By Sweeny Murti
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Random thoughts two weeks until Opening Day:
*First off, can you believe that’s true? Only two weeks until Opening Day.
*Twice this week Mark Teixeira ripped doubles to the gap when the infield was over-shifted to the right side. Teixeira went to left-center against the Orioles last Sunday and to right-center Wednesday against the Rays. A small example of what Teixeira has been working on, using the middle of the field more instead of trying to pull the ball. This is the difference maker, not the occasional bunt he may or may not lay down against the shift.
*Curtis Granderson is the player taking the best and most consistent swings this spring. Granderson is 11 for 28, and 8 of his hits are for extra bases (6 doubles, 1 triple, 1 home run). No, 2011 was not a fluke.
*A scout told me this week he would not worry about Michael Pineda’s fastball velocity right now. Some power pitchers, not all, will keep some gas in the tank for when the season really starts.
*Phil Hughes has pitched very well this spring. With two starts left in spring training, there is no reason he shouldn’t be in the starting five when the season begins.
*Raul Ibanez doesn’t seem the least bit concerned about his spring numbers. This is not to say Ibanez doesn’t care if he is doing well or not. He is simply a veteran player who knows not to put too much stock in exhibition at-bats. As my friend Chad Jennings pointed out recently over at lohud.com, Marcus Thames and Andruw Jones had bad springs the previous two years, only to put up good power numbers in their platoon situations when the season began. That’s the same hope with Ibanez.
*Joe Girardi ruled out the possibility of Joba Chamberlain pitching in an exhibition game before the Yankees break camp. Joba is making excellent progress so far, so the Yankees don’t want to push him. Still looking at a June return, but earlier is possible as he progresses in rehab.
Meanwhile, Girardi also said that Andy Pettitte pitching in an exhibition game is a definite possibility. Pettitte is still looking at May 1st as a target date to be in the majors. In case you were wondering, the Yankees are home May 1-2, 8-13, 18-23.
*If you asked me today who lands the final spot in the bullpen, my answer is Clay Rapada. The veteran lefty has faced 21 batters this spring, allowed only 2 hits and 2 unintentional walks, with 9 strikeouts. That could obviously change in the next two weeks, and it in no way guarantees a roster spot anywhere beyond Opening Day, so don’t start worrying about how he matches up with Josh Hamilton, Prince Fielder, or David Ortiz in October.
*Adam Warren and David Phelps both pitched well this year. Even with the current depth in starting pitching, the Yankees will likely have to reach down to AAA at some point this year for a start or two, and both are worthy candidates.
*Two things to file away from AL East exhibition games when the regular season begins: Orioles catcher Matt Wieters threw out 3 runners on the base paths last Sunday. Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine pulled a suicide squeeze with the tying run at third base in the ninth inning Thursday night. Both will be things you’ll want to keep in mind during 18 regular season meetings.