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Yankees' 3 Florida keys

1.) All about A.J. In spring training last year, every other day brought some kind of Joba vs. Phil update in the battle for the fifth spot, almost breathless progress reports on any bullpen session or game appearance. This year, every movement of A.J. Burnett will be scrutinized. Burnett is coming off the worst year of his career, 10-15 with a 5.26 ERA, and is slotted as the No. 3 starter in an already thin rotation. Like CC Sabathia in 2009 and Chamberlain/Hughes in 2010, every exhibition start will take on a life of its own.


2.) The back end. Burnett's turning things around is crucial because of what follows him in the rotation - which, as currently constituted, is a mystery. Ivan Nova, who started seven games last season, is likely to get one of the final two spots. The other, if no one is brought in from the outside, probably will go to someone in this group - Sergio Mitre, Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, David Phelps, Hector Noesi and Adam Warren. The latter three are some of the organization's top prospects.


3.) Rebound for Derek. No player's exhibition at-bats will be analyzed and picked over more than Derek Jeter's. The shortstop, who turns 37 in June, is coming off the worst season of his career at the plate. That was followed by the worst offseason of his career, as negotiations for a new contract became public and ugly. For players of Jeter's caliber, exhibition results don't especially matter, but the questions about 2010 won't go away if the next six weeks bring nothing but struggle.

New York Sports