So still on the baseball theme. After several weeks of Spring training games the Yankees have named their opening day roster. Let’s have a look at the runners and riders:
Jonathan Albaladejo (63) . A little bit of an unknown quantity for me. Right-handed relief pitcher who was traded for during the off-season in the Tyler Clippard deal. Clippard was going nowhere in New York so Albaladejo, who is a better fit for a relief position by all accounts, could be a good acquisition. 1-1 with a 1.88 ERA at Washington when he came up towards the end of last year. Blew his only save opportunity.
Brian Bruney (33). Great on his day. Dreadful when he isn’t. And notoriously inconsistent. Has done well to be still around. Hope he makes the best of the opportunity.
Joba Chamberlain (62). He was going to make the starting rotation. And then he wasn’t. He comes back in roughly the same role as last year but with some of the pitch restrictions lifted but also with some of the memories of his struggles in the post-season. Only time will tell.
LaTroy Hawkins (21). Coming in from Colorado as a free agent and the fourth right-hander on the roster. Last year was a good year for him after two seasons moving around and posting an ERA over 4. NYY are expecting a lot from him. It’ll be interesting to see if he delivers.
Kyle Farnsworth (48). Another right-hand reliever. And one that the Bronx crowd will feel that they have seen enough of after two sub-par years. It’s hard to believe he would be back again if it wasn’t for Joe Girardi taking over as manager and all the talk of their strong relationship when Farnsworth played with him before. I’m not holding my breath.
Phil Hughes (34). First of the starting pitchers on my list. Huge expectations which have been balanced a little by Chamberlain’s emergence. Improved during his short tenure in the job last season, finishing with 5 wins.
Ian Kennedy (31). Another young right-handed starter. Made just 3 appearances last year, finishing with a very solid 1.89 ERA. It will be interesting to see how he fares in May & June after his pitches are better understood by their opponents.
Mike Mussina (35). The face of experience on the starting staff, coming off a very rocky year. His figures on paper don’t look much worse for last year than some of those preceding years but the pen and ink doesn’t tell the full story. There’s a legitimate question here as to whether he can still cut it at this level and if he doesn’t it leaves precious little hiding place for the young arms, bearing in mind Pettitte’s troubled off-season.
Ross Ohlendorf (39). Texan who made six good appearance at the tail-end of last year and who had a good Spring. More of the same please.
Mariano Rivera (42). What can I say? I’ve watched a lot of baseball (contemporary and historic) over the last 20 years and Rivera is the best relief pitcher I’ve ever seen. He’s getting older but close to his best will still be better than anyone else.
Billy Traber (61). This one I didn’t anticipate. Journeyman left-handed reliever who was released by Washington after two not-very-impressive years on and off their roster. Says more about the lack of left-handed relievers in Spring Training than anything else. We’ve fooled ourselves before that ordinary pitchers can suddenly become great. Can anyone say Aaron Small?
Chien Ming-Wang (40). No. 1 starter going into the season and deservedly so for this guy coming off two 19 win seasons. Can he make 20 this time around? Slight question mark over his big occasion temperament?
Jose Molina (26). Solid back-up catcher who can spell Posada. Hard to imagine anyone better in the role.
Jorge Posada (20). Great season last year but he is another year older and coming off a slow Spring. Good tandem with Molina even if he doesn’t repeat.
Wilson Betemit (14). Can be used in a range of positions and is also a useful bat off the bench. Good to see him back but glad we’re not relying on him to be every day at 3b.
Robinson Cano (24). 25 years old and you won’t find many better fielding-and-hitting players in that position in the major leagues. A lot will rest on him continuing to produce.
Shelley Duncan (17). A clutch of home runs and good attitude marked his arrival in the Majors last year. His batting average dipped in the later days of the season and, for me, he is still a question mark for the long-term. 1b is wide-open and that is not necessarily a good thing.
Morgan Ensberg (11). Another surprise name. And another journeyman who is unlikely to be in the post-season in 2008 whether the Yankees make it there or not. Recently with the Astros and Padres, he is patient at the plate and will draw walks but it’s hard when that’s the best thing you can think to say about him.
Derek Jeter (2). Mr Consistency. A great shortstop and a vital part of the team. If he does well so will the Yankees
Alex Rodriguez (13). He wasn’t coming back but now he’s here for the rest of his career or until next time he changes his mind. The Canseco story might disturb him and he has to win back fans who were never really with him in the first place. We’ll see how it goes……
Bobby Abreu (53). His 101 RBIs and 25 stolen bases last year were a vital component that is easy to overlook. Solid, dependable and a great advantage for us in all that he brings to the team
Melky Cabrera (28). It’s easy to forget that he’s still the 4th youngest player on the roster. 2007 wasn’t quite 2006 for Melky but he means that it would be hard to improve on two parts of the outfield.
Johnny Damon (18). Like Mussina, he had a sub-par 2007. Can he come back to his previous standard? Does he still have the desire for the game that he had during his Boston years? Another question mark.
Hideki Matsui (55). The recently married Mr. Matsui. Slow start to Spring training and advancing years but it’s still good to have him on the team.
Jason Giambi (25). Hard-to-believe that Giambi would still be in the Bronx if it wasn’t for the ridiculous contract that the Yankees gifted him in earlier years. I’d be happier if he wasn’t on the roster but for the team’s sake, I hope he has a better year than his forgettable 2007.
Andy Pettitte (46). Back trouble puts him on the disabled list after a difficult and troubling off-season. Can he overcome all that he has brought upon himself? Is he still the pitcher he was even without all the back-story? We’ll have to wait and see a little longer…
Sean Henn (30). Mr Henn gets more chances than most but his left-handed action means he is still in the mix but injured. If and when Traber goes to triple-A, he may get yet another chance but the main question is which team will give him a tryout after that.
Scott Patterson (no number allocated). A surprising exclusion. His time will come.
Kei Igawa, Jose Veras, Edwar Ramirez, Chase Wright. We’ve seen them before. The writing is on the wall as they fail to make the cut.
Darrell Rasner, Jeff Karstens. They were supposed to be the two major candidates for the long-relief spot. Neither of them made it. Who will be in long-relief? Will Karstens return to health? Will Rasner settle for being at Triple-A? Questions, always questions…..
Overall we look a little thin. 1b is a real question and LF is a dilemma. Left-handed relief is very weak. Do we have 5 dependable starters? We need a little luck and one or two new faces if we are going to trouble Boston for the division leadership.
Prediction: Wild Card.