April 2, 2009

Spring Training Recap

The Yankees closed out spring training yesterday with another win over the Phillies.  The win gave them a 22-10-1 record for the spring - the best record of any Grapefruit League team.  Only the Angels of the Cactus League had a better record than the Yanks, as they went 24-7.  However, it's just spring training, and records don't matter.  Let's look at the important stuff that happened:

Resolved Issues:
Center field battle:  Everybody knew that center field was up for grabs this spring.  Brett Gardner ousted Melky Cabrera for the starting job.  Gardner lit pitchers up this spring (.377/.441/.623), and ultimately his speed, defense, and potential beat out Melky's experience.

Right field battle:  I didn't even think this was a battle going into spring, but some people believed Nick Swisher had a chance to beat Xavier Nady for the job.  In the end, those people were wrong, as Joe Girardi announced that Nady would start towards the end of the spring.

Starting rotation finalized:  This was not that big of an issue going into the spring because the Yankees already had five starters.  One of the only questions was the order, but that was taken care of.  They were probably sticking with the current five as long as none of them totally blew up in spring or got injured.  Neither of those things happened, and the rotation looks as good as ever going into the season.

CC Sabathia
Chien-Ming Wang
A.J. Burnett
Andy Pettitte
Joba Chamberlain

Bullpen finalized:  Going in to the spring, the Yankees had well over 10 candidates for eight spots in the bullpen.  Finally, they've narrowed it down to eight, but the Yanks have many players awaiting their chance to prove themselves in the minors.  With Jonathan Albaladejo headed to New York, the Yankees will open the season without a designated long relief pitcher, despite Brett Tomko's impressive spring.

Mariano Rivera (CL)
Damaso Marte
Brian Bruney
Jonathan Albaladejo
Jose Veras
Edward Ramirez
Phil Coke

Lineup finalized:  When Alex Rodriguez went down with a hip injury in the beginning of spring, Yankee fans were stunned and panicking about what the lineup would look like without A-Rod.  Utility infielder Cody Ransom came to the rescue, and will be inserted to the eighth spot in the order until A-Rod returns.  Another big decision that was made towards the end of spring was swapping Johnny Damon and Derek Jeter at the top of the order.  Girardi seems to be in love with that move since it took him less than a week to verify the call. 

Derek Jeter
Johnny Damon
Mark Teixeira
Hideki Matsui
Jorge Posada
Robinson Cano
Xavier Nady
Cody Ransom
Brett Gardner

Unresolved Issues:
Setup man:  Joe Girardi has not officially designated Brian Bruney or Damaso Marte as the setup man for big Mo.  Bruney has said that he is assuming he has the job until somebody tells him otherwise, but I'm sure Marte is thinking the same thing.  Neither Bruney nor Marte had good springs.  I would say, Girardi is going to use one or the other based on the opposing hitters, at least until either dramatically stands out over the other.

Utility infielder:  When Alex Rodriguez gets back, Ransom will assume the utility infield role.  But for now, the battle between Angel Berroa and Ramiro Pena continues.  Cashman mentioned that the answer could lie outside the organization, but I find that doubtful.

Overall, the Yankees had a good spring.  They got a lot done, and only have a couple more problems to solve.  Luckily, they avoided major injuries.  A-Rod out for the first month is not nearly as bad as it could have been.  What if Burnett's arm started acting up?  Things could be a lot worse.

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