Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mid-Spring Training Update

While the rest of the sports world loses their mind over the fact that Tiger Woods is coming back to the sport hobby of golf, I thought we should take a quick look at some of the questions that were on our minds as the Yankees entered Spring Training, and how they are being answered.

Center Field
Who's in the lead for Center Field? Well nobody, really. Brett Gardner is batting .158 in his 19 ABs, although he does have 4 walks, which looks good to Girardi, who recently said that OBP is the most important statistic. Jamie Hoffman is 3 for 20 with 1 K and no walks. Marcus Thames and Randy Winn are batting .158 and .188 respectively; Thames has 6 Ks, Winn has 4. So far, the immortal Greg Golson is the statistic leader batting .308 in his 12 ABs, which is 5 more than his ABs in real games. Winn and Thames are probably past their Sell By dates, though Girardi might want to keep them for their "experience." Hoffman will probably be sent back to LA unless he comes on strong soon. The guess is Gardner will get either center or left field and may platoon with the righty Golson, at least for the beginning of the season.

Bullpen Lefties
Amazingly, what was considered a problem has been a pleasant surprise so far. While Damaso Marte has been under a cautious spring and has not pitched much, he is expected to be healthy this year. And when healthy in the past, he's been very good. Behind him however, were a number of drifters and journeymen. However, Royce Ring and Boone Logan have both been fairly impressive in their spring outings. Logan has a 3.18 ERA with 3 Ks. Ring has been even better—a 0.00 ERA with 4 Ks in 3.1 innings. So far, both have made a brief but nice case to keep two lefties in the bullpen. And then there's the question of Chan Ho Park, who's yet to pitch in a game yet. My guess is that he starts in AAA and is the first call up. Also Mark Melancon has pitched well. All in all, the bullpen, if the Yankees keep two lefties, (my very tentative guess) looks like this:


Whoa, why is Chamberlain in the pen? Which brings us to the next question.

5th Starter
To be honest the best fifth starter has been Alfredo Aceves. He has given up 1 run and 3 hits in 10 innings. Hughes hasn't been bad either—while testing out on a new pitch, a changeup—he has a 3.86 ERA in limited work and has looked fairly sharp. Joba Chamberlain, on the other hand, has made a strong case to have his career as a starter shutdown forever. Unlike the Joba who threw with authority towards the end of the 2009 season, when he was shifted to the pen, the 2010 Joba  looks like the tentative one we saw in the middle of 2009 as a struggling starter. Sergio Mitre and Chad Gaudin have had ups and downs (with Gaudin claiming fatigue recently) and will probably return to their spot starter/long relief roles. Look for Hughes to start the season as the 5th starter and for Aceves to be right there in case he falters. Also, look for Hughes to get extra rest as Aceves can spot start for him and keep Hughes innings down.

Backup Catcher
Despite a scare with a concussion early in the Spring, Francisco Cervelli has hit the ball fairly well. Cervelli has only been up 9 times so far, because of the aforementioned injury and the fact that the Yankees brought 806 catchers to Spring Training. Cervelli though has 4 hits, including a triple (when was the last time you saw a Yankee catcher his a triple?). If Cervelli shows he can handle himself as a backup, it will take the pressure off of Girardi to play Posada a lot more than he should, and free him to rest and play more DH.

Spring training still has about 2-1/2 weeks left, and situations can change, so nothing is written in stone. However, some decisions are starting to get locked down. Girardi has publically stated that Robinson Cano will bat fifth in the lineup ahead of Posada and Curtis Granderson. Quoted recently about Cano moving to 5 in the lineup, Girardi said this:

“If you’re going to hit a left-hander fifth (Cano), you prefer to have a switch-hitter sixth (Posada). Then maybe another left-hander seventh (Granderson), and then a switch-hitter eighth (Swisher), and then maybe another left-hander.”

Sounds like Gardner has an advantage over most of the other outfielders, who are mostly righties. Also, Girardi has spoken to reporters with today's lineup most likely would be the Opening Day lineup. And Brett Gardner is starting in center field and is batting 9th.

So with the lineup mostly set, and some good guesses to what may be the rotation, the question is, is this team better than last year's team?

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