The countdown ends today. Pitchers and catchers officially report this morning. Yes, many players have been in camp for a week now, getting a head start on the month and a half training session. The beat reporters are in full force as well, highlighting what they think will be the big stories of the spring. But for a team like the Yankees, coming off a World Series victory and rife with veterans at almost every position, how many developments can we expect?
Photo credit: AP/Kathy Willens
We’ve all missed baseball over the past three-plus months. From April through October, and even into November, we saw our favorite team play nearly every day. Then, starting November 5, nothing. No first pitches. No home runs over the short porch. No heroically epic at-bats, and no fist-pumping strikeouts. In their stead were a steady flow of rumors that keep us interested in baseball year-round. Now we can put those rumors to rest and start focusing on the reason we’re here in the first place, the games.
Between now and Opening Day, we’ll have to endure a month and a half of training camp. It might sound like a joy — actual baseball, if only exhibition — but beyond the glimpses of games we get on YES, there’s not much to get excited about. In fact, I’d prefer it if the Yankees maintained a relatively quiet camp this year. It would make me feel a lot better heading into Fenway Park on April 4.
Why a quiet camp? Because the Yankees appear all but set. The infield, from catcher all the way around, sports veteran stars. In the outfield only one spot remains contested, and even then it’s not much of a battle. Will anyone care much if Randy Winn gets the bulk of the playing time? Won’t that mean he’s doing something right? Then there’s the pitching staff, in which one spot is up for grabs. It could be Chamberlain, or it could be Hughes. Either way we’ll get to see one of the Yankees young, high-ceiling pitchers in the rotation.
Beyond that the only worries are of the bench and bullpen, and early in the season those aren’t weighty concerns anyway. The Yankees opened 2009 relatively weak in both aspects, only to find them strengths by season’s end. Yes, Jamie Hoffmann might win a spot on the 25-man roster, but even if he doesn’t it’s not a big deal. They’ll quietly ship him back to L.A., or else work out a deal to keep him at Scranton. The bullpen appears even less exciting, as the Yankees basically have all seven slots filled: Mariano Rivera, the loser of the fifth starter battle, Damaso Marte, David Robertson, Al Aceves, Chad Gaudin, Sergio Mitre.
The most controversial issue this spring, it seems, centers on the batting order. Does Nick Johnson hit second, where he’ll get on base for Teixeira and A-Rod, or does the baserunning threat Curtis Granderson hit in that role? If Johnson hits second, does Granderson hit fifth? Does Posada? Where does Nick Swisher fit? Robinson Cano? The question I’m asking: Does it even matter? If it’s worth only one win over 162 games, can’t they afford to try different permutations?
These issues, the only issues currently facing the Yankees in spring training, will not have an enormous impact on the season. That means we should have a relatively quiet spring. If camp isn’t quiet, something has gone wrong. It means both Chamberlain and Hughes are getting lit up. It means Curtis Granderson is 0 for the spring against lefties. It means, and I gulp as I type this, that someone got hurt.
If these things don’t happen, the beat reporters have a boring spring and we hear a lot of regurgitation of talking points. In this case, I think I can handle it, given the implications of the alternative.