TAMPA —The New York Yankees would prefer if closer Mariano Rivera pitched forever. But since nobody is capable of that — and Rivera himself hinted Monday that the end of his career will come sooner rather than later — it makes sense to plan for a future when somebody else is saving games in the Bronx.
That's why the Yankees are seeing to it that the young fan in this photo is ready to join the major-league roster when his time comes, which probably will be September 2035, plus or minus, according to GM Brian Cashman. A clean blanket, "Protect This House" T-shirt, fitted Yankees cap, what appear to be animal crackers and gummi worms — Future Joba has been given all of the tools a young ballplayer needs.
And what about other Yankees youngsters, like right-hander Michael Pineda? How did they look during their first official spring workout?
Pineda came into camp a little heavier than he would like (perhaps 10-15 pounds), but as CC Sabathia has shown, extra weight doesn't necessarily hinder performance for a pitcher. Pineda, like Sabathia, stands about 6-foot-7. On the lighter side, Phil Hughes came to Camp Girardi trimmer than in previous seasons. Hughes is fighting for a spot in the rotation, so it couldn't hurt to be a little leaner. One disadvantage to having shed the extra pounds: Hughes looks less like the love child of NFL quarterbacks Rex Grossman and Tim Tebow. If he'll get to make 30 starts, or make 60 appearances in relief if it comes to that, Hughes probably would accept the tradeoff.
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None of the team's big hitters are in camp yet, but the Yankees made news on offense by signing Raul Ibañez to a one-year deal for $1.1 million. He ought to get a lot of at-bats as a left-handed DH. Ibañez, who is 39, hit .256/.307/.440 against right-handed pitching for the Philadelphia Phillies, as reporter Bryan Hoch pointed out at MLB.com:
"He's a guy that has hit right-handers very well over his career, and can still play the outfield," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I know that. He's still been a productive player. If you look at his last 10 years, how productive he's been, he's a guy that we definitely have a lot of interest in."
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If you ever wondered what would happen to a baseball if you dropped it in a pond and just left it there, take a look: The outer layer of cowhide would eventually dissolve. Looks kind of like a mummy ball. It's also worth noting: Naked baseballs congregate together to keep warm. This photo was taken next to a practice field, at a pond beyond the right-field bullpen area at Steinbrenner Field. It's out of the reach of fans (aside from VIPs and special guests). Otherwise, someone would have fished out the baseballs long ago and we wouldn't have the science experiment for which to be grateful. Science!
Speaking of biology, a few forms of marine life have attached themselves to this ball, which seems a little fresher than the others. Come on, get to work, you slugs!
Coming up later: More from the Yankees Universe, along with Tampa Bay Rays camp in Port Charlotte.