Five new players, with a sixth on his way tomorrow. But don’t expect a drastic change in the way Joe Girardi arranges his lineup or uses his bullpen.
“Now is not the time to audition because we’re fighting to get in the playoffs,” Girardi said. “I’m going to use them if there’s an opportunity, but not to say, let’s just see what he does in this situation. I’m going to go with the guys who have been here for the most part.”
The Yankees have a third catcher in J.R. Murphy, a third lefty in Cesar Cabral, an extra infielder in David Adams, a long man in Brett Marshall and two additional right-handed relievers in Dellin Betances and Preston Claiborne — who will get here tomorrow when High-A Tampa’s season ends — and Girardi said he’s not expecting any more additions. I guess there’s a chance that someone will come off the disabled list, but the Yankees don’t seem to be counting on it.
For now, there’s additional depth, and that’s about it. Makes it a little easier to pinch hit for a catcher in a big spot, gives the team a chance to rest some players in blowouts, and it frees the Yankees to use David Huff as a situational reliever without saving him for long relief, but that might be the extent of the immediate impact.
Obviously the Yankees would like to see Betances build on his strong second half in Triple-A, and Cabral could be Boone Logan replacement next season, and Murphy is having a good year, but the Yankees have to hope they don’t get into a situation where this season becomes nothing more than an audition for next season.
“You try to pick your spots,” Girardi said. “As they succeed, maybe you put them in a little bit more difficult spot as time goes on. I don’t think you just throw them right in the fire right away, but you might get in a crazy game where you have to, but I think you try to let them get their feet wet, and give them more as you think they can handle it. … Just contribute any way they can, is the bottom line. It could be one hitter, one at-bats, play one inning. Any way you can help us out, that’s all we’re asking them to do.”
• Murphy and Cabral had to be added to the 40-man roster. To make room, Jayson Nix was moved to the 60-day disabled list and Melky Mesa was designated for assignment. Mesa has a ton of tools, but he’s just never cut down on the strikeouts enough to suggest he could have a significant role in the big leagues. Nice bench option with speed, power and defense, but a hamstring injury wiped out any chance of him coming up this month.
UPDATE: Yankees announced the Mesa move as a DFA pregame, but the official transaction lists it as an unconditional release. In this case, there’s not much difference. Pretty sure Mesa would have been a minor league free agent this offseason if he’d been DFA.
• Claiborne hasn’t been in the minors for 10 days, which is why he wasn’t recalled this morning. He was optioned to Tampa specifically because that season ends before Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s, and he can be called up immediately after his minor league season ends. So he’ll be here tomorrow.
• Murphy said he was already planning his trip home and was surprised by the call-up. He found out last night, called his parents, who managed to book a flight for this morning and will be here for his first big league game. Pretty cool. “Defensively I’ve made a lot of improvements,” he said. “I think consistency is the biggest thing at this level, that separates guys. Offensively, it’s a grind. It’s an up-and-down roller coaster. But defense is the most important, and I know that, so that’s my main focus.”
• Cabral is an interesting case. He almost made the big league team two springs ago, but he wound up missing the year with an elbow injury. This year, he was taken off the 40-man roster, resigned with the Yankees and has pitched well enough to get another look. Audition or not, he’s clearly a candidate for a bullpen job next season. “It’s very exciting because, you know, I worked for this a long time,” Cabral said. “Last year, I thought I was going to make the team and something happened with my elbow. I want to do my work right now because they give me an opportunity.”
• Not that this matters, but usually some of the September guys end up sharing lockers. This time, the Yankees have exactly enough lockers for everyone to get one. Betances got the best assignment, getting a spot between Derek Jeter and CC Sabathia. Huff moved from one of the side lockers usually given to short-term call-ups and tookover the locker that used to belong to Francisco Cervelli.
• No problem with Jeter, just getting a DH day. “Just moving it around,” Girardi said. “We’re going to see a bunch of lefties, so I can do that.”
• Alex Rodriguez is in the lineup for now, and the Yankees hope to keep him there, but they’re going to check with him a little later. “I talked to him and he feels better,” Girardi said. “But I want to see him, let him get through the BP and see how he does.”
• Eduardo Nunez is in the lineup for the first time since twisting his knee in Toronto. “He says he’s fine, so I expect him to be 100 percent,” Girardi said.
• Girardi on the way he’d like to see the September call-up rule changed: “I think you need to designate a number (of active players) every day. If it’s 25, it’s 25. If it’s 27, it’s 27. And I don’t think you should be able to take starting pitchers off that, so you have your five starters and you declare them. If you want to declare another reliever or another catcher or whatever you want to do, I think you should do that.”
Associated Press photos