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Mailbag: Will Wang get the nod?

Mailbag: Will Wang get the Opening Day nod?

It's been another intriguing week at Yankees camp, with pitchers throwing batting practice to hitters and most everyone looking solid. The team has even survived its first Carl Pavano injury scare, and most everyone seems to be looking forward to the beginning of exhibition games. Let's get to this week's questions.

Who is the likely Opening Day starter, and what will the rotation look like? I think Chien-Ming Wang deserves to be the Opening Day starter considering his achievements last season.
-- Ben H., Livingston, N.J.

I agree with you. If he makes it through the Grapefruit League season healthy, and there's no reason to believe he won't, I'd project Wang as the Opening Day starter for April 2 against the Devil Rays.

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The Yankees haven't confirmed that yet, as they've got the entire exhibition schedule to handle first. It's generally being assumed that Wang is the 2007 ace. He'd be followed by Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina, Kei Igawa and Carl Pavano, possibly, but not necessarily in that order.

I keep hearing about Humberto Sanchez and Philip Hughes, but I never hear anything about Ross Ohlendorf. Will he have an impact on the 2007 Yankees, or will it be a little longer? Also, how are his numbers in the Minors?
-- Daniel G., Ithaca, N.Y.

It'll probably be a little bit longer for Ohlendorf, a big right-hander acquired from Arizona in the Randy Johnson trade. Ohlendorf pitched just one game at the Triple-A level last season and he's a pretty safe bet to open the year with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

I don't know if I'd rule out a call-up later in the year, but he'd likely be behind Hughes and Sanchez on that chart. He was 10-8 with a 3.29 ERA in 27 starts last year at Double-A Tennessee, walking 29 and striking out 125 in 177 2/3 innings.

Why is the media making a big deal out of this Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter situation? Why was this even reported on? Really, there has got to be something to report other than that. I would like to know, does anyone agree with me?
-- T.J. H., Bismarck, N.D.

T.J., I'd venture to say that there are plenty of people who agree with you. For years now, though, people have been questioning the relationship between the two players -- most seem to believe it dated back to a 2001 Esquire magazine article in which Rodriguez, then with the Texas Rangers, claimed that Jeter was a No. 2 hitter who never had to lead his team.

When Rodriguez reported to Spring Training last week and held court in the Yankees dugout, one of the first questions asked was from a television reporter who inquired, point blank, about the state of his friendship with Jeter.

Rodriguez could have insisted again that things were fine and that they were "great friends" -- as he did in January at a Manhattan book signing -- but instead decided to come clean and admit the truth.

No, Jeter and Rodriguez are not as close as they used to be, but by all accounts, they're fine in the clubhouse. It's not as though they root against each other or ignore each other. They joke at the batting cage and speak on the field, and we have to assume that it's not just a show -- keeping up appearances in such a fashion would be far too distracting from the actual tasks at hand.

The A-Rod/Jeter soap opera, as far as things went in the clubhouse, turned out to be a two-day blip at camp. Jeter had left the complex by the time Rodriguez made his comments, and when Jeter said the next day that he would not address this situation anymore, that pretty much finished the stories off. I know plenty of readers -- and some of the reporters, too -- have been happy to move on to more important baseball-related issues.

Have a question about the Yankees?
Bryan HochE-mail your query to MLB.com Yankees beat reporter Bryan Hoch for possible inclusion in a future Inbox column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content.
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Question:

What kind of role do you see Melky Cabrera having this year? He obviously won't start, but will he get any playing time at all, or will it take another injury?
-- Matt R., Annandale, N.J.

The Yankees are going to do their best to get Cabrera as many at-bats as possible. Manager Joe Torre met with Cabrera last week at Legends Field and told him that even though he's heading into the spring as a backup outfielder, the team wants him to consider himself an everyday player.

Hideki Matsui no longer has a consecutive-games streak to worry about, and Torre will want to rest both Johnny Damon and Bobby Abreu to keep them fresh. Someone recently suggested to Torre that Cabrera could see as many as three games a week in the outfield, but Torre wasn't ready to confirm that just yet.

If the Yankees would prefer that Bernie Williams retire, is there consideration being given to "sweetening the pot" by retiring his No. 51 out in Monument Park? He surely deserves it.
-- William F., Schoharie, N.Y.

The Yankees' intention was never to force Williams into retirement -- he is a free agent and can sign with any team he chooses. Of course, Williams has limited his choices to just one team, and is apparently waiting to see if anything guaranteed will open up with the Yankees.

Just to get off topic for a second, a lot of fans continue to write in with potential ways that Williams could be carried on the roster. General manager Brian Cashman has been pretty adamant that Williams does not fit into the organization's vision of transitioning to younger players. It has become clear that the Yankees are not looking for ways to keep Williams for 2007.

It seems that on this late date, if anything was going to happen with Williams, it would have happened already. We've also stopped waiting for Williams to walk through the doors at Legends Field -- as Cashman said, "If he wanted to be here, he'd be here." To answer your question, though, I'd bank on seeing a Bernie Williams Day at Yankee Stadium someday, but I can't tell you when it'll be.

What has happened with J. Brent Cox? I had heard he might become "the closer of the future." I heard he did well in the Minors, but I've heard little about him this spring.
-- Bob M., Fountain Valley, Calif.

Cox broke his pitching hand in an altercation, agent Randy Hendricks confirmed in January. Cox is expected to be ready to pitch when the Minor League season begins in April, but the incident cost him an invitation to Major League Spring Training. Cashman has said that the Yankees would have brought Cox to Legends Field this spring, but not with him unable to pitch.

What do you think of Kevin Thompson's chances of making the team, assuming he has a good spring and Andy Phillips or Josh Phelps struggle?
-- Bob K., Bradford, N.H.

I don't think the way for Thompson to make the team would be via Phillips or Phelps struggling, but he deserves to get a good look nevertheless.

Thompson isn't likely to break Spring Training with the Yankees -- especially if they're only carrying four outfielders -- but he seems to be the kind of player who fits right into the idea of making the Yankees younger, more athletic and flexible. He did hit .300 in a 19-game stint last year, and I'd suspect you haven't seen the last of him around the Bronx.

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

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