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Yankees, Eager to Retire Numbers, Subtract Options for Current Players

The Yankees retire numbers with gusto, 18 to date and three more soon, but this zest also limits options when it comes to assigning numbers to current players.

TAMPA, Fla. — When Garrett Jones was traded to the Yankees in December, he was hoping to bring with him his good-luck charm of a number, 46. When the Yankees acquired shortstop Brendan Ryan, he knew he would be denied his favorite childhood number, 7. And when Jacoby Ellsbury signed a free-agent contract with the Yankees, he realized that even though the team was giving him $153 million, the Yankees would not give him a jersey with 2 on the back.

The Yankees lead the majors, by far, in retired jersey numbers. (Brett Carlsen for The New York Times)

When players join the Yankees, they are afforded all manners of privilege to play for one of sports’ marquee franchises, one with a tradition of winning and of sparing few expenses to do so.

But wearing their favorite number is often not one of them.

If the Yankees like to imagine they do things bigger and better than anyone else, they approach retiring numbers with the same gusto.

They have retired 18 numbers, and by the end of this summer, another three will be decommissioned: the No. 20 belonging to catcher Jorge Posada, pitcher Andy Pettitte’s 46 and the 51 worn by center fielder Bernie Williams. And it will not be long before Derek Jeter’s 2 joins them.

“I don’t know who’s wearing 39 now,” Ryan said (it’s pitcher Chase Whitley). “But I was like, Come on, you expect me to hit in that number? I need something a little easier on the eye. I feel like 17 is a nice, clean number.”

It also has a digit Mantle wore. But most important, with the Yankees, it was available.

A version of this article appears in print on March 2, 2015, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: 2=Jeter, 3=Ruth, 4=Gehrig … For Yanks, Numbers Are Finite. Order Reprints| Today’s Paper|Subscribe

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Source: The New York Times (1551 Articles)
Written by Billy Witz