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Opportunity of the World Baseball Classic

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In a little more than a week, six Yankees will leave big league camp to play in the World Baseball Classic (a seventh, Pat Venditte, isn’t in big league camp at all). That means opportunities for other players to get additional at-bats and innings.

[2]1B Mark Teixeira
Team USA
Opportunity for Dan Johnson, who has two things to prove this spring. Teixeira being gone won’t help him prove anything at third base, but it should open a few more at-bats for him to prove he can hit. The ability to play third could be key to Johnson making the roster, but his primary impact comes from his bat. And Johnson is a career .235/.337/.413 hitter against right-handers, so there’s something to prove there. Luke Murton and Kyle Roller could also get some additional playing time, but it’s Johnson who has the most to gain in the short term. 

2B Robinson Cano
Team Dominican Republic
Opportunity for Corban Joseph, who had a breakout season last year and could fit on the Yankees big league roster. He’s a left-handed hitter who plays second and third, which means he could provide a late-inning pinch hitter for the Yankees catchers, while also letting Eduardo Nunez backup at shortstop without having to play any other position. Joseph has played less than a full season in Triple-A, though, so earning the Yankees trust this spring could open a door either out of camp or in the middle of the season.

SS Gil Velazquez and Walter Ibarra
Team Mexico
Opportunity for Addison Maruszak, who’s trying to build some momentum after a strong Double-A season. Eduardo Nunez and Jayson Nix were going to get plenty of playing time with or without Velazquez and Ibarra, but when the players leave for the WBC there will be only two other healthy shortstops — Maruszak and Cito Culver (and maybe Jose Pirela) — in big league camp. Culver is a defensive specialist who’s nowhere near the big league radar, but Maruszak could be a Triple-A regular. Making an impression on the big league staff could make a difference for him.

LHP Juan Cedeno
Team Dominican Republic
Opportunity for Francisco Rondon, who has a spot on the 40-man but hasn’t made any sort of impression on the big league staff. Cedeno pitched pretty well last spring and last season in Triple-A, but while he’s away, a few more innings should go to Rondon and Josh Spence. Spence has been to the big leagues, so he comes in with some benefit of the doubt. Rondon has more to prove, and he’s going to need innings to do that.

OF Melky Mesa
Team Dominican Republic
Opportunity for Adonis Garcia, who’s a right-handed center fielder, already 27 years old, with 118 pretty good Double-A at-bats on his resume. There are plenty of other right-handed outfielders in camp, but where Mesa stands out is in his ability to play center. That’s where his at-bats were almost certainly going to come (guys like Thomas Neal, Matt Diaz, Juan Rivera and Ronnier Mustelier will get their time in the corners). Without Mesa, some of that extra center field playing time should go to Garcia, who’s old enough that he could advance quickly if he performs.

Associated Press photo