It’s quiet. Too quiet. From the looks of things, and lack of sound bites emanating from Legends Field in Tampa, it seems like the Yankees are having a very calm and uneventful spring training thus far.
The lack of drama is actually a bit unsettling, when you consider that every year something or someone grabs the headlines.
There’s been A-Rod, A-Roid, Stray-Rod storylines in previous years, to name just a few, but so far, so good? It goes without saying that the Bombers are focussed on a repeat of 2009, so nothing new there, but the fact that all the news is coming from on the field is just, different.
Obviously the Yankees are checking out their off-season acquisitions and from the looks of things Curtis Granderson should be a nice fit in the outfield. Nick Johnson and his bat return to Pinstripes, and, if healthy (always a question mark) should contribute offensively.
Really, what the organization and fans are probably most interested in seeing is how the Joba Chamberlain/Phil Hughes scenario plays out. More than a battle to see who will be the fifth starter, I think it’s a critical decision to figure out who will work best in the bullpen. With Mariano Rivera’s contract up at the end of the year, either one will presumably be his set-up man this season, with the possibility of ascending to the role of Yankees’ closer when Mo finally does hang it up. It’s a lot easier to find a fifth starter than a dominant reliever these days, so I think the one who gets “sent” to the bullpen is actually the more valuable to the organization.
I’m thinking Hughes is more suited for the rotation and Joba the pen, based solely on personalities. Chamberlain has a bit more of the intimidation factor coming into a game and I think that he can handle the pressure in the late innings. We’ll see how that goes, but I am constantly reminded of long-time Yankee Dave Righetti, who after winning Rookie of the Year honors in ’81, and winning 25 games over the next two seasons, took on the role of closer in ’84 at the age of 25. Over seven seasons in the bullpen for the Yankees, Rags saved at least 25 games a year, including 46 in 1986. Was it worth it? The Yankees didn’t have very good teams during that stretch and shaky rotations at best. They were a far cry from the Sabathia, Burnett, Pettitte and newly-acquired Javier Vazquez, that’s for sure, so moving a young arm to cement the closer role made sense at the time. One thing they do need to do, as with any reorg, is make sure Hughes and Joba know their roles going in. The biggest mistake they can make is to start flip-flopping mid-season.
And finally, two players who are not in Yankees camp this year, Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui, could be missed for more than their on-field numbers. Stats aside, and he did put up some good ones batting second, Damon was a player who helped solidify the team and Matsui, very demurely, did so too.
The rest of spring training will probably not produce much in the way of news or answers. It’s business as usual. What really counts is when the first pitch gets thrown on Opening Day at Fenway.
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Written by Stephanie Geosits