A.L. East preview: New York Yankees

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A.L. East preview: New York Yankees

By SeanMcAdam
CSNNE.com

When the Yankees were eliminated in Game Six of the ALCS by the Texas Rangers, little did they realize that their winter of discontent was just beginning.

The Yankees built their entire offseason strategy around landing free-agent pitcher Cliff Lee, but Lee took less money to sign with Philadelphia.

That sent the Yankees scrambling, and with few alternatives on the free-agent market, they re-directed their efforts to other areas. Significant questions about their starting rotation remain.

Three things that have to go right

1) Derek Jeter must put the offseason ugliness behind him.
Jeter was furious with the way the Yankees handled his contract negotiations and said so when he agreed to his new deal. Jeter's been known to hold a grudge or two, but for the sake of the franchise -- and his own legacy -- he needs to let his play do the talking for him.

2) Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild must figure out a way to get A.J. Burnett back on track.
Burnett posted a horrendous 5.24 ERA last year. The Yanks are on the hook for this and two more seasons of his contract and have to find a way to get more -- lots more -- out of him.

3) They must find someone to take over as the full-time catcher.
Jorge Posada is slated for DH duty, meaning that either injury-prone Russell Martin or highly-regarded prospect Jesus Montero must step forward.

Three things that can't go wrong

1) The Yankees can't allow injuries to take their toll.
With as many as six everyday players over 30 -- and two over 35 -- age is, again, a concern.

2) They can't fall out contention in the early going.
The well-stocked farm system has plenty of pieces to package for a starter at the trade deadline. But first, the Yanks have to figure out a way to stay in the race for the first four months of the season.

3) Mark Teixeira can't begin the season as poorly as he traditionally has.
Until the Yankees rotation stabilizes or is upgraded with a deal, the pressure will be on the offense to produce runs early in the season. That's especially true for Teixeira.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com.FollowSeanon Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

BOSTON -- At first, 2016 seemed like the “Year of Xander.” It turned out to be the “Year of Mookie,” with Bogaerts dropping off a little as the season progressed.

The Red Sox shortstop saw his average peak at .359 on June 12. At that point he’d played in 61 games, hit eight home runs, 20 doubles and knocked in 44 runs. Although Mookie Betts had six more home runs and three more RBI in that same span, Bogaerts had six more doubles and was hitting 69 points higher.

The two were already locks for the All-Star Game and Bogaerts still had the edge in early MVP talk.

Then things took a turn after the very day Bogaerts saw his average peak.

Over the next 61 games, Bogaerts still managed seven homers, but only had six doubles and 27 RBI, watching his average drop to .307 by the end of that stretch. At first glance, .307 doesn’t seem like an issue, but he dropped 52 points after hitting .253 in that span.

And in his remaining 35 games, Bogaerts only hit .248 -- although he did have six homers.

But throughout it all, Bogaerts never seemed fazed by it. With pitchers and catchers reporting in less than a month, Bogaerts still isn’t worried about the peaks and valleys.

“You go through it as a player, the only one’s who don’t go through that are the ones not playing,” Bogaerts told CSNNE.com before the Boston baseball writers' dinner Thursday. “I just gotta know you’re going to be playing good for sometime, you’re going to be playing bad for sometime.

“Just try to a lot more better times than bad times. It’s just a matter of trusting yourself, trusting your abilities and never doubting yourself. Obviously, you get a lot of doubts when you’re playing bad, but you just be even keeled with whatever situation is presented.”

Bogaerts level head is something often noted by coaches and his teammates, carrying through the days he finds himself lunging left and right for pitches. That’s also carried him through the offseason while maintaining the same preparation from past seasons -- along with putting on some weight.

“I don’t know how much I put on, but I feel strong,” Bogaerts said to CSNNE.com “I mean, I look strong in the mirror.

“Hopefully, I’m in a good position when the season comes because I know I’ll lose [the weight].”

Sandoval’s offseason transformation doesn't guarantee he's Sox starting third baseman

Sandoval’s offseason transformation doesn't guarantee he's Sox starting third baseman

BOSTON - The weight room, as much as Instagram, has been Pablo Sandoval’s home in the offseason leading up to the 2017 season.

His change in diet and routine have clearly led to visible results, at least in terms of appearance. His play is yet to be determined. But his manager and teammates have taken notice.

“Compliments to Pablo,” John Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner. “He’s done a great job with the work that he’s put in, the commitment he’s made. He’s reshaped himself, that’s apparent. He knows there’s work to be done to regain an everyday job at third base. So, we’ll see how that unfolds. We’re not looking for him to be someone he’s not been in the past. Return to that level of performance.”

Farrell noted that Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge are the other two players in contention for time at third base and while others, such as prospect Rafael Devers, may get time there in the spring, those are the only three expected to compete for the job.

“The beauty of last spring is that there’s a note of competition in camp,” Farrell said. “And that was born out of third base last year [when Travis Shaw beat out Sandoval at the third base]. That won’t change.”

Sandoval's 2016 season ended after shoulder surgery in April. 

While the manager has to be cautiously optimistic, Sandoval’s teammates can afford to get their hopes up.

“Pablo is definitely going to bounce back,” Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com “Especially with the weight he’s lost and the motivation he has to prove a lot of people wrong, to prove the fans wrong.

“He’s been a great player for his whole career. He’s not a bad player based on one year. Playing in Boston the first year is tough, so, hopefully this year he’ll be better.”

Prior to Sandoval’s abysmal 2015, his first season in Boston, when he hit .245 with 47 RBI in 126 games, the 2012 World Series MVP was a career .294 hitter who averaged 15 home runs and 66 RBI a year.

If Bogaerts is right and Sandoval can be that player again, that will be a huge lift in filling in the gap David Ortiz left in Boston’s offense.