(2006) Which Player Will New York Yankees Manager Joe Torre Add to the Team After Spring Training?

Elvis Elvis

At the mid-way point of spring training, it is time to get inside the head of Manger Joe Torre and try to figure out which 25 players he will take with him when the Yankees break camp in three weeks.

In a perfect world, Torre would have with him12 pitchers, 6 outfielders, 7 infielders, and 3 catchers. But that adds up to 28 players, three more than Torre can carry on the roster.

24 Yankees Have Already Made the Team

Keeping in mind that Carl Pavano will start the season on the Disabled List and will bump someone off the roster when he joins the team, most likely in mid-April, let’s start choosing the roster by counting the players who are sure bets to make the club.

Barring injury, certainly Torre will keep the following 11 pitchers: Randy Johnson, Mike Mussina, Shawn Chacon, Chien-Ming Wang, Jaret Wright, Aaron Small, Tanyon Sturtze, Ron Villone, Mike Myers, Kyle Farnsworth, and Mariano Rivera.

Five outfielders are sure to make the team as well: Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, Gary Sheffield, Bernie Williams, and Bubba Crosby. Six infielders are sure bets to be on the roster: Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Jason Giambi, Andy Phillips, and Miguel Cairo. Jorge Posada and Kelly Stinnett are the catchers who have tickets punched for New York. That means 24 jobs are practically sewn up.

(2006) Which Player Will New York Yankees Manager Joe Torre Add to the Team After Spring Training?

Competing for One Spot With the Yankees

Everyone else is competing for one roster spot. If Torre elects to keep 12 pitchers, then he would most likely choose between Al Leiter, Scott Erickson, or Scott Proctor.

Keeping Leiter would make the most sense because he could start, pitch long/middle relief, or be a situational reliever against left-handed hitters. Erickson is a long-shot to regain his former effectiveness, and the Yankees should not be overly influenced by favorable spring-training stats. See if Erickson would be willing to go to Columbus and be called up if he has proven himself and is needed. The Yankees are trying to make Proctor into a starter, so he needs to learn that role in the minors.

The Yankees can probably get by with five outfielders. Williams in spring training has shown he can play right field and spell Sheffield there a little, and Crosby can fill several roles (fourth outfielder, defensive replacement, pinch runner, etc.). There are those who like the offensive skills of 26-year-old minor-leaguer Kevin Thompson, but he may not have done enough this spring to push his way into the mix.

When Giambi is your primary first baseman, you need insurance and someone to give his legs a rest at least once a week, and this year, Phillips will fill that role. The rest of the infield is set, and Cairo should give A-Rod and Cano rest when needed.

I’m not sold on Cairo being able to handle the shortstop position occasionally to spell Jeter, but it’s hard to take up another roster spot for a third back-up infielder. If so, it will be Felix Escalona, who hit .274 at Columbus last season. Escalona has an option left, so the Yankees could send him to Columbus without losing him.

Yogi Berra Was One of Three Catchers in the Old Days

In the old days, most teams kept three catchers. In 1961, the Yankees, in fact, had three catchers (Elston Howard, Yogi Berra, and Johnny Blanchard) who each hit more than 20 home runs.

It’s been years since the Yanks have kept three catchers, however. Yet, they are tempted to keep Wil Nieves as the third catcher because they are out of options on him and will lose him if he doesn’t stay with the club. Nieves hit .289 with Columbus last season.

What the Yankees need to decide is whether they feel they can afford to lose Nieves and pick up a catcher somewhere somehow if, God forbid, anything happened to Posada. However, if the Yankees feel so boxed in that they can’t lose Nieves, then they will have to keep him, bite the bullet, and carry three catchers.

But, if I were Torre, my preference would be to keep Leiter (convincing him first not to retire), and carry 12 pitchers, 5 outfielders, 6 infielders, and 2 catchers.

However, if Leiter was determined to retire and/or didn’t have anything left in the tank, then I would carry 11 pitchers until Pavano returned, and keep Escalona for at least the first few weeks of the season.