<
>

Minor league vet pacing Yankees

3/30/2010

Bill Madden on the Yankees' feel-good story that almost certainly won't be:

    He is 32 years old, short, stocky and bald, a career minor leaguer with a couple of pit stops in independent ball in Fargo, N.D., and the only thing higher than his batting average this spring are the odds against him making the Yankees' Opening Day roster.

    Meet Jon Weber, the camp favorite in Yankeeland, who is providing the feel-good story of the spring — a story everyone is hoping can somehow have a happy ending.

    --snip--

    There's just one problem: Weber bats left-handed and the Yankees, lefty heavy in the outfield with Curtis Granderson, Brett Gardner and switch-hitters Nick Swisher and Randy Winn, want the final roster spot to go to a right-handed hitter, in all likelihood Marcus Thames, who is nevertheless struggling mightily (4-for-35 as of yesterday).

    "It's unfortunate circumstances for (Weber) because he's doing everything he has to in order to make the club," said Girardi. "If nothing else, he's making the decision a hard one."

    After watching Weber lining base hit after base hit in the first few games, Girardi called his mentor, Don Zimmer, down at the Tampa Bay Rays' camp in Port Charlotte, where Weber was a year ago.

    "He's everything you're seeing," Zimmer said. "A great kid, who can hit and deserves a chance in the majors." As Zimmer further told Girardi, Weber was on the verge of making the Rays' Opening Day roster a year ago until their perpetually-injured rightfielder Matt Joyce got healthy in the final days of camp. Weber was sent back to Triple-A Durham, where he hit .302 with 14 homers in 117 games.

That "one problem" is a really, really big problem. If the Yankees decide that Thames can't help them -- and for a low-average guy who strikes out a lot, 4-for-35 isn't much to worry about -- they'll just go out and find another righty-hitting outfielder somewhere. It's not like those guys are scarce.

The other problem is that Weber probably can't hit enough. Zimmer's take is a lot of fun, but it's worth mentioning that Matt Joyce played in three games before getting sent down; he was up again in late May, but back down again two weeks later. For whatever reason(s), the Rays left Weber and Joyce in Triple-A for most of the season while Gabe Gross was hitting .227/.326/.355.

Sorry, but I just can't see the New York Yankees finding a roster spot for an old guy who, just a year ago, was behind Gabe Gross and Matt Joyce on the depth chart.