04/03/12 5:58 PM ET
By David Villavicencio / Special to MLB.com
The Kentucky Wildcats may have predicted this year's World Series winner when they beat Kansas, 67-59, on Monday night. The last six times prior to this year that the Wildcats have won the NCAA title, the Yankees have also won the World Series (1949, '51, '58, '78, '96, '98).
The Yankees and Mets faced off for the first time in a Grapefruit League game since 1996 on Tuesday. The two New York teams last played a pair of games at the Yankees' spring home in Tampa on March 29 and 30, 1996. Prior to that, the Yankees and Mets met annually in Spring Training from 1962-1996. The two teams will play again Wednesday to finish off their Grapefruit League schedules.
Cashman assesses field heading into 2012
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The American League East is always a highly competitive division, and this season should be no different.
The Yankees will try to defend their division crown, but general manager Brian Cashman believes the Red Sox and Rays will not make that an easy task to accomplish.
"In our division, Tampa Bay is the real deal and Boston is better than how they finished last year," Cashman said. "I think our division itself is a tossup."
Factor in the young and talented Blue Jays, and you may have the deepest division in baseball. Even with all that talent in the AL East, Cashman believes the best team in the league comes from another division.
"Texas is clearly the favorite in our league," Cashman said. "They've won it for two straight years. That says a lot about them." The Angels and Tigers are also impressive in Cashman's eyes after improving their already talented rosters with big free-agent signings this winter.
"Anaheim and Detroit made significant improvements," Cashman said. "Detroit knocked us out in the first round and they added Prince Fielder this winter, and you saw what Anaheim did with C.J. [Wilson] and Albert [Pujols]."
The Yankees will bring back most of the roster that led the American League in wins last season. They also made some improvements in the offseason that they hope will get them a chance at another World Series title. Most would assume this year's team is better than last year's because of those additions, but Cashman is not ready to declare that yet.
"Last year's team won 97 games," Cashman said. "I think we have more talent on this year's team, but I also think the league is better. That's the great equalizer. Who knows? We'll see."
Roster decisions coming for Yankees
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- As Spring Training winds down, teams will look to finalize their rosters for the regular season, and the Yankees have a few decisions to make.
General manager Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi, along with members of the baseball operations staff, need to decide on a few spots in the bullpen as well as the Yankees' bench before the 5:00 p.m. ET deadline on Wednesday.
The Yankees are looking for a long reliever, and will choose from a trio of right-handers. David Phelps and D.J. Mitchell are both on the Yankees' 40-man roster, which may give them an advantage over non-roster invitee Adam Warren.
"When you look for a long man, you look for a guy that can give you distance and is a real strike thrower," Girardi said. "When you look at them, they're all pretty close. That's a tough decision that we have to make."
Another player who could factor into the Yankees' plans is Clay Rapada. The left-hander appears to have earned a spot in Girardi's bullpen after an impressive spring.
"He's done a really good job," Girardi said of Rapada. "There are times when you use Boone [Logan] a couple days in a row, so you'd need another lefty specialist. Boone is a guy that's going to face some right-handers as well."
The Yankees also need to decide the fate of several veterans who are on Minor League contracts. Bill Hall, Dewayne Wise and Jayson Nix will all learn their fate by Wednesday evening, but Wise and Nix could be moving on sooner due to out clauses in their contracts.
"Hall doesn't have an out," Cashman said. "Wise does, and so does Jayson Nix. An e-mail was sent out to all clubs, as per requirement, that they're available for immediate assignment to the 25-man roster."
Finally, the Yankees need to decide if Justin Maxwell is going to be on the Opening Day roster. Maxwell, who is out of options, has impressed the Yankees the spring but there may not be a spot for him in the big leagues. The Yankees are committed to Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson, Brett Gardner, Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones. Maxwell would need to clear waivers before the Yankees could send him to the Minors.
Even if players make the roster at the deadline Wednesday, they could still be moved off it before the Yankees open regular-season play on Friday. It all depends on if Cashman feels they can upgrade by adding a recently cut player from another organization.
"We'll look at it all," Cashman said. "I don't know what to expect. We'll react to what becomes available, and evaluate it compared to what we've got."
Nova ready to put spring results behind him
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Ivan Nova had a rough spring.
The right-hander was hit hard by the Mets for five runs over 2 2/3 innings on Tuesday to finish his Grapefruit League season with an 8.02 ERA over 22 1/3 innings.
"Today was one of the worst days of my life," Nova said. "I wasn't pitching right. I felt good today but I couldn't throw strikes."
Nova won 16 games last season but has struggled mightily this spring. The 25-year-old says he feels fine physically, but admitted his body was "lazy" on Tuesday.
"Lazy, like arm lazy and body lazy," Nova said. "You cannot extend your arm. You're cutting yourself short. My body feels like it was sleeping or something like that."
The right-hander is scheduled to make his regular-season debut on April 9 against the Orioles. Until then, he will be working on improving his fastball command.
"I've got to keep working the same on everything that I was working on," Nova said. "I need to work on getting my fastball back, the location on it. When I get my fastball command, all my other pitches are easier. I've got to work at it and get my command of my fastball."
Manager Joe Girardi agrees that Nova is at his best when he can command his fastball. He has seen flashes of that command at times this spring, but he would like to see more from the young starter.
"I feel like he's had some really good innings, but he's kind of lost a little bit of command at times," Girardi said. "That's something that you have to be able to control a bit quicker. Sometimes you get back to it by throwing different pitches. Sometimes you should start guys with breaking balls. He's been inconsistent this spring, but I really feel the stuff is there."
With no more Spring Training starts scheduled, Nova is looking forward to putting the past month behind him and focusing on what he hopes will be another positive season in the Majors.
"Spring Training just ended for me right now, so I'm just going to look forward to the season," Nova said. "Maybe all the bad little moments happened here in Spring Training, and I'll have a good season again. That's what I'm looking for."
Yankees will soon have plan for Pineda
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Michael Pineda will begin the season on the disabled list, but the Yankees may soon have a better idea of how much time the right-hander will miss.
Pineda has not pitched since March 30 due to tendinitis in his right shoulder. He stayed back at the team's facility in Tampa, Fla., while his teammates travelled to Kissimmee to face the Astros, Miami to face the Marlins and Port St. Lucie to face the Mets.
With the Yankees returning to Tampa on Wednesday, manager Joe Girardi will get to see how the 23-year-old is feeling after not throwing for a few days.
"I'm curious to see how he feels," Girardi said. "We're going to talk about a plan to see exactly what we're going to do with the time."
General manager Brian Cashman does not know how much time Pineda will need to miss before he can be back in the big leagues. But Cashman is hopeful that Wednesday's meeting with the young right-hander will allow the organization to plan for Pineda's return.
"Ultimately, first it's get him going again and then we'll place him after that," Cashman said. "But it's not a significant issue, thankfully."
Last season, right-hander Phil Hughes missed nearly three months due to shoulder tendinitis, but Cashman is confident Pineda will not need that much time for his shoulder to recover.
"Everybody is different, but I don't think that at all," Cashman said. "I don't think they're in the same category. There are levels of inflammation and tendinitis, and this is a nice, light, mild one."
Pettitte may pitch in Grapefruit League finale
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Andy Pettitte may make his 2012 Grapefruit League debut in the Yankees' final spring game of the year.
The 39-year-old, who signed a Minor League deal with the Yankees earlier this spring, has yet to appear in a game, but that could all change on Wednesday.
Pettitte may appear in the Yankees' spring finale against the Mets in Tampa, but manager Joe Girardi wants to make sure Pettitte is ready for game action before he puts the veteran on the mound in a competitive environment.
"I want to talk to him when I get there, but I think we might pitch him tomorrow," Girardi said Tuesday. "I want to look him in the eye and make sure he's where he's supposed to be, and see how he feels."
Pettitte, who has been a member of five World Series teams with the Yankees and won 240 games in his career, is working to join the big league club at some point this season.
David Villavicencio is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.