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03/19/09 1:09 PM ET

Inbox: Melky or Gardner in center field?

Yankees beat reporter Bryan Hoch answers fans' questions

We're officially into the final two weeks of camp down here in Tampa, Fla., and the Yankees still have a number of unsettled issues to iron out. Some of the decisions may come down to the wire, giving fans the opportunity to see the last calls made during the two exhibition games at the new Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Let's see what's doing in the Yankees Inbox:

I keep reading that the competition between Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera won't be resolved until the end of Spring Training. Why is that? Gardner keeps putting up decent numbers and has the speed to steal bases, which is much needed on this team.
-- Tom R.

Gardner certainly hasn't done anything not to win the job, I grant you that. Coming into the spring, it seemed that if all things were equal, Cabrera would be the guy -- he's making $1.4 million this year and out of options, and it seems unlikely that he would pass through waivers if the Yankees exposed him. Remember, there was some trade interest out there during the winter, and Cabrera could definitely help a team as at least a fourth outfielder.

Joe Girardi has said that he wants to give both Cabrera and Gardner a fair shake to win the job, and that he wasn't going to make any rash decisions in the first couple of weeks. It's worth noting that the early days of camp featured a lot of pitchers who won't be in the big leagues come April; the final two weeks might give a better indication of what Cabrera or Gardner would do if they're anointed the everyday center fielder.

"I think the biggest thing is to not let early progress form your opinion," Girardi said recently. "When you play early games, you're not necessarily ready to go in the form that you will be in at the end of Spring Training. You can't let early stuff cloud the picture."

Girardi loves the speed that Gardner brings, and that's a quality Cabrera can't keep up with. But Cabrera has a stronger defensive arm, and Girardi thinks he's quietly had an OK spring. It's a great argument. I'll finish on this note -- if the Yankees miss the playoffs this season, it won't be because they picked the wrong guy out of Cabrera or Gardner. There's bigger fish to fry.

As if you don't receive 1,000 Alex Rodriguez questions a day, I'll send you one more. Given that A-Rod experienced hip pain last year, why did he wait until now to address it? If it really bothered him he could have gone for tests after the season. This seems like really poor timing.
-- Corey D., Worland, Wyo.

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It's a legitimate question. General manager Brian Cashman said that a MRI taken in May revealed an "irregularity" in Rodriguez's hip, but because he actually never complained of any pain -- just some periodic stiffness -- the Yankees thought the injury was manageable. It's interesting that even in September, when Andy Pettitte was sent for a MRI on his tired left shoulder, Rodriguez kept playing. Only Rodriguez knows if he was ever in pain.

It seemed like he was able to stay on the field by doing extra stretching with Dana Cavalea, and he was still performing at a high level even in Spring Training this year. The Yankees' company line is that they were caught off guard by this, and Cashman said that when Rodriguez was sent to Colorado, they thought he was having a cyst drained and nothing else. Cody Ransom looks like he'll have to hold the fort for about six weeks, and all things considered, it could have been a lot worse.

How is Bob Sheppard doing? Is he going to be able to announce on Opening Day at the new Yankee Stadium?
-- Lynda T., Mobile, Ala.

Sheppard appeared recently on WFAN and said that he is feeling strong enough to return to work on April 3, having been brought "back up to good fighting weight." Sheppard checked into the hospital at 103 pounds, but told host Ed Randall that he now weighs 145 pounds.

"The doctor said to me, 'When you get to 145 pounds, and you have adequate stamina, I'll allow you to go back to work,'" Sheppard said. "I'll be ready if God is willing, because I'm willing. He knows I'm willing."

Let's hope. We wish Mr. Sheppard well.

I read on news releases on Yankees.com that a pitcher, generally in Spring Training or on their road to recovery from an injury, will pitch a "simulated game." What exactly does that mean? Are all nine players playing defense against the batter? How long does a simulated game usually last?
-- Cameron B., Greenwood, Ind.

Basically, a simulated game looks a lot like full-speed batting practice. The pitcher will warm up as though he is beginning an inning and then face a few teammates, usually a left-handed batter and a right-handed batter -- sometimes with a protective 'L' screen in place. He's given about 15 pitches per inning.

The batters stand in with no umpire and basically have at it, hitting until there's a hit or an out. No one runs the bases and there aren't any fielders, save for the occasional clubhouse workers shagging fly balls. When the appropriate number of pitches is reached, the pitcher will rest to simulate a half-inning before returning to work.

Do you see any future for Mike Mussina in a coaching capacity, or is he satisfied to really retire?
-- Stefan K., Dallas, Tex.

I don't think Moose needs the travel of a 162-game schedule, plus Spring Training and the postseason right now. He may someday visit camp as a guest instructor. Actually, I think he'd be terrific as a television broadcaster, where he could make his own plans and pick and choose the games he wants to work. He used to say that he'd do the Little League World Series games on TV, since Williamsport, Pa., is basically in his backyard. ESPN would be well served to ask.

Do you think Girardi's job will be in danger if the Yankees do not go far in the playoffs this year?
-- Kenny B., Cumberland, Md.

Girardi himself probably put this best in February: "I think you'd probably have to have your head in the sand if you didn't know what the expectations were." Coming off last season, making the playoffs is objective No. 1, and then the Yankees can worry about how far they go in October. It's a crapshoot once the postseason begins, but Girardi acknowledged that if the Yankees don't at least stand among the final eight teams alive, there's probably going to be someone new behind his desk in 2010.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.