Joe Girardi looking forward to Panamanian experience
One of those new sights will be quite alarming: Mariano Rivera, at a baseball field with the New York Yankees, but not suited up as an active player.
Rivera has said that he has no interest in pitching one last time with the Yankees in Panama, preferring to be just a spectator and enjoy the weekend. Girardi isn't sure just yet what the trip really means for Panama, or even any of the Yankees going, but he's certain that it means the world to his former closer.
"I think we'll get a much bigger sense tomorrow when we're there how much it means, because there hasn't necessarily been a ton of press about it up here," he said. "But I think we know what the Yankees mean to Mo, and to be able to provide this to his country, I think is very special to Mo. For me, if I was ever able to bring the Yankees to East Peoria it'd be special to me, and that's in the same country."
The Yankees released the official travel roster shortly before departing for Panama, with Rivera's Core Four compadre Derek Jeter leading the way and Carlos Beltran, Brett Gardner, Alfonso Soriano, and CC Sabathia among the big names.
However, because it is spring training and the Yankees also have three games in Florida this weekend, it's not necessarily a team full of opening day starters.
Girardi's main factor in the roster decisions were that he tried to keep the infielders together in one locale and the outfielders in the other - with Jeter, who "had a responsibility" to go, the only projected starting infielder in Panama and Jacoby Ellsbury the only outfielder in Florida - but there is one other theme: a heavy Latin flavor to the crew.
Eduardo Nunez did not go, but 10 of the 28 players on the trip represent four different Latin American or Caribbean countries, and three coaches - including Panama's own Julio Mosquera - are among the seven staffers there, a breakdown Girardi admits was somewhat by design.
"A little bit, yeah…I'm sure they follow a lot of the Latin stars, and really all of our team because of Mo," the skipper said. "I tried to keep some groups together for the most part, but that played into it."
Venezuelan-born Francisco Cervelli was a late addition, switching with Brian McCann so that the newer backstop could stay in Tampa to get more familiar with the Yankees' staff, and even with the designated hitter, Girardi said that Alfonso Soriano will play the field at least once. That's because Girardi wants the Panamanian fans to get to see Jeter twice, with The Captain likely to man shortstop one day and DH the other.
They unfortunately won't get to see Rivera, but don't think Girardi hasn't tried to talk Mo out of that.
"I talked to Mariano maybe a week or 10 days ago, and I joked with him about playing an inning in center field or something," the skipper laughed. Or maybe I can have him pinch run."
Given the way Rivera's MLB career ended, the only way that would be fitting is if he replaced Jeter in Sunday's game.
Hey, stranger things have happened, right?