Heading home after a road trip that felt much longer than three games. Some random thoughts as I get out of Cleveland this morning…
• Bullpen inconsistencies are inevitable, and the Yankees relievers have seen their share of ups and downs, but Dave Robertson and Rafael Soriano are about as reliable as they come in the eighth and ninth innings. If those two stay healthy and keep getting four outs apiece in big situations, they’re going to make a huge difference down the stretch.
• That said, Boone Logan is a key part of this bullpen. Clay Rapada and Cody Eppley are situational guys, Derek Lowe’s value comes as a long man and Joba Chamberlain can’t be counted on in key spots right now. Logan has to be the third go-to reliever, and he’s going to have to get some big outs on nights Robertson or Soriano won’t be available.
• Alex Rodriguez isn’t having a particularly good season by his standards, but we seem to be seeing just how important he is to this lineup. He brings some right-handed balance, and he’s still a significant presence in the middle of the order.
• This weekend seemed to be the return of Robinson Cano. He’s doubled in four games in a row now, and that two-week slump seems to be a thing of the past. Right now, Derek Jeter, Nick Swisher and Cano are a dangerous trio at the top of the order.
• If the playoffs started tomorrow, Phil Hughes would have to be the No. 3 starter, right? I know some people will never be sold on him, but I can’t imagine either David Phelps or Freddy Garcia getting that job ahead of Hughes right now. Question is (or questions are, I guess): Can Ivan Nova come back good enough to replace him? Can Phelps show enough to actually win that spot? How many September starts would Andy Pettitte need for the Yankees to feel comfortable using him as their No. 3 starter? What if Pettitte gets only one September start and looks awful?
• Random, non-baseball-specific facts about this road trip: Dispatch put out its first new studio album in 12 years, and Mark Teixeira tweeted something about the band Jackopierce, which led to a 15 minute conversation between the two of us about groups like Guster and Pat McGee Band. Somehow, my favorite bands when I was in college became a big part of this trip. That was fun for me.
• Three months ago I thought there was no chance of Nick Swisher being back with the Yankees next season. Now, I’m starting to think there’s at least a small chance. I think I would still bet against it, but I’m not longer willing to rule it out.
• I did not think Ichiro Suzuki would play this well.
• Here’s something some of you will love … At dinner with three other beat writers last night, someone brought up the question of who might start at catcher for the Yankees next season. Not one of us was willing to rule out Russell Martin. It’s a hard position to fill, and despite the batting average, Martin still does enough things well that I don’t think he’s off the table.
• I’m not sure there’s an especially exciting September call-up on the horizon. Honestly, the biggest impact call-up might be Eduardo Nunez, if only because he can run. I’d love to see Chris Dickerson get a call-up — he’s certainly earned it — but I’m not sure the Yankees will open a 40-man spot for him.
• Finally, without naming names, one of the Yankees beat writers was hit in the head by a television camera during a group interview with CC Sabathia on Friday night. How did the writer handle it? Let’s put it this way: Derek Jeter showed less emotion when he was nearly hit in the face by a fastball that same night.
See you all at Yankee Stadium tonight…
Associated Press photos