Spring Training 2010 – the Yankees in relief

When the Yankees decided that Phil Hughes would be their fifth starter, they, by inference filled three of their relief positions also. Alfredo Aceves, Joba Chamberlain and Sergio Mitre had good enough seasons last year that they were always going to be on the Opening Day roster.

Indeed Chamberlain is such a bright hope that the team seems hell-bent to find a spot he can define as his own – no matter how many times he fails to fulfill their expectations.

Add to these three  Mariano Rivera and roughly half of the relief spots were already taken. Rivera is perhaps the greatest reliever in the history of baseball and will once again be in his customary roles as closer.

As well as Aceves and Rivera, this writer was very impressed with David Robertson last season and he has done nothing in Spring Training that should change his trajectory and so an opening day role will be given to him too. Robertson last year pitched in 45 games for a 3.51 ERA. If he can reproduce that sort of form he will likely be asked to do it in more games following the departure of Phil Coke.

Chan Ho Park is now approaching 37 years of age and his days as a starter are behind him. He fulfilled that role very successfully for the Dodgers from 1994-2001 and with less success for Texas and San Diego until 2005. Over the last few years (first back at Los Angeles and then on last season’s defeated World Series Phillies), he has recast himself as a reliever and will give the Yankees another capable righthander out of the ‘pen.

So that’s 6. It seems likely that the Yankees will carry 12 pitchers on opening day. If 4 of these are starters, leaving Phil Hughes to be called up mid-month, that means the Yankees will carry 8 relievers. It follows that one of these will be a left-handed specialist. Damaso Marte, who has been Mr. Inconsistency since he joined New York in 2008, is the obvious choice but aside from his difficult-to-predict form, he has been experiencing some shoulder problems.

The outsider is Boone Logan who came across from Atlanta as a makeweight in the Cabrera / Vazquez trade. He pitched 17.1 innings for Atlanta in 2009 and has done respectably in Spring Training for NYY but it seems unlikely to be enough to dislodge Marte unless he experiences more physical problems.

Mark Melancon and Jonathan Albaladejo both some service in the majors for the Yankees in 2009 but both had a lacklustre Spring and Albaladejo particularly will do well to hang on to his 40-man roster place and neither will make the opening day roster.

Royce Ring, a lefthander, who has previously worked for the Cardinals organisation, had a good time in Spring Training ending his stint with a 2.25 ERA. He gives the Yankees another option for lefthand relief but he is behind Marte and Logan as the Yankees would need to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for him if they decided to back him and they will want to exhaust their other options before going down that road.

The Yankees used another 20 relievers over the period of the Spring games but few of them are in the reckoning. Amaury Sanit has reached 30 years of age without making his major league debut. He won’t make it on April the 4th but is a possible if the form of others fails. Jason Hirsh, Dustin Moseley, Ivan Nova, Romulo Sanchez, Zach McAllister all served in relief in Florida but look likely to be starters for Scranton-Wilkes Barre when their season starts. Given that the Yankees starting options are particularly deep, it doesn’t seem likely that they will see much progress beyond that in 2010.

Grant Duff who served at Trenton in 2009, will progress to Scranton also (albeit in relief) but won’t get to New York in the first half of the season whatever happens.

Kei Igawa is dead in the water and the remainder of that massive number of Spring tryouts are ones for the future. So if Marte is the 7th reliever, I guess that leaves the choice between Logan and using Hughes out of the bullpen rather than him making that extra journey in mid-April.

Rivera

Robertson

Park

Marte

Logan

Ring

Melancon

1.       Mariano Rivera
2.       Joba Chamberlain
3.       Alfredo Aceves
4.       David Robertson
5.       Chan Ho Park
6.       Sergio Mitre
7.       Damaso Marte
8.       Phil Hughes
9.       Boone Logan
10.   Royce Ring
11.   Mark Melancon
12.   Jonathan Albaladejo

Will carry: 8 until April 15, 7 after that.

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