In case you missed it Pitchers and Catchers have reported for duty. We are now free from the Johan talk and soon (I hope) the Roger Clemens saga will quiet down. So we can now concetrate on actual baseball related items.
Spring training is a great time of year when every player is filled with potential and we are reminded that spring is coming. The sight of players doing sprints, playing catch and taking BP fills me with joy. Its time to talk real baseball stories so lets take a look at the top story lines of the spring:
Who will fill the Firstbase role?
The canidates are Shelley Duncan, Morgan Ensberg, Wilson Betemit, Jason Giambi, Jason Lane, Hideki Matsui and maybe later in the season possibly Nick Johnson or Juan Miranda. Long on canidates, short on answers. I think you pencil Shelley Duncan in for some time here as he is almost guaranteed to make the team at least as a part time role. Also, Jason Giambi will probably get more time then we all think. Spring training will determine who the "other" guy is. Morgan Ensberg probably has the inside track to make the team, with Jason Lane being the longshot. Expect a revolving door at first; some Giambi early, Shelley against lefties, Betemit at times and Ensberg being given a shot. Firstbase may be be a revolving door, but all of the candidates this year have a higher upside then the Phelps or Phillips combo from last year. I don't think we should make a move now for a long term solution. Mark Texiera is available at the end of the year; if he gets away I think you look to make a move, but this year will be done by committee and the offense is in a place where we can be a little patient here. My hope is that Shelley and Betemit get the majority of the ABs here.
How will the veterans react to General Joe?
I see Joe Girardi as a blend between Buck Showalter an Don Zimmer; a super-prepared advanced baseball mind but with some more people skills and a better feel for the game then Buck. Joe G. will try and create a certain atmosphere and will be a lot more hands-on then Torre was. We have already seen the General Joe rules and it will be intertesing to see how the veterans and long term Torre guys react to a more controlled environment. I think it was long overdue. It became too comfortable for these guys to fail over the years and the high priced vets that were brought in need some pushing from time to time. This change though could be rough at first as the long time Yanks adjust to the rules. It wil be interesting to see if Girardi has to win any early battles for control of the clubhouse.
Open Casting Call: The 2008 Yankee Bullpen
Mariano, Farnsworth, Hawkins and Ohlendorff are in. So that leaves the following canidates for the last 2 to 3 spots; Bruney, Ramirez, Veras, Patterson, Albaladejo, Britton, Henn, Igawa, Kartsens, Wright, Rasner, Billy Traber, Scott Stirckland, and Heath Phillips. Expect a long man, maybe a lefty (probably Igawa) and one more to make it. The battle should be intertesing and the bullpen will look and feel a lot different then it has in years. I like the strategy of throwing a bunch of options at the pen and seeing who sticks.