Thursday, March 7, 2013

When there's no clear Plan B

Bruce Rondon may be Plan A
for the back end of the Detroit
bullpen, but his spring training
has not gone well so far.
More than three weeks remain before the regular season opens, but a couple of high-expectation teams have developed significant roster questions that don't have easy answers. It will be interesting to see how they cope.

Detroit Tigers: Jose Valverde, who had been their closer the past few years, is out of the picture (and still unemployed, for that matter). Bruce Rondon, a hard-throwing 22-year-old prospect, had been deemed the front-runner as Valverde's successor, although manager Jim Leyland was coy during the offseason about the bullpen glory job.

Rondon has struggled with command this spring. The Tigers skipped his most recent scheduled appearance to work on his mechanics in a side session and pronounced themselves pleased with the tweaks, but we've all seen reports of struggling pitchers having a "great bullpen session" and continuing to struggle.

Maybe Rondon can be fixed in the time remaining. Maybe the Tigers will make a March trade — there's plenty of speculation about the availability of starter Rick Porcello. Perhaps they'll open the season counting on Leyland to work the closer-by-committee approach that worked so well for him in his Pittsburgh days more than 20 years ago.

Mark Teixeira didn't spend a lot of
time in a Team USA uniform this week.
He's been replaced on the roster by
Eric Hosmer of Kansas City.

New York Yankees: First baseman Mark Teixeira injured his wrist hitting off a tee shortly after joining Team USA in preparation for the World Baseball Classic, and he'll be out of action eight to 10 weeks, or into May — a rather similar return date to that of outfielder Curtis Granderson, who broke his forearm in his first exhibition at-bat.

Tex, Grandy, Alex Rodriguez — the Yankees have more than $60 million in salaries already destined for the disabled list on Opening Day, or roughly twice the Houston Astros' projected payroll. (Heck, even general manager Brian Cashman broke a leg and dislocated an ankle skydiving for a veterans charity.)

If you're going to lose lineup keys for eight weeks, it's just as well that a sizable chuck of that time be spring training. But that's a lot of power suddenly vanished from the Yankee lineup for at least a month.

This being the Yankees, there's a lot of speculation that  Cashman will acquire a veteran. Which brought on this tweet Wednesday from the Daily News' Mark Feinsand:

Cashman said NYY could look at a pool of 1B and 3B thanks to (Kevin) Youkliis' versatility: "It's kind of like a baby pool. A lot of kids pee in it."

Ah, lemme guess: He's not that thrilled with the options outside the Yankees system either.

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