Despite record snowfalls on the East Coast, spring training is right around the corner…
Yankee pitchers and catchers report next week, and the battle will begin for the fifth spot in the rotation. Of course, everyone is quick to indicate that Alfredo Aceves, Chad Gaudin, and Sergio Mitre have a shot, but this is really about a competition between Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain. Personally, I am putting my faith in Phil Hughes. I’d prefer to see Joba take over Hughes’ old spot as setup man for Mariano Rivera (positioning himself to be Mo’s successor when the eventual day comes). I am really anxious to see what Hughes can do in the rotation now that he has achieved success at the big league level.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
It will be interesting to see if Curtis Granderson stays in center, or if they ultimately decide to move him to left and return Brett Gardner to center. There should be good outfield competition among Jamie Hoffmann, Marcus Thames, and Randy Winn. Minor leaguer Colin Curtis and off-season pickup Greg Golson (from Texas) will also be on hand to compete. I am hopeful that Hoffmann, a good defensive player, finds a way to make the team. If not, the Yankees will have to offer him back to the Los Angeles Dodgers since he was a Rule 5 pickup.
Miles Chrisinger/Icon SMI
At catcher, Francisco Cervelli should break camp as backup to Jorge Posada. With each passing season, the backup catching position becomes more vital as Posada ages. I am anxious to see what Jesus Montero brings to camp. He’s not ready for the Bronx yet but he is getting close and will obviously be Posada’s eventual successor if they don’t move him to first base because of his physical size.
John M. Setzler, Jr.
It appears that Johnny Damon will sign next week, most likely with the Detroit Tigers based on the latest rumors. I do find it odd that the Tigers would pay Damon more than they would have owed Curtis Granderson yet Grandy was moved for financial reasons. It’s also disappointing that the Tigers will end up getting Damon for less than what the Yanks had been willing to pay at the start of the off-season. Agent Scott Boras forced the Yankees’ hand in signing DH Nick Johnson and outfielder Randy Winn, leaving no room for Damon. If Boras had shown a willingness to negotiate early on, perhaps Johnny would be returning to the Bronx for another go-around. But for as much as I will miss Damon’s ability on the bases and his offensive power, I won’t miss his throws from left field (which seemed to move in slow motion). I wish him the very best wherever he lands…Detroit, Chicago or Atlanta.
All things considered, it should be a fairly quiet camp compared to the past few years. I am not expecting any drug use admissions or sex scandals, but of course, you never know. I am just glad that it’s time for the guys to pick up the gloves, balls and bats and head back out for another summer of fun.
Josh Haner/The New York Times
By the way, congrats to Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum, who avoided arbitration by signing a two-year deal worth $23 million with San Francisco. With a pay increase from $650,000 to $8 million plus $2 million signing bonus in 2010, he can now afford to buy in Nob Hill…
Also, so long to the Big Hurt. Frank Thomas has decided to hang up his cleats and take his 521 home runs home. Of course, he’s been out of the game for a year, but now it’s official. No Brett Favre comebacks in Frank’s future…
Finally, I’d like to send my prayers to the family of Nodar Kumaritashvili, 21, a luger for the former Soviet republic of Georgia, who died today during a trial run at the Olympics in Vancouver, British Columba. I cannot say that I am well familiar with Luge but it seems like there could have been better safety precautions. The Olympic Games start on a disappointing note, but I hope the other athletes from Georgia rise to the occasion and give performances their fallen teammate would have been proud of…