With pitchers and catchers reporting exactly one month from today, let's go through some of the questions that manager Joe Girardi will have to answer when he makes his yearly Spring Training address regarding the New York Yankees.
Will Brett Gardner be in center field?
-The answer should be yes. Brett Gardner is perhaps the best defensive left fielder in all of baseball. However, he does not hit for power which is a skill that a corner outfielder usually possesses. Granderson would be better suited in left field, which means he will still have to cover a lot of ground but will not be forced to make those spectacular center field plays in the gaps. Girardi will most certainly be asked that in his address one month from today. I do believe though, that Girardi will remain mum on the topic when he speaks about the matter. Eventually, I believe that the decision will be made to move Gardner into center field and have Granderson man left while Ichiro plays his most familiar position in right field.
Who will be the Yankees starting catcher?
-This will be the most interesting question that I would like to see Girardi answer. Chris Stewart has practically been named by media outlets as the Yankees opening day catcher, however I still believe that the job is Cervelli's to lose. The Yankees didn't leave Cervelli in the minors all of last season to have him be the backup this year. He has played every day in 2012 and I see him taking a step forward in 2013, winning the starting job and thriving in the role. Chris Stewart has proven that he is a very good backup, but he is in his mid 30's and has never played a full season in the major leagues as a starting catcher. Also, aside from his decent hitting display last season I don't think he will be half as good of a hitter as Cervelli has a chance to be. Then there's always a chance Austin Romine impresses some folks and wins the job outright. However, after missing a big chunk of 2012 due to a back problem, I don't think that will be the case. There is a chance though, that the Yankees starting catcher struggles in April and May, forcing management to call up Romine to be the every day guy.
How are the Yankees injured players doing?
-Surely, Girardi will tell everyone that Alex Rodriguez is coming along as planned and that Derek Jeter is getting better every day. The bigger question is how they will use Mariano Rivera. Almost one year removed from his torn ACL, the 43 year old is poised for a comeback in what will probably be his final season in baseball. Still, I'd like to see how Girardi and Cashman decide to use Mo in spring training. Usually, Mariano does not play in any games until a couple of weeks into ST and I expect that to be the case again this year. However, do the Yankees give him a lighter load in spring training, hoping that he can be at full strength in April? He already only works about 7-8 spring innings. I don't see how his workload can possibly be reduced.
How will Girardi use his bench?
-As of today, Girardi doesn't have much of a bench. Heck, he doesn't even have an every day DH. Hopefully between today and February 12th, the Yankees go out and find good role players, similar to what Eric Chavez, Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones provided them with in 2012.
Who will win the fifth starter spot in the rotation?
-This will be a competition between Ivan Nova and David Phelps, for sure. There will be some outside chance that a prospect is thrown into the mix, but this is a tight race between Nova and Phelps. I honestly don't know who should be the fifth starter. Phelps was great down the stretch in the spot starter role, while Nova struggled to an ERA of 5 in 2012. If they were to begin the season today, Ivan Nova would probably be the chosen one to become the Yankees fifth starter and David Phelps would begin the year in the bullpen. This can all change between February and April though.
Please comment below and tell me what you think!