It may have to come from within. Their new manager, Aaron Boone, will wear No. 17.
The number is meaningful only to Boone. He was given No. 17 by the Cincinnati Reds, who drafted him out of the University of Southern California and for whom he played parts of seven seasons before being shipped to the Yankees in 2003.
When he arrived in New York as a player, No. 17, which had been worn by Gene Michael, Mickey Rivers and Oscar Gamble, among others, was being used by catcher John Flaherty, who is now a Yankees broadcaster. So Boone took No. 19, an ode to his college coach, Mike Gillespie, and to Greg Luzinski, a close friend and teammate of Boone’s father on the Philadelphia Phillies.
Credit Barton Silverman/The New York Times
Boone went back to No. 17 while with the Cleveland Indians in 2005 and 2006, then wore No. 8 — his father and grandfather’s numbers — in his final seasons with the Florida Marlins, the Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros.
“I guess when I consider my playing career, I think of No. 17,” Boone said. “So when No. 17 was available with the Yankees, I was like, I’ll take that.”
Boone said there would be no subliminal reminders of what the Yankees are chasing this year. They will be among the favorites, along with the defending champion Astros, Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox, to reach the World Series.
Indeed, in the early days of spring training under Boone, there are no T-shirt slogans (like the ones Chicago Cubs Manager Joe Maddon ritually trots out) or new motivational signs (like the ones that dot many major league clubhouses). In fact, when asked last week if there was anything new about spring training this year, C. C. Sabathia said, “We’ve got different lockers — that’s about it so far.”
Boone has taken a relaxed stance in spring training: blowing bubbles, chomping on gum, a bat seemingly always in hand, and a Yankees cap tilted back on his head as he bounces among the workout stations. He wants his hitters to be “obsessed” with controlling the strike zone and his pitchers to be “aggressively attacking” the strike zone. But he will leave much of the reinforcement of those themes to his coaching staff.
“Certainly we have things that are going to be incredibly important to us,” Boone said. “There are certainly messages that we want to be able to drive home through our positional coaches. But as far as me saying I want to put an overall stamp on it, no.”
No. 28 Has a New Back
The Yankees, the first team to put numbers on the backs of uniforms, have a peculiar relationship with them.
Their 21 retired numbers are by far the most of any franchise, and then there are the ones that are unofficially off the books. Paul O’Neill’s No. 21 has been worn only briefly since he retired in 2001, even though Todd Frazier badly wanted it last season. Alex Rodriguez’s No. 13 has not been put back into circulation since he was sent into retirement in the middle of the 2016 season. And no Yankee has worn No. 0.
Credit Edward Linsmier for The New York Times
This season, No. 28, the number formerly worn by Girardi, will be worn by Austin Romine, the backup catcher.
It arrived to him by happenstance. Romine wore No. 27 the last two seasons, but when the Yankees acquired Giancarlo Stanton, the reigning National League most valuable player, in the off-season, Stanton inquired about the number. He wore No. 27 for his entire career with the Marlins.
Romine acceded to Stanton’s wishes and shooed away an offer of compensation. (When John Lackey arrived in St. Louis several years ago, he gave Pat Neshek a Babe Ruth-autographed baseball for giving up No. 41.)
“I’m just happy to have a number,” said Romine, who has worn more of them than any other Yankee: 71, 53, 45, 62, 27 and now 28. “I said: Is 28 available? Then I’ll take 28.”
Romine called it a plus that his new number was worn by Girardi, a former catcher whom Romine respects. Growing up, Romine always wanted to wear No. 16, the number his father, Kevin, wore with the Boston Red Sox, but he knew that would not happen the moment he was drafted by the Yankees.
“Whitey Ford took care of that a long time ago,” Romine said, referring to the Hall of Fame pitcher whose number was retired in 1974.
For the time being, the number that represented so much for the Yankees for the previous eight seasons will mean something less. There is no symbolism in No. 28 this season for the man who will wear it, no inherent reminders for players and fans of what the Yankees are chasing this season.
“For me,” Romine said, “it’s just the next number.”