Betances and Nuno win final spots as Yankees finalize bullpen

Update: MLB, MLBPA announce new drug agreement
Davidoff: Yankee sign Al Aceves to minor league deal

The bullpen for the start of the 2014 season is set. Joe Girardi announced that Dellin Betances and Vidal Nuno have won the last two spots and will join David Robertson, Shawn Kelley, Matt Thornton, David Phelps, and Adam Warren in the bullpen. Robertson, of course, is replacing Mariano Rivera as closer. The bench has not yet been finalized.

Betances, 26, moved into the bullpen full-time last May and his career took off after years of command issues. He pitched to a 2.08 ERA with 93 strikeouts and 28 walks in 65 total relief innings between Triple-A and MLB last season, and this spring he’s allowed only one run with eleven strikeouts and four walks in 12.1 innings. Betances, who lives and dies with his mid-90s fastball and hard curveball, figures to cut his teeth in middle relief before possibly assuming greater responsibility.

The 26-year-old Nuno had a 2.25 ERA in 20 big league innings last summer before suffering a season-ending groin injury. He allowed three runs in eight innings this spring, walking one and striking out eight. Girardi could use Nuno as a matchup left-hander or a multi-inning guy, so the bullpen has some added flexibility. I think the best case scenario for Nuno is a lefty version of 2009 Al Aceves, a rubber-armed reliever who can face one batter or throw four innings if need be.

The Yankees start the season with 13 games in 13 days, so having three stretched out relievers in Phelps, Warren, and Nuno allows them to take it easy on Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda out of the gate. Tanaka is transitioning from a seven-day schedule to a five-day schedule while Pineda is returning from shoulder surgery. Girardi, who is very good at getting the most out of his relievers, has insisted they would take the 12 best arms for the bullpen and that’s pretty much exactly what they’ve done.

Update: MLB, MLBPA announce new drug agreement
Davidoff: Yankee sign Al Aceves to minor league deal
  • D$1184

    Might have gone with Cabral over Nuno; Nuno’s a soft-tossing finesse pitcher; how effective will he be against David Ortiz or Chris Davis in the 7th inning or later of a tight ball game?

    • JGYank

      Thornton will be used in most of those situations, and Cabral walks guys left and right. Also Nuno can go multiple innings, so I can see why they would go with him.

      • john duci

        Thornton sucks he’s going to get lit up this season

  • Yankee$

    Shocked but not upset it’s Nuno. I’d still rather see him stretched out and frankly, he doesn’t have a ton of innings in AAA. Maybe they believe he’s all he’s going to be right now (and that might actually be pretty good) so keep him in The Show.

    • I’m One

      Not socked by his selection, but agee with you on the rest.

  • Macho Man “Randy Levine”

    Not sure I agree with Nuno. But it’s not like the roster has to remain the same.

  • whozat

    That seems dumb. Now their sixth starter is going to be someone in the bullpen pitching 2-6 innings every other week.

    • TWTR

      The more time that passes with them in the pen, the more problematic that would become.

  • MPierce

    I’m surprised they’re not leaving him at Triple-A to stay stretched out, but I’ve always felt he was a couple more starts away from being figured out anyways. Hopefully being in the bullpen gives him a little more zip on his fastball and he can be a left handed Ramiro Mendoza.

  • Dan

    This to me seems like it is a waste of their SP depth. They have 3 SPs in their bullpen. Best case scenario is one of them is stretched out as a Long Reliever. So the other 2 are just middle relief guys. I hope they thrive, but it’s not like they are going to be ready to go 5 innings in May if they’re pitching an inning every day or two. Trade one of these guys, package them with a catcher and get some infield depth. This is a waste.

    • MC

      I share your sentiment. I’m not terribly upset about the decision, but I do feel carrying 3 effective starting pitchers doesn’t make much sense. I was going to write about this yesterday. I wonder if this effectively puts the Yanks bullpen at a slight disadvantage not having that “specialist” like a Lewis or Daley, etc. Let’s face it, you need a mop up guy for those inevitable games that are out of control and that could be any one of Phelps, Warren and Nuno.

      My feeling is the Yanks are being conservative at the moment and despite showing publicly that they are high on Pineda, they want to be sure before making other roster moves. What I mean by that is I HIGHLY expect Warren or Phelps to be traded sometime soon. That is if the starting 5 pitches well out of the gate. Guys like Warren and Phelps can be had to varying degrees through out the summer or even better pitchers. I think the Yanks just want to take the first 2-3 weeks slowly.

      With the D-Backs losing yet another arm (bullpen), I’m telling you, these two teams match up very well for a trade. The yanks could fill their shopping basket in one shot (spare catcher, bullpen arm and starter).

  • jsbrendog

    sooooooooo, who are the 6th and 7th starters now?

    • Need Pitching & Hitting

      2 out of Phelps, Warren, and Nuno

      They can afford a 3-4 inning start if necessary.
      After all, they’ll have plenty of long relievers.

      • Need Pitching & Hitting

        or the Mexican Gangster

      • Ed

        That’s fine in theory, but the team is in serious trouble if they’re able to keep three guys stretched out enough for long relief.

        When they’ve got one guy stretched out for long relief, he usually pitches what, maybe once a week? Twice in a bad week?

        • nyyankfan_7

          I don’t think you will see all 3 of them there for long. The 13 games in 13 days probably plays a large part of the decision. Not only that but the first few weeks are generally cold and prone to rain delays and we have at least 2 (Tanaka & Pineda) and maybe even 3 (Kuroda) starters that are going to babied to start the year.

          My guess is by end of April we see Nuno down to AAA for Cabral.

        • Need Pitching & Hitting

          They wouldn’t necessarily have to be all that stretched out.
          Just going 35-45 pitches (2-3 innings) on occasion (at least once every couple of weeks) should enable them to be able to go 50-60 in an emergency. They could certainly work that even without starters getting knocked out early. For example, with a solid lead, a starter could go 6 innings with one of the other starters going the final 3. And they could probably get by just fine with only 2 of the 3 being even that stretched out.
          And even stretching a couple of these guys to 50-60 pitches should only be necessary one turn through the rotation. If a starter was going to be on the shelf longer, they’d just go on the DL, and they’d be able to call someone more stretched out up to serve as true long-man.

          It’s not ideal, but it’s certainly workable, especially with several multi-inning capable relievers (even Betances fits) and only carrying one -OOGY.
          Probably not a good idea to go in this mode for a full season, but for the first month or so, it shouldn’t really be an issue.

    • Yankee$

      Shane Greene?

  • dkidd

    nuno will be stretching out in aaa by 5/1; he’s just an extra caddie for tanaka and pineda to start the season

  • JGYank

    Betances was a good choice, but I’m surprised by Nuno. Not your typical RP. Thought they would of stashed him in AAA so he could be a spot starter. I thought they would of went with Daley who was great in the minors even if they had to make room on the roster for him. They obviously value a 2nd LHP and Nuno’s ability to go multiple innings. Cabral has better stuff than Nuno but walks too many hitters.

    The pitching staff is complete. All the guys competing for the 5th starter spot made the team. Now we just need to complete the bench. Probably Anna and Nunez. Ryan when he comes back will replace one of them.

    • lightSABR

      I wonder if part of it is a 40-man roster management move. They want two more months’ performance to base their DFA decision on before they call up Daley.

      • JGYank

        Possible. Gives them time to see what’s working in the pen and what’s not and who they plan to keep on the roster. I think the fact that Pineda’s on an innings limit, Tanaka isn’t used to pitching this often, and that Kuroda tires out by the end of the season along with the long stretch to start the season made them want to have innings eaters in the pen. And a 2nd LHP, since Thornton is on the decline and it’s useful to have an extra. But Daley’s numbers in AAA look great, and I wouldn’t be surprised if him, Claiborne, or Cabral were called up at some point.

  • Wayne

    I might prefer Vidal as a starter if someone in rotation gets hurt. Out of Phelps , Warren and Nuno two out of those three should be in minors as starters. Shane Greene I would have put in bullpen. If Jose Ramirez was ready and pitched well in spring training he could have made bullpen with Shane Greene and you could have kept Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno in minors as starters and have Phelps as longman in majors.. That is what I would have preferred to happen!

  • Kosmo

    Yanks just re-signed Aceves.

  • forensic

    I don’t like that they picked Nuno. I think they should’ve left him in AAA where he could stay stretched out and be available if needed. A couple weeks into the season, the three ‘starters’ in the bullpen won’t be able to just step into the rotation and take a few starts if needed. That just leaves them with one of the AAA guys, which isn’t a very good situation.

    That said, it’s not surprising. They wanted the easy choice and it was basically either him or Cabral since they were on the 40-man already. Personally, I would’ve gone with Cabral between the two, but would’ve chosen Daley over any of them.

    • Need Pitching & Hitting

      I’m not sure Nuno would’ve been the automatic 6th starter even if he were stretched out in AAA. And I doubt they’d go with one of the AAA guys if they needed someone to step into the rotation (unless they felt one of the AAA guys was likely to be better than Phelps, Warren, or Nuno).
      Phelps basically served as the 6th starter last year and moved straight from the bullpen to the rotation. I don’t think they’d automatically take Nuno as a starter just because he was stretched out, especially with several multi-inning relievers now.

  • willie w

    I am happy they are giving youngsters a chance

  • fred robbins

    Phelps will get rocked in the bull pen. He doesn’t miss bats and you can’t bring him in with men on base and no one out– that would be guaranteed runs charged to someone else of course. I would say use him if Pineda has a strong 6 innings and is winning 6 or 7-1 in the game– then bring in Phelps or Nuno to close out all 3 innings..

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