Torre: Yankees ready to make title run
Manager pleased with club's performance this spring
LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Yankees broke camp on Friday, finishing up the exhibition season with a 4-3 loss to the Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium to finish with a 14-15-1 record in the Grapefruit League.
New York opens its season on Sunday night at home against the Red Sox, and manager Joe Torre feels that his team is ready to make a run at its 27th World Series title.
"Our good depends on how close to November we get," said Torre when asked how good he thought his team was. "This time of year, we assume we're good enough to get to the postseason because our pitching is deeper. You can't get yourself caught up and think it's a no-brainer to get to the postseason. Hopefully we don't forget what it takes to get there."
What was a relatively quiet spring for the Yankees will surely be anything but that on Sunday, as the Red Sox invade the Bronx as defending World Series champions for the first time in 86 years. Following the early-spring verbal attacks on Alex Rodriguez by the Red Sox, the constant distraction surrounding Jason Giambi and the steroids scandal and Gary Sheffield's temporary squabble over his contract, the Yankees were able to turn their attention to baseball when the games started.
"I never really interfered with the distractions, because it was Spring Training and it didn't really count," Torre said. "You just let it play out and it goes away. That was the only thing we needed to have happen, because the game is tough enough when you concentrate on what you have to do. I never had a question in my mind on what this ballclub's priorities were."
Despite winning 101 games in 2004, Torre feels that his 2005 team could be even better. A-Rod is settled in for his second year in pinstripes, Giambi is set to rebound from an injury-riddled season, and Sheffield is playing with two good shoulders instead of one.
"I don't know what you would want to do better than last year, other than play one more inning," Torre said, referring to the blown leads in Games 4 and 5 of the American League Championship Series. "If we had been a little lackluster and lackadaisical and stuff like that, then you can say, 'See, you should have paid attention.' But that wasn't the case."
Although there are 162 games plus a Division Series to go through before worrying about the 2005 ALCS, many people are penciling in the two AL East rivals for a third consecutive matchup in October. Even Torre admits that it's hard not to think about such a scenario, though he's trying not to put the cart before the horse.
"I think you have to think that way, but you can't allow yourself to look past now," Torre said. "It's tempting to assume it's going to be that way, but you certainly can't get caught up in it, because something will happen that will make it a lot tougher or impossible."
The top three hitters in New York's lineup each had solid springs, as Derek Jeter, A-Rod and Sheffield all topped the .300 mark. Although Bernie Williams and Tino Martinez struggled in the .200 range, Torre doesn't seem very concerned with his offense.
"I have to assume we're going to score runs," the manager said. "It's too late to worry. Everybody here, even though they may not be hitting now, has hit at one time or another during the spring. No one had any prolonged four-week slump where they didn't have good at-bats. It's been up and down, but everybody has been satisfied with their swing at one time or another."
Seven weeks of Spring Training are now history. It's time to play ball.
"Now it's baseball for real. We'll see if we're as good as we think we are," Torre said. "Unless we have some major setbacks, we should be a good club. I feel good about us leaving [Spring Training] right now. I'm very enthusiastic about the mood of the club, the veteran status, the professionalism, the focus."
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.