Mailbag: Will No. 22 entice Rocket?

Mailbag: Will No. 22 availability entice Rocket?

The Yankees' laundry list was on the minds of many fans this week, following Robinson Cano's decision to change uniform numbers from No. 22 to No. 24.

Interestingly, a good amount weren't even that concerned with the ramifications of what the change might mean for Roger Clemens. Apparently, Cano's No. 22 had been a hot seller for the last holiday season.

In any event, let's get to the e-mails:

Was Cano angry with the decision to change his uniform number to 24? Also, what will happen if Clemens does not return to New York? Will Cano get No. 22 back?
-- Jerry F., Rochester, N.Y.

From what we understand, Cano volunteered to change to No. 24, informing the Yankees clubhouse staff that he wished to switch digits for 2007.

The logic was two-fold. First, it clears the number for Clemens in the event that the future Hall of Famer decides that he wants his old uniform back if he comes to New York. Secondly, the motive is sentimental. Cano's father, Jose -- a pitcher who appeared in six games with the Astros in 1989 -- named his son after Jackie Robinson.

Cano's new number reversed reflects the No. 42 Robinson wore with the Brooklyn Dodgers, a number that was universally retired across Major League Baseball in tribute to the game's first African-American player (players who already had the number, like Mariano Rivera, were grandfathered in).

While Cano's gesture alone isn't going to prompt the Rocket to speed up his decision-making process, it won't hurt the Yankees' chances. We're still not expecting Clemens to decide until well after Spring Training.

Cano has already made the change on the Yankees' roster. With the attachment to No. 24, it's unlikely Cano would go back to No. 22 -- Clemens or not.

Does Cano's number switch mean we'll never see No. 24 retired for Tino Martinez? To me, Martinez is a true Yankee forever.
-- Jose R., Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

It's interesting. The last Yankee to wear No. 21 was Paul O'Neill -- since the moment O'Neill left the field following Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, the number has been quietly left unused.

Martinez's No. 24 has not enjoyed that same untouchable nature, which would seem to answer the question. Ruben Sierra got hold of it in 2003-04, and Sidney Ponson wore it in a five-game stint in 2006.

I am not content with the Yankees' options for backup catcher. Wil Nieves and Raul Chavez have very low career averages and do not have much Major League experience. Is there any chance that Spring Training invitees Todd Pratt or Ben Davis could get the nod at backup catcher for 2007?
-- Joe B., Old Greenwich, Conn.

Sure, there's a chance. The job of backing up Jorge Posada is one of the last unsettled battles on the Yankees roster as they head to Tampa, along with the right-handed-hitting side of the first-base platoon. We'll be watching closely to see which players have a leg up as the calendar moves into March.

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Pratt, who turns 40 in February, is an interesting case. General manager Brian Cashman showed interest in him in 2006 before opting for Kelly Stinnett, and obviously wanted Pratt again this year. Pratt was New York-tested with the Mets and believes he's still got a year left, though he said he won't report to Triple-A if he doesn't make the team. He's also close with Yankees coach Larry Bowa from their Philadelphia days.

Do you think one of the reasons the Yankees got Doug Mientkiewicz was not only for his great glove skills, but his relationship with Alex Rodriguez and the potential for Mientkiewicz to help stabilize and grow A-Rod in New York?
-- Matt H., Ridgefield, Conn.

I'm sure it didn't hurt Mientkiewicz's chances, and Rodriguez should be pleased to have another friendly face around. But make no mistake, signing Mientkiewicz had its merits in baseball terms. His defense should help out the infielders and, surrounded by that lineup, he has the potential for a quiet but solid offensive year.

What's the story with Scott Proctor? Will he be in a middle-relief role in Spring Training or work toward a starting role?
-- Eric S., Bronx, N.Y.

Cashman confirmed recently that Proctor will be heading to camp as a reliever. The organization apparently toyed with the idea of stretching Proctor out to pitch more innings early in camp in the event the Yankees needed him to serve as a back-end starter to begin the year, but those plans have been scrapped.

I feel that in last week's mailbag you left something out of the Bernie Williams topic. It is disappointing to me that he didn't get his time to feel our thanks. Would it be possible to offer Williams a one-day deal to come back and get a proper sendoff? I believe this would be much better than him doing it in front of a press crowd that cares less than the rest of us.
-- Peter M., Dover, N.J.

Williams still hasn't decided if he's retiring. In fact, based upon comments he made last week, he isn't limiting his playing options to just the Yankees. Williams seems to be waiting for the Yankees to definitively tell him "no" before contemplating other teams, however.

Also, if Williams does decide to retire, the Yankees could always host a "Bernie Williams Day" without going through the process of actually placing Williams on the roster.

I was reading an article, and it mentioned the name Ian Kennedy as one of the top young Yankees pitching prospects. I don't remember that name being thrown around with the likes of Philip Hughes and Humberto Sanchez. Can you give me more information on him?
-- Scott A., Rochester, N.Y.

Kennedy, 22, was the Yankees' first-round selection (21st overall) in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, following a standout career at the University of Southern California.

Kennedy made it into one game in 2006 for the Staten Island Yankees and he later pitched in Hawaii Winter Baseball. He's a control pitcher who features four pitches -- a fastball, slider, curveball and changeup -- in his arsenal.

What happened to Bubba Crosby? Is he going to play for the Yankees again, or another MLB team? He seemed to be a good player who didn't have too many chances.
-- Jonathan D., Palm Beach, Fla.

Could be. Crosby left the Yankees as a six-year Minor League free agent after the season and latched on with Cincinnati. Crosby isn't guaranteed anything, but he's headed to camp in Sarasota, Fla., to fight for a roster spot as a reserve outfielder.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.