Joe Girardi’s start-of-spring press conference will be tomorrow morning. I don’t expect any surprises or significant announcements, but last year Girardi was at least willing to acknowledge some of the basics about his expectations heading into camp. He wouldn’t give many absolute answers, but he was willing to use the word “envision” to describe the likely lineup, and he also said that Dave Robertson (not Rafael Soriano) would likely handle the eighth inning and that Francisco Cervelli (not Austin Romine) was projected as the backup catcher.
Three questions Girardi might answer
What’s the plan for Brett Gardner?
I don’t think he’ll tell us whether Gardner is going to play center field this season, but he should at least say whether the Yankees are going to play him in center field during spring training. If the Yankees acknowledge that they’re going to test an outfield with Gardner in center and Curtis Granderson in left, that basically means Gardner has a chance to prove he’s the better center fielder (which I think he will). It would also be interesting to hear Girardi say where he’s planning to hit Gardner. Does he “envision” Gardner as his leadoff man, or is Gardner “likely” to be back at the bottom of the order?
How will Eduardo Nunez be used?
Probably not going to DH him much, at least not through those early spring training games (might later in the spring if they’ve decided he’s going to get a lot of at-bats in that role), so where is Nunez going to play when he’s in the field. Is he basically going split time at shortstop with Derek Jeter, or are the Yankees going to at least give Nunez another look at second and third? We’ve heard Nunez is better off at short, and we’ve also heard his best chance of making the team is as a utility man. So which is it going to be this spring?
Where do Kevin Youkilis and Travis Hafner fit in the batting order?
Girardi might say that he doesn’t know, but last spring he was at least willing to acknowledge that he expected to move Robinson Cano into the No. 3 hole. He’s surely put some thought into a batting order, so where does he envision the two new guys fitting? Sixth and seventh behind Granderson? And is there any chance of Granderson moving back into his No. 2 hole is that even a consideration with both Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki in the lineup?
Three questions Girardi almost certainly won’t answer
What will the Yankees do if Derek Jeter isn’t ready?
It’s a hypothetical, and we all know how Girardi feels about hypotheticals. The Yankees have said all along that they expect Jeter to be ready for Opening Day, and I’m sure they’ll approach this spring with those intentions firmly intact. But what if he’s a step too slow to play shortstop? What if he progresses a little more slowly than expected and needs an extra week or two to be ready? What if he claims to be 100 percent and the Yankees simply aren’t sold on what they’re seeing? Either Nunez or Nix would have to be the backup plan, but I can’t imagine the Yankees acknowledging the need for such a thing.
Who is the favorite to be the right-handed outfielder?
My guess is that the Yankees honestly don’t know. They did sign Matt Diaz pretty quickly, so it could be that their scouts saw something they liked and he should be considered the front runner. But my guess is that Girardi is going to say it’s a wide open competition, with even a few of the minor league guys in the mix. Won’t mean that he doesn’t have a favorite in mind — and it won’t mean that the true favorite isn’t on some other team’s roster right now — but the Yankees kind of have to treat this spot with an open mind. There’s no sure thing in the picture.
Which Triple-A guys have a legitimate chance to make the team?
All of them. That’s going to be the stock answer. I’m guessing we’ll hear about a dozen names — Adams, Joseph, Almonte, Mustelier, Mesa, Neal, Romine, Warren, Marshall, Whitley, Cedeno, Miller, etc. — as guys the Yankees will be watching closely this spring. What we won’t hear are the names that have been actively discussed this offseason as truly intriguing options who could fill a specific role if needed. To some extent it’s just like the right-handed outfielder situation — an open mind is a good thing — but surely the Yankees are more excited about some of these guys than others.
Three questions we already know how Girardi will answer
What will the Yankees do about Alex Rodriguez?
The same no-comment comment we’ve been hearing for weeks. Honestly, what can he say? If he rips Rodriguez as a liar and a cheat, then he’s a mean-spirited manager who threw his player under the bus without all the evidence. If he pledges absolute support, then he’s blind to the reality of a player who simply never learns his lesson. In this case, it’s best to say nothing at all. And Girardi’s good at that.
Who is going to be the starting catcher, and who’s going to be the fifth starter?
These expectations have been set for quite a while. Brian Cashman has said over and over again that Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart are the favorites behind the plate, and Austin Romine is probably heading back to Triple-A. Larry Rothschild has said that Ivan Nova should be considered a favorite for the rotation, but he’s still going to have to hold off David Phelps. We know these situations going in. Girardi’s not likely to add a new wrinkle before the first workout.
When will Girardi address his expiring contract?
Does everyone know that Girardi’s in the final year of his contract? It could have easily slipped your attention because it’s been, for the most part, a non-issue. Girardi has said he doesn’t plan to address it until after the season, and the Yankees have a long history of not talking about contract extensions mid-season. There might be a question about it, but Girardi’s made it pretty clear that he won’t be talking about it.
Associated Press photos