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March 22, 2007

Newsday: Got Melky? Yanks glad they do
by SG

TAMPA, Fla. -- Melky Cabrera probably wouldn't get a lot of votes from fans as the player most critical to the Yankees' season. Those affiliated with the team give a different account. They know approximately what to expect from players such as Mike Mussina, Alex Rodriguez and Mariano Rivera. The 22-year-old Cabrera, though, is a wild card who some think could be on the verge of stardom.

Take Johnny Damon. When asked what is the biggest key for the Yankees this year, Damon listed health first, then said, "Finding a way to get Melky out there to play and get 400 at-bats. He just has an energy that makes it fun. He's a phenomenal prospect. He can be as good as he wants to be."

Getting Melky somewhat regular playing time this season should be a goal of the Yankees. He's a better bat than Doug Mientkiewicz, so if Jason Giambi can man first a few times a week, they can use Melky to rest the starting outfield while upgrading the offense. The defensive hit of putting Giambi at first should be mitigated by upgrading the OF defense if Melky's in left and Matsui's at DH. It will also be important for Melky's development, and for the team's plans as far as setting up their outfield of the future.