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Pitchers and Catchers Report

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Those words resonate warmly within you. Now that baseball is being played, even if it is miles and miles away, the dread of winter seems almost over, spring finally appearing on the horizon. It almost makes 14 inches of snow and negative temperatures bearable.

If I had to guess the story of Spring Training, it would probably be the injury watch. Keith Foulke and Joe Borowski will be handled with care, the team hoping to squeeze 120 innings between the two. That should mean plenty of opportunities this spring for the JV bullpen to audition for future open spots. Will CC Sabathia avoid his annual spring oblique strain? He's the least relaceable of the rotation, coming off a season where he combined his tremendous stuff with an idea how to use it.

Another theme will be contract talks. CC Sabathia, Jake Westbrook, Travis Hafner, and Mark Shapiro will all be at least talking extensions. And while only in our most homeric dreams all four sign by April 1st, there's a good shot that half of the foursome enter the 2007 season with a new deal.

There's really only two spots on the roster up for grabs, and both of them are bench roles. Joe Inglett, Hector Luna, and Ryan Garko appear to be the front-runners for the jobs, but a late March trade can't be ruled out, especially if a more defensive-minded infielder becomes available.

Eric Wedge's job is clearly on the line this season. And he'll have a lot more to do this year; negotiate the myriad of platoon possibilities, manage an good but fragile bullpen, and most importantly, get off to a good start within the division. I'm not enthused that Buck Showalter lurks in the background, ready to take over if needed.

But all in all, there's a sense of optimism that has even permeated the casual and cyncial fan's hearts. There are recognizable faces, money has been spent, and the national guys seem to like this team.