Saturday, April 02, 2005

Real April Fools

Kind of an early, nasty, April Fool's trick on some roster hopefuls:

Award-winner: Infielder Andy Phillips was presented with the James P. Dawson Award before Thursday's game, an honor given annually to the top rookie in the Yankees' spring camp.

Phillips was presented with the award by Pete Caldera, the chairman for the New York chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Bubba Crosby received the award last season.

Phillips hit .333 with four home runs and 13 RBIs in 22 games this spring. He is slated to be the starting first baseman at Triple-A Columbus this season.

Oh, yeah, that's some prize Phillips got there. Here's your award for having a nice spring, kid. Now go back to Columbus for the rest of the year. See you in September, maybe.

Another guy caught in the same bit is Buddy Groom, a fellow looking for some of that Jesse Orosco love. Groom had a pretty good spring, also: one run allowed in nine innings. He, too, goes to Columbus, Ohio, because the Yankees' roster resembles a flea market--a bunch of misfit items, most of them old and used. From the right side of the bullpen, you have Tom Gordon, and Paul Quantrill, and Tanyon Sturtze, and Felix Rodriguez and Steve Karsay (not to mention, the vestigial 5th starter the team doesn't need until mid-month), all backing up Mariano Rivera. From the left side, you have Mike Stanton alone patrolling the shores for the likes of David Ortiz and Trot Nixon.

Still, Groom has something I bet Andy Phillips wishes he had: an out. If the Yanks don't call Groom up by May 1, he's free to shop his wares to a team that actually wants a second lefty. Phillips doesn't get that freedom until the Yanks take him off the 40 man roster, or until he runs out of minor league options. The option process has set free Brett Prinz this week, and stands to liberate Alex Graman in the near future. Graman sucked this spring, but at least he got a full try-out, compared to Colter Bean--who got 4 2/3 admittedly crappy innings to show that he wasn't worth the team's attention. Bean struck out 6 batters in that time frame, something which should at least bring some positive attention to the big soft-tosser.

But back to the 2005 Dawson Award winner. We were teased with the idea that Phillips would get to platoon with Tino Martinez at first base. There's some logic to this, when you consider what happens to some of the Yankees against a lefty reliever:

RHP 2004 LHP 2004 LHP 2001-2004
Hideki Matsui .977 .776 .745
Jason Giambi .633 .924 .845
Ruben Sierra .791 .703 .685
Tony Womack .757 .655 .602
Tino Martinez .811 .856 .732

Next player on the depth chart when Tony Womack faces a lefty in the late innings? There's Sierra (if he's not already in the lineup) who sucks against lefties, there's Rey Sanchez (.697 over the last 3 years against lefties), there's Tom Flaherty, who's also that vestigial creature--the second catcher you don't dare use lest Jorge Posada get injured.

Given the situation, you could probably find some use for Andy Phillips, who can play at least three infield position, and who has some righthanded pop.

Now, I'm not overselling Phillips--reportedly, his defense at second and third is bad, and his bat isn't proven on the Major League level. Still, he's 28 years old, and he's hit quite a bit at AAA. If he isn't ready to help the ballclub now, when will he be ready?

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