NEW YORK — Manager Aaron Boone sees even more motivation in this year’s New York Yankees.
“They’ve had a couple of really good teams here that have been close, and the disappointment of an ending when you feel like you have a team capable of greatness I think does add a log to the fire,” he said Wednesday. “It does add a little extra kick to wanting this to get done, and I think that adds to everyone’s hunger a little bit.”
New York worked out at Yankee Stadium ahead of Thursday’s opener against Baltimore. The Yankees have not reached the World Series since winning the 2009 title and haven’t finished first in the AL East since 2012.
They finished eight games behind Boston in the AL East last year and were eliminated by the Red Sox in the Division Series. In 2017, they lost to Houston in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series.
“In ’17 we got one game away from the World Series and last year leaving in the DS, those games sting. Both those years sting a little bit,” said right fielder Aaron Judge, who was a rookie when his team lost Game 7 to the Astros.
After last year’s elimination, Judge tuned out.
“Once we were out, I was done watching baseball,” he said.
The 2019 version of the Bronx Bombers features many of the same players from last year’s cast, which set a big league record with 267 home runs. New York added lefty starter James Paxton, reliever Adam Ottavino, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and infielder DJ LeMahieu, while re-signing CC Sabathia, J.A. Happ, Zack Britton and Brett Gardner.
“We won 100 games last year, and we’re better than we were,” Stanton said.
Stanton is starting his second season in New York following his December 2017 trade from Miami.
“We got solid additions in the off-season and we’ve got a returning lineup that has an extra year under our belt together, so the more you play together the better you are,” he added. “Whether that’s the on-field, off-field chemistry, the overall dynamic is better the more you’re with the same team.”
New York starts the season banged up, with Luis Severino, Sabathia, Aaron Hicks, Dellin Betances, Didi Gregorius and Jordan Montgomery sidelined. Based on what he’s seen, Boone, also starting his second season, thinks the Yankees have enough depth.
“The way they compete in the little things they’re doing behind the scenes is palpable to me,” he said. “It’s something I notice.”
The Orioles open up under new manager Brandon Hyde, who aims to improve a team that staggered to 115 losses last year under Buck Showalter.
Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka will be making his fourth straight opening day start for New York, facing a rookie-laden Orioles lineup containing several hitters he’s never seen before. The 30-year-old is 0-2 with a 9.49 ERA in previous openers, but isn’t planning to do anything different beforehand.
Aside from strategizing ways to approach the young O’s hitters, his preparation remains the same as if Thursday were just another matchup, although Tanaka did acknowledge that the tension is heightened.
“Lot of eyes on this game,” he said through an interpreter.
He sustained a partially-torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow back in 2014, which was never surgically repaired. It hasn’t affected him recently, and he sounded surprised when asked about the joint.
“It was completely out of my mind,” Tanaka said. “My elbow’s fine. I’m ready going into the season.”
Fellow righty Andrew Cashner is scheduled to start for Baltimore in place of Alex Cobb, who strained a groin in his last spring training appearance.
Greg Bird and Luke Voit are expected to be in Thursday’s lineup for New York. The duo had been competing for the first base job throughout spring training, but both made the opening-day roster due to injuries as well as solid performances over the past month.
Boone thinks Stanton will be more relaxed. Stanton hit .266 with 38 home runs, 100 RBIs and a career-high 211 strikeouts during his first year in pinstripes. Stanton had 59 homers and 132 RBIs in his final season with Miami, when he won the NL MVP.
“He’s a worker. He gets under the hood. He studies, he really studies pitchers,” Boone said. “He does really well the more he sees somebody, more so than most guys, so I think he’s able to process information when he gains experience against a guy.”
Stanton appreciates being noticed for his work ethic.
“It’s part of my DNA, I guess,” he said.
Several players dealing with various maladies remained in Tampa for injury rehabilitation. Hicks (stiff lower back) ran on a treadmill and is continuing to do core work. He has not started baseball activities. … Severino (right rotator cuff inflammation) threw from 120 feet on Tuesday, then had Wednesday off. … Betances (right shoulder impingement) is expected to throw off a mound in a side session this weekend.