New York Yankees Spring Training: Romulo Sanchez Sold, Eric Chavez Signed

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New York Yankees 2011 Roster: Sanchez Sold, Jesus Montero and Austin Romine Optioned

Well, relief pitcher Romulo Sanchez wasn’t exactly traded by the New York Yankees. Turns out the Yankees are selling Sanchez’s rights to a Japanese team.

In addition, the Yankees have decided to keep journeyman Gustavo Molina as their backup catcher, and Eduardo Nunez as the backup middle infielder. That means highly-regarded Yankee catching prospects Jesus Montero and Austin Romine will both start the season in the minor leagues.

The Yankees still have not announced a decision as to whether or not center fielder Curtis Granderson (oblique injury) will start the season on the disabled list. Recent reports were that Granderson was “50-50” to be available for Opening Day on Thursday vs. the Detroit Tigers.

With relief pitcher Pedro Feliciano on the disabled list to open the season the Yankees have also not announced which pitcher will fill the 12th spot on their staff. It could also be possible that the Yankees would keep only 11 pitchers and carry an extra outfielder if Granderson has to be placed on the disabled list.

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Yankees Lineup 2011: Romulo Sanchez Traded, Eric Chavez Signed

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Those final New York Yankees roster decisions we were discussing the other day? Well, they have begun to come down, less than 72 hours away from Opening Day on Thursday vs. the Detroit Tigers.

The Yankees have traded hard-throwing right-handed reliever Romulo Sanchez, who apparently fell short in his bid to grab the last spot on the 12-man pitching staff. As of this wrting, though, no one has told reporters what team Sanchez is heading to. Dealing away Sanchez helps break up what appears to be a log-jam in the Yankee minor league system at AA and AAA, where the Yankees seem to have more arms than they can use.

Ben Shipgel of the New York Times tweeted that veteran third baseman Eric Chavez has made the Opening Day roster, having been signed today to a major-league contract. That news was not unexpected, as the Yankees have been indicating that would be the case in recent days.

The news that lefty reliever Pedro Feliciano will start the season on the disabled list should also come as no surprise. The Yankees have also been indicating for a while that the veteran lefty would not be ready to start the season.

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Yankees Roster: Opening Day 2011 Approaching, Roster Taking Shape

The New York Yankees open the 2011 Major League Baseball regular season on Thursday at Yankee Stadium against the Detroit Tigers (1:05 p.m., YES/ESPN/MLB.TV). The opening day roster is becoming clearer, but Manager Joe Girardi and General Manager Brian Cashman still have a few decisions to make between now and when the Yankees head North following Tuesday's exhibition finale. Let's took look at the Opening Day roster.

Pitching Staff

Starters -- CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, Freddy Garcia

Bullpen -- Mariano Rivera, Rafael Soriano, Boone Logan, Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson, Bartolo Colon. There is still one spot available.

Headed to the DL -- Pedro Feliciano. The Yankees signed him as a lefty specialist because of his durability over eight seasons with the New York Mets. He hasn't made it out of camp. Ugh! Let's hope the upper-arm tightness he is experiencing doesn't wind up wrecking his season.

Still In The Running -- Luis Ayala, Romulo Sanchez. With Feliciano down and Sergio Mitre traded, somebody has to get the last spot.

Waiting In The Wings -- Manuel Banuelos, Andrew Brackman, Dellin Betances, Kevin Millwood. Banuelos was the most impressive of the Yankees young pitchers this Spring, and you know there will be calls for him to be brought to the Bronx if Nova or Garcia flop. That, however, is what the Yankees kept Colon and signed Millwood for.

Last word: The Yankees have decided to go with the youngster Nova and the veteran Garcia, with Colon -- a long shot to make the team at the beginning of Spring Training -- in the long relief role. I'm not sure how well Colon, a former Cy Young Award winner, will adapt to the bullpen, but the Yankees seem enthusiastic about it.

Catchers

Russell Martin and ... Jesus Montero, Austin Romine or Gustavo Molina.

Last Word: With Francisco Cervelli on the disabled list with a broken foot there has been great excitement among Yankee fans about the possibility that Montero, the crown jewel of the farm system, would make the roster. Does it make sense for Montero or Romine to be in the big leagues catching once a week when they could be continuing to play every day and develop in the minors? The Yankees have not announced a decision. On Saturday, though, Molina caught all of the Yankees' front-line relievers -- which might offer a good indication that they don't want either of the youngsters sitting on the bench. Molina is a 29-year-old journeyman with 23 games of big-league experience.

Infielders

First Base -- Mark Teixeira
Second Base -- Robinson Cano
Shortstop -- Derek Jeter
Third Base -- Alex Rodriguez
Utility -- Eric Chavez and ... Ramiro Pena or Eduardo Nunez

Last word: As I write this, there has been no formal indication that Chavez had made the team. Chavez, though, has an out in his contract that allows him to ask for his release as of Saturday if he is not going to make the team. The former Oakland third baseman appears to be a lock to make the team as a backup third baseman and occasional first baseman. Indications are that Nunez will unseat Pena for the role of backup to Jeter and Cano. That job has belonged to the light-hitting Pena the past couple of seasons.

Outfielders

Brett Gardner, Nick Swisher, Andruw Jones.

Headed To The DL? -- Curtis Granderson. The Grandy Man has an oblique strain and has been termed "50-50" for Opening Day. If he isn't ready that opens a spot on the roster

Still In The Running -- Justin Maxwell, Chris Dickerson. The Yankees just got Dickerson in a trade for Sergio Mitre on Friday, and he got three hits on Saturday. No matter what, there is not room for both guys.

Designated Hitter

Jorge Posada -- The long-time Yankee catcher did not go behind the plate for a single inning during Spring Training. The Yankees list him as an emergency catcher, but it's pretty obvious they believe his days as a viable option behind the plate are done.

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Yankees Lineup 2011: Kevin Millwood In, Sergio Mitre Out

The New York Yankees 2011 pitching staff became just a bit clearer today. The Yankees traded long reliever spot starter Sergio Mitre to the Milwaukee Brewers and signed veteran starting pitcher Kevin Millwood to a minor-league contract.

Mitre was one of four pitchers contending for a rotation spot when Spring Training began. He has a career record of 13-29 with a 5.27 ERA in seven big-league seasons. He was 3-6, 5.03 in two seasons with the Yankees. In trading Mitre the Yankees acquired outfielder Chris Dickerson, 28. Dickerson has appeared in 173 big-league games and has a .267 career batting average with eight home runs and 35 RBI. With Curtis Granderson possibly shelved for Opening Day and Colin Curtis having suffered a shoulder injury the Yankees can use the outfield depth.

Millwood, 37, went just 4-16 with a 5.10 ERA for Baltimore last season. For his career he is 159-137 with a 4.11 ERA. He will likely start the season at Class AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre.

This means in all probability that Ivan Nova, Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon are all making the Opening Day pitching staff. The Yankees have not announced which two of those three will be in the starting rotation, but Nova and Garcia are expected to get those spots with Colon pitching in long relief.

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Ivan Nova, Freddy Garcia Look Like Starters For Yankees

New York Yankees Manager Joe Girardi says he won’t announce the team’s fourth and fifth starting pitchers until the organization holds a “long meeting” but speculation is growing that the team has already made its decisions. It appears that youngster Ivan Nova and veteran Freddy Garcia will be in the rotation, with Bartolo Colon either in the bullpen as a long man or at Triple A as insurance.

Is this the right decision? I believe that it is. Here’s why.

Nova, 24, pitched well enough in 10 games with the Yankees last season (1-2, 4>50 ERA) that the Yankees felt he was ready for a spot in the rotation. With a 1.29 ERA over 14 innings this Spring, including a six-inning no-hit performance, he has done nothing to lose that opportunity.

That leaves one spot for either Garcia or Colon is the rotation. Colon has had the superior Spring (2.40 ERA to 5.93 for Garcia), but Colon has not pitched a big-league game since the middle of the 2009 season. Garcia went 12-6 with a 4.64 ERA in 28 starts for the Chicago White Sox last season.

“We have a pretty good feel on what Freddy can do," Girardi said.

Colon deserves to be rewarded with either a roster spot or the option to accept a chance to go to AAA Scranton-Wilkes Barre and prepare for whenever the Yankees need an extra starter — which you know they eventually will.

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New York Yankees Spring Training 2011: Curtis Granderson Could Miss Opener

What it with the New York Yankees and oblique injuries this Spring. Starting center fielder Curtis Granderson is the latest Yankee to be struck by such an injury since camp began, and may wind up on the disabled list when the season opens a week from today.

Granderson joins pitchers Sergio Mitre and Joba Chamberlain, along with outfielder Greg Golson, as players who have suffered oblique injuries during Spring Training. The injuries have led manager Joe Girardi to confer with his staff to see if anything had changed in the Yankees’ conditioning routine from a season ago.

Granderson had been having an oustanding spring, going 15-for-39 (.385). If he is unable to start the season Brett Gardner would move to center field and Andruw Jones would probably play left field. A Granderson injury might also guarantee an Opening Day roster spot for Justin Maxwell, an outfielder vying for one of the final spots on the Yankee bench. During Granderson’s absence the Yankees will need an extra outfielder, especially one who can replace Jones for defense.

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Bartolo Colon Goes Six Solid Innings In Yankees' 3-1 Loss To Tampa Bay

Bartolo Colon is certainly not making it easy for the New York Yankees to keep him out of their starting rotation. Six one-run innings Monday night against Tampa Bay lowered his Spring Training ERA to 2.66 over 15 innings.

Spring Training began with jokes about how wide Colon is. Or how old he is (he will be 38 in a couple of months). Or, how the Yankees had to be desperate to give a shot to a guy who had not pitched in the big leagues since the middle of the 2009 season. Or how, with Colon, Mark Prior and Freddy Garcia the Yankees had baseball’s best 2003 rotation.

Well, no one is laughing at Colon right now. He might just be in the process of pitching Garcia, who won 12 games for the Chicago White Sox a year ago, off the Yankee roster. Garcia has a 5.93 ERA for the Spring and, as Pinstripe Alley said, Colon has out-pitched him “in every way imaginable.”

What the Yankees choose to do here will certainly be interesting. Colon, though, could not have done a better job stating his case.

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Yankees Spring Training: Big Start Tonight For Bartolo Colon

The New York Yankees starting rotation could come into much clearer focus tonight when veteran Bartolo Colon pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays (Game time 7:05 p.m.). Colon is competing with veteran Freddy Garcia and youngster Ivan Nova for one of the two open spots in the rotation.

Colon will be 38 this spring and has not pitched in the big leagues since the middle of the 2009 season, but he has been impressive thus far. In three games he has pitched nine innings, struck out 12, walked just one and allowed three earned runs.


Bartolo Colon

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Nova, 24, has also been impressive, pitching to a 1.29 ERA over 14 innings while striking out seven and allowing just eight hits. Nova pitched 10 games for the Yankees at the end of last season.


Ivan Nova

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Garcia, 34, has the most recent success at the major-league level, having won 12 games for the Chicago White Sox a season ago. He has been the least impressive of the three this spring, however. In four games Garcia has pitched a 5.93 ERA over 13.2 innings.

Garcia, a 12-year veteran with a 133-87 career record, has made it clear he would not accept an assignment to the minor leagues if the Yankees choose Nova and Colon. That, of course, leaves the Yankees with a tough decision.


Freddy Garcia

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Do they cut Garcia loose, gambling that what they have seen from Nova -- and especially Colon -- during Spring Training will carry over into the regular season? Do they give Garcia one of the two spots based on what he did a year ago?

What the Yankees see from Colon tonight might go a long way toward helping them make that decision.

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New York Yankees Spring Training: Feliciano, Chamberlain, Logan, Gardner Hurting

With less than two weeks to go before the regular season begins ithe New York Yankees have several players being slowed by injuries, particularly members of their bullpen.

Both left-handers in the bullpen are currently sidelined. Pedro Feliciano, signed as a free agent from the New York Mets in the offseason, has not pitched since March 9 due to soreness in his left triceps. Boone Logan is sidelined with back spasms.

Joba Chamberlain is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Saturday to see when he might be able to return from a strained oblique muscle that has sidelined him for a week.

Also, outfielder Brett Gardner left Friday’s game with a bruised shin.

“When I tried to score from second, they could tell I was favoring it,” Gardner said. “They just didn’t want me to favor that and pull something else.”

In one bit of good news, Sergio Mitre returned from an oblique injury to pitch three innings in a 6-5 loss to Toronto.

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Yankees Spring Training: Joba Chamberlain Hurt, Is Door Open For Mark Prior?

Relief pitcher Joba Chamberlain is sidelined temporarily with an oblique strain on his left side. Does that mean a door is open for veteran Mark Prior to complete a surprising comeback and earn a spot in the New York Yankees bullpen?

No one is saying Chamberlain’s injury will sideline him for anything more than a few days. If he is healthy in time for the season, which starts in less than two weeks for the Yankees, there does not appear to be room for Prior, the former Chicago Cubs wunderkind trying yet another comeback at the age of 30.

If, however, Chamberlain’s injury lingers Prior has put himself in position to be considered a legitimate option to start the season in New York. In four Spring Training appearances, Prior has surrendered just one earned run in 3.2 innings and has struck out six.

Prior, National League Rookie of the Year in 2002 at the age of 21, has not pitched in a big-league game since 2006.

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Cliff Lee, Yankees Still Talking About Each Other

Cliff Lee says one reason he chose to sign with the Philadelphia Phillies rather than the New York Yankees this past offseason is that the Yankees are old. The Yankees say they are not, at least not everywhere.

Fact is, Lee is wrong about that — at least when you compare average roster ages. According to ESPN, the Phillies are actually the oldest team in baseball with an average age of 29.9 years, while the Yankees are 11th with an average age of 28.1.

OK, so now that we have established that Cliff Lee is bad at math — or that he was spewing random nonsense in response to a question he has heard too many times — the why didn’t you sign with the Yankees question — I have to ask. Why do we keep circling back to the ‘why didn’t you sign with the Yankees’ question when talking about Lee? Can we all get over it already, please?

The guy didn’t want to, plain and simple. He left money on the table to play with the Phillies because that is what he wanted to do.

Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman seems to have been able to let the whole Lee saga go.

“It was a marriage that was not meant to be. That’s life,” said Cashman.

I wish everybody else could just move on the way Cashman has.

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Yankees' Spring Training: Updates On Joba Chamberlain, Sergio Mitre, Freddy Garcia

The New York Yankees have shut down pitchers Joba Chamberlain and Sergio Mitre for at least a couple of days as both apparently have soreness in their left sides.

Manager Joe Girardi said that both pitchers could return to action later this week. The short setback is particularly unfortunate for Mitre, who had been scheduled to pitch Monday night against Boston as he tries to earn a spot in the Yankees starting rotation.

Veteran starting pitcher Freddy Garcia had his roughest outing of the spring over the weekend, allowing four runs in 2.2 innings. Garcia, who won 12 games for the Chicago White Sox a season ago, did not seem worried.

“I didn’t pitch the way I wanted to pitch; there’s nothing I can do,” Garcia said. "I know I have to pitch good to try to win a spot, but it was one of those days. I have to forget about it, come back tomorrow and try to do my job in my next start – pitch better.

“I have to move on,” Garcia said. “What can I do about pitching bad today? I have to take it out of my mind, try to focus on my next game. What happened today, that’s today. You have to put it in the past and think about the future, what’s next.”

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Yankees' Rotation Battle: Garcia, Colon, Nova, Mitre Impressing

It is still early, three weeks away from the start of the regular season in fact, but the New York Yankees have to feel good about what they have seen thus far from the four candidates vying for the fourth and fifth spots in their starting pitching rotation.

Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, Sergio Mitre and Ivan Nova have now pitched a combined total of 24 Spring innings and surrendered just three earned runs -- all by Colon in his nine innings of work.That is a combined earned-run average of 1.13 for the foursome.

Garcia, who won 12 games with the Chicago White Sox a year ago, would seem a pretty safe bet to earn one of the starting spots.

Colon, trying to make a comeback after not pitching in 2010, has struck out 12, walked one and allowed just eight hits in his nine innings. He is the only one of the four to allow any runs thus far, but he has been exceptionally impressive. Nova, who has allowed just three hits and has yet to walk a batter, would seem to be Colon's primary competition. Colon is 37 and a former American League Cy Young Award winner. Nova, 24, pitched in 10 games for the Yankees last season and was considered a favorite for one of the two spots entering Spring Training.

Mitre has been a spot starter and long reliever for the Yankees for the past two seasons. Most likely that is the role he is once again destined for.

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The ABCs of New York Yankees' Spring Training

It has been a few days since we here at SB Nation New York have provided you with any updates from New York Yankees' Spring Training. In an effort to fix this egregious trangression, today we offer you the ABCs of Yankees Spring Training. Hopefully, it will include everything you need to know to be up-to-date on what is going on down in Tampa as the Yankees prepare for the 2011 season.

Oh, and please pardon us if we skip a letter or two or if we reach just a tad to associate someone or something with a specific letter. It's the thought -- and the information -- that counts.

A is for ... A.J. Burnett. Burnett, of course, was awful (another A-word) in 2010. As he tries to bounce back from his 10-15, 5.26 ERA awful-ness, he is getting lots of attention (A-word alert) this spring. So far, so good as Burnett has used slightly altered mechanics to pitch five shutout innings over two starts thus far. Monday against Philadelphia Burnett pitched three perfect innings. It is only five innings at the beginning of the spring, but the start is a good sign for the Yankees. They need a quality season from Burnett.

B is for ... The Killer B's, The Baby B's or just plain old Banuelos, Betances and Brackman. According to minor-league experts the Yankees are rich in young pitching, and Manuel Banuelos (20 next week), Dellin Betances (23 this month) and Andrew Brackman (25) are the crown jewels among the pitching prodigies. Banuelos has drawn raves with five strikeouts in three shutout innings. Betances has a 3.38 ERA in 2.2 innings, striking out five and impressing with his stuff. Brackman, who might be the closest to the big leagues, pitched a scoreless inning today in his first appearance of the spring.

C is for ... Chamberlain. Joba Chamberlain is always news. Lately, the story has been whether or not the Yankees would trade him to Minnesota for starting pitcher Francisco Liriano.

D is for ... Diaz. Cameron Diaz, that is. Alex Rodriguez's lovely lady friend has been spotted in attendance for at least one Yankees Spring Training game. No popcorn incidents, though. Hey, I told you we might have to work a little bit to fill all these letters.

E is for ... Eric Chavez. Chavez is a veteran third baseman from Oakland trying to make the Yankees as a reserve third baseman/first baseman. He is off to a great start with eight hits in 17 at-bats (.471).

F is for ... Francisco's Foot. As in the broken left foot suffered by backup catcher Francisco Cervelli. He will be out for about two months after fouling a ball off his foot, possibly opening the door for highly-touted Jesus Montero to make the Opening Day roster.

G is for ... Gardner, Granderson and Garcia. Brett Gardner is working on a revamped swing, and might supplant Derek Jeter as the Yankees leadoff hitter. Curtis Granderson is trying to build on his impressive finish to the 2010 season, and has two home runs and a .357 average so far this spring. Freddy Garcia pitched three scoreless innings Tuesday, and has now pitched five scoreless innings in his bid to earn one of the two available starting spots in the rotation. It would be a stunner if he doesn't get one.

H is for ... Hank Steinbrenner. Mostly because, well, H has to be for something. Hank doesn't do anything important with the Yankees -- since Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner have smartly taken all the authority -- but he can still talk. And he does. And he continues to sound like a dumbbell.

I is for ... Ivan Nova. The young right-hander is bidding for one of the remaining spots in the Yankees starting rotation, and he is off to a good start. He he pitched five shutout innings in two appearances, giving up just three hits and not allowing a walk.

J is for ... Jeter. It has to be for the Yankee Captain Derek Jeter. Just 74 hits away from 3,000 for his career and coming off the worst season of his career, Jeter is working on a re-tooled swing. So far it seems to be working as he has six hits in 17 at-bats (.353).

K is for ... Austin Krum. Why? Well, because he is the only player in camp with a last name beginning with a 'K.' Oh, and he wears one of those cool Spring Training only numbers, No. 96.

L is for ... Liriano. As in, how soon does Minnesota Twins ace Francisco Liriano become a Yankee? Everybody with any say in this is denying that there is any discussion going on about a deal for the left-hander happening, which most likely means there is discussion about a deal for the left-hander going on. Minnesota would be silly to make a deal unless the Yankees parted with one of their top prospects, and I don't see that as likely.

M is for ... Martin and Montero. The new Yankee catcher is free-agent Russell Martin. He is off to a slow start this spring, hitting just .125 as he slowly rounds into shape after offseason knee surgery. The soon-to-be catcher could be the crown jewel of the farm system, Jesus Montero. And Montero's time could be now, with an opening on the roster due to Cervelli's injury. I can't imagine Montero making the team and hardly playing.

N is for ... Nick Swisher. I have to ask. Nick, what were you thinking leaping over a foul-territory railing to catch a fly ball in a Spring Training game?

O is for ... Bartolo Colon. Because the pudgy old dude has sooooo many O's in his name and we have to talk about him somewhere. Bidding for a return to the big leagues after not pitching since mid-way through 2009, Colon has look pretty good thus far. In five innings he has allowed just one run on four hits while striking out five.

P is for ... Posada. Veteran Jorge Posada is adjusting to life as a designated hitter. The long-time Yankee catcher will apparently not catch at all this spring, even after Cervelli's injury. Posada is saying all the right things about being a DH, but you know he would like to catch -- at least a little bit.

Q is for ... I really have no idea. When you guys come up with one, let me know.

R is for ... Robertson. David Robertson is flying under the radar during Spring Training, but the righty reliever has five strikeouts in 2.1 innings and has allowed just one hit. Hey, Dave, bottle it for a few weeks and save it, please.

S is for ... Soriano. As in, when will free-agent relief pitcher Rafael Soriano finally pitch in a Spring Training game?

T is for ... Teixeira. Mark Teixeira is doing all sort of extra work this spring, especially hitting left-handed, in an effort to avoid another painfully slow start to his season.

U is for ... Utility Infielder. We talked about Chavez looking likely to win one of the two utility spots. The other one looks like a competition between Eduardo Nunez (.348 thus far) and incumbent Ramiro Pena (.158).

V is for ... Jorge Vazquez. This young utility infielder can hit (.444 thus far this spring), but has no real shot at making the Opening Day roster. There are way too many players in front of him.

W is for Wins. Do they matter in Spring Training? This could also be for Eric Wordekemper, but do we really have to go there.

X is for ... Justin Maxwell. Hey, it's weak. But, the dude has an 'x' in his name and it had to be for something.

Y is for ... Sorry, gang, I've got nothing here. Except to ask why is Brian Anderson, a former big-league outfielder, bothering to try and become a pitcher? His 21.60 ERA indicates it isn't going very well.

Z is for ... Zambrano. During the offseason some folks thought it would be a good idea for the Yankees to pursue Carlos Zambrano of the Chicago Cubs. Please, let's not go there.

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Yankees Spring Training: Francisco Cervelli Has Broken Foot

New York Yankees reserve catcher Francisco Cervelli has a broken left foot and could be sidelined for two months, according to a report from ESPN. Cervelli suffered the injury when he fouled a ball off his foot during an exhibition game.

This opens the door for one of the Yankees two highly-touted catching prospects, Jesus Montero or Austin Romine, to earn the No. 2 catching job behind Russell Martin to start the season. Baseball America recently listed Montero, the crown jewel of the Yankee minor-league system, as its No. 3 overall prospect. Romine also made the list of the top 100, checking in at No. 98. So far this spring, Montero has just one hit in eight at-bats over three games (.125) but his defense has been praised as better than anticipated. Romine has two hits in four at-bats (.500), also over three games.

The Yankees have previously said their plan is to move long-time catcher Jorge Posada to designated hitter, relegating him to only emergency duty as the No. 3 catcher.

Three other catchers are in camp with the Yankees, non-roster invitees Gustavo Molina, Jose Gil and Kyle Higashioka. It is possible one of them could make the squad if the Yankees decide they would rather keep Montero and Romine at the minor-league level to begin the season.

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Yankees Need A.J. Burnett To Get His Head Straight

Great journalism from SI.com's Jon Heyman in the wake of A.J. Burnett's first outing of spring training for the New York Yankees on Wednesday.

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Great work there, Jon! Objective, insightful, choc-full of things we didn't know about the Yankee right-hander. A very helpful observation.

Thing is, Yankee fans already knew that about Burnett. They have, after all, watched the talented, but inconsistent Burnett for the past two seasons. Especially after watching the 34-year-old implode most of last season, going 10-15 with a whopping 5.26 ERA.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports pointed out that Burnett's career numbers are almost identical to those of Boston Red Sox ace Josh Beckett. Of course, no one questions how good Beckett is. With Burnett, the questions come because of the wild inconsistency that has marked his 12-year career.

"I’d stop short of saying he has self-doubt, but he doesn’t realize how good he is sometimes," said former Yankees pitching coach Dave Eiland, who is now a special assistant with the Rays. "He knows the potential is there. He’s kind of just waiting for it to happen rather than just trusting it and making it happen."

"Eventually, whether it’s A.J. or anyone else, you can give them all the information and positive feedback, but they have to believe in themselves, throw every pitch with conviction. A.J. sometimes does not do that. It’s as if he’s saying, ‘Gosh, I’m not sure it’s going to work.’"

Burnett has great stuff. At 34, he still has a fastball that can top out in the upper 90s to go along with a devastating curveball. Thing is, even after those 12 seasons he is still what coaches call a "thrower." He doesn't pitch to spots. He doesn't change speeds. He doesn't cut the ball or sink it. He just throws his two pitches, and when he doesn't believe they are good enough the results are obvious. And awful.

Burnett is like a kid with Attention Deficit Disorder. One minute focused, on task and mowing down major-league hitters. The next, his focus broken, his pitches being tossed all over the lot and being hammered by those same hitters.

In his Spring Training debut Wednesday Burnett pitched two scoreless innings against the Houston Astros. New pitching coach Larry Rothschild has apparently tried to streamline Burnett's wild, leg-swinging delivery. Heyman said he didn't want to hear about the delivery change. In a way, I get that. Burnett's effectiveness in 2011 won't be about a change in his delivery.

If, however, Burnett winds up believing the change in his delivery helps him put the ball where he wants to then that helps those "above the neck" issues Heyman referenced.

The Yankees need Burnett, in the third year of his $82.5 million contract, to be the front-of-the-rotation guy they thought they signed. Not the unreliable guy they passed over for a playoff start in 2010.

Whatever it takes, Yankee fans just need to hope Burnett gets his head screwed on straight this season and pitches a lot more like the guy who went 18-10 for Toronto back in 2008, and a lot less like the wreck who pitches for the Yankees a season ago.

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Francisco Liriano To Yankees Rumors Won't Go Away

The baseball rumor mill is churning with the idea that the Minnesota Twins might be willing to trade Francisco Liriano, who is their best starting pitcher, and that the New York Yankees are at the front of the line among teams who are interested.

All of which begs two questions. First, what are the Twins — a contending team — thinking? Liriano, a 26-year-old left-hander, is the ace of their staff following a 2010 season that saw him go 14-10 with a 3.62 ERA in a career-high 191.2 innings. Liriano came close to reaching the promise he showed back in 2006, when he went 12-3, 2.16 before suffering an elbow injury.

As SB Nation’s Rob Neyer simply and eloquently put it “The Twins sort of need Francisco Liriano, don’t they?”

An article in ‘Hardball Talk’ indicates that there have been some issues between Liriano and the Twins this spring, but Aaron Gleeman points out the Twins may be undervaluing Liriano. This also seems to be Neyer’s point — the Twins may simply not understand his importance to their staff.

The second question, and the one far more important to Yankees fans, is what would you give up to acquire Liriano? Keep in mind, this guy might immediately become the No. 2 guy on your pitching staff, jumping in front of both Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett.

The rumor mill has the Yankees building packages around either young potential starting pitcher Ivan Nova or around Joba Chamberlain, whose value as a trade chip might be greater to the Yankees than his value as a member of the pitching staff.

How much more would you give up in a package for Liriano, Yankee fans? He is a guy who makes the 2011 Yankees much better, but no way is he a guy I would give up any of the Yankees’ highly-touted young pitchers — Dellin Betances, Manny Bauelos or Andrew Brackman. I can’t see the Yankees including the crown jewel of their system, Jesus Montero, for Liriano, either. A deal would have to be made with lower-level prospects.

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New York Yankees Schedule: Betances, Nova, Chamberlain Among Weekend Highlights

The New York Yankees opened their Grapefruit League season over the weekend by splitting a pair of games with the Philadelphia Phillies. The results really are not important, and it was only the first two games of the exhibition schedule, but there were a few notable highlights.

Joba Chamberlain pitched a quality inning on Saturday, reaching 94 miles-per-hour on the radar gun. That is a big difference from last spring when Chamberlain barely reached 90 mph in Spring Training. Let’s see if that is a sign of better things to come from Joba in 2011.

— Highly-touted youngster Dellin Betances had the Yankees buzzing Sunday after striking out the side in an inning of work.

— The Yankees would really like youngster Ivan Nova, who pitched in 10 games last season, to earn one of the open spots in their starting rotation. Nova got off to a good start Sunday with two impressive innings, allowing just one hit and striking out two.

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New York Yankees Schedule: What To Watch For In Spring Training Games

The New York Yankees will open their exhibition schedule today against the Philadelphia Phillies as Spring Training moves into its next phase. Here is a breakdown of what to look for as you watch Yankee games during the next month, or simply read about the goings-on with the Bronx Bombers.

Starting Pitching: The fourth and fifth slots in the rotation are up for grabs. Veteran Freddy Gsrcia and youngster Ivan Nova are the favorites, but Bartolo Colon and Sergio Mitre will also get looks. Youngsters Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman will likely see some action, but are not right now being considered for spots on the Opening Day roster. Oh, and it would be nice to see some signs that new pitching coach Larry Rothschild is getting through to veteran A.J. Burnett.

Bullpen: Not much competition here, the spots are pretty much locked down. It will be interesting to see how well Joba Chamberlain throws the ball after a disappointing 2010 season.

Backup Infielders: Four players are battling for two infield spots — Ramiro Pena, Eduardo Nunez, Ronnie Belliard and Eric Chavez.

Backup Outfielder: Greg Golson, Colin Curtis, Justin Maxwell and Kevin Russo are likely fighting for one spot.

Backup Catcher: Francisco Cervelli should be the backup to Russell Martin. It will be interesting, though, to see what highly-touted youngster Jesus Montero looks like behind the plate. If he looks like he can be adequate behind the plate I don’t think it would surprise anyone if Montero makes his way to the Bronx sometime this season.

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Yankees Open Exhibition Season Saturday, Bartolo Colon To Pitch

Baseball will be back on Saturday — at least the Spring Training variety. The New York Yankees open their exhibition schedule Saturday afternoon with a game against the Philadelphia Phillies. Game time is 1:05 p.m. ET and it will be broadcast on the YES Network and the MLB Network. If you really want to subject yourself to punishment this early, the game will be broadcast on WCBS Radio 880 AM, so you can hear John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman.

This won’t be an epic CC Sabathia vs. Cliff Lee World Series moment. Instead, Bartolo Colon gets the ball for the first couple of innings for the Yankees and Cole Hamels will open for the Phillies.

Colon, who has not pitched in the majors since 2009, is likely battling with Ivan Nova, Freddy Garcia and Sergio Mitre for a spot in the starting rotation. Colon would have to be considered a long-shot at this point.

New Yankee catcher Russell Martin, who had knee surgery in the offseason, is unlikely to play in the first few exhibition games as he waits for the knee to heal completely.

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Derek Jeter Laughs Off Hank Steinbrenner's Barbs

Hank Steinbrenner may try to boast and bluster like his father, the legendary ‘Boss,’ George Steinbrenner. Hank, though, just does not measure up. Check Derek Jeter’s response today to Hollerin’ Hank talking about Yankee players … ahem, Jeter … having bad years in 2010 because they were busy building mansions.

Jeter said he thought Hank’s remark was “funny.”

Personally, I just thought it was dumb. Since Hank’s much more professional and realistic brother, Hal, and General Manager Brian Cashman run the Yankees these days Hanks has little to do when it comes to the Yankees except spout off to reporters.

Jeter did his best to quell the storm Hank unnecessarily created.

“We can have a difference of opinion, but I didn’t sense that at all,” Jeter said. “I thought guys were ready to play. We just lost to a team that was better than us. That’s my point of view.”

“Owners can say what they want to say. They can have their opinion,” Jeter said. "That’s one of the things that you respected about the Boss when he was around. He had his opinion.

“Everyone didn’t always agree with the opinion, but you respected his opinion because he’s the boss. The same thing with Hank and Hal. They’re entitled to their opinions, they can say what they want to say; they’re the owners.”

Taking an obvious swipe at Jeter was not a smart thing for Steinbrenner to do. His father could probably have gotten away with that, but not Hank. It seems that every time he talks Yankee fans should be reminded how good it is for the organization that he seems to have no influence over any of the real decisions surrounding the team.

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Derek Jeter: En Route To 3,000 Hits, What Is A Fair Expectation?

Barring some sort of devastating injury, shortstop Derek Jeter will become the first player in New York Yankees franchise history to reach 3,000 hits this season. He is just 74 hits shy of that landmark as the 2011 season begins.

The question really isn't whether Jeter will reach the 3,000-hit plateau. That is a given. The question is how productive will the 36-year-old Yankee captain be en route to -- and beyond -- the mark?

Jeter, of course, had the worst offensive season of his 16-year career in 2010, hitting .270, with a .340 on-base percentage, .370 slugging percentage and .320 wOBA (weighted on-base average). All of those are well below Jeter's career averages.

Jeter is working on small swing changes with hitting coach Kevin Long and is, as you would expect, optimistic that 2011 will be better than 2010.

Is Jeter kidding himself? Is the .270/.340/.370 line what we should expect for Jeter going forward? How much improvement can be expected from a player who is obviously on the back side of his career?

I think Marc Carig of the Star-Ledger is right when he points to 2008, when Jeter hit .300 with a .363 OBP and .408 slugging percentage as what we should hope for. It is highly unlikely we will see him repeat  the .334/.406/.465 from 2009. 

That, roughly, is what Bill James projects for Jeter in 2011. Carig asks if fans would be satisfied if Jeter met James' projection -- .295/.365/.410/.344.

Speaking for myself I know I would. How about you?

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2011 Yankees Spring Training: Position Plays Report Today

New York Yankees position players report for physicals today, and the first full-squad workout of the 2011 Yankees Spring Training is set for Sunday. Here are three questions facing the Yankee position players as Spring Training gets into full swing.

1. What Will They Get From Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez? Maybe this is two questions, but we will deal with it as one. Jeter, of course, turns 37 this season and is coming off the worst offensive season of his 16-year career (.270, .340 OBP, .370 slugging percentage). Can he improve, or is 2010 productivity what the Yankees will have to live with from Jeter?

As for Rodriguez, he also hit .270 but did smash 30 home runs and drive in 125 runs in 137 games. How healthy can he stay as he turns 36 this season? His batting average and slugging percentage have declined significantly the past two seasons, from .302 and .573 in 2008 to .270 and .506 a season ago. Will the decline continue?

2. Who Will The Backup Infielders Be? The Yankees signed veterans Eric Chavez and Ronnie Belliard to compete with holdover Ramiro Pena and youngster Eduardo Nunez. If the Yankees keep two of them, who wins those jobs? My guess right now? Chavez if he is healthy because he can back up A-Rod, and Pena for his glove as the middle infield reserve.

3. Who Wins The Final Outfield Job?
The Yankees are likely to keep five outfielders, and they signed Andruw Jones to be the fourth one behind Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner. Battling for the fifth slot will be Colin Curtis, Greg Golson, Justin Maxwell and Kevin Russo.

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Yankees Spring Training: Joba Chamberlain Bigger, But Is That Better?

Have we moved on from the 'Joba Rules' to the 'Joba Jokes' when it comes to the New York Yankees' relief pitcher? Joba Chamberlain's ....  umm ... bulk seems to be an ... umm ... big topic at New York Yankees Spring Training this week.

There is all sorts of discussion about Joba's weight, which isn't being helped by the fact that neither Chamberlain nor anyone from the Yankee heirarchy will tell us exactly what Joba weighs.

Chamberlain was a rotund, and not exactly in-shape looking 230 pounds a year ago. Everyone, Chamberlain included, admits he is bigger in 2011. Joba claims all the new weight is muscle, built thanks to the new gym he installed at his home this winter.

Others aren't too sure.

But what kind of a message does it send when a pitcher like Joba Chamberlain -- who has gone from flame-throwing phenom with unlimited potential in 2007 to potential flameout in 2011 -- comes to training camp without a clear role in the Yankees' bullpen and without any guarantees about his future, but with a gut that would make CC Sabathia blush?

Worse than that, when questioned about it, what sort of attitude does it convey when that same Joba Chamberlain lapses into an "I've-been-in-this-game-a-long-time-and-I know-what-I'm-doing" routine to deflect attention from what anyone's eyes can see without the help of a scale?

Who does this guy think he is, Mariano Rivera?

Even the Yankees are wondering if this is a new and improved Joba, or a sloppy, out of shape 'I don't care anymore' Joba.

"You do think about what it says," manager Joe Girardi responded to what it means that a player in a battle for a lesser job — and maybe even a roster spot — has opened up questions about his conditioning.

In the end all anyone will care about is whether or not Chamberlain pitches better than he did a year ago. If he is out of shape, though, that is not a good way to begin.

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Yankees 2011 Spring Training: For Jorge Posada, The Beginning Of The End?

As the New York Yankees settle into their 2011 Spring Training routine, this could be the beginning of the end for long-time Yankee mainstay Jorge Posada. The signs are everywhere, and he is not oblivious to them.

Posada will turn 40 this season. He is in the final year of a four-year, $52.4 million contract. He has been rudely shoved aside as a catcher, the job he has held with the Yankees as a regular since 1998. He will be No. 3 this season, likely behind Russell Martin and Francisco Cervelli. Posada is still scheduled to play regularly, but as the team’s designated hitter only.

He knows this could be his final season, that he could be the next great Yankee to hang up his pinstripes.

“A lot has to do with this year — how I feel this year, how I come out after this season,” Posada said. “I would like to stay healthy. I think DHing will help me. After the season, we’ll see how my body responded the whole year and make the decision then. I’m happy with everything that’s gone on.”

When you think of great Yankee catchers, you think of Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey, Elston Howard and Thurman Munson. You should also think of Posada.

He may not be a Hall of Famer, but I have always thought that many Yankee fans have underestimated Posada’s importance to the Yankees. Over the years his defensive skills have been questioned, and in 2010 the Yankees finally reached a point where they felt his defense had deteriorated too much for him to continue behind the plate. When you throw out just 15 percent of potential base stealers and allow eight passed balls and 32 wild pitches in just 83 games behind the plate those types of judgments will be made.

Posada’s toughness, leadership and desire to win have been important to the Yankees for 14 very successful seasons now. So has his bat. Ultimately, it will be the bat that will keep him in the game. Or, bring him to decide to hang up his spikes after the 2011 season.

Can he adjust to being a designated hitter? He thinks he can.

"When you’re an everyday catcher and they throw you in as a DH, it’s tough," Posada said. "But I think knowing before spring training started that you’re going to be a DH, I think that helped me a little bit."

Posada hit 18 home runs, drove in 57 runs and had a slugging percentage of .454 in 383 at-bats a season ago. I think the Yankees would take similar production from him this season.

Yankee fans don’t have that much more time to chant “hip-hip Jorge” and to enjoy watching one of the best and toughest Yankees of recent history. Let’s hope that Posada’s bat, and his body, don’t let him down and that — if this is his season in pinstripes — it turns out well for him.

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Yankees 2011 Spring Training: What Is CC Sabathia Thinking?

Would New York Yankees ace pitcher CC Sabathia really exercise the opt-out clause in his seven-year, $161 million contract after this season, thus becoming a free agent again? Sabathia hinted at the possibility Monday during the first day of Yankees Spring Training, saying "anything's possible."

The comment drew plenty of reaction.

Here is part of what SB Nation's Rob Neyer had to say:

... you can hardly blame Sabathia for milking the Yankees for every last possible dollar. I don't think the Yankees would even blame him for that.

My only question is how many more millions of dollars he figures to milk.

While Cliff Lee will make $25 million from 2013 through '15, and -- barring major injury or contract extension -- another $27.5 million in 2016, he's making "only" $11 million this year and $21.5 million next year. The Average Annual Value (AAV) of Lee's deal is $24 million. (Oh, and Roy Halladay's AAV is only $20 million.)

Johan Santana's AAV with the Mets is slightly lower, $22.9 million.

And Sabathia? His seven-year, $161 million deal works out to a $23 million AAV.

None of this is coincidental. Essentially, the franchises with bulging wallets have decided, over the last couple of years anyway, that the very best pitchers -- with Halladay excepted -- are worth roughly $24 million on the open market. Almost exactly what Sabathia's slated to earn in each of the next five seasons.

Will he quibble over a lousy million bucks? Is he merely angling to earn one dollar more than Cliff Lee, and become the game's best-paid pitcher?

I doubt it. If anything, I think he's angling for bigger fish. Why settle for earning $25,000,001 per season when you could earn $26 million? $27 million? Who knows? It's not like the Yankees won't be able to afford it. And whether they finish in first place or third this season, they'll probably be desperate for a starting pitcher next season.

Mark Feinsand of the Daily News said basically the same thing:

Here's my question: Why WOULDN'T Sabathia opt out?

The clause was put in his contract to protect him in case he didn't like pitching in New York. As you may remember, Sabathia was a West Coast guy and everybody - Brian Cashman included - believed the big man wanted to pitch close to his home in Vallejo.

So in order to seal the deal before a team like the Angels got involved, Cashman gave Sabathia the opt-out. You don't like it in New York? You can leave after three years.

That hasn't been the case at all. Sabathia loves pitching for the Yankees, loves living in Alpine, N.J., and doesn't seem to have any desire to leave. But given a pitching market that saw Cliff Lee sign for five years and $120 million at the age of 32, why wouldn't Sabathia become a free agent at 31 and pick up two or three extra years at $23-24 million per year?

There's no reason.

I would have to agree with both Neyer and Feinsand. Opting out would not necessarily mean Sabathia wants to leave the Bronx. It just means baseball is a business, Sabathia got the opt-out clause for a reason, he knows there won't be any pitchers available as good as he is, that the Yankees can afford to pony up a few million extra for him and that they absolutely can't afford to see him go elsewhere.

The Yankees took enough hits on the starting pitching front this season with Andy Pettitte retiring and Cliff Lee going to Philadelphia. If they follow their current plan they will be breaking in one or two more of their highly-touted youngsters, and they will need an innings-eating ace to anchor the top of the rotation.

The Yankees will do what they have to in order to keep Sabathia is his very large (though not quite as large as they used to be) pinstripes.

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Yankees 2011 Spring Training: Joba Chamberlain Fighting For A Job

Joba Chamberlain debuted with the New York Yankees in 2007, throwing 100 miles-per-hour fastballs, unhittable sliders and gyrating on the mound like a mad man. He pitche to a spectacular 0.38 ERA , striking out 34 hitters in 24 innings over 19 relief appearances, allowing just 12 hits and one measly earned run. Stardom was forecast. Joba would be the heir apparent to Mariano Rivera, the next great Yankee closer. Or, he would become the anchor to their starting rotation for a decade or so.

Fast forward to four years later and we know things have not worked out that way. How far has Chamberlain's star fallen in the eyes of the Yankees? Well, this far.

As pitchers and catchers report to 2011 Spring Training today, General Manager Brian Cashman bluntly assessed Chamberlain's role with the team by saying Joba is "not a lock" to make the Opening Day roster.

"Anybody who has [minor league] options is not a lock for anything," Cashman said when asked by The Post if the 25-year-old was a roster-spot lock. "Any player with options has to re-earn everything. You earn more or you earn less — New York or Scranton [Triple-A]. I fully expect Joba to be in our bullpen. If not, he would have worked his way out of it."

Maybe that is just posturing by Cashman. Maybe he is simply trying to light a fire under Chamberlain, use the threat of the minor leagues to get Chamberlain to tap into vast potential everyone saw just a few short seasons ago. Maybe, however, it is a real threat.

Over the past couple of seasons Chamberlain has not pitched like a guy to whom the Yankees should be guaranteeing anything. He has gone from set-up man to Rivera to starting pitcher, back to eighth-inning set-up man, to a middle-inning guy and this year to a pitcher who looks like he will have to fight for one of the last spots on the staff. Since 2008, the reality is that no matter the role each season it seems his role on the staff has shrunk in terms of responsibility.

There will always be the argument that the Yankees screwed up Chamberlain's golden arm by bouncing him back-and-forth between the bullpen and starting pitcher, especially using the 'Joba Rules' to shorten his starts and limit his innings.

The argument that makes more sense is that the shoulder injury Chamberlain suffered in August of 2008 was more severe than the team ever really said. Since then the 98-100 mph fastball is gone, and the unhittable slider is not the same. They have been replaced by a guy with a straight low-90s fastball on most days who has a good, but not great, slider.

Cashman admitted during the offseason that Joba just has not been the same guy since that injury. The numbers, provided by the New York Post, illustrate the point.

Since walking off the mound in Arlington, Texas, on Aug. 4 that year with a barking right shoulder, Chamberlain has been average in several ways.

In 2401⁄3 innings since then, he has allowed 249 hits and posted a 4.53 ERA. His strikeout-to-walk ratio of 224-101 is solid and 224 Ks in 2401⁄3 innings is good.

There have also been whispers that maybe Joba never worked as hard as he could have. We'll see, He apparently installed a gym in his home this offseason and added 10-15 pounds of muscle.

As unfathomable as it may have seemed a couple of seasons ago, could Chamberlain's best value to the Yankees be as trade bait. Scouts, including one quoted by the Post, has said throughout the offseason that Joba is still an attractive trade candidate and that there are teams who think he could still be effective as a starting pitcher. Maybe using Chamberlain as a piece of a trade package might bring the Yankees an established starter like Cleveland's Fausto Carmona or, thinking bigger, a package that might entice the Minnesota Twins to deal Francisco Liriano.

Really amazing when you think of where Chamberlain was in 2007 that his value to the Yankees has come to this.

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New York Yankees Spring Training: Changing Of The Guard At Catcher

The New York Yankees open their 2011 MLB Spring Training Monday when pitchers and catchers report to Tampa, Fla. The Yankees' catching situation looks much different this season than it has in a long time.

That is because Jorge Posada, backstop for several World Series championship teams and a five-time All-Star, is not penciled in as the starting catcher for the first time since 1998, when he took over the job from now-manager Joe Girardi.

When the Yankees signed Posada to a four-year, $52 million contract prior to the 2008 season they knew it was possible Posada would not last the full four years as a catcher. After watching Posada throw out just 13 of 85 would-be base-stealers a season ago (a measly 15 percent), commit eight passed balls and allow 32 wild pitches in 83 games the Yankees decided that time had come. Posada, a proud, hard-nosed player, might not like it. The decision, however, is hard to argue with.

The likely starter in Posada's place is Russell Martin, a fomer Los Angeles Dodger who signed a one-year, $4 million contract with the Yankees during the offseason.


Russell Martin

#0 / Catcher / New York Yankees

5-10

230

R

R

Feb 15, 1983


Martin, 28, comes with plenty of questions. After successive All-Star season is 2007 and 2008 Martin tailed off considerable the past two seasons. In 2010 he hit just .248 with five home runs and 26 RBI in 97 games as he was bothered by a hip injury. He also had offseason knee surgery. Martin did, however, throw out 39 percent of potential base-stealers a season ago, and has thrown out 31 percent over his five-year career.

The biggest question about Martin, however, might not have anything to do with his hip, his bat, his knee or his throwing arm. It might simply be how long he can hold Jesus Montero for the starting job.

Montero, of course, is the crown jewel of the Yankee farm system. At 21, he is ranked among the top five prospects in the minor leagues by most analysts. Montero's bat is considered big-league ready after a season at AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre in which her mashed 21 home runs, drove in 75 runs and hit .289 with a .353 on-base percentage and .517 slugging percentage. There are still considerable questions about whether Montero is, or ever will be, a capable major league catcher. At some point, his bat is going to force the Yankees to put him in there and find out.

Also competing for a roster spot, and the likely No. 2 catcher, is Francisco Cervelli. An energetic young catcher who turns 25 this season, Cervelli probably profiles as a career backup. He is solid defensively, though he only threw out 22 percent of potential base-stealers a season ago (19 of 88). He simply does not hit enough. He has just one home run in 428 official at-bats. In 2010 he hit .271, but had no home runs, just 11 doubles, three triples and a puny slugging percentage of .335. Tough to see him justifying an every day job with those numbers.

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New York Yankees 2011 Spring Training: Bullpen Should Be A Strength

As the New York Yankees head into 2011 Spring Training there are serious questions about their starting rotation, their catching and the age of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. There should not, however, be any question about the strength of the Yankee bullpen.

First and foremost, the incomparable Mariano Rivera is still there to close games. Rivera is going to show his age some day, but pundits have been waiting years now for that to happen. Last season he saved 33 games, pitched to an ERA of 1.80 and a WHIP of 0.80. In fact, Rivera has pitched to a WHIP above 1.00 just once in the last six seasons, and that was just 1.12. Incredible!

Rafael Soriano was signed by the Yankees to be Rivera’s primary set up man. If you followed the news throughout the offseason you know General Manager Brian Cashman wanted to pass on Soriano, who saved 45 games for Tampa Bay a season ago, but owner Hal Steinbrenner overruled. Soriano will also provide closing insurance in the event of an injury to Rivera.

Left-hander Pedro Feliciano was also signed. Feliciano, 34, is a lefty specialist who spent eight season with the New York Mets. Feliciano has appeared in 266 games the past three seasons, most in the majors. Yankee fans should get used to seeing Feliciano in games in the late innings to neutralize left-handed hitters.

Joba Chamberlain will be back in the Yankee bullpen despite some calls for him to rejoin the depleted starting rotation. Joba has reportedly gained 10-15 pounds this offseason in hopes it will help him regain some of the velocity that seemed to be missing a season ago.

Right-hander David Robertson should be part of the bullpen. It will be interesting to see whether Robertson or Chamberlain pitches more the higher leverage innings this season.

Boone Logan will be the second left-hander. The hard-throwing Logan did an excellent job for the Yankees in 2010, appearing in 51 games and surrendering just 34 hits in 40 innings.

Sergio Mitre would seem the likely candidate to get the final spot on a 12-man staff, provided he is not in the starting rotation.

Other Candidates

There are a few other interesting bullpen candidates. Former Chicago Cubs great Mark Prior is trying yet another comeback and might have a shot if Mitre is a starter or there are injuries. Youngster Romulu Sanchez has a 95 mph + fastball and might push for a spot.

See the full roster

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New York Yankees 2011 Spring Training: Starting Pitching Questions Need Answers

Pitchers and catchers officially report to Spring Training Monday for the New York Yankees. Coincidentally, the pitching and catching situations are the greatest unknowns for the Yankees heading into the 2011 season. So, let's break them down.

Today, we will look specifically at the starting pitching.

If you followed the Yankees throughout the offseason you know this has not been an ideal winter for General Manager Brian Cashman or the Yankees starting rotation. Highly sought-after free-agent Cliff Lee, whom the Yankees had as their main offseason target, chose to sign with the National League's Philadelphia Phillies instead. Then, veteran mainstay Andy Pettitte chose to retire. That left the Yankees without 40 percent of the starting rotation they hoped to have in 2011, and how well they fill those two openings will go a long way toward determining whether the Yankees are back in the playoffs this fall with a shot at a 28th World Series title.

The rotation is led, of course, by CC Sabathia. The left-hander went 21-7 and pitched 237.2 innings last season. He had offseason knee surgery, lost 30 pounds off his massive frame and expects to be fully recovered this Spring.

Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett will also be part of the rotation. Hughes was 18-8 with a 4.19 ERA in 2010, his first full season as a starter. The Yankees will need another good year from him. Burnett suffered through a disappointing 10-15 season with a 5.26 ERA, and the Yankees will need him to look more like the 2009 version of Burnett, who was 13-9 with a 4.04 ERA.

Behind those three there are nothing but question marks.

Ivan Nova -- A 24-year-old right-hander who went 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in 10 games (7 starts) for the Yankees last season. Given their current circumstances, Cashman has repeatedly said this offseason the Yankees would like to see Nova win one of the two remaining starting spots.

Freddy Garcia -- A late winter addition, the veteran right-hander signed a minor-league contract. He went 12-6 with a 4.64 ERA in 28 starts for Chicago last season, and the 35-year-old has to be considered a favorite to join the rotation. He is a far cry from the guy who was one of the American League's best pitchers from 1999-2004, but if he can still get people out the Yankees have a spot for him.

Bartolo Colon -- The former AL CY Young Award winter was another late winter addition who signed a minor-league deal. Colon has not pitched a big-league game since July of 2009 and has won only 14 games since winning the 2005 Cy Young.

Sergio Mitre -- The sinkerballer has been a long man, spot starter for the Yankees the past two seasons and seems to be a particular favorite of Manager Joe Girardi. Mitre also pitched for Girardi with the Florida Marlins. The 29-year-old has a 13-29 career record with a 5.27 ERA and would seem better suited to long-relief duties. Given the current situation, though, he will get an opportunity to earn the No. 5 slot.

The Yankees also have several young pitching prospects who might be better served spending another season in the minor leagues, but could wind up pressed into service in the Bronx.

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New York Yankees' Spring Training Roster

Here is a position-by-position look at the New York Yankees Spring Training roster, including non-roster invitees. Spring Training begins Monday, Feb. 14 when pitchers and catchers report. Non-roster invitees designated with an NR.

Over the next few days we will have some looks at likely position battles throughout Spring Training.

Starting PitchersDellin Betances, Andrew Brackman, A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes, Sergio Mitre, Hector Noesi, Ivan Nova, CC Sabathia, Bartolo Colon (NR), Freddy Garcia (NR), Manuel Banuelos (NR), David Phelps (NR), Adam Warrn (NR).

Relief PitchersJoba Chamberlain, Pedro Feliciano, Robert Fish, Steve Garrison, Boone Logan, Damaso Marte, Ryan Pope, Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Romulo Sanchez, Brian Schlitter, Rafael Soriano, Daniel Turpen, Brian Anderson (NR), Luis Ayala (NR), Buddy Carlyle (NR), Neal Cotts (NR), Mark Prior (NR), Andrew Sisco (NR), Warner Madrigal (NR), DF.J. Mitchell (NR), Eric Wordekemper (NR).

CatchersFrancisco Cervelli, Russell Martin, Jorge Posada, Gustavo Molina (NR), Jose Gil (NR), Kyle Higashioka (NR), Jesus Montero (NR), Austin Romine (NR).

Infielders Robinson Cano, Reggie Corona, Derek Jeter, Brandon Laird, Eduardo Nunez, Ramiro Pena, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Ronnie Belliard (NR), Eric Chavez (NR), Doug Bernier (NR), Brad Suttle (NR), Jorge Vazquez (NR)

OutfieldersColin Curtis, Brett Gardner, Greg Golson, Curtis Granderson, Andruw Jones Justin Maxwell, Melky Mesa, Kevin Russo, Nick Swisher, Daniel Brewer (NR), Austin Krum (NR), Jordan Parraz (NR)

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