There are two big decisions in Yankees camp this spring, and both are built around the expectation of a veteran vs. the potential of a young pitcher. Most of the attention is rightfully focused on the rotation — Freddy Garcia vs. a trio of 20-somethings — but the last spot in the bullpen is also up for grabs.
Veteran Clay Rapada vs. Rule 5 pick Cesar Cabral.
“I think it comes down to trying to make an educated guess of what the upside (of Cabral) is versus you know what you’re getting from Clay,” Joe Girardi said. “It’s kind of similar to the young starters versus Freddy. That’s what you have to set your mind on and go with your heart.”
Rapada has been terrific against left-handers this spring, and he’s held them to a .153 average in his big league career. He’s 31 years old, brings an 86-87 mph fastball and big slider from an extreme arm angle, and right-handers feast on him. But he’s good against lefties.
Cabral is 23 years old. His raw stuff is easily more impressive than Rapada’s, and obviously the upside seems to be much higher, but he’s never pitched above Double-A. This is the second time he’s been taken in the Rule 5. He’s given up more than a hit per inning this spring, but he’s also struck out 12 and walked just two.
Rapada is the known quantity. Cabral is the more exciting possibility.
“I think Clay’s ability to change angles on left-handers has always been tough,” Girardi said. “It’s a tough angle for lefties. Cesar has a good arm. We saw him get the strikeouts when he needed to the other day. His slider has improved as time went on. His changeup helps him against right-handers. It’s kind of the young vs. the experienced.”
Associated Press photo of Cabral