With eight days to go until the commencement of spring training as of yesterday, Yankees 101 began a countdown indicating the eight most interesting Yankees to watch entering 2013.
Seeing as though left-fielder Brett Gardner enters 2013 injury-free and lacking of any proven capable backup, Gardner got the list started at number eight. It will be interesting to see where manager Joe Girardi puts Gardner in the batting order in lieu of speedster Ichiro Suzuki and perennial on-base percentage extraordinaire Derek Jeter, as Gardner has a strong penchant of his own getting on base. Will Gardner lead-off, bat second to Jeter, or bat ninth with Jeter and Ichiro at the top of the order?
Continuing the list, one of the never-ending story lines this season is that of third baseman Alex Rodriguez. Will he make it back this season from major hip surgery? If the latest performance-enhancing drug allegations come to fruition, will the Yankees look to rid of the fiasco?
With all of that being said, in what was a silent offseason for what is usually a Yankee-dominated time of year, one of the important signings for general manager Brian Cashman was that of free agent third baseman Kevin Youkilis. With the shortcomings of Rodriguez continuously on display as of late, Youkilis comes in at number seven of most interesting Yankees entering 2013.
While Youkilis is a seasoned professional just a few years removed from being a perennial All-Star, and while he's not replacing the Rodriguez of years past, he's still replacing a lightning rod of attention. Additionally, after a season predicated around an early-season rift with his former manager, Bobby Valentine, Youkilis will be under a microscope from an underachieving 2012 season.
What makes Youkilis an interesting Yankee to watch entering 2013? Getting to see Youkilis in a settled situation in an environment with high expectations and little turmoil. After an aforementioned difficult 2012 season, the expected long-term absence of Rodriguez gives Youkilis ample opportunity to settle into his new surroundings and be put in situations to flourish and produce runs.
Whether he's batting fifth in the lineup or even seventh, Youkilis will be put in situations to produce. In addition to only being a short time removed from being a consistent .300 hitter, the proclaimed "Greek God of Walks" has the ability to work a count and soften up a pitcher.
Needless to say, the opportunity to rejuvenate his career is something he's not taking lightly, a point driven home by the fact that he got to work early with Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long. With something to prove and the task of replacing a notorious name amongst Yankees brethren, Youkilis is an interesting Yankee to watch in 2013.
Below are some of the highlights from Youkilis' 2012 season, courtesy of MLB.com.
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Tags: Alex Rodriguez, Baseball, Derek Jeter, Ichiro Suzuki, Kevin Youkilis, Mark Teixeira, MLB, New York, New York Yankees, Robinson Cano