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The Yankees' next Opening Day lineup could look a lot different – New York Post,

The Yankees' next Opening Day lineup could look a lot different – New York Post,

October 19, 2019|12: 54 PM|UpdatedOctober 19, 2019 | 1: 56 PM

Joel Sherman

HOUSTON – Remember the spring trainingfirst base battle between Greg Bird and Luke Voitin which both performed well enough not only to make the team, but to start Opening Day?

Remember how enthusiastic the Yankees were that Troy Tulowitzki came through the exhibition games fit and played him side-by-side with AL Rookie of the Year runner-up Miguel Andujar on March 28?

Brett Gardner played center that day, a temporary hold until Aaron Hicks came back. Masahiro Tanaka got the ball against the Orioles, but Luis Severino would return as ace soon enough.

And Giancarlo Stanton hit third, played left field and was in a better state of body and mind for Year 2 with the Yankees.

That was the Yanks ’first game in The Bronx this year. In the 205 days that followed – to Friday night in what could have been their last home game – the Yanks displayed baseball MacGyver-ism.That includes an ALCS Game 5in which Stanton gimped back into the order at cleanup and – more vitally –Hicks had the biggest blow, a three-run, first-inning homer then spoke afterward about the randomness of picking up a ball after he was seemingly sent home for the year, tossing it to a friend and his elbow not hurting. That triggered the chain that led to him batting behind Stanton in a season-saving game.

“It is a long season – a long season,” Brian Cashman said when presented with just a few of the variables.

Every positional member of the Opening Day lineup except Gleyber Torres would be among the MLB-record (players who would be placed on the injured list over) stints.

That lineup now stands as an artifact to who the Yankees were 29 weeks ago, hoping that the perpetually injured Bird and Tulowitzki could stay healthy, that Andujar and Voit could follow up on their revelatory 2018 s, that Stanton could find greater comfort and health in his sophomore Yankee season. On that day even the most ardent Yankee fan probably didn’t know Gio Urshela was in the organization and would have scoffed at Mike Ford finishing the regular season with one more plate appearance than Andujar, Bird and Stanton combined.

So 29 weeks later what do all the twists and turns from that Opening Day lineup reveal moving forward?

Luke Voit; Greg Bird; Miguel Andujar
Luke Voit; Greg Bird; Miguel AndujarRobert Sabo; Bill Kostroun; Howard Simmons

Tulowitzki is retiredand an assistant baseball coach at the University of Texas. But his quick retreat to the injured list – months before Didi Gregorius was ready to return after Tommy John surgery – force fed shortstop more fully to Gleyber Torres. Torres handled the position well. Gregorius has not been himself since his return, his offense and defense are both down to the point in which it is now a question if the Yankees even make him the $ 17 .8 million qualifying offer. Did Torres do enough to take shortstop on an even more extended basis next year with the door opened by Tulowitzki’s familiar failing health?

Bird will either be traded (unlikely) or removed from the 40 – man roster (very likely) ending a Yankee stint in which he teased in pockets around injuries . Voit was solid for half a season, injury crushed and inadequate afterward. Not long ago the Yanks seemed to have a steal in Voit. But Giovanny Gallegos became a dominant piece in the Cardinal bullpen. Moving forward the Yanks need to ask how many injury-risk, righty-hitting, DH-is-their-best-position players they want to carry when they already have a stronger commitment to Stanton and Gary Sanchez.

The Yankees emphasized defense at first and third in the postseason by going with DJ LeMahieu and Urshela at the corners. But Cashman said he expects Andujar, post-shoulder surgery, to be a full player next spring. He already is fielding and hitting regularly in Tampa and the Yankees GM said the internal view of Andujar is the guy who nearly won the AL Rookie of the Year in 2018.

Urshela in 2020 – like Voit and Andujar were supposed to this year – will need to show 2019 was not a fluke. If Urshela fortifies he is a full-time third baseman, it will not be surprising if Andujar is pushed more to first. In that scenario the Yanks would have a flexible infield in which Andujar could play first and third, LeMahieu everything but shortstop and Torres short and second. Perhaps the athletic and lefty-hitting Tyler Wade mixes in then or the Yanks obtain a shortstop to protect Torres.

Gardner too is a free agent, but unlike Gregorius and Dellin Betances he stayed healthy and valuable, so he will probably be re-signed for the role he was supposed to have in 2019 – fourth outfielder after playing his most games in center since 2013. Except Mike Tauchman emerged to show he could handle that.

There is just more than 22 weeks before the Yanks open once again vs. the Orioles, this time in Baltimore on March 26, 2020. How much will the lineup that day resemble the one from a year earlier?

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