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Inbox: How will Yanks craft bottom of lineup?

Beat reporter Bryan Hoch answers questions from Bombers fans
March 21, 2016

Will Starlin Castro or Didi Gregorius bat ninth? -- Daniel W., Fort Wayne, Ind.Yankees manager Joe Girardi is mindful of trying to avoid stringing three lefties in a row, which is what they would have if they roll with Gregorius, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner as Nos. 9-1-2 in the

Will Starlin Castro or Didi Gregorius bat ninth?
-- Daniel W., Fort Wayne, Ind.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi is mindful of trying to avoid stringing three lefties in a row, which is what they would have if they roll with Gregorius, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner as Nos. 9-1-2 in the order. Ellsbury and Gardner both have proven they can hit lefties and Gregorius improved last year, but Girardi would still like to split them up if he can.
The Yanks provided a sneak peek of what their regular lineup might have been last week, though it didn't include Brian McCann, who was resting a bruised left knee. The top five hitters in the lineup were Ellsbury, Gardner, Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez.
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Girardi could still flip Beltran and A-Rod, and the No. 6 spot looks like a good place for McCann to land. The March 16 lineup had Chase Headley, Castro, Gregorius and Gary Sanchez hitting Nos. 6-9. My best guess would have Headley hitting seventh, Gregorius eighth and Castro ninth, but Girardi is still leaving himself some room to tinker.
"You'd prefer not to have three lefties in a row," Girardi said. "The thing is, we're not going to hit for our lefties very much. It's just something we're going to have to talk about."
Considering the injuries to the Yankees' pitching staff the last three years, would it be better to have a six-man rotation with six relievers?
-- John B., Mandan, N.D.

Video: [email protected]: Mitchell's perfect relief earns the win
This was something that pitching coach Larry Rothschild floated toward the end of last season, and while it's still something the Yankees could revisit, it's not an escape hatch for the upcoming fifth-starter decision between CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova (plus Bryan Mitchell, who has pitched well enough this spring to belong in the conversation).
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Taking a look at the April schedule, the Yankees will enjoy four off-days, which should allow them to give their starters plenty of extra rest. Assuming the weather cooperates, the Yanks will be able to have their starter on extra rest 16 times in the first 20 games; they actually won't need a starter on regular rest until April 17, the 12th game of the year.
Things get a little more interesting in May, when the Yankees play 20 straight days -- and 29 games in 30 days -- beginning with their May 3 trip to Baltimore. By June 2, when that stretch concludes, the Yanks will probably have needed all hands on deck to make it through the gauntlet.
Do you think that Rob Refsnyder could possibly steal the third-base job from Headley? Could he become a super-utility man?
-- Michael D., Hillsborough, N.J.

General manager Brian Cashman has said that Refsnyder has been better than he expected defensively at third base, enough so that regardless of what happens in the next two weeks -- Refsnyder still needs to beat out Pete Kozma, Ronald Torreyes and whomever might become available near the end of camp -- the experiment is worth continuing.

Refsnyder's bat and ability to fill in at second base, third base and the outfield absolutely provide hope that he can find a niche as a big league super-utility player and perhaps more. Injuries and underperformance can happen, I suppose, but the Yankees are locked in with Headley as their starter at the hot corner for the foreseeable future.
Has there been any news on Greg Bird's recovery? Assuming no setbacks, would he be ready for next spring?
-- Michael D., Madawaska, Maine

Bird has been in big league camp this spring, and even though he isn't close to getting on the field, he feels it has been productive just to be around his teammates. Bird has talked to Mason Williams and McCann, both of whom have offered him advice on the recovery process for a labrum tear.
McCann was able to return to the Braves' lineup in 2013, just seven months after surgery. By that timetable, September might have been possible, but the Yankees have made it clear to Bird that his focus should be on spring 2017. As of now, Bird has started some pool exercises; his next major checkpoint is being cleared to resume running.
Jorge Mateo really impressed me during his time in camp this spring. With Gregorius and Castro on board, what are your thoughts on where he fits into the future plans?
-- David L., Denver

The Yankees share your opinion and think highly of Mateo, who has been rated as the team's No. 1 prospect by He's an electric player whom scouts believe will have a big league impact, but he's still probably two years from reaching The Show.

Gregorius isn't eligible for free agency until 2020, but trying to fit a Jose Reyes-type player into your lineup would be a nice problem to have. Mateo could either force his way into the big league plans or be dangled as a trade chip to fill other needs -- even though Cashman considered him an "untouchable" last year, remember that Mateo was offered to the Padres for Craig Kimbrel in July.
Do you think Jacob Lindgren will have a place in this bullpen?
-- Tom L., Falmouth, Mass.

It was somewhat surprising that Lindgren did not survive the first round of cuts, but they sensed that he might have been pressing coming off surgery to remove a bone spur from his pitching elbow -- the same procedure Masahiro Tanaka had.
Lindgren allowed four runs in 2 1/3 spring innings, walking four, so clearly there is some rust to shake off. He'll get that opportunity down at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and it seems likely that Lindgren will make his way back up to the big leagues at some point this year.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat.