Realizing that they have maintained the best record in baseball, the Yankees head into Tampa Bay tonight with a laundry list of questions that may persist beyond the three games with the Rays.
In order of importance:
What's up with Derek Jeter? At 36, he is the oldest starting shortstop but he can't be done, can he? A prolonged batting slump has put a big drag on the lineup and Joe Girardi needs to address Jeter's continued presence leading off or batting second. Jeter will not moan--like A-Rod did with Joe Torre-if he is dropped down in the order. Maybe Jeter needs glasses.
Is Andy Pettitte really ready? Pitching in the minor leagues in not a real test. Let's see him make it to Sunday when he is to face Baltimore. Any tweak to his injury will create big post season waves. Even if he is healthy, will Pettitte be effective? He keeps mentioning his stamina. Pitchers rely on their legs almost more than their arms. They say the legs are the first to go and a cautious Pettitte has worked little on his lower body in two months.
Will Phil Hughes bounce back? Wednesday's starter against Tampa, Hughes has the poorest earned run average [4.26] of any pitcher with 16 victories. He has not pitched very well against the Rays in his career [2-2, 4.29] or the rest of the league since the All-Star brerak.
Can Jorge Posada hold up? He has taken on Thurman Munson-like qualities in bouncing back and playing with injuries. But age is dragging him down and there is little opportunity for rest as the Yankees want to get home field advantage for post season by winning the division.
How about Nick Swisher's injury? He limped around the bases after his walk-off homer beat the Orioles last week and he's been limping ever since. He was scratched Sunday. His bat is vital to the lineup.
How about Brett Gardner's injury? Gardner is fast, but first he has to get on base and he has had pain in his wrist for about 2 1/2 months. He will get an MRI today.
Will Robinson Cano bounce back? Once an MVP candidate, he has dropped way down on that list. He had two hits Sunday, raising his average to .318, but he has not been the hitter we saw for most of the first half.
Which Mark Teixeira will show up? There is no time left for him to go into another slump and his two hits Sunday may mean he is ready for a big series against Tampa Bay.
Is Marcus Thames for real? More so that Lance Berkman, who may be hitting .500 for September but is not to be trusted with big at-bats down the stretch.
Is there any more upside to Curtis Granderson? No. He is not the Rays' Carl Crawford, whom you may see next season in the Bronx.
Should we worry about Mariano Rivera? No.