New York YankeesManager: Joe Girardi
Stadium: Yankee Stadium
2008 Record: 89-73 (3rd in AL East)
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As the storm swirled around Alex Rodriguez in spring training, the rest of the Yankees went about their business virtually unnoticed. That's probably a good thing for Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy. Last year the young right-handers were thrust into the rotation with huge expectations after successful debuts in 2007. But the duo melted under the bright lights of New York, combining for a 7.45 ERA in 73 innings. "You're talking about two guys who had never failed before, and it was not an easy time," says GM Brian Cashman. This spring, free-agent signees CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett pushed the 22-year-old Hughes and 24-year-old Kennedy off the radar. Both are ticketed to start 2009 at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, preparing for another shot. "We're going to need both guys at some point this year," Cashman says. In other words, if Hughes and Kennedy are called up to the new Yankee Stadium as replacements for injured or ineffective starters, they'll be right back in the spotlight. At least this time, they'll know what it feels like.
-- Buster Olney
HITTER TO WATCH:
Brett Gardner brings his Joey Gathright act to center field with 70 speed and 20 power.
PITCHER TO WATCH:
Lefty Phil Coke should get opposing lefties out with a solid-average curve, while right-hander Alfredo Aceves should be in line for a callup when there's a need for a swingman or long reliever.
-- Keith Law, Scouts Inc.
Will A.J. or CC be the American League's top starter? Will Mark Teixeira be the league's top first baseman? Register your vote.
Hard to find sleepers on the world's most hyped team, but Brett Gardner won the center-field job and could conceivably steal 30 bases. He won't do anything else for you fantasy-wise, and the Yanks could get impatient. But he's got a shot.
A.J. Burnett: Don't say we didn't warn you. The Yankees overpaid for a soft fireballer who won't throw when he doesn't feel perfect and who has never performed well in a non-contract year. He won't sniff last year's stats.
-- Christopher Harris
Alex Rodriguez gave everyone a lot to talk about this year, but the issues surrounding his hip are of most immediate concern to the Yankees. After surgery to repair a torn labrum, Rodriguez is on a focused, aggressive rehab plan (without distraction and closely supervised) that reportedly has him on target to return to the team in mid-May, if not sooner. Rodriguez awaits a more extensive follow-up procedure in the offseason, and he will have to make up quickly for valuable lost time in spring training. To have success at his position offensively, he needs to swing for power and slide without hesitation. On the defensive side, he has to rush for bunts; dive for grounders; and, perhaps most challenging, throw across his body on the run. That is a lot to expect just nine weeks after surgery, especially with the whole world watching. And make no mistake, everyone will be watching.
-- Stephania Bell
PRESEASON POWER RANKINGS
No. 2 overall
No. 2 overall
No. 4 overall
No. 1 overall
No. 8 overall