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Breaking down the bullpen decisions

Posted by: Peter Abraham - Posted in Misc on Mar 23, 2008 Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

We spoke to Joe Girardi this morning about the makeup of the pitching staff. Here is what came out of it:

They’re taking a long man. Jeff Karstens, Darrell Rasner or (maybe) Kei Igawa will be on the team. That has been the plans for months and it’s not changing.

Girardi said he is not “100-percent committed” to taking a lefty but he clearly wants one and then said nice things about Billy Traber. I think he’s on.

That leaves Brian Bruney, Ross Ohlendorf, Scott Patterson, Edwar Ramirez and Jose Veras competing for one spot.

Girardi on Patterson: “He’s done a good job. You just keep running him out there and he’s still competing with the other guys. I’m not a big believer that you have to have big-league experience to be successful. But obviously if you do have big-league experience you know what to expect a little bit more.

“But he’s done a great job. He has not pitched above Double-A and we’re aware of that. But he has been as good as anybody in camp.”

What does Girardi want?

“Strikes is No. 1 for me. You have to be able to throw strikes. If you can’t throw strikes, it’s hard to have a lot of faith in what you’re throwing out there,” he said. “Strikes is No. 1 and then you look at matchups, the ability to get right-handers out, left-handers out.”

Everybody has at least one option. I think it’s Bruney unless he blows up this week.





47 Responses to “Breaking down the bullpen decisions”

  1. mikethemike March 23rd, 2008 at 2:59 pm


    How can you say Bruney when Girardi says strikes #1, we all have seen Bruney with control problems.

  2. Joe from Long Island March 23rd, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    It’s a tough call, all right. I see what people are saying about Bruney, but if Joe’s interested in strike-throwing, Patterson has done nothing but. That and get batters out in whatever situations they’ve put him in. Can’t ask for more than that.

  3. SJ44 March 23rd, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    If strikes are the priority, I think that’s the one thing Bruney has to show he can do on a consistent basis.

    I tend to agree with you Pete re: Bruney having the edge right now. But, at least he has an option remaining.

    If he does blow up this week, they can send him to Scranton to get straightened out.

    Bruney has the stuff to be a valuable arm in the bullpen. Can he throw enough strikes to hold off Ohlendorf and Patterson? That’s the big question.

    I happen to agree with the need for a long man. Personally, with the way Torre ran his bullpen, I never understood why he got away from having a long man on the staff in recent years. It would have served well and also taken some of the workload off of Scott Proctor and others.

    I think you need a long man in the AL. I don’t care how good your starters are, the high octane offenses of AL teams are going to get them once in awhile.

    That’s why you need a guy who can eat some innings, throw strikes, and keep you in a game. Even more important to the Yankees because their offense can make up early 4 or 5 run deficits in some games.

  4. Steve March 23rd, 2008 at 3:09 pm


    Happy Easter. Do you think it’s possible that Ohlendorf could end up being carried and become the longman? He has always been a starter and has looked very good this spring.

  5. Peter Abraham March 23rd, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    Bruney has 2 walks in 6.1 innings this spring. His control problems, I believe, were attitude related. They would tell him to relax, dial back the velocity and focus on location and he would keep trying to throw the ball through a brick wall.

    He’s been a different guy this spring. He came in having lost a bunch of weight and his contract seems to have taken the edge off his personality. He seems willing to work with the coaches instead of fighting them.

    If the Yankees didn’t like him, they would have let him go in December. I think he’s on the roster, at least to start.

  6. Rebecca--Optimist Prime--Mission 2708 March 23rd, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    I have no problem with Bruney on the roster if he starts, but I don’t like that it’s going to come at the expense of Scott PAterson who has pitched so well so far.

    However, it’s a long season and anything can happen.

  7. CB March 23rd, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    There’s been a lot of talk about Girardi being an entirely different manager than what we’ve had in past with Torre.

    In particular, the bull pen was going to be entirely different – both in terms of who would get picked for the team and who would get used.

    Girardi was going to be the guy who based all his decisions on competiton, performance and ability. And not on experience. Only those deserving were going to be in Girardi’s good graces.

    He was going to represent new out of the box thinking with the pen.

    I don’t know how many times that’s been said and written – by the media, blogs, fans, etc.

    It would be very ironic if Bruney and Karstens make the pen, particularly in addition to Traber.

    Bruney’s performance over the course of his career – both in the minors and majors – is very expensive now and fairly consistent.

    He has dozens and dozens of innings that clearly show that he cannot throw strikes consistently. Losing weight is not going to change that. 7 innings in spring training in no way discounts that track record.

    Outside of that brief period at the end of 2006 when he was still entirely new to AL hitters Bruney has had awful control – not just bad. But terrible. Amongst the worst in all of baseball. 6BB/9 innings is mind bogglingly bad – but that’s Bruney both last year and over his career.

    Karstens – has been very poor this spring and mediocre in the past.

    Neither Bruney nor Karstens deserves a spot on this team based on performance.

    The main reason Bruney makes it is because of experience. Main reasons Karstens (or Rasner) make it is because of the role and their experience.

    Traber’s been good but the main reason he makes it is because of the role – lefty reliever.

    On top of that Farnsworth was guaranteed a spot on the roster by Girardi in the winter – regardless of how he threw in spring training competition.

    If Bruney, Karstens and Traber are in the pen Girardi will have selected the most conventional, role oriented, experience based bull pen he possibly could.

  8. SJ44 March 23rd, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    We have to be careful not to make Patterson this year’s Edwar.

    Last year, everybody believed Edwar was destined for success based on his minor league numbers. Some saw his flaws when he was recalled, yet some folks still didn’t want to face reality with him.

    Mainly because, like Patterson, Edwar being found in the Independent Leagues is a great story.

    To me, Patterson has already accomplished a lot this season. Clearly, he has opened eyes and, with a new manager and coaching staff in place, has a shot to contribute this season.

    If he has to start the season at AAA, its not really a demotion for him. It puts him closer than ever to pitching in the major leagues.

    A lot of stuff happens during a season. If he doesn’t make the team out of ST, I bet he ends up on the roster at some point during the season.

    Provided, of course, he pitches well in AAA. That’s going to be important for him.

  9. SJ44 March 23rd, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    As long as Farnsworth was still on the team, he was going to have a spot in the bullpen. They have over 5 million reasons why that’s the case.

    His role may be different but, he was going to be on the team.

    Traber is a legit find. Without Traber, we would have had Sean Henn on the roster. Thank God that’s not the case.

    Karstans? To me, Karstans and Rasner are interchangable. Both guys are just “eh”. However, that’s what you get with a long guy. Its just an innings eater. They aren’t special.

    One thing we need to remember about Ohlendorf and Patterson. Both guys are in new roles. Ohlendorf was changed to a relief pitcher in the middle of last season. Patterson has yet to have more than just a cup of coffee in AAA.

    Perhaps, assuming they don’t make the roster, both guys would be benefitted by some more AAA seasoning.

    Bruney may make the initial roster. However, he’s going to have to pitch well to keep his spot.

    That’s the big thing. For a change, there is legitimate competition for that final spot on the staff.

    If he doesn’t pitch well, the Yankees have some intriguing, in house options to draw from in Scranton.

  10. Rebecca--Optimist Prime--Mission 2708 March 23rd, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    Just reread my previous post–I meant that I have no problem with Bruney on the roster to start the season, if he’s really been throwing that well. I don’t want him as a starter.

    SJ: You’ve got a great point. I remember seeing Edwar in action at the Stadium back last July and my cousin was all over the kid, saying he’d be the next Rivera…

    …Of course, my cousin’s a Mets fan, so that might explain it.

  11. Bronxbyte March 23rd, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    It can’t be understated how good it is for the Yankees to have options they haven’t had in recent years.
    Joe Girardi has made this spring training a competitive one in that there were only 7 of 12 spots considered a virtual lock. The remaining 5 spots had to be won by performance.
    Regardless of who survives the final cuts, the outlook is bright for those going to AAA as long as they continue to work on their pitches and stay ready.
    Joe Girardi’s approach to wanting his pitchers throwing strikes sends a strong message.

  12. Richard C March 23rd, 2008 at 3:31 pm


    “They’re taking a long man. Jeff Karstens, Darrell Rasner or (maybe) Kei Igawa will be on the team. That has been the plans for months and it’s not changing.”

    How do you assess these three? Who do you like? Who do you think Girardi will pick?

  13. Joe March 23rd, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    I don’t think Edwar and Scott is a fair comparison beyond that they both came from INDY leagues. Edwar is a one trick pony with the bugs bunny changeup. He has no fastball command and even in the minors his walk totals were a little high. Patterson has the single most underrated thing a pitcher can have…great fastball command. Edwar got exsposed because hitters were good enough to lay off his “trick”, Patterson just comes over the top with a low 90s fastball with good life and he throws it to whatever spot he wants and backs that up with a good slow curve from the same arm angle.

  14. Jerkface March 23rd, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    I think the Yankees are very high on Karstens as a long man, but Rasner and arguably Igawa have been better in spring. Believe it or not but Igawa has a less than 4 spring ERA.

  15. CB March 23rd, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    I don’t think there is any clear cut answer for that last guy in the pen because each candidate has serious questions based on spring training performance, past performance, or experience.

    IMO, if Bruney is a different pitcher he should go down to scranton and show that he can throw strikes.

    Regarding the long man – I agree with carrying one because of the innings caps. But if they knew this months ago they should have tried guys in spring training in different roles.

    Essentially they had Bruney, Veras, Ohlendorf, Ramirez, Britton, Patterson and Albaladejo competing for a short man/ 7th inning guy role.

    For the long man they essentially had only two guys competing – Rasner and Karstens. Igawa was never a serious candidate.

    I think they should have tried to see if one of the long guys who had been a starter in the past could fill the role of the long man – whether that was Albaladejo or Patterson. Perhaps even Britton (whose stuff seems more like long man stuff).

    There was a lot of competition for that one short man role. Not as much competition for the long man role.

    If its Bruney and Karstens so be it. There’s a lot of depth AAA. I have my serious doubts about Bruney. Even here in spring he’s pitched late in games mostly against minor leaguers.

    Whatever guys they take north I’m certain that won’t be the final bullpen in any way.

    Bruney, Karstens, and Traber – I understand it – but its the most conventional bull pen they could break camp with.

    Not necessarily bad – but just very conventional.

  16. SJ44 March 23rd, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    What’s fascinating to me about the long man role is, what happens if Rasner spits it up tomorrow?

    You would have the three guys competing for the spot, Karstans, Igawa, and Rasner all pitching poorly coming down the home stretch.

    Might that open the door for Patterson to be considered in that role, despite having no experience in it?

    Its hard to say but, when you see guys getting hit hard by Pirate hitters, it doesn’t exactly make you feel confident they can get AL hitters out. Unlike veteran pitchers, assured of a roster spot who are just working out the kinks, you know Karstans and the rest of them are trying to get outs.

    If Rasner struggles tomorrow and all of a sudden we see Patterson pitching multiple innings in a game next week, something may be up.

  17. Alan March 23rd, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    It will be interesting to see how Girardi / Eiland use the bullpen this year after seeing so much of the burnout factor being part of a Yankee season.
    Pitchers called up will be used and not just to fill out the roster.

  18. mikethemike March 23rd, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    Thanks for the explaination Pete, that truly adds much more insight then I knew. That being said, I hope he makes the team. Good to see guys turn around, hopefully it will transulate to some good innings as well.

  19. Rebecca--Optimist Prime--Mission 2708 March 23rd, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    Second Alan.

  20. Fran March 23rd, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    Don’t know that it really matters but Rasner is not on the 40 man roster. So if he does make the team a roster move would have to be made.

    But as you have all been saying the Yankees will have the luxury of having the pitchers that don’t make the team readily available at AAA. Whoever does make the 12 man staff will have to perform to stay there.

  21. Joe from Long Island March 23rd, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    Pete, that’s an interesting bit of insight into Brian Bruney. If he really has had an attitude adjustment, then you’d kind of like to reward that – assuming he can do the job, of course. And, as others have pointed out, Patterson going to AAA is not the last word. It’s a long season.

  22. Stan March 23rd, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    Big league scouts have been highly visible in stands and this week, rosters will shake out with some possibilities as trimming is done. Cashman will be on the phone.

  23. Guiseppe Franco March 23rd, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    I’d bet big money the final three slots will be Karstens, Bruney, and Traber.

    However, you could be sure that Ohlendorf and Patterson will be on Cashman’s speed dial because – as CB has correctly stated over and over – it’s just a matter of time before Bruney struggles with his control again.

    It’s going to happen. It’s in his DNA.

  24. CB March 23rd, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    “Joe Girardi has made this spring training a competitive one in that there were only 7 of 12 spots considered a virtual lock. The remaining 5 spots had to be won by performance.”

    This is just not accurate. Wang/Pettite/ Mussina/ Hughes/ Kennedy/ Chamberlain/ Farnsworth/ Hawkins/ and Rivera all had locks on spots on the staff.

    So that’s 9 of 12 who had guaranteed spots. They decided before hand that one spot that was going to a long man so essentially either Karstens or Rasner were guaranteed a spot as well. Pete said the decision to carry a long man was made months ago and it was always between Karstens and Rasner.

    There were basically 2 spots that were open to true competition where the team probably had no idea who would make it before camp started.

    Ultimately it was cashman’s decision to throw a bunch of names up on the wall for those last two spots and to see who sticks.

    “Joe Girardi’s approach to wanting his pitchers throwing strikes sends a strong message.”

    Again, Farnsworth is on the team. He can’t throw strikes. If they pick Bruney there’s another guy who will be on the team despite the fact that he had amongst the worst control of any pitcher in baseball last year.

    Girardi has the right to take anyone he wants on the team. That’s fine with me.

    But the idea that a bull pen with Bruney, Karstens, and Farnsworth was picked by Girardi only based on competition and ability to throw strikes is not true. Those guys make the team for reasons very different than their performance and control.

  25. Matt DiBari March 23rd, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    If Girardi wants strike one, why is Farnsworth on the team?

  26. G. Love March 23rd, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    I’d really much rather see an Olhelndorf or Patterson in our pen than a Karstens or Rasner.

    I understand the concept of the long man, but Karstens/Rasner/Igawa are not major league pitchers.

    They’re Quad A types.

    They can get outs and get lucky once in awhile, but most of the time they’re going to get smacked around the park. They always have to throw the game of their life to be good.

    Doesn’t it make a little sense to have better arms who might actually get us out of innings when we need the long man early?

    I guess the wild card is extra inning games. It’s always nice to have that long man/spot starter come in the 11th and know it’s his game to lose.

    But sometimes I just feel that the concept of the long man is very similar to the concept of having a slick field/no hit UTIF or a pinch runner on the roster.

    It’s using a spot in case of the random emergency that occurs every so often.

    I’d rather have the best arms that have the best stuff be in the pen. Not sacrificial lambs.

    But that’s just me.

  27. Joe from Long Island March 23rd, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    I heard on the YES broadcast that Reed Johnson was released by Toronto, beaten out by Shannon Stewart. In a way, I’m glad to hear that, because he was always a tough out for us, it seemed; Stewart is no pushover, however.

    Supposedly, Toronto had concerns over some back issues with Johnson. If he’s at all healthy, and I’m the Mets, I get on the phone with his agent pronto. A RH outfielder, especially with what Johnson can bring to the table, is just what they need.

  28. bigjf March 23rd, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    I happen to think you’re going to see Ohlendorf on the team, but then you probably have a better sense than me, Pete.

  29. bigjf March 23rd, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    Joe, I’d stick with Angel Pagan over Johnson if I’m the Mets.

  30. Joe from Long Island March 23rd, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    I’ve not seen Pagan play much, so I can’t say.

    Thank goodness I’m not a Mets fan. An old team that’s breaking down, with not a great farm system. Omar has some work to do.

  31. Bronx Liaison March 23rd, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    I think later this season Jeff Marquez might be the perfect fit for long man if he progresses well enough at Scranton to join the club. He offers flexibility because he can be the long man or bridge the gap by giving an inning-plus during a tight game. He could serve the Mendoza role except with superior stuff.

  32. Rebecca--Optimist Prime--Mission 2708 March 23rd, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    Omar Minaya was a great scout.

    That might be the kindest way I can put it.

  33. Derek March 23rd, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    Bruney to start…with Olnedorf and Patterson breahting down his neck

    ARod in a Boston Globe article “I always knew I was a great player”

  34. Peter Abraham March 23rd, 2008 at 4:08 pm


    Ohlendorf was last a starter in June. He’s not going to be the long man. He has been used for one-inning stints all spring. You can’t say, “Great job, Ross, be ready to go three or four next week.”

    He’s being developed as a late-inning guy, period.

    The long man, for better or worse, will be Karstens, Rasner or Igawa. Girardi said it again today.

  35. Rick March 23rd, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    I think the Yankees will be shuffling pitchers back and forth from Scranton most of the season. It really appears to me that they will be playing the hot hand which is basically what they did last year.

  36. Stan March 23rd, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    To think the Yankees actually broke camp a year ago with the likes of Pavano, Igawa, Myers, Nieves, and Phelps is hilarious.
    It speaks volumes just how far this team has progressed.

  37. Reef March 23rd, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    It seems that the sucking up to Girardi has worked out pretty well for Bruney… Its a long season, and if I were a betting man, I’d have to put my money on the fact that losing 30 lbs does not magically teach someone how to throw strikes. 6 innings in spring training versus a career of ineptitude, cannot by any means serve as an effective litmus test. Patterson has been by far our most impressive reliever this spring, Girardi has continuously placed him in some very tough situations and judging by his performance (0 runs, 0 walks, 1 hit, 6ks, in 6 innings), he deserves the spot. If this truly was a competition then Patterson has to get it. That said, I hope that Bruney, as well as Farnsworth, prove me wrong; I just won’t be holding my breath.

  38. Nick March 23rd, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    Only a starting staff with 3-4 true innings eaters don’t feel the real need for a long reliever.
    Once Ramiro Mendoza left for free agency, the annual bullpen burnout took place. Joe Girardi recognized this need and is addressing it. If either Karstens or Rasner don’t succeed, Girardi will not abandon the thought.

  39. AndrewYF March 23rd, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    I don’t understand the need for a crappy pitcher to be on the staff over superior guys. Who says Karstens can go multiple innings, when it’s clear he can’t go two without giving up a boatload of runs? Karstens provides no value to this team if his only skill is to come in for two innings and blow the door open for the other team. Then you have to take him out and use other relievers, because Karstens wasn’t able to get the job done. We saw it countless times last year when the starter was out of the game in the 3rd inning. Didn’t matter if you put a crappy guy in, because you’d have to take him out after 1.2 innings. Longmen are frankly useless unless they’re actually okay pitchers that are able to go multiple innings. I just don’t understand the philosophy.

  40. OldYanksFan March 23rd, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    Pete, SG and CB,
    If Ross Ohlendorf has been a starter his whole career, WHY can’t he be a long man… which is usually 3-4 innings max? I think he’s better then Raz and Kar, and certainly better then Iggy.

  41. bw March 23rd, 2008 at 7:16 pm

    I would like to see the last spot go to Ohlendorf but I could also see him pitching the 8th or 9th for Scranton to start and hopefully taking over for Joba mid-season. Or sooner if Bruney still can’t throw strike 1.

  42. Brian from PA March 23rd, 2008 at 7:51 pm

    I’m joining the Scott Patterson camp for that last bullpen spot. I mean the guy has been as good as, if not better than anyone else in that group all spring. And he’s come in multiple times and killed rallies, for instance in the rain shortened game against Toronto when Albaladejo and the errors allowed 6 runs and he came in and got out of the inning in a jiffy. And, of course, he throws strikes.

  43. JT March 23rd, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    LOL 2 years of solid performance @ AAA & MLB + a good spring and Britton still cant get noticed

  44. Sar 515 March 24th, 2008 at 1:42 am

    How do you spell (long) relief>
    I think it starts with RO (ss)

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