Via Ed Price comes news that the Yanks bench appears set:
While the Yankees won’t say it publicly, their bench is set (barring unforeseen circumstances).
The Yankees have told people they plan to carry Morgan Ensberg. So assuming a lineup with Johnny Damon in left field, Hideki Matsui as designated hitter and Jason Giambi at first base (“He’s going to play a lot of first base,” manager Joe Girardi said today), the bench would be Ensberg, backup catcher Jose Molina, infielder Wilson Betemit and Shelley Duncan. That makes Betemit the only reserve middle infielder.
I like this bench. The Yanks are going heavy on the corner infielders and power hitters and light on the backup middle infielders, defensive replacements and outfielders. As Price notes, the Yanks will rely on Betemit to backup Robinson Cano and Derek Jeter. While doubts about Wilson’s middle infield prowess linger, barring any unforeseen injuries, I don’t expect seeing Cano and Jeter out of the lineup too often.
Considering last year’s Opening Day bench — Miguel Cairo and Wil Nieves, anyone? — I’d say Brian Cashman‘s done an excellent job turning one of the Yanks’ weaknesses into a clear strength.
“Moving Chamberlain in front of Rivera was not only the right move for 2008, but forever. Finding somebody to dominate the seventh and eighth innings is harder than discovering a fourth and fifth starter.” There you have it, folks. George King called Joba a fourth or fifth starter in the Post’s season preview. · (44) ·
Updating the ongoing Bob Sheppard story, Neil Best at Newsday reports that the Voice of the Yankees will miss his first home opener since 1951. In February, Sheppard speculated on a June return to the stadium, but now the 97-year-old declined to set a target date for his debut during the Yanks’ final season. “I don’t know when it will be, but it will be,” he said. Here’s to you, Bob; the sooner, the better. · (4) ·
The AP reports that Andy Pettitte threw a successful bullpen session this morning and is now on target to start the third or fourth game of the season. To keep a retroactive DL stint an option, Pettitte will face Minor Leaguers on Saturday or Sunday depending upon how his back responds to today’s pitching. Mike Mussina will, in all likelihood, start game two against the Blue Jays.
In other pitching news, the Yankees have apparently claimed Felix Heredia off waivers from the Reds. With the minors stocked with better arms, I shudder to think why.
Update by Joe: As many have pointed out, this seems to be a technical error on ESPN’s part. Rest assured, there is no Heredia redux. · (19) ·
For a team that’s never won more than 70 games, the Tampa Bay Rays are surrounded by buzz this year. Certain measures on Baseball Prospectus are predicting as many as 89 wins for the Rays while other people have tempered expectations of a .500 season for the AL East’s perennial bottom-feeders.
No matter the prognosis, it’s safe to say that the Rays are no longer the doormats of the American League. Why then is the team still run that way?
Earlier this week, after a very hot spring, Rays prospect Evan Longoria was exiled to the team’s AAA club in Durham. He wasn’t sent down for seasoning or maturation; rather, he was demoted because the Rays don’t want his arbitration and free agency clocks to start ticking. As Rays bloggers have noted, Longoria should be up in the Majors by the end of May, and the Rays will still hold his rights through the 2014 season. Had they allowed Longoria, the better third baseman in their camp, to head north with the team on Opening Day, they’d see him hit free agency in 2013.
Fans of the Rays are more or less unhappy with this move. Rays Index surveyed his fellow Tampa bloggers and found a mixture of outrage and disbelief. The players themselves are not too happy about the news either as quotes from Jonny Gomes and Carl Crawford show.
Rays of Light feels betrayed by management. “I can’t help but feel we were lied to by the Rays. Though they said prior to Spring Training that he would get a chance to compete for the job, I don’t really feel like that’s what he was allowed to do,” Scott Caruso wrote. For a team in need of fans, sending down one of their better players in the name of business sure isn’t a very popular idea.
But, hey, we’re Yankee fans. What do we care about the Tampa Bay Rays? If the Rays, who have played the Yanks hard over the last few seasons, are weaker for it in April and May, who am I to complain? Well, from an on-field perspective, the move is great. But from the economic perspective, it’s fairly despicable.
The Rays as a team don’t enjoy a high revenue stream, and they don’t have too many fans who pack their unremarkable stadium. Instead, they survive on small payrolls and revenue-sharing payments from the game’s big guns. So with these riches, the Rays are opting to weaken their team in order to save a few bucks down the road.
While some fans ridiculed Hank Steinbrenner for noting that the Yankees fund the Rays, the truth is that the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Cubs, Dodgers and Angels all fund the league’s poorer teams. If the Rays aren’t going to use these funds to field the best possible team, shouldn’t the Yankees have their revenue sharing contributions back?
An independent commissioner could step in and stop this exploitation of loopholes in the service time rules, but Bud would never dirty his hands over this issue. Meanwhile, in the Bronx, we can just raise our eyebrows and wonder why exactly the Yankees are left funding everyone else if everyone else isn’t going to put the money to use.
Apparently, the joke was on me. Earlier today, I accused the media of falling for a Jose Canseco book hoax. Turns out my skepticism this time was not well-founded. Will Leitch got his hands on some of Vindicated and posted the excerpts on Deadspin. While the passages are in the book, Canseco’s words come across as jealous, bitter rantings. Vindicated will be no Juiced. · (7) ·
In an update on some Yankee farmhands, Chad Jennings lands a great quote from LaTroy Hawkins. When asked about how his Spring Training, Hawkins, who’s thrown eight scoreless innings, said, “Spring don’t mean shit, dude.” While rabid Yankee fans and bloggers alike fixate on spring numbers, we seem to care more than the players. They know it doesn’t count until Monday. We should take a lesson. · (16) ·
On Monday morning, The Post, in what they termed an “exclusive,” reported that the Yanks and Mets are secretly negotiating with the city to work out deals to sell parts of their old stadiums. The Yankees, through Randy Levine, has since confirmed that they are trying to work out a marketing deal but have no plans to purchase the stadium from the city. Now, The Post can use whatever labels it wants, but this story is not an exclusive. I wrote about it 19 days ago when USA Today reported it as news. No matter the outcome, fans will get the chance to buy bits and pieces of Yankee Stadium. Who wants the pitcher’s rubber? · (9) ·