One week from now, we'll be talking to you from sunny Tampa, Fla., as Yankees pitchers and catchers begin reporting to George M. Steinbrenner Field for Spring Training. As we prepare for the last push through the offseason and pack our bags, it's time to see what burning questions are on the minds of Yankees fans:
Do you believe that after 2010 Andy Pettitte will retire? And if he does, do you think the Yankees will put both Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain back in the rotation?
-- Sohug U., Brooklyn, N.Y.
Good question. Since Pettitte keeps talking about retirement pretty much every year on schedule, mentioning how he goes home every year and has to talk things over with his wife and children, I wondered whether the World Series victory would give him the perfect exit opportunity.
But his words after Game 6 didn't really give that indication, certainly not the way he sounded when he cleaned out his locker at the old Yankee Stadium for the final time in 2008, after the Yankees were doomed to miss the playoffs and Pettitte had taxed his ailing body to try to give them some hope.
Sure enough, there was much less hemming and hawing this year. Pettitte and the Yankees hammered home their deal earlier this year, initiating contact right around Thanksgiving. And the lefty gave a pretty good explanation as to why he's coming back for 2010.
"For me, I couldn't have written a script any better than last year ended," Pettitte said. "What else is there to do? Why would you even continue to play? But I want to make sure I'm done. I want to make sure I fully exhaust myself, and I don't want to regret not playing. I want to come back and help this organization win another one."
So maybe a lot of it depends on how Pettitte performs this year. If he's pain-free and wins another 14 games, can he really do the Mike Mussina thing and walk away when there's more pitching in the tank? Most guys can't.
To answer the second part of your question, the Yankees do project Chamberlain and Hughes as starters, and I believe they would consider having both in the rotation this year if necessary.
Javier Vazquez didn't do well in the Bronx in 2004. I know he is a great strikeout guy, which is key in the new Yankee Stadium. But how do you think he will do the second time around?
-- Art D., Port Chester, N.Y.
If he can stay healthy, it seems like a good gamble. The Yankees are looking at one of the more reliable pitchers in baseball over the past few years, a guy who misses bats, eats innings and keeps hits down -- and that's going to be their fourth starter. Vazquez has revealed that a lot of his problems in that poor second half of 2004 were due to injury, and he sounds enthusiastic to be back in New York. As he said in December, "Everybody that knows me knows that I didn't want to leave." Now that he gets a second chance, we'll see what he does with it.
Chien Ming-Wang is still a free agent, and from what I know, he has a number of suitors. I believe he will not be ready for the start of the season, but are the Yankees still considering bringing him back, or have they decided to cut the ties entirely?
-- Bennett P., Woodmere, N.Y.
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There was some talk that the Yankees would like the opportunity to match any offer from another club before Wang accepts a deal, but obviously that is not guaranteed. When Wang was non-tendered in December, general manager Brian Cashman said the club was "still hopeful that our relationship can continue" -- something he wouldn't say if there wasn't any interest.
There isn't any firm timetable on when Wang will be ready to pitch in the big leagues again, though his agent has mentioned May. If we've learned anything from this offseason, any contract to Wang would have to fit into the Yankees' budget constraints. They weren't willing to take the chance of paying at least $4 million, and probably more, in arbitration.
I remember hearing two particular stats about Robinson Cano -- he didn't hit particularly well with runners in scoring position last season, but he also had a tremendously high average when he led off an inning. I know he's not the swiftest baserunner around, but is there any chance of seeing him hit at the top of the lineup?
-- Kevin D., Eldersburg, Md.
I can remember Joe Torre crossing his legs in the dugout at the old Stadium, sipping his green tea and remarking how Cano could one day be near the top of the Yankees lineup, likening him to a young Rod Carew. It seems like the Yankees have been projecting Cano in that mold for years, and their willingness to go ahead and buy early on his $30 million contract reflects that.
I don't know if he's an ideal fit as a leadoff hitter (though Torre actually did try him there twice in 2007), but it definitely makes sense to consider moving him up in the lineup. I would be curious to see how he would respond to hitting fifth this year.
Will Francisco Cervelli get a real chance to prove he can back up Jorge Posada on a regular basis, or will the Yankees take their chances with Jesus Montero sooner than later?
-- Tyler M., Brooklyn, N.Y.
As of right now, the plan is to get to Opening Day with Posada and Cervelli on the Major League roster and Montero opening the season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. That arrangement could change during Spring Training, but it probably would only because of injury.
From talking to everyone who has been around Montero, it seems like a matter of when -- and not if -- he gets to the big leagues. Of course, the Yankees will try to give him as much development time as possible, but if his bat blows the doors open for him, why fight it?
If it ain't broke, why fix it? I understand the Yankees are trying to save money, but they finally had the perfect combination to win the World Series. Why would they really want to get rid of the great mix they had? I just don't understand. Please explain.
-- Betz V., Hackensack, N.J.
Something that needs to be addressed based on a lot of the other e-mail messages we've been getting -- the Yankees will still have the highest payroll in the game in 2010, so it's not like they're suddenly transforming into a bargain-basement operation. It just so happens that there has been a little more reshuffling of the deck than many anticipated this offseason.
To get back to your question, in retrospect, we should have had a clue during the World Series, when Cashman said the clock essentially stopped on Oct. 3 -- no matter what players did in the postseason, the club couldn't allow sentimentality to influence its decisions. If you based everything on October and November, the Yankees might have had to open the bank accounts for Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui.
Instead, the roster sure has changed a lot, but the Yankees insist that the changes will help them regroup and put winning teams on the field in 2010 and beyond. I agree that New York has the makings of one here, though so much can happen during the season that I'm not about to predict a repeat.
Damon said he could see himself with the Yankees via a trade or signing with them after the 2010 season. Are either likely to happen?
-- Mark F., Morristown, N.Y.
I never say never anymore -- at least, not since A-Rod opted out in 2007, Hank Steinbrenner said goodbye and then we saw the mother of all 180s. Anyway, Damon is interested in playing for the the team. Damon said recently that he told Scott Boras to get a two-year, $22 million deal, but the Yankees never came close.
Maybe the picture changes next winter, but first Damon needs to worry about finding his employer for 2010. Someone brought this point up -- wouldn't it be fascinating if the Red Sox and Yankees both needed an outfielder in July and they wound up fighting each other for Damon?
What are the Yanks going to do when Nick Johnson is out for the year come Spring Training? Curtis Granderson and Randy Winn have horrible numbers against lefties. They should have signed Damon and not Johnson or Winn. Agree?
-- John P., Wallingford, Conn.
You sound pretty sure about that Johnson injury. Would you mind sending along next week's Powerball numbers while you're at it? In any event, I agree that Damon was a perfect fit for the Yankees in a lot of ways, and it's a shame for both parties that they wanted each other and still couldn't get it done.
That said, I see the logic in the Johnson move, and the hope is that more time as a designated hitter will help keep him in the lineup, despite whatever might come his way. There were a lot of games in 2008 and '09 where Matsui could not possibly have limped out to left field, but the DH kept him alive and productive for them.
Kevin Long has said that he plans to work on the left-handed hitting situation, which is something they really do need to attack with Granderson. As for Winn, he's heading into camp only as a fourth outfielder and insurance if Brett Gardner can't step up.
At the beginning of the 2009 season, when homers were flying out of Yankee Stadium, we kept hearing that no changes would be made to the new Stadium until the offseason. Have there been any renovations or should we prepare to see another home run derby?
-- Jamie R., Willingboro, N.J.
At last check, the Yankees had not made any alterations to the playing field or anything structural that would affect home runs or the outcome of games. It should be interesting to see the second season of the Stadium, and if that was a prolonged fluke or weather-related, because the home runs did tail off in the second half. At the time, the Yankees were stressing that larger sample sizes were needed to get a true picture of what was happening, and they're about to get them.
What is the story with Humberto Sanchez's path to being on the Yankees big league roster? I know he has had some injury issues since coming over in the Gary Sheffield trade, but is there any recent news on his status as a Yankees reliever?
-- Chad R., Guilderland, N.Y.
It seems like a long time since he ran out of the bullpen at the old Stadium, doesn't it? As you mentioned, injuries have been part of the problem for Sanchez. He pitched mostly at Class A Tampa and Double-A Trenton last year, a season that saw him removed from the 40-man roster. He's still in the farm system, so you would like to say that he could get another chance. Now that he's most likely only a reliever, the keys will be focusing on his conditioning and making sure his fastball velocity can be more consistent.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.