Rich Hill’s debut with the Yankees on Tuesday night wasn’t exactly a lights-out performance.
The 34-year-old journeyman, who was called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after lefty specialist Matt Thornton was traded to the Washington Nationals, came in against the Detroit Tigers in the top of 11th with a man on and two outs, allowing a stolen base and a hit batsman before Joe Girardi had seen enough.
A small sample-size, clearly, but Hill has a track record of mediocrity at the big league level. Unless he finds something that has eluded him for the previous 10 years of his career, he probably isn’t the answer as Thornton’s replacement. The Yankees bullpen has been the team’s biggest strength, and at the moment, all of its key components are healthy. So, the question becomes: What should the pitching staff look like down the stretch?
The most tantalizing bullpen prospect is this year’s top pick Jacob Lindgren, who put up ridiculous numbers in college and has carried that over into his first pro season, posting a 0.68 ERA with 30 strikeouts in 13 1/3 innings. He’s already at Double-A Trenton and is on the fast track to the bigs, but will the Yankees consider him a legitimate option in the immediate future?
GM Brian Cashman said the lefty who is more likely to get the next crack at the pen is 24-year Tyler Webb, who was recently promoted to Triple-A and has strong strikeout numbers at every level. Either way, it’s a solid bet that Hill will be replaced at some point in the coming weeks.
Girardi mentioned yesterday that the Yankees would eventually like to get their pitching staff back down to 12 men. Recently, they’ve been carrying 13, which isn’t the norm for most major league clubs. Excluding the guys who are currently starting – and that could change if either Michael Pineda and/or Masahiro Tanaka returns – here’s what the Yankees ideal seven-man bullpen could look like down the stretch:
RHP David Robertson
RHP Dellin Betances
RHP Shawn Kelley
RHP Adam Warren
LHP David Huff
RHP Esmil Rogers
The first four are pretty obvious at this juncture – Betances, Kelley and Warren give Girardi a trio of relievers who have had success as set-up men in front of Robertson – and the Yankees have made a point of carrying two lefties for most of the season. Huff is atop the lefty pecking order at the moment, so it’s really a question of whether Webb or Lindgren can seize the other spot. The toughest call may be who is used as the long man. Chase Whitley has certainly done enough this year to earn a big league spot, but he has options and could easily be sent back to Triple-A. The Yankees made a point of acquiring Rogers at the deadline and he’s looked very good in his first few outings. If they had to pick one as the long reliever right now, my guess is that it would be Rogers.
What does your ideal pen look like?
Associated Press photo