How is Mark Teixeira doing? Is he ready to go for Spring Training?
-- Buzzy H., South Burlington, Vt.
This promises to be such a big piece to the Yankees' 2014 puzzle. Teixeira said recently that he feels close to 100 percent, though he wishes his surgically repaired right wrist felt a little less stiff. Teixeira has started hitting off a tee, and his game plan is to continue strengthening exercises while swinging a bat throughout the month of January.
He'll begin hitting full-speed pitching in February and expects to be a few ticks behind the rest of the position players when Spring Training begins, so he doesn't plan on being in the Yankees' first exhibition games of the year. Teixeira hopes that he is able to get into Grapefruit League games by the first week of March.
"Right now, I'm six months out of surgery. Will I be 100 percent Day 1? I hope so," Teixeira told the YES Network last week. "But even my doctor said, it's going to keep getting looser, keep getting stronger. That's just the way surgery goes. That's just the way it is.
"And so, yeah, I'm a little anxious about the way I'm going to feel, but I know that as long as I'm doing what I'm told, doing what I'm supposed to be doing, that I should be fine."
It seems like the Yankees have remained cool to that idea, even as Drew's agent, Scott Boras, has pointed out that Drew would be capable of playing either second or third base in addition to shortstop. The Yankees have essentially put themselves into a holding pattern until the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes are resolved, which could take until 5 p.m. ET on Friday.
If Tanaka doesn't choose the Yankees, that money could be allocated elsewhere, though I wouldn't be sure that it'd be spent to add another infielder. More likely, the Yankees would prefer to use whatever funds are left in the budget to upgrade the starting rotation with a selection off the free agent market -- maybe Bronson Arroyo, whom the Yankees have been circling all winter.
Is it possible that A-Rod can play for an independent league during his suspension to stay in shape? Is there anything with his contract from the Yankees that would prevent him from doing so?
-- Erik K., Linden, N.J.
Since Rodriguez is still under contract to the Yankees, it is believed that the team would have to approve any such arrangement. For a number of reasons, it is unlikely that they would do so. At this point in time, it appears that Rodriguez still plans to attend Spring Training with the Yankees, which should create an interesting situation, to say the least.
Players serving suspensions under baseball's Joint Drug Agreement have attended Spring Training in the past and even played in exhibition games, so there is precedence. You could also argue that since Rodriguez is ineligible to play in 2014, there doesn't seem to be any benefit to having him in Major League camp.
It'll be fascinating to see how this newest chapter of the saga is sorted out in the coming weeks. One possibility is that the Yankees could assign Rodriguez to Minor League camp and he could continue working out there for the whole year, if he so chooses.
Indeed, there were some rumblings about two weeks ago concerning Putz that seemed to be more speculation than anything, but it makes some sense on the Yankees' end. They trimmed Vernon Wells from the roster last week, but Ichiro's role for 2014 is still uncertain following the additions of Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran to the outfield mix.
If you take his $6.5 million salary out of the equation, Ichiro would be a useful extra outfielder who plays strong defense and runs well, so it's not like the Yankees couldn't find a way for him to help them. It's also no secret that the Yankees also would like to add another bullpen arm, so if they could flip Ichiro to fill that need, they probably would.
Is Brian Roberts going to be our primary second baseman?
-- Danny S., Bronx, N.Y.
That's the plan, as of right now. Roberts hasn't played a full season since 2009, but he finished last year healthy, so the Yankees are hoping he will be able to play regularly if they manage his health carefully. At $2 million, Roberts represents a low-risk gamble for the Yankees, who also will have players like Kelly Johnson, Brendan Ryan, Eduardo Nunez and Scott Sizemore in camp competing for reps at second base.
Who do you think the Yankees' starting three outfielders will be for the first game of the season? They have several outfielders who can all start, making it hard to decide. What do you see happening?
-- John N., Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
This is a dangerous game to play so early, but as of right now, I'd expect to see Brett Gardner in left field, Ellsbury in center field, Beltran in right and Alfonso Soriano as the designated hitter. Joe Girardi has said that he also expects to DH Beltran regularly to take stress off his knees.
Mariano Rivera always had a great presence in the bullpen and was an inspiration to many. Has he ever expressed any desire to coach?
-- Ron M., Wexford, Pa.
Not at the Major League level; Rivera said a few times last season that he would be open to coming back to coach young players in the Minors from time to time, probably as some type of roving special instructor. He'd be excellent at it. For now, though, Rivera plans to pour his energy into the church.