Manipulating the roster around the All-Star break

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The Yankees enjoy a much needed — for the bullpen, anyway — day off today before heading to Boston for a four-game set this weekend. They’ll play one tomorrow, two on Saturday, one on Sunday, then will have four days off for the All-Star break. Everyone will get to recharge the (physical and mental) batteries before getting into the dog days of summer and the stretch drive. The break gives everyone a rest and just as importantly, it gives the Yankees a chance to manipulate and optimize their roster in the short-term.

Embedded Red Sox? Hope not. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Darnell McDonald
It seemed like a curious move at the time but the picture became clear once we had a second to sit back and think about it. The Yankees claimed outfielder Darnell McDonald off waivers from the Red Sox yesterday, adding a right-handed bat known for hitting lefties (career .345 wOBA vs. LHP) and capable of playing all three outfield spots. He’ll be in uniform at Fenway Park tomorrow.

The move wasn’t made to replace Dewayne Wise or Andruw Jones, the move was made to add McDonald to them. Although the team has not confirmed their plans, they’re almost certainly going to option David Phelps to the minors and roll with a five-man bench over the weekend. Phelps started yesterday and wasn’t scheduled to pitch this weekend, so the Yankees won’t miss him. With Boston scheduled to thrown three southpaws — Franklin Morales, Felix Doubront, and Jon Lester — in the four games this weekend, expect to see McDonald in left and Jones at DH with both Wise and Raul Ibanez available off the bench.

CC Sabathia
Once Phelps goes down he is ineligible to return for ten days, but that won’t be an issue since Sabathia is expected to come off the DL right after the break. The big left-hander played catch yesterday and will throw his first bullpen session since hitting the DL tomorrow, and so far all indications are that he’s a go once his 15 days up. Phelps will be able to continue to work as a starter in Triple-A, accumulating innings and threatening to take Freddy Garcia‘s roster spot.

The Yankees can push Sabathia back to the fifth game after the All-Star break, which is Tuesday the 17th. They play three games against the Angels and will likely see C.J. Wilson at some point, so McDonald should be useful for at least one game that series. They’ll then play the Blue Jays, who have three lefties — Ricky Romero, Brett Cecil, and Aaron Laffey — in their rotation. Odds are in favor of them seeing one of those guys in the series opener, which McDonald could start before being released to clear a roster spot for Sabathia in the second game, getting the Yankees back to a 12-man pitching staff and four-man bench.

(Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

The 26th Man
Thanks to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Yankees (and Red Sox) will be allowed to carry a 26th man for both games on Saturday. It has to be the same player for both games and he must be sent back to the minors the next day. George King says the Yankees will bring back Cory Wade for the day, giving them seven available relievers on Saturday. Wade threw a perfect inning on nine pitches in his first Triple-A outing yesterday as he tries to get his location back to where it needs to be.

The Yankees will still have the option of swapping out a regular 25-man reliever between games if they want. Say Cody Eppley ends up throwing 30 pitches in the first game, they could then send him down before the second game for someone like Justin Thomas — who was going to be recalled prior to the Chad Qualls trade — for the nightcap. The third lefty reliever could come in hand against the Sox, but it also may be overkill. It is an option though, and I figure they’ll at least have an extra Triple-A arm waiting at the hotel in case they need to make a between-games move.

* * *

These four games in three days against the Red Sox are happening in isolation, at least as much as any early-July series could happen in isolation. Both teams are off today and the All-Star break follows next week, so both clubs will be rested with the opportunity to manipulate their roster. It’s almost like a little playoff series, but between a first place team and a last place team. The Yankees added a right-handed bat to combat Boston’s three lefties and won’t have to worry about the pitching staff being short-handed this weekend, which is pretty sweet. There would also be something deliciously ironic about McDonald getting a big hit or two this weekend after Boston him cast him aside.

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  • Robinson Tilapia

    Is the 26th guy still bound by regular send-down rules (i.e. has to wait 10 days before being brought up?). Will it really be 10 days by the time we can bring Cory back?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      The ten-day rule doesn’t apply to the 26th man. It’ll be like he was never called up, his clock started when he was first sent down.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Great time for a gag call-up.

        • Gonzo

          Can Billy Crystal come out of retirement?

  • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

    Darnell been to the barber yet?

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Darnell been to the bedbug exterminator yet?

    • Brian S.

      I hope not. The Yankees need a guy with dreads.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com GT Yankee

        Hey Darnell, Welcome to the Yanks-Now please cut your dreads so we can release you at some point next week-Have a nice day! :-)

        • Brian S.

          Seriously. What kind of dick move would that be?

          • RetroRob

            Yeah, but if they don’t ask him to cut his dreads, they’d be confirming they plan to release him.

            I think the Yankees should keep one open roster slot and trade for all players with dreads one by one, make them cut their reads, keep them for a game, then release/trade them.

  • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

    I like the move. He can run and is very versatile and knows the Sox staff obviously. As long as he doesn’t join the risp-fail party I’ll be happy.

    • Steve (different one)

      I think the RISP-fail party ended about 10 days ago…

      • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

        Hope you’re right. Not convinced. Our offense should be alot better but we have to start somewhere. A few clutch hits from ARod and I will finally be convinced.

        • Preston

          half of a season’s worth of RISP stats is nothing but statistical noise, can we stop talking about it.

          • RetroRob

            Ha!

            I agree with you, but this is a board where people obsess over back-up catchers, the replacement for the sixth man in the pen, the organization’s starting SS in the Florida Gulf Coast league, and some who actually think batting order makes a significant enough of a difference to worry about who is bating 5th or 6th!

  • MannyGeee

    ” It’s almost like a little playoff series, but between a first place team and a last place team.”

    Did it feel as good to type that is it did to read it? I bet it did…

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Try saying it out loud.

      • Rooting for U.S. Steel

        Every time I try saying this out loud, I end up cackling like Frank Gorshin.

    • mt

      Also isn’t it great that Red Sox just get swept by A’s and former Red Sox (Moss, Crisp and Reddick) drove in nine out of the twelve runs in series including a HR for each.

      Red Sux Nation will explode if Darnell Mc Donald does anything positive to win a game this weekend.

      Speaking of former teammates, I cannot believe that Maddon left Kyle farnsworth in to walk four peopole.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        I’ll never forget a couple of Sox fans ridiculing Mark Bellhorn at the stadium after their team cut him. Dude literally did nothing wrong but sign with the Yankees afterwards.

        • JohnC

          Never forget that big 3 run homer Bellhorn hit off Jon Lieber in game 6 in 2004. That pretty much killed them in that game. Thats my lasting image of Bellhorn

          • Robinson Tilapia

            Classic “guy who didn’t look right at all in pinstripes” as well.

      • Tom

        The best part of the series in Oakland?

        Nick Punto started at 3rd base the first two games and Mauro Gomez (?) started the 3rd game.

        If only they had a 3rd baseman on the bench instead of giving him away for some shiny rocks. But hey, at least Bobby V is happy. Let’s see Lowrie, Scutaro, Youkilis…they are all “excess” and smart trades by Ben C.

  • JohnC

    Didn’t Morales pitch in yesterday’s game for the Red Sox? Beleive he pitched an inning and a 3rd. Don’t see how he starts one of the games this weekend now? Lester is starting Sunday night so its hard to imagine him starting on 2 days rest in one of the DH games Saturday

    • Brian S.

      He did. I don’t know why Boston did that. Maybe Laptops is returning this weekend?

      • CBean

        it was his bullpen throwing day anyway so they claim he’ll still be able to make his start.

  • mt

    Yanks can also send DJ MItchell down when CC gets back to give Darnell a few more days. Bullpen will have too much rest after a four day break and it may take a week or so to get everybody back pitching – it will depend on how much bullpen gets used against Angels and whether Darnell shows anything intriguing.

  • yooboo

    I am not sure about the Eppley situation because he will be missed when Yanks have to face dangerous hitters like Trout, Pujols and Trumbo in the first series after All Star Break and Bautista (2 out of 3 games).

  • eephus_pitch

    Any thoughts on what Girardi’s nickname for Darnell McDonald will be?

    Some options:
    1. Mac
    2. Macky
    3. McDonaldy
    4. Darnelly
    5. Darny
    6. DM

    • Strat

      I gotta go with Mackey… m’kay?

      • eephus_pitch

        He’ll probably throw us all for a loop and just call him Darnell.

    • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

      or Sterling’s?

      He hit a DARN good shot!

      • eephus_pitch

        “You deserve a homerun today, at McDonald’s!”

        • Rainbow Connection (futurely Dummies Playing With Balls and/or RI$P FTW)

          lets hope not.

      • RI$P FTW

        Honestly, I hope it goes like this:

        “Old McDonald hit a HOME RUN!!!” (clutches chest, dies slowly and painfully)
        Suzyn “Oh my god!” (clutches chest, dies slowly and painfully)

        One can only dream.

        • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

          A DREADful ending to a Sterling career.

          YCPB.

    • RetroRob

      Short-timer.

  • BabyBubba

    I would like to start a campaign since the Yankees are not interested in bringing Swisher back next yeat because he will cost too much then I say let’s bring Melky back to play right field!!!

    • eephus_pitch

      Someone’s going to end up overpaying the MelkMan.