Mariano Rivera is lost for the year, and Dave Robertson is going to miss at least three weeks, Joba Chamberlain isn’t coming back any time soon and potential contributors like Pedro Feliciano and Cesar Cabral were hurt before they threw a single meaningful pitch for the Yankees.
Even so, the bullpen remains an absolute strength of this team, pieced together in — almost literally — every way possible.
Elite free agent signing
This was a big-ticket item that Brian Cashman swore the Yankees would never acquire. Ultimately, ownership decided to spend big to make Soriano the highest-paid setup man in baseball, and a move that seemed unnecessary and reckless at the time now gives the Yankees a proven closer even after the first and second options have hit the disabled list.
Trade with Atlanta
It was supposed to be the Javier Vazquez trade, but it’s quickly become the Logan and Dante Bichette Jr. trade (Bichette was the compensation pick when Vazquez became a free agent). Logan was secondary from the very beginning of his Yankees tenure, but he began to establish himself in the second half of 2010. He struggled through an extended stretch last year, but has emerged as a go-to setup man this season.
Mid-season minor league free agent
Wade took a chance last year when he opted out of a minor league deal with the Rays, but the Yankees signed him the very next day, sent him for one appearance in Triple-A and called him up to the big leagues. Ever since, the Yankees have been pushing Wade into more and more significant situations. His WHIP is the lowest on the team — lower, even, than Rivera’s was before he got hurt — and Wade’s paired with Logan to give the Yankees a surprisingly good bridge to Soriano.
Minor league starter
Had everything gone to plan, Phelps would have opened the season in the Triple-A rotation, but when Michael Pineda was hurt, a spot on the big league roster opened and Phelps beat out D.J. Mitchell for the job. He’s been on of the most surprising discoveries of the season. Shuttled from long relief to spot starting to a few situational appearances, Phelps might be the Yankees best find of the year.
Converted Major League starter
Moved to the pen May 2012
The Yankees didn’t sign Garcia to be a reliever. In early December, the Yankees gave him a one-year deal to add some depth and security to the rotation, and that seemed to be a brilliant decision when Garcia delivered a sharp spring training that suggested he just might repeat last year’s results. When he didn’t, Garcia was dumped into long relief, a limited role in which he’s actually pitched quite well.
Minor league free agent
The side-arming lefty was an afterthought, brought to camp just as pitchers and catchers were reporting to Tampa. By the middle of the Grapefruit League schedule, it became clear the Yankees would carry a second lefty, and the choice was between Rapada and the Rule 5 pick Cabral. Rapada won by default when Capral was hurt, but Rapada has since earned his keep by reliably handling left-handed hitters. His role is limited, but he’s done it effectively.
At the end of spring training, the Rangers needed to open a roster spot, and Eppley was the odd man out. The Yankees found him on the waiver wire and put in a claim because they liked his ability to get right-handed hitters and generate ground balls. Sent to Triple-A to open the season, Eppley’s been up and down but has become something of a go-to guy when the Yankees need a double play ball. He may be the odd man out when Robertson is healthy, but he hasn’t been treated as strictly a mopup man. Joe Girardi has used him in key spots and generally been happy with the results.
Associated Press photos