Okay, it’s time for this thirteen man pitching staff experiment to end. The starters have pitched into at least the sixth inning in nine of the last ten games and twelve of the last fourteen, and we’re getting to the point where guys like Mark Melancon and David Robertson are going four or five days between appearances. Even worse, the last two nights we’ve had to watch late inning, potentially game tying and/or game winning rallies die at the hands of Ramiro Pena and Jose Molina. Something has to be done about this.
I’ve long been a Brian Cashman supporter, but he’s asleep at the wheel here. I get that Jorge Posada’s hurt and I get that A-Rod’s out and I know Xavier Nady’s loss was unfortunate, but guess what? The other 29 clubs don’t feel bad for the Yanks. Cash had an opportunity to improve his bench when Jorge Posada hit the DL, but instead opted for the easy paper move of calling up Frankie Cervelli. A spare reliever (coughJoseVerascough) could have been DFA’ed, sending a message to the other assorted crap in the pen as well as freeing up a 40-man spot for PJ Pilittere, who was killing the ball in Triple-A (.317-.349-.488) and is just as capable defensively as Cervelli. Posada’s roster spot could have been used for Juan Miranda, giving the Yanks an actual, real life hitter off the bench. But no, instead Pilittere gets DEMOTED to Double-A to fill Cervelli’s spot. That’s the definition of ass backwards.
There are solutions to the bench problem, but the front office just seems uninterested in pursuing them. Brett Gardner has proven to be utterly useless at anything but running the bases, so why not give Todd Linden a shot? He’s crushing Triple-A (.346-.426-.577, career .873 OPS in AAA), switch hits, plays all three outfield spots, and has been a bench player in the NL his whole career so he knows the routine. Doesn’t it sound like he’d be more useful than the obviously overmatched Gardner? Even John Rodriguez would be better use of a roster spot, but Linden’s got him beat on the versatility front. Do they really like Anthony Claggett so much that they aren’t willing to cut him and free up a 40-man spot?
Instead of carrying thirteen pitchers and three useless players on the bench, they could have been rolling with a bench of Pilittere, Berroa, Linden and Miranda, with seven arms in the bullpen. Then when A-Rod comes back, Berroa goes away and Pena takes over the utility infielder spot. How much different would the last two games have been if you had Miranda available to pinch hit late in the game with runners in scoring position? We’ll never know, but I know I would have certainly felt better about the Yanks’ chances with an actual hitter up there.
Now don’t get me wrong, I do sympathize with Joe Girardi about the bullpen. His two primary set-up are on the DL, and everyone else has been shaky at best. That’s tough for any team to overcome, but the Yanks still have a nice mix out there. Melancon’s way better than he’s shown, Phil Coke’s been rock solid, and even Edwar Ramirez has been effective in short stints. Cash and Girardi are right to be patient with this guys, but man, that doesn’t mean you weaken another part of the team just to carry extra arms.
Roster spots are like outs, they’re precious and need to be maximized because there are a limited amount of them. Instead, the Yanks are wasting several of them on extra relievers or players that really have no business being in the big leagues. Sure, in cases like Angel Berroa that is due to injury, and that’s fine. But the front office is not putting the best available team on the field day in and day out, and that’s frustrating. Frankly, it’s inexcusable for any team, nevermind one that just opening a $1.3B stadium and has $200M tied up in payroll, to get lazy with the roster.