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Sunday, March 9, 2014
Five things we have learned so far

By Andrew Marchand

TAMPA, Fla. -- We are a little more than three weeks away from Opening Day in Houston, so it seems like a perfect time to take some inventory on what has been a successful -- and healthy -- Yankees spring training thus far.

At this time last year, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Michael Pineda were well on their way to missing all or most of 2013.

So let's run down five things we have seen:

1. Saluting No. 2: Whatever happens in 2014, the year will be remembered for Derek Jeter retiring. On the field thus far, he is clearly moving better than last spring. He seems much more natural and fluid on his repaired ankle. After failing to hit the ball out of the infield in his first 10 at-bats, he has picked it up at the plate. He has four hits in his last seven at-bats.

Derek Jeter
Derek Jeter shook off an 0-for-10 slide to record four hits in his last seven at-bats.
The reaction from the crowds haven't been as overwhelming as I would have thought. They have been very positive, like always, but not over the top. I'm sure it will pick up as the season goes on.

2. CC's velocity: CC Sabathia threw only 88 mph his first time out. He had a simulated game his second turn around. On Tuesday, he will be in Viera to face the Nationals.

The importance of velocity always comes up every spring. Yes, it is possible to be successful with it reduced, though it is difficult to be an ace. For those who really like to belittle it, why do you think teams are always drafting guys that throw in the 90s?

So at 33 years old, off a bad year with a reduced heater, Sabathia's fastball needs to be watched.

3. Big men on campus: Tucked in the left corner of the clubhouse, there are nearly 14 feet of pitchers. The 6-foot-7 Michael Pineda and the 6-foot-8 Dellin Betances have been impressive in camp.

Pineda has had only one outing, but it was a pretty incredible one for spring training. If he builds on it, he could be a game-changer. It is still early, but Pineda may end up being the most exciting aspect of this Yankees camp.

Betances' rebirth as a possible reliever option is also interesting. He ate the minors up in the pen in 2013 and has continued that in the spring so far.

4. Handling New York: Masahiro Tanaka has arrived exactly as advertised, as Brian McCann put it the other day.

Though we have witnessed the vaunted splitter, we really won't start to know how good of an MLB starter he is until about June. However, what has stood out for me is the 25-year-old has a presence and handles all the attention with ease.

By the way, we put him under the ESPN New York Q&A spotlight, so look for that on Monday morning.

5. The roster: Let's project the roster, going with 12 pitchers and 13 position players.

The pitchers


1. Sabathia
2. Hiroki Kuroda
3. Ivan Nova
4. Tanaka
5. Pineda
6. David Robertson
7. Shawn Kelley
8. Matt Thornton
9. Preston Claiborne
10. David Phelps
11. Adam Warren
12. Dellin Betances

The position players

13. Mark Teixeira, 1B
14. Brian Roberts, 2B
15. Jeter, SS
16. McCann, C
17. Francisco Cervelli, C
18. Kelly Johnson, 3B
19. Jacoby Ellsbury, OF
20. Brett Gardner, OF
21. Carlos Beltran, OF
22. Alfonso Soriano, DH
23. Brendan Ryan, INF
24. Ichiro Suzuki, OF
25. Eduardo Nunez, INF

The last spots on this roster are far from a sure thing. Cesar Cabral, a second lefty, could beat out Betances for the final spot. But Betances has looked good.

After Sunday, he has thrown 6 1/3 scoreless spring innings. On Sunday, he let a man reach third but escaped by forcing Wil Myers to bounce out to second. Betances is making a strong case. Cabral has thrown 4 1/3 scoreless innings. There could be room for both because an injury of some sort will invariably happen.

The fifth starter spot is still up grabs. Phelps threw five scoreless on Sunday, which keeps him very much in the race. Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno are still contenders as well, but if Pineda builds on what he did Friday, it is his job.

In the infield, Nunez may not make this club. Let's be clear, I'm not saying Nunez won't make it, but Yangervis Solarte -- hitting .588 in 17 at-bats -- has played very well. He is not on the 40-man, so the Yankees would have to maneuver to have him on the team. Scott Sizemore, coming back from a bad knee injury, and Dean Anna also have shots to stick. All could be in the mix during the year because the Opening Day roster -- while a big deal symbolically -- is always evolving.