Steve Lombardi of WasWatching.com of the SNY.tv Network joined us to answer a few questions about the Yankees, as the Bronx Bombers look to clinch the AL East against the Red Sox this weekend.
NESN.com: Game 2 of the ALDS at Yankee Stadium. Who do you give the ball to?
Steve Lombardi: Ah, that's one of the biggest questions in Yankeeland today. A.J. Burnett has been better at home, than on the road, this season. But, until his last two starts, he's been shaky of late. Andy Pettitte doesn't pitch well at the new Yankee Stadium, and his shoulder has some soreness. So, which way do you go? In all likelihood, it's going to be Burnett in Game 2. Either way, the Game 2 starter really puts the pressure on CC Sabathia in Game 1. Then again, perhaps the Yankees' hopes for the postseason, on the whole, all sit on Sabathia's shoulders. If he doesn't do well, the Yankees are in trouble.
NESN.com: Joba Chamberlain, Chad Gaudin or Alfredo Aceves? Who will be the No. 4 starter for the Yankees in the playoffs? If not Chamberlain, what will his role be in the postseason?
Steve Lombardi: Unless he pitches well in his remaining appearances this season, it will not be Chamberlain. In fact, either way, I could see the Yankees only using three starters in the ALDS. So, this question doesn't come up until the ALCS – should the Yankees make it that far. I think Girardi likes having Aceves in the 'pen. So, if Joba loses his spot, it will be to Gaudin. And then, Chamberlain goes to the pen.
NESN.com: Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui will both be free agents after this season and both are having incredible offensive seasons. Any chance both left-handed hitters will be back in the Bronx next season?
Steve Lombardi: Both? I doubt it. The issue with Matsui is that he's only a designated hitter now. And the Yankees want to keep the DH spot open in 2010 and rotate a bunch of guys there – like Posada, A-Rod, etc. I believe the Yankees would want Damon back in 2010 and Johnny would welcome a return. But, that all depends on the free agent market. I could see the Yankees trying to get Damon to sign a deal like Pettitte did last winter – with a low base and lots on incentives based on playing time.
NESN.com: Ian Kennedy came in and closed the door on the Angels in Anaheim for his first major league appearance this season. Does Kennedy have any chance of factoring into the postseason roster? What will his role be with the team in 2010?
Steve Lombardi: Ian Kennedy has no shot at making the post-season roster unless three guys go down between now and October. As far as next season, he starts the season in Triple-A and his future will depend on how he does down there in 2010.
NESN.com: Joe Mauer will most likely win the AL MVP, but Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira are certainly in the conversation. Who has been more of an MVP for the Yankees: Jeter or Tex?
Steve Lombardi: Good question there. Both have been leaders and sparks this season. I would give it to Jeter over Teixeira for one reason: Consistency. Jeter's been solid every month this year whereas Tex was terrible in April and his home run bat went away for the month of June.
NESN.com: What are the keys for the Yankees to winning the series against the Red Sox.
Steve Lombardi: This series at the Stadium? None. At this point the Yankees don't care about winning these games as it really doesn't matter anymore. Now, if we're talking ALCS, then the keys are simple: Sabathia, Burnett and Pettitte need to be solid and the Yankees bats cannot disappear completely. Someone on the team – albeit Jeter, Damon, Teixiera, Matsui, Nick Swisher, Jorge Posada or that Alex Rodriguez guy – needs to get real hot and win a game or two with the stick. But most importantly, as always, it will come down to the starting pitchers.
Thanks again to Steve Lombardi for sharing his insight on the Yankees. Don?t forget to check out his blog, WasWatching.com.
Stay tuned Monday for a series preview of the Toronto Blue Jays, as the Red Sox finish off their season with a seven-game homestand.