Yankees manager Joe Girardi has yet to name a closer for this season. Hopefully, it stays that way.
Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances are the two big arms for the back end of the Yankees bullpen and Wednesday was a glimpse in how they should be used this season. Girardi brought in Betances, a righty, to face the Toronto Blue Jays’ big right-handed bats in the heart of their order in the eighth inning: Russell Martin, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. Miller, a lefty, finished the ninth in order.
Betances didn’t pitch a clean inning, giving up two walks, but he was brought in when New York was down 2-1 in the eighth to keep the Yankees within striking distance. Even though an unearned was given up on Brian McCann’s throwing error, the Yankees still had life, and they took advantage of it the next inning by scoring three runs.
The key is that Betances and Miller knew their roles heading into the game based on the lineup. They were given the task of facing specific batters and not specific innings they were going to pitch.
Had Bautista and Encarnacion batted in the ninth, there is a good chance Betances would have thrown then instead.
"They want us to be flexible," Miller told reporters after the game. "It's my job to be flexible because they asked for that, and I think that makes perfect sense. I'm perfectly satisfied with the way that they've prepared us. It's our job to get outs when called upon. That's all we know."
Miller earned just his second career save, but it would be nice see that stat abandoned for the Yankees this season. Rather, Girardi should continue to use his best pitchers in high-leverage situations late in games, holding leads or keeping a game close without concern for who should get a save.
It’s easy to fall in love with the idea of having a set closer. New York had been spoiled with one of the greatest ones for more than a decade. But with a new look to the bullpen, it’s time for a new way to use it efficiently.