Nearly two hours ago, Chad Jennings broke the news that Mark Melancon is heading to Anaheim to help spell the overworked Yankee relievers. After the Yankees basically got through Thursday’s victory over with the Twins by throwing six relievers, Joe Girardi asked for help and got it.
As Thursday’s game unfolded and it became clear that Alfredo Aceves wouldn’t make it through the 4th inning on his 65-70 pitch limit, I wondered about the decision to start him. Perhaps the Yankees should have made a move to bring up a pitcher who could have thrown 100+ pitchers. They have some 40-man flexibility right now, and they could have summoned Sergio Mitre.
A few fellow Yankee fans noted that the start-by-bullpen would probably be more effective than Mitre or Josh Towers, but I thought that was a short-term outlook. After all, while Aceves and the pen would make for a better outing on Thursday, it would handicap the team heading into a key weekend series against a Wild Card competitor that has a history of success against the Yankees. Short-term gains outweighed the long-term benefits, and Aceves it was.
When the game was over, it was clear that the Yankees needed help. Aceves is out until after the break; The Phils and Mariano had pitched in back-to-back games; and Jonathan Albaladejo and David Robertson had throw 28 and 23 pitches respectively. The Yankees were facing the real possibility of heading to Anaheim with just Brett Tomko and Brian Bruney available for long stints. So Mark Melancon was summoned. The question now because who will stay and who will the go. The answers could be intriguing.
First up are the obvious candidates. David Robertson or Jonathan Albaladejo are probably the ones most likely to go. Neither is available to pitch on Friday, and both have ridden the Scranton shuttle this year. Robertson managed to walk in two runs with the bases loaded on Thursday and can’t find consistency. He is brilliant or all over the place. Albaladejo is expendable and could be up shortly after the All Star break.
The Yankees could also choose to DFA Brett Tomko, but for now, they won’t. It would in fact be anathema to their goal. Melancon is up to add an available arm to the pen. By DFAing Tomko, they would be eliminating an available arm. As much as we want to happen, it won’t. Our best hope is for Melancon to throw strikes and get outs so that the Yanks can jettison Tomko in 10 days.
Finally, we arrive at the intriguing names. Either Phil Hughes or Al Aceves could get sent down for a short time. Right now, the Yankees don’t need a 5th starter until July 21, and neither Aceves nor Hughes are stretched out. If the Yanks send Aceves down, he could start for Tampa or Staten Island on Tuesday or Wednesday to get his pitch count up. He would then be ready for a full start of around 100 pitches on the 21.
Sending Hughes down would put him out of commission for a few more days. If the Yanks want to get Hughes ready, he could pitch on Saturday and then again on the 16th before getting ready for a July 21 start. He’d probably be up to around 85 pitches that day, and the Yanks could opt to have him use those pitches against the Orioles.
Just yesterday, Fack Youk expressed dismay over Joe Girardi’s comments on Hughes. The Yanks’ skipper seemed to indicate that Hughes would be in the pen for much of this year because he’s been so dominant. That, however, impacts his innings limit next year. It’s quite easy for the Yanks to change their mind.
In the end, much of this depends upon Chien-Ming Wang. If the Yanks are concerned about his shoulder and if it doesn’t seem as though Wang will be back any time soon, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Aceves or Hughes join the rotation for a while. No matter who it is though, the Yankees have a lot of choices. It is a testament to roster flexibility indeed.