After last night’s victory over the Washington Nationals — a playoff preview if ever I saw one — the Yankees cut five more players from their ever-dwindling Spring Training roster. As the Yankees now have 26 guys for 25 spots left in camp, we’re quickly seeing how the team is operating this spring. Their next decision, one Joe Girardi says will be announced later today, will determine the Yanks’ pitching staff for the start of the season.
The cuts were, by and large, as expected. Jonathan Albaladejo and his 33.75 March ERA found themselves exiled to the Minors while Mark Melancon and his 10:1 Grapefruit League K:BB ratio were sent down as well. Melancon should be the first guy called up if the pen needs some right-handed relief. Greg Golson, a toolsy outfielder and former first-rounder, impressed during the spring but will start the year at AAA. Juan Miranda, potential trade bait or potential back-up DH, will as well.
With those cuts in hand, the Yanks picked a back-up infielder as well. The final battle came down to a deathmatch between Ramiro Peña and Kevin Russo. While Peña enjoyed the luxuries of incumbency as the back-up middle infielder, Russo offered up a better bat. He hit .333/.393/.458 during the spring, but his glove isn’t on par with Peña’s. And so the Yankees have chosen to go with Ramiro for now. Russo could see some time in the Majors later this year.
But what of the players who are left? That’s where things get interesting. Of those signed to Major League deals, the outfielders will be Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, Randy Winn and Nick Swisher. Marcus Thames is expected to make the team as well. Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Ramiro Peña and Nick Johnson will be the infield crew with Jorge Posada and Francisco Cervelli behind the dish. That’s 13.
The pitchers left in camp also number 13 as Chad Gaudin was released and will not be coming north with the team, obviously. Who will be cut? The likely 26th man is Boone Logan. A lefty who came over in the Javier Vazquez trade from the Braves, Logan has thrown seven pretty good innings this year. He has allowed two runs on three hits and a walk while striking out five, and the team would feel comfortable about using him as a second lefty in the pen.
Yet, there is also this looming matter of the fifth starter. If, as we suspect, Phil Hughes is announced as the fifth starter later today, the Yankees will have a choice. In fact, even if Joba Chamberlain, and not Hughes, is announced as the fifth starter, the Yankees will have the same choice. Do they start the season with the loser of the fifth starter race in the bullpen as a potential set-up man or in AAA as the team’s sixth starter? Sending the odd man out down to AAA would allow the Yanks to keep Logan on the team as a second southpaw, and it would allow the Yanks to stretch out Hughes or Chamberlain to keep them on track to meet their innings goals.
I’m holding out hope, perversely, for a minor league assignment for the sixth starter. The future of the team will benefit greatly if neither pitcher is encumbered with an innings limit. Joe Girardi says this final announcement will be made later today, and only then will we finally see what developmental course the Yankees have charted for their young arms. Boone Logan might just be the beneficiary of a team looking not only to 2010 but also beyond.