The excellent scribe Tyler Kepner of the NY Times wrote two pieces last night about the offense.

The first is about how manager Joe Girardi and hitting instructor Kevin Long are expecting big things from Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano during the 2009 season.

Canó, Long said, has dedicated himself to physical fitness and is in “immaculate condition.” And Rodriguez, he said, is in a better frame of mind after dealing with a divorce last season.

Two years ago, Long’s intense winter work with Rodriguez helped spark him to the best start of his career and the 2007 American League Most Valuable Player award. This winter, Long said, they did not need to focus much on mechanics.

“His swing is going to be there for him,” Long said. “We did the revamp of his swing a couple of years ago, and it’s just a matter of being consistent with it day in and day out. A lot of that has to do with where he is in his personal life — and where he is right now is in a good place.

Girardi also mentioned that he feels the offense will go up, especially after a down season where Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada (a good 100-180 runs of offense) went down with injuries and Melky Cabrera, A-Rod, and Cano (and Jeter) had off seasons.

“We think our offense is better than it was last year,” Cashman said. “We had injuries and underperformance. I think Robinson Canó is going to have a big year and bounce back to the previous two years rather than last year.”

In the second Kepner article, he analyzes the Yankees’ offense:

Now, it wouldn’t shock me to see the Yankees make a stealth move if the negotiations for the Scott Boras Superstars — Mark Teixeira and Manny Ramirez – drag on for weeks. But they seem satisfied that the lineup they have right now is good enough to win, as long as they improve the pitching.

Let’s sketch out each position: Jorge Posada at catcher, Swisher at first, Robinson Cano at second, Derek Jeter at short, Alex Rodriguez at third, Johnny Damon in left field, Brett Gardner or Melky Cabrera in center field, Xavier Nady in right field, and Hideki Matsui as the designated hitter.

Here’s my question: Who bats third?

I’m not sure Joe Girardi would really put Cano third, even if he hit .500 in spring training. But who knows? Assuming everyone is healthy (a big assumption, especially for Posada), let’s look at this lineup:

1) Johnny Damon, lf
2) Derek Jeter, ss
3) Robinson Cano, 2b
4) Alex Rodriguez, 3b
5) Jorge Posada, c
6) Xavier Nady, rf
7) Hideki Matsui, dh
8) Nick Swisher, 1b
9) Brett Gardner, cf

Not great, but not bad. Nady and Swisher are young enough to think that they may get better, or at least that they are still in their prime. If Gardner can reach base 33 percent of the time, he’s a keeper because of his speed and athleticism.

The key, I think, is Cano. If he is as motivated as Long says by his mediocre season in 2008, the Yankees will benefit greatly. He needs to see more pitches if he bats in front of Rodriguez, and another .305 on-base percentage is unacceptable.

An intriguing prospect, indeed. Cano batting in front of A-Rod. That would be a good possibility if he does a) improve his batting swing, b) become a more disciplined batter at the plate, and c) put more pitches into play.  Cano has been notriously famous for his lack of plate discipline and he needs to put in more focus and select the pitches he likes.

My take? Try Nady at the #3 hole. Even better, get Manny Ramirez or Mark Teixeira.