Melky Cabrera's suspension may end up causing the Yankees to make a couple roster moves to start the season. With Melky out, the Yankees only have Damon who can play CF (and Damon's below average at this point). They'll want to keep up another player, as Matsui's knee isn't healthy enough for him to be a backup there, and an outfield of Duncan/Abreu/Matsui would be too awful to imagine if something happened to Damon.
As a result, I believe Brett Gardner will make the roster to start the season. He's a nice player, and many other teams would have him on the 25-man roster anyway. He's been called "Juan Pierre who can take a walk", which would make for a nice player, someone very different from the players the Yankees have had man CF over the years, including Melky. He'll eventually be surpassed by Austin Jackson, so if Gardner's going to get a shot, it's this year.
The Yankees would be expected to keep 12 pitchers, and 13 position players. Here are the guaranteed players:
C: Posada, Molina
CF: Cabrera (suspended 3 games)
DH: Matsui (assuming he's not on the DL)
SPs: Wang, Pettitte, Hughes, Mussina, Kennedy
RPs: Rivera, Chamberlain, Farnsworth, Hawkins
That makes 19 of the 25 spots, with 3 pitchers and 3 hitters remaining. I'm pretty sure that Shelley Duncan will make the ML roster to start the season. Wilson Betemit is too good to just get rid of, and I expect he'll be the middle infield sub as he's been working at SS and 2B in the spring, and has always been a sub at 1b and 3b. That leaves one more hitter spot, which everyone expects to be Morgan Ensberg, because he's too good not to keep. But Ensberg wasn't put on the 40-man roster, like Traber was. There's one more 40-man spot (Pavano will go on the 60-day DL), and I still expect that to belong to Ensberg. Gardner, though, isn't on the 40-man either.
It's not just down to those two guys fighting for one spot, though. If either Sean Henn or Brian Bruney fail to make the ML team, they'll need to be sent through waivers as they have no options remaining. So, Gardner and Ensberg's fates aren't mutually exclusive. Let's leave the two of them for now, and move on to the bullpen.
At this point. Ross Ohlendorf has earned a spot. If he doesn't make it, I'd be shocked. He's pitched extremely well, and he's been put in early in the spring training games, indicating he's going to be a leading 6th-7th-8th inning candidate. I expect Billy Traber to make the team, as I mentioned above. That leaves 1 bullpen spot.
Now it gets tough. 1 bullpen spot, 1 hitter spot. I'm really not sure who's going to win the bullpen spot, but here's some observations:
- Veras and Bruney are pitching only in the 8th and 9th. That's vs the other team's minor leaguers. That's not great evaluation time. This lowers their chances.
- Karstens was a (or the) leading candidate until he had an awful game the other day.
- Igawa was gaining ground, and gave it all back today.
- Scott Patterson probably deserves the spot, but why hasn't he pitched in almost a week?
- Edwar Ramirez has been awful, and will probably start in AAA
- Sean Henn has pitched a little better lately, but still hasn't been good
So, to start the season, here's my prediction:
- Ian Kennedy starts the season in the minors. Why? Because he'll be the 5th starter, and they won't need him immediately. That lets them keep both Gardner and Ensberg on the opening day roster, while Duncan and Cabrera are serving their suspensions.
- At the end of the three game suspension, the Yankees will have to decide what they want to do. My guess is that Gardner then goes down to the minors at that point, assuming none of the OFs are injured. If Matsui's injured, though, Gardner remains on the 25-man roster.
- Ian Kennedy is then called up.