Dave writes: What is the deal with the Yankees apparent interest in Mark Prior? Having read (more than a few times) your feelings on the Carl Pavano soap opera, I assume you feel the same as I do: Didn’t they learn their lesson? Do you think Prior can offer a team like the Yankees anything in the near future.
Answer: To me, Prior is the most interesting of the non-tenders. I would assume any interested team would want to see a fresh MRI to confirm what has been a cheerful prognosis. An incentive-laden deal would be worth the risk. But the Yankees have six starters already, so I can’t see Prior heading to the Bronx. I presume he plans to continue his career as a starter.
Liane writes: What are the odds that Joba keeps his No. 62? I want to get a batting practice T-shirt with his number, but have some apprehension since he may go for a lower number this year.
Answer: Get the shirt. Baseball players are a superstitious bunch and I doubt Joba would risk a change. Besides, even if he does you’ll have a classic Joba shirt and that will have more cred than the new number.
Steve writes: Have the Yanks shown any interest in free agent Mike Sweeney at first base? He is a risk but won’t be too expensive and was once an OBP machine! Also, any thoughts about giving Xavier Nady a shot to succeed at 1B? I’m just not convinced Shelley Duncan can do the job.
Answer: Get 25 Yankees fans in a room and all 25 will have a different guy at first base. I have heard no talk of Sweeney and I don’t expect to hear any. He has been banged up physically for several years and the Yankees seem more interested in getting younger, not older. Here’s your first baseman on Aug. 1: Juan Miranda.
Andrew writes: I had a quick winter leagues question. Is there a significant injury risk for MLB players playing for winter league teams? It seems crazy that many, if not most, players are forbidden or discouraged from off-season activities like skiing or pick-up basketball (Aaron Boone) while others head south to play competitive baseball. If Abreu gets hurt this winter after having his $16 million option picked up, do the Yankees have any recourse?
Answer: MLB has an agreement with the winter leagues that allowes players to participate unless there is a medical reason not to. Given how many players come from the Dominican and Venezuela, it only makes sense. Most of the veterans pick their spots in the winter and try to take it easy. There is always a risk of injury but most players are working out anyway. If Abreu’s contract is insured, the Yankees could get some financial relief were he to get injured. But they can’t just void the contract.
Zak writes: When Roger Clemens signed with the Yankees he was asked why he came back to the Yankees. He said he spoke to George Steinbrenner during spring training and that he said something very special to him. He wouldn’t say what he said, but he would after the season. Did he ever say what George said?
Answer: I believe it was, “I know you’re on steroids but your secret is safe with me. And kiss up to Hank.”
Mike writes: Gun to your head, vote today, is Roger Clemens a Hall of Famer? I know in a perfect world we would wait for more details, but if it’s true, is he in?
Answer: That is my favorite expression, gun to your head. Maybe that explains John Wilkes Booth. Gun to your head, Mr. President, did Abner Doubleday invent baseball? As for Clemens, he gets in.
Todd writes: Andy Phillips has been a constant performer for the Yankees over the past few seasons; why do the Yankees keep cutting him? Also, what to you think is Robinson Cano’s long term future with the club? Could he be the next Derek Jeter?
Answer: My belief is that Andy once pulled up to Legends Field, flipped his car keys to Brian Cashman and said, “Don’t scratch it, Sparky” and walked away. For whatever reason, Cash doesn’t seem to have much time for Phillips. I love the guy, but when it comes right down to it, he’s 30 and not really much of a threat at the plate. As for Cano, he’s an insanely productive second baseman. But asking anybody to be Jeter is asking a lot. Robbie may do well with the ladies but scoring with Jessica Alba, Jordana Brewster, Jessica Biel and Gabrielle Union is a lot to ask.
Jo-Anne from Tampa asks: Pete, what do you want for Christmas?
Answer: Peace on earth, good will toward men, a bottle of Grey Goose and a high-definition television.
Thanks for the letters everybody.