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The Week That Was in Yankee Camp
By Mike from In Mo We Trust.
We're in the home stretch, people!  This may be the longest Spring Training in the history of baseball, but the countdown to the regular season has finally reached single digits.  A target date was set for A-Rod's return, the Captain made his way back to camp and the lineup underwent a bit of tweaking.  Let's do a quick rewind on the past week in pinstripes.
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May 15.  Mark your calendars!  That's the date Alex Rodriguez is expected to be back in pinstripes (a home game against the Minnesota Twins).  Say what you will about A-Rod (and you can say a lot), but the guy is a worker and I'm sure he's dying to get back on the field.  The only worry is that Rodriguez may be working a little too hard.  I'm not a doctor and the two injuries aren't the same, but keep an eye on how Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley performs early on this year.  Utley had offseason surgery on his right hip and is progressing much faster than predicted.  And he's playing quite well so far as he took Joba Chamberlain deep on Thursday.  Hopefully, the same will be true for A-Rod when he returns.

The Captain's back.  Derek Jeter returned to Tampa after his three-week stint on Team USA and didn't skip a beat.  Jeter played in USA's last game on Sunday and was in the Yankee lineup Tuesday against the Boston Red Sox.  Jeet finished 1 for 2 with a walk in the Bombers' 7-1 victory.  "It's good to get back and now get into a routine of playing every day," Jeter said. "We had a lot of off-days in this tournament -- we had two or three days in between games at some times. There's a reason you play every single day, so I've got this last week to 10 days to get into a routine."  Glad to have you back, buddy.

Switch at the top.  Speaking of Jeter, it looks like he'll have a new job on the team -- leadoff man.  Manager Joe Girardi announced that he'll flip-flop Jeter and Johnny Damon in the order for the remainder of Spring Training and may stick with it when the regular season begins.  In theory, the move isn't terrible.  Jeter's on-base percentage last season was similar to Damon's (.375 for JD compared to DJ's .363) and having the lefty-hitting Damon up after Jeter could create a bunch of first-and-third situations.  But Jeter has made a living at hitting the ball the other way so the idea of having Damon pulling the ball in the hole seems moot.  And while the Yanks don't do a lot of running, Damon had 29 swipes last season compared to Jeter's 11.  The biggest reason for the move could be to limit the number of double plays Jeter bounced into the past two years (45 -- fourth-most in the league).   I was against the move at first (I fear change), but it makes sense -- in theory.  I still prefer Damon at the top of the lineup, though.

Gearing up.  Looks like Jorge Posada's surgically repaired right shoulder is doing just fine.  Posada gunned out three out of four would-be baserunners Sunday in a Minor League game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  "You can't compare what I was feeling last year," Posada said. "I couldn't do that. I couldn't make three throws like that. It's good to be back."  Here, here.

Trade rumors.  Brett Gardner has all but cemented his claim as the team's starting center fielder heading into the season and that may mean Melky Cabrera is on the block.  It's been a tough go for Melky since he donned the pinstripes -- he's been involved in trade whispers for the past three seasons.  Hopefully, this is just talk and it may be if you believe Girardi, who said he expects both players to make the trip up north.  Keeping Cabrera also gives the Yanks some depth on the bench.  Gardner has the upper hand right now, but the season is long.  There's no reason to give up on players in March or April.

Johnny Blanchard.  The Yankees lost a member of their family when Johnny Blanchard died of a heart attack Wednesday at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale, Minn.  He was 76.  I never saw Blanchard play, but I remember seeing him at Old-Timer's Day games over the years.  Blanchard batted .239 as a reserve catcher and outfielder over his eight Major League seasons, but he played like a man possessed during the postseason.  He hit .345 with six runs scored, four doubles, two homers and five runs batted in 29 career World Series at-bats with the Yanks.  "Johnny was a good friend and a great teammate. He was proud of being a Yankee and always fun to be around. We'll miss him," Yogi Berra said.

Another opener without Sheppard.  It looks like longtime Yankee public address announcer Bob Sheppard won't be at the mic when the team opens the new stadium April 16.  Sheppard missed the entire 2008 season with a bronchial infection.  The old girl didn't go out the right way with Sheppard absent last season and the new girl won't get the opening she deserves.  But there's always hope.  "His doctor said he doesn't have the stamina yet to go back at this time, but he's hoping sometime during the season he'll be able to," Sheppard's wife Mary said.  Get back soon, Bob. 

The dream is over.  It wasn't gonna happen, but the Yanks made it official on Monday when they shipped Kei Igawa to the minors.  "I thought he did a really good job most of Spring Training," Girardi said. "I thought this was probably his best."  The Yanks said they "envision him being in the rotation" and that Igawa should prepare himself as such.  Considering the Yanks have five starters and Phil Hughes and most likely Ian Kennedy next in line, it doesn't seem like Igawa will be starting for the Yanks anytime soon.

Put it this way, Igawa and I may have the same chance of being a starter for the Yankees in 2009.

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

25 Comments | Leave a comment

You said a mouthful so I'm only going to comment on Sheppard, which is terrible. I was really holding out hope that he would get better and be able to resume his old job. It's a shame. I guess that's how life is though.

Somethings we can never get back.

It's true. I'm going to hold out hope, too. Sheppard has had a long career, but I'm greedy and want him to be the voice at the stadium one more time.

Mike,

Nice Yankee coverage though I disagree about Igawa. He came over and struggled as so many good pitchers do (think Kenny Rogers) when they face the NYC media insanity. He'll pitch somewhere in the Bigs this year; too many teams need a 4 or 5 guy for him to stay at AAA.

Thanks, Ross. I'd love for some team to take Igawa off the Yankees' hands. He might have a chance in the NL, but too many of his pitches stay up in the zone.

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