TAMPA — When the Yankees played their final game of the 2019 season, the sign-stealing scandal that has engulfed the sport and tarnished the Astros’ 2017 World Series title had not been exposed and both Houston and Boston looked to be contenders again this year.
But when pitchers and catchers report to George M. Steinbrenner Field on Wednesday and manager Aaron Boone holds his first formal press conference of the new season, he will be addressing a baseball world that has been shaken by controversy for the past three months.
But the chaos surrounding their two fiercest rivals in recent years will no doubt help the Yankees as they look to win their first title since 2009.
A roster that looks very similar to the one that got the 2019 Yankees 103 wins in the regular season and two victories away from the World Series, will arrive over the next week.
Their huge free-agent splash, Gerrit Cole, is the only member of the 40-man roster who wasn’t part of the organization last season, but there will be some noticeable departures, with CC Sabathia retired and Didi Gregorius, Dellin Betances and Austin Romine all gone as free agents.
If Cole lives up to the expectations that come along with the nine-year, $324 million deal he signed in December, the Yankees figure to be in fine shape.
They’ll enter spring training with a rotation that features Cole, Luis Severino (looking to stay healthy after an injury-ravaged 2019), Tanaka, J.A. Happ and perhaps Jordan Montgomery filling in for James Paxton, who will be out for 3-4 months following back surgery.
Domingo German will be out through May, serving the rest of his suspension handed down by MLB for violating the league’s domestic violence policy.
The bullpen again appears to be among the league’s best, led by Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton and Adam Ottavino, and with Chad Green perhaps returned to a more traditional role after serving as an opener for much of last year.
Position players aren’t due to report until Monday, but Aaron Judge has been among the early arrivals, along with Gleyber Torres, Luke Voit and Miguel Andujar.
Voit, bothered by abdominal injuries for much of the second half of last season, is healthy following offseason surgery. The Yankees are also trying to keep Andujar’s bat in the lineup, while Gio Urshela has the edge at third base.
Mike Ford is looking to build on the success he had in his brief time in the majors last season. The Yankees figure to have Ford, Voit and Andujar take reps at first, with DJ LeMahieu likely full-time at second base, now that Torres is replacing Gregorius at short.
In 50 games last year, the lefty-swinging Ford hit 12 homers and had an OPS of .909.
“It was a short sample size,’’ Ford said Tuesday at the team’s minor league complex. “I’m gonna have to keep working on things. People are gonna make adjustments and anyone can be good for 160 at-bats. If I keep working on my craft and making adjustments, I can prove to myself I can play there for a little bit longer.”