TAMPA — They're still the New York Yankees. No matter that Mariano Rivera has retired and won't be coming to spring camp, or that Alex Rodriguez is sitting out the season with a suspension and won't be here, either.
They're still the Yankees, no matter that captain Derek Jeter is working out at the team's minor league complex after saying that 2014 will be his final season in the majors. They're still the Yankees, no matter that they handed out Robinson Cano's uniform No. 24 to non-roster invitee Scott Sizemore. They're still the Yankees, no matter that CC Sabathia looks like half the man he used to be after losing a lot of weight.
They're still the Yankees, larger than life. Big.
"This is big. Yankees big," general manager Brian Cashman said earlier this week when introducing Masahiro Tanaka, the team's $155 million ($175 million, with gratuity) import from Japan.
Cashman added Tanaka, along with catcher Brian McCann, leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury and slugging elder Carlos Beltran in the free-agent market in order to turn around an 85-77 season that ended with no playoff appearance in 2013. They don't have the biggest payroll in the league — the Dodgers do — but they're still the Yankees, the biggest that Major League Baseball can get.
And the Yankees kick off The Stew's sixth annual Spring Swing through the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues. If you're going to go, you might as well go big — Yankees big.
What can we look forward to?
• Sabathia dropping about 40 pounds over the past year — slimmer than he's been in years, since Cleveland, he says — and toning his body like, perhaps, it's never been.
• McCann stepping into the middle of the lineup and, someday probably, into a leadership void.
• Tanaka handling the demands of Japanese media following him — not to mention the American press already in place — and trying to make that huge contract worth it.
• David Robertson filling the role of ninth-inning stopper, without necessarily trying to walk in Rivera's shoes.
Check back for all of that and more as The Stew makes its way around sunny Florida.
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