I’m happy to unveil our first Ask the Expert of the new season, as I was given the opportunity to pose 5 questions to Kat O’Brien of New York Newsday. For those who are new to the site, in the Ask the Expert series I interview beat writers from around the coverage in order to give you an insiders look and insight into a team’s thought process. O’Brien, who does a tremendous job covering the New York Yankees (you can read her blog by clicking here), gave us her thoughts on Joba Chamberlain, what to expect from Jorge Posada & Robinson Cano, who has the inside track on the #5 starters spot and so much more.
I want to thank Ms. O’Brien for her participation and without further adieu, let’s see what she had to say:
1) If the Yankees opt not to import another starting pitcher, who do you think has the best chance to fill the #5 rotation spot and why, Phil Hughes or Ian Kennedy?
Kat O’Brien: I think Phil Hughes would have a big leg up on Ian Kennedy if those were the choices for the No. 5 spot. Hughes didn’t slip a huge amount in the Yankees’ eyes, though they’re obviously concerned about how susceptible he may be to injuries. Kennedy didn’t perform, and also gave reason to think he might have a little attitude of entitlement. He seemed to straighten up, but I still think Hughes leads there.
2) What should we look for early on from Robinson Cano to determine if it will be another slow start? Have you heard anything surrounding him that leads you to believe that he’s ready to put together a strong full season?
Kat O’Brien: I think Robinson Cano will bounce back in a big way. He seemed humbled by his rough season and I really think he will play well in 2009.
3) At this point, what roles do you see Xavier Nady, Hideki Matsui or Nick Swisher having with the addition of Mark Teixeira and what are the chances that any of them are not on the opening day roster?
Kat O’Brien: If the Yankees can trade Xavier Nady, Hideki Matsui or Nick Swisher for pitching, they will. If they can’t get a decent value in return, they’ll stick with them. Barring any trades, I see Matsui as the primary DH and Johnny Damon playing pretty much every day (mostly in left but occasionally in center), with Nady and Swisher (more Nady than Swisher) playing rightfield and filling in in left, then Damon, Melky Cabrera and/or Brett Gardner in center. On the very rare days Teixeira doesn’t play first — he really likes to play every day — Swisher can play first.
4) Coming off an injury shortened 2008, how do you think Jorge Posada will rebound and how much do you think we will see him behind the plate?
Kat O’Brien: Jorge Posada was bound and determined that he would recover and be at catcher in 2009. That won’t be every day, but he’s pretty stubborn and if he sets his mind to catching for the Yankees, I think it’ll happen. He probably won’t have the career year he did in 2007, but I think he’ll be solid.
5) The Yankees definitely have health concerns in the rotation with Chien-Ming Wang, A.J. Burnett and Joba Chamberlain. How do you see Wang responding from his injury? Will the Yankees “baby” Chamberlain at all in 2009? Can Burnett handle the pressures of New York? What can you tell us about any of these pitchers?
Kat O’Brien: As far as pitching concerns about starters go, I wouldn’t be too worried about Wang. He’s been healthy for the most part and this was a freak injury. All reports are that he’ll be ready to go. Burnett will be an interesting one to watch. He’s certainly had his share of injuries, but I think his first year in New York he’ll want to prove doubters wrong. The Yankees will be as careful as possible with Joba, after his shoulder scare, but I still think he’ll stick in the rotation.
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