What does Bobby Abreu's injury mean for the Yankees' outfield? In the short term, it probably means more playing time for Melky Cabrera, but in the long term, does this show that having a fifth outfielder on the roster may not be that bad of an idea? I find it unlikely that we can recover as easily as last season from another Hideki Matsui-level injury.
-- Ken C., Holmdel, N.J.

The Yankees expect Abreu to recover from his strained right oblique muscle in time to return to action this spring, and with enough time to prepare himself for Opening Day. That being the case, general manager Brian Cashman feels that there is no need to go outside the organization to add a Major League outfielder, since Abreu should be in right field on April 2.

Should there be an injury, Cabrera -- who is picking up bonus playing time in Abreu's absence -- would figure to slot into a starting role. Part of the reason the Yankees held off on trading him (the Pirates were one long-rumored team of interest) was because of Cabrera's versatility and ability to play all three outfield positions.

Manager Joe Torre has mentioned that Kevin Thompson, who batted .300 in a 19-game stint last year, would be among the first players called up from Triple-A if the Yankees needed to "send out an SOS."

What do you think of Kei Igawa this year? I heard he was the Japanese Dontrelle Willis, but how effective do you think he will be for the Yankees in 2007?
-- Greg K., Eastchester, N.Y.

I don't know where you would begin making that comparison to Willis, aside from the fact that both pitchers are left-handed. The Yankees have been careful to temper expectations of Igawa this spring, insisting that he isn't being looked upon as a top-of-the-rotation guy.

Igawa is firmly entrenched as either the Yankees' fourth or fifth starter, and they'll be watching closely how he makes the transition to life in the United States, both on the field and off of it.

With only a few innings under his belt so far, it's too early to make an accurate prediction. I would expect his strikeout numbers to be down from last season's league-leading marks in Japan. Igawa looks like he'll be more of the type who pitches to contact and relies on his control, and the Yankees hope he will use their home ballpark to his advantage.

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Question:

With all the drama at Spring Training, I'm surprised that no one has asked the players and coaches how they feel starting the year without Cory Lidle. Are the Yankees planning on doing anything in his honor?
-- Claudia U., Islip Terrace, N.Y.

The Yankees announced in February that they will wear black armbands on their uniform sleeves all season long to honor Lidle's memory. Lidle has certainly not been forgotten in the Yankees clubhouse.

Reliever Brian Bruney, for one, was close with the 34-year-old right-hander and spent some time away from the ballpark with Lidle. Hearing a few of his stories this spring seemed to confirm everything that has been said about Lidle; he was a fun-loving, approachable person who made a difference on people's lives at the ballpark and away from it.

The Yankees are also weighing ways to honor Hank Bauer, who passed away in February after a lengthy battle with cancer.

Is Eric Duncan in Spring Training this year? It seems as if a year ago we were hearing a lot about him playing third and first base, but I haven't heard anything about him this year.
-- Cameron B., Greenwood, Ind.

Duncan is indeed in big-league camp this spring and has already seen a little bit of action with the Yankees -- he walked in his first plate appearance of the spring and pinch-ran for Jason Giambi in a game against the Devil Rays. On Sunday, Duncan went 0-for-3 against the Phillies.

He's played mostly first base in workouts and that's where the Yankees continue to see his future, though he will be asked to remain sharp at third base just for the sake of versatility. He could prove useful to the Yankees as soon as this season as a backup corner infielder.

How is Darrell Rasner doing? Do you think that he will be with the Yankees when they play Oakland in April? We already have a group of 18 going for the Saturday and Sunday games. It would be an extra bonus to see Rasner in Yankees pinstripes.
-- Courtney P., Carson City, Nev.

Have a great trip, and you may get your wish. Let's break this down.

The Yankees bullpen is going to have seven relievers to begin the season, by all accounts, and some of the names are pretty easy to figure out: Mariano Rivera, Kyle Farnsworth, Scott Proctor, Luis Vizcaino and Mike Myers. We're up to five with two spots left to fill.

Torre strongly hinted last week that he expects lefty Ron Villone to make the team, and if that's the case, you've now got two left-handers (Villone and Myers) with one spot remaining.

That last spot would figure to go to a long man, something Torre has spoken often about coveting, and two of the best candidates are Rasner and Jeff Karstens. They have the ability to pitch in long relief and turn in the occasional spot start, with a bit of big-league experience for good measure.

Keep a close eye on how those two handle their Grapefruit League innings. They could wind up fighting it out until the end.