In just their second Spring Training game, New York Yankees fans may have seen the team that will start the most games in the 2009 season.
The Yankees hosted the 2008 American League pennant winners when Tampa Bay came to George M. Steinbrenner field today.
Manager Joe Girardi put his regulars on the field in this early season matchup between two teams who are expected to battle between themselves and with Boston for the American League East title.
Johnny Damon led off for the Yankees and played left field. Shortstop Derek Jeter hit second. New first baseman Mark Teixeira filled the three hole in front of cleanup hitter Alex Rodriguez at third base.
Second baseman Robinson Cano hit fifth, followed by Xavier Nady in right field, Jorge Posada as DH, Jose Molina catching, and Melky Cabrera in center field.
Cabrera is thought to be in competition for the job as starting center fielder. Yesterday Brett Gardner started in center and hit a game-opening home run. But today, when Girardi seemed to put his best team on the field, the more experienced Cabrera was in the lineup.
Although Posada is expected to start about 110 games behind the plate this year, he will not see much action catching in Spring Training. Hideki Matsui is expected to be the DH in the regular season, but he is still rehabbing a surgically repaired knee, which allowed Posada to DH today.
Posada homered in the third inning for the Yankees' only run through five innings as they led the Rays by the lone run at that point.
Some questions may have been answered for the pitching staff and more serious debate may be in the offing as Phil Hughes took the mound as the starting pitcher.
Hughes pitched two very good innings, giving up no hits, walking one, and striking out two.
Yesterday, Girardi announced his starting rotation and it did not include Hughes. But if he continues to pitch brilliantly this spring, a place will have to be found for him on the roster. Whether he will take one of the starting spots, be an answer in long relief, or fill in for Joba Chamberlain from time to time remains to be seen.
But it is unlikely that Hughes will begin the season with the Yankees AAA team in Scranton if he is very good in camp. And he was very good today.
Phil Coke and Brian Bruney also pitched very well, with Coke succeeding Hughes for two scoreless innings, allowing only one hit.
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