TAMPA, Fla. -- The suitcases were already being lined up outside the Yankees' clubhouse at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Thursday morning. Above them was a sign taped to the cinderblock wall: "Panama Luggage Here."
That's something you don't see every day. In fact, when the Yankees and Marlins square off Saturday and Sunday in Panama City, it will be the first time Major League teams have played in that country since the Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers met there in 1947.
The historic trip formally got underway when the buses that would take the traveling party to Tampa International Airport left the ballpark following Thursday's 6-0 split-squad Grapefruit League win over the Orioles. Joe Girardi understands the significance of the Legends Series that is a tribute to former Yankees great Mariano Rivera.
"We know what the Yankees mean to Mo, and we know what his country means. To be able to combine the two is really special. Because Mo goes home every winter and sees family. He loved his time there," the manager said. "For me, if I was ever able to bring the Yankees to East Peoria, Illinois, it would be a huge deal to me. Right? And that's in the same country. So it is a huge deal."
Girardi said packing always leaves him "in a tizzy" but that he's looking forward to the experience. "I want to see the Panama Canal. I want to see things I've never seen before," he said.
Yanks set roster for Legends Series in Panama
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees were tweaking their travel roster for the historic Legends Series against the Marlins until the end. Manager Joe Girardi announced Thursday morning that he had decided not to take catcher Brian McCann as expected, replacing him with Francisco Cervelli.
"I just thought it worked better if [McCann] stayed here seeing our starters," the manager said before a 6-0 split-squad Grapefruit League win over the Orioles at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Adam Warren and CC Sabathia will face the Marlins at Rod Carew Stadium. This allows McCann to be behind the plate for Masahiro Tanaka on Sunday and Hiroki Kuroda on Monday.
Girardi said several factors went into determining which players would make the trip. He said that Derek Jeter had a "responsibility" to go, and that he wanted to keep his regular outfield together in Panama and the rest of his infield as a unit in Florida. Taking some Latin stars for the Panamanian audience was a minor consideration.
"A little bit, yeah," Girardi said. "Obviously, I'm sure they follow a lot of our Latin stars. But they follow all our players because of Mo. They follow their team."
The complete Panama roster:
Pitchers: Cesar Cabral, Robert Coello, Preston Claiborne, Matt Daley, Chris Leroux, Jim Miller, David Robertson, Sabathia, Yoshinori Tateyama, Warren, Chase Whitley
Catchers: Cervelli, Jose Gil, John Ryan Murphy, Gary Sanchez
Infielders: Dean Anna, Jeter, Corban Joseph, Jose Pirela, Yangervis Solarte, Zelous Wheeler
Outfielders: Zoilo Almonte, Carlos Beltran, Adonis Garcia, Brett Gardner, Antoan Richardson, Alfonso Soriano
Girardi not worried about Jeter's spring stats
TAMPA, Fla. -- Yankees manager Joe Girardi fielded questions on a number of subjects before and after Thursday's 6-0 split-squad Grapefruit League win over the Orioles at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
On the fact that shortstop Derek Jeter went 0-for-4 against the Orioles and is batting just .167 this spring: "Timing's messed up. I've seen him pull some balls, and that's kind of unusual. Older guys you don't worry so much about early on in Spring Training. I can remember Lou Piniella told me not to worry about Raul Ibanez, that I'd see it in the last week and he'd start to hit. And he was right. Sometimes it just takes those guys a little longer to get going."
On the potential difficulty of finding playing time for Ichiro Suzuki in the crowded Yankees outfield: "Things have a way of working out a lot of times. You just kind of let things sort themselves out before you make statements. Because you never know. We've seen how quickly the landscape can change around here. You try to prepare everyone to be ready to play on Opening Day. That's what I'm trying to do.
"Everything becomes a little trickier on how to do it [if everybody stays healthy]. A lot of it depends on how guys are playing and how he's swinging. So it becomes a little trickier."
On how outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury has managed to keep such a low profile despite signing a seven-year, $153 million free-agent contract: "Our shortstop really helped that out [Jeter announced that he'll retire at the end of the season]. And sometimes, when you're the only guy, the big free agent who comes in, I think it's tougher on those guys. But with the people we've brought in [Masahiro Tanaka, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran], it's spread around. So it's probably worked out to his advantage. Replay has helped. Collisions have helped out. There's been a lot of stuff to talk about this spring."
On whether that will change once the regular season starts: "Sure will."
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.