General manager Brian Cashman just confirmed that the Yankees roster is now official. The 5 p.m. deadline has come and gone, and the Yankees have set their 25-man roster with a combination of predictable and stunning moves.
David Phelps named long reliever
There was no obvious choice here. After Michael Pineda went down with a shoulder tendinitis, it became clear that one of the projected Triple-A starters would open in the big league bullpen. The choice was Phelps, a 25-year-old who also won the Dawson Award as the best rookie in camp. he was the Yankees minor league Pitcher of the Year in 2010, and last season he led the system with a 2.99 ERA (counting two starts in rookie ball). Phelps won the job over D.J. Mitchell and Adam Warren.
“He had a very good camp,” Joe Girardi said. “They’re all so close, as we told these kids. It was a very difficult decision. It really came down to the last day that we talked about. He threw the ball really well this spring, and they were so close, but we just chose him. He’s a guy that hold runners and (has) three or four pitches and performed well in Triple-A. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is really good, but they’re all really close.”
Because Phelps was optioned to minor league camp earlier this spring, he was techincally recalled, taking the place of Pineda, who will now be placed on the disabled list.
Clay Rapada named second lefty
Cesar Cabral might have won this job had he stayed healthy, but when Cabral went down with an elbow injury, Rapada became an overwhelming favorite to break camp with the team. The side-arming lefty has held left-handed hitters to a .153 average in his big league career. He allowed four hits and struck out 13 in 10 innings this spring.
“Sometimes you need that lefty in the fourth inning, then you go to your long man and you get back in the game,” Girardi said. “There’s some big left-handed hitters in our division, so it just gives us more options, and it’s very possible that you might need your left-hander three or four days in a row, and physically your guy can’t do that.”
Chris Stewart named backup catcher
Obviously this was the real stunning move of the day. The Yankees catching depth took a hit with Austin Romine’s back injury, and to remedy that situation, the team traded for Stewart and optioned Francisco Cervelli to Triple-A. Cervelli wasn’t happy (obviously), and the Yankees feel more comfortable should something happen to Russell Martin.
“As we enter the 2012 campaign,” Brian Cashman said. “Our catching options – with (Craig) Tatum now the backup in Triple-A – is remade in a better place than it was in the last week or 10 days.”
Justin Maxwell designated for assignment
A move that was inevitable no matter how well Maxwell played this spring. Given the Yankees full outfield, and the fact Maxwell is out of options, it was never particularly likely that the Yankees would keep Maxwell. He has some power, some speed and a good eye at the plate. He can play all three outfield positions and he hit .310/.408/.429 this spring, but the Yankees don’t have an opening for a fourth outfielder, and so Maxwell was designated for assignment.
Even if he clears waivers, Maxwell said this morning that he can elect free agency rather than be outrighted to Triple-A. Barring a surprise, the Yankees seem unlikely to be able to keep Maxwell beyond this spring.
Hall given his release
Bill Hall didn’t technically have an out in his contract, but he asked for and was given his release upon not making the big league roster. Cashman confirmed that the other veterans on minor league deals — Jayson Nix, Dewayne Wise, Doug Bernier — were all retained. It seems entirely possible, if not likely, that the Yankees will eventually give Gustavo Molina his release as well. Now that the Yankees have added catching depth, Molina has to decide whether to accept an assignment to Double-A or look for a better opportunity.
The final 25-man roster
Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Robinson Cano 2B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Nick Swisher RF
Raul Ibanez DH
Russell Martin C
Brett Gardner LF
Andruw Jones OF
Eduardo Nunez SS
Eric Chavez 3B
Chris Stewart C
Associated Press photos