still hover as somewhat of a distraction to this team. In April and May through his career, Youk is a .290 and .327 hitter in those months respectively. If he could put up somewhat of that production in 2013, more focus would be on his start instead of where in the world is Alex Rodriguez or why the team didn’t spend that much money in the offseason?
With Derek Jeter not 100% and Mark Teixiera historically bad in the early months of the season, fans hope the Yankees’ bats don’t get as cold as the weather the tri-state area has had this winter. However, despite the text or non-text drama this offseason, the Yankees will look for veterans like Youkilis to produce similar results as his Red Sox days, as opposed to his season last year with Boston and Chicago where he just hit .233. Plus, Youk’s clubhouse demeanor will be tested early as we’ll need to see if he can join in with the veteran leaders already in the clubhouse. If Youk doesn’t produce, look for the calls of A-Rod to be heard from the stands even though some fans can’t wait for him to be gone. Time will tell, and the countdown starts in Tampa this week!