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Wednesday March 5, 2008 7:54 pm

Team Preview: New York Yankees

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Next up in our MLB team previews are the Bronx Bombers themselves, the New York Yankees. The Yankees have won more championships than any other team in the history of sports (26), but haven’t won one since 2000. Armed with new manager Joe Girardi, the Yanks will look to win number 27 in 2008.

Starting Rotation: Although the talent is there, the Yankees’ starting rotation is in limbo right now. Andy Pettitte will be the ace, and coming off a 16 win season, he should be solid if he can avoid the controversy surrounding his mention in the Mitchell report. Chien-Ming Wang should be number 2, he won 19 last season. If Wang can keep his composure in big games, he should keep up his dominant statistics. The next slot could go to Mike Mussina or Phil Hughes…Mussina’s still a good major league pitcher but has seen his ERA go from 3.51 in 2006 to 5.15 in 2007. Hughes went 5-3 with his brief time with the team last season. The number 5 slot could go to prospect Ian Kennedy who needs to prove that he’s Big League ready; he struck out 57 batters in AA last season. Outside shots to crack the rotation are Jeff Karstens, Darrell Rasner and Carl Pavano. And unfortunately, no, that’s not a typo; Carl Pavano is still with the Yankees entering 2008.

Bullpen: Mariano Rivera will (of course) be the team’s closer in 2008. Mo didn’t exactly dominate in 2007, but he finished the year with 30 saves and consistently proves to be the game’s dominant relief pitcher. Setting him up to begin the season will be flame throwing Joba Chamberlain, who may be Rivera’s heir apparent for the closer job when Mariano retires. New addition Latroy Hawkins will get plenty of action, the Yankees will need for him to be flexible to hold the fort until the 8th and 9th innings. This could prove to be a tall order; Hawkins only threw 55.1 innings last season. Kyle Farnsworth will also be coming in from the pen, and shouldn’t be too effective. He’s got a dynamic fastball-changeup combination but is clueless as to location and mechanics. Competing for a job will be feel good story Edwar Ramirez, who worked his way back to professional baseball through the Independent leagues.

Starting Lineup: The Yankees have too many potent bats for one lineup, which is a problem most managers would beg to have. A first base competition is ensuing between Jason Giambi, Morgan Ensberg, and Shelly Duncan. Duncan is a great power hitter, and could stand to see up to 350-400 at-bats this season. The outfield is solid, with Johnny Damon, Melky Cabrera and Bobby Abreu. All are relatively quick, and should chase down some fly balls. As always, Alex Rodriguez will be the MLB best player at third base, expect up to 50 home runs from him. Derek Jeter hasn’t lost a step at shortstop, and 2nd baseman Robinson Cano is proving to be a rising star. An interesting player to watch will be Jorge Posada, who hit .338 last season. However he will be 36 entering the season, perhaps Jorge can salvage his defensive game if he plays more games at DH this season.

Bench: The jack of all trades for the Yankees this year will be Wilson Betemit. He could be an everyday player on some MLB teams, but there simply isn’t room for him to start on this Yankees team. The backup catcher will be Jose Molina, he recorded 21 hits for the club since his acquisition. Morgan Ensberg and Jason Lane could be dangerous bats off the bench, however each of them may start the season at Triple A Scranton. Speedy switch hitter Bernie Castro could stand a chance to make the team.

Overall: The Yankees are solid this season, as they appear to be before almost every season. However with the dominance of the World Series champions Boston Red Sox, the Yankees will really have to get hot early in the season to prove a point. Manager Joe Girardi is known to be a strict enforcer, and with a mostly young team that could be just what this organization needs.

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