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…
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.