TAMPA, Fla. -- Veteran left-hander Matt Thornton said that it was "probably one of the most disappointing points" of his career to be left off Boston's playoff roster last season, forced to watch from the inactive list as his teammates went on to win a World Series championship.
Now Thornton, 37, will have an opportunity to help keep Boston from getting back to the postseason. The Yankees were near the top of his list entering free agency this past winter, and he is looking forward to competing for a title.
"When you have a team of this quality, being a championship contender was probably one of my top two reasons to figure out where I wanted to sign -- the other one being my family," Thornton said.
Thornton inked a two-year, $7 million deal and will inherit the role of left-handed specialist from Boone Logan, who landed with the Rockies as a free agent. Thornton pitched for the White Sox and Red Sox last season, going a combined 0-4 with a 3.74 ERA in 60 appearances.
He was slowed in August by a strained right oblique, an injury that did not completely go away until late November. The Red Sox kept him around for the playoffs, and he even threw at Fenway Park in case he was needed for the World Series, but he was not activated.
"You work your whole career to be a part of something like that," he said. "I understood; I was inconsistent at the time, and they felt the other guys were doing a better job. They were nothing but respectful to me in the process."
Manager Joe Girardi has said that Thornton is one of the few locks for a bullpen that is entering the post-Mariano Rivera era. David Robertson will be the closer, and Shawn Kelley should fill a setup role.
"I'm excited for David to have the opportunity and see what he does," Thornton said. "I've watched David five, six years now, and he's one of the best relievers in the game. I have no doubt he'll transition into that role just fine. Following up in Mariano's footsteps is not the easiest thing. ... Mo, he's the best ever.
"He's the best in the playoffs ever, he's the best in the regular season, he's the best there is. He'll be missed, obviously. He'll be missed in baseball, not just by the Yankees. But we have to focus on moving up, and guys stepping up and stepping into roles and doing the job."