Takeaways from Aaron Boone's news conference, including what it will take to get over the hump

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Ryan Morik
·6 min read
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Aaron Boone looks on from the dugout
Aaron Boone looks on from the dugout

The Yankees are less than three weeks away from beginning spring training in Tampa. Several players are already at the facility, while Aaron Boone is getting ready for his fourth campaign as the Yankees' manager.

Boone spoke with reports on Zoom on Friday and discussed getting ready for the season, the acquisitions of Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon, and how the Yankees can get over the hump to win their first World Series since 2009.

Here are some takeaways from Boone's presser:

On the risk/reward of Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon:

Kluber is a two-time Cy Young Award winner, while Taillon owns a career ERA of 3.67. In 2018, with a career-high of 191 innings, he had a career-best 3.20 ERA. However, the two have combined for 74 innings since 2019, with Taillon missing all of 2020, and Kluber pitching all of one inning last season.

"Obviously we did as much due diligence as we could. We understand some of the risks that come with it, but we’re also incredibly excited about what we think they can be. ...We know what they're capable of. We feel like from a health standpoint, they come in in a very good situation, and I'm really excited that they're a part of our staff. The ceiling is high for them. I think [it] was absolutely the right way to go for us, even though there of course is some risk with it...

"We also feel like those are two guys that are going to be valuable contributors to our pitching culture. ...Hopefully, it's something that our pitchers as a group grow because we're adding what we feel like is two very high-character people. ...I'm really excited for them to get into our clubhouse and get with our guys and really start going out there and proving themselves."

On DJ LeMahieu returning:

"I'm thrilled, He's been probably the best leadoff hitter in game. He's probably been the MVP of the American League the last two years. I think everyone... understands certainly how much he’s loved playing here, but just how revered he is in our clubhouse, by the opposing players, and even though he's obviously understated and quiet, there’s no question he's one of the leaders and somebody that so many people in our clubhouse not only look to, but look up to... He is certainly one of the drivers of what I believe to be a very good [culture]."

On what it will take to get over the hump

The Yankees have been close to a couple of World Series appearances, but have not won one since 2009.

“We certainly feel like we’ve been one of the best teams, and have rightfully had championship expectations which we will again have this year. Baseball in the playoffs is, the difference between moving on and going home is sometimes razor thin, and that’s certainly been case for us...

"There's so many little things, and that's why we try and really place an emphasis, especially starting in spring training, on being really good on the margins and the little things that happen, because obviously, you're not always just gonna blow somebody out or overwhelm somebody. There's going to be games along the way, especially in the postseason where you're gonna have to win it, whether it's a big hit, a big defensive play, a big fundamental defensive play, so it's why we place a premium on really working hard to execute starting in spring training, because that sometimes is the difference in the end of the last team standing and all those that come close. Hopefully this is the year that we can do it, that's our expectation, and I know we'll have a confident group that hopefully will put us in that position."

On losing Masahiro Tanaka and Adam Ottavino

"It’s emotional when you lose somebody that's been such an important part of the team, and going back long before I got here. Masa was a privilege to get to manage and to get to be a teammate of here for a few years. Obviously had a great yankee career, so we're gonna miss him, and know he’ll go and be successful back in Japan now...

"As far as Otto going, I was actually with him when he got traded. He's somebody that I have a tremendous amount of respect for, and he'll be missed. He did a great job for us, he was great in our clubhouse, and he's gonna be tough against us, especially with a lot of our righties. I expect he'll be pitching a lot of games against us this year for Boston."

On Gary Sanchez

Sanchez notably struggled last year, so much so to the point where Kyle Higashioka became the starting catcher in the postseason.

"Gary and I had a very good conversation right after the season, actually. I think a little bit of that article, one of the big takeaways was the lack of communication about Gary’s role in the postseason. And I think a big reason for that was the postseason was a completely fluid situation. I made no decision to say that Gary is benched. I was going home literally every night discussing and sleeping on who I was gonna start next day. And a big reason for that was how well Kyle Higashioka was playing...much like the situation with Gardy [Brett Gardner] and [Clint] Frazier every night…it was a day-by-day which way I was gonna go...Gary and I have had conversations since then but also prior to...

"I'm really excited about where he's at right now in his offseason and his preparation heading into camp. He's in Tampa now, and I'm excited to see what he's gonna do for us this year."

On preparing for COVID-19 in 2021

There are still some unknowns regarding roster size, the DH (not that that affects the Yankees too much), protocols, and quarantine rules, Boone noted. But he says the Yankees are "ready to roll."

"[We are] way more prepared. Completely uncharted waters last year, and kind of every day was new and eye-opening. The different challenges that you faced, hopefully we’re in better position to navigate those waters and understand what's expected. I guess less surprises each and every day. And hopefully with the vaccine roll outs, hopefully we’re in position where we're starting to round corner on this thing. ...Hopefully as more time goes off clock in the season that it gets more and more back to normal and back to what we're accustomed to.

"We certainly feel more prepared just because we’ve done it and know we can do it. So hopefully we’ll be in a better position to take what we learned from last year and those distractions that come with that, and I guess be less distracting in what we're trying to accomplish on the field."

OddsMoney LinePoint SpreadTotal Points
NY Yankees
-162--
Detroit
+135--