Hallelujah, Joe Torre got it right. The twenty-fifth man on the Yankee roster is . . . Bubba Crosby! Congratulations, Bubba. Allow me to suggest you wear a pare of dungarees under your uniform pants to avoid getting splinters in your bum.
Okay, maybe that's not fair, but getting Bubba on the roster, which is great, is only half the battle. The other half is getting Torre to rest Bernie once or twice a week and--rather than moving Matsui into center and starting Sierra in left, a possibility that seems to intrigue the Yankee skipper a little too much for my liking--start Bubba in his place.
"This guy [Crosby] may be a regular in a part-time situation, where he may play 2-3 games here or there"
More troubling was this:
"He can steal a base, and that's probably where he'll be utilized more times than not. We don't pinch-hit for many people, but we do have a couple of guys you'd pinch-run for. In that regard, he's a bonus for us."
And of course the ever-present:
"We do have options if we want Ruben to get some playing time, we can put Ruben in left field and move Matsui to center. [Matsui] is so good at what he does, that won't be a concern if that's the way we decide to do it."
This appears to be the final word on the Yankees' Opening Night roster, which means what I wrote before spring training started (though posted a bit later due to the timing of the launch of the Toaster) has become reality, dig:
Barring the unforeseen, the Yankees opening day roster will look like this:
1B Tino Martinez
2B Tony Womack
SS Derek Jeter
3B Alex Rodriguez
C - Jorge Posada
RF Gary Sheffield
CF Bernie Williams
LF Hideki Matsui
DH Jason Giambi
S Ruben Sierra ("OF")
R Rey Sanchez (IF)
R John Flaherty (C)
L Bubba Crosby (OF)
L Randy Johnson
R Mike Mussina
R Kevin Brown
R Carl Pavano
R Jaret Wright
R Mariano Rivera
R Tom Gordon
R Felix Hernandez
R Paul Quantrill
L Mike Stanton
R Steve Karsay
R Tanyon Sturtze
And so it does.
Tough luck then for the other two cusp players I had been rooting for this spring, Russ Johnson and especially Andy Phillips, who have been deflected back to Columbus due to Torre's decision to go with twelve pitchers. I still think that either one of them would be a better choice than Rey Sanchez for the utility man slot.
To be fair, Phillips is likely not much of a second baseman any more (if he ever was), and Sanchez will likely be used at third despite his lack of experience there (if nothing else, he is an excellent glove man, though his best position is short, where he's least essential). But at least Phillips played seven games at second last year, which is seven years more recently than when Sanchez last played third.
Here's hoping Sanchez has an Enrique-in-right moment that inspires the organization to make a move and that, rather than sending Chien-ming Wang to Cincinnati so Joe Randa can ride the bench, they simply release Sanchez and call up Phillips. Or better yet, drop to eleven pitchers, release Sanchez and call up Phillips and Johnson.
Hey, let me dream.
Meanwhile, the Yanks have finally taken an axe to the neck of the two-headed Proctor/Prinz beast by dealing Bret Prinz, who like the still-present Alex Graman is out of options, to the Angels for minor league backstop Wil Nieves.
This is a handy deal, as the Yankees are pretty thin in the catching department (as evidenced by the fact that Joe-for-4 DePastino is still in camp). Not that Nieves is any great shakes. The 27-year-old Puerto Rican spent seven years in the Padres organization before finally earning 72 miserable major league at-bats in 2002, after which he was claimed off waivers by the Angels. In two seasons as the starting catcher of the Angels' triple-A team in Salt Lake City in the Pacific Coast League, Nieves has hit for decent sub-.300 averages with unacceptably low .300-plus on-base numbers and middling power.
In other words, he's no Ryan Hankins (who, incidentally, can also play third base). That said, Brian Cashman apparently believes Nieves will be the Yankees' third-string catcher. Free Ryan Hankins! (or rather, don't, I don't want this team to have to use it's third-string catcher even once this year) Additional ripple effect: this should push David Parrish down to Trenton where he belongs.
What makes this a handy deal is that the Yankees got something mildly useful for Prinz, who was a sure thing to be released at the end of the spring, and was outrageously redundant in the same organization with Scott Proctor. One last time:
Both Prinz and Proctor are fireballing righties who fall prey to the usual pitfalls for fireballing relievers (flat fastballs, wildness). Both pitched well in Columbus last year, but were inconsistent with the big club, both posting ERAs in the fives in 26 appearances. Both came over in dump trades, Prinz for Raul Mondesi, Proctor for Robin Ventura. Proctor is six months older than Prinz, who will turn 28 in June.
Conveniently, Proctor's the one who still has options.
I still think the Yankees should have held on to Robin Ventura as a lefty pinch-hitter for the 2003 playoffs and dumped Todd Zeile instead (which they wound up doing anyway), but that trade, which yielded both Proctor and Crosby, continues to look mighty good. Ventura had just 261 at-bats and 10 homers left in his major league career at the time of the deal, here's hoping Bubba can equal Robin's 1.1 post-Yankee WARP as Bernie's understudy this year.