So moving on with our discussion of the relief pitchers who the Yankees used in 2008, we head into murky territory……
David Robertson (25 games). All in relief. Robertson arrived on the roster in late June, called up from Triple-A Scranton. He had spent most of the season at Double-A Trenton and is rise was precipitious. He pitched reasonably well in his first game – coming in the high profile game at Shea Stadium in the subway match-up against the Mets. Through a further 12 games in July, his pitching remained roughly of the same quality and he picked up two wins. A further win in August could not hide that it was all coming apart. Before he was sent back down to Scranton, his ERA for August was a mammoth 8.18. Again, it proved beyond the pitching coaches at the major league level to right a young arm that was flailing. He returned to the majors in mid-September and finished the season out well – ending with a 5.34 ERA for the season. I would give him a 60/40 chance of making the roster on opening day but spring training will be very important for Robertson.
Damaso Marte (25 games). All 25 games in relief. Marte arrived in the trade which also brought Xavier Nady to New York and the fact that both are very much in the reckoning for the roster for 2009 shows how good a trade that was. Pudge for Farnsworth was a disaster. Marte and Nady for Karstens and 3 other minor leaguers (with no major league experience) looks like a master stroke – especially since Phil Coke was dropped from that deal at the last moment. Marte was a distinctive improvement on the other sole-lefties in the bullpen, Traber and Igawa who were, to say the least, not dependable. Marte had his wobbles but a 5.40 ERA does not do him justice. At the end of the season, the Yankees declined the option on Marte’s contract which surprised some but a few days later Marte was signed to a longer contract on lower wages. A good deal. Expect a more consistent year and a full season in the pinstripes in 2009.
Billy Traber (19 games). All games in relief. Traber was a surprise face on the Yankees roster in early 2008 and when he was again returned to the squad later in the year, it emphasised how little idea the Yankees had of how to fill the last few spaces in the ‘pen. He ended the season with an ERA of just over 7 and after 6 years of not quite making at the major league level he must soon be running out of options. Boston look likely to give him a runout in the Spring but it might be his last time around.
Dan Giese (20 games). 3 starts and 17 relief appearances. There was a time in the season when Giese could do no wrong. Put him in relief and he delivered the goods, make him a spot starter and he’ll keep you in the game. This became less the case as the season went on and once more, the coaches seemed content to let him drift. Like Robertson, he will be very much in the reckoning come Spring Training but he has the advantage in that he shown his ability to eat up innings and his ERA and OBA were better. Long relief in 2009? There’s a good chance.
Chris Britton (15 games). All games in relief. Like Brian Bruney, Britton had an inconsistent year in 2007. Both started well but the longer they remained on the squad the more their performances drifted away from an acceptable standard. Bruney arrived at Spring Training in 2008 a few stone lighter and earned a surprise spot on the early season roster and eventually overcame injury to have a career-changing year. Britton arrived at Spring Training at the same weight or more as the previous year and lacked the vigour that Bruney showed during the year. A ERA that edged above 5 was a good summary of an indifferent, sluggish year. No-one was suprised when the Yankees declined the chance to tender him a contact. The Padres will take a look at him in the Spring but don’t be surprised if he doesn’t have the energy to make the cut.
Phil Coke (12 games). All 12 appearances in relief. Coke very nearly became a Pittsburgh player in mid-season but a last minute change of mind on one side or the other of the equation saw others make that journey instead. The Yankees must be breathing a sigh of relief. In 14.2 innings he gave up 1 run. His OBA was second only to Brian Bruney and he led the team in ERA. It is way too early to tell if he can maintain something like that in the long run but the performances so far beg that he should be on the roster on opening day. Anything other than a truly dreadful spring should see him as a mainstay of the bullpen throughout 2009.
Jonathan Albaladejo (7 games). All 7 games in relief. When Albaladejo made the roster in April, I was left hunting for my Bill James handbook to figure out how I hadn’t seen that coming and to try how to figure out how to pronounce that surname. The Puerto Rican right-hander started the season well but was injured early in the year and was not able to return. He has been able to play some winter ball but will need a very good Spring to make the roster ahead of Robertson, Giese et al.
Darrell Rasner (24 games). Rasner only made 4 relief appearances. See our survey of the starters to see how Rasner performed prior to his journey to the Far East.
Next time round, we’ll mop up the last few relievers before making some more roster predictions for April.