Yankees Spring Training progress report vs. Braves

TAMPA, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 26: Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees looks on prior to the Grapefruit League spring training game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Steinbrenner Field on February 26, 2019 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 26: Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees looks on prior to the Grapefruit League spring training game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Steinbrenner Field on February 26, 2019 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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Greetings from Tampa, Florida! The Yankees played the Atlanta Braves at George M. Steinbrenner Field this week and easily won 5-1 — and we were there.

Attending the game allowed me to see firsthand how various players have progressed from last year and how things look for the Yankees for the 2019 MLB season.

Unfortunately, Luis Severino was prevented from starting against the up-and-coming Atlanta Braves following discomfort in his right shoulder. An MRI showed “rotator cuff inflammation.”

He will receive treatment with “anti-inflammatories” for two weeks. At that point, he will resume a throwing regimen. However, the injury could persist beyond Opening Day — there are no guarantees.

Instead, Stephen Tarpley was tasked to start at the last minute. The beginning of the game was delayed so that Tarpley could receive additional time to warmup for the emergency start. He pitched well under considering the circumstances.

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The Yankees already lacked depth in starting pitching and knew that they would begin the season without C.C. Sabathia, who is not only recovering from offseason knee surgery, but also must serve a five-game suspension from last September.

With Sevy out of action, too, manager Aaron Boone could use a relief pitcher as an ‘opener’ or one of the young pitching prospects like Jonathan Loaisiga, Domingo German or Luis Cessa.

Aaron Hicks was also out for the second day in a row due to lower back soreness.

Otherwise, the starting lineup generally resembled what could be the team for the first regular season game: Tulowitzki (SS), Judge (RF), Stanton (LF) Voit (1B), Andujar (3B), Sanchez (C), Torres (2B), LeMahieu (DH), and Florial (CF).

It was a cloudy, cool day with temperatures in the low to mid-50s. It was the kind of sky that Joe DiMaggio used to call “an outfielder’s sky” because it was a lot easier to track and catch long fly balls against the dark gray background.

Initial impressions

Sitting right behind the middle of the Yankees dugout, I likely saw the game differently than those that watched it on television. Allow me to share with you a few impressions.

Despite my previous on-going concerns, I saw an entirely different Gary Sanchez. He has lost considerable weight — is moving athletically and gracefully (yes, gracefully) behind home plate. He is also seeing and hitting the ball well. I couldn’t believe it! What a transformation from last year, and a welcome one at that.

Judge is clearly ready for prime time. During batting practice, he effortlessly lifted one pitch after another well over the fence across all fields.

After batting practice, he shagged fly balls in right field, gleefully throwing balls into the right-field seats, nearly always to young Yankee fans. I stood in the right-field seats throughout BP and caught two balls off the bats of two other Bombers.

During the spring contest, Judge doubled and hit a monster home run off a 94-mph fastball into deep center field, scoring D.J. LeMahieu and Estevan Florial.

Based on his behavior, facial expressions (always smiling), and body language, Judge is definitely enjoying baseball and Spring Training.

Andujar and Voit played third and first base, respectively, and fielded their positions well. They both handled balls hit well at them as veterans would. Voit also singled during the game.

Watching Torres and Florial run the bases was a lot of fun. Florial, in particular, is super-fast and at one point went from first base to home on a stolen base, passed ball, and wild pitch in succession.

In addition to Tarpley pitching well on short notice, J.A. Happ, Chad Green, Dellin Betances and Tommy Kahnle looked terrific on the bump.

Kahnle’s performance, in particular, was especially lovely to see. If he can continue to throw this well in the regular season, the bullpen for the Bombers will be that much more outstanding.

Next. Florial looks like real deal in Spring Training. dark

Nearly every Yankee player hugged the front rail of the dugout during each inning that the offense was up to hit. This is a team with good chemistry, sharp focus and tremendous talent. As a club, the Yanks are in a superb place this early in the year, and we should expect them to play well in the American League’s strong Eastern Division.