(Jason Schott – New York Sports Day)
Yankees outfielder Carlos Beltran was at the Topps offices in downtown Manhattan on Wednesday afternoon for the unveiling of their 2016 baseball card set.
Beltran spoke about what the Yankees can do in 2016 and his future in baseball.
The Yankees had a good offseason, as they acquired closer Aroldis Chapman, second baseman Starlin Castro, and center fielder Aaron Hicks.
Beltran said of what the Yankees can do in 2016, “This year, we have a good ballclub. I personally feel that this year, we’re going to have a real good chance to make the playoffs basically because adding (Aroldis) Chapman to the bullpen, now you put three guys back-to-back-to-back. The starting pitchers have to say, well, you know what, if I pitch seven or eight (innings), beautiful, but if I pitch six and we’re winning, there’s a good possibility that we could win that ballgame – that’s very positive. It also gives (Manager) Joe Girardi the possibility of saying, you know what, if I need to give a rest to this guy or that guys, all three can close ballgames. Miller had a great year last year, and now to bring Chapman, who has been unbelievable for all his career, and at the same time, adding (Starlin) Castro to second base.
“Castro is just, when I look at Castro, I look at a very talented ballplayer, and you know, even though he has put good years in Chicago, I still feel that he has a lot more. Then, coming here to New York, having me, having Alex (Rogriguez), having some veteran guys that have been here a long time, we personally feel that we’re going to be ready to help him,” said Beltran.
Beltran said of Aaron Hicks, “I saw him a little bit when he was in Minnesota. Of course, he’s a very athletic guy, and like I say, another guys that’ll be able to help us.”
Beltran said of his offseason program, “Got up in the morning, went to hit, basically from 11 to 2, and then from 2 to 4, go to the wait room to do some workouts, did that from Monday to Friday. I feel good, physically I feel good, very happy where I am right now and looking forward to what’s ahead.”
Beltran is entering the final season of his three-year contract with the Yankees. He said of this possibly being the last year of his career, “Right now, I’m concentrating just on this year because I have the responsibility of one more year on my contract. I just want to really put myself in a condition where I can help this ballclub and help the team and, at the end of the year, I will decide what’s going to happen based on the year that I put (together) this year. If physically I feel like I can play one more year, then I would love to. So, for me right now, like I said before, there is not a big decision for me to make, play one more year or call it and go home. Very, very pleased, very fortunate to play this game for a long time and I know that this (retirement) has to come at one point as a ballplayer. I’m just happy the blessings that God really gave me to play this game for a long time and being able to be successful for a long time.”
Alex Rodriguez had an incredible season in 2015 as the team’s designated hitter, but was hurt towards the end of the season. There are understandable concerns about his durability heading into 2016.
Beltran said of serving as designated hitter if needed, “Whatever way I can help this organization, I would do it. I love being into the outfield, I swear to God I love it. I enjoy DHing once in a while, I can do it. It doesn’t really excite me being an everyday DH because all my career I’ve been in the outfield so, but yeah, one day, two days, you know, something happens, I’ll go and do it. I would love to be in the outfield, it’s something that I enjoy.
“Let’s be positive and hope Alex (Rodriguez) stays healthy and puts together another year like last year,” said Beltran.
First base could also be an issue, with Mark Teixeira returning from knee surgery and Greg Bird out for the season.
On possibly playing some first base, Beltran said, “I would do anything except that. I never play in the infield, that’s a different animal.
“My first year (as a Yankee in 2014), when something happened and Joe Girardi) said, ‘Carlos, you want to go to first,’ and I say, ‘brother, I go,’ and I had no cup, David Ortiz was hitting, first pitch I didn’t even see the ball coming out of the pitcher’s hand, I felt like everything happened so fast. That day, I said ‘wow!’, my respect for infielders for pitchers, for infielders, for everything because the game out there is so easy, so simple. You see the ball come out of the bat, but everything happened so fast in the infield, I say, I was praying to God that that game would end. I was very nervous, and it’s been a long time that I got nervous in the game of baseball, but that day, I was very nervous.”
With Hicks joining the outfield, which also has Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Beltran might find himself on the bench and being used as a pinch-hitter this season.
Beltran said of coming off the bench as a pinch-hitter, “You know how hard it is to come out as a pinch hitter when you’re sitting for six innings, then you go to the cage, take some swings? You’re not in the game. Sometimes I just don’t like the move when you take a guy who’s been in the game, active, and you bring someone in cold. Sometimes, it works, but the thing is like, for me, it has to be somebody that has done it for a long time. A player like that could give a good at-bat, a player like me – you say to me, ‘Carlos, I give you the day off,’ I disconnect myself from baseball.. I start eating sunflower seeds, gum, and chocolate, and I try to get myself ready for the sixth or seventh because I know that something might happen. I try to give the best I can, but it’s not the same from when I’m playing from the first inning all the way until the end because mentally, it’s hard to switch, turn it off or on.”
On what he would like to do after his playing career is over, Beltran said, “I love the game. Sometimes, when I think about baseball, basically, it’s something that has been a part of my life for a long time. I told my wife a couple days ago that I would love to stay in the game. I don’t know what aspect, but I feel like through my experience as a ballplayer, I have learned a lot of things in the game of baseball and I feel like there’s a lot of teams that I could share with the younger guys and or be part of an organization with how to deal with players, how to understand ballplayers because sometimes it could be difficult, it could be frustrating. Sometimes, you know, you could be having a conversation and maybe you can reach that player, but me, being a ballplayer, that player could say, ‘okay, this guy did it, this guy went through it, this guy lived it,’ maybe that would have more impact. I told my wife that I want to stay in the game. I don’t want to talk about that now because this is not the right time, but later on, I would love to share my plans in the game of baseball.”