I'm traveling today and not all that wired in at this writing, but so far that hasn't mattered much because Spring Training, at least Yankees Spring Training, has been on the slow side. Sure, there are a few interesting storylines—Jesus Montero, the fifth-starter duel, the left field mix—but Montero isn't going anywhere, the fifth-starter thing won't even give a hint of resolution for a couple of starts, and left field seems like a six of one/half-dozen of the other thing, so there's not much tension there.
I can dream of a different spring, a more compelling exercise full of stories that we would await with anticipation as we would the next Harry Potter novel. My top five wishes for a parallel-Earth Spring Training:
1. Derek Jeter is tutoring a 21-year-old shortstop who hit .321/.365/.450 in High-A last year with a cameo at Double-A Trenton. The kid is a bit error-prone, but in all other regards is rated as a top defensive prospect, with terrific range and a strong arm. The pressure on the Yankees, as Jeter enters the last year of his contract, is incredible. Do they retain the beloved veteran, or gamble on this very promising kid, who could be ready as soon as this fall? For his part, Jeter is saying all the right things, but then, he always does, and if he's feeling pressured by the arrival of the kid he hasn't confided in anyone.
2. Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain are competing with each other for a spot in the starting rotation, but only out of a sense of personal rivalry, because there is room for both. With both pitchers having earned their sea legs in the bullpen, this is the year the Yankees feel confident enough in both to dispense with the usual veteran insurance. In the coming years, as vets like Andy Pettitte, A.J. Burnett, and Javier Vazquez age or get hurt, it is expected that the two pitchers, still young, will provide the Yankees with a solid pitching foundation for years to come.
3. In addition to Yogi Berra, the Yankees have spared no expense in bringing together all the living Hall of Fame catchers—Carlton Fisk, Gary Carter, Johnny Bench, etcetera—plus a few highly regarded defensive specialists such as Jim Sundberg, to conduct a master class in catching for Montero.
4. Pitching well, and with a slot open in the bullpen, Mark Melancon is making the Yankees think hard about adding another youngster to the bullpen corps. Over his rookie jitters of last season, Melancon is showing the control and stuff he displayed in the Minor Leagues.
5. Spring drill: A runner stands on second base, Robinson Cano bats; Joe Girardi shouts "Take!" over and over again until somehow the count goes to 2-0.