Mostly cloudy and 58 degrees…
So, that’s the forecast for the first workout scheduled on Thursday for pitchers and catchers. It seems very appropriate that the Yankees would face cloudy skies on their first official workout. The skies, during the upcoming season, are sure to be filled with dark clouds, thunderstorms, and hurricanes. Nobody said it was going to be sunny skies on the road to a repeat World Series championship…
The Yankees will attempt to repeat without World Series heroes Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui, or regular season “Pie King” Melky Cabrera. The team also said goodbye to Phil Coke, Jose Molina, Jerry Hairston, Jr., and Brian Bruney.
But newcomers Curtis Granderson, Javier Vazquez, Nick Johnson, Randy Winn, Jamie Hoffmann, Marcus Thames, and Boone Logan intend to give Yankees fans another summer to remember. Curtis Granderson was penciled into centerfield, particularly after the trade of Cabrera to Atlanta for Vazquez. However, talk in recent days has Grandy receptive to a potential move to left if Manager Joe Girardi decides to go that direction. Somehow, I think Grandy will always say and do the things that exhibit a ‘team first’ approach. Personally, I think Grandy should have gotten #28. However, he stepped aside so that Girardi could upgrade his number from 27 to 28 as the Yankees pursue their 28th World Championship. He’ll wear the number immortalized by Lou Piniella instead (#14). Hopefully, Girardi will hold the number for just one season and then switch to #29!
The presence of Javier Vazquez in the starting rotation should pay dividends. At various points during last season, there were times when the Yankees didn’t know what they were going to get out of their starting pitching outside of CC Sabathia. Vazquez should ensure no long losing streaks, and give consistency to the middle of the rotation. With slots 1 through 4 secure in the rotation, the battle is for the 5th spot. Best case scenario, in my mind, is Phil Hughes in the starting rotation, and Joba Chamberlain setting up Mariano Rivera. The others (Sergio Mitre, Chad Gaudin, and Alfredo Aceves) can vie for long relief.
While it is sad to see Jose Molina go, I am excited for Francisco Cervelli. He proved last year that he is a capable backup, and I look forward to watching him in a more critical role this year as Posada will see more time at DH than years’ past. Of course, Cervelli is just keeping the plate until Posada’s replacement, Jesus Montero is ready, but it will still be good to see his attitude and play during the upcoming season. If the Yankees decide to carry three catchers, the most likely candidate is veteran Mike Rivera.
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If the newcomers can quickly adapt to New York, and some of the younger guys can step up their play, the Yankees will be in good shape for another championship run. I know, it’s not a given that they will win, but they should be in position to determine who will be. For the upcoming season, I am most fearful of, in no particular order, the Boston Red Sox (don’t tell Julia!), the Seattle Mariners, the Tampa Bay Rays , and the Texas Rangers. I think the Los Angeles Angels will contend once again, however, their off-season losses outweighed their gains. I also think the Baltimore Orioles will be much improved and of course you can never count out the Minnesota Twins. It should be a very challenging and competitive run to the American League Championship!
On the National League side, I don’t really see any team that will dethrone the current NL champs, the Philadelphia Phillies. With Doc Halladay at the top of the rotation and starving for a championship, the Phillies will be in a league of their own. I’d like to see Joe Torre and the Los Angeles Dodgers make it to the World Series, but they weren’t able to do enough this off-season to bridge the gap with the Phillies. The Phillies do need to solve their bullpen woes, but I suspect they’ll make the necessary moves (with or without Brad Lidge).
Steven M. Falk/philly.com
Best wishes and prayers to longtime Yankees head trainer Gene Monahan. Monahan will miss his first spring training since 1963 with a “significant illness”. The Yankees also announced that he will most likely miss the first portion of the season as he undergoes treatment. Here’s hoping Gene makes a successful recovery and is able to resume his normal duties in the not-too-distant future…
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