Yanks have few options for long reliever

Fan Confidence Poll: May 10th, 2010
Building a better bench

The Yankees have two questionable pitchers scheduled for the next few games. Sergio Mitre hasn’t started a game since last year, and while he has looked mostly good in his 9.2 innings this year, he might not be long for the game. Even if he pitches well he has to deal with the fatigue factor, significant because he hasn’t pitched more than three innings since spring training. He appeared to tire late in his last appearance against Baltimore, leaving two sinkers up in the zone to the final batter, Ty Wigginton, who deposited the final one in the seats.

Then comes Javier Vazquez, who will make his first start since May 1 on Tuesday. He has yet to clear 5.2 innings this season, and even in his best start, a six-strikeout performances against the A’s on April 20, he left plenty of outs for the bullpen to cover. Maybe the layoff has afforded him the time he needed to rediscover his fastball command, but the Yanks can’t quite bank on that. They must prepare themselves for two consecutive short starts, just in case the worst case scenario becomes reality.

Photo credit: Henry Ray Abrams/AP

Under normal circumstances, the Yankees would have the situation covered. Al Aceves could pick up in long relief of Mitre tonight, and they could piece together a few appearances tomorrow if Vazquez continues to struggle. Romulo Sanchez then might be available on Wednesday to provide relief if the need arises. But with Aceves nursing a back injury sustained while pitching Saturday, the Yanks might have to look elsewhere for long relief. It would be one thing if this were an isolated injury. Aceves, however, has been battling back issues since the middle of last season.

As Marc Carig reports, Aceves might be ready to pitch in relief this evening. He woke up on Sunday feeling better, and with another day’s rest might be back in form. Given his recent history of back troubles, though, I bet the Yankees would love to give him another day off. That way he could still play caddy to Vazquez if needed. The team would still prefer to have a long reliever tonight, in case Mitre fades early or proves ineffective. No one currently in the bullpen appears particularly qualified for the role. Joe Girardi didn’t reveal much when asked about the possibility, but given the current roster construction it’s a strong possibility.

Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

Who would they recall from Scranton, though? Mark Melancon would normally be a primary option, but today is only the seventh day after the Yankees optioned him. He’ll have to spend 10 days in the minors before they can recall him, unless they place someone on the DL. Since the Yankees will almost certainly recall someone from the 40-man roster, they’re left with just a few options. In fact, given the pitchers on the 40-man, they have just two.

First is a familiar name, Jon Albaladejo. He made a name for himself early in spring training by getting lit up nearly every time out. In 14 appearances for Scranton he’s pitched fairly well, allowing just three runs. Encouragingly, he has struck out 18, but also has five walks and two home runs, which bring his FIP to 3.57, much higher than his 1.76 ERA. He also hasn’t pitched more than 1.1 innings in any given appearance this year, so he might not be best suited for long relief right now. Knowing they can send him down the very next day, though, the Yankees might opt to recall him this evening.

Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

The more interesting option is Ivan Nova. Added to the 40-man roster this winter after a strong 2009 season, Nova has started the season strong in Scranton. He has started six games, throwing 37 innings to a 2.43 ERA and 3.15 FIP. He also does a decent job of keeping the ball on the ground. The most telling sign that the Yankees are at least thinking about recalling Nova is how they’ve scheduled him. He last pitched on May 3. Zach McAllister pitched the following night. Last night, though, McAllister pitched again. That’s not to say that the Yankees did it because they planned to recall Nova. They have, however, kept the option open.

Again, with concerns about Mitre’s stamina, recalling a long man for tonight seems like a smart move. The Yankees already have 13 men on the pitching staff, so they can send out someone easily. Sanchez appears a likely candidate because of his workload last night, but I don’t think the Yanks should get in the habit of sending down guys who have pitched effectively. After another disappointing performance, David Robertson might spend some time in AAA. The Yanks could then recall an outfielder once they option Nova. A defensive option would certainly help keep Marcus Thames‘s outfield innings in check.

While it’s no lock that the Yankees recall Nova, it certainly makes a degree of sense. He’d be available to relieve either Mitre or Vazquez, and would allow the Yanks to take their time with Aceves. It’s encouraging that he has recovered so quickly from his injury Saturday, but there’s no reason to push it. The Yanks have some flexibility now, so they might as well use it to their advantage. Adding Nova as a long man would do just that.

Fan Confidence Poll: May 10th, 2010
Building a better bench
  • http://twitter.com/marcos_aguirre Marcos

    Why not have “the starter in the bullpen” throw a few innings if needed?

    • Templeton “Brendog” Peck

      yeah. it is a shame that jobber’s name doesn’t even come up at this point

  • Rick in Boston

    I’d prefer never to see Alby again. With Z-Mac pitching last night, it’s got to be Nova, right? Even if Ace can go tonight in relief of Mitre, there’s still the need to cover Javy’s innings tomorrow, if necessary.

    Maybe…Nova up tonight. If he pitches, cool, then send him down and bring up Z-Mac on his throwing day as an emergency guy? Then swap him and Melancon and keep Mark around until we see if Pettitte can go?

    • Chip

      No reason to put Z-Mac on the 40-man yet. You’d like to avoid that as long as possible

      • Rick in Boston

        I don’t think the Yankees are really that worried about Z-Mac’s option clock. If he’s the best option to bring up, I think the Yankees will do it. He’ll get added to the 40-man at some point this year, so it is just a matter of time.

        • Chip

          Good point, I suppose it’s not like they expect him to get Super-2 status and aren’t likely to have to worry about him getting huge arbitration raises.

          • Templeton “Brendog” Peck

            and even if it does happen they would more than likely be thrilled with the result since they’re the yankees and would have no problem paying him if he is pitching well enough to deserve super 2

        • Chris

          But they’d have to move Chris Garcia off the 40-man to make room. That wouldn’t be a terrible thing, but it would limit their flexibility to make a move later this year.

          • Rick in Boston

            They could option someone (Sanchez) down, call up Garcia up, place him on the 60-day DL. That will open up a spot and retain Garcia.

            • Chris

              Right, but then what would they do if they wanted to make a move in the future? They would lose the flexibility of that extra 40-man roster spot because they would have to carry Z-Mac. If this were a long term thing, it might be worth it, but not for a 1 or 2 day problem.

  • Chip

    You know who has a 3.01 FIP and is pitching out of the A’s bullpen? Chad Gaudin

    Additionally, I believe there was a guy a lot of people were championing to start the season in AAA in order to work out his command and be there to cover an injury? O yeah, he’s working set-up right now

  • A.D.

    Personally I support having Nova start today, and have Mitre stay in the pen, given that Mitre isn’t stretched out, and Vazquez is going tomorrow.

    • http://www.facebook.com/adorador Ray Fuego

      That’s what I was thinking. Why don’t we give Nova the chance? IT might be a plesant surprise.

      • A.D.

        Basically, you go with Nova, since he actually can throw 100 pitches or so in his start. If he sucks you can have either the field of the pen (Joba, Marte, Logan, Aceves*) or Mitre back him up. Then if you go to Tues and Vazquez also sucks you have whomever you didn’t use on Tues + Sanchez if not sent down (else robertson joins the pen field).

    • CountryClub

      I agree. If they’re going to call up Nova anyway…

    • http://theyankeeu.com Matt Imbrogno

      I like this mostly because I don’t like Mitre very much.

      /ducks from Drew

  • Templeton “Brendog” Peck

    the yankees having pitching depth makes me swoon.

    gone are the days of having one or two guys go down and needing to sign snacks pontoon or trade for shawn chacon

    • Chip

      I was much more comfortable before we traded IPK and put Joba in the bullpen. After Nova the pickings are quite slim although I’d love to see Sanchez put it all together.

      • Templeton “Brendog” Peck

        there’s zmac and mitre, aceves, joba can all be stretched out finecessary.

        let’s put it this was, it is still way better than 02-07ish

        • YankFan

          Why not Hirsch on the list also?

          • Templeton “Brendog” Peck

            good point. i forgot about him.

      • Chris

        There really aren’t any teams that have good options for an 8th and 9th starter. Sure it would be great to have those guys back, but having a question mark there isn’t anything to worry about.

    • Regis

      Ponson still playing for the Ducks?
      Cashman, pick up the phone!

  • Stryker

    agree with marcos – no need for another roster move. there’s a “starter in the bullpen” who threw only 20 pitches 3 days ago.

    • ROBTEN

      You mean ol’ farts n’ grunts who hasn’t thrown more than 20 pitches since April 15th or faced more than seven batters thus far in any appearance?

      Unfortunately, and I say this with a heavy heart, that ship has sailed this season.

      I say give Nova a shot.

  • JobaTheHeat62

    add Nova, and option Robertson…I agree with the article, Romulo did a fine job last night, and should be rewarded for it. I like D-ROB as much as the next guy, but he has been dreadful, and its not just inconsistent work..that card cannot be played anymore..He is struggling, and I think it would help him get back to form. Then for the time being until our rotation and bullpen get back to 100 percent health, we would have 3 guys who can give us multiple innings if a disaster should occur. Nova, Sanchez, and Mitre

    • Zack

      FWIW: DRob’s K9 and BB9 are the same from last year, he has a .550 BABIP, and his HR/FB rate is ridiculous at 30%, and his average velocity is higher than last year.

      That being said, wouldnt have a problem with him going back down for a little bit.

      • Rick in Boston

        D-Rob can go to Scranton for a week and a half, get his mechanics straightened out, and then come back. He’s, unfortunately, dipped into the ‘fungible’ level of bullpen pitchers at this point.

    • ROBTEN

      I like D-ROB as much as the next guy, but he has been dreadful, and its not just inconsistent work..that card cannot be played anymore..He is struggling, and I think it would help him get back to form.

      DRob has been such an interesting case this year. The fact that virtually all his peripherals match up almost identically with what he’s shown thus far and his xFIP (3.96) not marginally higher than what he’s shown in the past (3.62 FIP) seems to point to an exorbitant amount of bad luck.

      Looking a bit deeper, however, and something else emerges. He’s getting a lot more swings and misses out of the zone (his 0-Swing % is up and his O-Contact % is down) but a lot less swings and misses in the zone (hitters seem to swing less at pitches in the zone, but make significantly more contact – 93%!, up from around 80%).

      The biggest difference to explain this is that he’s throwing the fastball a lot more (76% up from 69.5%) and the curve and the change up a lot less (curve is down from around 25% to 21% and the change is down to 1% from 2%). According to Fangraphs, he’s also not throwing the slider at all.

      So, the fact that his velocity is up slightly and he’s actually getting more movement on his pitches, but relying heavily on the fastball to get outs rather than any of his off-speed stuff points, perhaps, to a lack of command of his other pitches.

      The ability to still generate swings and misses is a good sign, but the fact that the numbers imply that hitters are able to just sit and wait for a pitch to hit in the zone isn’t.

      I still think that given his virtually identical peripherals that it’s just as likely a string of bad luck, but if these numbers are pointing to a mechanical problem, I’d rather he be given the opportunity to work it out in Scranton then get buried in the BP.

  • Gio

    So Clippard for Albaladejo…pretty much can chalk that up as an ‘L’ for Cashman, right?

    • http://twitter.com/YanktheMike yankthemike

      he’s rivaling mexican gangsta for vulture wins…

    • Templeton “Brendog” Peck

      yeah but at the time it was trading someone they didnt see having much ml success for a guy who had jsut done pretty well in limited action the yr before in the majors to help build bullpen depth. so in hindsight, yeah, sucks, but at the time it was like, meh whatever. i don’t remember anyone being all cashman is teh suxoriest at the time.

      plus, as these guys documented a couple weeks ago clippard is a mirage (a la ajax) and will eventually come crashing back to earth and at least above averageness and mroe likely mediocrity.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph Pawlikowski

      As you’ll see on FanGraphs at 1, that’s only because of how poorly Alby has pitched.

      • whozat

        And, he was useful for periods of time, no? And sooner than clippard was…so, it seemed like a case of trading potential future solid performance for immediate middling performance. On the scale of relief pitching, i don’t really have an issue with that.

    • Chris

      What are the chances that Clippard pitches that well in the AL?

      In all seriousness it’s probably a loss for Cashman, but who really cares if you lose a trade of two middle relievers?

    • Rick in Boston

      See if you can find Clippard’s performance from yesterday on the web. It was awful. He was bouncing pitches, couldn’t find the strike zone, and managed to avoid giving up a grand slam because someone (Cantu?) hit one right into the wind.

    • pat

      Like 4 or 5 of Clippard’s wins have come from blowing a save.

  • Chris

    The Yankees currently have 7 relievers on their roster (assuming you count Mitre as a starter for the next few days). That should be plenty to cover two games with questionable starters – the Tigers manage that every time through their rotation.

    Assuming that Aceves’ back is feeling better, there shouldn’t be anything preventing him from pitching (at least) tomorrow. He wasn’t likely to pitch both games anyway, so the injury isn’t that big a deal.

  • Frank

    Last night’s game was not so much about A.J stinking up the joint, but rather, his inability to go deep in the game. Had he been able to go 7, Sanchez would have been available for tonight with Mitre on a pitch limit.

  • Jammy Jammers

    Let’s have Jeter and Cano pitch.

    – Tony La Russa

  • BigGuy

    I’d expect Ivan Nova to be called up. He was pulled back from his SWB start yesterday.

  • http://MattOnEarth.blogspot.com Matt on Earth

    I would prefer the Yanks call someone up from the minors to start this game. At least that keeps them on a normal innings count and provides some degree of normalcy. There is no guarantee at all what Mitre can produce and I trust his skill set for an inning or two A LOT more than for a couple times through the rotation.

    On the plus side, they are going against Willis who is a liability. While he has been decent this year so far, most of his games have had several moments where his world looked like it was about to collapse. Maybe we can win with offense tonight if the pitching is not so hot. Come back Andy!!

  • Jerkface

    Tyler Clippard has allowed more than 50% of his inherited runners to score. He’d be leading the team in that category were he on the yankees. I doubt many of you would be enthused by such a performance.

  • bigironrod

    wheres tanyon sturze when you need him?

  • DJH

    It’s being reported they called up Nova.

    • DJH

      Donnie Collins on his SWB blog was where I saw it reported.

  • BG90027

    I can see the logic behind bringing up Nova given the need for having someone to pitch multiple innings. If Melancon would be the first option (which i’m not sure I agree with given the need is for a long reliever) couldn’t you get around the 10 day rule by bringing up Christian Garcia and dling him first?