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Yankees- NY Post- Youth and Nail

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February 10, 2008 -- When Alex Rodriguez opted out of his Yankee contract during the World Series, the Bombers had a chance to rebuild around the young pitching that has prompted premature adulation.

They should have let Rodriguez dance out of The Bronx, thanked Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera for wonderful careers and sent Bobby Abreu away. They will surpass 4 million in attendance this season, the final year at Yankee Stadium. Next season, the new ballpark will be filled with corporate stiffs. So, the Yankees should have taken a shot at 2010 when the pitching Hank Steinbrenner believes is the best in baseball would have had two years experience.

Instead, the Yankees took back Rodriguez and gave him a raise to $275 million, dumped $52.4 million on Posada, $45 million on Rivera and picked up a $16 million option on Abreu. With spring training starting this week, the Yankees are worse than they were that October night when the Indians ushered them out of the postseason in the first round, the third straight season the Yankees have endured such a fate.

Going into camp, there are more than a dozen issues facing a flawed and expensive Yankees team that won't make the playoffs. Here are the five biggest:

How will the young arms fare?

Hank Steinbrenner caused a problem in October when he said Joba Chamberlain would be a starter this season. If the Yankees are smart, they will leave him as Rivera's setup man. He did it very well last year as the other option is Kyle "The Mop" Farnsworth. In other words, there isn't an option since Farnsworth ($5.75 million) is as useful as boobs a bull.

Plus, if Chamberlain is in the pen, then Ian Kennedy, a right-hander the Yankees didn't want to part with for Johan Santana, gets a spot in the rotation. If Chamberlain is in the rotation, Kennedy starts the season at Triple-A. If he is as good as the Yankees believe, he must be in the big leagues.

Phil Hughes? He will be dogged for a long time as the hurler the Yankees didn't sacrifice to get Santana. Since instant gratification was invented in the Yankees' universe, Hughes will have to produce quickly.

How will the transition from Joe Torre to Joe Girardi go?

They have the same first name, but after that Torre and Girardi are very different. Torre let the players police themselves; Girardi is a stickler for detail and will run a tighter ship. How that plays with the veterans will be interesting to see throughout camp.

The organized Girardi can manage, and the Yankees were fortunate he was available. However, he has one year of experience. And his coaching staff is dotted with neophytes. Pitching coach Dave Eiland and bench coach Rob Thomson are in their first years, and hitting coach Kevin Long is in his second.

How will Girardi find enough at-bats to keep Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi sharp?

Girardi is fortunate that the trio doesn't have a history of popping off publicly about lack of playing time. However, that doesn't make it easier for him to juggle three players, all left-handed hitters, into two spots - left field and DH.

Giambi is viewed as a full-time DH, but if Shelley Duncan is on the team, he will get a shot at the right-handed DH chances. Matsui and Damon will likely be relegated to fighting for playing time in left field. Both have been regulars forever, so it will be interesting to see how they react to reduced playing time.

Can Alex Rodriguez, coming off an MVP campaign, and Robinson Cano, the ink fresh on his first big contract, sustain last year's production?

Rodriguez won't hit .314, club 54 homers and drive in 156 runs. That doesn't mean he won't have a solid year. The Yankees made two mistakes with Cano. They didn't retain third base coach Larry Bowa, who rode Cano hard every day last season before following Torre to LA this offseason. Then they gave Cano, not a hard worker, a multi-year deal.

Who is playing first base?

There was nothing wrong with Andy Phillips and Doug Mientkiewicz, but the Yankees got rid of them. Instead, they are looking at Duncan, Wilson Betemit, Jason Lane and Morgan Ensberg. How long before Rodriguez complains about not having a glove guy saving him errors?


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