Results tagged ‘ Bernie Williams ’

Williams nominated for Latin Grammy

bernie_275_091809.jpgBy Jon Lane
Bernie Williams’ second album, “Moving Forward,” was nominated for “Best Instrumental Album.” Williams for the upcoming Latin Grammy Awards.

“I don’t have many words right now that can explain how excited and grateful I am about this nomination,” Williams said in a statement. “When I stopped playing baseball, I knew that I would become more dedicated to my music. Just to have the chance to sign with Reform Records and create this CD was a tremendous opportunity. Now, to already have my first Latin Grammy nomination from my fellow musicians is beyond anything I could have dreamed.”

For those who are interested, Williams has live performances lined up in the New York metropolitan area, including Saturday, September 25 at the Capital One Bank Theater in Westbury, Long Island. This nomination is most deserving. Williams, one of the greats during the Yankees’ recent dynasty, has put out two phenomenal albums and the sky is indeed the limit.

Eleven years ago

By Jon Lane
Chris Shearn’s entertaining rant got me thinking.
While this year’s Yankees won’t match the legendary team from 1998,
like 11 years ago, they’ve been playing out of their minds. Here’s a snapshot comparison of where the 2009 Yankees currently stand to the 125-win team of ’98:

Record on August 31
2009: 82-48
1998: 98-37

Games ahead in first place
2009: 6
1998: 18.5

Team leaders (hitting)
2009: Average – Derek Jeter (.335); HRs – Mark Teixeira (32); RBIs – Teixeira (101)
1998: Average – Bernie Williams (.339); HRs – Tino Martinez (28); RBIs – Martinez (123)

Team leaders (pitching)

2009: Wins – CC Sabathia (15); ERA – Sabathia (3.56); Strikeouts – Sabathia (158)

1998: Wins – David Cone (20); ERA – Orlando Hernandez (3.13); Strikeouts – Cone (209)

Key acquisitions
2009: Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Teixeira, Nick Swisher (acquired for Wilson Betemit)
1998: Chuck Knoblauch, Scott Brosius, Hernandez, Tim Raines

Lights-out closer
2009: Mariano Rivera
1998: Mariano Rivera

Managers
2009: Joe Girardi
1998: Joe Torre

Tests of character

2009: Twelve walk-off wins, to date their highest total since 1978 (13); 41 comeback victories

1998: Seven walk-off wins; 50 comeback victories; Rallied from 2-1 ALCS deficit to defeat the Indians in Game 4. The Yankees did not lose another postseason game.

Welcome to the party

stadium_350_041609.jpgBy Jon Lane
It’s a bit past 12:30 p.m. and the Opening Ceremonies are under way as 50,000-plus have jam-packed this beautiful new facility, open for business and the first official game between the Yankees and Indians.

John Fogerty and Bernie Williams performed live, and Michael Kay and John Sterling are introducing Yankees alumni. As timing has it, the Milwaukee Brewers play the Mets tomorrow. Willie Randolph is the Brewers’ bench coach and that’s allowed him to participate this afternoon. Our own David Cone received a nice ovation, as did Randolph, Rich Gossage and Tino Martinez.

I’ll be back with much more, including more thoughts on today. A quick update on Xavier Nady: He was to see the team doctor this morning, but told me just before 11:30 he had not yet been examined. Nady was placed on the 15-day DL today and pitcher David Robertson was called up from Triple-A Scranton. Joe Girardi’s reasoning was to wait and see if Nady will in fact miss the season or if the news turns out better than expected.

12:47 p.m.
Indians pitcher Carl Pavano was introduced to loud boos. The one-time Yankees’ colossal failure smirked at the ovation, a few writers up here snickered at the reaction.

12:56 p.m.
The 2009 Yankees were just introduced. Here’s who received the loudest ovations:
A.J. Burnett
Mariano Rivera
Andy Pettitte
Joba Chamberlain
Derek Jeter
Nick Swisher
CC Sabathia

stadium_opening_470.jpg
1:07 p.m.
Two minutes until first pitch. Here’s a shot of the military’s presenting of our colors.

First pitch: 1:09 p.m., a ball to Grady Sizemore. The game time temperature is 56 degrees.
First out: Sizemore grounds out to first base.
First strikeout: Victor Martinez whiffs to end a clean top of the first for CC Sabathia.

1:21 p.m.
The Yankees were happy just to have come home, but especially happy to be in their new digs off a nine-game road trip, the team’s longest to begin a season since 1985. Think about it: You spend six weeks in Florida, come home and instantly fall in love with your new home and three days later have to go away for nearly two weeks. After an 0-2 start in which the worst of cynics declared the season over, the Yankees are home at 5-4 and look to build off two quality wins. Not too shabby.

Hours before the pregame ceremonies, Joe Girardi told the media he had this day circled on the calendar for awhile and that the anticipation was only going to grow as the day progressed. He still takes the same route to the new Stadium (Exit 6) off the Major Deegan Expressway, which takes him directly to River Avenue. He, like everyone else, can’t help notice the venerable “House That Ruth Built” slowly and painfully being dismantled. Normally upon the opening of a new building, the old one is parking lot, but like a stubborn old goat, the original Yankee Stadium still casts a shadow over its plush neighbor.

“It’s strange driving by the old Stadium and it’s still there,” Girardi said.

Babe Ruth built the place across the street. This facility was built by George M. Steinbrenner, regarded as the architect of the Stadium that combines elements of past, present and future. The Boss is in attendance today, but keeping a low profile.

“I don’t think Opening Day is the same without him here,” Girardi said. “This is George’s creation. He’s been part of it for so long. To say the Yankees, you say Mr. Steinbrenner.”

Right after Bob Sheppard’s pre-recorded voice introduced Derek Jeter was something pretty cool. The bat on home plate prior to Jeter’s first plate appearance was used by Babe Ruth to hit the first home run in the first game at the original Yankee Stadium on April 18, 1923. The Babe hit a three-run homer off Boston’s Howard Ehmke to spark the Yankees to a 4-1 win. The bat was taken directly to the Yankees Museum here at the new Stadium, where it will be on display until the All-Star break.

No such luck for Jeter. Facing last season’s Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee, Jeter filed out to center. Johnny Damon, however, is now forever down in history as the first player to record the first hit here: a single to right center field.

1:30 p.m.
Lee, 0-2 with a 9.58 ERA coming in, got into immediate trouble. He plunked Mark Teixeira in the right triceps to put runners on first and second for the Yankees’ newest cult hero, Nick Swisher.

Someone asked Swisher before the game if there’s anybody he’s not best friends with, and I tend to wonder if there’s ever a moment when he doesn’t smile. Probably not. His grin was especially wide after he received a surprise gift in the mail, a shiny new pair of Nikes. If I were to guess, Swisher probably didn’t get a wink of sleep last night.

“If you can’t ready for today, man, you’ve got problems,” Swisher said. “I love what I do. I absolutely love what I do, and it shows. I add that because that’s my personality.”

Taking a break from batting practice, Swisher walked into the clubhouse bellowing like a little kid at the amusement park, “Opening Day! New York Yankees! 2009!”

Swisher’s first official at-bat in pinstripes: a fly out to center field. Jorge Posada came up with two out and Lee’s pitch out already over 20, but grounded to first.

1:37 p.m.
First hit by a visiting player: Ben Francisco’s two-out double to left field. Sabathia worked out of trouble after walking the next batter.

1:47 p.m.
Here in the bottom of the second, Robinson Cano led off with a base hit. Coming off a down 2008, Cano is 14 for 35 (.400) on the season. The Yankees were wise not to trade him, just like they were smart to hold on to Swisher when it was thought they had a glut of outfielders.

1:50 p.m.
Brett Gardner flies out to left to end the second. Off to check out the game atmospheres at the Hard Rock Cafe and NYY Steak

3:06 p.m.
I’m back from checking out the Hard Rock and NYY Steak. While chatting with ESPN’s Hannah Storm, Jorge Posada belted the first home run at the new Yankee Stadium to Monument Park in dead center field to tie the game at 1-1. It was also a milestone homer. Posada’s jack was the 223th of his career, passing Don Mattingly for No. 8 on the all-time franchise list. Ironically, Jose Molina, another catcher, belted the final homer at the old place.

There’s lots of ground to cover about the activities here at Yankee Stadium. I’ll gradually catch up while tracking what’s a tight ballgame.

championships_150.jpg3:21 p.m.
Interesting observation from an ESPN producer standing behind me. This wall behind the bleachers in right field has signs representing each year the Yankees became World Champions. “They didn’t leave room for a new one,” the producer said. Should the Yankees win No. 27, that will be an offseason project.

Meanwhile, Sabathia’s day is done after throwing 122 pitches (70 strikes) in 5 2/3 innings. Not efficient, but he leaves a game tied at 1-1.

3:34 p.m.
Nice job by Phil Coke, who came in with a 9.82 ERA,
to get Sizemore to fly out to left and leave the bases loaded to end the top of sixth. The Yankees have to build off that and get something started here.

3:49 p.m.
The love fest is over (for now). Jose Veras allowed a walk and a double to start the seventh before Jhonny Peralta doubled home two runs. When he’s off his game, Veras, booed off the mound, cannot find the plate and it cost him today.

4:00 p.m.
Today’s attendance: 48,271. Two thousand standing room only tickets were not sold before the game.

Thanks to the bullpen, the natives are now restless. The Indians have exploded for eight runs in the seventh off Veras and Damaso Marte, the back-breaker Sizemore’s grand slam to right field. Since 1998 the Yankees have won 11 consecutive home openers, 16 of their last 17 and 22 of their last 25 since 1983.

It’s 10-1 Tribe after Victor Martinez’s solo shot. Fans hollered, “We want Swisher!”

hrc_150_041609.jpg4:26 p.m.
With the game in the ridiculous stage, here are some highlights on the action at the Hard Rock and NYY Steak from earlier today.

Hard Rock opened at 10 a.m. and was packed to where by 2 p.m. there was a two-hour wait. A few people were getting restless, but the majority were having a blast.

Mike Mancini, hanging out with a group of Connecticut natives at the bar, made a three-hour trip, without a ticket, from Hartford. He was loving the appeal of watching a game within the Stadium confines and a fun atmosphere, certainly not a consolation prize.

“It’s been worth the trip,” Mancini said. “We drove three hours, in traffic, to hang out at the Hard Rock. We’re here drinking with our Pisans and have the beautiful Jillian behind the bar!”

nyysteak_250.jpgRon Lombardi of Mountain Lakes, N.J. is another ticket holder who
explored views from his seats for the first four innings and the Hard
Rock before he and his group settled into the laid-back atmosphere of
NYY Steak. Part of the decor is a wall affixed with signatures from Yankees greats of the past. And although Lombardi had not yet been served his main course, NYY Steak’s greens had him sold.

“This is a steakhouse,” Lombardi said. “The appetizers are good.”

Jacques Lamour, general manager of NYY Steak, told me you can have your initials carved within the bone of the rib eye, one of the many beef options dry-aged for 21-28 days.None of Steak’s dishes are frozen except the lobster tails and ice cream, everything else starts from scratch. If not for a light wallet and work obligations, I would have sampled a cut!

6:02 p.m.
There’s been some confusion over the scheduled examination of Xavier Nady’s right elbow. One day after it appeared his season was over, suddenly there’s a tiny ray of light.

Nady had a second X-Ray late this morning and will visit orthopedic surgeon Dr. Lewis Yocum, known for performing Tommy John surgery and receive a CT scan tomorrow. After that, there will be a closer look of the MRI he received in Tampa to see what’s going on with the bone.

Nady’s was disabled this morning, so it’s not like the Yankees have to make an immediate decision. The medical team is exhausting all options to avoid another Tommy John surgery, which Nady first had done in 2002.

 “If you can avoid surgery at all costs, that’s what you want to do,” Nady said. “If there’s a chance at rehab, obviously that’s the way to go. You want to be 100 percent sure of what’s going on in there, have every test done and look at everything. I went through that surgery before and would like to avoid it myself.”

Not much else to report from the clubhouse except the obvious fact that both Marte and Veras are disappointed with their respective failures. Marte blamed location; all of his pitches were right down the middle. Veras shouldered all the blame because his leadoff walk of Mark DeRosa led to the bottom falling out.

“I’m better than that,” he said.

Outside of Mariano Rivera and Brian Bruney, the bullpen has been either real good or real bad. Today was terrible, but better to figure this out heading into Game 11 than in September.

Countdown to the party

stadium_350_041509.jpgBy Jon Lane
T-minus one day until the official home opener. We were on hand for the workouts and the exhibition games, taking you for tour and providing anecdotes from around the Stadium and in the clubhouse. Expect a lot more Thursday afternoon. Fans will be jacked, CC Sabathia will be on the mound and the Yankees will thrilled to enjoy their new spoils for the next seven days. I’ll be keeping a diary and filing a postgame report. Chris Shearn and Co. will be producing exclusive videos, and Friday, Steven Goldman will provide a unique take on the Stadium’s amenities and dining experiences. This will be a lot of fun and knowing the Yankees there will be plenty of surprises. Gates will be open at 10 a.m. and the team is encouraging everyone to be in their seats by noon for the opening ceremonies.

_______________________

A.J. Burnett was amazing Tuesday night. Better than his six no-hit innings was how he, locked into a pitchers’ duel with Matt Garza, kept his composure after the Rays tied the game in the seventh. After the Yankees regained the lead off the Rays bullpen, Burnett pitched a clean eighth inning, the Yankees broke it open in the ninth and Brian Bruney struck out the side to finish it off. Through two games, Burnett is proving wrong those skeptics (me included) who thought it was a risk giving him $82.5 million over five years. There are tell-tale signs he’s no longer a thrower, but a mature pitcher. Shearn has more on Burnett and Brett Gardner, who to date is making him look like a genius.

_______________________

Hold your breath and cross your fingers: Xavier Nady is having an MRI done today to examime his right elbow, injured Tuesday in the seventh when he felt a sharp pain while throwing Carlos Pena’s single back to the infield. It’s the same area where he had Tommy John ligament replacement surgery in 2001.

From the sound of it, Nady is headed for the disabled list. That means Nick Swisher will play every day, mostly in right field. Melky Cabrera will be counted on even more to spell Johnny Damon in left. Shelley Duncan, batting .300 with a homer and five RBIs in four games at Triple-A Scranton, would add pop off the bench. None, however, can replace Nady, a steady veteran and a good fit in the bottom of the lineup. The Yankees are wishing Hideki Matsui can play some outfield right now.

_______________________

It’s Andy Pettitte against Andy Sonnanstine this afternoon (YES HD, 4 p.m.) as the Yankees finally finish their season-opening nine-game road trip. They’d love to officially open the new Yankee Stadium one game above .500, which considering having to go back on the road after just coming back from six weeks in Florida wouldn’t be too bad. Pettitte is the right guy to have on the mound. He was great in his 2009 debut at Kansas City, yielding one run and three hits over seven innings, and is 15-4 with a 3.63 ERA against the Rays, including 8-2 with a 3.72 ERA in 12 starts at Tropicana Field.

Just like it was silly to go insane over an 0-2 start, it’s completely premature to draw conclusions based on eight games. The best you can do is look at things in stages. Right here, right now, Burnett has been gold and Pettitte is a great bargain.

_______________________

movingforward.jpgYankees great Bernie Williams’ new CD, “Moving Forward” has been released. You can meet Williams and receive a signed copy of the CD at 6 p.m at Borders – Penn Plaza. Williams played one of his songs on Good Day New York this morning. His first CD, “The Journey Within” is excellent. Expect more of the same with his second helping and tune into YES next month for his live concert at New York’s Nokia Theatre.

So it begins ….

stadium2_new_250.jpgBy Jon Lane
William Blake wrote, “The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” At first glance, the new building on 161st Street and River Avenue is a modern-day manifestation of this sentiment.

I was in the building a mere five minutes, and the stadium already made enough of an impression to last a lifetime. For those few moments, it wasn’t only about a day’s work but an appreciation of what it took to get here and the payoff of a collective effort between organization, borough and city.

bernie_250.jpgAs I type, the towering screen above center field is showing Bernie Williams playing an instrumental version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” as part of the Hard Rock Caf’s celebratory guitar smash, a ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate the opening of the Hard Rock Caf at Yankee Stadium.

I’m barely getting started. Upon my arrival to the Hard Rock at Gate 6, across the McDonald’s on River Avenue at 8:30 this morning, it’s been non-stop touring and picture taking, with a hardy welcome breakfast in between. There’s lots more coming from today’s workouts. The Yankees are back in town, and there’s an exciting team and breathtaking ballpark to discuss.

Right now, Ace Frehley is playing a live version of his hit, “Back in the New York Groove.” You cannot make this stuff up!

11:45 a.m.
The Yankees are in town, back as a unit for the first time since saying farewell on September 21, 2008, but for the first time since 1923, the place next door is silent and empty. No ghosts, no relevance. It’s really strange.

Back at the Hard Rock, once I got a chance to poke around. I played the role of paparazzi. Numerous dignitaries were made available for photo opportunities. Outdoors rehearsing were children from the Bronx-based Renaissance EMS, an organization down the street at 161st and Third that offers music classes to neighborhood kids. It’s an affordable program offering mentorship and education to teach self-discipline through the use of music.

“Kids learn to be disciplined by learning instruments and using that knowledge in a constructive way,” said Wayne Jeffrey, a guitar instructor at Renaissance.

greathall_250.jpgAt the end of the Great Hall, high above the Yankees’ team store, lies a gargantuan high-definition video screen. In between the screen and the main entrance at Gate 4 was a classically designed tribute to Yankees history, photos of the many greats that played in pinstripes.

Lenny Caro, president and C.E.O. of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce, who worked with the Yankees and New York City to make this building a reality, praised the effort in creating jobs during tough economic times. The cynical outlook is that while Johnny Six Figures can afford the best seats and enjoy the luxurious aspects of the new Stadium, Joe Lunch Pail can use the experience of being in the building as a suspension of disbelief.

“It’s hard, I’m not going to say it’s not,” Caro said. “The average guy is not going to come to 10 games a year. He may come to four or five. We need to forget. We get up every morning, put on the news and  you’re depressed in two minutes. If you can get a little sunshine for that day, take advantage of it.”

1:47 p.m.
hal_150.jpgA couple of notable quotes from Hal Steinbrenner, who met the media after Joe Girardi:

On selling a beautiful, but pricey experience during an economic recession:
“We understand a lot of our fans are struggling. This is the worst recession in most of our lifetimes. At the same time, I think baseball has always been an escape for people. What we’re going to provide here is an unbelievable experience for thousands and thousands of our fans. Despite the troubles they’re going through right now, maybe they’ll be able to get away for two or three hours and get their mind off things. We’re going to make that experience tremendous. We see that as our role. We provide entertainment and we’re going to do it right.”

On the perception that the new Yankee Stadium is a splashy and gaudy endeavor being marketed during a terribly tough time for New York City:

“We started building this two years ago and there is  no doubt times were different. I don’t see this as ostentatious or flashy. I see this as classy. We did our best to bring all the tradition this great franchise has had the last century into this ballpark and at the same time make it as nice as we can for our fans. If some people want to call it flashy, so be it. I just think this building is classy and will be here a long, long time.

On whether Joe Girardi will be on the hot seat if the Yankees fail to reach the playoffs:

“I haven’t even thought about it. As far as I’m concerned we’re going to make the playoffs. Our fans expect that every year and we expect that every year; my dad expects that every year. This like that, we’ll cross that bridge if we come to it, but I’m not expecting that at all.”

On whether anything less than a World Series is letting the fans down:

“I can sit up here and say if we don’t win a World Series, we’ve let our fans down. I will stand up here and say that because that’s the mentality of everybody in this organization.”

I’ll have much more on these expectations in my 2009 Yankee Season Preview running this weekend.

Some quick press box nuances before I head down:

In the old place, the writer’s work room and dining area were in the basement, which means you had to take an elevator to and from the press box before and after games. Here, everything is in one spot. The dining room, called Sheppard’s Place after the legendary Bob Sheppard, is across the media working area. From there, a private press elevator takes you downstairs to the clubhouses.

workout_250.jpgThe team is working out down before a select group of about 1,000 fans. I’ll be back later with more observations and a separate diary on reactions from Yankees players.

3:46 p.m.
A colleague and friend said it best: “Today is the happiest day of the year.” (Unless the Yankees win the World Series, that is.)

On the field, in the clubhouse and in the stands, the new Yankee Stadium has everyone at a fever pitch, making it easy to forget that the Yankees still have two games left on their exhibition schedule. There are questions that are overlooked, but not to be ignored:

How long will this freshness, this newness, last? How helpful will a private chef, whirlpools, lap top kiosks affixed in every locker and that incredibly large (100 feet wide and nearly 60 feet tall) Diamond Vision be during the dog days of summer and that inevitable losing streak? This same colleague noted Nick Swisher in the dugout laughin
g with the enthusiasm of a child celebrating a birthday and Christmas on the same day. Will Swisher’s infectious personality help lift this team through the dark days and stop losing streaks before they grow exponentially out of hand?

That’s for another day. Dry runs are set for tomorrow night and Saturday afternoon, and Swisher already picked up on a nuance different from across the street: the wind. Even though this place is one block away and facing the same direction, balls hit into the outfield was moving more towards the right.

score2_150.jpgA preview of the 2009 World Series’ deciding game? Just wondering ….

4:01 p.m.
The blending of today and tomorrow with yesterday is the essence of the new Yankee Stadium. Tony Morante is the Director of Stadium Tours and the team’s resident historian who made his first trip to the original building in 1949.

“They showed that you can put a frieze up with the lights,” Morante said. “And that was a problem we had moving from 1975 into 1976 when the Stadium reopened. They determined they couldn’t do it because it would have been too heavy. This brings back April of 1923 once again. That’s our signature, the signature of Yankee Stadium. That’s the crown that makes it so special.”

frieze_420.jpgMorante and his group are working on getting all 26 championship banners ready for Opening Day on April 16, weather permitting.

“These banners are so fragile, they’ve been pushed aside for 35 years now,” Morante said. “After having them properly restored, they’re still experiencing a lot of oxidation and it’s going to be very difficult for them to weather a lot of storm.”

Thanks for reading everyone. I’m back later with a new entry detailing some great anecdotes from the players, with one, Derek Jeter, looking ahead to the inevitable dismantling of the venerable facility across the street.

Ready to Rock!

arod_hardrock_250.jpgBy Jon Lane
Prior to Thursday’s workouts will be a pretty cool unveiling of the new Hard Rock Cafe at Yankee Stadium. Bernie Williams will be on hand along with rock legends Ace Frehley (KISS), Scott Ian and Frank Bello (Anthrax), Darryl “DMC” McDaniels (RUN DMC) and Anton Figg (Late Show Band). The restaurant/bar will officially open for business with what’s being billed as a Celebratory Guitar Smash.

The new Hard Rock Cafe Yankee Stadium is located at Gate 6 of the new facility. Williams is releasing his second CD “Moving Forward” and will be playing “Take Me
Out to the Ballgame” with children from the Bronx-based Renaissance
EMS, which received Hard Rock guitars at the Cafe ground-breaking last
spring, when Alex Rodriguez signed a huge Hard Rock guitar dressed in pinstripes.

Williams was a great ballplayer and is a fabulous musician. His first project, “The Journey Within,” is fantastic. As far as the Hard Rock, you can’t go wrong here. Rock and roll and Yankees memorabilia under one roof? Money. The food is pretty good too; I’d recommend the hot wings or the burger.

This from MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch: The Hard Rock is rumored to be staying open until 1 a.m. after Yankees home games. Nice!

Today around the Yankees

By Jon Lane
Jerome Preisler offered a positive yet compelling take on Alex Rodriguez in his new Deep in the Red, while also looking back on a September 2005 game we worked together.

Meanwhile, some notes and nuggets from another day in Yankees camp:

• George Steinbrenner paid a visit. Asked by a New York Post reporter how he was doing, The Boss said, “I feel good.”

• Bernie Williams returned to his old digs and will remain with the Yankees until March 2 when he meets the World Baseball Classic’s Puerto Rican team. Tyler Kepner has the details with quotes from Williams and Joe Girardi.

From Peter Abraham’s LoHud Yankees blog:

• Edwar Ramirez and Jose Veras (Dominican Republic) won’t be going to the WBC. You can probably count Damaso Marte (hamstring) out too. The righty reliever won’t be running for at least the rest of the week.

• CC Sabathia’s first Grapefruit start will be March 6 against the Tigers at George M. Steinbrenner Field. That lines him up for Opening Day on April 6 in Baltimore.

Figuring out the outfield puzzle

melky_375_021809.jpgBy Jon Lane
Barring a trade, or the Yankees plucking a stop-gap veteran off the scrap heap, Brett Gardner or Melky Cabrera will be the team’s starting center fielder.

Many people wanted to pull the plug on Cabrera; he was almost shipped
to Milwaukee for Mike Cameron. Why give up so soon? He’s only 24 and
had one bad season, which made nearly everyone forget his 16 assists
and 73 RBIs the year before, as well as those sparkling catches in
center that had fans enamored with him. Cabrera’s biggest issue is
maturity, so you hope his demotion to Triple-A last August humbled him.

From the looks of his Dominican League numbers (.312-1-12 in 24 games
for Aguilas Cibaenas) the prognosis is encouraging. Also helping
Cabrera’s cause is him pulling out of the World Baseball Classic. It’s
admirable Cabrera wanted to represent his native Dominican Republic,
but he has too much to prove to the Yankees – and to himself.

There is a lot to like about Gardner’s game. He’s a demon on the bases and goes all-out in every area. He just has to hit; a .228 batting average in 42 games isn’t what the Yankees are accustomed to in center field.

Why trade either Xavier Nady or Nick Swisher? Either (likely Nady) will start in right field. Both offer depth and in Swisher’s case, flexibility. Bear in mind that Hideki Matsui will not see any action in the outfield all spring. He’s coming off knee surgery, so he’ll be a DH for the foreseeable future.

I’m expecting a bounce-back season for Swisher (.219-24-69 in ’08), a genial person who needed a fresh start after his fallout with Ozzie Guillen in Chicago. He’s only 28 and two seasons removed from slugging 35 home runs with 95 RBIs.

A friend of mine had this idea the other day: The Yankees sign free agent Garret Anderson. In theory it’s great. At age 36, Anderson batted .293 with 15 home runs and 84 RBIs, second on the club to Vladimir Guerrero’s 91. When the Angels decided to decline picking up their option on Anderson’s contract, Anderson left Southern California as the franchise’ leader in games played, at-bats, hits, total bases, singles, doubles, grand slams, extra-base hits, career RBI, single-game RBI, and consecutive games (12) with an RBI.

In practice it’s unlikely, though you never know. Anderson would have made $14 million in 2009 and the Yankees do not want to add more to their bloated payroll. Nady or Swisher would have to be dealt and Anderson would have to play every day. He turns 37 in June, so how productive would he truly be?

One person who will not be roaming the outfield for the Yankees: Bernie Williams. The fan favorite was with the team in Tampa today, but he’s not on the roster. He’s working out in preparation for Team Puerto Rico in the WBC.