The advent of spring baseball is just days
away (there is still time to buy the Yankees Chick a plane ticket out to FLA, folks), and fans and players alike are eagerly anticipating the glorious sound of that first crack of a bat and the comforting sight of tobacco-juice spew.
The whole crew will be there by the 20th
(pitchers and catchers are reporting next Tuesday!), including many youngsters who will be battling it out for spots on the opening day roster
. For the most part, the roster is pretty well hammered down - Abreu, Damon, and Matsui will head up the outfield with Melky serving as a very capable 4th man; the infield will feature A-Rod, Jeter, Cano, and the Mienty-Phillips-Giambi (let's cross our fingers that Giambi never has to play) platoon at 1st with Cairo riding the bench to cheer them on (and I guess occasionally grab a glove and play one of those infield positions); the starting rotation is filled by Wang, Mussina, Pettitte, Pavano, and Igawa - but spring training will offer a fun showcase of the young pitching talent
the Yanks have in their pocket to fill in the relief spots or step in when Pavano slips on a sunflower seed shell before opening day and is out for another 2 seasons.
The biggest name on the Yankees' "We have young pitching now, so shut your traps Red Sox fans"
list is the illustrious Mr. Philip Hughes (right...and no, that picture was not taken when he was 8, surprisingly), who at 20-years-old has already impressed more people with his talent than Felix Heredia has during his career.
It is pretty unlikely that PH will be on the roster for opening day, but we will be seeing a lot of him in future seasons and possibly in 2007 if too many injuries occur. Humberto Sanchez, the 23-year-old righty the Yanks picked up from Detroit in the Sheffield trade
, is more likely to fill an open spot in the rotation than Hughes, simply because he has a couple extra years of experience under his belt, including 3 innings for the Tigers last year during which he struck out 4, walked 1, and allowed just 1 hit. Besides Hughes and Sanchez, the Yanks also have 24-year-old Jeff Karstens and 25-year-old Darrell Rasner - who started 6 and 3 games, respectively, in 2006 - available as potential starters.
We can also expect to see several young Yanks out of the bullpen this Spring, too. Brian Bruney (left; you got a problem, beyotch?!)
, who allowed just 2 earned runs in 20 innings of relief work last season and had a 3.42 ERA over 7 seasons in the minors, will hopefully see some playing time, as will Chris Britton
, the righty the Yanks received from the O's in exchange for Jaret Wright. Sean Henn
, who was pretty successful as a starter down on the Yankees' farm (3.62 ERA in 92 games) but hasn't wowed anyone as a starter or reliever in the majors yet (8.27 ERA in 7 games) is also a contender for a roster spot along with the equally mediocre yet awesomely monickered TJ Beam and Colter Bean.
The kids' spring training performances will certainly be a factor in the ultimate roster decisions for opening day, but any or all of these youngsters could be making an appearance at some point during the year. The era of the Bernie - Jeter - Mo - Posada core
might be on its last legs, but with Cano, Melky, and Wang
working out so well I'm hopeful that one of these fine young pitchers will be great enough to round out a new