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Four weeks, four names, four questions

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I don’t really like counting down to spring training. The day-by-day, one-at-a-time thing just isn’t for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done it, but I don’t get especially worked up about pitchers and catchers being 50 days away, and then 40, and then 30, and then…

Today is four weeks before camp opens in Tampa. And four weeks doesn’t seem like a lot of time considering all that’s left to do.

The Yankees seem to have, essentially, their lineup in place. They might add some potential role players here and there — and there’s still some chance of an impact trade — but there’s also a chance that all of the guys who will be in the lineup on Opening Day are already on the 40-man roster. The pitching staff, though, is still a bit of a mystery. And there’s the ongoing A-Rod soap opera that’s 12 months old and still going strong.

So with four weeks to go before camp opens, here are four names of interest and four questions that need to be answered before pitchers and catchers show up in Tampa.

Where will he end up?
Might as well start with the obvious. Hard to imagine any one player and any one question having more impact between now and the start of spring training. The destination of Tanaka — whether it’s the Yankees or not — will significantly steer the course of the remaining days and weeks. If the Yankees get him, they’ll have the young starter they badly want and need. If they don’t, then what? Would they take a shot on someone like Matt Garza or Ubaldo Jimenez? Would they try to trade for a starter?

Is he really out of the picture?
There’s a lawsuit pending — I guess there are actually a few lawsuits pending — and Joe Girardi himself has said he’s not entirely certainly he won’t have Rodriguez on the roster this season. Of course, there’s also the ever-present question of what exactly Rodriguez will do next. What’s his next move? Is there another trick up his sleeve? And if the suspension holds, is he really going to show up for spring training?

Who’s joining him in the bullpen?
Look, we know Robertson is going to be there. What we don’t know is whether he’s going to be the overwhelming favorite to be the closer — which he clearly is right now — or if he’s going to be one of multiple guys auditioning for the part. When Hal Steinbrenner said this week that the pitching staff needed work, surely he wasn’t speaking only in reference to the rotation. Grant Balfour. Andrew Bailey. Fernando Rodney. Do the Yankees have plans for an impact reliever, or is Matt Thornton going to be their big bullpen addition?

Is he sticking around?
Whether Derek Jeter can still play shortstop, how many games Brian Roberts can play at second, and whether Mark Teixeira can still hit home runs are not questions we’re likely to answer between now and February 14. What we will find out is whether the Yankees intend to open camp with Gardner locked in as their everyday left fielder, or if they’ll ultimately decide he’s more valuable as a trade chip for either an infielder or a pitcher. For that matter, I guess we’ll find out whether Ichiro Suzuki can be traded (and whether the Yankees can find another significant infield option without trading anyone).

Associated Press photo