There were essentially two sets of Yankees transactions today.
Trading Vidal Nuno for Brandon McCarthy was one, and it did not really impact today’s roster. Nuno wasn’t going to pitch today anyway, neither is McCarthy, so that was basically a swap of two guys who have no immediate impact on the Yankees. The Yankees believe they’re getting a better pitcher, and the Diamondbacks are getting a cheaper one.
The second move was Bruce Billings for Alfonso Soriano. Billings is not here to start in place of Nuno, he’s here because the Yankees bullpen desperately needed a fresh long man. And to add that kind of reliever, someone had to go, and the Yankees decided Soriano was the most expendable piece.
“The taxing of our bullpen kind of forced us to make this move today, in a sense,” Joe Girardi said. “I’m not saying it wouldn’t have happened, but we decided we had to make it today.”
Soriano’s rise and fall has been well documented at this point. He was a remarkable addition late last season when he returned to New York and became a true impact hitter for about two months. This season, he broke camp as the Yankees regular designated hitter, but he began losing playing time to Ichiro Suzuki. And the less Soriano played, the worse he played. Early in the season he struggled quite a bit against right-handers, but he was still hitting for good power against lefties. When he lost those at-bats against right-handers, his numbers against lefties went down.
Considering Soriano is the only Yankees outfielder who brings typical power potential — and considering how well he played last season — there always seemed to be some hope that might get going and provide some much-needed pop, but it just never happened.
“It’s difficult because you’re not sure,” Girardi said. “Obviously with him not getting everyday at-bats this year, it was difficult. We came to spring training in a sense with five outfielders, then Beltran got hurt and he was playing every day. He never really got it going, he struggled against right-handers so Ich started getting more playing time. It’s just been tough.”
Any consideration to just playing Soriano every day for 10 days or so to see if he could get things rolling?
“That was talked about too,” Girardi said. “But his struggles against right-handers have been pretty evident. Defensively Ichiro is better. So it’s kind of a catch-22.”
• McCarthy does not have good numbers with the Diamondbacks, but he’s still just 30 years old and he’s been better recently. “McCarthy is an experienced starter that we expect to pitch well for us and give us distance,” Girardi said. “I know he’s had his struggles, but he seems to have turned it around. He has a good arm and we need him to help us.”
• Nuno was scheduled to start Monday. Obviously that won’t happen, and Girardi would not announce a starter for Monday’s game. The best guess seems to be Shane Greene, who would be on normal rest and has pitched a little better lately. Whoever it is, this could be a one-time spot start before McCarthy takes his spot in the rotation later in the week.
• Eventually, it seems likely the Yankees will add another outfielder. Zoilo Almonte might be the best bet as a left-handed power bat to get platoon starts against righties. Ichiro (who has reverse splits) could basically take the platoon at-bats against lefties. But there are other options down in Triple-A. Jose Pirela has played well, Scott Sizemore has hit lefties and Adonis Garcia just came off the disabled list.
• Here’s Girardi on when the Yankees might add a position player: “A lot of it depends on what happens with our pitching the next few days because it’s just been so taxed. We get a day where maybe we don’t have to use the bullpen a ton yesterday, but we go extra innings. We’ve had that a couple times here. In this long stretch, maybe we’ll stay with an extra guy in the bullpen.”
• Brian McCann had an MRI that came back clean. After taking batting practice on the field, McCann was added to the lineup in place of Francisco Cervelli. McCann seemed optimistic pregame before the lineup change. New lineup:
Brett Gardner LF
Derek Jeter SS
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Brian McCann C
Carlos Beltran DH
Brian Roberts 2B
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Kelly Johnson 3B
Associated Press photos