The Yankees have been without a second left-hander in the bullpen all season because of Pedro Feliciano’s torn shoulder capsule (and Damaso Marte’s injury, but that was expected), though they recently picked up Randy Flores on a minor league contract. He’s made a handful of appearances for Triple-A Scranton and can opt out of his contract sometime before the All-Star break, but another lefty reliever hit the market this afternoon: Jerry Blevins.
The Athletics designated Blevins for assignment earlier today after 14.1 brutal innings. He walked as many batters as he struck out (13), and the 28 left-handed batters he faced tagged him for a .318/.429/.591 batting line this year. No way around it, that’s awful. But that’s also not the real Blevins. Prior to this season the 27-year-old held lefties to a .227/.270/.292 batting line with 54 strikeouts in exactly 200 plate appearances. Not a huge sample, but he showed a similar split in the minors and it’s a whole lot more meaningful than what he did this season.
The cause of Blevins’ problems this year seems to be his slider. He’s lost about six inches of horizontal break and an inch of vertical break from the pitch over the winter, so it’s basically flattened out. Batters went from whiffing on the pitch more than 10% of the time in the past to exactly zero percent of the time this year. As a result, he was using it just 6% of the time in 2011 as opposed to ~13% from 2009-2010. Maybe it’s just a mechanical problem, maybe he’s hurt, maybe this is the real Blevins, who knows.
With all due respect to Flores, Blevins is a much more promising LOOGY candidate given his age and recent history, this year notwithstanding. There’s zero chance he’ll clear or even get to the Yankees on waivers, so they’d have to trade for him. The Athletics devalued him with the DFA, so it shouldn’t cost a ton to acquire him. Given Boone Logan’s poor overall performance against lefties (.323/.382/.484 in 35 PA), having a second option would be a nice luxury. That would also allow Hector Noesi to go back to the minors to actually, you know, pitch. That would leave Lance Pendleton as the long man, which is fine by me. Blevins’ numbers are ugly this year, but someone will gamble on that pre-2011 track record and I really hope it’s the Yankees.