New York Yankees 2003 Season Preview
by Bob Palazzo
As is always the case with the Yankees, their pitching reads like a Dickens novel, pitching results in their best of times - pitching results in their worst of times.
Perhaps because on paper they always look so strong and boast potential Hall of Famers, or at least perennial All Stars on their staff. But age, injuries, and those quirky unknowns always seem to get in the way.
Clemens - How long can he keep throwing the fastball by hitters? He even threw a change up in a spring game the other day.
Wells - Will his back hold up? Can he keep his mind on conditioning and less partying? What effect will his "hangover claims" have on the team?
Weaver - Will he gain the poise to be a consistent performer in NY?
Pettitte - Will he be able to shake injuries and pitch like he did the second half of last season?
Mussina - Which Mike will show up on the mound?
Contrera - He could be the key.
In the Bullpen:
Hammond - Can he pick up where Stanton left off?
Rivera - Can he bounce back from shoulder problems and find his groove again?
Karsay - Returning from surgery
Choate - Needs to prove he can do it
Osuna - Could be the key as long reliever
Hitchcock - Where will he fit in?
The rest of the team
Elsewhere, there are few changes to the starting line up of Giambi, Soriano, Jeter, and a probable platoon of Ventura/Zeile at third. Giambi is a lock for another solid year, Soriano is entering his sophomore year (watch out for that jinx), and Jeter will be expected to bounce back from three sub-par years. Posada has established himself as one of the league's best behind the plate, but depth at that position is weak. The outfield boasts Matsui in right (no defensive whiz), Williams in center and probably Mondesi in left. But if Mondesi doesn't hit, his arm won't be enough to keep him in the lineup so expect to see Juan Rivera take over.
Nick Johnson has to be a more consistent power hitter to be an effective DH, and Rondell White could get some playing time if Mondesi fails to hit and Rivera is inconsistent.
Some factors that will determine how far this team goes include:
Desire to win - What kind of heart does this team have?
Steinbrenner - Can he avoid interfering?
Giambi - Will he get off to a fast start as he did last year?
Soriano - His contract extension could become an issue with him as the season goes on, especially if he produces close to what he did last year
Nick Johnson - Will his left (power) wrist heal fully?
Posada - Will there be any fall out from his comments about the team desire to win and how much of it is true?
Williams - Will Bernie have another slow start, only to find his groove in mid to late May?
Leadership - Who will step up and take on the role vacated by Tino Martinez and Paul O'Neill? Regardless of what Brian Cashman says, that quality is sorely lacking from this team.
Matsiu - Can the team survive another circus of reporters looking to cover every move he makes?
In summary, I am confident that Torre will work his magic but the Yankees road to the playoffs
will not be an easy one this year.
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