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Best guesses: Mets second base and rightfield, Yankees starting pitchers and Rangers closer

Daniel Murphy #28 of the New York Mets

Daniel Murphy #28 of the New York Mets plays the field against the St. Louis Cardinals. (March 3, 2011) Credit: Getty Images

Your 2011 season starts two weeks from today, believe it or not. It's time to start making some of those tough decisions, to wrap up those storylines we've been monitoring all spring.

So let's give it a shot and try to forecast how these storylines will be resolved. I'll admit fully that the Mets' situations are interesting from a journalistic perspective because we're dealing with new decision-makers. We don't yet have precedent on how Sandy Alderson, Terry Collins and the rest of the gang will work together. Nor do we know the two men well enough to know how to interpret their public words.

Whereas, with Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi, there's a pretty good sense of their operational dynamic and also a knowledge of how to infer their statements.

1) Mets second base. To slightly contradict what I just wrote, I do know Alderson a little from over the years, having covered his time working for Major League Baseball and interacting with him a little bit when he ran the Padres. And when Alderson addressed the media yesterday in Fort Myers, here's how I interpreted his words:

"There's a better chance of Mets fan (and Stony Brook native!) Kevin James starting at second base for us than Luis Hernandez."

Why? Because Alderson mentioned how they'll rely heavily on statistical projections of what a player can do. That's a strike against Hernandez.

Because he mentioned that a player's roster status will factor into the equation, and he specifically mentioned Rule 5. That's Brad Emaus, of course. Hernandez is out of options, so that's something in his favor, but then you go back to the "projections" part, and there's simply zero evidence that Hernandez can be anything besides an immense offensive liability.

And because Alderson said that this will ultimately be his decision. That's common sense, but it does re-enforce that Collins won't get everything he wants. 

It seems that Collins' top priority on second base is "Not Luis Castillo," rather than "Let's start Hernandez." So Emaus represents a compromise candidate. He'll clearly get some more playing time in this final stretch, as Collins tries to feel better about the situation. And don't forget Daniel Murphy, whom Collins said will probably start at second base today against the Red Sox.

So I'll say Emaus, with Murphy getting the occasional start against a righty.

2) Mets rightfield. It's pretty hard to imagine Carlos Beltran beginning the season on time, which is of course frustrating for the Mets, and it's hard to know what the Mets can realistically get out of Beltran for the duration of the season.

Collins has touted Lucas Duda, despite his relative inexperience in rightfield (nine minor-league games). Might as well see what the kid can do, right? A platoon of Duda and Scott Hairston seems to make the most sense.

3) Yankees fourth and fifth starters. This is a far easier call. Again, it helps knowing Cashman and Girardi better.

Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia entered the spring as the favorites, and with the way Nova pitched last night and the way Garcia has generally pitched this spring, you have to go with them. Nova and Garcia, for those who like bold text.

If the Yankees really like Bartolo Colon that much, they can make him the long reliever and release Sergio Mitre or, as Joel Sherman suggested earlier this week, see if Colon will agree to begin the season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barres.

The bottom line is that Colon has not been anything more than a .1 WAR pitcher since his Cy Young Award-winning season of 2005. For Cashman and Girardi, both of whom appreciate realistic statisical analysis and projections, that's quite a sample size. The odds of him putting together any sort of sustained run of effectiveness are slim.

4) Rangers closer. We've discussed this a few times here, and it sure is interesting, the pitting of Feliz's potential as a starting pitcher versus the team's anxiety over not having Feliz to finsh out games.

But based on Feliz's recent comments that he has changed his mind and wants to start, and based on the Rangers' obvious need for a frontline starter to replace the departed Cliff Lee, I'll say that Feliz starts and the Rangers go with a closer by committee for now, prominently featuring Mark Lowe and Alexi Ogondo.

--Here's my column on Mike Pelfrey.

--Good story by David Lennon about the relationship between Francisco Rodriguez and his mentor.

--Bobby Valentine spoke with Neil Best about the Japan earthquake.

--I'm back in Port St. Lucie this morning, to hang out with the Mets position players who aren't in Fort Myers. I'll check in later.

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