Gary Sanchez
(Nick Wass/AP)

The New York Yankees kicked off their first week of spring training games with signature power, strong pitching, and so much more.

Josh Benjamin

Glory hallelujah, New York Yankees spring training is back for 2021!

Wait, you’re telling me I’m the only Yankees guy who celebrates the start of spring games by blasting this and marching around my apartment? Huh, okay.

Anyway, my goofy baseball traditions aside, the Bronx Bombers hit the full swing of spring training with their first games over the past week. New York did pretty well, on the whole, going 3-3-1 to start things off in Tampa.

Sure enough, there was plenty to unpack from the first week of action. Gary Sanchez was in camp for maybe 30 seconds before being placed under the microscope. The fifth starter’s race is looking more like a marathon, with no one arm really standing out over another.

It wasn’t the prettiest start to spring training, but make no mistake. There’s plenty of reasons for optimism among the New York Yankees and their fans.

 

Gary is scary

We’d all prefer to forget Gary Sanchez’s awful 2020 season. He forgot how to hit fastballs and was just plain bad. Fortunately, the Kraken arrived at camp ready to roll and the numbers show a player who’s fully focused.

Thus far, Sanchez is batting .333 with a pair of home runs and a 1.455 OPS in spring training. Of those two longballs, as seen in the video above, one went over the batter’s eye at Steinbrenner Field. Sanchez is also working consistently good at-bats, and even took advantage of the shift to hit a single to right field on Sunday.

As for his long-criticized defense behind the plate, he’s more focused than he’s ever been. He knows 2021 is his last chance in the Bronx, so it’s time to make the most of it.

And don’t expect complacency from Sanchez after this hot start to spring training. Brendan Kuty of NJ.com reports first-round pick Austin Wells is turning lots of heads in New York Yankees camp. Though he doesn’t quite grade out as a long-term catcher, expect his name to be tossed around if Sanchez struggles.

But for now, Sanchez has performed so well as to get the endorsement from teammate Aaron Judge. At this point, he’s the no-doubt starting backstop in New York.

 

The race for No. 5

Cue the callbacks to 2001 spring training, because the fifth starter’s job is anybody’s game. The New York Yankees have as many as four or five arms competing for the No. 5 spot this time, from unproven youngsters to redemption stories.

Deivi Garcia is the hands-down favorite, and is probably the fans’ most preferred candidate. He made his first start against the Philadelphia Phillies last Thursday, and the 21-year-old’s greenness showed. He struck out three and walked none, but allowed two runs on two solo home runs allowed.

The real story this week, however, was the return of Domingo German. He did not pitch in 2020 while he served a domestic violence suspension, yet is getting a chance at a starting job this year. Sure enough, German looked sharp in his first game, pitching two scoreless innings with four strikeouts.

It’s still early, but this is shaping up to be a key battle of spring training.

 

Iron Boone

He isn’t billionaire playboy genius Tony Stark, but we’re going to call manager Aaron Boone “Iron Man” anyway. The New York Yankees skipper underwent heart surgery to have a pacemaker installed on Wednesday.

He was back in the dugout on Saturday.

We all remember Iron Man 3, the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s ugly stepchild. Stark gets all the shrapnel removed from around his heart (SPOILER ALERT!), and continues a great run as Iron Man for a few years.

Point being, some of the MCU’s best movies came after the Iron Man 3 clunker. Given how energized Boone has been since his surgery, perhaps it means his team will have some extra pep in their step in 2021.

That’s all for the State of the New York Yankees this week. Be well, and see everyone at the ballpark!