The Yankees are expected to make some sort of move today. This season, they have already used nine different players who opened the season in the minor league system (they’ve called up 10, but Dellin Betances came and went without getting in a game). In many cases, the call-ups weren’t to the players you might have been keeping an eye on during spring training.
Called up: April 27 to replace Francisco Cervelli
Surprise? Romine hasn’t been overshadowed since Jesus Montero was traded, so it was no surprise he got the call when Cervelli went down. Romine’s not the biggest catching prospect in the system, but he was the obvious choice for a promotion. The only thing that might be surprising is how little he’s played, and how little he’s hit in trying to force more at-bats. Romine just nine at-bats as the Yankees were clearly determined to send their most advanced catching prospect back to the minors for regular at-bats when the season started. Now they’ve shown little faith that he’s ready to be an everyday big leaguer.
Called up: April 27 to replace Ivan Nova (again May 17 to replace Andy Pettitte)
Surprise? Two years ago, the idea of Nuno being the first pitcher promoted this season would have been stunning. He was thoroughly off the radar before a strong showing in Double-A last season, and he further put himself on the map with a 0.61 ERA in big league camp this spring. Nuno was kind of a wild card entering spring training. It was tough to know whether last year’s results were repeatable, and whether a light-throwing former independent league pitcher could legitimately handle advanced hitters. He’s been outstanding and might be back for a third big league stint if he weren’t on the disabled list.
Called up: April 30 to replace Kevin Youkilis (and again to be the 26th man for a doubleheader)
Surprise? Maybe based on his poor showing in spring training, but Joseph was pretty firmly on the radar after he hit .276/.375/.465 between Double-A and Triple-A last season. He might have had a chance to break camp as a big league bench player, but he hit just .200, showed very little power and played spotty defense in spring training. His first big league call-up came and went without an at-bat, but he was helpful during that doubleheader split in Cleveland.
Called up: May 3 to replace Joba Chamberlain
Surprise? Yeah, I’d say so. Not that Claiborne was a complete unknown, but he was significantly overshadowed by Mark Montgomery, and when Chamberlain went on the DL, the assumption seemed to be that Montgomery would get the call-up. If not him, maybe the more experienced Sam Demel. But the Yankees went with Claiborne, who had opened eyes with his 1.13 WHIP in big league camp. He’d been one of the last cuts, so the big league staff got a good look at him, and the Yankees seemed to look beyond the fact he’d given up quite a few hits in Triple-A. He’s been terrific since coming up. In most ways, he’s really outpitched Chamberlain.
Called up: May 13 to provide a fresh arm in a doubleheader
Surprise? His numbers have not been particularly good this season, but Marshall put himself in position for a call-up with his strong 2012 season in Double-A. That’s what won him a spot on the 40-man and put him one step away from the big leagues. It probably helped that he pitched well in spring training. When the Yankees needed a fresh arm, Marshall was available, and he helped out by eating innings on the day Phil Hughes couldn’t pitch out of the first. He has not had a good season in Triple-A, but it’s hard to say it’s a surprise that he’s played a temporary role in the big leagues.
Called up: May 15 (when he was finally eligible) to replace Chris Nelsonhit
Surprise? Considering he was released at the end of spring training, I’d say there was some element of surprise to the Adams call-up. By the time he was actually promoted it was pretty much known and expected, but for a while there, Adams seemed more myth than reality. A lingering ankle injury basically cost him two seasons, a stubborn back forced him to miss all of big league camp this spring, and there were real questions about whether he would be healthy enough to actually play a role. But Adams got back on the field, hit .316 in Triple-A, and got a call-up on the first day he was eligible.
Called up: June 14 to replace Kevin Youkilis
Surprise? Absolutely. His strong Triple-A numbers made him an obvious candidate for promotion, but when Neal arrived in big league camp he was way off the radar. He wasn’t an internal prospect like Ronnier Mustelier, Melky Mesa or Zoilo Almonte, and he wasn’t an experienced veteran like Matt Diaz or Juan Rivera. He was just another guy, easy to overlook. But Neal hit .289/.373/.444 in big league camp, then had similar — better, even — success in Triple-A. If you’d said four months ago that Neal would be the first outfielder called up, it would have seemed unlikely. By the time the move actually happened, it made sense.
Called up: June 14 to replace Adam Warren
Surprise? This guy wasn’t even invited to big league camp, and his minor league signing seemed to go completely unnoticed until his name showed up on the list of workout groups at the minor league complex. Not only do the Yankees have a pretty decent amount of upper-level pitching prospects, their spring signing of Chien-Ming Wang all but wiped out any chance of a Bootcheck call-up. But Bootcheck pitched well in Triple-A, and Nuno got hurt, and Wang had an out in his contract, and the Yankees needed a fresh long man, and just like that, Bootcheck was in the Yankees clubhouse. He is perhaps the perfect example of a player no one would have expected in spring training actually getting an opportunity.
Called up: June 18 to replace Mark Teixeira
Surprise? If he’d done much in spring training, Almonte might have had some chance of breaking camp on the major league roster. Ultimately, though, this sort of call-up is exactly the kind of thing that seemed possible or even likely when Almonte showed up in spring training. Coming off a strong Double-A season, Almonte had a spot on the 40-man and seemed like a natural mid-season fill-in. What hurt him was being a switch hitter who’s best from the left side. For a while, that sort of hitter seemed like a bad fit — too many lefties already in the mix — but with so many players hurt, a door opened, and Almonte wasted little time making a strong impression.
Associated Press photos