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Mailbag: Much depends on Posada

Mailbag: Much depends on Posada

I know Jorge Posada says he is healthy, but is there any chance of bringing Pudge Rodriguez back as insurance in case he is not ready to catch? And if bringing Pudge back is out of the question, who will be splitting time with Posada?
-- Corey E., Plymouth Meeting, Pa.

For the moment, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that he is keeping his fingers crossed that Posada will make good on his promise to be wearing a chest protector behind the plate on Opening Day at the new Yankee Stadium. Certainly, that would be the organization's preference, but though Posada can speak as optimistically as he likes, the Yankees won't really know how to proceed until Posada's throwing program begins on Dec. 1.

Cashman said that it is not on his agenda to pursue any free-agent catcher right now, which seems to seal Rodriguez's time in New York as a two-month rental. That could change quickly if Posada experiences something of a setback from the arthroscopic surgery on his throwing shoulder, but during the club's last road trip of the regular season, Cashman pulled Posada aside and asked how realistic catching 120 games in 2009 can really be.

"He looked me in the eye and he swears that he's going to be back, as good as ever," Cashman said earlier this month. "It's up to us to buy into that or not."

Having Jose Molina on board for one more season as a more-than-capable backup catcher helps the situation some. Though he said the clubhouse thought is that Posada should be ready for a full workload, Molina said that he is going to alter his offseason training program to be ready just in case he is called upon to play in another 100 games in 2009, as he was last season.

"The preference for me would be if Jorge Posada can catch and return to norm," Cashman said. "That's where we're strongest. He was a huge loss for us. He was a catcher that obviously provided defense. But his offense was so significant and was such a difference-maker for this franchise for so long that when we rolled the balls out there every day, we had a distinct advantage."

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I know the Yankees are going after starting pitching, but are they going to get some pitchers for the bullpen? And are there any chances of the Yankees going after Francisco Rodriguez?
-- Ron P., Bay Shore, N.Y.

Joe Girardi was actually pretty happy with the way the Yankees' bullpen filled in behind a splendid season from Mariano Rivera, but there are always changes from season to season. Expect to see some new faces as the Yankees consider how best to mix and match arms like Brian Bruney, Edwar Ramirez and Jose Veras, and they will give thought to picking up Damaso Marte's $6 million option for 2009.

As for a run at K-Rod, that does not appear to be likely. Having just shelled out $45 million for three years of Rivera, the Yankees won't one-up that by meeting Rodriguez's reported asking price of five years and $75 million. For that kind of money, Rodriguez would almost certainly have to go someplace where he can close. We've noticed a bullpen under construction across the Triboro Bridge that seems like a logical fit.

If the Yankees trade Robinson Cano, who would play second? Why would they want to trade him after one poor year?
-- Earl J., Oshawa, Canada

The Yankees are in no hurry to trade Cano -- if they did not have confidence in his abilities, they would not have sacrificed his arbitration years to sign him to a long-term deal, something they definitely did not need to do at that time. They were placing a big bet that Cano would continue to improve.

But because that contract is considered relatively affordable and because of his future projection, Cano still has interest on the open market as a chip should the Yankees need to use it to acquire something they need, like a starting pitcher. Chances are that the Yankees won't part with Cano, but in the event they do, a reliable veteran free agent like Orlando Hudson could be a match.

I heard that the Yankees were considering moving Derek Jeter to center field and A-Rod over to shortstop. Is this something the Yankees have talked to Jeter and A-Rod about?
-- Mike K., Millstone, N.J.

Not true. Jeter is the Yankees' shortstop for 2009, and A-Rod is their third baseman. There's long been speculation that someday, Jeter will eventually move from that position, and maybe the outfield is one place they'd have to consider (second base could be another). Regardless, it's not happening this year. I would also caution that Rodriguez is not the same shortstop that won a pair of Gold Gloves in 2002 and 2003 -- his body type has bulked up considerably as he has adapted into more of a prototypical corner infielder.

Any word on Mike Mussina? If I were Cashman, I'd offer him whatever he wanted to pitch again this year. He's a phenomenal guy who is the sole reason the Yanks could even finish third this year. If he pitched like people predicted at the beginning of the year, the Yanks would be fighting to keep out of the cellar.
-- Tommy V., Alexandria, Va.

Not just yet. Mussina said after the season that he was going to return home to Pennsylvania and think it over with his family, though many expect him to retire. It's been said before, but since Mussina has 270 wins, another season like the 2008 campaign would put him too close to 300 wins to walk away -- as he said, "If I'm in for one [year], I'm in for three."

It's thought that Mussina had made up his mind that 2008 would be his last season, and the 20-win season threw a wrench in those plans. Mussina said, though, that it'd be pretty "cool" to walk away on top like that. Here's a possible scenario, no matter what happens -- if the Yankees don't come through on the starting pitchers they regard highly, such as CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Derek Lowe and the like, Cashman could wind up calling Mussina on a snowy Montoursville afternoon and ask him to consider a deal. Don't rule it out.

Speaking hypothetically, what if the Yankees were to trade for Ryan Howard? Also, do you have any ideas what the Yankees will do for the first-base spot?
-- Mike N., Bronx, N.Y.

Answering hypothetically, I'd imagine there would be plenty of upset Phillies fans. Since Philadelphia's content to pay Howard year-to-year in arbitration and in no particular hurry to help the Yankees, they'll take a serious look at Mark Teixeira, though they certainly won't be alone on that front.

Jason Giambi appears unlikely to return, and Cashman has said that he prefers to have a legit defensive first baseman, which rules out an internal option like Hideki Matsui or Johnny Damon -- though there's no shortage of volunteers. Here's one troubling thought. What if Posada's catching days are numbered? He's under contract through 2011 and would need a position to play in that event. It's something the Yankees will really have to weigh going forward.

What are the Yankees' chances that they will get Larry Bowa back? They need him. He is the best third-base and infield coach in baseball.
-- Ron S., Salisbury, Md.

Not sure how you quantify that, but regardless, the chances are pretty close to zero for 2009. The Dodgers announced last week that Joe Torre's entire coaching staff was returning, and Bowa is very loyal to Torre.

Any word on Bernie Williams joining the coaching staff? And do you think this would work?
-- Jim N., Virginia Beach, Va.

It'd be wonderful if Williams would stop by Spring Training as a guest instructor this spring, though that hasn't been mentioned and Girardi was reluctant to predict anything when asked. Williams is quite content with his musical career and isn't looking to get back into uniform as a coach at this time.

With Yankee Stadium now closed for good, are there still tours offered to visit the stadium during the offseason, or has that ended as well?
-- Jack J., Brooklyn, N.Y.

Act fast -- due to heavy demand, the Yankees have scheduled Yankee Stadium tours through Oct. 31, which you can find more information about on Yankees.com. There is a possibility that the tours could extend further into the offseason, but those dates have not been set.

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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