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Spring decision: Opening Day roster

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It’s one thing to list the Yankees decisions heading into spring training. It’s another to predict which decisions might present themselves in the next month and a half. Someone could be injured. Someone could become available on the trade market. Someone could emerge as a surprising candidate who forces new decisions and hard choices.

We go into spring training with expectations. And we accept that unexpected situations might change everything.

Ultimately, the Yankees most significant task this spring is to prepare itself for the regular season. That means keeping players healthy, getting everyone in game shape and putting together an Opening Day roster.

One day before camp opens, here’s my guess at the 25 players who will break camp heading for New York.

Derek Jeter SS
Nick Swisher RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Jorge Posada DH
Curtis Granderson CF
Russell Martin C
Brett Gardner LF

No surprises among the names listed. The most significant lineup decision is whether to keep Jeter in the leadoff spot, and I’ll guess that The Captain will show enough in spring training to earn the benefit of the doubt and the chance to prove last season was a fluke. Not certain it will stay this way — a leadoff platoon between Jeter and Gardner wouldn’t surprise me — but I think the Yankees will open this way.

Francisco Cervelli C
Andruw Jones OF
Eric Chavez 3B/1B
Ramiro Pena SS/2B

If he shows anything in camp, I think Chavez — because he’s a left-handed hitter and because he’s insurance at third base — will be given a chance to open the season with the team. It could be a Morgan Ensberg situation that doesn’t last, but a healthy and productive Chavez fits very well on this roster.

If Chavez is backing up at third base, the Yankees might as well carry the defensive-minded Pena instead of the prospect Eduardo Nunez to get very occasional starts at shortstop. My guess is that player development will be a determining factor in the backup catcher competition. The Yankees will prefer to have Jesus Montero and Austin Romine playing everyday in the minors rather than coming off the bench in New York.

CC Sabathia
A.J. Burnett
Phil Hughes
Freddy Garcia
Ivan Nova

I really wanted to shake up the system here and predict either Hector Noesi making the rotation or the Yankees pulling off a late-spring trade for a fourth starter.

In the end, I decided to go with conventional thinking. I do think Noesi could make a serious run at a rotation spot, and I don’t think a trade is out of the question, but these five are the most logical choices given the current situation. At best, I’m 20 percent confident that this will actually be the Yankees rotation on March 30.

Mariano Rivera
Rafael Soriano
Dave Robertson
Joba Chamberlain
Pedro Feliciano
Boone Logan
Sergio Mitre
— Romulo Sanchez —

Assuming they’re all healthy, I can’t think of a logical reason any of the first seven pitchers listed would be left out of the Opening Day bullpen. The top six are natural choices, and Mitre is the best fit as the long man (assuming the rotation that I’ve predicted). But I also think a nagging injury could present itself, and given this bullpen depth, the Yankees could convince themselves to be extra cautious. No sense risking anything when there are this many good arms ready to fill a short-term void. That’s why I think Sanchez might sneak into the Opening Day mix if any of the above is even slightly less than 100 percent.

Associated Press photos