Mark Teixeira is scheduled for seven innings and seven at-bats in extended spring training today, Dave Robertson is scheduled to pitch on inning, and Brendan Ryan is scheduled for his first game action. Tomorrow, the Yankees are expected to finally activate Teixeira and make their first of three upcoming roster decisions as players begin to come off the disabled list. Here are the decisions that lie ahead.
It has to be either Dean Anna or Scott Sizemore who’s cut loose, correct? It won’t be Derek Jeter or Kelly Johnson, Brian Roberts is healthy again, and Yangervis Solarte has been too good. So which is more valuable to the Yankees right now? Do they prefer Anna, a left-handed shortstop who’s been a nice fit as an occasional spot starter when Derek Jeter rests against a right-handed starter? Or do they prefer Sizemore, who gives the Yankees some right-handed balance and could fit as a platoon second baseman or third baseman against lefties?
The right-handed bat would be welcome on this left-leaning roster, but Sizemore would also give the Yankees yet another 2B/3B, positions that are already covered by Johnson, Roberts and Solarte vying for regular playing time (plus Anna if necessary). Anna is yet another left-handed hitter, but the Yankees seem to believe he’s a better shortstop than Solarte (who actually played only 30 games at short during his eight-year minor league career). Joe Girardi said yesterday that he would be OK using Solarte at shortstop “in a pinch,” which didn’t sound like a ringing endorsement of Solarte as the go-to backup to Jeter.
Opening a bullpen spot for Robertson might be a matter of availability above all else. With Vidal Nuno likely to start tomorrow’s series finale at Tropicana Field, the Yankees will likely be without Nuno for a few days no matter what. Even if he could be available again after three days of rest, is it worth being a man down for the first two games of next week’s series at Fenway, or does Nuno need to be optioned simply to give the Yankees a full set of arms?
If not Nuno, then who? The other obvious move was Cesar Cabral who, even on his best days, was still pretty limited to strictly left-on-left opportunities. If the Yankees don’t want to move Nuno, would they demote Matt Daley after just a two-game call-up? Hard to imagine the Yankees getting rid of any of their other right-handed relievers if only because Shawn Kelley, Adam Warren, David Phelps and Dellin Betances each seem to be pretty clearly ahead of Daley on the bullpen pecking order.
After simulated at-bats yesterday, Ryan is supposed to join Teixeira and Robertson — who’s pitching an inning — in today’s extended spring training game. It will be Ryan’s first real game experience since hurting his back in spring training, and the Yankees have said they’d like Ryan to get 40 to 50 at-bats before being activated. That sounds like a lot, but he can pretty easily get four or five at-bats a day, maybe more, with the loose rules of extended spring training. Ryan said yesterday that he hopes to be activated in 10 days to two weeks.
Who goes when Ryan comes back could be a matter of who’s active. If everyone stays healthy, it seems logical that Ryan will take the place of either Sizemore or Anna (whichever survives Sunday’s move to activate Teixeira). Ryan will almost surely takeover as the backup shortstop, and he could become a late-inning defensive upgrade at basically any infield position except first base. It would seem to take a pretty unexpected and dramatic slide for Solarte’s spot to become insecure, and Roberts also seems relatively safe as long as he stays healthy.
Associated Press photos