Torre eyes makeup of Yankees' rotation

Torre eyes makeup of Yankees' rotation

TAMPA, Fla. -- There are relatively few roster questions for the Yankees this spring, as New York looks to have all 25 men locked in for Opening Day, barring any injuries.

How those players are used, however, remains to be seen.

Position battles aren't anything new to Spring Training, and the Yankees will have a big one to watch over the next six weeks. Six starting pitchers will battle for five spots, though the competition is really between three hurlers fighting for two openings in the rotation.

Joe Torre will take note of everything he sees between now and April 3, but the manager isn't about to handicap the race between Chien-Ming Wang, Shawn Chacon and Jaret Wright as the three try to join Randy Johnson, Mike Mussina and Carl Pavano in the Yankees' rotation.

"I can't make up my mind," Torre said. "I've got to really see what I see. I don't have to make up my mind until the end."

Wednesday's revelation that Pavano will not throw off a mound for the next 10 to 14 days because of a balky back could potentially open the door for all three contenders to make the rotation, but the Yankees seem confident that Pavano will be ready by April.

That said, the club used 14 starters last year, as every starter except Johnson missed time due to injury.

"We'll wait around to see if we have healthy bodies," Torre said. "Pitching is very fragile."

Torre and pitching coach Ron Guidry will sit down with the starters early in camp to discuss the situation, though the pitchers themselves know what has to be done by the time camp breaks in six weeks.

"They can all count," Torre said. "You have to be open with them and let them know the way you're thinking so they can answer your questions."

"I've never tried to worry about where I fit in or where my spot is," Wright said. "When it comes down to it, you have to do what you have to do anyway. You have to pitch well and take care of your own business, and hopefully, you fit in somewhere. Thinking about the other stuff, for me, has always taken away from my focus on what I have to do."

Wright was one of a handful of pitchers to arrive at Legends Field on Wednesday, dropping off their bags one day before pitchers and catchers must officially report to Tampa.

Torre held his pre-camp coaches meeting, which lasted more than four hours. Torre's staff features five new coaches, including Guidry, bench coach Lee Mazzilli, first-base coach Tony Pena, third-base coach Larry Bowa and bullpen coach Joe Kerrigan.

General manager Brian Cashman also sat in on the meetings, and George Steinbrenner made a brief appearance as well.

Although the rotation issues will be the most important of the spring, the Yankees have some other business to take care of over the next six weeks.

Bernie Williams will report next week for the start of his 16th big-league season, though he will return in a new role, serving as the team's primary designated hitter.

"A big part of being able to do that role is the mental part," Torre said. "I talked to Bernie three weeks ago, and he's excited about coming to Spring Training."

Torre plans to use the former center fielder in the DH spot a majority of the time, but Williams will also get work in left and right field this spring. This will allow Torre to use Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield in the DH spot from time to time.

Jason Giambi is expected to see most of his playing time at first base, assuming his health isn't an issue.

"I think the DH role could be a nice spot for us," Torre said.

With such sluggers as Giambi, Sheffield, Matsui and Alex Rodriguez in the lineup, the Yankees will surely hit their share of home runs. But Torre and his coaches plan to hammer home the idea of manufacturing runs, starting with Johnny Damon and Derek Jeter at the top of the lineup.

"I think we still have to stress the fact that in spite of having the ability to hit a lot of home runs, we have to have a different mind-set," Torre said. "We have to continue to think small and let the big things happen."

Although Torre hasn't decided on a batting order, he plans to use Damon and Jeter at the top and Robinson Cano at the bottom. A-Rod, Giambi, Sheffield and Matsui will occupy the 3-4-5-6 spots in some order, with Williams and Jorge Posada rounding out the bottom third with Cano.

"I think it's just feel, to see who is going to function in those spots, how they're doing at the time you make this decision," Torre said. "With lineups, things that go on on the field change your mind."

Mark Feinsand is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.