MLB Opening Day 2012: 8 Key Position Battles Still Not Resolved

Robert Knapel@@RobertKnapel_BRCorrespondent IApril 3, 2012

MLB Opening Day 2012: 8 Key Position Battles Still Not Resolved

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    As Opening Day creeps closer and closer, there are still teams that have yet to make their final decisions regarding some of their position battles.

    These races are coming down to the wire, and managers and GMs want to see everything that they can from their players before they make a final decision.

    In some cases, players are fighting it out to replace an injured starter for a few months of the year, while on other teams, players are trying to win the full-time starting role for themselves.

San Francisco Giants First Baseman

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    There were two contenders for the San Francisco Giants' first-base position going into spring training, and both Aubrey Huff and Brandon Belt have done a good job this spring. This has made the decision even harder for manager Bruce Bochy.

    In a recent game against the Oakland Athletics, as part of the exhibition Bay Bridge Series, Belt played first base while Huff was in left field. Bochy would not offer any hints as to whether this is what he plans to do with his Opening Day lineup. There is still a chance that Belt ends up starting the year in the minors.

San Francisco Giants Second Baseman

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    Bruce Bochy has been just as tight-lipped about the battle for second base as he has been about the one for first base. The San Francisco Giants still do not know who will be manning the right side of the infield.

    This competition is between Manny Burriss and Ryan Theriot. It was Theriot who got the start during the first game of the Bay Bridge Series, but Bochy noted that Burriss could end up with the starting role.

Oakland Athletics First Baseman

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    The San Francisco Giants were not the only team that played in the Bay Bridge Series that was uncertain about who their starting first baseman would be to begin the year. Their opponent, the Oakland Athletics, were still trying to figure it out as well.

    Oakland already played in two regular-season games in Japan, and Brandon Allen got the start at first in one and Kila Ka'aihue started the other. Neither has officially won the starting job at this point. Daric Barton is supposedly still in the mix, but he remains an unlikely option.

Oakland Athletics Fifth Starter

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    The Oakland Athletics also need to sort out the issue of who will be their fifth starter. It seems as if Graham Godfrey was able to lock down the fourth spot in the Athletics' rotation, but the No. 5 spot is still up for grabs.

    Among those competing for the spot are Tyson Ross, Brad Peacock and Jarrod Parker. Ross seems to have the inside track to the position at this point, but it is not yet known if he will win the position.

Los Angeles Angels Fifth Starter

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    The Los Angeles Angels are looking forward to having a big season this year following their acquisitions of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. The last decision that they need to make this offseason is in regard to who will be their fifth starter.

    Jerome Williams and Garrett Richards have been involved in a fierce battle for the final spot in the Angels' starting rotation. Both players are more than capable of being effective in the majors, and the Angels have a tough decision to make.

Boston Red Sox Closer

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    After Jonathan Papelbon signed with the Philadelphia Phillies this winter, there was a bit of uncertainty about who would be the Boston Red Sox closer. The team traded for Andrew Bailey to fill that void.

    Now that Bailey needs thumb surgery, the Red Sox are once again stuck looking for a closer. The two likely options to fill the position in Bailey's absence are Mark Melancon and Alfredo Aceves.

Philadelphia Phillies Left Fielder

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    The battle for the starting role in left field for the Philadelphia Phillies has not yet been resolved, and it likely will not be until Charlie Manuel announces the team's lineup on Opening Day.

    John Mayberry and Juan Pierre have been in a back-and-forth battle for the position. Mayberry's struggles this spring may have cost him the starting role, but he will certainly make the team regardless of whether he is playing everyday or not.

New York Yankees Bullpen

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    It seems as if the New York Yankees have two openings in their bullpen that have still not been filled. Indications point to the fact that Clay Rapada will likely take one of those spots.

    The Yankees are still deciding on a pitcher who will fill the long-relief role. Candidates for that position include D.J. Mitchell, David Phelps and Adam Warren. Each of them still has a chance to win the position to begin the year.