Inbox: Will Jeter be ready for Opening Day?
Yankees beat reporter Bryan Hoch answers questions from fans
Do you have an update on Derek Jeter? Will he be ready for the season?
-- Manny P., New York
Jeter is still recovering from right ankle surgery and is going to be non-weight bearing until January -- apparently, he's been spotted hobbling into a few Starbucks in the Tampa, Fla., area on crutches, so a lack of mobility hasn't stopped him from getting his daily caffeine fix.
It has been confirmed that the injury is going to knock Jeter out of playing for the United States in the World Baseball Classic, but the Yankees believe he should be ready to handle shortstop duties on Opening Day.
Joe Girardi said last week that Jeter's status will be something the Yanks keep a close eye on this spring; they'll be making sure his defensive range and speed on the bases aren't affected. But once the bone heals, there's no reason to think Jeter can't be the same player.
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With Mariano Rivera announcing that he's coming back, what kind of money do you see the Yankees giving him? And is he a lock for the closer role all season, even if he struggles?
-- Jack T., Montclair, N.J.
The Yankees are going to try to bump Rivera down from the $15 million he earned this year, and that seems fair. Strip away the "greatest ever" title, and typically you'd be offering only bargain dollars for a 43-year-old coming off knee surgery (or, more realistically, not signing him at all).
But this is a special case and a legacy Yankee, and so there's a different playbook to follow. There are no mystery teams involved when Brian Cashman and Fernando Cuza hash this out; Rivera's going to be a Yankee, so negotiations are all about finding a number that works. A one-third slice to the $10 million neighborhood with multiple performance-based incentives built in would seem like a good start.
As for a struggling Rivera; the Yankees believe he will be dominant, and why not? As Cashman put it, "He's never failed." But under a doomsday scenario, the focus still has to be on winning games. If a struggling Alex Rodriguez can be benched and pinch-hit for in the playoffs, someone else can be asked to pitch the ninth inning. The Yanks would hope that's a problem they never encounter.
Do you think that Zack Greinke would be a free-agent option?
-- Angel L., Bronx, N.Y.
No. Dollars aside (and that'd be a significant issue to tackle as well), the Yankees have major concerns about how Greinke would hold up in this media market. They met with him during the Winter Meetings in 2010 and couldn't see a fit at that time, so there's little reason to believe anything has changed.
I really like Chris Dickerson as one of the bench players. Do you think he will see more playing time this year if Nick Swisher and Andruw Jones leave?
-- Ron C., Belmar, N.J.
Dickerson offers the Yankees an interesting option for next season, but I don't think anyone is really sure what they'll do with him; a lot depends on how the offseason shakes out. Swisher and Jones figure to be gone, and so Dickerson could make the roster and see at-bats as a platoon outfielder. There will probably be a new face in the Opening Day lineup playing right field, though, as the Yanks don't seem to project Dickerson as an everyday player.
Are the Yankees going to keep Eduardo Nunez?
-- Francisco F., Loxahatchee, Fla.
It's too early to tell. If the Yankees swing a trade this offseason -- and they'll be trying -- Nunez might be a useful chip to help close a deal. We've all recognized his defensive issues, but there is added value to shortstops, and that's a big reason why the Yanks insisted that Nunez focus on just playing shortstop after his demotion to Triple-A in May.
With the utility man experiment now behind him, Nunez is playing winter ball and will continue to work on smoothing out those defensive glitches. He absolutely has a potent bat -- Rodriguez called him "one of the finest offensive players on this team, without a doubt" -- but since the Yankees have no plans of moving Jeter from shortstop, it's difficult to forecast Nunez's future in New York. He might be an option at designated hitter, but the Yanks also need to use that spot for guys like A-Rod and Jeter.
"I think this kid has something to offer us," Girardi said after the season. "I think we saw that in the Detroit series. There is talent there. There is speed, there is excitement; there is a guy who has the ability, I believe, to be a good shortstop."
What kind of a season did first-round pick Ty Hensley have? Also, is there any chance the Yankees start the season with a homegrown Minor Leaguer in their rotation?
-- Steve S., Sapulpa, Okla.
After signing his $1.2 million deal, Hensley got his feet wet in five Gulf Coast League games, starting four times and allowing eight runs (four earned) in 12 innings for a 3.00 ERA. He allowed eight hits, walked seven and struck out 14 with two hit batters.
It was an encouraging opening act, and obviously Hensley has a long way to go up the chain, but there's time -- he's just 19. The Yankees had him attend a pair of instructional leagues after the season to continue working, and it's possible Hensley might appear at Class A Charleston next year.
As for homegrown Minor Leaguers in the rotation, Andy Pettitte, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes and David Phelps would all qualify, so I'd expect to see a few of those names.
I've been hearing about Joakim Soria wanting to play for the Yankees. What do you think are the chances?
-- John W., Toms River, N.J.
That sounds like a deal the Yankees would entertain; they've showed interest in Soria in the past, and he could represent a good value coming off Tommy John surgery, the way the Yanks jumped on David Aardsma this spring. Soria is a free agent, and though he wouldn't be expected to pitch until May, his representative, Oscar Suarez, told ESPN.com that Soria would be willing to set up for Rivera. Otherwise, Soria would prefer to close elsewhere.