On Monday, I wrote about the possibility of Jordan Montgomery landing a spot on the opening roster. However, I failed to tell the whole story by ignoring his candidacy as a reliever. After all, there are a few uncertain roles up for the taking in the bullpen. While it's pretty clear that Montgomery is doubtful to crack the rotation at the beginning of the season, there is a chance that he breaks camp as a reliever.
If the Yankees only carry four starters to begin the season (as discussed in the precursor to this piece), they'll have an eight man bullpen come the opener against the Rays. Of the 12 pitchers on the staff, only seven spots can be penciled in: Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, and CC Sabathia as starters; Adam Warren in an undetermined role; and Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, and Tyler Clippard in the bullpen. That leaves five open spots for the taking. There's no shortage of competition for them.
The fallout of the rotation competition will likely yield two relievers for those five available spots. Hypothetically, Luis Severino could be the fourth starter while Bryan Mitchell and Adam Warren join the bullpen. With Warren already accounted for, adding Severino and Mitchell whittle the pool down to three.
Joe Girardi will probably have a situational lefty in his bullpen too. I considered putting Tommy Layne in the guaranteed to make the team group, but I wouldn't say he's a slam dunk. I'm comfortable saying he's more likely than not to be with the team come opening day, so let's say he wins this spot. That brings us down to two openings.
The last two spots come down to roster construction philosophy. In my example, the bullpen already has its late inning relievers (Chapman, Betances, and Clippard), a specialist (Layne), and two swingmen (Warren and Mitchell). The front office could add another lefty and a long reliever or include another middle reliever or two. The last two spots can be quite flexible.
One of those final two vacancies could go to the fifth starter, who could be used strictly as a long reliever until making a start on the 16th. This could be a role for someone like Severino or Green, who have experience in the bullpen, though I don't love the idea. The fifth starter should get a turn or two in Triple-A before debuting on the 16th under a normal routine. Regardless of my opinion, I don't see how a long relief role fits Montgomery. He should be getting regular work on normal turns in Triple-A (same goes for Severino, Green, and others) if not in the rotation to start the season. Long relief simply doesn't seem like the best use of his ability.
What about a second lefty? Perhaps this is where Montgomery comes in. That being said, is he certain to be an upgrade over Chasen Shreve? Hard to say, but I can't see much upside in using Montgomery in one inning stints (or as a second specialist). First of all, opportunities would be infrequent given the other options for middle and late game relief. Second, he's a starter by trade. He should continue in that role in the minors until a need arises with the Yankees.
One thing is clear: there's no immediate need for Montgomery in the bullpen. He's not going to step into a late inning role as that's already covered. Using him as a second lefty in the ‘pen probably is a waste of time, and there are other pitchers who can cover the swingman/long relief jobs. The best plan is to let him remain built up as a starter and get regular work in Scranton. There's no promise for regular work out of the bullpen to start the season, so Montgomery should spend some more time in the minors. This is no knock on Montgomery, as his performance this spring and last season has opened some eyes. As I wrote Monday, it's only a matter of time until we see him in Yankee Stadium. It's just for the best that it isn't immediately.