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The second string: Looking for backup options

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The Yankees still have to find a regular designated hitter, and they’ll use spring training to choose a regular catcher, but for the most part, the starting lineup is in place. At the very least, we know their plans at every defensive position. But what’s the backup plan? What happens if Kevin Youkilis or Curtis Granderson goes down in spring training?

Yesterday’s swap of Russ Canzler for Chris Dickerson tweaked the team’s depth chart. Based on who’s in place today, here’s an idea of what the Yankees would do if there were a serious injury to one of their regular position players.

One of four
One of three
Basically, there are four options coming to camp, and it’s anyone’s guess whether Austin Romine, Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli or Bobby Wilson will emerge with the job. If one of them gets hurt, it only takes one option off the table and it becomes a three-man race. As it stands, the catcher position is nothing but backup options.

Starter: Mark Teixeira
Backup: Kevin Youkilis; Russ Canzler; Jayson Nix
If Teixeira goes down, the Yankees would have two options: Put someone new at first base, or move Kevin Youkilis to first and put someone new at third. Veteran Matt Diaz has only played 2.2 innings at first base in his big league career, so he’s not much of an option. It would likely come down to Canzler. Is he hitting enough to play first? If not, then it might make more sense to put Nix at third base and shift Youkilis to first. If Teixeira gets hurt after Alex Rodriguez comes back, putting Youkilis at first should be a no brainer.

Starter: Robinson Cano
Backup: Jayson Nix; one of the young guys
Arguably the most difficult position to fill if the Yankees have to dig into the second string. Without Cano, the Yankees would have to either take this chances on upside or go with someone steady. Taking chances would mean giving Eduardo Nunez another shot at the position — which they seem unwilling to do — or give one of the kids (David Adams or Corban Joseph) a shot. If the risk/reward route isn’t promising, the best bet is probably Nix.

Starter: Derek Jeter
Backup: Eduardo Nunez
There should be something to said for Nix’s steady glove at short, but at this point, there’s more to be said for just giving Nunez the job and seeing what happens. Last year, the Yankees sent Nunez to the minors so that he could get regular playing time and try to sort through is defensive issues. If Jeter goes down — or comes back more slowly than expected — the Yankees will owe to themselves to find out once and for all whether Nunez has any real value to the organization. They’ve decided Nunez is a shortstop. This has to be his job if becomes open.

Starter: Kevin Youkilis
Backup: Jasyon Nix; Russ Canzler
Just like at second, Nix would be the steady, know-what-you’re-going-to-get option at third. But with Canzler on the roster, the Yankees have something at third base that they don’t have at second: A guy with two full years of Triple-A experience and a handful of big league at-bats. If Canzler hits and fields well enough to make the big league roster, he’s probably playing well enough to be considered the second string option at third.

Starters: Curtis Granderson, Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki
Backup: Matt Diaz; Russ Canzler
It really doesn’t matter which outfielder goes down, the backup option is going to be the same. It’s going to be whichever of the two right-handed options — and the Yankees are hoping to find at least one more before spring training — is playing well enough to win a roster spot. Even if it’s the team’s center fielder (Gardner or Granderson) who gets hurt, one of the current corner outfielders would move to center and the new guy would takeover in the corner.

Associated Press photo