The Yankees will begin discussions tonight to determine whether they need to make any roster changes heading into the American League Championship Series. No change is going to be drastic. Alex Rodriguez isn’t going to be bumped from the cleanup spot, and Mariano Rivera isn’t going to be replaced in the ninth inning.
These three minor changes, though, might be worth considering.
With A.J. Burnett back in the rotation, the Yankees will probably have room for only one true long man. Sergio Mitre is good for maybe three innings, but Girardi showed last year that he likes to have a guy stretched out well beyond 50 pitches just in case. Dustin Moseley was basically that guy for the division series, and he did the most during the season to earn the spot.
If the Yankees play Texas, Moseley might be a no-brainer. He has good career numbers against that lineup, and he made that strong spot start in Arlington earlier this season. Against Tampa Bay, though, Moseley hasn’t had quite the same success. It’s not a huge sample size, but the Rays have hit .483/.529/.931 against him as a team. If the Yankees can risk Ivan Nova pitching in relief, he might be a better option. Both of his starts against the Rays went very well for four or five innings before falling apart. As a group, the Rays have hit .231 against him.
If the Yankees weren’t going to carry a second lefty against the left-heavy Twins, why would they carry one against the Rangers or Rays? My guess is that they won’t, but Royce Ring’s numbers are compelling against both teams.
No one on either the Rays or the Rangers has ever gotten a hit off him. Six different Rays are a total of 0-for-5 with a walk and two strikeouts. All of those plate appearances came this year. The two strikeouts were both lefties who have done damage to the Yankees this season: Dan Johnson and Matt Joyce. The Rangers sample size is even larger. Six different Rangers are a combined 0-for-8 with a walk and a strikeout. The walk was to a righty. Josh Hamilton and David Murphy are a combined 0-for-3. Also in Ring’s favor: Neither Chad Gaudin nor Sergio Mitre has particularly good numbers against either team.
There’s been at least one stolen base in each of the first four games of the Rays-Rangers series. Rangers backup catcher Matt Treanor threw out roughly 28 percent of base-runners this season, but every other catcher involved — Bengie Molina, Kelly Shoppach and John Jaso — was at 23 percent or lower. Shoppach threw out 17 percent, which is down near Jorge Posada territory.
As a team, the Twins ranked fourth in the American League at throwing out base runners (more than 31 percent). The Rangers were third from the bottom. The Rays were ninth overall, but would have been much lower if not for Dioner Navarro who didn’t make their first-round playoff roster. Stolen bases could be a real weakness for these teams, but the Yankees left their best pinch-running base-stealer — Eduardo Nunez — off the roster for the division series. Greg Golson and Ramiro Pena can run, but Nunez would be the Yankees best bet if they wanted a new set of legs for Posada or Nick Swisher or Mark Teixeira late in a game.