Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Possible Spot Opening Up In The Bullpen?

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

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.

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