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More Yankees Spring Training Tidbits
by Mike from In Mo We Trust.
Spring has officially sprung and the Bombers can see the light of the regular season at the end of the tunnel.  Three veterans look poised to resume their old forms, a new face got a bit of a scare and an old bust may have turned the corner.  Let's do a quick checkup of the past week.
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The Three Amigos.  The loss of Alex Rodriguez has been the main story in Yankee Land, but the health of three other players may prove to be the real difference this upcoming season.  Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui are all returning from surgeries and so far, all three have looked sharp -- especially during the Yanks' 9-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on St. Patty's Day.  The Sandman needed just 11 pitches to retire the Bucs in his spring debut.  Godzilla blasted his first home run of the spring and finished with four runs batted in.  Posada collected an RBI-single and a run scored, but more importantly he made his first throw from behind the plate without any pain.  Manager Joe Girardi plans to use Matsui as the club's designated hitter until at least June.  It's a solid move since Godzilla is recovering from knee surgery and isn't the team's best defender anyway.  But that move can only work if Posada is ready to catch every day.  And so far, so good.  Posada is 0 for 3 in trying to nab base stealers this spring, but he's feeling pain-free and caught in back-to-back days for the first time this week.  "I'm hard on myself. I want to throw everybody out. Even last year when I wasn't feeling 100% I still had a lot of pride and wanted to throw guys out. Now, it's just the timing part and getting the arm strong so I can really snap the throws down there," Posada said.  And Rivera, well ... Rivera is Rivera.  Mo allowed a hit Saturday against the Detroit Tigers, but retired the side on just 12 pitches, including two strikeouts.  "I'll need another five, six outings, then it will be good," Rivera said. "Right now I'm focusing on making sure that I'm getting stronger."  That's the spirit, fellas!  After all, we will not die like dogs! We will fight like lions! Because we are ... The Three Amigos!

Ah-lookout, A.J.!  The Yanks got a bit of a scare on Thursday night when A.J. Burnett took a line drive off his left triceps in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays.  Thankfully, Burnett was fine and remained in the ballgame.  Burnett had a his first "rough" outing of the spring against his former mates, allowing one run over 3 1/3 innings, but he's been lights out so far.  Burnett allowed just one hit over six shutout innings heading into Thursday's action.  A.J. is another big key to the Yankees success this season.  Hmm, the Yanks sure have a lot of those kind of guys.

Heading back to Scranton.  The Yankees sent pitcher Phil Hughes to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Saturday.  Hughes had a great camp and his demotion was simply a matter of numbers.  The 22-year-old right-hander had a 2.19 ERA during his 12 1/3 innings this spring.  Injuries are a part of the game and chances are that Hughes will be back with the big club at some point during the 2009 season.  But for now, he'll get a chance to pitch every fifth day and tighten up his control.

The battle for center.  Girardi isn't ready to name his starting center fielder, but barring a colossal upset, it looks like Brett Gardner will land the job.  As of Thursday, Gardner was batting .382 with three home runs, six runs batted in and a .447 on-base percentage.  Meanwhile, Melky Cabrera is batting .242 with two doubles, a triple, five runs batted in and a .342 on-base percentage.  Still, it may work into a win-win for both players.  Gardner will most likely get the nod for center, but Cabrera is out of Minor League options and will probably share the fourth outfielder duties with Nick Swisher.  The Yanks didn't have much depth on the bench last season, but it could be a different story heading into 2009.

Igawa -- Major Leaguer?  It's probably the biggest surprise storyline to come out of Yankees camp this season.  Kei Igawa is making a claim to stay with the big club as a bona fide Major Leaguer.  Will wonders never cease?  Igawa is still a long shot to make the team and probably won't head up with the Yanks when they break camp, but he's making a claim that he actually belongs in the Major Leagues.  Igawa hasn't given up a run in his 12 2/3 innings pitched this spring and may draw interest from other clubs.  The left-hander excelled in Scranton last season (finishing 14-6 with a 3.45 ERA in 26 games) and may have finally turned the corner.  Igawa said he's made a greater effort of trying to put the ball in play.  "Because of the pitch count issue that we have in the States, I try to put the ball in play and get quick outs, throwing strikes," Igawa said. "Over there, I could just throw 150 pitches and go nine innings if I wanted to."  And just think, it's taken Igawa just three years to realize he should concentrate on throwing strikes.

But that's the beauty of spring -- everyone gets a chance to reinvent themselves.

Mike co-writes In Mo We Trust and also covers the New York Jets on his blog Green Pinstripes.

17 Comments | Leave a comment

Igawa! Get the hell out of here!!
Let's just hope the Yanks pitching stays healthy.

I guess you're still not a fan of pitchers who throw 88 MPH up in the zone, huh?

He stinks and I don't like him!

And now he's gone. He's gone Phil, and probably won't ever be coming back.

It's the smart move.

Let's get serious, now that this WBC garbage is over!

You got it, Phil! Time to start kickin' ass and takin' names!

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