Today’s news is powered by an Opening Day Yankee Roll Call . . .
- MLB.com reports on Ramiro Pena snagging the final roster spot:
Despite having not played above Double-A Trenton, Pena opened eyes in camp when Derek Jeter left the club for the World Baseball Classic, showcasing a slick glove and a developing bat. Pena batted .277 (18-for-65) with two doubles, a triple and seven RBIs in 30 Spring Training games for New York.
- Joba Chamberlain was quite impressive in his final Spring Training start.
- Will Alex Rodriguez be back on the field by the end of April?:
Alex Rodriguez’s progress in rehab after hip surgery is going so well that he could rejoin the New York Yankees by the end of April.
When Rodriguez underwent hip surgery on March 9, the initial prognosis was for him to miss six to nine weeks. That would have had him returning anywhere from the end of April to the middle of May.
Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long told the New York Post that Rodriguez has begun to hit and “feels 70 percent.” Long speaks with the third baseman daily, the Post reported.
Citing an unnamed team official, the Post also said it’s possible Rodriguez could be back on the field by late April if the Yankees were to support that.
- Joe Sheehan, as part of his ranking of all the teams primarily by runs scored and allowed, puts the Yanks at #2 with a 95-67 record:
The age of this offense is a big concern, and it was even before Alex Rodriguez went down, reminding everyone of how Jorge Posada‘s shoulder changed the 2008 season. Six of the nine regulars are past-peak guys, giving the lineup a 2008 Tigers feel. There’s more depth on the pitching staff, and with A.J. Burnett not in a walk year, they’ll likely need it. The bullpen, which gets very little attention, is a huge strength for this team; the Yankees may win a number of games in which a starter gets knocked out just because their #11 and #12 guys are likely to be average pitchers. They’re DOA if Posada can’t catch 120 games, however. . . .
- Anthony McCarron of the News writes about the Captain at a career crossroads:
Derek Jeter has had a splendid career that includes four World Series titles, nine All-Star games, the 1996 Rookie of the Year award, the 2000 World Series MVP award, and six top-10 finishes in AL MVP voting, including a second-place showing in 2006 when many feel he should’ve won over Justin Morneau. He has scored at least 102 runs in every season in which he’s gotten 500 at-bats except for last year and has six seasons of more than 200 hits. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he has the highest personal winning percentage (.600) among active players who’ve played at least 1,000 games. Sometime in 2011 or 2012, he’ll likely get his 3,000th hit, making him a Hall of Fame automatic.
But he has come under mounting criticism – sometimes accompanied by a healthy dose of glee by the critics. His defense, in particular, has come under harsh scrutiny and as baseball executives and analysts seek to discover new ways to measure a player’s defensive ability, Jeter comes up short. One baseball executive called him “deficient” at the position right now. When he alternated starts with Jimmy Rollins – perhaps the finest defensive shortstop in the game – during the World Baseball Classic, the difference in the players was startling.
- PeteAbe provides a good quote from 2nd year manager Joe Girardi:
I asked Joe Girardi if he felt better prepared for this season than he did at this time last year.
“Yes you do, because you know what it’s like to sit in that chair,” he said. “You know all the different things you have to address and handle and you know the personality of the players a lot better than you did the year before and what they’re capable of doing and what they need and what they won’t need. Just a year of understanding what the job entails.”
- Andy Phillips turns 32 today. Phillips was a corner infield sub for the Bombers from ’04 to ’07.
- Ken Clay turns 55 today. Clay was a swingman for the ’77-’79 Yanks, and was traded after the ’79 season for Gaylord Perry.
- On this date in 1973, at Fenway Park, Ron Blomberg becomes the first designated hitter in major league history. In his first plate appearance, Blomberg walks with the bases loaded off Luis Tiant. He will end up with one hit in three at-bats as the Yankees lose to the Red Sox, 15 – 5.