Inbox: Will Ichiro wear pinstripes next season?
Yankees beat reporter Bryan Hoch answers questions from fans
What is the status on Ichiro Suzuki?
-- Drake F., The Villages, Fla.
It's too early to say exactly what will happen, but it shouldn't shock anyone if we see Ichiro back in pinstripes next season. Ichiro spoke several times about loving the professional, experienced atmosphere around the Yankees, and he even seems to have taken to life in New York. He was spotted this weekend attending a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden.
Manager Joe Girardi said that Ichiro "was a treat" to have on his roster, citing his willingness to play all three outfield positions, and Ichiro made good on the idea that he would be able to raise his game by leaving the Mariners for the playoff-bound Yanks and hitting .322 in 67 games.
With Nick Swisher expected to leave as a free agent, re-signing Ichiro would give the Yankees two speedsters around power-hitting Curtis Granderson in the outfield, with Brett Gardner also in line for a starting spot.
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There has been talk about New York's interest in free agent Torii Hunter for an outfield spot, which presents another option -- and not one that necessarily excludes Ichiro.
Ichiro will be 39 next year, but we've already seen the Yanks vow that they won't shy away from older players. If Ichiro would accept a one-year deal in the $5 million to $9 million range, there could be a match.
Do you think Russell Martin will be back?
-- Robert I., Cranston, R.I.
I wouldn't be surprised; it's very possible. The Yankees have already opened initial discussions with Martin's agent, Matt Colleran, and Martin could offer the Yanks a good value signing. Mike Napoli and A.J. Pierzynski would probably be the other free-agent catching options.
Martin batted just .211 this year, but he hit a career-high 21 homers and Girardi said many times that he would be happy with Martin as long as he didn't take his at-bats behind the plate. Many of the pitchers also seemed to like working with him.
What are the Yankees' plans for Austin Romine, now that he is healthy and played in the Arizona Fall League?
-- Bill L., Hanover, N.J.
It's good that Romine is out there, because he needs those at-bats after having most of his year spoiled by a back injury. Now that he's proving his health, expect the Yankees to give Romine a good look this spring. They could bring Martin back as the starter and then have Romine battle Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli for a backup job.
Does anyone else notice how dramatically the batting average of players seem to drop when they come to the Yankees? Why is this? Mark Teixeira went from a .280-.300 hitter to a .250 hitter with the Yankees.
-- Christopher W., Tampa, Fla.
In Teixeira's case, he admitted that the siren call of the short right-field porch leaked into his approach at times. That 314-foot sign cries out to a big league hitter, like you can just flick your wrists and clear it, and certainly the Yankees have taken advantage of their home-field dimensions plenty over the years.
This season, Teixeira wasted the first several weeks trying to hit the ball to all fields against right-handed pitching, but the new approach resulted in a lot of lazy fly balls to left field. He later cryptically said he'd been listening to a voice of authority that didn't belong to Brian Cashman, Joe Girardi or Kevin Long, declining to say who'd told him to value batting average above all else.
Teixeira went back to pulling the ball in late May and his numbers improved somewhat, but he continued to be hurt by hitting into the defensive shift and lost most of September to a calf injury. Like you, the Yanks would love to get the Teixeira of 2009 back in the heart of the lineup.
When can we see Mason Williams in the Yankees' outfield?
-- William R., Puerto Rico
MLB.com's most recent projection lists him as the No. 2 prospect in the Yankees' farm system and targets him for the 2015 squad, but he might beat that estimate. Williams had only 83 at-bats at Class A Tampa last year, so he still has some climbing ahead.
Do you think that when Michael Pineda returns, he could be as good as CC Sabathia, or is he a mediocre pitcher at best?
-- Girish S., Mumbia, India
The reality will probably be somewhere in the middle. Even at the time of the trade, when Pineda was believed to be healthy, the Yankees were splashing cold water on hype that Pineda was going to be a one-two punch with Sabathia. If he had pitched this year, Pineda would have been slotted further back in the rotation.
Now that he's coming off a labrum tear, Pineda's future is a question mark. He is fighting to come back from a notoriously tough injury for pitchers. There are a few success stories (Chris Carpenter, Curt Schilling, Ted Lilly, for example) and plenty of names who never made it all the way back. Pineda's high-90s fastball was a huge weapon, and if he no longer has that in his arsenal, he'll have to discover other ways to get by.