The latest New York Yankees news brings great optimism for the organization and the fan base. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday afternoon that fans can return to sporting venues. Starting February 23rd, venues exceeding 10,000 people can admit 10% capacity. This applies for the stadiums/arenas of all New York sports teams. That includes the Mets, the Knicks and Nets in the NBA, and the Rangers, Islanders, and Buffalo Sabres in the NHL, as well. Also, it applies to Syracuse University’s Carrier Dome, Belmont Park, and the Saratoga Race Course.
Any fan wishing to attend a game or event must produce a negative Covid-19 test 72 hours ahead of time.
Additionally, the Yankees worked on a pod plan for the 2020 season. This plan did not come to fruition, but it called for 12,000-15,000 fans in Yankee Stadium. At max capacity, the stadium seats over 54,000 fans. Therefore, the plan for now is to sell around 5,400 tickets, short of their original plan. Regardless, 5,400 fans is still a drastic increase from zero fans.
— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) February 10, 2021
Emphasis on Safety
The Yankees still want to ensure the safety of all fans that will attend their games.
“Governor Cuomo’s announcement is an encouraging first step,” the organization said in a statement. “We thank the governor for his leadership, and we will continue to engage his office in productive dialogue moving forward. The safety of everyone who enters Yankee Stadium remains our top priority, and we will work diligently and in lock-step with the governor to ensure all precautions and procedures are being followed as we lead up to 2021 baseball.”
The Brooklyn Nets will be the first New York team to bring fans back into their facility, hosting the Sacramento Kings on the initial February 23rd start date. With Opening Day on April 1st, the Yankees will have approximately five weeks to fine tune their safety protocols, depending on how everything goes with New York’s basketball and hockey teams.
In other Yankees news, the team designated Ben Heller for assignment Wednesday afternoon. The move clears a spot on the 40-man roster, allowing the team can finalize their deal with Darren O’Day. Although Heller has been with the Yankees since 2016, he has pitched 31 1/3 MLB innings.
He was acquired along with Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, and J.P. Feyereisen from the Cleveland Indians in the Andrew Miller trade. His biggest issue is control, averaging 4.3 BB/9, but he pitched to a 2.59 ERA in the small sample with 8.6 K/9. Heller, 29, was never able to stick on the MLB roster, and now he becomes the odd-man out as the team makes room for the more established right-handed pitcher in O’Day.
According to Jon Heyman, O’Day, 38, will make $3.15 million over two years. His 2021 salary is $1.75 million with a $1.4 million player option for 2022. If he declines, the Yankees can either exercise a club option for $3.15 million or buy him out for $700,000.
Minor League Yankees News
The Somerset Patriots formally accepted the Yankees’ offer to be a MiLB affiliate on Wednesday. By signing Major League Baseball’s Professional Development License, the Patriots are now the Double-A team in the Yankees’ organization.
The former independent franchise takes over for the Trenton Thunder. The Thunder were a member of the Yankees’ farm system from 2003-2020, but MLB’s decision to realign MiLB left them without an invitation back to the system.
“[The Patriots] are extremely honored to join the New York Yankees family,” Patriots president/general manager Pat McVerry said in a statement. “We have worked hard as a staff and community for two decades to receive this opportunity. We are ready to take the experiences that our fans have grown to love and enhance it with the excitement of Yankees Double-A baseball.”
𝐎𝐟𝐟𝐢𝐜𝐢𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐲 𝐨𝐟𝐟𝐢𝐜𝐢𝐚𝐥! ✍
We have formally accepted the @Yankees invitation to join their organization as their new Double-A affiliate by signing Major League Baseball's Professional Development License (PDL) prior to today's deadline.
— Somerset Patriots (@SOMPatriots) February 10, 2021
Founded in 1997, the Patriots were members of the Atlantic League from 1998-2020. They play at TD Bank Park in Bridgewater, NJ. Additionally, former Yankees’ Cy Young Award winner Sparky Lyle managed the team from 1998-2012. Under Lyle, they won five Atlantic League championships and eight division championships.
Although they are moving on from the Thunder, the switch to the Patriots ensures that the Yankees will keep their Double-A team in NJ and more of their prospects remain close to the Bronx.
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