As far as grabbing headlines goes, last night’s extra-inning affair provided plenty of drama and a perfect opportunity for Chase Headley‘s “welcome to New York” moment. As far as baseball goes, it once again showcased how pitiful this lineup is without Mark Teixeira in the middle of it. The Yankees managed a mere 2 runs in 14 innings of play last night. They’ve managed 4 over 23 innings in the last 2 games, and only 2 of those 4 were scored in 12.2 combined innings against no-name starters Miles Mikolas and Nick Martinez.
Another baseball-centric storyline that got swallowed up by the Headley walk-off was Kelly Johnson leaving the game in the 11th inning with a groin injury. Regardless of how you feel about his play, Johnson has been useful to the Yanks as a guy who can play multiple infield spots, bring some pop to the bottom third of the lineup, and act as Teix’s unofficially official backup at first base. The severity of Johnson’s injury isn’t known yet, but he’ll probably be out for the next few games minimum. Knowing that, and knowing how beat up Teix is, should the Yankees entertain the idea of calling up Kyle Roller?
For those unfamiliar with Roller, he’s a 26-year-old left-handed hitting first baseman who’s hit .301/.385/.554 with 19 home runs this season in 358 plate appearances divided between the 2 top MiL levels. Three-quarters of his time has been spent at Triple-A SWB, where he’s hit .274/.362/.470 with 10 of the 19 HR, a 10.8% BB rate, and a 30.2% K rate. At 6’1″/250, he’s no physical specimen and won’t make people forget about peak Teix with the glove at first, but he can play the position and he’s been playing it for most of the year. Of his 64 Triple-A games thus far, 42 of them have come at first while the other 22 have been at DH.
Roller would not be an ideal direct replacement for Johnson, but I’m not really looking at him that way. Even without Johnson, the Yanks have second, third, and short covered (using that term loosely) with Roberts, Jeter, Headley, Brendan Ryan, and Zelous Wheeler. I’m thinking of Roller as insurance for Teix, a true backup first baseman for a team that really needs one and is clearly suffering without one. Teix is going to need more time off eventually and could end up on the DL if this latest batch of rest and injections doesn’t help his strained lat. Maybe he SHOULD end up on the DL for 15 days to rest all his aches and pains.
If nothing else, Roller would be a natural first baseman who’s at least comfortable playing the position and at his best could come close to replicating Teix’s power presence for a short while. The Yankees haven’t had that at all and that’s probably the main reason we keep seeing Teix get shot up and run out there even when he’s not feeling all that great. If Johnson ends up on the DL, maybe it’s worth biting the bullet and putting Teix there too and calling up Roller and Scott Sizemore to replace them. There are easy moves that can be made to open a 40-man spot.
The Yanks have had success getting short-term production from their org depth this year, why can’t Roller be the latest to get that shot?