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Pitchers and catchers: The countdown begins

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One month. That’s where the countdown begins.

In exactly a month, on February 12, pitchers and catchers will report to the Yankees spring complex in Tampa. That morning — just hours before President Obama delivers his State of the Union address — manager Joe Girardi will sit for his annual start-of-spring-training press conference. It’s essentially his State of the Yankees address.

Girardi will be asked about Alex Rodriguez’s hip, Derek Jeter’s ankle and Mariano Rivera’s knee. He’ll be asked about playing Brett Gardner in center, putting David Phelps in the rotation and trusting Austin Romine behind the plate. He’ll be asked whether this team — with its aging players and injury concerns — can reasonably expect to be better than next year.

Chances are, Girardi won’t give definitive answers to many, if any, of those questions. That’s what spring training is for, he’ll say; to find those answers.

Right now, with a month of offseason still to go, the roster still has questions to address even before pitchers and catchers arrive in Tampa. Can the Yankees find the right-handed bat they want and need? Who’s going to get the bulk of the designated hitter at-bats? Is the front office working on a surprise deal that will spark some new optimism?

Last year, it wasn’t until camp opened — more or less — that the Yankees traded away A.J. Burnett and signed both Eric Chavez and Raul Ibanez. Clay Rapada showed up after pitchers and catchers reported, Cody Eppley was claimed late in spring training, and Chris Stewart was acquired just before Opening Day.

Moves will be made, and significant decisions settled, after camp opens. But in one month, Girardi will sit down to address the state of the Yankees. Is he going to have anything new to talk about?

Associated Press photo