Last night's 8-5 win over the Orioles have the Yankees three and a half games behind the Red Sox and ahead of the Tigers by the same amount. Given their schedule edge over the gang from Detroit it's hard not to start looking ahead to October and part of that gazing includes figuring out who is going to be on the roster for the playoffs. Most of that group is easy to prognosticate but there are definitely going to be some hard choices for Joe Torre when it comes to filling out the edges.
Lineup - Jorge Posada, Jason Giambi, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, Melky Cabrera and Bobby Abreu are all going to be there.
Bench - Jose Molina is the backup catcher, Wilson Betemit and Doug Mientkiewicz are going to be infield reserves. Shelley Duncan played yesterday for the first time in almost 10 days and they could really use his righty bat but he's got a bruised pelvis and a hernia. If he can play, he'll make the team. They could really use another position player but there aren't any available outside of Alberto Gonzalez and Bronson Sardinha, neither of whom has more than a shot of espresso at this level.
Starters - Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens are locks. I think Torre will opt for Mike Mussina unless Mussina forces him elsewhere with another awful start. Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy will be in the mix for bullpen spots, I suppose, and it's probably wise to have at least one of them on hand if a Mussina performance forces a change in rotation strategies.
Bullpen - Mariano Rivera, Luis Vizcaino, Joba Chamberlain and Kyle Farnsworth are definites with Ron Villone likely slipping in thanks to being the only experienced lefty. If you assume eiher Hughes or Kennedy are part of the roster that leaves two spots for Edwar Ramirez, Sean Henn and Brian Bruney. Henn is a lefty and that's the only useful thing about him, Ramirez has pitched well since returning from the minors but how many rookies can you expect Torre to keep and use while Bruney has experience but not great results. I'd bet on Bruney and Ramirez but wouldn't hope to see much of either one.
The toughest choice is in the rotation where six worthy candidates will have to become four starters come the ALDS.
(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)