FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - The Yankees re-captured New York last season. Now they have their sights set on the American League East. Manager Buck Showalter knows that Toronto and Baltimore are heavy favorites before the race even starts. But he exudes a quiet confidence that is shared by newly-acquired pitcher Terry Mulholland, who won 12 games for the National League champion Philadephia Phillies last season. "I like our chances," Mulholland said. "I like them a lot this year. "The Phillies were probably the tightest-knit team I've ever played on. You couldn't rattle them. The only thing we worried about was who we were going to beat next." The Yankees began cultivating that attitude last season. But they needed a few more players to back it up. The next seven weeks will tell if they found them. Though they finished seven games behind the two-time World Series champion Blue Jays, Showalter's scrappy team made it special to be a Yankee and a Yankees fan again. The high-voltage electricity that once made Yankee Stadium feel like a Con Edison power plant was humming again, the way it did in 1981, when the Yankees last won the AL East. No one understood the return of Yankee pride better than infielder Mike Gallego, who felt the first stirrings of the brash confidence he once knew with the Oakland A's powerhouse teams of the late 1980s. "We had that feeling from Day 1 last year of spring training," said Gallego, the lone position player working out Thursday, the first day with pitchers and catchers. "When I looked at the names above these lockers when I first walked in, I knew this team was going to be the team to make people Yankee fans again. "I knew this was going to be the Yankees team this organization has been looking for for a long, long time." The Yankees spent 16 days tied for first place with Toronto. The last time was Sept. 9. There are cornerstones in place at the corners in Don Mattingly and Wade Boggs, two pure hitters who have batted .300 or better 17 of their combined 22 major league seasons. Former Blue Jay Jimmy Key showed himself last season to be the stopper the team had long been seeking, winning 18 games, the most by a Yankee since 1986. The Yankees have better starting pitching if Jim Abbott pitches like the Abbott of 1991 than '93 and if Melido Perez can rebound from shoulder surgery. They also have chemistry - and leadership. "There's not just one captain," Gallego said. "We all know Donnie's our captain. But he knows if he doesn't feel like doing something, someone else will. We have enough veterans in here who will either lead by example or will actually say something to somebody if need be." Showalter was proud of the way the Yankees maintained their composure themselves when they were eliminated from first place to finish second. They seemingly have the pressure-proof players who welcome performing in New York. "This is what we do for a living, playing in front of millions of people. We enjoy being on stage. What better stage can you ask for than Yankee Stadium?" Gallego said. Left-hander Bob Ojeda revealed something about himself by signing a minor-league contract with the Yankees less than a year after returning from a tragic boating accident that killed two Cleveland Indians teammates. "Right away you get some idea of what kind of character this man has," Gallego said. "He's not afraid of failure. You definitely can't be afraid of failure when you come to New York."
CORBETT, JIM, FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - The Yankees Re-captured New York Last Season., Gannett News Service, 02-17-1994.