Mar 9, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher David Phelps (41) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Five Important Questions Girardi Must Answer

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Spring Training is rolling right along. The Yankees stand at 7-5  as of this writing, right in the middle of the pack. More importantly, the team is staying healthy and those that weren’t last season are shaking off the rust and working out the kinks. The Yankees are poised and ready for the regular season to kick off in Houston.

Or are they? There are still quite a few questions Joe Girardi and his coaching staff have to answer.

FIVE QUESTION THE YANKEES NEED TO ANSWER BY OPENING DAY:

5. Who is the back-up first baseman?
There is no true back-up first baseman on the Yankees 40-man roster. There are reports of Alfonso Soriano being seen with a first base glove. Kelly Johnson is also in the mix but he has a whole 3 games of major league experience at first base. The Yankees really need career minor leaguer Russ Canzler to step up and claim the final bench spot. His experience at first and third base will be imperative in keeping Mark Teixeira fresh with ample rest throughout the season.

4. Who is the back-up catcher?
Right now, Francisco Cervelli is having a monster spring batting.429 with a home run and 2 RBI. He clearly has the leg up on Austin Romine, John Ryan Murphy, and Gary Sanchez simply because of his experience. He has been, however, the topic of trade talks. Gary Sanchez is the future of the Yankees at catcher, so with the way the Yankees coddle their elite prospects (see this week’s Bronx is Boiling), he will most likely start the year at Double-A. Should Cervelli not lock down the spot, I would expect Romine to take the spot with Murphy waiting in the wings at Triple-A.

3. Who will be traded?
New trade rumors are sprouting up daily about Ichiro Suzuki. The Phillies were a potential landing spot because what the Phillies really need is some veteran leadership to go along with the rest of their senior citizen brigade. Detroit is now in the market for a left-handed platoon outfielder with Andy Dirks being shelved indefinitely. The Brewers have limited left-handed hitting as well, but apparently they were one of the teams in the Cervelli hunt.
The Mariners’ rotation has been decimated with injuries and this has led them to reportedly inquire about David Phelps. After the blockbuster deal that brought them Jesus Montero, I’m surprised they still want to deal with the Yankees. Maybe they can trade Phelps for Cano!

2. Who will round out the bullpen?
David Robertson is the Yankees closer for the foreseeable future. Shawn Kelley is the right-handed specialist and Matt Thornton is the left-handed specialist. After that, the rest of the bullpen is a question mark. The Yankees seem to be enamored with Dellin Betances who has yet to let up a run this spring while showing heat and a new arsenal of pitches. David Phelps and Adam Warren could both start the year in the ‘pen depending on who emerges as the fifth starter. Preston Claiborne is also having a good spring, registering a save while allowing no runs. He also has the experience that will be a huge plus. The Yankees are deep with experienced relief pitchers even in the minors with the likes of Jim Miller and Matt Daley amongst others ready to go. The bullpen could be a revolving door all season.

1. Who will step up and claim the fifth starter spot?
Michael Pineda finally pitched for the Yankees and looked sharp in his two inning debut. His slider was crisp and his fastball was on point and hitting the low 90s. The Yankees need him to return to full health and be the pitcher he was in 2011 prior to his injury. If he doesn’t claim the spot, he will start the season in Triple-A with no bullpen experience. David Phelps and Adam Warren, should they not win the spot, will both most likely stay in the bigs with bullpen experience and can act as a swing man when some one needs rest. Vidal Nuno is quickly becoming an afterthought, however. he is still in the mix.

These aren’t easy answers to five important questions, but if Girardi gets them right, don’t be surprised to see the Yankees making another push in October for #28.

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Tags: Joe Girardi New York Yankees News Spring Training

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