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Yankees Q&A with Neil Keefe, Take 2

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Last time I did a Q&A, we got a complaint that there weren't Rays pictures. Above is Kevin Cash, nothing Yankee related. So there.

Continuing our early season Q&A series, we return to the Yankees as the Rays face off against the rivals, and my man Keefe is back. Neil Keefe, formerly of WFAN, is now writing for his own site Keefe to the City. We last talked to him before the Yanks swept the Rays. Hopefully history doesn't repeat itself.

Alex Rodriguez is one home run shy of Mays, and he continues to put up an great April. What are we to make of his resurgence? Does it seem like a fluke or is this the A-Rod we'll see all year?

I think a lot of people were foolish to count A-Rod out since he would be returning after 18 months off and at the age of 39 (he'll be 40 in July). A-Rod was the best player in the world at a time and those at his level don't just lose their ability overnight. If anything, the layoff gave him the chance to rest and heal his aging and injured body for a full calendar year and give him to get back to what made him great to begin with.

Now that A-Rod is mainly the designated hitter (he has played one game at third and one at first), he can focus on just hitting and not worry about playing defense. For a player with his age and his injury history, it's a perfect situation. Look at what David Ortiz has been able to do as he has gotten older with only the responsibility of hitting.

I don't think it's a fluke start to the year for A-Rod. I thought, if healthy, he could hit 25-30 home runs, which he is currently on pace for, because he had done so in every other year in which he played a full season. A-Rod is back and it's awesome.

The Yankees have put up a lot of offense over the last three series, totaling 19, 21, and 14 runs against the Rays, Tigers, and then Mets. What has been the driving force? Chris Young? Mark Teixeira?

The driving force has been the home run. A few years ago, a lot of people in New York complained that the Yankees hit too many home runs and couldn't string together hits or manufacture runs. That was the 2012 team people complained about. That team went to the ALCS. Since then, the Yankees' lineup had back-to-back awful seasons, in which they would go what seemed like weeks at a time without even a solo home run.

The Yankees have always been built around the home run. They have made sure to stack their lineup full of lefties for a Stadium with a 314-foot short porch. This season they have gotten back to what has made them so good for the last 20 years and the middle of the order has been producing of late. It's good to see the Bronx Bombers are back.

Tanaka is getting pushed back a day to Wednesday, and the Yanks are starting someone named Whitley. Why was he pushed back?

After this series with the Rays, the Yankees will have played 13 straight games without an off day. The Yankees will have Thursday (April 30) off after this series and then their next off day isn't until May 18 after 17 straight games. With a rotation full of injury histories and concern (Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia), I guess this is the Yankees' way of giving the rotation an extra off day. I don't agree with it, but I don't agree with a lot of the stuff Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman do.

Who is Chase Whitley, and what sort of pitcher is he?

If you're a Rays fan, you should be celebrating the fact that you get to face Chase Whitley. He pitched to a 5.23 ERA in 75 2/3 innings for the Yankees last year (24 games, 12 starts). He doesn't strike out many hitters and pitches to contact and has very underwhelming stuff. He relies heavily on location and if that location isn't there then he will be out in the third inning and the Yankees will be in a massive hole. I'm prepared for his start to not go so well.

Jacoby Ellsbury is dealing with a hip injury, and Carlos Beltran does not seem to be himself. Are you worried about the outfield right now?

I'm not worried about Jacoby Ellsbury. Even though he has been a given free pass since he signed with the team when it comes to performance and injuries, he will be fine. He is a soft player and Joe Girardi makes sure he goes the extra mile to protect his players. Being a soft player like Ellsbury or Mark Teixeira on a team managed by Girardi is a perfect situation if you like to have days off.

Carlos Beltran, on the other hand, looks finished. He turned 39 on Friday and has been awful. Last year, his elbow injury forced Alfonso Soriano into a weird situation and ultimately led to his demise and eventual release from the team, and it looks like Beltran is headed that same way. The problem with Beltran is that he is owed $15 million for this season and $15 million for next season and is just two years removed from a healthy and productive season in which he was part of a Cardinals team that went to the World Series.

Maybe Beltran isn't finished and maybe he will turn it around. But until he shows some sign of life at the plate (any sign at all), he can't continue to hit in the middle of the order.


Thanks for taking the time Neil. I'm looking forward to the Rays finally playing outside (after 19! consecutive games under domes). Maybe we'll let it fly too.