Lock-down Pen to Knocked-down Pen…
Well, we’ve gone from the best bullpen in baseball to just another collection of misfits in front of a hard thrower. I know, I’m selling guys like Chasen Shreve and Bryan Mitchell short, but the dreams of simply making it to the 7th inning and game over have been put on hold. First, there was the expected loss of closer Aroldis Chapman who was suspended by the Commissioner for domestic violence. But today, we received more devastating news when former and interim closer Andrew Miller was hit by a batted ball and suffered a chip fracture in his wrist.
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Suddenly, Dellin Betances is the interim closer. No word yet on how long Miller will be out, but with the Yankees’ conservative attitude when it comes to injuries, there’s no doubt he’ll open the season on the Ellsbury Express, a/k/a the Disabled List. This means that the setup cast will include the aforementioned Shreve and perhaps one of the new guys (Kirby Yates or Luis Cessa). Depending upon what the Yankees do with Ivan Nova, Bryan Mitchell should be the long man in the pen replacing Adam Warren, but more than likely, Nova takes that role which would push Mitchell to shorter relief.
I wonder if the Yankees will try to pick up a short man as a temporary fix since the vaunted three headed monster pen won’t make an appearance until mid-May.
With Miller and Betances, I felt good about the Yankees’ bullpen despite Chapman’s absence. But with Miller’s anticipated loss, the pen looks very shaky at the moment. With question marks looming in the starting rotation, there’s going to be early stress on the replacement crew.
While I mention Mitchell, it should be noted that news came out today about his toe injury so there are questions if he’ll be ready. It certainly opens up potential roster spots for the relievers on the bubble like Yates, Cessa, and Anthony Swarzak.
Contract no longer equals talent…
As for the starters, my preference would be to start Ivan Nova over CC Sabathia but it does raise the question of what to do with CC. As a reliever, he’d be the most expensive one in history. It’s too bad that he has degenerated to such an albatross. He now blocks younger, more talented guys. It’s too bad that baseball contracts are guaranteed. If they were like the NFL, CC would be pounding the pavement looking for a new job.
As for the outfield, the only surefire option to start Opening Day is the old man of the group, right fielder Carlos Beltran. It’s almost a certainty that Aaron Hicks will be one of the starters, replacing either Jacoby Ellsbury or Brett Gardner. I like Hicks, but I didn’t like the high strikeouts in spring training. I am hopeful that he is able to rise to the occasion.
Hoping the Reds “Cave-in”…
Speaking of outfielders, I have been keeping an eye on Jake Cave’s spring with the Cincinnati Reds. Despite the Yankees’ wealth of left handed hitting young outfielders, I would like to see Cave’s return if he doesn’t make the Reds’ Opening Day roster. Cincy has to keep him on the roster all season as a Rule 5 selection or offer him back to the Yankees. I am sure that Cave is hoping he sticks with the Reds, but I’d like to see him back in pinstripes. I think he has a future in New York as a fourth outfielder at the very least.
Backing up Brian McCann…
I thought that Gary Sanchez would continue his torrid hitting from last fall into spring training but it didn’t happen. As a result, Sanchez found himself back in the minor leagues. That means the Yankees’ back up catcher will either be long-time prospect Austin Romine or recent addition Carlos Corporan. I know the latter has the major league experience, but I am really hoping the Yankees go with Romine. He deserves this opportunity. Of course, if he doesn’t make the roster, he’s as good as gone. I think Romine can do the job and would be a very capable solution until the day Sanchez is ready for the major leagues.
If at Third…
I thought that Rob Refsnyder was going to win the utility infield role, particularly as he gained experience at third. Then his unspectacular birthday weekend occurred where he was hit in the face on successive days with infield grounders, which illustrated the weaknesses in his defensive game. He very quickly found himself in Scranton-Wilkes Barre, vacating the bench role for either Ronald Torreyes or Pete Kozma to grab. At the moment, it sounds like Torreyes has the leg up. Hopefully, Refsnyder can settle down and make the transition to third at the AAA level.
Tomorrow should be a fairly important day as the Yankees begin making their final roster decisions as we head into the weekend. I am not as optimistic as I was a few weeks ago, but this is an opportunity for guys to step up. Baseball is not always about simply having the talent to succeed, it also takes timing and support with a little bit of luck.
I wish we were heading into the season with better health but it is what it is. It is time to play ball.