Prospect Austin starts late rally in Fall League win

Leadoff single sparks four-run eighth inning, Scottsdale climbs back from 6-1 deficit

Prospect Austin starts late rally in Fall League win

For six innings Tuesday, Glendale right-handers Francellis Montas and Parker Bridwell silenced Scottsdale's offense. Despite some wildness that led to two runs, the pair held the Scorpions hitless, allowing the Desert Dogs to open a four-run lead.

When Bridwell was relieved after two innings, however, the rest of Glendale's bullpen couldn't keep the no-hitter going. The Scorpions broke through for their first hit and another run against left-hander Scott Snodgress in the seventh and then plated four runs to take the lead against right-hander Mychal Givens in the eighth.

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Box score

The late rally proved to be enough and Scottsdale held on for a 7-6 victory, its second against Glendale in as many days.

Tyler Austin started the Scorpions rally with a leadoff single in the eighth. The inning snowballed from there and Scottsdale batted around and scored four runs on four hits, a walk and two errors. The second error, on catcher Michael Ohlman, allowed Dante Bichette Jr. to score the go-ahead run from first base on Kelby Tomlinson's double.

Austin said even after the Scorpions fell behind early in the game, they were confident in their ability to mount a comeback.

"Nobody on the team felt like we were going to lose the game, honestly," Austin said. "We got down early and fought back made it a good game. It was a quality win."

Austin, the Yankees' No. 15 prospect, finished the day 2-for-5 with a double, a run and two RBIs. His ninth-inning double was his second extra-base hit in nine games this fall.

Austin played for Double-A Trenton during the regular season. He hit .275/.336/.419 with nine home runs in 105 games.

With Scottsdale, Austin is hitting .278/.366/.361. He said he is still making adjustments at the plate.

"It's still a process and there's still things I'm working on," Austin said. "But I feel pretty good. Just got to keep my head up and keep improving."

Tomlinson was the only other Scorpion to record two hits Tuesday. The second baseman went 2-for-4 with a double, an RBI and a stolen base. Bichette, Austin's teammate in the Yankees' organization, added a hit and two runs.

Glendale took the lead with four runs in the second off Scottsdale starter Adam Morgan. Garabez Rosa and Nick Ramirez hit back-to-back home runs in the inning and Brewers top prospect Tyron Taylor added an RBI single. The Desert Dogs built on their lead with two more runs in the fifth.

Rosa finished the game 2-for-4 with a run and two RBIs. Shortstop Corey Seager, the Dodgers' top prospect, added two hits.

Given the early lead, Montas and Bridwell did their best to make it stand up. Montas, the White Sox No. 3 prospect, struck out three batters, walked two and allowed one run in four innings. Bridwell, the Orioles' No. 12 prospect , struck out two, walked three and also allowed one run -- his first in four games this fall - in two innings.

Austin said Montas and Bridwell did a good job keeping hitters off balance, but the Scorpions stayed confident at the plate.

"They're a couple of good pitchers hitting their spots and throwing everything for strikes," Austin said. "But we didn't give up. We kept battling and we came out on top."

This year is Austin's second trip to the AFL. His time in the league was cut short last year by wrist discomfort and he was replaced on the roster early in the fall after playing in four games.

In Austin's return to the desert this year, he is working to improve his defense in both corner outfield positions. He has mostly played right field in his career and is now learning left field, where he said he is making progress.

Mostly, however, Austin wants to win some games.

"I just want to help this team win and maybe bring home an AFL championship," he said. "You never know. But there's nothing better than winning."

Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Sabathia nearly '100 percent,' ready to anchor rotation

Sabathia nearly '100 percent,' ready to anchor rotation

NEW YORK -- Three months removed from season-ending right knee surgery, Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia said on Tuesday that he feels "pretty much back to 100 percent" and expects to be ready for a full workload of 32 starts and 200 innings in 2015.

"My only goal is to stay healthy and get back to that -- eating up innings and being able to start every fifth day," Sabathia told reporters at a book signing in midtown Manhattan.

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The 34-year-old Sabathia was at a Barnes & Noble on Tuesday afternoon promoting "CC Claus: A Baseball Christmas Story," which he co-authored with Yankees advisor Ray Negron.

Sabathia started throwing off flat ground in late September and has been working out at Yankee Stadium twice a week. He said that he plans to report to Spring Training early, ahead of the Feb. 20 official report date for pitchers and catchers.

After having an arthroscopic debridement of his knee performed in late July, Sabathia feels ready to again help lead the Yankees' rotation. He was limited to just eight starts this past season, going 3-4 with a 5.28 ERA. He did not pitch in the Majors after May 10.

"It's definitely a huge relief," Sabathia said. "I feel good enough to do all my workouts, to play catch and kind of have a normal offseason."

The Yankees have question marks in their rotation looking ahead to next season. Sabathia is coming back from injury, Masahiro Tanaka was able to make just two starts after sustaining a torn ulnar collateral ligament, Ivan Nova is not expected to be ready to return from Tommy John surgery until at least May and Hiroki Kuroda may retire.

Brandon McCarthy and Chris Capuano are among the players eligible for free agency.

"I think the rotation is going to be fine," Sabathia said. "I think they pitched great this year, [and] four of us went [on the disabled list]."

Sabathia said that he has not spoken recently with Alex Rodriguez, who will be reinstated from his season-long suspension after the World Series, but Sabathia said that he believes Rodriguez will be able to help the Yankees' lineup.

"He's a great player. He's had a year off, but he's been working and hopefully he's had some time to get healthy," Sabathia said. "Obviously, he's not going to be the A-Rod of winning MVPs, but he can come in and contribute."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Flying high in AFL, Bird named Player of the Week

Flying high in AFL, Bird named Player of the Week

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Greg Bird has not been to the new Yankee Stadium, but he said he drove past the old one.

Despite not treading on the hallowed ground in the Bronx, he has that Yankees feeling.

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Bird is an up-and-coming first baseman who might be next in line to take over after Mark Teixeira leaves in a few years. He divided his time between Class A Advanced Tampa and Double-A Trenton in 2014 and had a solid season.

"The way we do things is second to none. It is an honor to represent them," Bird said on Monday after learning that he had been selected as the Arizona Fall League's Player of the Week, representing the Scottsdale Scorpions. "I don't think people on the outside understand what it is like. It is something special.

"To put on the uniform -- just to wear it, just to be a part of it -- is amazing, being in the same clubhouse [in Tampa, the Yankees' spring home] where all of the older players have been is a great place to be."

The left-handed-hitting 21-year-old, ranked 11th in the Yankees' system by MLB.com, had quite a week leading up to the honor.

In four games, he hit .353, had a .421 on-base percentage, a .706 slugging percentage, a 1.130 OPS, two home runs, five RBIs, a pair of walks and three runs scored.

Entering this week's play, he was hitting .368 overall and was tied for the league lead in home runs (three), RBIs (10) and extra-base hits (six), and he was second in slugging percentage (.684) and hits (14).

Other Fall League Player of the Week nominees were Mesa Solar Sox outfielder Boog Powell (A's), Salt River Rafters infielder Rio Ruiz (Astros), Glendale Desert Dogs outfielder Scott Schebler (Dodgers) and Surprise Saguaros outfielder Nick Williams (Rangers).

Bird once was a catcher who switched to first, which he had played at various points.

He was born in Aurora, Colo., spent most of his first 10 years in Memphis before returning to Colorado. He was selected out of high school by the Yankees in the fifth round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.

Bird has been pleased with his progress through the Yankees' system. He knew coming into the Fall League that it would be an upgrade from what he had been used to, even in Double-A.

"The talent level here is phenomenal," Bird said. "The guys are older [than I am], there is more consistency and everybody makes more plays. I knew a lot of the guys [from the Yankees' system], so it has been a smooth transition."

Bird plays two or three games at first each week and serves as the DH on other occasions.

"I want to make sure that I am prepared in whatever I'm going to be doing," he said. "[The Yankees] want you to be prepared every day, week-in, week-out, every day. That was a focus this year. They devoted the resources, used video. And their [coaching] staff really helped us."

Bird characterizes himself as a patient hitter, starting with walks. He has averaged 64 walks a season over his four Minor League campaigns, and had a career-high 107 with Class A Charleston in 2013.

"I've always tried to take a patient approach. I'd say I'm a gap-to-gap hitter, but I take what they give me. I haven't hit a lot of home runs [36 total], but I do have power," said the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Bird.

After the Fall League wraps up in mid-November, Bird said he will take a bit of time off, spending some time at Thanksgiving in San Antonio with his sister, who just gave birth to twins, and enjoying the Christmas holidays with his parents in Denver before returning to Tampa, where he makes his home.

The organization has not told Bird what it has in mind for him in 2015 -- what he does in the spring likely will have an impact -- but wherever he lands, he will have that Yankees feeling.

Don Ketchum is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Jim Callis

Yankees Arizona Fall League overview

Yankees Arizona Fall League overview

The longest stretch of baseball in Aaron Judge's life began when he reported to Yankees Minor League Spring Training in March. He played 131 regular-season games from April through August, then reported to instructional league in September.

There's no rest in Judge's immediate future, because he's now in the Arizona Fall League, slated to play with the Scottsdale Scorpions through mid-November. He's thrilled that he's not getting any time off from baseball after an injury pushed his pro debut from 2013 to '14, and he's looking forward to testing himself against more advanced pitching than he has ever seen before.

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"Just being invited to the Arizona Fall League is always a great honor," Judge said. "Being able to come out here and compete against the best in the game is fun. You get to see how you stack up against the competition, so I'm excited."

Through two weeks of AFL play, Judge has stacked up very well. He went 7-for-20 (.350) with a homer and seven RBIs in his first five games, and he had struck out just three times.

That success has carried over from Judge's first season in pro ball. Splitting '14 between Class A Charleston and Class A Advanced Tampa, he batted .308/.419/.486 and led all Yankees farmhands in RBIs (78), walks (89) and on-base percentage. That kind of production is what New York hoped for when it made him the second of its three first-round choices in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, selecting him 32nd overall and signing him for $1.8 million.

Before he could take the field for the Yankees, Judge tore his right quadriceps muscle. Though his first pro summer ended before it began, he drew some positives from the experience.

"After you get drafted, you just want to show people who you are," Judge said. "It was kind of a blessing in disguise, though. I met a lot of great big leaguers while I was down in Tampa rehabbing. It kind of helped me with the mental side of baseball. Everyone's going to have ups and downs, and just trying to stay even keel through that whole process is a huge part of it."

If his '14 performance is any indication, Judge could move rapidly through the Minor Leagues. Though he's the most physically imposing player in the AFL at 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds, he doesn't have an excessively long swing like most players his size. His frame gives him tremendous strength and leverage and thus, huge right-handed power potential.

For now, Judge has been mostly content to drive balls from gap to gap. He'll become more of a home run threat once he pulls pitches on a more consistent basis. He has the tools to contribute in all phases of the game, as he runs well for his size, has well above-average arm strength and plays a solid right field.

Yankees hitters in the AFL

• Outfielder/first baseman Tyler Austin has had trouble staying healthy since his breakout '12 season, missing time this year with wrist and groin injuries while batting .275/.336/.419 in Double-A. A 13th-round pick as a Georgia high schooler in '10, he has the short stroke and bat speed to hit for both average and power.

• The son of the former All-Star, third baseman Dante Bichette Jr. was New York's top pick (51st overall) in '11 and struggled mightily the next two seasons in Class A. He rebounded somewhat in '14, hitting .264/.345/.397 while spending most of his time with Tampa. Power is his best tool, and he might be a DH when all is said and done.

Kevin Gausman's high school catcher in Colorado, first baseman Greg Bird led the Minors with 107 walks in '13 but was hampered by back problems this year while hitting .271/.376/.472 with 14 homers between Tampa and Double-A Trenton. A fifth-rounder in '11 who signed for $1.1 million, he impresses with his left-handed power and his patience at the plate. He was tied for the AFL home run lead with three in nine games through the first two weeks of play.

• An '08 seventh-rounder from a California high school who signed for $500,000, catcher Kyle Higashioka has played in just 24 games the last two years because of an elbow injury that led to Tommy John surgery. He has the catch-and-throw skills to make it as a big league backup, though his bat is a huge question mark.

Yankees pitchers in the AFL

• Right-hander Caleb Cotham has had injury issues since signing for $675,000 as a fifth-round sophomore-eligible from Vanderbilt in '09, pitching just 310 2/3 innings since he debuted in '09. While he doesn't have a standout pitch, he does have good feel for pitching, mixes four average-ish offerings and throws them for strikes.

• A 20th-round pick from Virginia Commonwealth by the Pirates in '12, right-hander Kyle Haynes was the player to be named later in a trade for Chris Stewart last December. He has a low-90s fastball and posted a 3.49 ERA with 55 strikeouts in 69 2/3 innings as a reliever with Tampa this year.

• Signed as a non-drafted free agent in '12 after a college career at New Haven, right-hander Alex Smith compiled a 2.74 ERA and a 60/21 K/BB ratio in 65 2/3 innings as a reliever with Tampa this summer. With a 91-94 mph fastball and a hard curveball, he can show two plus-pitches at times.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, Callis' Corner. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Spring Training schedule features 16 home games

Spring Training schedule features 16 home games

NEW YORK -- The Yankees are scheduled to play their first Spring Training game of 2015 on March 3 against the Phillies in Clearwater, Fla., and will host Philadelphia the next afternoon at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla.

The Yankees' Grapefruit League schedule, revealed on Monday, will feature a total of 33 exhibition contests, 16 of them at home. The slate includes matchups with all four American League East rivals and five night games at Steinbrenner Field.

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Yankees pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Spring Training on Feb. 20 and will hold their first workout on Feb. 21. Position players are scheduled to report on Feb. 25 and the first full-squad workout is scheduled for Feb. 26.

Games against AL East opponents are as follows: Orioles (March 28 at 1:05 p.m. ET), Rays (March 9 at 1:05 p.m. and April 1 at 1:05 p.m.), Red Sox (March 11 at 1:05 p.m.) and Blue Jays (March 17 at 7:05 p.m.).

Night games at Steinbrenner Field will include: March 6 vs. Pirates, March 12 vs. Braves, March 17 vs. Blue Jays, March 19 vs. Phillies and March 24 vs. Tigers.

The final day of Spring Training will April 3, when the Yankees will host the Nationals at 1:05 p.m. Opening Day for the regular season is scheduled for April 6 against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium.

Season tickets for 2015 Yankees Spring Training home games are on sale now. Individual-game spring tickets will go on sale on Friday, Jan. 9 at 10 a.m. at yankees.com, the Steinbrenner Field box office, or by calling Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000.

For ticket information, fans can call (813) 879-2244 or visit www.yankees.com. This will be the Yankees' 20th Spring Training at Steinbrenner Field, which was originally named Legends Field and renamed in Steinbrenner's honor in 2008.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Roberts hangs up spikes after 14 years in Majors

Second baseman spent majority of career with O's, played final year with Yanks

Roberts hangs up spikes after 14 years in Majors

Second baseman Brian Roberts is retiring, according to The Baltimore Sun.

The 37-year-old Roberts spent 13 of his 14 Major League seasons with the Orioles, the team that drafted him in 1999. He spent this past year with the Yankees, playing 91 games before being released in August.

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"It was just kind of my time," Roberts told The Baltimore Sun. "There were numerous reasons that I felt like I couldn't play at a level that I was accustomed to and wanted to play at if I continued to play. I always said that I wasn't going to be the guy that tried to hang on as long as I could."

Roberts was a key cog in the Orioles' lineup for much of the 2000s before injuries derailed his career. He was a two-time All-Star with speed, totaling at least 40 doubles five times and stealing at least 20 bases seven straight years.

Roberts left the Orioles as a free agent after the 2013 season to sign with New York.

"I took, at the time, the best offer I had," Roberts told the Sun. "Do I wish in some ways that I had spent every day with the Orioles? Sure, that was a dream of mine for a long time. I don't think I ever shied away from making that pretty clear. It will always be the organization I feel like is home for me."

Roberts was a .276 career hitter with 97 home runs, 542 RBIs and 285 stolen bases.

Cash Kruth is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Yankees begin hitting coach search with Magadan, Davis

New York in talks after dismissing Long

Yankees begin hitting coach search with Magadan, Davis

NEW YORK -- As the Yankees' professional scouting meetings wrap up this week at Yankee Stadium, the club has started its search for a new hitting coach, setting up interviews with former big leaguers Chili Davis and Dave Magadan about the vacancy.

The Yankees dismissed hitting coach Kevin Long last week, along with first-base and infield coach Mick Kelleher. In Long's case, the change came after the Yankees scored just 633 runs in 2014, the third-fewest in the American League.

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"I think trying to bring a new perspective in will better serve us with the personnel as we continue to move forward," general manager Brian Cashman said. "So I've made the tough decision to let a good hitting coach go and trying to find another quality one to replace him."

Davis, 54, has been the Athletics' hitting coach for the last three seasons and won two World Series with the Yankees, in 1998 and '99. He interviewed with the Yankees on Thursday and will meet with the Red Sox on Friday, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Magadan, 52, is currently the Rangers' hitting coach, but Texas has granted its coaches permission to speak to other clubs because they hired a new manager following Ron Washington's resignation last month.

The Mets are also believed to have reached out to Magadan, who has previously served as a hitting coach for the Padres and the Red Sox. He told the New York Post that his talks with both the Yankees and Mets are "in the preliminary stages."

Other candidates are expected to follow in the interview process, and former big league slugger Dante Bichette -- a close personal friend of manager Joe Girardi -- could enter the running. Bichette, 50, served as the Rockies' hitting coach in '13.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Jim Callis

Pipeline Perspectives: Judge is best of the big men in AFL

Yanks' prospect didn't have monster season of Tigers' Moya, but future is brighter

Pipeline Perspectives: Judge is best of the big men in AFL

There's a good amount of subjectivity regarding baseball prospects. With the evaluation of talent being in the eye of the beholder, finding consensus is often difficult. Even Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLBPipeline.com don't always see eye to eye. They discuss their viewpoints regularly in a feature called Pipeline Perspectives. Submit a topic for them to debate.

Several of the biggest prospects in baseball are honing their tools in the Arizona Fall League. Twins outfielder Byron Buxton, No. 1 on the MLBPipeline.com Top 100 Prospects list, is on the Salt River Rafters, as is D-backs right-hander Archie Bradley (No. 9). Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor (No. 4) is playing for the Peoria Javelinas, while Addison Russell (No. 5) is back with the Mesa Solar Sox for a second straight autumn.

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And some of the biggest prospects in baseball are in the AFL, too. The two most physically imposing players in the AFL are 6-foot-7, 230-pound Aaron Judge of the Yankees and Scottsdale Scorpions, and 6-foot-6, 230-pound Steven Moya of the Tigers and Glendale Desert Dogs. Their similarities extend beyond their builds to their positon (outfield) and toolsets -- which make them good fodder for our latest Perspective.

Jonathan Mayo prefers Moya as a prospect because he believes Moya has more raw power and a higher ceiling. I like Judge more, because I think he'll have more usable power and see him as having a better ceiling and floor. Both players run well for their size, have strong arms and are capable right fielders, but ultimately how they produce at the plate will determine most of their worth.

Coming out of Linden (Calif.) High in 2010, Judge drew more interest from college programs as a tight end in football than he did in baseball, though the Athletics did draft him in the 31st round. Scouts really began to take note of Judge when he ranked as the top prospect in the summer Alaska League following his freshman season at Fresno State. As a sophomore, he hit two homers in one game off Stanford's Mark Appel (who would become the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft), won the TD Ameritrade College Home Run Derby and starred in the Cape Cod League.

When Judge slammed 12 homers as a junior in 2012 after totaling six long balls in his first two college seasons, he cemented himself as one of the top prospects available in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft. One of three Yankees first-rounders that June, he went 32nd overall and signed for $1.8 million.

Judge missed his first pro summer with a tear in his right quadriceps, but his 2014 debut was worth the wait. Splitting his time between two Class A clubs, he batted .308/.419/.486 with 17 homers. Though he struck out 131 times in 131 games, he showed good patience at the plate by walking 89 times.

Despite his size, Judge doesn't have an excessively long swing, which bodes well for his ability to hit for average at higher levels. At the same time, his impressive strength and leverage give him huge power upside from the right side of the plate. He's content to drive balls from gap to gap for now, and he could really do a lot of damage if he starts to turn on pitches on the inner half more consistently.

Moya had an even better 2014 than Judge, winning Eastern League MVP Award honors while leading the Double-A circuit in homers (35), RBIs (105), extra-base hits (71), total bases (286) and slugging (.555). Yet the left-handed hitter showed little grasp of the strike zone, topping the EL with 161 whiffs while walking just 23 times.

Moya's breakout season was out of character considering how he performed during his first six years in pro ball, when he hit a combined .241/.290/.400. But his lack of strike-zone discipline this year was even worse than the 414/80 strikeout-to-walk ratio he compiled before 2014. It's a red flag that creates concern about how he'll fare against more advanced pitchers who can do a better job exploiting his extreme aggressiveness.

The other worry with Moya is his ability to stay on the diamond. This was the first time in his four years in full-season ball that he managed to play more than 93 games. He missed time in 2011 with hamstring problems, in '12 with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery, and in '13 with a sprained shoulder.

Moya entered pro ball five years before Judge, yet they have had the same number of healthy and productive full seasons: one. Judge is a much more sound hitter, which makes him a better bet to tap into his power and produce as a big league regular.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, Callis' Corner. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Inbox: How will the Yankees upgrade the rotation?

Beat reporter Bryan Hoch answers questions from Yankees fans

Inbox: How will the Yankees upgrade the rotation?

Three weeks have passed since the afternoon that Derek Jeter walked off a big league diamond for the final time, waving his batting helmet and officially entering retirement. His teammates and club brass went into offseason mode a few innings later, and that is where we find them now as we kick off the first Yankees Inbox of the offseason. Click here to submit a question.

How do you think Alex Rodriguez will perform this season?
-- Ricky L., via Twitter

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He's back! This is the $61 million question for the Yankees this winter -- that figure, of course, is what remains on Rodriguez's contract through the 2017 season. Coming off a yearlong suspension, having had surgery on both hips and heading into his age-40 season, what can be reasonably expected?

No one knows for certain, but it'd be fun to hazard a guess. Preparation is not going to be an issue for Rodriguez, and he should be expected to show up in as good condition as possible; remember, this was not a rehab year, so in theory he should be rested and ready to go. Certainly, his reflexes looked OK when he nearly was trampled by Tony Romo and the Cowboys on Sunday.

Offensively, let's presume that Rodriguez hasn't deteriorated from 2013 and he can offer close to what he provided in those 44 games, when he hit only .244 but posted a .771 OPS. That's not too far off his .783 OPS in '12, and here's something crazy: that .771 OPS would have topped every Yankees regular in '14.

To put it another way -- Chase Headley had a split line of .243/.328/.372 in 135 combined games with the Padres and Yankees this year, hitting 13 homers and driving in 49 runs (as you know, he improved after the July trade to New York). If Rodriguez stays on the field, could he match or exceed that? I'd venture to answer yes.

Defensively, we already know that Joe Girardi has brought up the idea of having Rodriguez try on a first baseman's glove for part-time duty, an assignment that you wouldn't figure Rodriguez would have too much difficulty taking on.

Ideally, he would still be able to play third base a few times a week, as well as serve as a productive designated hitter -- particularly if Carlos Beltran comes back as an everyday right fielder, as is expected. We're only about two months away from the first stakeouts in Tampa, when all these answers should become clearer.

What are the chances of the Yankees landing a big-name free agent pitcher?
-- Ken T., Myrtle Beach, S.C.

It would not be a shock to see the Yankees connected early in free agency to any of the big names out there: Max Scherzer, Jon Lester and James Shields pacing the way, particularly if Hal Steinbrenner gives the OK to double down after last year's $175 million investment in Masahiro Tanaka.

The Yankees have said that they would prefer to funnel funds toward player development, but there are so many question marks in the rotation. CC Sabathia missed most of the year to injury and his "ace" days are probably over, Ivan Nova isn't expected back until May, Tanaka's elbow is still a blinking caution light and Michael Pineda was either dominant or absent. Shane Greene should get a crack at the back end.

Re-signing Brandon McCarthy would be a solid mid-level move to fill out the rotation, and you could look at Tanaka-Pineda as a strong 1-2 punch, assuming good health. After a second straight dark October, they still might be tempted to land a big name, and there are at least three good ones out there to chase.

Might the Yankees look in-house for their answer at shortstop? Could Jose Pirela be considered?
-- Steve S., Oswego, N.Y.

All indications are that the Yankees are looking externally for their next shortstop, though they would like to consider Pirela and Rob Refsnyder as starting options at second base in 2015. The Yankees bumped Pirela from shortstop after the 2011 season, and he has only played there sparingly since; they look at him more as a second baseman and left fielder.

Which Cuban import will the Yankees try to sign the hardest?
-- Miguel G., Fayetteville, N.C.

The answer to that question may very well be 'none.' The signings of star talents like Orlando Hernandez and Jose Contreras are long in the rearview mirror for the Yankees, who have watched from the sidelines in recent years as players like Yasiel Puig, Yoenis Cespedes, Jose Abreu and Rusney Castillo have found big league homes. They seemed more engaged with Castillo than the others, but the question remains: Why is that?

Part of the reason, as general manager Brian Cashman has explained, is that New York would have been penalized even more on the dollar by the luxury tax on those players. The Yankees did scout those Cuban players, and they've looked closely at outfielder Yasmany Tomas, attending his showcase last month. But Castillo could command as much as $100 million, and the Yankees are trying to figure out how to give enough at-bats to veterans already under contract such as A-Rod and Beltran.

Do you expect Manny Banuelos to be moved to the bullpen like Dellin Betances? He could be a good asset in a relief role.
-- Edgardo R., Vega Baja, P.R.

As of now, the plan is to continue developing Banuelos as a starter, but his quickest route to the big leagues might be as a reliever. He's finally healthy after Tommy John surgery, and he's still just 23. Banuelos could compete for a bullpen role in Spring Training, similar to what the Yankees have done in years past with David Phelps and Adam Warren, and he otherwise might be a starting depth option waiting at Triple-A.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Bernie Pleskoff

Bird displays power, plate vision at all levels

Yankees' No. 11 prospect was club's 2013 Minor League Player of the Year

Bird displays power, plate vision at all levels

Yankees first-base prospect Greg Bird has raised eyebrows with his left-handed power since his days as a catcher at Grandview High School in Aurora, Colo. He caught Orioles pitcher Kevin Gausman during their time together at Grandview.

Hitting .553 with 12 home runs and 38 RBIs as a senior, Bird was named Player of the Year in Colorado. He had committed to play baseball for the University of Arkansas, favoring the small town environment and the Southeastern Conference for his collegiate career.

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The Yankees selected Bird in the fifth round of the 2011 First Year Player Draft, leaving him with quite a decision. Should he play baseball at Arkansas or sign to play professional baseball? Bird accepted a very generous $1.1 million signing bonus and began his career in '11, playing four games for the Gulf Coast Yankees. He has shown increasing power and the ability to drive in runs at every level.

Injuries, including a bad back set Bird's timetable back a bit. However, in 2013, playing for Class A Charleston of the South Atlantic League, Bird crushed 20 home runs, drove in 84 runs and hit .288. Displaying excellent patience and very solid pitch recognition, Bird led all Minor League players with 107 walks. He was named the Yankees' Minor League Player of the Year.

This past season, Bird played at two levels. He hit .277 and stroked seven of his 14 home runs for Class A Advanced Tampa, adding 22 doubles and a triple. Moving on to Double-A Trenton in the Eastern League, he hit .253 with another seven homers and 11 RBIS. He had a combined 97 strikeouts and 63 walks, an excellent ratio for a power hitter.

This fall, I've been watching Bird play in the Arizona Fall League. A solid and dangerous hitter, he is the Yankees' No. 11 prospect, according to MLB.com.

So far, Bird has shown an excellent ability to use the entire field with a very smooth and uncomplicated swing. A left-handed hitter, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Bird punishes pitchers' mistakes. Although he is capable of hitting offspeed pitches and breaking balls, he is crushing every fastball that gets too much of the plate.

Bird is big, strong and athletic. He is the type of presence in a lineup that requires attention and care. He has the ability to break up a game with one very sweet swing of the bat. Depending upon the location of the pitch, his strength and bat speed are both components that allow him to drive the ball from foul pole to foul pole with a line-drive stroke.

There are times I have seen Bird lengthen his swing at the beginning of the at-bat, but he catches himself quickly and reverts to more of a compact stroke as the at-bat proceeds. I think he could benefit by getting a bit more loft into his swing. But for now, those line drives have a way of clearing the walls of most parks.

While I think Bird's power upside is really impressive, I think his overall hitting tool is his most prominent offensive weapon. He projects to hit for average and drive in runs while making very good contact.

Defensively, his back issues helped accelerate his move to first base. One caution comes to mind. In games I've seen, he had a tendency to leave the base very quickly on throws from third base and shortstop. At some point, he may be called for taking his foot off the base too soon. His range is adequate, and I have seen him make the essential plays. His arm strength is a plus.

Given the presence of Mark Teixeira and the potential use of Brian McCann at first base, Bird may have to wait for his Major League debut. But it will come. He has to continue to get at-bats against quality pitching and show that he has the capability of becoming a complete player. For now, however, his hitting and power are two very attractive tools that will continue to get even better.

Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Yanks huddle up to draw offseason game plan

Infield, starting pitching need to be addressed

Yanks huddle up to draw offseason game plan

The Yankees started meetings with their professional scouts on Monday in New York, with general manager Brian Cashman's staff entering the beginning stages of outlining what must be done to get the team back to the postseason in 2015.

Joined by the team's scouts and other executives, Cashman is beginning the process of identifying possible free-agent signings and trades to upgrade a Yankees roster that posted 84 wins this past season, good for second place in the American League East but not good enough to qualify for a playoff berth.

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"I'm going to see how our pro scouting meetings go," Cashman said. "They're going to start Monday and they'll go all week, and then we'll also see what presents themselves; acquisition costs, whether it's money or trade acquisitions, and then try to factor that all in."

The Yankees are in the market for a starting shortstop to replace the retired Derek Jeter, and their options dwindled by one last week when J.J. Hardy signed a three-year, $40 million extension with the Orioles.

Re-signing Stephen Drew is a possibility, but the Yankees intend to give a look to free agents Hanley Ramirez, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jed Lowrie. They could also consider trades for the Blue Jays' Jose Reyes, the Phillies' Jimmy Rollins or the White Sox's Alexei Ramirez.

"Right now off the current roster, excluding the free agents that will be electing free agency, we will be looking at Brendan Ryan," Cashman said. "Are there obtainable shortstops above Ryan? And work from there."

Cashman said last week that the Yankees need to develop contingency plans in the event that Alex Rodriguez is not capable of playing third base regularly. Martin Prado is one in-house candidate to play there, and the Yankees might also consider re-signing corner infielder Chase Headley, who has said that he will be looking for an opportunity to play every day.

The Yankees are unsure of what they can expect from Rodriguez, who will turn 40 in July and missed all of this past season to his performance-enhancing drug suspension. It is possible that Rodriguez could see most of his time as a designated hitter while being asked to help out at first base.

"It just depends how things shake out, our total budgetary side of things, how our pro scouting meetings run, and how the acquisition costs play in," Cashman said. "But to assume what Alex can or can't do right now would be foolish."

Managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner has said that the team needs a starting pitcher, and the organization is thought to be open to the idea of retaining right-hander Brandon McCarthy, who was 7-5 with a 2.89 ERA in 14 starts for New York after being acquired from the D-backs in July.

McCarthy said in September that he would like to return. The Yankees will also consider the situation of right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, who has inked one-year deals in each of the past three seasons but is expected to give serious thought to retirement.

A decision is also looming in regard to closer David Robertson, who is eligible for free agency and might be a good candidate to receive a qualifying offer, valued at $15.3 million for one year.

The Yankees opted not to engage Robertson in talks about an extension during the season, and though Robertson seems open to returning, he is expected to test the free-agent waters. Robertson posted a 3.08 ERA in 63 appearances, converting 39 of 44 save opportunities in his first full season as Mariano Rivera's successor.

"What happens as we move forward with him and the qualifying offer is yet to be determined, but we thank David and we're proud of what he's done here and how he's handled himself here," Cashman said. "The final decision that has to be made here, first and foremost, is yet to be made."

Cashman's first action after signing a three-year contract extension last week was to dismiss hitting coach Kevin Long and infield/first-base coach Mick Kelleher. The Yankees will soon begin interviewing candidates to fill those vacancies.

One possibility to rejoin the coaching staff is Mike Harkey, who was recently let go by the D-backs after one season as their pitching coach.

Harkey could reclaim the Yankees' bullpen-coach position, with Gary Tuck shifting to bench coach, a role he filled under manager Joe Girardi with the Marlins in 2006. Tony Pena could then be the first-base coach, replacing Kelleher.

"There are some more things that I want to add to the staff with Joe Girardi," Cashman said. "And in my dialogue with Joe, we look forward to interviewing some personnel that can bring those things to the table."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Cashman signs three-year deal to continue as GM

Yankees will maintain strengths, attack weaknesses, he says

Cashman signs three-year deal to continue as GM

BALTIMORE -- The offseason is officially underway for the Yankees, who checked off an important piece of business on Friday by finalizing a three-year contract extension with Brian Cashman, who will continue to serve as the club's senior vice president and general manager.

Cashman's expected return marks the first domino to fall in what promises to be a busy winter for the Yankees after missing the playoffs for a second consecutive season. New York won 84 games and finished second in the American League East.

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"Being in this chair for 17 years, I'd say every winter has got its challenges," Cashman said. "I don't feel that this one is any different in terms of challenges. The bottom line is, we want to maintain our strengths and attack our weaknesses."

Financial terms of Cashman's agreement were not disclosed. In an initial order of business, Cashman announced that the Yankees have dismissed hitting coach Kevin Long and first-base coach Mick Kelleher, both of whom were under contract through 2015.

The Yankees scored just 633 runs this past season, ranking 13th among the 15 American League clubs, and while Cashman lauded Long as an "exceptional hitting coach," he indicated that a change in voice and approach could be beneficial for the team's hitters.

"I think trying to bring a new perspective in will better serve us with the personnel as we continue to move forward," Cashman said.

In Kelleher's case, Cashman said that the dismissal was more about changing the dynamic of the coaching staff and not related to the Yankees' shaky infield defense, pinning that on the players that the team fielded -- particularly in the first half of the season.

"I would not hold Mick Kelleher responsible for any defensive deficiencies. That was personnel-related," Cashman said.

Cashman said that he does not have replacements for Long and Kelleher, but that he has some candidates in mind for those positions that the organization would like to speak to.

"I think the overall direction of the staff as we move forward will be better served with some personnel that we're going to interview," Cashman said.

The active roster also presents work to be done, beginning with decisions about how to accommodate Alex Rodriguez's return from a season-long suspension.

"I don't know what to expect in terms of production from Alex," Cashman said. "With that in mind, I think we obviously have to pursue all options and alternatives just to be safe, and we'll see where that takes us."

Cashman said that the Yankees must identify contingency plans in the event that Rodriguez can no longer play third base, and revealed that manager Joe Girardi has reached out to Rodriguez about the idea of playing some first base in 2015.

"To assume what Alex can or can't do right now would be foolish," Cashman said.

Managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner has said that the Yankees will obtain a shortstop to replace retired captain Derek Jeter and need a starting pitcher with right-hander Ivan Nova not expected to be ready for Opening Day.

The Yankees also need to address the situation of closer David Robertson, who is set to file for free agency and could merit a $15.3 million qualifying offer. If Robertson does not return, All-Star setup man Dellin Betances may be promoted to the ninth inning.

"We still have our closer in David Robertson right now, and we have some decisions clearly to make," Cashman said. "I'm sure he's anxious to find out as well. Clearly he's been awesome and clearly special at doing the job."

In evaluating Cashman's construction of the 2014 roster, Steinbrenner has stood by the signings of free agents Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Masahiro Tanaka, stating that he approved those deals and believes they will work out in the future.

Steinbrenner also has noted that Cashman was able to rebuild the Yankees on the fly in midseason after several injuries, triggering deals to import Brandon McCarthy, Martin Prado and Chase Headley, among others.

"Despite even turning the roster over at the Trade Deadline and bringing in upgrades, we still struggled from an offensive standpoint in the end," Cashman said.

The game's third-longest tenured GM behind Brian Sabean of the Giants and Billy Beane of the A's, Cashman joined the Yankees organization in 1986 as a 19-year-old intern in the Minor League and scouting department.

As GM, his clubs have made the postseason in 14 of 17 seasons, claiming 12 division titles, six American League championships and four World Series titles.

"Obviously we know from our fan base's perspective that we need to do better than we've done for the past two years," Cashman said. "I say that for myself as well. Being in my chair, I'm responsible for it all -- offense, defense and pitching.

"I've got to find a way to get our fan base back to enjoying October sooner than later."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Yankees considering first base as option for A-Rod

Team putting contingency plans in place for returning star

Yankees considering first base as option for A-Rod

BALTIMORE -- Alex Rodriguez is preparing to put his Yankees uniform back on in 2015, with his season-long suspension served. However, general manager Brian Cashman is making no assumption about the veteran's ability to consistently play third base.

Cashman said that the Yankees will actively seek contingency plans in the event that Rodriguez is not able to play his position. In addition to time as a designated hitter, manager Joe Girardi has spoken to Rodriguez about the possibility of playing some first base.

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"I think it's best to assume that we should have contingencies in place," Cashman said. "I don't think it's safe to assume that he can play third base. Obviously Alex has been a third baseman in years gone by. He missed, obviously, a full year."

Cashman said that seeing how Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira responded this past season after missing most of the 2013 season offers some perspective in the case of Rodriguez, who played in just 44 games in 2013 and will turn 40 in July.

"Until we get to see it on a daily basis, I think it's just hard to assume anything," Cashman said. "I know one thing, obviously he's a great presence in the lineup, when he's healthy. And we look forward to good health and, obviously, production. But to assume anything right now on the front end, I can't do that."

In the event that Rodriguez is no longer a capable third baseman, Cashman suggested that the Yankees could use Martin Prado to help at third base, with prospects Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela competing for playing time at second base.

Rodriguez has only played third base and shortstop in his big league career, but Cashman said that the topic of first base has been floated to Rodriguez.

"Joe Girardi conveyed to me that he talked to him recently about getting some work at first base," Cashman said. "Joe had a conversation with him recently about that. How extensive that conversation was, I don't know that he conveyed that to me."

The Yankees have Teixeira under contract as the starting first baseman through 2016, but his injury issues forced the club to use eight other players at the position this year.

Rodriguez's suspension will officially expire at the end of the World Series, but his re-assimilation into the organization has already begun, with Rodriguez recently reaching out to the club and asking to be reconnected with team personnel.

According to Cashman, Matt Krause, the Yankees' strength coach, met with Rodriguez on Thursday in Miami to evaluate Rodriguez's health and described Rodriguez as "motivated and determined."

"We're going to be reconnecting with Alex, all of our staff," Cashman said. "Alex reached out and said, 'Hey, let's start proactively doing that.' That's what Alex is about. He's proactive and trying to put himself in the best position to be successful and hit the ground running when he gets reactivated."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Long, Kelleher out as Yankees coaches

Staff changes made to help club find higher ground, Cashman says

Long, Kelleher out as Yankees coaches

BALTIMORE -- In response to a disappointing season during which they ranked near the bottom of the American League in runs scored, the Yankees shook up their coaching staff on Friday by dismissing hitting coach Kevin Long and first-base coach Mick Kelleher.

General manager Brian Cashman confirmed on a conference call that neither coach will return to manager Joe Girardi's staff next season. Long and Kelleher were both under contract through 2015, and Cashman said that the team has not yet identified their replacements.

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"We just wanted to make some changes in the staff, which will put us in position to find higher ground as we move forward," Cashman said. "Those guys have been assets for us, they've helped us and they're good baseball people."

The Yankees scored 633 runs in 2014, third-fewest in the American League. They ranked among the league's worst teams in average (.245, 11th of 15), on-base percentage (.307, 14th), slugging percentage (.380, 10th) and home runs (147, seventh).

"We let the season play out and let everybody put all hands in," Cashman said. "We were able to fix a number of issues, but the one issue we couldn't fix was the offense."

Cashman said that the remainder of the coaching staff is expected to be "status quo," with the jobs of pitching coach Larry Rothschild, bench coach Tony Pena, third-base coach Rob Thomson and bullpen coach Gary Tuck thought to be safe.

Long recently finished his eighth season as the Yankees' hitting coach. New York led the Majors in runs in three of those eight years (2007, '09-10) and finished second twice (2011-12).

But Long was frustrated by trying to solve what ailed the Yankees in 2014, a season when the lineup was sapped by injuries and underperformance for a second straight year.

Key veterans Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann were all disappointed by their production, prompting a late August players' meeting that included Long's input, in which infielder Chase Headley said the general theme was "enough is enough."

"I think he tried everything in his power," Cashman said. "By his own assessment, I know when I talked to Kevin today he told me, 'Cash, I wouldn't do anything different, because I tried everything.'

"I think Kevin can sleep at night knowing he tried every tool in the toolbox. I know that he publicly stated late in the year that he did everything and tried everything. It wasn't sufficient, but the effort was sufficient. The results just weren't."

Kelleher had been the club's first-base coach and infield instructor since 2009 and spent 16 years in the Yankees organization. The Yankees' infield defense struggled early in the season, but while Cashman said that he did not want to pin those issues on Kelleher, a change was still deemed to be necessary.

"I think Mick is good at what he does, he's a good infield instructor and he's very positive, but there are some more things that I want to add to the staff with Joe Girardi," Cashman said. "In my dialogue with Joe, we look forward to interviewing some personnel that can bring those things to the table."

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Hardy no longer an option at shortstop for Yankees

New York must look elsewhere for Jeter's replacement after veteran re-signs with O's

Hardy no longer an option at shortstop for Yankees

BALTIMORE -- The Yankees plan to be in the market for a shortstop this offseason, and their list of options diminished by one on Thursday as J.J. Hardy and the Orioles reached an agreement on a three-year contract extension.

With Derek Jeter's retirement, Hardy, 32, had been floated as a prime candidate to take over the position. After early discussions with Baltimore stalled, Hardy found common ground with the club on a pact that will pay him $40 million plus an option for the 2018 season.

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With Hardy off the market, the Yankees could consider re-signing Stephen Drew, who didn't turn in much of an audition for the role of Jeter's successor after being obtained from the Red Sox to play second base on July 31.

After rejecting a qualifying offer from the Red Sox and sitting out until late May, the 31-year-old Drew batted just .150 (21-for-140) with three homers and 15 RBIs in 46 games for New York.

"If I could take a year back and kind of re-start it, it'd be this year, offense-wise," Drew said.

Despite that performance, the Yankees may consider that Drew is one year removed from a season in which he hit 13 homers as the starting shortstop on Boston's championship club.

New York has infielder Brendan Ryan under contract for one more season at $2 million, but Ryan batted just .167 in 49 games this past season and projects more as a defensive reserve.

The Yankees project to give a solid look at free agents Hanley Ramirez, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jed Lowrie. On the trade front, the Blue Jays' Jose Reyes, the Phillies' Jimmy Rollins and Alexei Ramirez of the White Sox could draw the Yankees' interest.

One option that does not presently appear to be in play is a deal for the Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki, who created a stir in July when he attended a Yankees game as a fan to see Jeter play and has been mentioned often as a possible trade target for New York.

Tulowitzki underwent left hip surgery in August, ending his season. The Rockies have consistently denied any interest in trading the four-time All-Star, who is under contract with Colorado through 2020.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Series rings, MVP plaques stolen from Berra Museum

Series rings, MVP plaques stolen from Berra Museum

Thieves stole an undisclosed number of Hall of Famer Yogi Berra's World Series rings and two of his MVP plaques from the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center in Little Falls, N.J.

Burglars broke into the museum on Wednesday, taking a number of Berra's record 10 World Series rings -- officials did not say how many, it was reported by multiple outlets. Berra was the American League Most Valuable Player in 1951, '54 and '55

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The museum is housed inside the Montclair State University baseball stadium, which also bears the name of the legendary Yankees catcher.

No arrests have been made, according to reports, and a $5,000 reward has been posted. According to a New York Daily News source, the burglars were "a team of professionals." State and federal authorities are involved in the search for the memorabilia.

"This is very unique material and it would have to stay underground," Rob Lifson, a sports memorabilia expert, told the Daily News. "These are not mass-produced items -- it's like trying to sell a famous painting. Anyone who bought them would have to keep it secret. Why not just steal the Mona Lisa and try to sell that instead?"

Anyone with information regarding the robbery should call Det. Dean Cioppa in the Passiac County Prosecutors Office at 973-837-7667.

Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Yanks' prospect Judge strong in AFL action

Yankees outfield prospect sparks Scorpions' comeback in big eighth inning

Yanks' prospect Judge strong in AFL action

Right fielder Aaron Judge said he felt some butterflies while he was warming up Friday for his first game in the Arizona Fall League. Those nerves were long gone by the time he stepped in the batter's box in the bottom of the eighth inning with two runners on base and Scottsdale trailing Glendale by two runs.

Judge cleared the bases with a double to left, tying the game, and then came around to score when first baseman Greg Bird, his teammate in the Yankees' system, followed with a single. Judge's run capped a four-run rally that propelled Scottsdale to a 6-5 victory against Glendale.

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Judge, the Yankees' No. 5 prospect, said the rally started because the Scorpions were disciplined in their approach at the plate.

"Just going out there and swinging at good pitches," Judge said. "Our pitching staff kept us in it and we started it off with attacking good pitches in good counts."

Judge finished the night 1-for-4 with a run and two RBIs. Bird, the Yankees' No. 11 prospect, went 1-for-3 with a walk and an RBI to continue his hot start to the AFL. He is hitting .438/.471/.813 with five RBIs in four games.

Judge and Bird were teammates for two months during the regular season at Class A Advanced Tampa. Judge said he admires Bird for his abilities on and off the field.

"Greg is a great hitter and a great leader," Judge said. "He gets the job done day in and day out."

Entering the eighth inning, the game had been tied at 2 since the fifth. But in the top half of the eighth, Glendale broke the deadlock with three runs off right-hander Alex Smith, thanks in part to an error by left fielder Daniel Carbonell that led to two unearned runs. The Desert Dogs could have added more runs, but Judge threw out a runner at the plate.

Center fielder Tyrone Taylor, the Brewers' top prospect, went 2-for-5 with a run and an RBI to lead the Desert Dogs offense. Shortstop Corey Seager, the Dodgers' No. 1 prospect, added two hits and an RBI.

But, thanks to their own eighth-inning rally, the Scorpions took the lead in the bottom of the eighth. Right-hander Kyle Haynes threw a perfect ninth to close out the victory and earn the save.

Haynes also played with Judge and Bird in Tampa. He is completing his first year in the Yankees organization after being traded from the Pirates in exchange for Chris Stewart last December.

Judge said he is enjoying being able to play with other Yankees prospects in the AFL.

"It's fun playing with good players in system," Judge said. "We're all just working our way towards the Bronx."

Judge is still in the early stages of that journey. The Yankees drafted him out of Fresno State with the 32nd overall pick of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, but his professional debut was delayed until this spring by a quad injury. Judge made quick work of the lower levels of the Minor Leagues once he got on the field, hitting .308/.419/.486 with 17 home runs in 131 games between Class A Charleston and Tampa.

Judge said most of the lessons he has learned this year have been about the mental aspects of the game. This fall, he said he is working on his approach at the plate with Scottsdale hitting coach P.J. Pilittere, who held the same job on the Tampa coaching staff this season.

"Me and him talk about getting championship at bats every time," Judge said. "I may go 0-for-50 while I'm here, but if I have 50 quality at-bats, I'll be happy with that."

Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Without a captain, Yankees look to veterans to lead

Sabathia, McCann and Beltran may help shoulder responsibility

Without a captain, Yankees look to veterans to lead

NEW YORK -- Seven full seasons passed between the Yankees captaincies of Don Mattingly and Derek Jeter, successful years marked by four World Series championships, and so the organization believes that clubhouse leadership can be a group effort next season.

The Yankees are set to head into a campaign without an official captain for the first time since 2003, and manager Joe Girardi will be looking to several key veterans -- including CC Sabathia, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran -- to fill the void left by Jeter's retirement.

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"I think it's important," Girardi said. "People have talked a lot about who's going to step up as the leader in the clubhouse, and I was on four teams here. There wasn't one particular leader. There will be guys that step up. I have no doubt in my mind."

Naming Jeter captain was George M. Steinbrenner's decision, with the late principal owner ordering it to be done with a hastily scheduled announcement during an Interleague series against the Reds in Cincinnati.

Mattingly held the title from 1991-95. Prior to that, Willie Randolph and Ron Guidry served as co-captains in '86-88, following Graig Nettles' tenure from '82-84. Thurman Munson had assumed the title in '76, an honor shelved for decades in Lou Gehrig's honor after '39.

The captaincy may remain dormant for some time. Girardi has said that if ownership asked him this winter about naming a new captain, "I would say, wait. I would say wait to see who you see really becomes the guy."

McCann's arrival this spring coincided with Jeter's retirement announcement, and so the star import was soon being asked about the idea of serving as the next Yankees captain; McCann laughed off the suggestion then, noting that he had not even played a single game in pinstripes.

With a season now under his belt, McCann showed the ability to handle a pitching staff -- one with more personalities than initially anticipated, thanks to numerous injuries -- and coaches believed that he set a good example for younger catchers.

Speaking after the team's last regular-season game, McCann said that it would be impossible to replicate what Jeter meant to the Yankees.

"You're not going to replace Derek Jeter, at all," McCann said. "What he produces on a daily basis is incredible. We just need guys to play hard, that's it. And I feel like we did that. We didn't get it done, but it wasn't from a lack of effort."

It is possible, Girardi allowed, that some players opted not to speak at times this past season in deference to Jeter.

"You wait your turn, just like a lot of times as a player, you have to wait your turn to where it's your time to shine," Girardi said.

Girardi indicated that he will be watching to see if Beltran steps into a more active leadership role. Beltran's first Yankees season was limited by injuries, but the veteran has impressive credentials that should allow his words to have resonance.

"Carlos is a guy that's been through a lot," Girardi said. "His voice is respected highly in that clubhouse, and he could have a big impact."

When discussing the idea of leadership, the blueprint of the '96 Yankees circulates often in Girardi's commentary. He recalls that closer John Wetteland relished the responsibility of leading the team's relievers.

"Let me tell you, he was in charge," Girardi said. "And they knew he was in charge."

After Wetteland left New York to sign with the Rangers as a free agent, Mariano Rivera accepted more than just Wetteland's old job. Gradually earning respect from the relief corps, Rivera soon made the bullpen his own.

"The transition didn't happen overnight, but pretty quickly. That was Mo's 'pen," Girardi said.

And that was just one area of the club. There were many personalities on those teams that players respected, with Girardi naming Paul O'Neill and David Cone in particular as creating a positive example for the young players that would follow.

"In the late '90s, it wasn't one guy, and that's OK with me too," Girardi said. "I'm not asking there to be one guy. Let there be a number of voices who know how to lead down there. It makes it easier on them, actually."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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The Rock chants 'DER-EK JE-TER' on Monday Night Raw

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The Rock chants 'DER-EK JE-TER' on Monday Night Raw

FINALLY, The Rock has come back to Monday Night Raw.

One of the greatest performers in the history of the sports entertainment industry made his triumphant return to professional wrestling with a surprise appearance during Raw in Brooklyn on Monday. 

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Teixeira plays golf for charity, evaluates his season

Tournament held at Liberty National Golf Course to benefit Harlem RBI

Teixeira plays golf for charity, evaluates his season

JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- Mark Teixeira drove from his year-round home in Greenwich, Conn., on a sunny Monday morning and teed it up on the first hole of a shotgun start at Liberty National Golf Course. It was the first annual fundraiser beside the Statue of Liberty to benefit Harlem RBI, whose mission he supports as a major donor and member of its board of directors.

"The golf game's all right," the Yankees' first baseman said before the carts rolled out. "My day job keeps me off the golf course for most of the year, but in the offseason I like to play. I'm an active guy, I'm an athlete, so I want to go out there and stay active in the offseasons, and during my workouts and my offseason training, I fit in a few rounds of golf here and there."

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On this day, the wind was the only real challenge. But from now until Teixeira reports to Spring Training in Florida, the work will be grueling as offseasons go, at least based on his stated commitment to return to his once-mighty form in 2015. Teixeira and teammates are postseason observers for the second year in a row, and he got more specific on Monday about how he plans to come back from a .216/.313/.398 slash line compiled in only 123 games -- his third year in a row of subpar numbers.

"This season was very disappointing for the team, but for me especially, not being able to play the amount of games that I'm used to, not being as productive as I'm used to," Teixeira said in the library of the swank Liberty National clubhouse. "I was banged up most of the year, but I need to get stronger. That's the one thing that I'm going to be working on this offseason.

"Coming off the surgery last year, I didn't feel like I was as strong as I needed to be. This offseason is going to be really working hard in the weight room and getting stronger and hoping to have a healthy and productive 2015."

Does he have a new offseason strength training regimen lined up?

"It's not that much different," Teixeira replied. "It's just being more focused on strength and making sure that power gets back. Because being able to play 150-plus games and being able to hit home runs, that's what I've done my whole career, so I want to get back to that."

For Teixeira, 34, being a guy who consistently has 30 homers and 100 RBIs on the back of a baseball trading card was a measure of satisfaction. It meant he was doing his share to get to meaningful October games. He hit the 30/100 mark eight times in his career, starting with his second season, and his last three were his first three years with the Yankees.

But the issue has been durability the last three years, slowing what seemed like a track for the 500 Home Run Club, and he goes into 2015 needing 37 homers to reach the 400 mark.

"I'd love to get back there. That's the goal," Teixeira said of those 30/100 years. "I think if I stay healthy, I can do that. But the health is first and the production is second, so that's what I'm worried about. Getting healthy, getting stronger and hopefully having a great year."

As he watches this postseason play out, Teixeira has this message for Yankees fans: "We're disappointed just like the fans are, and next year we're going to do everything we can to get back there."

It is the first time since 1993 -- before realignment and Wild Card expansion -- that neither the Yankees nor Red Sox are in the postseason. To many fans around the continent, that is a welcome change.

"I definitely don't look at it as a good thing, but I think it just shows how good the Yankees and Red Sox have been since 1993 -- two really quality organizations that have won a whole lot since then," Teixeira said. "But I think it's great for baseball to have other teams in there. I've played on teams that are losing teams, and once you have an opportunity to win and get to the playoffs, it's very exciting for the players."

The Royals and Orioles begin the American League Championship Series on Friday in Baltimore on TBS. Teixeira said he is mainly surprised by the way both clubs got there, sweeping their AL Division Series opponents. Baltimore took care of three consecutive former AL Cy Young Award winners, and Kansas City stunned everyone by sweeping an Angels team that had baseball's best record.

"I guess it's a little surprising, the sweeps, but the Royals and Orioles advancing is not surprising considering how much talent they have," Teixeira said. "In baseball, once you get in the playoffs, it really is a crapshoot. You really don't know who's going to win. But I am surprised that both of those series were sweeps.

"It's really so tough to handicap the field. Right now, the Royals and Orioles are two teams that are in there, the Giants have the upper hand, the Dodgers-Cardinals series is going to be a great series. So it's really tough to tell who is going to be holding the trophy at the end of October."

In 2011, Teixeira donated $1 million to Harlem RBI, the organization that serves more than 1,500 kids in East Harlem and the South Bronx. Harlem RBI is part of Major League Baseball's Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program. Teixeira has been associated since '10 on the Harlem RBI board and helps them raise money, and this golf outing, with Morgan Stanley aboard as the major sponsor, moved to the Liberty National course for the first time as a big fundraiser.

"Mark is a unique guy," said Rich Berlin, executive director of Harlem RBI. "When he joined the Yankees, he got introduced to Harlem RBI and it was love at first sight. … He not only gave a $1 million gift toward the building of our new school, but he also has really dug in as a leader on our board and is a great fundraiser. He spends a lot of time with our kids, too. He's a really great guy."

Life will be much different in Teixeira's world next spring, when there is no Derek Jeter in camp for the first time.

"It was really neat," Teixeira said of the Captain's farewell days. "As a teammate of Derek the last six years, it's been really great to see him play and have a chance to say goodbye to him. The fans really deserved that, the proper goodbye, and Derek deserved it as well. So it was a pretty special last few games."

During an interview with CNBC on the driving range, Teixeira sat next to Commissioner-elect Rob Manfred and was asked about "LAJ" -- Life After Jeter.

"It's gonna be weird," Teixeira said. "We've spent a lot of years just reveling in what Derek Jeter meant for baseball. … He's been our face of baseball for a long time. It's going to be a difficult transition."

"I agree with that," Manfred said. "Derek is the kind of athlete and person, more importantly, that comes along once in a generation. But we have a great number of young, appealing players, and I think you'll see somebody step up to fill the kind of role that Mark alludes to in terms of being the face of baseball."

Then it was time for the shotgun start and Teixeira made his way in the golf cart to the first hole, avoiding the high fescue grass just as the course director instructed. Teixeira and each player were allowed to purchase one mulligan, or four per team, handing their mulligan card to the caddy. That is how his offseason was shaping up. There are no mulligans in baseball, though, only hard work in the weight room over the offseason to get back to 30/100 caliber.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Yankees prospects lift Scottsdale in AFL opener

Bird, Austin combine for six RBIs in victory

Yankees prospects lift Scottsdale in AFL opener

With Archie Bradley and Tyler Glasnow on the mound as Salt River hosted Scottsdale on Opening Day in the Arizona Fall League, the final game of the day was expected to be a pitchers' duel. But after early exits for both power pitchers, both of whom are the top prospect in their organizations, power bats took over the game Tuesday.

Led by Yankees prospects Greg Bird and Tyler Austin, Scottsdale outslugged Salt River, 7-4.

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Bird and Austin accounted for all six of Scottsdale's RBIs. Bird, the Yankees' No. 11 prospect, went 3-for-5 with a home run and two doubles. He scored three runs and drove in four in the victory. Austin, the Yankees' No. 15 prospect, finished the night 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a stolen base.

"Obviously we've had some time off since the season ended," Bird said. "But I felt like I finished the season strong and carried it over until tonight and we got a good win."

The Scorpions also got a boost from outfielder Brandon Nimmo, the Mets' No. 3 prospect, who went 2-for-5 with two runs, a double and a stolen base. Catcher Elias Diaz also scored twice.

Before coming to the fall league, Bird and Austin were teammates for the final month of the regular season in Double-A Trenton. Bird was promoted to Trenton in August after starting the season with Class A Advanced Tampa and has quickly been impressed by Austin.

"I think he had a real good year," Bird said. "I think he started off slow, but once I got there he was tearing it up and I know he had a good second half. Tonight was him continuing that."

Austin was hampered by injuries early in the season, but played much better after the Eastern League's All-Star break. The 23-year old hit .336/.397/.557 with five home runs in 33 games in the second half.

Like Austin, Bird spent part of the season on the disabled list. A back injury sidelined him for the first month of the season, but he played well once he got back on the field. In 102 games between Tampa and Trenton, the 21-year old hit .271/.376/.472 with 14 home runs.

Bird said physically he feels great and has been able to get back in a groove at the plate.

"Any time you get a late start, it's going to take a little bit to get going," he said. "Once I got going, I felt like I got back to my old self."

Tuesday also marked the return to action of another player who was hampered by injuries this season. Outfielder Byron Buxton, the game's top prospect, played for the first time since Aug. 13 when he suffered a concussion as a result of a frightful outfield collision while playing his first game for Double-A New Britain.

Buxton, the Twins' top prospect, played center field and led off Tuesday for Salt River. He went 0-for-4 with a run, a walk and a stolen base.

The Rafters offense was led by catcher Peter O'Brien, the D-backs' No. 7 prospect. He went 2-for-3 with a home run, a walk and two RBIs.

With all the offense, the promising pitchers' duel fizzled early. Bradley, ranked No. 9 on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list, took the loss after allowing three runs (one earned) on four hits and a walk in two innings. He struck out one batter and threw 41 pitches.

Glasnow, ranked No. 16 on the Top 100, fared no better. He walked three batters in the first inning and was removed after throwing 29 pitches and getting two outs. But Scottsdale's bullpen and offense picked up their 21-year starting pitcher to secure an Opening Day victory.

Though players in the AFL are more focused on development than results, Bird said the Scorpions are pleased with the way they started the season.

"Obviously we're all out here to work on something, but winning is fun," he said. "Everyone agrees with that. We were able to get off on the right foot tonight."

Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Boss Jeter? 'I would love to own a team'

Boss Jeter? 'I would love to own a team'

NEW YORK -- Derek Jeter lashed a game-winning single to say goodbye to Yankee Stadium, then waved his batting helmet to acknowledge career hit No. 3,465 three days later at Fenway Park, descending the dugout steps and entering his post-baseball life.

It was an eventful week for the former Yankees captain, who is wasting no time getting started on the next chapters. Jeter has a handful of business pursuits on tap, including the announcement of his Players Tribune website, but the long-term goal is to call the shots for a big league franchise.

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"I would love to be part of an ownership group," Jeter said. "I would love to own a team. I would not want to manage, coach, anything like that. The travel schedule is very, very difficult, and I've been doing it for a long time. And so I would like to get away from that a little bit and hopefully be in a position one day where I can make all of the decisions."

Jeter has spoken openly about that desire for years, believing that his management model would incorporate some -- but not all -- of his experiences playing under late owner George M. Steinbrenner. Jeter has gained an enthusiastic supporter in Commissioner Bud Selig.

"He'd be fabulous," Selig said. "Anything I can do to help him, I will do. I think that much of him. He's thoughtful, understands the sport. It would be a great thing in every way."

Now that his final at-bats are in the books, Jeter has plenty on his plate: in addition to launching the Players Tribune, he will continue to be active with his Turn 2 Foundation, create content with the Jeter Publishing imprint and is working with Luvo, a healthy food company.

"He's going to be a great success in whatever he decides to do. He's a leader," Yankees president Randy Levine said. "I think he was very close to the Boss, I think he learned a lot from the Boss. Different personalities, but Derek Jeter is going to be successful in anything he chooses to do."

Michael Jordan, a close friend whom Jeter called the "older brother I never had," is on speed dial with one possible blueprint. Jordan took control as the majority owner of the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats in 2010 for an estimated $275 million.

"I've heard him talk about possibly owning a team," Jordan said. "I think he has a clean slate at his own disposal. He has a great reputation; financially, he's put himself in a good position. His knowledge of the game is strong. He's going to sit down with his family and pick his next step. I promise you, he's going to give it the same type of effort as he did for the game of baseball. I wish him the best."

Jeter earned $265 million in salary over the course of his career, plus more in endorsements and other ventures, but it is unlikely that Jeter could purchase a Major League team on his own. In 2012, Guggenheim Partners and Magic Johnson made a reported $2.175 billion bid for the Dodgers, which prompted speculation that the Yankees might be worth much more than that.

"I know he's a good businessman on the field," Orioles outfielder Adam Jones said. "I don't know him on that level, but ... he's got that much money? Whoa, that much money."

The Yankees have several minority partners, but they do not exert influence in day-to-day decisions, something that Jeter craves. Managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner has repeatedly said that the team is not for sale.

Jeter plans to keep his permanent home in Tampa, Fla. Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg has acknowledged buzz that Jeter might try to get involved with the club.

"I have heard that," Sternberg told the Tampa Bay Times in September. "But I haven't heard anything other than just people saying, 'I hear he might be one of your partners.'"

Asked if he has given any thought to an opportunity with the Rays, Jeter replied, "You're trying to get me in trouble. Is there a tampering rule the other way around? No, I haven't thought about anything specific."

Jeter has said that owning a team is not exactly like picking one off the shelves of a grocery store. It takes patience to find the right situation, but Jeter could attract bold-faced names to be part of a bid.

"The one thing that always defined Derek, he says that he wants to own a team one day," Mariano Rivera said. "I trust him. I believe that. One day he will own a baseball team. Me, Jorge [Posada] and Andy [Pettitte] will be part of that. He's a guy that always works for everything that he believes in. That's why he is different."

Jeter's strong reputation around the game indicates that players would listen if Jeter spoke from a position of authority. Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson said that Jeter would bring a special voice to an ownership group.

"Just the experience and being around the game as long as he has been, I think the combination of all those things help him out," Granderson said. "You've got to be around. He's seen the changes as a young player, as a veteran player in a big market, and the postseason."

If Jeter's first week of retirement is a template of what will follow, it is clear that he has no intention of fading away.

"It's a little too early yet, but I would help him in every way," Selig said. "And I think he would be tremendous."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. Brittany Ghiroli, Anthony DiComo and Mark Newman contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Stars of tomorrow ready to shine as '14 AFL season begins

Stars of tomorrow ready to shine as '14 AFL season begins

Over its 23-year history, the Arizona Fall League has developed a reputation as a finishing school for baseball's top prospects. This year, once again, many of the game's best young players will gather in the desert, hoping to prove themselves in the same league that helped catapult Derek Jeter, Dustin Pedroia and Mike Trout to stardom.

When the AFL opens play Tuesday, the concentration of talent will again be readily apparent. Two of the three Opening Day games feature premium pitching matchups, and the third game is highlighted by two of the best shortstops in the Minor Leagues.

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The action begins at 3:35 p.m. ET when Peoria and right-hander Kyle Zimmer, the Royals' No. 2 prospect, visits Surprise and right-hander Taijuan Walker, whose last start was a complete game for the Mariners in the midst of their pennant race.

At the same time Tuesday afternoon, Glendale and shortstop Corey Seager, the Dodgers' No. 1 prospect, will host Mesa and shortstop Addison Russell, the Cubs' No. 2 prospect. The day ends with another pitchers' duel, as right-hander Tyler Glasnow, the Pirates' No. 1 prospect, will take the mound for Scottsdale at 9:35 p.m. ET at Salt River, facing right-hander Archie Bradley, the D-backs' No. 1 prospect.

Games with that level of talent are commonplace in the AFL, where 23 players ranked on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list will play this season.

For the second year in a row, Byron Buxton, baseball's top ranked prospect, is among the top prospects playing in the desert this fall. Last year, the Twins' No. 1 prospect hit .212/.288/.404 in 12 games as a 19-year-old for Glendale. This year, he will be playing for Salt River as he tries to make up for lost time after missing most of the regular season due to injuries.

Buxton played in just 31 games during the regular season. A wrist injury he suffered during Spring Training delayed his start to the season and continued to hamper him throughout the first half with Class A Advanced Fort Myers. Then, in his first game after being promoted to Double-A New Britain in August, he suffered a concussion in a harrowing outfield collision and was sidelined for the final three weeks of the season.

Now healthy again, Buxton will be one of the most-watched players in the AFL. But his is far from the only storyline to watch over the next six weeks.

Making up for lost time
Like Buxton, several other players are headed to Arizona to make up for time they lost to injury during the regular season. Others who are taking advantage of the extra developmental time include outfielder Jesse Winker, the Reds' No. 2 prospect, and shortstop Tim Anderson, the White Sox's No. 2 prospect.

Many of the starting pitchers in the AFL are there because injuries prevented them from reaching their innings caps during the regular season. Bradley, Glasnow, Zimmer and Walker all spent part of this season on the disabled list, as did right-handers C.J. Edwards, the Cubs' No. 5 prospect, and Roberto Osuna, the Blue Jays' No. 5 prospect.

Recent Draft picks
Last year, just four months after he was selected second overall in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, the Cubs sent third baseman Kris Bryant to the AFL. He hit .364/.457/.727 with six home runs in 20 games. He was named MVP and helped Mesa to the league championship game. That performance helped serve as a springboard for his historic '14 season, when he hit 43 home runs and reached Triple-A.

It is unlikely any player will be able to repeat Bryant's spectacular performance this season. But three members of the '14 Draft class will play in the AFL, led by shortstop Trea Turner, the Padres' No. 5 prospect. He was selected 13th overall in June and hit .323/.406/.448 with five home runs and 23 stolen bases in 69 games between short-season Eugene and Class A Fort Wayne.

In addition to the small group of '14 draftees, several members of the '13 Draft class will play in the AFL. Right-hander Mark Appel, the first overall pick last year, headlines the group. The Astros' No. 2 prospect had a rocky start to his first full professional season, but pitched much better after his promotion to Double-A Corpus Christi in July. He will try to build on that progress while pitching with Salt River this fall, where he joins Bradley and Buxton to form one of the most star-studded rosters in the league.

Pace of play
Major League Baseball announced last week a set of experimental rules designed to speed up the pace of play would be used in the AFL this year.

• A hitter must keep one foot inside the batter's box throughout his plate appearance, unless one of a few exceptions, such as a foul ball, occurs.

• Intentional walks will be called for by the manager and the batter will automatically take first base.

• There will be a maximum break of two minutes, five seconds between innings, with hitters required to be in the batter's box by the one-minute, 45-second mark. If either team doesn't comply, a ball or strike will be assessed accordingly.

• There will be a maximum of two minutes, 30 seconds allowed for pitching changes, including those that occur during an inning break. A ball will be called if a team takes too long.

• Each team will be permitted three "timeout" conferences covering any meeting involving pitchers and catchers, managers, coaches and batters. Timeouts during pitching changes and those that result from an injury or other emergency will not be counted toward the limit. Additionally, at Salt River home games, a 20-second pitch clock will be used. Those games will also include instant replay, as MLB continues to study potential modifications to the review system.

The experimental pace of play initiatives continue the AFL's tradition of being a testing lab for MLB's potential rule changes. Last year, the instant replay system was debuted in the AFL.

Defensive moves
Position changes often happen in a less-competitive environment than the AFL, but the league gives players who are moving around the diamond another chance to get experience.

This year, Josh Bell, the Pirates' No. 3 prospect, will be the most prominent player learning a new position. He has exclusively played the outfield in the Minor Leagues, but the Pirates already have a star-studded trio of young outfielders in the big leagues. So, this fall, Bell will try out first base, where he began taking ground balls during the regular season.

Although Peter O'Brien, the D-backs' No. 7 prospect, won't be changing positions when he catches for Salt River this fall, his progress defensively will be closely watched by evaluators. The 24-year old was a catcher in college, but has played four positions since the Yankees drafted him in the second round in '12.

The D-backs acquired O'Brien at the non-waiver Trade Deadline in exchange for Martin Prado, but injuries limited him to four games with his new club. The D-backs are sending him to the AFL as a catcher, and how he performs behind the plate over the next six weeks could inform his ultimate defensive home.

No matter where O'Brien ends up defensively, his offensive prowess gives him a chance to reach the Major Leagues. He hit 34 home runs in 106 games this season, ranking fifth among Minor Leaguers.

MLB.com's Top Prospects in AFL
1. Byron Buxton, OF, Twins
4. Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians
5. Addison Russell, SS, Cubs
9. Archie Bradley, RHP, D-backs
13. Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers
16. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pirates
29. Josh Bell, 1B, Pirates
38. Raul Mondesi, SS, Royals
40. Jesse Winker, OF, Reds
41. Mark Appel, RHP, Astros
47. Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Royals
49. D.J. Peterson, 3B, Mariners
53. C.J. Edwards, RHP, Cubs
60. Brandon Nimmo, OF, Mets
71. Hunter Renfroe, OF, Padres
82. Tim Anderson, SS, White Sox
84. Nick Williams, OF, Rangers
85. Daniel Robertson, SS, A's
86. Hunter Dozier, 3B, Royals
87. Miguel Almonte, RHP, Royals
88. Dalton Pompey, OF, Blue Jays
96. Trea Turner, SS, Padres
98. Matt Olson, 1B, A's

Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Steinbrenner, Cashman working on new deal

Managing general partner apologizes to fans for Yankees missing postseason play

Steinbrenner, Cashman working on new deal

NEW YORK -- Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner apologized to fans for his team not making the playoffs for a second consecutive season and confirmed that the organization is working on a new contract with general manager Brian Cashman.

"I apologize. We did not do the job this year," Steinbrenner said Wednesday on ESPN 98.7 FM's The Michael Kay Show.

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"We know what you expect of us, and we expect the same thing of ourselves, and we certainly did what we thought we could do in the offseason to field a pretty good team come April 1, but it didn't work out."

Despite a major spending spree that included the additions of Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Masahiro Tanaka, the Yankees finished with 84 victories, down from last season's total of 85. The Yankees had not missed the playoffs in consecutive years during non-strike seasons since 1992-93.

"I would hold me responsible before anybody else," Steinbrenner said. "That's the way it is. I approved every one of these signings. But I think they were good signings, and I think they'll turn out to be good signings."

Steinbrenner acknowledged that underperformance from the middle of the batting order was a prominent issue for the '14 squad, and said that he believes McCann and Beltran will have better performances in 2015, also mentioning first baseman Mark Teixeira in that group.

Steinbrenner said that the team and Cashman are in discussions about a new deal, and it appears that Cashman is on track to return to the GM position he has held since replacing Bob Watson in February 1998. Cashman's three-year, $9 million contract expires on Oct. 31.

"Brian and I are talking," Steinbrenner said. "We look at the overall responsibilities of a general manager, and especially being one in New York. Brian, I believe, is a good one. I always have believed that. He does a good job.

"Every general manager has signings. Some work out better than others, but everything he did in July, for the most part -- bringing in [Chase] Headley, bringing in [Brandon] McCarthy, [Martin] Prado -- I think they all helped the team stay in it."

Asked specifically about the job security of hitting coach Kevin Long, Steinbrenner said that no decisions have been made regarding manager Joe Girardi's coaching staff.

"Rest assured, we're going to get to the bottom of it," Steinbrenner said. "And if I do deem that somebody is liable, or if I do deem that somebody is responsible, that things could have been better, I will act."

Steinbrenner agreed that he handles such situations more methodically than his late father, George, was known to do.

"I don't think it's a news flash that I'm different from George in a lot of ways," Steinbrenner said. "He was better at many things than me, without a doubt, but I do tend to be a little less rash when it comes to firing people. I want to make sure that what went wrong was wrong for a reason."

The Yankees project to be active this offseason in several areas. Steinbrenner said that the Yankees will seek a shortstop to replace retired captain Derek Jeter and they need a starting pitcher to fill out the rotation, with Ivan Nova not expected to return from Tommy John surgery until at least May.

"We've got to have a good balance of young players and seasoned veterans," Steinbrenner said.

Steinbrenner said that third baseman Alex Rodriguez is working hard to return, but that the organization is unsure of what he will be able to contribute after missing all of 2014 due to suspension.

"He always comes into camp fit, so we know that's going to be the case, but he's also the age that he's at with two operations in the hips and hasn't played baseball for over a year," Steinbrenner said. "So I don't think we can have any expectations. Let's just hope he's healthy and let's try to put the past behind us. If he's healthy, he can contribute."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Beltran undergoes surgery on ailing right elbow

Beltran undergoes surgery on ailing right elbow

NEW YORK -- Carlos Beltran underwent surgery to remove loose pieces and a bone spur from his troublesome right elbow on Tuesday at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, and the Yankees outfielder is expected to be ready for Spring Training.

The Yankees said that the procedure was performed by head team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad, and that Beltran can begin throwing and hitting in approximately six weeks. Beltran would be cleared to begin playing in approximately 12 weeks.

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Beltran, 37, was envisioned as the Yankees' everyday right fielder after signing a three-year, $45 million contract last offseason, but he was able to play just 32 games in the outfield because of injuries, appearing in 76 games as the designated hitter.

"It's been tough, man, honestly speaking," Beltran said this month. "It's hard on your mind every day when you wake up, and you feel it, and you're like, 'Man, I've got to try to find a way.' The good thing is, once this is over, it's going to be fixed and I don't have to worry about it again."

Beltran batted .233 with 15 home runs and 49 RBIs in 109 games in the first year of his deal. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said on Monday that he expects Beltran's production will improve now that the elbow situation has been addressed.

"Carlos is going to be a year older, but his injury was probably something that he had for a while," Girardi said. "It just reared its ugly head this year. You can look at a lot of elbows and probably find something similar to that. It's just a lot of them are asymptomatic."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Girardi feels playoff letdown, but excited for '15

Manager expects a healthier team in spring, with Tex, Beltran powering lineup

Girardi feels playoff letdown, but excited for '15

NEW YORK -- Derek Jeter's final farewell to baseball consumed the Yankees' last weekend of play, delaying all the usual emotions that come with ending a season before October. Speaking to reporters from his usual perch at Yankee Stadium on Monday, manager Joe Girardi -- still recovering from the excitement of the Captain's exit -- delivered a dose of reality while looking toward a new era in Yankees history.

"I think it's not making the playoffs," Girardi said of his team's biggest letdown. "That's why we come to work. That's why the players and the coaches and the front office and everyone involved works so hard and people in the stands -- we all look to play in the month of October. That's our focus and that's what's so disappointing."

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Injuries certainly played a part in the Yankees' difficulties in 2014, and Girardi hopes they're less of a factor next year.

"I look around and say we have a lot of good pieces; we do," Girardi said. "Obviously, when you look at your rotation a little bit, there's some guys coming back from injury, but we expect them back and we expect them to be competitive. And you saw some guys come up and throw the ball well. Some guys in our bullpen threw well. … We expect to be a healthier club next year with people being a year removed from surgeries.

"The thing is, keeping guys healthy and productive is our biggest task, and we're going to get younger, just because we're going to lose a couple of older guys."

The Yankees' power-hitting identity changed as players saw time on the disabled list or battled through pain and lingering problems this year. That led to patchwork lineups by the end of the season. On Monday, Girardi chalked up some of the injuries to flukes, like Carlos Beltran's right elbow bone spur.

Girardi also stated that Spring Training would be a time to address issues with the lineup, and the team would work on hitting effectively against a shift. Batting Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury at the top of the order is something the manager said he would consider.

One of the biggest question marks will likely be the return of Alex Rodriguez, whose suspension will expire after the World Series ends. Girardi said he expects him to be the Yankees' third baseman, though he's been removed from the Majors for a year.

"We've got to see where he's at," said Girardi, who has texted Rodriguez 1-2 times a month to check on him. "I think that's the thing that we have to do. He's going to be 40 next summer, and we have to see where he's physically at and if he can play the field, how many days he can play the field and how many days he needs to DH."

Girardi hopes a healthy Masahiro Tanaka will attract some of the media attention away from Rodriguez, but jokingly concluded that "something else will happen in sports that will help with that. That's the nature of sports, too. Something's going to happen."

Girardi assessed the uncertainty surrounding many positions -- including closer David Robertson and his impending free agency -- with optimism. The skipper is extremely excited about starter Michael Pineda -- who posted a 1.89 ERA on the season -- and watching Beltran and Mark Teixeira play healthy.

"I really still believe that there's enough talent in that room … to score runs. I do," Girardi said. "We didn't do it enough this year. I understand that. But I still believe there's enough talent in that room, and time is going to tell."

With Jeter's farewell season complete, Monday marked the beginning of a new chapter in Yankees baseball.

"Maybe you establish a different core," said Girardi. "Maybe it's not called the Core Four, maybe it's called the Core Eight. Because we believe that there's talent in our Minor League system. Are we going to see a lot of it next year? I don't know how much of it we're going to see. But it's getting here, and to me, that's very exciting."

Jake Kring-Schreifels is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

Ichiro eyes place to reach 3,000 hits

With 156 to go, outfielder needs big league home next season

Ichiro eyes place to reach 3,000 hits

NEW YORK -- Ichiro Suzuki just finished his 14th Major League season only 156 hits shy of the cherished 3,000-hit mark. Even though he wants to play baseball again next year, he's not sure which big league team is going to give him the opportunity.

Ichiro could remain with the Yankees, who used him in 143 games this year as a role player -- left-handed hitter vs. right-handed pitcher, late-inning defensive replacement in the outfield. In that way, he has adapted to an assignment that would have been unheard of a few short years ago.

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"I've been able to experience many, many things here and they're all good things," he said through an interpreter last weekend in Boston as Derek Jeter closed out his career and the Yanks finished the season. "I played many positions. I had to prepare myself because I didn't know if I was in the lineup. I was a defensive replacement in a 10-0 game. That was like going back to the days when I was young. You could almost say it was like I was being trained again. I did a lot of things that I can take the positive from."

Ichiro batted high in the lineup and lower in the lineup, wherever manager Joe Girardi deemed fit to place him, batting a very respectable .284. In the last two games of the season Girardi placed the soon-to-be 41-year-old Ichiro back in his old leadoff spot. As fate would have it, Ichiro tripled in two runs with one out in the third inning on Sunday just before Jeter knocked him in on a high chop single to third base. It was Ichiro's last hit of the season and the last of Jeter's 20-year career.

"I told Ishi earlier to hit a triple, so he hit a triple," Jeter quipped after it was all over on Sunday. "I was just happy that I ended my career with a hit."

If Ichiro doesn't play again, he'll be eligible in five years for the National Baseball Hall of Fame's Class of 2020 and could be enshrined along with Jeter, a certain first-ballot electee that same year. Ichiro also seems destined for Cooperstown, N.Y., and a plaque in the museum he has privately visited many times over the years.

Ichiro has a profound respect for baseball history and his place in it. During his professional career, Ichiro has 4,122 hits -- 2,844 in the U.S. and 1,278 playing for the Orix BlueWave in Japan. No question, he is the premier Nippon Professional Baseball position player to sign in the Major Leagues and play for many years just as well over here. No one else is even close.

The universe of teams that might be interested in Ichiro is small. New Padres general manager A.J. Preller is an admirer, and Ichiro might be a fit with the Padres, who are beginning to rebuild along international lines.

Would he like to play in San Diego?

"I don't think there are too many people who dislike San Diego," Ichiro said.

Under different circumstances, Ichiro might have been able to return to Seattle where he played 11 1/2 years, amassing 10 consecutive seasons of 200 hits or more, including a record 262 in 2004. But as he grew older and his skills began to diminish, Ichiro refused to make the adjustments with the Mariners that he later did in New York.

Ichiro asked to be traded, and on July 23, 2012, general manager Jack Zduriencik swapped him to the Yankees for pitchers Danny Farquhar and D.J. Mitchell, the latter never playing for the Mariners.

It was the Yankees, who signed him to a two-year deal as a free agent after the 2012 season worth $13 million -- $6.5 million a season. He's heading toward free agency again, and if the Yankees re-sign him, it would seem reasonable for them to do so for a lot less money, perhaps less than half the previous amount.

Would Ichiro want to come back to the Yankees?

"As of this day, I can't say one way or another," Ichiro responded.

To be sure, Ichiro is durable and in tremendous shape. He still fluidly runs the bases stealing 15 of them this year and scoring 42 times. Defensively, he is graceful playing both corner outfield positions, and with a season-long elbow injury suffered by Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury's hamstring strain at the end, played a lot more than anyone expected for the second year in a row.

But here's the rub: His hit totals and plate appearances have deteriorated over the course of the years and his 102 hits in 385 plate appearance this past season were both by far career lows. At his current pace, he'll need a least one more full season and part of another to reach 3,000 Major League hits.

So that begs the big question: Is there a team out there willing to give him a chance to do it?

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Yanks could look to market to fill out lineup in '15

Tex, Beltran expected to return healthy, with Gardner, Ellsbury up top

Yanks could look to market to fill out lineup in '15

NEW YORK -- The last two times that the Yankees finished the regular season without the gates opening for a playoff game, they adhered to what can be called the Steinbrenner playbook: open the checkbooks and chase the biggest fish in free agency, stealing the headlines for the winter.

Now that the Yankees are spending October on the golf courses for the second consecutive year, managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner will again have that option, intending to field a championship-caliber team in 2015.

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The first order of business will be securing the architect of that club. General manager Brian Cashman's contract runs through Oct. 31; the organization is expected to offer Cashman an extension to stay in the position he has held since February 1998.

"My stuff's not really resolved, so there have been no discussions just yet," Cashman said. "I'll wait until we all sit down with ownership. They can map out their strategy and who's going to be a part of that, and we can go from there."

In analyzing the shortcomings of the '14 Yankees, Cashman pointed to issues with the offense and defense, areas that were upgraded as the year went along. The pitching side of the team was a season-long strength.

"We didn't hit, for the most part, all year when we needed to, especially in scoring position," Cashman said. "We were deficient on the defensive side for a good portion of the season; that improved significantly with the additions and subtractions. But offensively, we never really could get it going. The pitching was tremendous and somehow we fixed that, which is harder typically to do, but the offense, we could not fix."

The Yankees believe that some of those problems may correct themselves, particularly in the cases of Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran, who should have their surgical issues further in the past. Teixeira's right wrist was touch-and-go this year, and Beltran will have a bone spur removed from his right elbow.

But there are questions that could be answered from outside the organization, and so it should be no surprise if the Yankees begin to engage with a host of free agents: big-name pitchers like Jon Lester, Max Scherzer and James Shields, perhaps, while searching for Derek Jeter's replacement at shortstop -- J.J. Hardy, anyone?

No one is talking about getting under $189 million this winter, as the Yankees seem on track for another $200-plus million payroll in 2015. They have about $27 million coming off their payroll in Jeter and Hiroki Kuroda, but will be redirecting most of that to the returning Alex Rodriguez ($25 million contract). They also added a pricy piece this summer by acquiring Martin Prado ($11 million).

Here is a preview of where the Yankees stand heading into the 2014-15 offseason:

Arbitration-eligible: C Francisco Cervelli, LHP David Huff, RHP Shawn Kelley, RHP Ivan Nova, RHP David Phelps, RHP Michael Pineda, RHP Esmil Rogers, C Austin Romine.

Free agents: LHP Chris Capuano, SS Stephen Drew, 3B Chase Headley, LHP Rich Hill, RHP Kuroda, RHP Brandon McCarthy, RHP David Robertson, OF Ichiro Suzuki, OF Chris Young.

Rotation: Assuming they're healthy, the one-two punch of Masahiro Tanaka and Pineda at the front of the rotation would be a formidable way to set things up, but there are questions attached -- Tanaka missed 10 weeks with a partially torn right ulnar collateral ligament and Pineda was limited to 13 starts by injury. CC Sabathia is coming back from right knee surgery and should be serviceable, though his days of being the lead horse in the rotation seem to be over. McCarthy has expressed willingness to return and would help round out the middle of the staff, especially if Kuroda retires. Nova is coming off Tommy John surgery and probably won't be ready until the second half, but Shane Greene showed enough in his rookie campaign to suggest that he can play a part moving forward.

Bullpen: Robertson converted 39 of 44 save chances after taking over Mariano Rivera's old job, and the Yankees will at least make him a qualifying offer to return. Betances gives them a solid backup plan if Robertson departs, but there is value in keeping Betances as a four- or five-out reliever who can put out fires ahead of the ninth inning. Kelley will be due a raise in arbitration, and the Yankees figure to have a spring battle for jobs that could include Adam Warren, Chase Whitley and Rogers.

Catcher: Brian McCann will be the starter, and the Yankees hope that he can pick up where his second half left off -- particularly September, when he crushed eight of his 23 homers. There seemed to be more to the adjustment process in switching leagues and adapting to New York than McCann let on, but maybe that's in the past now. Cervelli provides a solid option to return as the backup, with John Ryan Murphy also waiting in the wings.

First base: Teixeira is under contract for two more seasons and will be slotted in for regular play. He wore down physically in the second half after spending the past winter rehabbing, so Teixeira said that he wants to begin his winter workouts early to curb injuries and a similar slowdown. Using Jose Bautista and David Ortiz as a blueprint, the Yankees believe that Teixeira's second year back from wrist surgery will be less unpredictable than 2014.

Second base: The versatile Prado is under contract for an additional two seasons; he saw time in the outfield this year with New York and still could, but Prado presents a solid in-house option for the middle infield. Prospect Rob Refsnyder will also be given a chance to win the job in the spring.

Shortstop: With Jeter now spending his days by the water in Tampa, Fla., the Yankees need a replacement. They're unlikely to lean upon Brendan Ryan or Drew -- the latter of whom is also a free agent -- to fill the starting role. Hardy of the Orioles paces the list of possible free-agent pickups and said that he would "of course" listen if the Yankees came calling. There are plenty of options -- Jed Lowrie, Asdrubal Cabrera and Hanley Ramirez could also be considerations, or the Yankees could pursue trades for the Blue Jays' Jose Reyes or the Phillies' Jimmy Rollins.

Third base: The satellite trucks will be parked at the Minor League complex early in 2015, as Rodriguez will return from his season-long suspension. The Yankees expect him to report in baseball shape, but it is unclear what level of production Rodriguez will be able to provide, coming off two hip surgeries and a long layoff. Rodriguez declined to play winter ball, but is doing two-a-day workouts and already passed an insurance physical deeming him ready to perform. Expect Rodriguez to require time at DH and perhaps first base as he enters his age-40 season. Headley would consider returning, but he wants to be an everyday third baseman.

Outfield: Barring any trade activity, the outfield figures to have Brett Gardner in left field, Jacoby Ellsbury in center field and -- the Yankees hope -- a healthy Beltran returning from right elbow surgery in right field, after Beltran was limited to just 32 games of outfield duty in the first season of a three-year contract. Girardi should be looking forward to having Gardner and Ellsbury back-to-back at the top of the order.

Designated hitter: Girardi likes the idea of being able to use the DH as a revolving door to give veteran players a half-day, rather than having one full-time DH. Beltran occupied the role for most of 2014 out of necessity, but it would be nice for the Yankees to work A-Rod, Teixeira, McCann and Ellsbury into that mix as well.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Berra honored with Athlete Ally Action Award

Berra honored with Athlete Ally Action Award

NEW YORK -- Yankees pitcher Brandon McCarthy on Thursday night became the first active Major League Baseball player to join Athlete Ally's group of 101 athletes as an "ally" to support LGBT athletes, and his first action in that capacity was to present Hall of Famer Yogi Berra with one of the first Athlete Ally Action Awards at the inaugural fundraiser dinner in Manhattan.

Accepting the award on Berra's behalf was the legend's granddaughter Lindsay Berra of MLB.com, who invoked a Yogi-ism -- "The future ain't what it used to be" -- and then noted how apropos that quote is now for LGBT athletes. Other awards were presented to Jason Collins -- the first gay active player in a major U.S. pro sport to come out of the closet -- as well as declared ally James Blake of U.S. men's tennis, former tennis superstar Martina Navratilova, KPMG and the WNBA.

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The event, held at Café Rouge near Madison Square Garden, raised $200,000 for Athlete Ally, the nation's largest non-profit organization in LGBT sports, dedicated to eliminating homophobia and transphobia in athletic communities through educational programs of inclusion, respect and allyship. Major League Baseball is among Athlete Ally corporate backers, and Joe Torre, MLB executive vice president of baseball operations, congratulated Yogi Berra and Athlete Ally in a taped video, drawing applause when he reiterated MLB's intention to create a culture of inclusion.

"I want to congratulate Yogi for receiving the first Athlete Ally Action Award, and I think it's appropriate that his granddaughter Lindsay receives it on his behalf," said Torre, also a declared ally for the organization. "It's really an indication of how Yogi lived his life and played the game -- with fairness, and certainly feeling that everybody should feel included.

"I also want to congratulate Athlete Ally, for the work they are doing with MLB and the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center. They are carrying on the legacy of respect and character and understanding, that there is absolutely no room for discrimination in all sports."

During this year's All-Star Week in Minnesota, Commissioner Bud Selig announced the appointment of former outfielder Billy Bean as MLB's first Ambassador for Inclusion. That announcement came one year after MLB issued a policy prohibiting players from harassing and discriminating against others players based on their sexual orientation. Wendy Lewis, MLB senior vice president for diversity and strategic alliances, was on hand for Thursday's dinner as well.

A step forward in LGBT sports happened when McCarthy attended the event, with wife Amanda, and announced that he will be the 101st active athlete ally in the group. In that role, McCarthy can be instrumental in not only helping any gay Major Leaguers who might wish to come out, but also in leading by example and speaking out about discordant tones. It is not just about looking for the Jason Collins of MLB in 2014, but also about players coming forward as a declared ally -- as Collins noted during his acceptance speech, citing the overwhelming support he got from NBA teammates.

McCarthy reiterated before the dinner that he would be very interested in returning to the Yankees, if they want him back now that he is eligible for free agency next month. But he called this his downtime, and his thoughts on this night were with individuals who might have a bigger decision in life. He said he was approached this summer by Athlete Ally and decided to be a willing pioneer for support.

"It just helps to have that ally, to have people that are going to help a community," McCarthy said. "Jackie Robinson couldn't have done it on his own. He had people like Pee Wee Reese. You just think of small gestures, like putting his arm around him, which was unheard of at that time, making a big difference in the white community accepting him. So I think it just helps to have people outside of the LGBT community that are willing to say, 'We're partnering with them. We're allies. We want to make a difference, too. We support exactly with what they're doing, and we're in tune with what's being said.'

"Hopefully, in many years, we'll look back at this and almost be horrified with what took place in these times."

There is an "Allyship" exhibit at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center in Montclair, N.J., showing the history of inclusion in the Major Leagues and how baseball has been a leader in acceptance -- no matter how gradual. Berra has been there through it all, from Robinson breaking the color barrier for Brooklyn in 1947 to Latin integration by Roberto Clemente and others to female sportswriters in clubhouses in the '70s and '80s. Berra is an advocate for athletes of all walks, and as Lindsay noted, his late wife Carmen once said of LGBT sports last year, "It's 2013 -- get with the program."

So they actually created a "program" at Berra's museum, after Sam Marchiano, the former MLB.com personality and Athlete Ally co-founder, approached David Kaplan, director of the museum, in April 2013. She thought that institution's mission was a good match with that of Athlete Ally, and it has served as an example of how sports stars can show respect and foster inclusion in creative ways. That led to Torre's interest, and then MLB's initiative followed.

"I think we can see from a lot of players, they come out and voice their support. ... the list goes on and on of people who really have that mindset of: 'It's cool,'" Collins said. "That's what it should be about. Especially in team sports, it's, 'Can you help us win ball games?' And off the court, off the field, you should be able to live your authentic life."

Collins said he was impressed by MLB's appointment of Bean, calling it "a great step."

"They're really trying to create the change in the culture of baseball," Collins said. "Football, soccer, basketball, they obviously have some out athletes. And baseball, they do exist, but we have to try to create that environment that gives them security and strength knowing that when they do step forward, everyone is waiting there to support them."

Navratilova came out in 1981, recalling how her rival Chris Evert would be applauded stepping onto the court while for her, "some booed, some whistled, some were quiet, and some clapped."

At this dinner, she announced that Evert will be one of her bridesmaids. Navratilova was accompanied by her fiancee, Julia Lemigova. The former popped the question at the U.S. Open last month.

"Most of the weddings I have attended have been Chris Evert's," Navratilova said. "I've been in two of them. Now I'm happy to announce that she will be my bridesmaid."

A big baseball fan -- especially impressed by the Royals -- Navratilova gave a nod to baseball and said she believes equality in sexual orientation will come to the national pastime sooner than later.

"It's taking a few decades to open people's eyes, but better late than never," Navratilova said. "It shouldn't matter. Thank God we are different. Imagine if everybody was exactly the same. How bored would we be? ... The bottom line for fans is, 'Can he pitch? Can he catch the ball? Can he punt? Can he throw? Can she hit that volleyball? Can she play golf? That's all that should matter. As well, of course, who you are as a human being."

As for MLB's impetus with Bean, she said: "People like that will just speed it up. It's going to happen whether they want it to happen or not. But with people like Billy Bean at the helm, don't let people forget, 'No sweeping under the carpet, no wait-and-see attitude.' You're going to be leading the way, and it just takes one -- everyone else will follow."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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