Poll: The Long Man

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Ibanez gets a fresh start on Friday
(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

No one likes to see a teammate get hurt, but it’s hard to imagine the Triple-A trio of David Phelps, Adam Warren, and D.J. Mitchell didn’t take the Michael Pineda shoulder tendinitis news as a personal positive. The injury freed up a bullpen spot and moved those three one step closer to the big leagues. There’s only one spot for three guys though, and the team is clearly looking to fill that spot with a traditional long man.

“Larry (Rothschild)’s done a really good job of getting them built up,” said Joe Girardi. “We kept them in camp a long time, and it was important they were built up for the season, and they are. But they’re built up to be a long man as well.”

What we’re talking about is the Hector Noesi role, which is fitting since Noesi was a Triple-A starter with seemingly little path to the big leagues at this time last year. As usual, these things have a way of working themselves out. The Yankees have to decide which of the three is best suited for the role and make the decision fairly soon since the Triple-A season starts in three days. Looking at Spring Training performance doesn’t really help one player stand out from the pack either…

Mitchell 6/0 14.1 63 2.51 19.0% 12.7% 50.0%
Phelps 6/1 16.0 67 2.25 17.9% 6.0% 47.2%
Warren 5/2 15.0 63 4.80 12.7% 1.6% 60.0%

Not only are we talking about Spring Training numbers, but we’re talking about a small sample of Spring Training numbers. That’s like, the double whammy of baseball statistics. Maybe the two negatives cancel each other out and we should take these number seriously, but good luck deciding who’s performed the best.

I don’t think there’s a wrong answer here. I believe all three guys are capable of long relief work in the show right now, so there’s a chance the decision will come down to factors other than expected performance. Warren isn’t on the 40-man roster, so that might work against him. The Yankees reportedly view Mitchell as a reliever long-term, which could work in his favor. It could also work against Phelps, who might be sent to the minors so he remains fully stretched out for whenever a spot start is needed. We could come up with a million different scenarios supporting each guy.

The nice thing about this whole situation is the flexibility. Whatever decision the Yankees make isn’t permanent; they can swap these guys out as needed. If Phelps ends up throwing 80 pitches in extra innings or something, they could send him down and recall Mitchell for a fresh arm. If the guy they pick for Opening Day stinks, well there are two replacements ready to go. We say it every year but it is worth repeating: the bullpen at the start of the year is never the same as the bullpen at the end of the year.

Anyway, a situation like this calls for a poll. We’ve had quite a few of these lately, but so be it. It’s that time of the year.

Who should be the long man to open the season?
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2012 Season Preview: Rest of the AL
Ibanez gets a fresh start on Friday
  • Manny’s BanWagon

    If they really believe Mitchell doesn’t have a future as even a back of the rotation starter and Warren and Phelps might, they should go with Mitchell as long man since the difference between the 3 of them in that role would probably be insignificant.

    • vin

      This was my line of thinking as well. Might as well use the guy who most projects to be a reliever for the long man role.

    • Steve

      I went for Mitchell for the reasons you mentioned also. If Mitchell projects as more of a reliever than Phelps, and Warren isn’t on the 40-man, Mitchell seems like the logical choice. I bet the Yankees aren’t even seriously thinking about Warren, regardless of what they say publicly. Why make an unnecessary roster move when there’s no compelling reason to?

  • Slugger27

    voted phelps. on the 40-man and seems to put up better numbers than mitchell

  • https://twitter.com/#!/YanktheMike mike f

    bit of a toss-up for me- but looking forward to hearing Girardi say Phelpsie

    • Robinson Tilapia

      “Mitchee did a good job for us tonight, keeping us in the ballgame and giving the team a chance to come back.”

      Works just as well.

      You tell me how you work Adam Warren into that. THIS is the reason why he’s not on the 40-man.

  • neo

    What’s the 40 man roster situation right now? I would expect the Yankees not to use a spot for Warren right now. Why not keep flexibility for now since the three seem so even?

    • Slugger27

      i think youre saying what everyone else is thinking: they say its a 3man race publicly, but its really a 2man race

  • Ethan

    I wish there was a d) None of the above. I want all of these guys to continue to develop in the minors as starters.

    • Slugger27

      i dont understand this line of thinking. they have all 3 each pitched a full season in AAA (successfully i should add) and they’re all in their mid 20s. what does more pitching at AAA do for their development?

    • Robinson Tilapia

      At some point, there’s a bottleneck, though. Bringing in one of them as a swingman type isn’t going to kill anyone.

      Not all these guys can stick as starters in the organization. Best case scenario, and they all become actual MLB pitchers, then it’ll either be the bullpen or another team for most of them.

  • Steve T

    What about George Kontos? Didn’t he already kinda have this job at the end of last year?

    • vin

      I’d like to see Kontos get a shot sooner rather than later, but I think they’re looking for a more traditional long man. In his cup of coffee last year, Kontos was pretty much a 1 inning pitcher. In April, you need a guy who can either step in for a starter who hasn’t yet found his rhythm and is getting bombed or to come in after a lengthy rain delay (more common in April than other months).

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I was thinking more about someone in the Ramiro Mendoza/Alfredo Aceves role. I see Kontos more as the guy who replaces Wade if he can’t recapture what he had last year.

  • STONE COLD Austin Romine

    Phelps and here’s why in 4 words: Dude throws quality strikes.

    My second reason for Phelps in 3 words. Legit trade bait.

    & finally my 3 reason for Phelps in 7 words. Mitchell not Phelps is a org lifer

    Sum it all up and you have a nice haiku

    Dude throws quality strikes.
    Legit trade bait.
    Mitchell not Phelps is a org lifer

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona

      Mitchell has flew through the minor league system, made in to AAA 4 years after picking up pitching, and he’s a career org lifer?

      • RetroRob

        I’m not quite sure he understands what an “org player,” or an”org lifer” as he calls it, actually is.

        Mitchell (and Warren) have been rated ahead of Phelps, depending on the talent evaluator, although I believe most have Mitchell #3 out of the group since he’s viewed more a bullpen guy.

        Regardless, all three will be MLB players, although unlikely with the Yankees, or at least all three of them. None are viewed as org players.

  • http://twitter.com/urbainshockcor Urban

    Mitchell. My cursor bounced back and forth over Phelps and Mitchell, and I even orginally clicked on Phelps before deciding on Mitchell. Tough, since I believe in Phelps more than many. I view him similar to IPK (although not as good) a few years back in that he always seems to be the forgotten man, the one with the doubt attached to him, and sometimes he doesn’t even make the Yankees prospect rankings, as we saw with Kevin Goldstein.

    Yet I’d still go with Mitchell since the belief is that he’s a reliever longterm, so let’s get him going in that role. Plus, that will keep Phelps and Warren stretched out in their starter roles for when the Yankees need them, and to help maintain their trade value.

    For the record, I didn’t even consider Warren, even though he might turn out better than the other two. He’s not yet on the 40 man and that’s going to work against him for now.

  • Fin

    I have to think the Yankees think Phelps is the best option for a rotation spot right now. For that reason, I think they keep him completely stretched out in AAA incase of an injury before Petite or Pineda is ready to go. That leaves Mitchell and Warren and since Warren isnt on the 40 man and there doesnt seem to much of a difference in what you would get out of them in a limited long man role, Mitchell seems like the defacto winner.

  • paul

    I said Mitchell-if they view him as a BP guy like many are saying then put him there. And if they see phelps and warren as starters…then let them join banuelos, and bettances in AAA and have a sweet rotation there. Let those 5 sp’s in AAA get their work in every 5 days and dont screw with them…

    • Slugger27

      but… the yankees are trying to win the toughest division in baseball. fans might assume a postseason berth is coming, but its not until it happens. its hard to justify taking mitchell (assuming they think phelps is the superior pitcher) over someone who they think is better.

      the long man sometimes pitches in games where the outcome is already decided, but sometimes he doesnt.

      • Havok9120

        Is the short-term difference marked enough to make that argument valid? I’d say no. Phelps looks like a better starter to my eyes and possibly the team’s, so keep him starting.

        I understand what you’re saying but say Phelps is a 5% improvement. Heck, lets be generous and go 15%. Is that 15% improvement in garbage time and the occasional regular or high leverage action a big enough difference to sacrifice time doing his thing as a starter? Isn’t that the same kind of thinking that landed Joba in the ‘pen long term? I grant you that its a different situation because the talent levels are so different, but the principal remains the same. You’re mortgaging long term benefit for short term gain and, unlike with Joba, the gain would be minimal at best.

        • Slugger27

          i get your point. i just dont agree that it hurts his development. theres been plenty of starters ease into the big leagues by working out of the pen. you view it as “mortgaging long term benefit” and i view it as helping both the yankees team needs and phelps individual needs at the same time.

          my opinion is that hes better off facing major league competition than doing the same thing in AAA that he did last year. to me, having him pitch in long relief isnt a detriment to his development, especially at his age and with what hes accomplished in the minors.

          joba is a completely different scenario and shouldnt be viewed as an apt comparison. he was rushed thru 3 levels in the same year and was obviously strictly a 1 inning guy when they used him in the pen.

          • Havok9120

            Oh no, I don’t think is that it hurts anyone development either. Although, as we saw with Noesi, letting a guy we see as a possible rotation piece for us (which we do; one of could easily end up as at least a transistion piece in 2013, and when Hughes walks in 2014, I’m not sure we can count on both B’s being ready for integration) waste away in the bullpen seeing almost no work is not really optimal. Pitchers used to break in through the ‘pen all the time, but that was generally when they were getting regular use. Our longman probably won’t. Is facing 200 MLB batters over ~60 innings better than facing three times that many batters in AAA? *shrug* I can see either side.

            If we view one as a bullpen guy anyway and the performance difference is not huge, why use the starter? I’m not sure there’s enough developmental benefit to pitching garbage innings at the MLB level to make that a useful tool. I may be biased because I absolutely hated the way we used Noesi last year, though I think he’d have gotten the starts mid-year if we’d had the bullpen depth we do now.

            I really don’t care that much. He’s the 25th man on the roster and I can see benefits doing it either way. Honestly, the thing that would tip the balance for me are details about their development and makeup that I don’t have access to. I trust the Yanks to know their guys far better than I do.

            • Slugger27

              my main thing is i just wanna see the better pitcher impacting games for the yankees. the fact that facing major league competition may help him develop more individually than facing AAA hitters all year in a starting role (this is opinion of course) is icing on the cake.

              as i said in an earlier comment, i just envision games like last year in baltimore or games where the starter gets knocked out early in a (still very winable) slugfest. i want the best pitcher on the mound for those times. i fully recognize the difference between best and 2nd best out of these 3 is prety marginal. still, as a fan, id rather see the best pitcher determining the outcome of those games. it wouldve been easier to sleep after that baltimore game if noesi had lost than, say, lance pendleton.

              i just want them to take whoever they view is the best pitcher RIGHT NOW out of those 3, since this pitcher can and will affect the won-loss record of the yankees this season. if its mitchell then its mitchell, but take the best guy, regardless of role. JMHO

  • vin

    Did anyone else here David Cone raving about how great Mitchell looked the other day? He sounded quite impressed with his repetoire and ability to throw quality pitches.

  • Bavarian Yankee

    I voted for Mitchell because I think he’s a future reliever anyway. It’s better for Warren and Phelps to get their starts in AAA.

  • jjyank

    I voted for Mitchell. I like Phelps more, but I would like to see him developed as a starter. Mitchell seems to be more destined for the bullpen, so let him get that train started. Phelps will still likely get a few starts at some point over the summer or serve as trade bait.

    Warren likely isn’t part of the conversation because he’s not on the 40 man. If the Yankees believe Mitchell is more of a long-term bullpen piece and Phelps is a long term back-end starter, then I think it is a pretty easy decision.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    My vote was Mitchell. I like his stuff, his composure, and his ability to limit the damage thus far during the spring when in trouble. Seems like a guy who could give you three innings in a variety of circumstances.

    In my world, Phelps would be the first guy up if a starter was needed, and a guy looking to knock off his more heralded AAA-mates for an open rotation slot next year.

    • Slugger27

      but they already have pettitte and pineda to come up in the next few weeks. take the better pitcher. theres gonna be games where the starter gets knocked out early and its 6-6 in the 3rd inning. there will also be games like last year in baltimore where the long man has to pitch in high leverage out of necessity. i want the better pitcher on the mound for those times, period.

      • Cesar “Stairs” Cabral

        1. Who’s to say that you’re not going to need a starter besides Pettitte and Pineda? Odds are they will.

        2. Who’s to say when either is going to be ready, or if you’ll need a starter before that?

        3. What makes anyone so sure that David Phelps is the better pitcher by any sort of margin?

        • Cesar “Stairs” Cabral

          This is why you pick ME.

          • jjyank

            Why, can you throw with your right arm too?

        • Plank

          Oops. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

        • Slugger27

          1. then take mitchell/warren or whoever else. theres plenty of options for spot starters

          2. this is too similar to #1, ill use the same response

          3. DIPS and scouting reports

      • RetroRob

        I understand what you’re saying, but the differences between the two in that role might not be all that great, and in fact it’s possible that Mitchell will be more effective than Phelps in role, even though Phelps might be better as a starter. There are those who believe that Mitchell is more difficult one or two times through the lineup, but hitters will catch up to him later in the game, while Phelps has a greater variety of pitches to carry him further into the game.

        To make the example, I’ll use two successful Yankees: Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte. While I believe Rivera could have been an effective starter once he mastered his cutter, I don’t think he’d havee been as good a starter longterm as Andy Pettitte. And while I’m confident that Andy Pettitte could have been a good closer, I have no doubt he wouldn’t have been as good at it as Rivera.

        The talent evalutors may view Mitchell as a better reliever than Phelps, but not as a negative in the sense he can’t be a starter. His stuff may translate to the pen better than Phelps.

        • Slugger27

          well then thats fine. if they think mitchell will pitch better out of relief than phelps, by all means take mitchell. i just dont want them taking the guy they feel isn’t the best for the job based on a mistake they made with joba (which isn’t even apples to apples anyway).

          i dont want them saying “we think phelps is a better pitcher and will be more successful in the big leagues, but lets bring up mitchell because phelps should stay on a starter schedule” or “we may need phelps to spot start so lets keep him down even though hes slightly better”

          if you need a spot start before pettitte/pineda (unlikely given the off days) then you cross that bridge when you come to it

  • jjyank

    Also, to those that think that Phelps would be better served by facing major league hitters, you’re probably right. But I still think you go with Mitchell here because Phelps will probably get used at some point this year anyway. At the very least, he can slot into the #5 spot in 2013 with Kuroda, Pettite, and Garcia likely gone. Phelps will get his shot. If Mitchell is a bullpen piece long term, the Yanks might as well start him on that path and see what he’s got. Like Mike said, we can always swap them out over the summer.

  • I Live In My Mom’s Basement

    Phelps. I would have picked Warren except for the roster status. I think Phelps has a higher upside as a ML pitcher than Mitchell, but due to the Yankees depth either as more value as trade bait than as a Yankee. I’d like to see Phelps get the major league exposure which could increase his trade value to more than that of a mere throw-in. As he is ranked behind CC, Nova, Hughes, Pineda, ManBan and possibly Betances in the medium term, and Kuroda, Pettite and Garcia as well in the short term, Phelps will never get more than 1-3 starts in the majors for the Yankees.

    • jjyank

      I agree with your general sentiment, but you can’t know how many starts Phelps will get as a Yankee in the future. I agree that Phelps has more upside than Mitchell, but what happens in 2013 if Phelps is in the bullpen all year in 2012?

      Say Phelps throws 100 innings out of the pen this year. Can you slot him into the 5th spot in 2013 and expect him to throw 160-200 innings? Probably not. I think Phil Hughes (and maybe even Pineda) can attest to that. Remember that right now, our 2013 rotation is CC, Nova, and Hughes. Phelps has the opportunity to pitch in the back-end of the rotation in 2013 if he can build on his innings in 2012. I am skeptical that Phelps can spend all of 2012 in the bullpen and then throw him in the rotation full time. Unless you believe Phelps’ destiny is simply trade-bait.

      • Slugger27

        Remember that right now, our 2013 rotation is CC, Nova, and Hughes


        • jjyank

          Wow haha I completely forgot about Pineda somehow. My bad, you’re right. Still leaves a spot up for grabs though.

          • Fin

            I think there will be one spot open, for different reasons though. I think Hughes gets traded leaving the rotation CC, Pineda and Nova. I think after another year in AAA barring injury Manban is virtually guaranteed a spot in the rotation. I’m still not sure Phelps or Warren will get that fifth spot as its easy to see the Yankees picking up another year of Petite/Kuroda depending on how they pitch. It seems unlikely the Yankees go with 2 rookies in the rotation for 2013. Also hoping that Betances finds enough control to put his name in the mix.

  • jjyank

    One thing I would like to point out: how awesome is it that we get to debate this? On Boston, either one of these 3 guys would probably be their 4th starter, and we’re trying to decide which one could best fill out the last bullpen slot. I love it.

  • Chip Off the Ol’ Knoblauch

    I haven’t followed Mitchell much. The sentiment seems he’ll be a reliever, but I think they keep in AAA to start to see if he can stick as a starter and use Phelps for the swingman role since he’s already on the 40 man and has proven he can start.

  • J. Scott

    Voted for Mitchell. Got my first real look at the three guys this spring. Agree with the guy at Pinstripes Plus who’s been saying for years to ignore the gun readings on Mitchell and pay attention to the deployable assortment and wicked movement on his pitches. I think he’s better than the other two and will have the better career in whatever role(s) he fills.

  • Fin

    People mention putting Phelps as the long releiver to increase his value in a trade. I really dont think there is much difference between building is value as a AAA starter who does well or a long guy that can go long stretches without pitching. Before the last month of season last year, Noessi had 40 something innings pitched.

    I’m also not sure they are looking to trade him. I think Hughes is the real trade bait. If they were to trade Hughes, Phleps would likely be even more valuable as depth. I really like to see young guys get their shot, and I would be pretty comfortable with Phelps as the fifth starter. I think it would be a waste to have him as the long man though, when there is a very similar option who doesnt project to be as good of a starter.

    I think Noessi would have been better serverd to be in the minors starting last year, rather than rotting away on the bench. He could have made those spot starts where the Yankees went dumpster diving and posssibly pitched well enough to keep his spot.

  • DM

    I don’t buy the “Phelps as reliever” increases his trade value theory. If he’s the last man in the bullpen, and only pitches here or there, that won’t enhance his value — and it could make him look worse if he pitches poorly in that limited role. Also, some smaller market teams would prefer to control his service time for financial reasons. Sometimes prospects look better to other teams by letting them dominate in AAA. I think Noesi would’ve had more trade value in this off-season as a dominant AAA starter last year than being buried as a mop up man in the big league pen. Now the clock towards arbitration has begun on him, and he didn’t pitch much above AA as a starter. And b/c of last year’s mixed role with limited innings, he probably can’t pitch a full load this year.