Possible Spot Opening Up In The Bullpen?

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and nowhere has that been more true than with the Yankees’ injury situations this spring.  Every time something good happens for a player, there seems to be something bad happening to another one to balance things out.  Derek Jeter gets back on the field at shortstop, Mark Teixeira‘s injury gets a more serious diagnosis.  Phil Hughes throws a sim game yesterday and comes away with no back problems, Clay Rapada remains on the sidelines with bursitis in his pitching shoulder.  Boone Logan throws a bullpen session without pain in his left elbow, but still acknowledges that there’s “something” going on there.

The Jeter and Teix situations are pretty set right now, but both Rapada and Logan remain up in the air as it relates to their availability and readiness for Opening Day.  Logan is scheduled to pitch in his first spring game sometime this week while there is no timetable set for Rapada’s return, and there could eventually be at least one spot open in the bullpen come April 1st.  As I mentioned yesterday, Cody Eppley isn’t lighting the world on fire right now and with the way a few other guys are pitching in camp he’s far from a sure thing to get Logan or Rapada’s spot if they become available.  Who else could sneak in and steal a spot on the Opening Day roster?  Glad you asked.

If the Yankees want to keep their “two LOOGY” setup, they could look to Francisco Rondon.  He was reassigned to MiL camp earlier in the month but was impressive in his five appearances, allowing just 1 ER in 7.0 IP with 7 strikeouts while showing the ability to pitch effectively to both righties and lefties.  I was a little surprised to see him sent down so early considering how well he was pitching, but with the Yankees already having their two LOOGYs set at the time maybe it was just a way for the coaching staff to familiarize themselves with Rondon for future reference.

If Rondon doesn’t get the call, they could look to another lefty still in camp in Vidal Nuno.  I also mentioned him yesterday as one of the big recent ST winners and him still being in big league camp is a testament to the impression he’s made on the coaching staff.  Like Rondon, Nuno has pitched well against both right and left-handed hitters and has the added bonus of being able to pitch multiple innings if needed.  It’s also worth giving a call to Josh Spence, who has some past Major League experience in San Diego and hasn’t allowed a run in 7 ST appearances.

In the event that Logan is ready to start the season, which looks like the more realistic option right now, the Yanks could decide to go with a righty and not have to worry about playing lefty-on-lefty matchups with their late-inning trio of Joba, D-Rob, and Mo.  The first candidate from the righty pool would probably be Shawn Kelley, the former Seattle Mariner who has looked solid in his six spring appearances.  He got roughed up for 3 ER in his last outing, but was scoreless in his first five and has yet to issue a walk.  Another name to keep an eye on is Preston Claiborne.  He’s been pretty unheralded in his MiL career despite advancing to Triple-A in less than three full seasons.  He was good but not great in 82.0 IP spread across Double and Triple-A last year and he’s allowed just a single ER with 8 strikeouts in his 8.0 IP so far this spring.  For what the Yankees are hoping will be just a temporary substitution, he could be a good option.

Rondon and Kelley are both already on the 40-man roster, but to add any of these other guys would require a roster move.  That could be easily accomplished by moving Cesar Cabral to the 60-day DL, but I’m sure the Yankees would prefer to not have to start juggling the 40-man spots this early in the year.  There’s still time left for Logan and Rapada to get healthy, at least healthy enough to pitch, but with the way they’ve been spinning their tires on that front it couldn’t hurt to be prepared to make other plans.  The Yankees aren’t short on capable arms and these are the exact kind of circumstances that they wanted those extra arms for.

Born in Dover, Delaware and raised in Danbury, Connecticut, Brad now resides in Wisconsin, where he regularly goes out of his way to remind Brewers fans that their team will never be as good as the Yankees. When he’s not writing for IIATMS and An A-Blog for A-Rod, he likes to spend his time incorporating “Seinfeld” quotes into everyday conversation, critiquing WWE storylines, and drinking enough beer to be good at darts.

6 thoughts on “Possible Spot Opening Up In The Bullpen?

  1. Can't we just pick the best reliever, regardless of handedness? This idea that we need to have LOOGYS and ROOGYS so that we can "matchup" in the sixth and seventh innings drives me nuts. I've seen right handers get lefties.out. I swear I have!

    And its not even like its "Oh no, here comes David Ortiz/Josh Hamilton/Ryan Howard! Get a lefty up!" We're playing matchups against Sam Fuld and Jeff Mathis and Sean Rodriguez.

    Besides the logic of having any crappy lefty for the sake of having a lefty making no sense to me, its beyond boring to watch.

  2. mcmastro

    IMO, bullpen pitchers need less time in the minors to develop because they don't have to be stretched out and they can focus on developing their stuff. Which makes me long for Mark Montgomery to be give the opportunity. Only problem is that he hasn't had a great spring with hitters hitting a high .294 against him. But i see no reason to give him more opportunities towards the end of spring, see what he does, and if he produces, give him the opportunity to start the season with the club.

    • Montgomery's BA against doesn't bother me nearly as much as his 6 BB in 4.2 IP does. He's easily the best relief prospect in the system right now, and I think once the trade deadline rolls around he'll be in line for a call up, but I'd prefer to see him prove he can continue to dominate like he has at Double-A and Triple-A and use that time to work on his command before throwing him into the show.

      • mcmastro

        The reason i don't have as much problem with the BB is because at the end of last year in the minors it looked to me as if he was much better with location. I know he CAN throw strikes and keep the walks to a minimum, i'd just like to see him be given more of a chance this spring and maybe earn a spot on the team.

  3. Michael

    Let Montgomery develop a little more in the minors. Theres plenty of guys who could fill in during the interim before his arrival. I thought Shawn Kelly was kind of a lock to make the pen. he did very well last year albeit in a pitchers park. How many pen guys do the Yankees plan on taking?

  4. Michael

    If Rapada and Logan both miss the start of the season and are placed on the DL (im assuming along with Cesar Cabral) wouldnt the pen be:

    Mo
    Robertson
    Joba
    Aardsma
    Kelly
    Rondon
    Long relief guy. Why not try Warren? or Nuno? I heard Cabral was a very intriguing arm but that was when the Yankees first acquired him. Sweeping slider and a low to mid 90s fastball. Dunno if injuries have sapped that from him though

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