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Top Nine Spring Training storylines

Spring Training is just around the corner - literally, as pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 14, just a day after press time - and after spending nearly a half-billion dollars to secure a handful of big-name free agents, one might think the Yankees will come to camp with their roster pretty much set.

However, nothing could actually be further from the truth; among other things, the Yankees will need to figure out who is the best option for their fifth starter, who will be in the bullpen to relieve that starting staff, and just who makes up half of their infield at any given time.

The Yankees invited 26 non-roster players to camp this year and 16 of them are pitchers and catchers, meaning any position player competitions are likely to be contested by names you already know - but that doesn't mean there won't be any surprises, so as baseball's off-season enters its final hours, we here at The Niner bring you the list below to highlight nine potential areas to watch as the Bronx Bombers invade Tampa over the next six weeks.

  • TEX'S FLEXIN'
    Mark Teixeira lost 147 games last year to a wrist injury, one that still lingers in the form of self-admitted stiffness. The Yankees don't really have a backup plan if Tex isn't 100 percent, so fans (and maybe even team brass) will hold their breath early on to see how he handles a return to game conditions.
  • WHEN MCCANN'S AWAY, WHO WILL PLAY?
    Backup catcher will be a hotly contested bench role this year, with Francisco Cervelli, Austin Romine, and John Ryan Murphy all in camp. Cervelli's experience and roster status seem to make him the favorite, but as his surge and subsequent loss last year proved, nothing's set in stone even after April 1.
  • LEFT OUT(FIELD)
    With five high-profile players and only three spots (plus the DH role), there are still plenty of outfield questions. Will the Yankees trade Ichiro, or even Brett Gardner? If so, who's the fifth outfielder? And where do Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Beltran best fit?
  • WHO'S ON SECOND (AND THIRD)?
    Consensus hope is that Brian Roberts is the Yankees' everyday second baseman, and Kelly Johnson can handle the hot corner. But with Roberts having health concerns and Johnson maybe needing a semi-platoon partner, there will be competition to see who makes the best fallback option…
  • ROUNDING OUT THE BENCH
    …and there will be several bodies in camp looking to fill what will hopefully be the final bench role. Eduardo Nunez might have a leg up, but 40-man addition Dean Anna and non-roster invitees like Scott Sizemore, Russ Canzler, and Corban Joseph (among others) will make it interesting.
  • FOUR ACES AND A WILD CARD
    Masahiro Tanaka gives the Yanks' rotation a defined top four, but who rounds it out? David Phelps, Michael Pineda, Vidal Nuno and Adam Warren are the top competitors for that spot, but someone like lefty Nik Turley or non-roster invitee Brian Billings could sneak into consideration.
  • REPLACING THE G.O.A.T.
    Mariano Rivera's shoes seem to be David Robertson's to fill, but who will join D-Rob in the bullpen? Matt Thornton was signed to replace Boone Logan, Shawn Kelley is back and Preston Claiborne may be too, but the majority of the spots in the bullpen are wide open for the taking.
  • MAKING A NAME
    With all the above said, Spring Training is still a place to ponder on what could be - and every year, it seems that at least one prospect or non-roster invitee puts themselves on the map with an impressive spring. Who will channel Vidal Nuno and Ronnier Mustelier and be that guy in 2014?
  • CAPTAIN'S CRUNCH
    Derek Jeter played just 17 games in 2013 - and he revealed Wednesday that he has no more than 162 left, as 2014 will be his final season. He's already working hard in Tampa ahead of official report date, and Spring Training will give us our last first look at just how great The Captain can be.
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