Yankees Rumors & News
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Even before the Yankees learned that Doug Mientkiewicz would miss 6-8 weeks with a broken wrist, the Yankees were reportedly exploring creative ways of shuffling their personnel. With Jason Giambi lost for the foreseeable future and perhaps the entire season, the team was already aware that they’ll need more production out of first base than the platoon of Mientkiewicz and Josh Phelps is capable of supplying. Adding to the equation is the fact that the famously durable Johnny Damon seems to have suddenly fallen into a tailspin as a serviceable centerfielder. Age has begun to catch up with him and his wheels have begun failing before the Yankees’ eyes.

As such, bench coach Don Mattingly has begun running Damon through “First Base 101.” In all likelihood the experiment will crash and burn in spectacular fashion like the failed conversions of Mike Piazza and Gary Sheffield before it. For the time being however, Damon isn’t playing the field anyway, and there’s no harm in trying. For his part, Damon, a consumate team player, is taking it all in stride. Centerfielders and shortstops are often some of the proudest athletes in the game, but according to Newsday, Damon claims that he’s “excited” about the idea and is looking at the move “as a positive thing that could help extend my career.” Said the always humorous Damon, “My arm as an outfielder was very below average. Now as a first baseman it’s just below average.”

Meanwhile, Newsday’s Ken Davidoff looks a bit further down the road and ponders what the future could hold for Johnny. Says Davidoff:

Will Damon’s quicker than expected demise as a centerfielder lead the Yankees to pursue one of the big three free agents – Torii Hunter, Andruw Jones and Ichiro Suzuki – come this November and December? Or will Melky Cabrera have proved by then that he deserves the everyday job, saving the Yankees huge dollars?

…assuming Damon can’t make the transition into a presentable first baseman, that leaves the Yankees two options for next year. They can play Damon in rightfield, since Bobby Abreu surely won’t be back (or play Damon in leftfield and slide Hideki Matsui to right), or they can try to trade him, with the understanding that Damon has a limited no-trade clause.

Perhaps Cashman will hold on to Damon in case he can’t land one of the big three, so then the Yankees would have the option of using him in a corner or at first. Maybe Cabrera, dynamic this weekend against the Bosox, can stay in center and the Yankees can acquire a rightfielder. Or possibly (but probably not) this will be the winter that the Yankees finally unload the currently injured Jason Giambi, and Damon can stick around as the DH.

There are myriad permutations, and many other factors that can arise before now and then. But with Damon officially moving away from centerfield, you can distract yourself from this dreary 2007 by playing mock GM for next year.

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