“Hire This Man!”

Those were the words of Larry David pretending to be George Steinbrenner, but I imagine the real Steinbrenner would echo those sentiments if he had seen Ivan Nova pitch tonight.

Nova did everything you could have wanted him to do in six innings. No hits, only three flyballs, four K’s and no runs allowed. Realistically, he will get two more starts this spring (he could get a 3rd against minor leaguers) but the Yankees should have seen enough to give him a spot in the rotation.

Yes, Garcia has pitched pretty well. Yes, Colon has as well, but consider what Nova represents. He represents a young, cost-effective, starting pitcher who will be under Yankee control into the second half of this decade. Putting him into the 2011 rotation, probably means he is in the 2012 rotation as well, solving a future problem as well. You simply can’t leave him behind in Scranton two weeks from now.

The Yankees cut six guys after the game, most notably Brackman and Russo. That leaves the following battles left to be determined:

Backup catcher- hard to see anyone but Montero get it at this point.

Backup infielder- Nunez vs. Pena

Backup bat on bench- This seems to now be officially down to Chavez vs. Vazquez

Back of the rotation- I know that we keep hearing four guys for two spots, but I think it is down to 3- Garcia, Colon and Nova with Mitre the odd man out.

Everything else appears to be set barring injury. Colon has reportedly told the Yankees he would be willing to pitch in relief, so would they keep him over Mitre? And Romulo Sanchez is out of options, so the Yankees will have to see if they can trade him somewhere in the next few weeks.

You Read It Here First…

…unless of course you first visited espn.com, boston.com, bostonherald.com, mlb.com and most other sports related websites, that Jon Lester will be the Red Sox opening day starter.

Is this a surprise? It shouldn’t be, especially when most speculated that it would come down to Lester or Josh Beckett for the opening day nod. The fact is, Lester is a far superior pitcher and has left Beckett in the dust the past few years. Now, if Beckett can get healthy and regain his form, we might have a debate.

Not only is this not a surprise, but given how poorly Beckett pitched last year (he had the highest WHIP of any pitcher who started a game for the Red Sox last year), Clay Buchholz, John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka would be more deserving of the nod.

I’m piling it on Beckett now and he really doesn’t deserve that as he was injured, but given he is just starting his $17mm a year (X4) deal this year, he’d better fix what ails him and pitch like an ace. Anything less will be a disappointment.

Monday night showed us what could be the Red Sox opening day roster. Here’s what it looked like:

Ellsbury – CF
Pedroia – 2b
Crawford – LF
Youkilis – 3b
Gonzalez – 1b
Ortiz – dh
Cameron – RF
Saltalamacchia – c
Scutaro – ss

Now the only obvious change is that JD Drew should be the opening day starter in right, but with his hamstring history, Cameron might get the nod. In addition, If Drew were in the line-up, that would put Gonzalez, Ortiz and Drew in a row, 3 lefties. I doubt Terry Francona would let that happen, so you might see Gonzalez and Youkilis swap spots to break things up a bit. But, as is clear, this is a lefty-heavy line-up making the success and health of Pedroia, Youkilis, Saltalamacchia and Scutaro (Lowrie) very important.

Thanks For Nothing YES

I was really excited to see the Yankees game tonight and get a chance to see Manny face a very good lineup. So, I was a bit perturbed when I switched over to ESPN 2 tonight and didn’t find the game. After doing some digging online, I found out that YES kept the game off the air in New York City because they own the “territory rights”. So, I didn’t get to see Manny pitch against what just might be the regular Red Sox lineup, but I can see the boxscore. 2.2IP 2 H’s 0R 3BB’s 2K’s.

The number one question with Banuelos will be how many innings can he give the Yankees organization this year? He threw 109 in 2009, but only managed 64 last year when he missed a big chunk of the year due to an appendectomy. I can’t imagine the Yankees will let him pitch more than 140 innings this year so they are going to have to get creative if they want him to be able to make an impact on the big league roster this year.

I imagine they will keep his starts short in Trenton and Scranton when he gets there. Even with that, he is probably going to have to be either shutdown or sent to the bullpen somewhere around August. We will probably see the same thing happen to Betances as well. While it’s fun to see these two starters and think about how they can help the club in the future, it will probably only be as relievers in 2011 if at all.

A Bench Hint

LoHud is reporting the Yankees will bring Eduardo Nunez off the bench to play left in tonight’s game.

This makes it pretty easy to see what the Yankees want to do with their bench this season. Assuming they take 12 pitchers, they have room for four guys off the bench. We know Andruw Jones is one of them and we can probably assume Montero is another. That gives you an OF and backup catcher. The backup infielder spot comes down to Pena or Nunez and now both of them could be called on to play the outfield in an emergency. That’s important because it would allow the Yankees to feel pretty good about Eric Chavez or Jorge Vazquez being the fourth guy on the bench. Chavez can cover third and first, Vazquez may only be able to cover first, but the Yankees would have an emergency outfielder in Nunez or Pena.

A bench of Jones, Montero, Chavez and Nunez would be the best bench the Yankees have had to start the season in years. You would have two good righty options to pinch hit with and a decent lefty one. Nunez can certainly steal a base when needed and you have extra depth at every position except the middle infield. It would be a weird experience having a bench that could be productive. After all, last year the Yankees opened with Cervelli, Winn, Thames and Pena as their bench.

Suddenly A Door Opens

The word out of Tampa is that Francisco Cervelli has a fractured foot and will be in a walking boot for the next four weeks. That obviously creates a need for the Yankees in terms of backup catcher and there are a number of ways they could go.

They could let Jorge Posada assume the role of backup, but I would guess they won’t.

They could give the job to Jesus Montero.

They could try and get another veteran or let Gustavo Molina take the role.

1997 probably provides a good guide of what will happen. That was the year the Yankees made Jorge Posada Joe Girardi’s backup and let him start 52 games behind the plate. They viewed it as a chance for Girardi to mentor Posada. Well now it’s Posada’s turn to be the mentor and with Girardi and Pena also in the dugout, Montero will have plenty of people who can advise him.

You have to feel for Cervelli, there is a good chance he just got Wally Pipped.

Stay Classy New York

Here at YankeesRedSox.com, we strive to have civilized discussions on all things Yankees and Red Sox. We like to think that the reason we have this site is to encourage healthy debate and we get that consistantly from all of you. Thank you.

Nothing better enforces the idea that is just a sport and shouldn’t be taken too seriously than this story that ran in today’s WSJ. Talk about baseball taking a backseat.

Kudos to the Yankees organization on making a very tough situation, a bit better.

-Andy, Red Sox fan