The Yankees have lost Mariano Rivera for the season, they’ve lost Dave Robertson for several weeks and they’re not getting Joba Chamberlain back any time soon. This bullpen has been picked apart, but the Yankees still have the second-lowest bullpen ERA in the American League, and they’re still able to win games like last night.
“It’s just different,” Joe Girardi said. “You can say it was easy to manage it before because I had 7-8-9 and I could use Boonie. The hard thing is when you don’t know what you have. I know what I have, and I know what I have to do, so you prepare for it. What it does is it changes how you use certain guys. I use Boonie a lot later than I would have. We’re just not as deep, and I have to be careful, because sometimes I might have to use three guys in one inning, in a sense, and you worry about using guys too much. It’s definitely different than what it was before, but it’s not a surprise every night. I know what I have to do.”
The key has been pitchers stepping into larger roles, from Rafael Soriano stepping into the ninth inning to Cody Eppley becoming an unexpected go-to relievers when there’s a right-hander at the plate and the Yankees need a ground ball. The team has been able to mix-and-match in some ways, but it’s also been able to simply slide pitchers into new roles. Soriano is the closer. Boone Logan and Cory Wade are the primary setup guys. Clay Rapada gets lefties, Eppley gets righties, Freddy Garcia is the long man and David Phelps is the jack-of-all-trades.
“I feel good when I do it in the ninth, or go in the eighth or the seventh with bases loaded sometimes with no outs, I like that,” Soriano said. “A lot of people don’t like it. Me, I like it. I love it.”
The Yankees knew they had a proven third-string closer in Soriano. Really, the key to making up for Rivera and Robertson has been carrying a lead into the ninth. It was depth that made the Yankees bullpen particularly special, and they’ve managed to maintain that largely because Wade and Logan have emerged as lock-down relievers. Between the two of them, they have 57 strikeouts and nine walks through 41.2 innings.
“I guess it’s a good thing, obviously,” Wade said. “To me whether it’s a strikeout or a ground out or a pop out, I don’t really care. I’m not going out trying to strike guys out. It’s just kind of happened. My job is to go get guys out as fast as I can.”
Associated Press photos