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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Yankees Central: Breaking Down The Pitching and Defense

The big news out of Yankees camp is still the race between Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain for the fifth spot in the Yankees rotation. Joe Girardi is expected to have an answer for everybody by Friday.

Right now it seems as if the job is going to go to Hughes. Due to rain in Florida over the weekend the Yankees had to split up their team yesterday to make sure all of their scheduled pitchers got their innings in.

Although Hughes gave up four runs in just 4 1/3 innings, including three home runs, Girardi said he was very happy with how Hughes looked. In particular Girardi was satisfied with the way Hughes’ change-up has developed.
If Chamberlain loses the job he will return to his 8th inning role as Mariano Rivera’s set-up man. If Chamberlain’s fastball turns out to be the same as it was in 2007, the Yankees will have a tremendous bullpen to go along with their solid starting rotation.

In all likelihood Dave Robertson and Chan Ho Park will share the 7th inning. Damaso Marte, coming off a stellar postseason, will return to be the Yankees left handed specialist. Alfredo Aceves will be used in long relief and if necessary he will be available if they ever need a spot starter.

CC Sabathia, Javier Vasquez and A.J. Burnett have proven year in and year out they can go deep in games and eat up a lot of innings, so the bullpen is sure to get some rest on the days they pitch. That will leave them ready to come in games that the 37 year old Pettitte and the still very young Hughes pitch in.

Pitching and defense will still remain the keys to Yankees success, despite their All-Star-laced lineup that plays in a very hitter friendly stadium.

Defensively, there are a couple of question marks going into the season: When will Derek Jeter lose a step? Does Posada still have enough gas left to catch a full season? Will Curtis Granderson play the entire year in center or will Brett Gardner assume that role by years end? 

Mark Teixeira won the gold glove at first base last year and Girardi feels that Robinson Cano is ready to win one at second base. If A-Rod stays strong and Jeter continues to defy the aging process, the Yankees will have one of the best defensive as well as offensive infields in the league.

The starting outfield seems to be set now as well.Yesterday Girardi announced that Granderson will be the starting center fielder on opening day.

It was widely believed that Granderson's defense had been on the decline in recent seasons, but he apparently has shown that he is capable of playing everyday in the toughest outfield position.

Surrounding Granderson in center will be Nick Swisher in right and Gardner in left. 

It's not an outstanding outfield but it is a bit of an improvement, defensively, over last year's team.

Of course there will be injuries and other unforeseeable events that will affect the everyday players. That’s where Ramiro Pena and Randy Winn factor into the equation.

Pena, a product of the Yankees system, is the favorite to be the Yankees utility infielder. He has a superb glove and when given a chance he has surprised most people with his bat. Look for him to get into a lot of games this season, since Girardi seems to like to give his veterans rest from time to time.

Winn will serve as the Yankees fourth option in the outfield. Last year with the Giants he hit .262 in 149 games. After playing his entire career as a starter, he will have to adjust to life off of the bench.

Everything seems aligned for another run at a title, but they need to get steady performances from their pitchers, they need to continue to play solid defense, and, most importantly, they need their veteran superstars to stay healthy throughout the season.

More Yankees News From Around the Web:

Alex Rodriguez will travel to Buffalo on Friday to meet with federal investigators about his involvement with Anthony Galea, the Canadian doctor who is being probed for distributing performance-enhancing drugs.

The Yankees place Chad Gaudin on waivers.

Outfielder Jamie Hoffman was placed on waivers by the Yankees and returned to the Dodgers.

Jesus Montero and Austin Romine, both top catching prospects in the Yankees organization were cut by the major league club and sent to Minor League camp.

Brett Gardner seems to have solidified a spot in the starting line-up as he continues to impress Joe Girardi.


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