Pitchers And Catchers

Today’s the day we all have waited for, pitchers and catchers are reporting in Tampa.  As the Yankees look to defend their title, there are only a few questions that need to be answered in camp, but some of them are going to be big ones. 

First up is who will be the fifth starter?  Joe Girardi may say that it’s a five-pitcher race, but I don’t believe him.  I think this probably comes down to Hughes or Chamberlain.  I know there is a story in the Post today that the Yankees are going to put Joba in the bullpen no matter what, but I don’t believe that either.  The Yankees could have kept Joba in the pen in 2009, but they felt he could be a front line starter.  Through July 30th, it looked like he was well on his way as he sported as 7-2 record with a 3.58 ERA. 

We know what happened next, but I still think a lot of it had to do with the Yankees and the way they tried to manipulate his innings.   There is only one way to find out- let him loose for an entire season and see what happens.  I bet the Yankees do that and put Hughes back into the bullpen, but there is one problem with that; it doesn’t prepare Hughes for the role he may need to assume in 2011.  

I think the ultimate hopes of the Yankees are that Joba and Hughes pitch in the rotation in 2011.  Getting Hughes to be in position to fill that role is going to be a challenge.  If they put him in the bullpen from the start of the season, he probably won’t pitch more than 100 innings if that.  That will mean we would have the "Hughes Rules" in 2011. 

The resolution of the rotation will help clear up the next question of camp which is what will the bullpen look like?  I think you can pretty much close five spots right now- Mo, the loser of the rotation competition, Marte, Robertson and Aceves.  That leaves a lot of arms in play for the final two spots.  I think Logan or Ring have to be considered favorites for one spot since the Yankees would probably like to take two lefties and the last spot will be wide open with Gaudin, Mitre, Melancon and Albie all in the mix.  (I could see the Yankees trading Gaudin)

Another big question is what will the lineup look like?  We know Jeter leads off and Tex and A-Rod are the 3/4, but what about the other spots?  I think the Yankees might go with Granderson in the #2 spot against RHP and Johnson hitting 7th.  Those two could also flip-flop spots against LHP.  The 5 spot is probably going to go to Cano because the Yankees could then round out the rest of lineup alternating between lefties and switch-hitters (Posada-Johnson-Swisher-Gardner). 

A smaller question is who is playing left and who is playing center?  I am not sure if there will be a definitive answer reached in spring training and it wouldn’t shock me to see both guys get a lot of appearances in both spots.  But, there is another question that directly impacts this one and it is who are the outfielders who make this team?  

Obviously, we know that Swisher, Granderson and Gardner are on the team, but I wouldn’t go further than that.  Winn has the inside track at the fourth spot, but if he bombs in camp I bet the Yankees trade or release him.  Thames is going to have to fight Hoffmann and Golson off for the final outfield spot.  

And finally, what about the extra infielder?  I think Ramiro Pena is the safe bet, but if Kevin Russo shows them something, the Yankees just might take him.  

Some big questions, some smaller ones, but the important thing is that baseball is back!