It’s been four months since Opening Day. Here’s the roster the Yankees rolled out on April 1. And here’s roughly the roster they’re going to use tonight.
C Brian McCann, 1B Mark Teixeira, 2B Stephen Drew, 3B Chase Headley, SS Derek Jeter, LF Brett Gardner, CF Jacoby Ellsbury, RF Martin Prado, DH Carlos Beltran
Three players from the Opening Day lineup — not the roster, the lineup — are not even in the organization at this point. Two have been released, one has been traded, and a fourth has been relegated to DH duty because of an elbow issue that is eventually going to need surgery. Most problematic, perhaps, is the fact that the Yankees the Nos. 3 through 6 hitters on Opening Day — Beltran, Teixeira, McCann and Soriano — have either significantly underperformed, battled health problems, or both.
Biggest change: If we’re talking batting order, it’s probably the move of Brett Gardner from the No. 7 hitter to the leadoff spot, where he’s been — almost without argument — the Yankees best position player. If we’re talking position in the field, it’s probably third base where the Yankees have traded away each half of their intended platoon in favor of a two-month rental.
Temporary change: Ichiro Suzuki does not appear in either the Opening Day lineup or tonight’s projected lineup, but he’s really been the Yankees regular in right field. Some of that is because he got off to a terrific start, some of that is because Carlos Beltran hasn’t been able to play the field, and some of that is because Alfonso Soriano was bad enough to get released.
Still unchanged: Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Derek Jeter have been the real everyday guys. None has dealt with a major injury, and each has played at least 95 games. None of those four has a spotless health record, but they’ve answered the bell all year.
C Francisco Cervelli, OF Ichiro Suzuki, INF Brendan Ryan, INF Zelous Wheeler (or OF Zoilo Almonte)
Hard to tell right now whether the Yankees will keep the right-handed Wheeler or the (essentially) left-handed Almonte as their four bench guy. Wheeler is more versatile and the better bet to pinch hit against lefties (maybe for Stephen Drew), but Almonte has more power and could conceivably make some starts in right field when Prado is playing the infield.
Biggest change: It’s definitely that last spot listed on the Opening Day roster. Yangervis Solarte emerged as the Yankees feel-good story of the first two months, and for a while it seemed the team might have stumbled upon a legitimate infield option for both the short term and the long term. When Solarte faded, though, the Yankees cashed in on his emergence to land a new third baseman.
Temporary change: There really haven’t been too many guys who have floated on and off the roster without making much of an impression. Scott Sizemore and Austin Romine certainly qualify — hard to remember Romine was even up this year — but certainly the in between bench player who had the biggest impact was John Ryan Murphy, who for a while looked like he might hit his way into keeping his job even after Francisco Cervelli got healthy again.
Still unchanged: Really, none of the bench guys has kept the same role all season. Cervelli was hurt for a while, Solarte was traded, Dean Anna was designed for assignment, and Ichiro Suzuki spent much of the season as an everyday player. Of those Opening Day bench guys, Ichiro is the only one who’s stuck around all year.
David Phelps, Brandon McCarthy, Hiroki Kuroda, Chris Capuano, Shane Greene
It’s a blood bath in here! I’m listing today’s rotation in order based on when they pitched coming out of the All-Star break. I guess you could make a case for any one of those top three being the current ace, but ultimately the Yankees have lost an sense of a No. 1 starter. Sabathia, Nova and Pineda didn’t last past the middle of May, and Tanaka hasn’t thrown a ball in basically three weeks. It’s a mess. But you already knew that.
Biggest change: Has to be the fact that there’s no way of saying who deserves the title of current staff ace. If any of the guys who are currently hurt were still healthy, there’s a solid chance that person would be considered the ace. Without them, though, the Yankees have gotten surprisingly strong starts out of a bunch of replacements. But they haven’t had a true No. 1 since Tanaka went down.
Temporary change: The guy with the fourth-most starts and the fourth-most innings on the Yankees this season is Vidal Nuno. Let that settle in for a second. Fifth-most starts is Chase Whitley, a guy who hadn’t even been a starting pitcher until the very end of last season.
Still unchanged: Remarkable, isn’t it, that Kuroda is the one member of the Opening Day rotation that’s stayed healthy. He was the old man coming out of camp, but he’s stayed in the rotation and actually gotten better as the season’s gone along. Worth noting, I suppose, that Derek Jeter (the oldest member of the Opening Day lineup) and Ichiro Suzuki (oldest player on the Opening Day bench) have also stayed healthy.
Dave Robertson, Dellin Betances, Adam Warren, Shawn Kelley, Matt Thronton, David Huff, Esmil Rogers (or maybe Chase Whitley)
I’m assuming Rogers is going into the bullpen and not into the rotation, and I’m assuming that the Yankees will continue to carry two lefties which probably means optioning Whitley down to Triple-A where his innings can be carefully monitored for the next month until September call-ups. Whitley’s pitched well enough to stay, but I’m just guessing he might be a victim of too many guys and too many innings. For the most part, though, the key people here have remained unchanged.
Biggest change: I tried to line up the Opening Day relievers in a rough pecking order as I remember it, and I really feel like Betances might have been behind Nuno when the Yankees broke camp. Girardi was pretty hesitant to trust the big guy early in the season — with good reason, I’d say — but Betances emerged as the absolute go-to guy before the ninth inning. That said, it’s also a pretty huge change that Phelps has gone from a pretty important reliever to a key starter.
Temporary change: A lot of guys have come and gone this season. Preston Claiborne, Matt Daley, Alfredo Aceves and Jose Ramirez each stuck around for a fairly extended period of time. The temporary change that might carry the most weight is that short stint when Shawn Kelley stepped into the closer role, which really forced the Yankees to find out what Betances and Adam Warren could do as setup men.
Still unchanged: Most significant thing that has stayed the same is probably the fact that neither Warren nor Betances has been moved back into the rotation despite all of the injuries. That said, the fact Dave Roberton lost the closer role only for a short amount of time while he was hurt is kind of remarkable. That guy came into the season under intense scrutiny and pressure, but he’s never left the Yankees tempted to make a change. He’s been one of the better closers in baseball.
Associated Press photos