For Yankees, Age Is Nothing but a Number - NBC New York

For Yankees, Age Is Nothing but a Number

How big a concern are gray hairs?



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    Now that it appears that the fifth starter race is behind us, we can all move on to consider other questions about the Yankees season to come.

    One that immediately jumps to mind is whether or not the Yankees' preference for older players will finally catch up with them.

    There's no better place to start than to point out that there's a flaw in the question itself. CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira aren't yet 30, an age that is still in front of Robinson Cano and the entire starting outfield. Other key players like A.J. Burnett and Nick Johnson are north of 30 but still have some time before they could reasonably be considered old players.

    The makeup of the roster has taken a welcome shift towards young veterans in recent years. That shift also makes the prospect of injury or decline for one of the team's more seasoned players a little bit less scary. Might Mariano Rivera or Andy Pettitte land on the disabled list at some point? Sure, but the Yankees have so much talent that it is hard to see a short absence costing them a shot at postseason glory.

    Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus is the baseball world's go-to injury expert and his health report on the Yankees (you'll need a subscription) does show some reason for concern about the team making it through the season without injuries playing a role. Part of that is age and part of that is the presence of players with medical histories like Burnett and Johnson. Phil Hughes has had some health issues as a starter in the past, something Carroll points out and something that hasn't been mentioned much this spring, which could wind up impacting the Yankees as much as any one of their aging warriors.

    After years of dealing with these issues, though, the Yankees seem to have learned their lesson. They are deep in the outfield and bullpen, Jesus Montero should be ready to step in at designated hitter if Johnson misses any time and the battle for that fifth spot in the rotation leaves several nice choices for emergency duty. The Yankees have prepared for the possibility/likelihood that they will need to dip beyond their preferred frontline players in a more pronounced way than in years past.

    Catastrophe could always strike, of course, but short of that it doesn't seem like the Yankees need to worry about being brittle any more than they need to worry about a tornado wiping out the Stadium in the middle of the seventh inning of a game with the Red Sox.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to and in addition to his duties for