As Jonathan Albaladejo nearly gave the game away in the 8th inning yesterday, I was sitting in Yankee Stadium, apoplectic at the Yanks’ reliever’s inability to throw strikes. After striking out Jason Kubel, a good hitter, in the 7th, Albaladejo lost it. He walked Michael Cuddyer, allowed a first-pitch single to the weak-hitting Carlos Gomez and then walked Nick Punto, the Twins’ number nine hitter who is batting just .200/.304/.221 this season.
With one out and the bases loaded, Brett Tomko came in, and as I cringed in my seat, I e-mailed Joe. “I can’t deal with Girardi’s bullpen management. It’s awful,” I said. Joe came back to rightly defend the Yanks’ skipper: “He’s working with nothing. I have no problem with the moves he’s made today.”
In hindsight, Joe was, of course, right. The Yanks didn’t have Phil Coke available, and bringing in Edwar Ramirez or Jose Veras would make just as little sense as bringing in Tomko. The Yanks escaped that bases loaded situation thanks to an amazing play by Mark Teixeira at first base, and the pen lived to see another day.
Following yesterday’s walk-off win, the Yanks’ pen now ranks 12th in the AL in ERA. The team’s relievers have thrown 114.2 innings and have allowed 115 hits while waking 58. That’s a WHIP of 1.51. The relievers’ 108 strikeouts are impressive, but the 25 home runs allowed tops the American League. With Boston’s pen leading the AL, it’s no stretch to say that the Yanks’ bullpen is responsible for the team’s third-place showing right now.
Over the weekend, Peter Gammons dropped another one of his notes column, and in it, he briefly mentions the Yanks as bullpen buyers. I don’t need to be Peter Gammons to know that, but the ESPN scribe tosses out some potential targets for those teams looking for bullpen help. He writes:
The Dodgers are on the prowl for relievers; so are the Indians, Yankees and Twins. But the teams holding pitchers expected to be available believe the market will only get increasingly bullish. And few teams are ready to throw up white towels.
Among the list of relievers expected to be available are Houston’s Jose Valverde, Colorado’s Huston Street, Oakland’s Russ Springer, Pittsburgh’s John Grabow and Baltimore’s Danys Baez. Boston might be willing to move Manny Delcarmen, who might be able to close in the National League, but they’d trade him only for a significant bat.
If those pitchers make up the bulk of the relief market and those teams are going to be “increasingly bullish,” I shudder for the future of any potential bullpen trades. Last year, the Yanks shipped Ross Ohlendorf, Jeff Karstens, Jose Tabata, and Dan McCutchen to the Pirates for what was then the best bat on the market and the best lefty reliever. Based on Gammons’ early report, it sounds as though it will cost just as much this year to land a decent pen arm.
Of those Gammons mentions, only Baez and Street are at all appealing. Grabow is struggling in Pittsburgh right now; Russ Springer is old enough to have played on the same team as Matt Nokes and Andy Stankiewicz; Jose Valverde is a ticking time bomb on the mound. Baez is having a decent season after a few bad years, and Street can pitch in the AL when healthy. As the Rockies paid an arm and a leg for him, he’ll cost as much at or near the deadline.
In the end, then, I guess we’re going to war, for now, with the bullpen we have and not the bullpen we want. I’m sure David Robertson and Mark Melancon will get second or third cracks at it. However, we shouldn’t underestimate the importance of Brian Bruney. If he returns healthy and effective this week, that might just be the push the Yanks need to shore up the ends of their games.