Back to Baseball……..

With the new season almost upon us, it’s time to catch up on what’s been happening in Spring Training and beyond……

The Yankees had the worst news going into Spring Training as the detail broke that Alex Rodriguez had used steroids whilst with his previous club, Texas Rangers. Rodriguez, in a fair world, should be serving a lengthy suspension but because of the time in which this happened no punitive action has been taken.

Fortunately / unfortunately, it was revealed that A-Rod was carrying a hip problem and would need surgery resulting in him being out of the mix for two-three months. This enabled the rest of the team to get on with the matter in hand without the spotlight caused by their team-mate’s behaviour.

Being able to concentrate on baseball served them well and the Yankees have produced the record of all those in the "Grapefruit League" (training teams based in Florida). They’ve won 20, lost 10 and tied 1.

What does this mean for the team we’ll see for the first series of the regular season?

The injured Alex Rodriguez will be replaced by Cody Ransom who has hit .262 in the Spring. Back-up for that position? Well, my money would be on either Ramiro Pena or Angel Berroa. Both were non-roster invitees to training. Berroa has hit well but Pena looks the better in the field.

Last year’s bright hopes, Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes were both re-assigned to minor league camp some time ago. Hughes had a good Spring and is unfortunate. Kennedy will probably hawk his attitude in another town if he wants to get back to the Majors.

Suprise of the Spring was Japanese left-hander, Kei Igawa who pitched extremely well giving up only 1 run in his appearances as a reliever. He didn’t make the cut but could also find a job elsewhere.

Brett Gardner beat out Melky Cabrera for the centrefielder’s job. I’m sad about this one but I suspect that Melky’s cards have been marked against him since he was re-assigned to Scranton during August last year.

Last major issue to be decided? Who will pitch in long-relief? Alfredo Aceves, Dan Giese and non-roster man Bret Tomko have all been used in that role but it seems that Girardi might not go with any of them. The money is on Jonathan Albaladejo getting the last spot on the roster. He won’t be used for as many innings so this will put extra weight on the starters.

So who will we see?

1B – Mark Teixeira. (25). New signing who has had a quiet Spring.
2B – Robinson Cano (24). Needs to improve on last year.
3B – Cody Ransom (12). Will be over-matched and is a streaky hitter. But he has none of the hoop-la surrounding A-Rod.
SS – Derek Jeter (2). Has had negative press for his fielding performance but I don’t see that he’s as bad as they say.
LF – Johnny Damon (18). Another quiet Spring but he should be ready on the day.
CF – Brett Gardner (11). I’d have preferred to see Melky but I wish him well.
RF – Xavier Nady (22). Beat out Nick Swisher in what was really a no-contest.
C – Jorge Posada (20) / Jose Molina (26). Could still be either of them on opening day. Posada hasn’t seen much time behind the plate in the Spring
DH – Hideki Matsui (55). Coming off surgery. Swisher is waiting in the wings.

Starting Pitchers:

CC Sabathia (52)
AJ Burnett (34)
Chien Ming-Wang (40)
Andy Pettitte (46)
Joba Chamberlain (62)

All of the starters have come through a relatively successful Spring and the rotation is as expected.

Relief Pitchers:

Jonathan Albaladejo (63)
Brian Bruney (38)
Phil Coke (48)
Damaso Marte (43)
Edwar Ramirez (36)
Jose Veras (41)
Mariano Rivera (42)

On the bench? I’d expect to see Nick Swisher (33), Melky Cabrera (53), Ramiro Pena (he’s been using 90, I think).

Prediction? If they can avoid being daunted by the A-Rod circus when he returns, I expect them to win the American League East.

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