Just a few thoughts through the middle of March…
The rotation looks alright
It’s too early to know anything for certain, but so far so good for the Yankees patchwork rotation. A.J. Burnett has shown much-needed consistency, and the back-of-the-rotation competition has been strong. If just one of Colon, Freddy Garcia, Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre can become a reliable fourth starter, the Yankees could have a solid group. The rotation concerns won’t be silenced in spring training, but they’ve grown a little quieter in these first few weeks.
Russell Martin fits the mold
There is something to be said for a calming presence behind the plate, and Martin seems to have brought that to Yankees camp. Pitchers say they like throwing to him, and he has an easy personality that seems to be a positive in the clubhouse. This job might not be his for long, but for a Yankees team in transition, Martin has been a good fit at catcher. His hip and knee have not been a problem, and if Montero weren’t here, the Yankees might be looking at both Jesus Montero and Austin Romine trying to learn on the job in the big leagues.
Eric Chavez is going to make this team
As long as he doesn’t hurt himself, it’s become pretty clear that Chavez is a heavy favorite to make the Yankees bench. He’s a perfect fit as a left-handed hitter who can play the corners, but Chavez needed to show something this spring. He looks good at the plate, he looks comfortable enough at first base and there’s little reason to doubt him at third. This is his spot to lose, and he’s only going to lose it if the injury bug finds him again.
Eduardo Nunez is impossible to ignore
The Yankees will carry 13 position players, and Nunez has been one of the 13 best players in camp. His combination of speed, bat and glove are more than enough to put him on the team, but the Yankees need their utility man to get only a handful of at-bats as a backup at shortstop, plus maybe a few pinch running appearances. It’s a tiny role, and the Yankees might prefer to let Ramiro Pena handle that job while Nunez stays sharp in Triple-A. So far, though, Nunez has been the better option. Whether he’s a better choice is a big-picture question the Yankees still have to answer. If I had to guess right now, I’d say Nunez will get the job.
Jesus Montero is not hitting
It might not matter because the Yankees believe fully in Montero’s bat, but for a guy fighting for a spot, it’s hard to miss the fact that Montero is batting just .185 with one extra-base hit, one walk and six strikeouts. Then again, Gustavo Molina and Austin Romine aren’t exactly hitting the cover off the ball. “To me, the defense has to come first,” Girardi said. “That’s the first thing I told (Montero). Not hitting in spring training. Yeah, you want to see everyone swinging great when they leave spring training, but I’ve seen a lot of guys hitting great at the end of spring training that don’t hit the first month of the season and vice versa.”
Hard to say who’s next in line
Aside from Jorge Vazquez, none of the guys likely ticketed for the minors has clearly established himself as someone at the top of the pecking order for an early season call-up. Manny Banuelos has been awesome, but he’s going to open in Trenton, and none of the already reassigned Triple-A guys — Adam Warren, D.J. Mitchell, Hector Noesi and David Phelps — was heads and shoulders above the rest (Warren probably had the best big league camp of the group). Of the three extra outfielders on the 40-man, only Justin Maxwell is currently healthy, and Brandon Laird has just one hit to go with his six strikeouts. Call-ups aren’t decided in spring training, and right now it’s hard to say who would be at the top of the list if someone were hurt in mid-April.
Associated Press photos of Burnett, Chavez and Montero