As the Yankees head on the road to finish off this stretch of 20 games in a row — there are still seven games left, four in Houston and three in Los Angeles — their roster is in state of constant upheaval. Trying to make up for injuries, disappointing performances and one newborn baby, the team has cycled through a series of relief pitchers and a handful of bench players. The roster has seemed to change daily, and there’s most certainly going to be another change at some point today.
After yesterday’s game, the Yankees sent relievers Branden Pinder and Diego Moreno back to Triple-A. We already know one of those open roster spots will go to Stephen Drew, who’s coming back from the paternity list, but the other could be used for either a pitcher or a position player.
Here’s. look at some of the roster issues heading into this surprisingly important series against the much-better-than-expected Astros:
For the time being, the Yankees have just three bench players
Because of the unexpected Brendan Ryan injury, coupled with the Drew paternity leave, the Yankees actually played yesterday’s game with only two bench players. Safe to assume that will be remedied to some extent with Drew’s return this afternoon. Drew could have stayed on the paternity list until Friday, but he was back in the clubhouse yesterday and is expected to be in Houston tonight. With Drew, the Yankees will basically have a bench of Jose Pirela (the backup infielder), John Ryan Murphy (the backup catcher), and Garrett Jones (the backup outfielder/first baseman and possible left-field platoon with Chris Young). But there’s still an open roster spot, and it’s unclear whether the Yankees prefer to fill it with a position player or a pitcher. Normally, it would be a position player without a doubt, but the Yankees are in a bit of an unusual position following the return of Ivan Nova.
The Yankees are currently carrying six starters
Because they want to give all of their starters an extra day off, the Yankees are technically carrying a six-man rotation. Nova came off the disabled list yesterday, and the other five starters will pitch on five days of rest their next turn through the rotation. Extra rest makes obvious sense for a group of starters loaded with health and workload concerns, but it requires a sacrifice somewhere. To make a six-man rotation work, the Yankees will have to carry either a short bench or a short bullpen. Given the way they’ve handled the bullpen up to this point, it’s hard to imagine they’ll go with just six relievers. Then again, Girardi earlier in the week shot down the idea that he was definitely planning to carry a short bench, so maybe they feel covered in the bullpen with Chris Capuano and Bryan Mitchell able to go long. Whichever way they go — short bullpen or short bench — it should last only a few days until they’re ready to move someone — probably Adam Warren — out of the rotation and into the bullpen.
Even if they wanted a full bench, who would they call up?
Because the Yankees didn’t take advantage of the Ryan injury to let them immediately recall Ramon Flores, there’s really not an obvious option to fill a fourth bench spot right now. Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams are still hurt, and there’s really little point in carrying both Gregorio Petit and Pirela. The only other available position players currently on the full 40-man roster are Gary Sanchez (a Double-A catcher) and Tyler Austin (a right-handed outfielder who wouldn’t really have much of a role). Since it seems unlikely the Yankees are ready to give Rob Refsnyder the everyday job at second, it could be that they’ll simply wait for Jacoby Ellsbury to come off the disabled list before carrying the usual number of position players. That said, there’s not exactly an obvious pitching call-up on the horizon either.
Distance and durability concerns continue to impact bullpen decisions
Because the Yankees have not gotten consistent distance from their starting pitchers, there’s been a trickle-down effect on the bullpen, which has basically caused all of the up-and-down player movement we’ve seen lately. In the past 12 days, the Yankees have called up and/or activated nine different pitchers (Sergio Santos, Jose Ramirez, Jose De Paula, Mitchell, Pinder, Danny Burawa, Moreno, Nick Rumbelow and Nova). Mitchell was actually called up, optioned and called up again in that span. The long list of moves, though, hasn’t solved the key issues of getting more distance out of the starters and finding bullpen stability for the middle innings. Maybe Nova in the rotation, Warren (or someone else) in the bullpen and Andrew Miller (eventually) off the disabled list will finally fix those problems. For now, they linger, and they’re shaping an ever-changing roster.
It’s hard to tell who’s “next” on the list of impact call-ups
Because Refsnyder hasn’t hit enough to force the Yankees’ hand, and because Drew keeps hitting for good power in those rare moments when he gets a hit at all, it doesn’t seem that the Yankees are considering a change at second base. Their next impact additions to the outfield (Ellsbury) and bullpen (Miller) are more likely to come from the disabled list than the minor league system. So who will be the next young player to make his big league debut? The Yankees have had 10 players debut this season — most in the majors — but No. 11 might have to wait a while unless the Yankees have a trick up their sleeves today. Top prospects Luis Severino and Aaron Judge have each moved up to Triple-A and could be on the radar at some point, but an immediate call-up seems unlikely. Who else could be on the radar? Ben Gamel? Tyler Webb? Jaron Long? There’s not a no-doubt, next-in-line choice.
Associated Press photos
The Yankees are home again. They won’t be for long long — just four games before they’re right back on the road for another long trip — but they’re home with a record good enough for first place in the American League East. For the most part, the Yankees are playing well. Just last weekend they won a series at Fenway, but they’re also coming off a series loss in Toronto where there were plenty of reminders that this is a team with flaws and concerns. Here are five of them:
The problem: He was a staff ace for many years, but Sabathia’s now 0-5 with a 5.45 ERA. The Yankees haven’t given him much run support, and some outings have been perfectly solid and winable, but six starts means he’s roughly a fifth of the way into his season and the numbers aren’t pretty. Is he going to get much better than this?
The circumstances: With one more year plus a vesting option left on his contract, Sabathia isn’t a player easily dismissed. He’s also an unquestioned leader in the clubhouse, where players and coaches alike seem to believe him and support him even through his struggles.
The alternative: After another strong start yesterday, Bryan Mitchell now has a 2.59 ERA through six starts in Triple-A. He’s the most immediate rotation alternative should the Yankees decide to insert someone else, but Chris Capuano and Ivan Nova are progressing from their injuries and Masahiro Tanaka could be back around the end of this month.
The problem: Although he’s fourth on the team in home runs, Drew still has just 13 hits and a batting average far closer to .150 than .200. And those numbers aren’t simply a one-month problem. Drew basically hit like this — but with less power — through almost all of last season.
The circumstances: Signed to a buy-low, one-year contract, Drew seems to be the Yankees best defensive second base option, and until Brendan Ryan is healthy, he’s their only proven backup shortstop. For the time being, the question with Drew isn’t so much whether he should stay on the roster, it’s whether he should stay in the starting lineup.
The alternative: Yesterday the Yankees activated Jose Pirela, and Pirela immediately delivered two hits including a hustle double. While scouts don’t exactly love his glove — and he’s never been a huge prospect — Pirela does seem to have some offensive potential and could hit his way into regular at-bats.
The problem: Maybe it’s because he’s hardly played, but the bottom line is that Jones has hit just .152/.176/.242 which is good for the lowest OPS on the roster by a large margin. His expected backup role has been hardly necessary with Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez playing well.
The circumstances: Even if the Yankees found someone to put up better numbers, would that player get more at-bats than Jones is getting right now? He’s in the final year of his contract and the power potential exists. Is it worth putting a young player into such a limited role?
The alternative: Slade Heathcott and Ramon Flores are playing well and hit from the left side, but Kyle Roller (.278/.414/.481 in Triple-A) stands out as a Jones-type who could occasionally DH and maybe play some limited first base when either Rodriguez or Teixiera needs a day off. At this point, adding a player who can handle the outfield seems unnecessary with both Pirela and Chris Young on the roster.
The problem: Even with a couple of two-hit games in Boston, Beltran is still hitting just .195/.237/.310 with 22 strikeouts. It feels like a continuation of last year’s brutal second half and a spring training that wasn’t exactly encouraging.
The circumstances: As recently as 2013, Beltran was still a very good hitter. Even in April of 2014 he hit for power before the elbow issue that eventually required surgery. He has this year and one more on his contract, so moving on isn’t as easy as it was with Alfonso Soriano last season.
The alternatives: In the short term, the Yankees have Young putting up good numbers, especially against lefties. The Yankees could basically push Beltran into a platoon with all right field starts against lefties going to Young. They could also consider either Heathcott or Flores as young options from the left side.
The problem: In a bullpen full of guys with terrific numbers, Carpenter a 5.23 ERA that’s the second-worst on the team behind Sabathia. Carpenter’s pitched 11 times this season, rarely in high-leverage situations, and he’s twice allowed three earned runs.
The circumstances: Really, Carpenter hasn’t been all that bad, and I’m including him here only because he’s the guy with numbers that don’t look great in the pen. Other than those two rough outings, he’s been good. The Yankees, though, have a lot of good young relievers in Triple-A, and they have three starting pitchers looking to come off the disabled list. Something’s going to have to give eventually.
The alternatives: Despite the high ERA, right now it’s pretty hard to imagine Carpenter’s job is remotely on the line at the moment. Girardi hasn’t trusted him in big spots, though, and last year’s top draft pick Jacob Lindgren just made back-to-back appearances the past two days (so did Nick Rumbelow), and Jose Ramirez went back-to-back a week ago. Could be that the Yankees are preparing those young guys for a big league role in the not-so-distant future.
Associated Press photo
Bryan Mitchell is scheduled to make his fifth Triple-A start of the year tonight in Charlotte. It could leave him perfectly in line to make his big league season debut six days from now.
Even with Masahiro Tanaka on the disabled list, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he’d still consider inserting a sixth starter this next turn through the rotation. The Yankees play the next 17 days in a row, and team came into this season wanting to give extra rest to all of their starters, not only Tanaka.
“Right now we’re getting in another long stretch,” Girardi said. “But we’re a little thin with our extra starters, and we’ll have to make a decision whether we can do that or not. It’s something we’d like to do. I don’t know if we play 16 or 17 in a row. It’s something I would really like to consider doing in this next long rotation, but I don’t know if we’ll be able to.”
Mitchell’s schedule lines up nicely if the Yankees want to use a sixth starter either next week or the week after.
Because of today’s off day, every Yankees’ starter will naturally have an extra day of rest for his next start. If the Yankees want to give their starters an extra day of rest after that, they could easily insert Mitchell into the rotation Wednesday night in Toronto. He would be on five days rest, and his start would give the extra day of rest the rotation needs. Or, the Yankees could wait until the next turn through the rotation, let everyone pitch their next turn on normal rest, and insert Mitchell on May 11 against Tampa Bay.
Either way, Mitchell’s first opportunity of the year could be coming. His past two Triple-A starts have been terrific — 14 innings, six hits, two earned runs — and the Yankees might have used him instead of Chase Whitley on Tuesday had the schedule lined up differently.
“We’d try to spread out the two guys on the roster who had a little bit of experience in that (spot-start) situation,” Girardi said. “Knowing that at some point we were probably going to have to do it this turn and maybe the next turn, and then you see where you’re at after that. We wanted to set it up that way.”
Associated Press photo
At this time yesterday, Masahiro Tanaka has still not told the Yankees about his sore wrist. He hadn’t gone for the MRI that revealed a strained forearm, and he hadn’t received the diagnosis that spark renewed questions about his elbow and ability to avoid Tommy John surgery.
“When he came up and said his wrist hurt, I was like, wow,” Joe Girardi said. “Cause the starts were good, the bullpen session was good, and I wasn’t prepared for that. So that’s why I used the word a little shocked when I heard because everything had went great.”
Michael Pineda was actually supposed to throw a bullpen yesterday and Girardi stopped him in the early afternoon, explaining he might have to pitch today instead. And, of course, that’s exactly what happened.
After those first four starts this season, things were actually encouraging with Tanaka. He’d pitched especially well in the past two starts, and he’d complained of no soreness in his elbow or anywhere else. Now that we know the newest injuries, though, it’s hard to think of Tanaka in any other context. Sure, he was pitching well, but the Yankees have known for a long time that Tanaka’s capable of pitching well. But that’s only when he’s healthy enough to actually be on the mound.
“Is there concern? Of course there is,” Girardi said. “Anytime you have to shut a pitcher down, there’s concern. With what happened last year, I can’t tell you if they’re related or not, but you’re going to think about it. You’re going to think about a lot of different scenarios. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed and hope it’s not much, but we’ll deal with it either way.”
Initially, when Tanaka was only complaining about a little wrist soreness, Girardi was thinking it might be a two-week issue.
“My recommendation was kind of a DL there and he would come back as soon as those 15 days were up because you could back-date it,” Girardi said. “And we were already 5 or 6 days. So with the little bit of a strain (as well), it’s definitely DL.”
That’s the only thing that’s certain for now. Tanaka is definitely on the disabled list. How long he’ll stay there and how soon he’ll be back on it remains anyone’s guess.
• Would Girardi like to see Alex Rodriguez get No. 660 out of the way before this weekend’s series at Fenway? “It just might crowd our clubhouse a little bit more if he doesn’t,” Girardi said. “But it doesn’t matter either way. I’d prefer that he does it with two or three guys on today and gets it over with.”
• Even with another starter added to the disabled list, Girardi said he’d still consider using a spot starter during this next long stretch of games. Wonder if Bryan Mitchell might come up for a start in the next week or so.
• The Yankees have gotten eight scoreless innings out of their bullpen the past two days, but Girardi said the pen is still rested enough to handle today’s game. They’d like to get distance out of Michael Pineda, but it’s not a dire situation. “I think that’s important,” Girardi said. “But our bullpen’s OK. It helps that we have a day off tomorrow, I think that’s important. The only guy that I’d probably stay away from is Esmil.”
• Will the late change of plans impact Pineda today? “It shouldn’t be a factor,” Girardi said. “It probably won’t hurt him at all.”
• Around 10:30 this morning, Gregorio Petit walked into the Yankees’ clubhouse carrying the same bag he took out of the clubhouse yesterday. Teammates were laughing and offering hugs. A bizarre welcome back moment for a guy who barely left.
• Just a day off for Brett Gardner and Brian McCann against a left-handed starter.
• Because these seem a little more relevant now, here’s a quick update on Ivan Nova and Chris Capuano: Each one last pitched on Monday. Nova threw a simulated game, and Capuano pitched in extended spring training. Neither is ready to come off the disabled list just yet, obviously. “They did well,” Girardi said. “I’m not sure if the next step, because it was a shorter outing, if it’s Friday or Saturday.”
Associated Press photos
Austin Romine’s never come to spring training as a favorite. He’s competed for a job many times, had a chance to open plenty of eyes, but there’s always been someone ahead of him on the projected depth chart whether it was Chris Stewart or Francisco Cervelli or — this year — John Ryan Murphy.
How do we know Murphy was ahead of Romine coming into this spring? Because the Yankees left no doubt last season. Romine got a long look in 2013, but it was Murphy who got the extended opportunity in 2014. Romine got a couple cups of coffee last year, that’s it. He didn’t even get a September call-up when the roster first expanded.
“Last year was tough at the beginning,” Romine said. “It was tough to be, I don’t want to say forgotten. Not forgotten. Just, it’s a business. Stuff happens. Moves get made. You can’t blame people for that. It was tough in the beginning, but once I kind of settled in an figured out, I still have to play good baseball wherever I am. That’s basically what I told myself every day. It was rough for a little while, but I kind of got over it. I got my head down and I started working again.”
This spring, Romine came into camp recognizing it for what it is. It’s another opportunity, perhaps his last in this organization. Murphy might be the favorite, but Romine spent his winter at an intense training facility in California. He said he threw up after the first eight workouts. He ultimately lost 10 pounds, came to camp lean and strong.
He showed up to prove himself. He gets the start behind the plate today, which is another opportunity to do that.
“Everybody says they’re in the best shape ever when they come into spring training,” Romine said. “But I literally was. I wanted to be able to go into the office when they call me — if I’m going up or going down — and know that I gave it everything I had, because they deserve it. They’ve given me a lot, and I want to be the backup catcher to give back to them. They’ve put me in a position to be where I am in my life, so I feel like I owe it to them to give it everything I have.”
Neither Romine nor Murphy has had a particularly good spring at the plate. Murphy’s gotten going a little bit lately, but he still has just a .492 OPS. Romine has a .477. Romine is out of options. Murphy is not. Brian Cashman has said that’s a factor that could play into the decision of who wins the job. In a way, that gives Romine an advantage, if he can only show he’s worth another opportunity.
“I came in here with a plan,” Romine said. “And I’ve put myself in a good position to achieve that plan. I just keep my head down, and I keep working, and I get down what I need to get done. Hopefully I make this team. … I have no idea, no idea (what’s going to happen). Murph doesn’t either. No one does. We just keep playing. They’ll figure it out. That’s their job, so we just keep playing.”
• A reminder that CC Sabathia is pitching in a minor league game today while Scott Baker starts the big league game against Baltimore. Bryan Mitchell, who was originally scheduled to start against the Orioles, said he’s also going to pitch at the minor league complex.
• Tomorrow’s travel squad includes Esmil Rogers, who’s clearly making the trip to pitch out of the bullpen. That seems to be yet another sign that Adam Warren has won the fifth-starter job.
• It will be interesting to see how the long relief role plays out. Obviously Rogers is stretched out and could be one long man, but given the rotation concerns, the Yankees surely want another guy who’s capable of multiple innings. Baker and Chase Whitley are — in my opinion — the top candidates for that job ahead of Mitchell, who makes more sense as Triple-A rotation depth. While Baker is getting a chance to start today, Whitley is on the travel squad for tomorrow, obviously scheduled to pitch an inning or two of relief.
• Ivan Nova has now thrown four bullpens that have included breaking balls. He said his arm still feels great. He’s happy and encouraged by the way his Tommy John rehab has gone. All positive so far.
• Masahiro Tanaka and Adam Warren each threw a side today.
• Today’s scheduled relievers: Justin Wilson, Andrew Bailey, Chasen Shreve, Jacob Lindgren, Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller (with Nick Rumbelow, Danny Burawa, Diego Moreno and Tyler Webb listed as available just in case)
• Tomorrow’s travel squad to Kissimmee:
Pitchers: Danny Burawa, Nathan Eovaldi, Jacob Lindgren, Jose Ramirez, Esmil Rogers, Nick Rumbelow, Chasen Shreve, Chase Whitley
Catchers: Francisco Arcia, Kyle Higashioka, John Ryan Murphy, Eddy Rodriguez, Austin Romine
Infielders: Stephen Drew, Cole Figueroa, Jonathan Galvez, Didi Gregorius, Chase Headley, Nick Noonan, Rob Refsnyder, Alex Rodriguez, Brendan Ryan
Outfielders: Ramon Flores, Slade Heathcott
From minor league camp: RHP Cesar Vargas, RHP Nick Goody, LHP Fred Lewis, INF Dan Fiorito, OF Ben Gamel, OF Aaron Judge, OF Michael O’Neill
Associated Press photos
Scott Baker was scheduled to pitch multiple innings of long relief this afternoon, but the game was called in the sixth, and so the Yankees will instead have Baker start tomorrow’s game against Baltimore.
CC Sabathia will pitch in a minor league game tomorrow.
“We wanted (Baker) to go long,” Girardi said. “I called him in before that (last) inning and I said, ‘We’re going to wait, because we don’t want you to go just an inning or a half an inning and all of a sudden it starts pouring and they call the game.’ So he’ll start tomorrow.”
The original plan was to have Bryan Mitchell start tomorrow’s big league game. The Yankees don’t want Sabathia to do it because they’re facing the Orioles, and the Yankees would prefer to keep Sabathia out of a game against a division rival. Prioritizing Baker could be a sign that he’s still heavily in the mix for a long relief role.
After a rough spring debut, Baker pitched well against the Mets on Sunday (4.1 innings, one hit, no walks). It’s at least a little curious that the Yankees let Chase Whitley — another long relief candidate — pitch just one inning last time out but preferred to make sure Baker gets a multiple-inning appearance.
Would it make sense to carry Baker as a long man out of camp, while sending both Whitley and Mitchell to Triple-A to stay stretched out as rotation depth (making them potential candidates for spot starts whenever the Yankees want or need a sixth starter)? Opening a 40-man spot for Baker shouldn’t be tough, especially with Ivan Nova and possibly Chris Capuano being obvious 60-day disabled list candidates.
Associated Press photo
The Yankees have one starting pitcher with a torn elbow ligament, another with a surgically repaired knee, and another who’s dealt with shoulder issues for three years now. Yet it’s the veteran No. 5 starter who hurt himself earlier this spring.
In the lineup, they have a right fielder coming back from elbow surgery, a first baseman who couldn’t stay on the field last season, and a designated hitter who’s approaching 40 and hasn’t played in more than a year. Yet it’s the reliable center fielder who spent the past week in the trainers’ room.
“I guess all I can tell is just how I feel each and every day,” Jacoby Ellsbury said this morning. “But until I swing a bat, until I throw, until I do really explosive stuff, that will be the real test. But it does feel better each and every day.”
Ellsbury has a mildly strained oblique. The injury was supposed to keep him out of the lineup a couple of days, but he’s now gone a week without baseball activities. Ellsbury remains confident he’ll play on Opening Day, and for now it seems to be more bump in the road than significant concern. The Yankees have to hope it stays that way, because Ellsbury might be their most dependable position player.
“If not the most important, one of the most important guys on our team and definitely in our lineup,” Alex Rodriguez said. “He is certainly one of the guys that I’m super excited about coming back. He’s kind of a rock star and he has a lot of skills. He reminds me of a very skilled point guard in baseball. He can do a lot of things very well, and I hated to play against him because he was so dangerous.”
While Ellsbury has a history of injuries, his two most significant were the product of collisions and not some chronic health problem. Just last spring he missed the last two weeks of Grapefruit League games with a calf injury, but he still opened the season with a strong month of April.
“Coming into the season I felt pretty good,” he said. “I got some at-bats across the street and everything. I felt pretty good. I felt like I was seeing the ball, tracking pitches. And I felt pretty good a couple of days ago in the games with that (before getting hurt). Hopefully I should get some at-bats before we break.”
The Yankees know they have some health and age concerns in their lineup, but Ellsbury’s not supposed to be the one having problems.
“He’s such a unique talent,” Rodriguez said. “You don’t see talent like that come around very often. … There’s a lot of things that I admire about his game and I look forward to hopefully driving him in this year.”
• The Yankees lost 7-6 this afternoon, but it’s hard to blame Chris Young. The Yankees fourth outfielder had a pair of home runs in the loss. The Yankees gave him another turn in center field today, though it seems more likely he’ll play some sort of platoon role in the corners. “The entire goal is just to be ready for whatever,” Young told MLB.com. “Be prepared for whatever situation is going to get thrown my way.”
• Young starter Bryan Mitchell was charged with two runs through 3.1 innings. Both runs scored after he left the game, but Mitchell allowed his share of base runners with four hits and three walks. His stuff is impressive, and the Yankees keep saying he’s still in the fifth-starter mix, but Mitchell also has a 7.36 ERA and 2.18 WHIP this spring. It’s only 7.1 innings total — hardly defines Mitchell as a pitcher — but in the short term, it suggests he’ll likely be on the outside looking in. “This is a young man with good stuff,” Joe Girardi said after the game. “It’s learning how to pound the strike zone with that good stuff and learning how to put guys away that is going to be a factor for him. I think this kid’s got a pretty high ceiling, I do. There’s stuff there.”
• Speaking of the fifth starter: Esmil Rogers gets the start tomorrow, and it sounds like Adam Warren might pitch on Thursday. Girardi said today that he’d like to have the fifth starter spot ironed out by the end of the week.
• Four relievers got in today’s game. Chasen Shreve allowed an RBI hit to a pitcher, Jose Ramirez — who’s already been sent down — struck out three but also was charged with a run, and Kyle Davies took the loss after allowing three runs in the seventh. The one pitching standout for the day was young Jacob Lindgren, who’s been terrific all spring. He’s flown remarkably under the radar, but he’s still around and still has terrific numbers.
• Brian McCann hit his second home run of the spring. He also threw out Bryce Harper trying to steal second on a pitch out. … John Ryan Murphy had two hits but is still hitting just .185 this spring. It was also a two-hit day for Rob Refsnyder (including a double). … As planned, Brendan Ryan got another turn at shortstop. He also got some at-bats as a designated hitter yesterday. Despite missing time with that back injury, Ryan still seems fairly secure in his spot on the Opening Day roster.
Associated Press photos
Spring Game 22: Yankees at Nationals • 03.23.15
RHP Bryan Mitchell (0-1, 9.00 in spring training)
Yunel Escobar 2B
Ian Desmond SS
Bryce Harper RF
Ryan Zimmerman 1B
Wilson Ramos C
Clint Robinson LF
Michael Taylor CF
Drew Ward 3B
Doug Fister P
RHP Doug Fister (0-0, 3.24 in spring training)
TIME/TV: 1:05 p.m., MLB Network
WEATHER: Looks like the rain will hold off enough to give them a fighting chance.
UMPIRES: HP Paul Nauert, 1B Gary Cederstrom, 2B Hunter Wendelstedt, 3B Ed Hickox
TODAY’S SECOND STRING: C Austin Romine, 1B Francisco Arcia, 2B Dan Fiorito, SS Cole Figueroa, 3B Jonathan Galvez, LF Tyler Austin, CF Ramon Flores, RF Slade Heathcott, DH Eddy Rodriguez
TODAY’S SCHEDULED RELIEVERS: Kyle Davies, Jose Ramirez, Jacob Lindgren, Nick Rumbelow, Chasen Shreve
ADVANTAGE YANKEES: Looks like the Nationals are going to play without a DH, but still let the Yankees use one.
UPDATE, 2:34 p.m.: The Yankees have tied the game at 4 on a Chris Young home run in the fifth. Brian McCann also has a home run in this game, and Rob Refsnyder already has two hits including a double. Bryan Mitchell was charged with two runs in 3.1 innings, though both scored after he left the game (they came on a two-run single by Nats pitcher Doug Fister off Yankees reliever Chasen Shreve).
UPDATE, 3:24 p.m.: Chris Young has his second homer of the game and the Yankees are up 6-4.
UPDATE, 3:47 p.m.: Well, that didn’t last. Three runs off Kyle Davies in the bottom of the seventh and it’s now 7-6 Washington. Couple of big doubles that inning.
In the past four days, the Yankees have sent seven pitchers to minor league camp. As of yesterday, they’ve now gotten every non-rehab pitcher into a spring training game. They have Esmil Rogers starting tonight, Adam Warren starting tomorrow, and Bryan Mitchell scheduled for at least one more start this spring.
“The competition’s on now, in a sense,” Joe Girardi said. “These guys are competing for jobs. Even if they felt it before, this is when we’re really going to start playing attention.”
Now’s the time to start ironing out the pitching staff. Assuming health — a big assumption, but best we can do so far — the Yankees seem to have 10 pitchers locked into one role or another.
That leaves the Yankees with two spots to fill. Could be a starter and a reliever. Could be a pair of relievers. Could prioritize the need for a long man. Could lean toward adding another lefty.
“I think a lot of these guys have thrown pretty well,” Girardi said. “You look at the amount of runs we’ve given up in spring training, we haven’t given up too many. Is it a clear-cut? No, but we still have two and a half weeks to go, and I think that’s the important thing.”
Here are the options still in big league camp (I’m not counting either Ivan Nova or Vicente Campos, each of whom is in camp but working back from Tommy John surgery):
All five of these could be long relievers in the bullpen, could be fifth starters in the rotation, or could be spot starters when the Yankees want to give everyone else an extra day of rest. The one who might not be totally flexible is Mitchell, not because he can’t pitch out of the pen, but because he’s young enough with a high-enough ceiling that the Yankees might prefer to keep him working as a starter no matter what. He’s the only one of this group who seems in line to get another start this spring, but the smart money seems to be on either Warren or Rogers getting that open rotation spot. Could certainly be room for another long man in the pen, though, and one of these could take that job.
Right-handed relievers (7)
Jose Ramirez, Chris Martin, Jared Burton, Danny Burawa, Andrew Bailey, Nick Rumbelow, Wilking Rodriguez
The Yankees have loaded up on hard-throwing right handers, including one (Branden Pinder) who’s already been sent down to minor league camp. Burton and Bailey are the veterans of this group, though it’s hard to know whether Bailey has time to prove he’s ready for Opening Day. Rumbelow and Rodriguez are non-40-man players, though Rodriguez did pitch in the big leagues a little bit last season. Ramirez and Martin each also pitched in the big leagues last season, and Burawa was added to the 40-man this winter. Really, each of these guys has pitched pretty well so far. Rumbelow and Martin have a lot of strikeouts, and at various points Girardi has specifically said he’s been impressed by those two and Ramirez.
Left-handed relievers (2)
Chasen Shreve, Jacob Lindgren
The Yankees brought six left-handed relievers into camp. Two are basically guaranteed spots in the bullpen (Miller and Wilson) and two have already been sent to minor league camp (James Pazos and Tyler Webb), which leaves two guys still fighting for spots on the roster. Might not be an overwhelming need for three left-handers in the bullpen, but none of the Yankees’ lefties have to be true left-on-left specialists, and so far both Shreve and Lindgren have looked sharp in big league camp. Shreve is on the 40-man roster and got some big league experience last season, which might give him a leg up on Lindgren, who was drafted just last season.
Associated Press photos
Joe Girardi said the Yankees don’t have a full prognosis for Chris Capuano just yet, but it’s pretty clear he won’t be ready for Opening Day.
“I’d be surprised if he’s not down for a while,” Girardi said.
That leaves the Yankees sorting through a bunch of options for the fifth starter spot. Capuano might not have had the job locked up heading into camp, but he seemed to be a heavy favorite. Now the job is wide-open with a series of relievers, prospects and minor league free agents fighting for the gig.
“We’ll look at everyone, that’s the bottom line,” Girardi asid. “Because we need to fill a spot now.”
Adam Warren has a start coming up on Friday and Esmil Rogers has one on Saturday. Earlier today, Brian Cashman sounded impressed by Rogers, and Girardi seems to feel the same way.
“He’s thrown the ball really well,” Girardi said. “Larry (Rothschild) worked with him long and hard last year during some bullpen sessions about changing a few things. I thought he pitched pretty well for us. He’s started in his career and he’s got a number of pitches he can go to. He’s been really good this spring. He’ll be one of the guys we’re really looking at.”
Here are eight guys who could fill that spot in the rotation (though some of them are candidates only in theory):
1. Adam Warren
In my mind, the current favorite of this group. After a breakout season as a late-inning reliever, Warren was told to prepare as a starter this spring, and he’s been stretched out for a situation just like this one. He started the spring opener, has yet to make a relief appearance, and is currently scheduled to make his third spring start on Friday. He’ll have three starts before anyone else on this list has two.
2. Esmil Rogers
Earlier this spring, Joe Girardi said he thinks of Rogers much the same way he used to think of David Phelps. And really, if Phelps were still here, he’d surely become a quick favorite for this rotation opening. Rogers’ numbers have never quite measured up to his raw stuff, but he pitched well as a starter this winter and the Yankees have him scheduled for a season spring start on Saturday.
3. Chase Whitley
In his very first press conference of the spring, Girardi mentioned Whitley unprompted as a candidate to be either a long reliever or a spot starter. He’s pitched five scoreless innings so far this spring, and while he got himself into significant trouble last time out, he also got out of jams with a series of ground balls. Put himself on the radar with a strong big league debut before fading late last season.
4. Bryan Mitchell
Looked excellent in a split-squad start earlier this spring, then was knocked around for four runs on seven hits through two innings this afternoon. Mitchell has great stuff — fastball gets up to 97, effective curveball, relatively new slider/cutter — but his minor league results have been inconsistent. Seems to have a big enough arm that he could impress and pitch his way into this job.
5. Luis Severino
There is surely a lot of desire to think of Severino as a favorite, I’m just not sure there’s much reason to do so. He’s looked great in his early spring outings, but he still has just six games of experience above Class-A ball. Perhaps he can dazzle the rest of the way and force the Yankees’ hand, but he seems more like a second-half possibility. Strep throat has knocked his spring schedule slightly off track.
6. Scott Baker
Strongest track record of anyone on this list, but it’s also been a long time since his last particularly good big league season. Baker was a mainstay in Minnesota before having extensive Tommy John surgery — had to repair the tendon as well — back in 2012. Had a rough spring debut on Saturday. Had a 1.19 WHIP (with a 5.47 ERA) in 25 appearances for Texas last season.
7. Kyle Davies
Like Baker, Davies is a big league veteran in camp on a minor league deal. Unlike Baker, Davies hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2011 and the Yankees have not yet given him a start this spring. Seems far more likely to be a veteran presence in Triple-A, but have to mention him as an experienced candidate who’s played this sort of role before.
8. Jose De Paula
Like Davies in that he’s a candidate in theory only. Unlike Davies, De Paula’s candidacy has nothing to do with big league experience and everything to do with a spot on the 40-man roster. He’s never pitched in the big leagues, but the Yankees gave him a big league contract this winter. He pitched two scoreless inning in his only spring appearance so far, but that was a relief outing.
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