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Cooperstown Confidential

Spring Training Edition

By Bruce Markusen February 26, 2004

Whatís On Second?

Now that “The Trade” has become official and all interested parties have had a chance to chime in on the merits of Alfonso Soriano vs. Alex Rodriguez (and it is amazing how a few Sabermetricians are now saying that onetime whipping post Soriano isnít really that far from the godlike A-Rod on the value scale), itís time for the Yankees to begin their spring training search for a new All-Star second baseman. Or at least one who can pick up a ground ball. Right now, the list of candidates features four participants, but that could change based on a trade or a waiver wire pickup during the spring. Letís start with the pivotmen currently training with the Yankees down in Tampa.

In House Candidates:

Erick Almonte: Heís probably the longest of long shots to win the second base derby, given his non-roster status and lack of experience at the position. Almonte has struggled at shortstop, so he might be better suited for the other side of the diamond in the long run. Iíd expect that heíll start the season as the Opening Day second baseman for the Columbus Clippers.

Homer Bush: Also a non-roster invite, Bush is working against long odds, especially since he didnít play in the major leagues in 2003. Offensively, Bush will never compile even a decent on-base percentage since he likes to swing early in the count. On the plus side, Joe Torre remembers the impact that Bush had as a reserve in 1998, when he became a late-inning intimidator with his game-changing speed on the bases. Bush has lost a step or two since then and is no longer a feared basestealer, but heís still an above-average defender at second base with plus range and the capability of turning the double play. The 31-year-old Bush could emerge as a sleeper in the second-base sweepstakes, particularly if general manager Brian Cashman fails to swing a deal for help outside of the organization.

Miguel Cairo: Of the four in-house candidates, Cairo is probably the weakest hitter; he wonít hit for a high average, doesnít draw a lot of walks, and has no power. Yet, heíll probably catch Torreís attention with his fielding around the bag, where heís more comfortable than either Bush or Enrique Wilson. Once a favorite of Tony LaRussa in St. Louis, Cairo has good range and soft hands, and turns the double play well. Unlike Bush, Cairo has a fallback option of making the team as a backup player; he possesses enough versatility to play third base, shortstop, or the outfield, whereas Bush can only play second or third.

Enrique Wilson: Despite several unproductive seasons as a Bronx utilityman, Wilson has managed to gain favor with both Torre and Cashman. They like his professionalism and upbeat attitude, which helps them overlook his severe lack of offensive output in pinstripes. Wilson really hasnít hit since his days in Cleveland, and heís not as capable a defender as either Bush or Cairo. Yet, Wilson is almost certain to make the team and has already been installed as the pre-season second-base favorite by Torre.

While the list of in-house contenders is relatively short

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