Mark writes: Haven’t heard much about Shelley Duncan since the demotion to AAA. Is that it for him? I don’t hear his name mentioned in any future plans the Yanks have. I imagine they’ll look at him come March, but it doesnt seem like he’s part of any future plans. What do you think?
Answer: The fact he was not called up in September seems pretty significant. Duncan is on the 40-man roster now but will be stay there one the Yankees start making moves? Moving to another organization might be his best chance to return to the majors.
NYCity425 writes: I wanted to get your opinion on Andrew Brackman. Where do you see him fitting in with the Yankees plans going forward?
Answer: I have yet to watch him pitch in person. He was limited to playing catch in spring training. He’s a big dude with surprising athleticism and scouts seem impressed with the action on his pitches. But Brackman is very inexperienced as a pitcher and it could take another year or two before he’s ready for the majors. Since 2005, he has pitched fewer than 200 innings in competition. That encompasses his entire career at N.C. State, summer ball, a brief stint with Team USA in 2006 and his time in Hawaii this month. He has a lot to learn.
Mike writes: Having watched the Phillies a lot this year, I’ve become a big fan of Shane Victorino. He reminds me of the type of role player that the great Yankees teams of the mid 90’s through 2001 had (like a Scott Brosius, Paul O’Neill, etc.). I believe his contract is up this year, and think he would be a great fit on the Yankees as a leadoff hitter with some speed that can play any OF position, but also bring a number of intangibles to the clubhouse. Any thoughts or rumors as to if the Yankees could or will try and go get him?
Answer: Victorino is arbitration eligible but not a free agent. The Phillies would gave to non-tender him to make him a free agent and there is no chance of that. I agree with you that he would help the Yankees. But the Phillies aren’t about to give him up.
Dionisio writes: What about the Yankees signing Mark Prior to a $1 million deal with incentives like San Diego did last year? There’s not much to lose. I mean, if we picked Eric Milton and Victor Zambrano last season, why not Prior? If he’s healthy, and can get his stuff back, he’s a frontline starter. The guy got surgery and is playing catch right now, he’ll be ready for spring training. He just needs to make some starts at the minors, to get his stuff and mechanics back. And he’ll be ready.
Answer: The Yankees once drafted Prior, so it would be somehow fitting if they gave him a chance. But given his history, it would be a total gamble. The poor guy seems washed up. Beyond that, I think the Yankees need to draft and develop starters, not rummage through the dumpster for injury cases.
Ralph writes: What’s up with all the spitting by ballplayers in the dugout and on the field? Do they find the need to spit in the locker room or while they are at home? Do they spit while you are interviewing them? I assume not, so why do they find it necessary to spit constantly during a game? My daughter is a Middle School PE teacher. Boys are spitting during class because they think that you are supposed to do that when playing ball.
Answer: Most players dip tobacco or chew gum or sunflower seeds during games. It’s part of the game and when you use dip or seeds, you spit. I’ve had plenty of guys spit while being interviewed, usually into a cup. Some guys do it all year long. I used to dip when I was in college and liked it. But it came down to dip or the lovely Jill and she won out. I never picked it up again.
Ira writes: I hope the Yankees will not trade Phil Hughes and give him a chance to grow such as Jon Lester and Matt Garza.
Answer: What team are you a fan of, Ira? Clearly it’s not the Yankees. Because most fans I hear from have given up on Hughes because he’s 22 and hasn’t won the Cy Young yet. Patience has never been a virtue of the Yankees or their fans. I hope that changes with Phil because I believe he has a chance to be a top-of-the-rotation starter for a championship team.
Rob writes: If the Yankees sign Sabathia and Mike Mussina comes back, what would the Yankees interest be in signing Oliver Perez? He is young, a lefty, and would not cost them that much. He could be a fifth/insurance starter and throw him in the bullpen.
Answer: Forget Mussina, he’s almost certain to retire. Perez also is represented by Scott Boras, so forget the idea of his not costing too much. And why would a guy who made 34 starts in 2008 want to become a part-time starter in 2009? If they sign Perez, it would be for a rotation slot at decent money. I don’t see them doing that because they can do better.
Cheryl writes: This is a serious question. Should we be worried about the A-Rod and Maddona thing?
Answer: By “we” I assume you mean Yankees fan and not all mankind, Cheryl. You should not be too worried. Thanks to the Yankees inexplicably writing incentives into his contract to hit home runs, Alex has plenty of reason to continue to be a good baseball player. That said, the guy clearly has a need for drama in his life. His inane waffling about which WBC team to play for, the whole “Jeter and I aren’t friends” mess, the World Series opt-out and now his apparent dalliance with a 50-year-old pop star. It’s all a little ridiculous. But based on previous instances, he’ll keep getting on base and driving in runs and that’s really all that matters.
Thanks for all the letters. Please feel free to e-mail  me at any time with Yankees questions and I’ll do by best to answer them. No, I won’t forward your ideas to Brian Cashman. Sorry.