It's been a rough few days on the weather front, but there are six words that should start making the air feel warmer right away.
Yankees pitchers and catchers report tomorrow.
Feels a little more cozy, doesn't it? You can almost picture it staying light well into the evening and smell the grill roasting up dinner as you enjoy the fading hours outdoors instead of staggering home under six layers of clothes.
The Yankees will be on the field on Tuesday, ending a layoff that started in the least glorious fashion possible when they were run out of the playoffs in four games by a Tigers team that pretty much stood back and let the Yankees fall flat on their faces. Derek Jeter broke his ankle, Alex Rodriguez was benched and the team's bats were as silent as the first footsteps into newly fallen snow.
It's time to leave that all behind and get back to work on a better result in 2013, something they'll do without Russell Martin, Raul Ibanez, Rafael Soriano and Nick Swisher from last year's team. Kevin Youkilis and Travis Hafner have joined the lineup and Mariano Rivera is back where he belongs, which pretty much gets you caught up on a quiet offseason for the Yankees.
We've discussed that approach ad nauseum over the last few months, which is why we're excited to see how things play out in actuality instead of deep inside fevered minds. Here's a few things we'll be watching between now and April as part of that process.
Age and Infirmity - Youkilis and Hafner are both new faces, but they share two traits with many other Yankees. They've been around the block plenty of times and spent chunks of those trips in the trainer's room.
Jeter and Rivera are coming back from serious injuries, Andy Pettitte is 40 and Ichiro Suzuki is 39. There's reason to be concerned about how well the Yankees can hold up over 162 games, especially if they can't make it out of Tampa without some new aches and pains.
Robinson Cano - Free agency looms for Cano and it's never easy to tell how well a player can handle that kind of pressure, especially since you know he'll be asked about it every day of the season. The spring won't tell us that, of course, but it will give a first glimpse into how much of an issue the contract will be this season.
Bouncebacks - Mark Teixeira's production has dropped in each of the last three years and his walk percentage has dropped in the last two, which isn't really the picture of a player about to go back to murdering the ball. He's still valuable, it's just a question of whether he can stem the decline or it it will continue unabated.
Although his numbers fell off a cliff from 2011, Curtis Granderson isn't declining. He's just a player who has reverted to career norms after a career year and it's more likely 2013 looks like 2012 than anything else.
Michael Pineda - No one's expecting much from him early, but Pineda returning to the form he showed before Tommy John surgery would be a big boost to the team's organizational depth and future prospects. His baby steps come in Tampa.