Cody Eppley’s Big Chance

Is Cody Ransom an upgrade over Jayson Nix?
2012 Draft: Stryker Trahan
(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Billy Butler is one of the most unheralded great hitters in baseball. The 26-year-old is hitting .301/.361/.515 with eight homers in 180 plate appearances this season and with all due respect to Mike Moustakas, he’s clearly the biggest threat in Kansas City’s lineup. That’s why it was surprising when Joe Girardi called on Cody Eppley, an up-and-down right-handed reliever, to face Butler with a man on first and no outs in the eighth inning of a one-run game last night.

Eppley, 26, used three upper-80s sinkers to get Butler to fly out harmlessly to right for the first out of the inning. It was the only batter he would face but was one of the most important plate appearances of the game in terms of Leverage Index (3.38). Of course, Girardi called up Eppley hoping for a double play ball on the ground. The sidearming righty has a 66.7% ground ball rate in limited big league action this season but was at 82% in Triple-A according to First Inning. His career minor league ground ball rate is roughly 61%.

He didn’t get the double play ball but Eppley did get a chance to pitch in a pretty big spot. He’s been hell on right-handed batters throughout his Triple-A career (.211/.291/.265 against with a 28.5 K%), which isn’t a surprise given his arm slot and sinker-slider combination. That’s going to be his role in the big leagues, a righty matchup guy who specializes in ground balls. Think Burke Badenhop or Brad Ziegler or Joe Smith. A useful pieces for the middle innings but not exactly your relief ace.

Eppley is only on the roster for one reason right now: David Robertson‘s injury. Robertson is still feeling some pain in his strained left oblique and has yet to pick up a ball, so he’s probably a week to ten days away from returning to the club in the best case scenario. It depends on how many minor league rehab appearances the team has him make, if any. That gives Eppley another handful of appearances to show that he can contribute to the Yankees on a regular basis, at least moreso than Freddy Garcia. That’s his goal, out-pitch Freddy.

The only problem with carrying Eppley instead of Garcia long-term is that you’re stuck with two specialists in the bullpen between him and Clay Rapada*. Those are two guys who are most effective when kept away from batters of he opposite hand and it really hamstrings the manager and increases the workload on the other relievers. I’d prefer to see David Phelps in a multi-inning setup-type role rather than assuming long man work from a departed Garcia, so Eppley could be squeezed out of the bullpen until the next injury. It will be interesting to see how he’s used until Robertson returns; more opportunities like the one we saw last night would be an indication that the Yankees are giving him a longer look and a chance to earn a spot on the roster even when their top late-inning arm gets healthy.

* Boone Logan has been incredibly effective of late and is pitching like more than a lefty specialist at the moment, so we’ll give him a pass for now.

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Is Cody Ransom an upgrade over Jayson Nix?
2012 Draft: Stryker Trahan
  • LiterallyFigurative

    It’s interesting to see Girardi going back to a mix and match manager, 2008 style, as opposed to the robotic, “This guy is my X-Inning Guy” manager that he has become. Not that it’s bad to be the robo-manager (Having SoRoMo was a hell of a luxury), but it’s just a different style. More decisions.

    Eppley and Rapada are going to have to get those same-siders out. Logan has shown he can be great vs. lefties and really good vs. righties. Wade is strong. Like last night, you might see 4 guys to get 6 outs to bridge it to Soriano.

    Biggest issue for the next few weeks will be how does Girardi keep Logan and Wade fresh. The specialist-ness (not a word) of Eppley and Rapada mean that Logan and Wade might appear alot, especially if the games are tight. It was one thing to substitute them for Soriano or Robertson on the 3rd day, quite another to have to pitch the 8th all he time. We’ll see if Phelps gets important innings, as the Yanks will need some 2-inning performances to get through the 6th and 7th.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      specialist-ness (not a word)

      Should be. Let’s submit it to Mirriam-Webster.

      • Eirias

        There is always “specialization,” but specialist-ness does have a unique portmanteau sniglet quality that I appreciate in words.

  • Manny’s BanWagon

    Assuming Soriano is the closer and Garcia the mop up guy, if you have a ROOGY and LOOGY in the pen, it only leaves 3 other pitchers to shoulder the rest of the load.

    Eppley would have to be almost unhittable for right handed batters to justify his spot.

    • All Praise Be To Mo

      Most times though there are more righties than lefties in a lineup and Eppley can be used for a few batters in a row.

  • jjyank

    Do ROOGYs get cookies too?

    • Betty Lizard

      But of course, Froggy!

  • LK

    I really can’t see any way that Eppley is still on the roster in a couple months barring a shooting spree in the bullpen.