If you follow the Yankees minor league system closely, you probably knew Shane Greene’s name well before the start of spring training. Even if you follow it loosely, his breakout 2013 season likely put his name on your radar. If you only know the big names who appear on organizational Top 10 lists and national Top 100 lists, there’s a solid chance Greene has come out of nowhere.
Same for Chase Whitley earlier this year, and maybe Adam Warren last year, and David Phelps the year before that. Even Dellin Betances — whose name once filled plenty of prospect rankings — saw his prospect star fade so much that it became easy to believe he might never help the Yankees, much less make an All-Star team.
“When you’re not a Top 100 guy, you’ve got to earn it,” Whitley said. “(Greene) earned it, Phelps earned it, Warren earned it, I earned it, and (Betances) earned it from a resurrection, so he earned it too. Anybody, you get to the big leagues, you earn it. But you know what a mean, guys that aren’t Top 100 guys, it says a lot about (what it took to get here). You have to get outs. You have to perform. I had to perform to keep a job. Fifteenth round, not much (money) invested, I had to keep a job. That’s how I’m pitching here.”
As the Yankees head into their final game before the All-Star break — after Greene pitched so well yesterday, and knowing Whitley gets the ball tonight — I kind of wonder whether they could embrace an underdog persona in the second half. Their rotation cannot be completely rebuilt by the trade deadline, their bullpen is effective but inexperienced, and their lineup has earned plenty of doubters these past few months.
If the Yankees going to make a run, it will surely defy some expectations.
In their own ways, key pitchers like Greene, Whitley, Phelps, Warren and Betances have been underdogs for a while now. Certainly the same can be said for Zelous Wheeler, Yangervis Solarte and Zoilo Almonte. Brett Gardner has always had a kind of scrappy approach to the game, Dave Robertson has faced his share of ninth-inning doubters, and even all-star talents like Derek Jeter, Ichiro Suzuki and Brian Roberts are playing while many, many people doubt whether they can be productive lineup regulars at this point in their careers.
I have no idea whether these Yankees can play their way into the postseason, but I think it could be interesting to see them make a run as a team that most certainly will have to earn it.
“Everybody’s a big leaguer here,” Francisco Cervelli said. “Everybody can do the job. Just because we lost big names, it doesn’t mean the other guys cannot do it. We’ve just got to work. Work, have a good plan and just come ready to win, every game.”
Associated Press photo