Second lefty seems unlikely despite Thornton’s rough spring

Rotation lined up as Spring Training winds down
2014 Season Preview: The Bench
(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Even though he caught an awful lot of crap, the Yankees had a pretty reliable lefty reliever in Boone Logan over the last few years. They wisely walked away when the Rockies offered Logan a total of $16.5M across three years this winter, instead opting to sign the veteran Matt Thornton to a more sensible two-year, $7M pact. Lefty reliever is a hardly a position worth big free agent bucks.

Logan is recovering from offseason elbow surgery and has yet to appear in a Spring Training game for Colorado while the 37-year-old Thornton has made four Grapefruit League appearances so far this spring. They’ve been four pretty terrible appearances: 14 batters faced, seven hits, one strikeout, three runs charged. He has only faced four left-handed hitters but three have hits. The other grounded out. Not ideal, but it is only spring.

“I know where I need to make improvements,” said Thornton to Brendan Kuty earlier this week. “The off-speed is coming along. I can use it in any situation. I was talking to Brian McCann after [my last] outing. He feels confident with any pitch we’re throwing out there, whether it’s the four-seamer, two-seamer slider or split, but you still have to get ahead. The next few outings I’m going for strike one, no matter what it is. You can’t fall behind guys.”

Thornton was once one of the top relievers in the game regardless of handedness, but, as I detailed in the season preview, his performance has slipped with age and he’s strictly a lefty specialist at this point. The Yankees know this and Joe Girardi is usually very good with platoon situations, so I don’t expect it to be much of an issue. He’ll be a glorified Clay Rapada rather than someone who is asked to get righties out with any sort of regularity.

As it stands right now, it seems unlikely the Yankees will carry a second lefty in the bullpen come Opening Day. Cesar Cabral continues to pitch unimportant late innings in spring games and appears to have been passed by Fred Lewis on the depth chart. Lewis has been impressive in camp but doesn’t have a promising minor league track record. Vidal Nuno is the most likely candidate for a potential second lefty spot, and he could wind up in Triple-A stretched out as the sixth starter.

Michael Pineda looked fantastic yesterday and solidified his hold on the fifth starter’s spot, meaning David Phelps and Adam Warren moved one step closer to the bullpen. That leaves only two open bullpen spots, one of which will go to Dellin Betances based on his performance this spring. Nuno could grab that last spot, it wouldn’t be that surprising, but Cabral and Lewis are a bit more off the radar. The Yankees could take a second lefty north if they’re concerned with Thornton, but I think they’ll go with him as the only southpaw until he shows he’s not up to the task in the regular season.

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Rotation lined up as Spring Training winds down
2014 Season Preview: The Bench
  • dkidd

    does daley go north?

    • M-Three

      No, Daley is just minor league depth to me a this point. Bring who ever is performing best tat is already on the 40 man roster. Even if that mean bringing Phelps, Warren and Nuno north so be it. None of those 3 deserve to be sent down. It gives us more length in the bullpen by having 3 guy that can pitch multiple innings and serve as protection for Pineda since his innings will be limited.

    • Yankee$ (Formerly Pseudoyanks)

      Scranton is North too you know…

      • OB/GYN Kenobi

        Oh you and your compass.

  • Go

    If there has been one thing and ONLY one thing that you could criticize Brian Cashman on, this would be it. If you were asked, for all the years Cashman has been in charge, what has been his #1 bugaboo, what would it be? I’m saying lefty reliever. This is his white whale. It has been the most elusive part of teams he puts together. I don’t think it’s a byproduct of scouting or even ability to spend. As been written on here and elsewhere, the loogy just seems to be a tough thing for most teams. They just don’t stay healthy or flame out quickly.

    • pat

      Loone Bogan?

    • Havok9120

      Did you sleep through Logan’s tenure?

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        Yeah, Boonie pretty much shoots this down.

        I actually do think that, more often than not, bench contruction has been overlooked until mid-season.

      • Jerkface

        Logan kind of sucked. The only thing I can say about Logan is that atleast he remained healthy for his time in pinstripes. Unlike Feliciano and Marte.

        I never did like him as a reliever though. He was strictly a LOOGY but used like a regular guy and his performance against lefties wasnt even that good.

    • TWTR

      Lefty relievers are not his biggest failing.

  • Matt DiBari

    Good. I’d much rather just take the best pitchers regardless of handedness

    • TWTR

      Me too.

  • Yankee$ (Formerly Pseudoyanks)

    Isn’t this the bullpen?
    DRob
    Kelley
    Betances
    Claiborne
    Thornton
    Phelps
    Warren

    • dkidd

      not sure claiborne is a lock yet

      • Yankee$ (Formerly Pseudoyanks)

        So Claiborne or Daley and the latter would require a 40 Man roster move. Got it, thanks.

        • Havok9120

          Claiborne, Daley, one of the lefty relievers, Nuno….

          There are real options there.

          • Joe R

            They’ve talked about liking Fred Lewis as well.

  • DIrk Diggler

    DFA below replacement level & one of the worst players in the league aka Eduardo Nunez and add Fred Lewis to the roster.

    It’s not a difficult concept to understand. Lewis is a lefty who has been hitting mid-90s on a fastball that’s moving anywhere and everywhere with a wipe out breaking ball. Lewis needs a spot on this roster, period.

    #FredLewisFanClub

    • Yankee$ (Formerly Pseudoyanks)

      His recent success (which has been quite impressive) is still over a small sample size and he doesn’t have a lot of AAA experience. They may choose to hold onto Nuney at least until May 1 (Sizemore deadline) and then make the decision on Nuney then. Would mean they will need a different move if they want to add Lewis and would also give them a longer look at Lewis at AAA.

      • Craig

        Fred Lewis, who I like, has faced the equivalent of a bit more than AA hitters in Spring Training, so take his SSS with a pretty good sized grain of salt.

        Send him to AAA and let him rip it up and get ready if he is needed.

        • leftylarry

          Lewis improved dramatically last year and deserves a shot.

    • The Great Gonzo

      Ichiro would go before Nunez. And Nunez is nowhere near one of the worst players in the league.

      I personally think Nunez should be the Opening Day starter…

      /Earlier Thread’d

      • lightSABR

        Math fail. ;)

      • Dirk Diggler

        By what metric is Nunez not considered one of the worst players in baseball?

        He can’t hit a lick and is historically/comically bad at fielding any position on the diamond.

  • Yankee$ (Formerly Pseudoyanks)

    No Video on MLB.TV today?

    • Yankee$ (Formerly Pseudoyanks)

      All I have is the Braves radio feed … but it SOUNDS like Nova is pitching well.

      • lightSABR

        2.0 IP, 0 H, 0BB, 3K, 2-0 groundouts-flyouts. And it’s against what looks like a lot of the Braves’ regulars. (Amazing how little I know about NL teams.)

        I can’t say anything about the process, but it’s hard to argue with those results.

        • Wheels

          Nice.

        • Yankee$ (Formerly Pseudoyanks)

          6.0 IP 2 Hits 5 K

      • lightSABR

        Nova’s still dealing. 4 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4K, 4-1 groundouts-flyouts.

        Man, if he’s consistently good this year…

        • OB/GYN Kenobi

          Boner. My 5 is soon to become a 6 at this rate.

        • Yankee$ (Formerly Pseudoyanks)

          Braves radio guys were raving about his curveball. Said he was getting it over to both sides of the plate. Also hit 94 (maybe 95) according to them.

  • BFDeal

    Letting Thornton pitch in relief on opening day means they’re not committed to winning.

    emac2’d

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    Thornton gets a slight vet pass from me, but I wouldn’t be completely shocked if he turns out to be less than expected.

    Stairs 4 life.

    • http://Riveravenueblues Marty Lieberman

      Very few people here remember Steve Hamilton but he was a great loogy back in the 60 s. Luis Arroyo who saved many of Whitey Ford s 25 wins in 1961 was not really a loogy since his best pitch was a screwball which of course is tougher on righties. Arroyo was at Old Timers Day not that long ago, if he is still with us he must be pushing 90. Number 47.

      As for recent loogys, Logan was ok to good mostly, Thornton is almost done. Lewis?? I like Nuno but he could be the sixth starter kept in AAA. Not really a loogy, is he. Doesn’t seem that tough on lefties.

      I thought Rapada, for what he was, a second loogy was pretty good. I d settle for that from Thornton.

  • qwerty

    I hope the 5th spot goes to either Nuno or Phelps.

    • Craig

      Why?