Joe Girardi left little doubt yesterday that he plans to carry Austin Kearns on the playoff roster. Kearns is a career .375 hitter against the members of the Twins pitching staff not named Matt Capps. He’s 0-for-10 against the Twins new closer, but Kearns has been pretty good against the rest of the Twins pitchers. Even if he weren’t, the Yankees don’t exactly a strong offensive alternative. Starting Kearns ahead of Brett Gardner might be a bit much at this point, but as a right-handed bat off the bench, he’s the best non-Thames option the Yankees have.
Beyond Kearns, we can confidently assume these 11 position players will also make the postseason roster: Jorge Posada, Francisco Cervelli, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, Lance Berkman and Marcus Thames.
That leaves room for two — three if the Yankees carry only 10 pitchers — to round out the bench. There seem to be three leading candidates, and a handful of secondary options.
Pros: Plus speed and arm… Can play all three outfield spots… Defensive upgrade as a late-inning substitution in right field; offensive upgrade as a pinch runner… Two starts in the final two weeks of the season, with at least one hit in each.
Cons: Career .260 hitter in Triple-A, career .200 hitter in the big leagues… Limited major league experience; has only two career big league RBI… Not considered as much of a base-stealing threat as Eduardo Nunez… Yankees already have five outfield options.
Pros: Considered the Yankees top base-stealing threat off the bench… Comfortable at shortstop and could play second ot third… Hit .280 in limited big league action after an all-star season in Triple-A… Better offensive utility infielder than Ramiro Pena.
Cons: Roughly a month and a half of major league experience… Counting the big leagues, played six games at second and 26 at third this season. Before that, had just 20 career appearances away from shortstop… Eight at-bats since September 4… Not as good defensively as Ramiro Pena.
Pros: Been with the big league club all season… Arguably the Yankees best defensive infielder at three different positions… Despite poor offensive numbers, has shown a knack for big hits in big situations… Enough speed to help on the bases as a pinch runner… Most versatile bench option with some additional experience in the outfield if needed in a pinch.
Con: Two extra-base hits all season, even in the minors he was only a .255 hitter with no power… Eduardo Nunez could play the same utility role with more offensive upside… Yankees are unlikely to rest any of their infielders during the playoffs.
Pros: Does a little bit of everything: Has some power, has some speed, plays quality defense at all three outfield spots… Hit pretty well during his brief window of consistent playing time.
Cons: Doesn’t do one thing especially well. Doesn’t have Greg Golson’s speed or Juan Miranda’s left-handed power… Yankees already have two lefty outfielders.
Pros: Powerful left-handed bat off the bench… Has three home runs in limited major league duty… Most of the Yankees bench options are right-handed.
Cons: Gives almost no defensive flexibility… Limited to a pinch hitter, and the Yankees aren’t likely to pinch hit very often.
Pros: The Yankees did carry three catchers last postseason.
Cons: A.J. Burnett was also lined up to start Games 2 and 5 in each playoff series last year. That meant the potential for two games each series caught by the Yankees backup. That shouldn’t be the case this year.
Pros: Could play every position except pitcher and catcher… Consistent minor league hitter; gave the Yankees a surprising boost in left field earlier this season.
Cons: Limited shortstop experience… One major league at-bat since July 11… Clearly behind Eduardo Nunez and Ramiro Pena in the infield pecking order.