Ronald Torreyes has been the right guy at the right time for the Yankees this season

(Stephen Brashear/Getty)
(Stephen Brashear/Getty)

Last night the Yankees ran their Subway Series winning streak to three games, which allowed them to keep pace with the Red Sox in the AL East and keep basically the rest of the league at bay in the wildcard race. Aaron Judge cranked a monster home run and Didi Gregorius came up with a big go-ahead two-run double. Adam Warren was great too. He really covered for the worn out bullpen.

That go-ahead two-run rally in the seventh inning started with a Ronald Torreyes double down the third base line — he kept it just fair inside the bag and it rolled all the way to the wall — and he also added an eighth inning single. That one didn’t lead to a run(s). The double sure did though. Torreyes got the rally started and Gregorius finished it off. The two have a little post-win hug celebration now too, and I am 100% here for it:

Torreyes is, of course, in the starting lineup these days because Starlin Castro is on the disabled list. Castro is due to begin a minor league rehab assignment later this week, so chances are he is still a week away from returning, maybe even longer. Point is, Torreyes doesn’t have to look over his shoulder just yet. Castro’s return is not imminent and Tyler Wade sure as heck isn’t going to play, so the second base job is Toe’s.

Right now the Yankees need Torreyes to fill in at second base, and earlier this season, they needed him at shortstop while Gregorius was on the disabled list with his shoulder injury. The Yankees could’ve gone with Wade then or even Gleyber Torres, or perhaps a boring proven veteran like Pete Kozma, but they went with Torreyes and he was pretty great. His performance in April landed him the second base job in July and August.

  • Torreyes at short while Gregorius was hurt: .308/.308/.431 in 19 games
  • Torreyes at second while Castro has been hurt: .301/.316/.382 in 37 total games

Add in his reserve infielder work between the Gregorius and Castro injuries and you get a .293/.313/.379 (83 wRC+) batting line. Is it an empty .293 batting average? Oh yes. Torreyes never walks and he doesn’t have much power, and he doesn’t really steal bases either. You’re getting singles and that’s it. And you know what? Torreyes has provided the Yankees with enough singles this year to hold down the fort while Gregorius was hurt and Castro is hurt.

You know who Torreyes is? He’s the 2017 version of 1996 Mariano Duncan, only without the catch phrase. The Yankees signed Duncan to be their utility infielder that year and Tony Fernandez’s injury pushed him into the starting lineup. It’s a common misconception that the Fernandez injury opened the door for Derek Jeter. No. Jeter was slated to start at shortstop all along. The Fernandez injury meant no veteran safety net for the rookie, Duncan at second, and Andy Fox on the bench.

Anyway, Duncan stepped into the lineup for Fernandez and inexplicably hit .341/.352/.500 (114 wRC+) in 417 plate appearances. He hit .272/.297/.407 (89 wRC+) in his previous 2,100 plate appearances. And yet, when the Yankees needed him to cover for the injured Fernandez, Duncan went out and did more than anyone could have reasonably expected. That’s what Torreyes is doing now. He’s younger than Duncan was in 1996 (33) and isn’t hitting for the same power, but he’s moved into the lineup and contributed.

“The routine that I have, that allows me to prepare every day. It doesn’t matter what base, but if I follow the routine every day, it keeps me ready to play any base everyday,” said Torreyes to Chris Ryan. “My job here is to be the utility player here. To be ready to play any base here. We need Castro back, we need his bat in the lineup. You have to know what your job is, and my job is to be the utility player on this team.”

A few days ago I said I thought Torreyes was playing too much and I’d like to see Wade play against righties, and I still do, but that’s a me problem. Not a Torreyes problem. He’s done everything the Yankees could’ve asked him to do, first when Gregorius was sidelined and now with Castro on the disabled list. Would I want to go into a season with Torreyes penciled in as a starting infielder? No way. He’s a very good utility player though, someone who has delivered when the Yankees needed him to cover for an injured regular for weeks at a time this year.

The Yankees have a poorly constructed bench, but there’s not much they can do it about it right now

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Last night the Yankees dropped a heartbreaker of a game to the Red Sox, mostly because Aroldis Chapman blew his fourth save in 19 chances this season. The Yankees turned a one-run lead over to their closer and he couldn’t make it stand up. Rafael Devers hit an insanely impressive home run to tie it, but still, this is a results business, and Chapman didn’t get the results.

The Yankees had a chance to win the game in the bottom of the ninth inning and geez, it was a mess of an inning, both in terms of execution and decision-making. For both teams, not just the Yankees. Red Sox manager John Farrell tried to make an illegal mound visit to change pitchers and had to be told to go back to the dugout. Can’t say I’ve ever seen that before.

A quick recap of the inning: Chase Headley walked, Ronald Torreyes bunted him over to second, pinch-hitter Jacoby Ellsbury grounded out, Brett Gardner struck out. Why didn’t Tyler Wade pinch-run for Headley? Who knows. Why didn’t Craig Kimbrel start the inning instead of coming in after the mess was made? Who cares. Why did the Yankees not have a better pinch-hitting option than Ellsbury? That’s the real question.

Right now the Yankees are carrying eight relievers and three bench players. Those three bench players for last night’s game: Wade, Ellsbury, Garrett Cooper. Wade never plays, Ellsbury has played so poorly this year he had to be demoted into the fourth outfielder’s role, and Cooper is a right-handed platoon first baseman who apparently doesn’t even start against left-handers anymore. (He didn’t start against lefties Saturday or Sunday.)

Usually Austin Romine is on the bench in place of Ellsbury or Cooper, though he was in the starting lineup for the fifth time in the last ten games last night (!), so Gary Sanchez was the DH. After Ellsbury pinch-hit for Romine in that ninth inning, the Yankees had to forfeit the DH to move Sanchez behind the plate. It didn’t matter — the pitcher’s spot never came up again — but still. Second time in three games the Yankees did that.

As it stands, the Yankees don’t have a whole lot of utility on the bench. Wade can pinch-run and play just about anywhere in a pinch, but clearly Girardi doesn’t trust him, so he never plays. Wade has played twice in the last eleven days, both times playing defense for a half-inning at the end of a blowout. The Yankees are fighting for a postseason spot and Girardi is going to stick with Torreyes at second, and he’s been fine. Great at times, bad at others, fine overall.

Wade doesn’t play. Cooper provides zero flexibility as a first base only guy. Ellsbury? Meh. He’s had his moments the last eight days or so, but generally speaking, he’s on the bench more often than not these days for a reason. The bench right now is not very good, and the worst part? There’s really nothing the Yankees can do about. There are three reasons for that.

  1. Injuries. Starlin Castro, Greg Bird, and Matt Holliday (and Clint Frazier) are all on the disabled list. Those guys, when healthy, would push Cooper, Wade, and the eighth reliever to Triple-A, and Torreyes and Romine to the bench more often than not. (At least in theory.)
  2. The pitching staff. The Yankees are without Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia, and lately, getting length from the starter has been a tall order. Seven times in the last 17 games the starter failed to complete five innings. The Yankees need that eighth reliever given the state of the rotation.
  3. Lack of options. The Yankees have two healthy position players on the 40-man roster and not in the big leagues: Miguel Andujar and Tyler Austin. Austin is essentially a Cooper clone. Swap the two and nothing changes. The Yankees have clearly deemed Andujar not big league ready, and besides, he can only play third. Non-40-man options in Triple-A include, uh, Donovan Solano? Jake Cave? Billy McKinney? Not much there.

The Yankees could go out and make a waiver trade to bolster the bench — Neil Walker would’ve helped and I’m sure Jed Lowrie could be had — and I’m sure the Yankees are exploring every option. That said, it really feels like the Yankees are just trying to hang on and get by until the injured dudes return. Aaron Hicks came back late last week and both Castro and Bird are due to begin minor league rehab assignments this week. Holliday took batting practice yesterday. They’re coming.

For now, the Yankees can’t do much more than bide their time until the regulars get healthy or a sensible trade option becomes available. I’d bet on the former happening before the latter. Forfeiting the DH to pinch-hit for the backup catcher who starts way too often with less than ideal pinch-hitter options isn’t something that can last forever. The Yankees need to improve their bench, and the best way to do that is to get the regulars healthy.

With Ronald Torreyes locked in at second, the Yankees should let Tyler Wade play everyday in Triple-A

(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)
(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

Last night, for the first time since last Thursday, Tyler Wade got into a game with the Yankees. He played one half-inning in the field at the end of a blowout. That’s all. Wade has not started a game since last Thursday and he’s played only one full game in the last ten days. He is the quintessential utility infielder right now. Use only when absolutely necessary.

Wade has been glued to the bench basically since that ugly 0-for-5 with three strikeouts game against the Rays, in which the big spot kept finding him and he couldn’t come through. Predictably, Joe Girardi has gone with Ronald Torreyes almost exclusively at second base since then, and hey, Torreyes has played well. He’s gone 12-for-42 (.286) in eleven games since Wade’s disaster against Tampa.

Starlin Castro is currently working his way back from his hamstring injury, and given the way things have gone the last week and a half, there’s no real reason to believe Girardi won’t continue to stick with Torreyes at second base in the interim. Torreyes is in the position player Circle of Trust™. Wade has been an overmatched rookie. It happens. The Yankee are trying to contend and Torreyes gives them a better chance to win.

That said, is sitting on the bench the best thing for Wade at this point of his career? I don’t think so. I totally believe being in the big leagues can be a great learning experience for a young player, even when he’s not playing, but is that experience so valuable that the lost at-bats don’t matter? Maybe it is. I’m not so sure. Wade is a 22-year-old kid who hasn’t played a full Triple-A season yet, and lately he hasn’t been playing at all.

Castro is tentatively scheduled to start a minor league rehab assignment next week, which means he’s probably two weeks away from the returning to the lineup, give or take. Unless Girardi reverses course and starts playing Wade — he hasn’t even been playing against right-handed pitchers — that’s another two weeks on the bench on top of the two weeks he’s been sitting on the bench already. That’s an awful lot of sitting.

The solution here is pretty clear. Send Wade down to Triple-A so he can actually play, and call up a different player to serve as the utility infielder for the time being. Someone with no real long-term future with the Yankees. Someone who won’t make you lose any sleep if he goes two weeks between at-bats. Donovan Solano, Jonathan Diaz, and Cito Culver are with Triple-A Scranton and they all fit the bill. (I’d go with Solano, but that’s just me.)

There are 40-man roster considerations that are relatively minor. The Yankees do have an open 40-man spot, so adding Solano or Diaz or Culver would be a piece of cake. They would have to be removed once Greg Bird is activated off the 60-day DL, and since Bird is reportedly ahead of Castro in his rehab, there’s some conflict here. You can’t not have a utility infielder. The Yankees might have  to call Wade back up for a few days in that case. Point is, the 40-man roster aspect of calling up a different utility infielder is workable.

Anyway, the point here is Wade has not played much at all, and there’s little reason to believe he will get much playing time going forward. Sitting on the bench for a month isn’t the best development plan for a 22-year-old prospect. I know Wade has looked overmatched, and he has been, but he’s awfully talented. He’s good defensively, he’s athletic, he’s fast, and he can really work an at-bat. We’re not seeing it right now, but it’s in there. The skills have to be honed.

My preference would be Wade playing second base against righties, but since that’s not going to happen, sending him down is the next best thing. Let someone else rot on the bench. A 22-year-old kid with a chance to be part of the long-term future shouldn’t be the one stuck sitting for weeks on end. Teams go out and get journeymen like Solano and Diaz for exactly this reason. So kids like Wade wouldn’t be in the position he’s currently in.

Why Chris Carter isn’t Randy Winn (but may suffer the same fate)

(Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
(Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Chris Carter has had an objectively bad start to his Yankees career.

It was hard to imagine the team getting worse offensive production at 1B after Mark Teixeira‘s bad 2016, but we’re there anyway. Carter isn’t nearly the fielder Teixeira was (to be fair, neither is Greg Bird). But Carter was paid $3.5 million to mash and he’s hit just four home runs while producing a .180/.279/.333 batting line. He’s struck out 48 times in 129 plate appearances over 41 games.

Let’s be realistic: Carter has never been a strong batting average guy (career best is .239) and his 37.2 percent strikeout rate would be highest full season mark, but not much higher than his past numbers. However, his ISO is way down, going from .277 last year and .228 in 2015 to .153 so far this season.

The logical comparison for Carter right now would seem to be 2010 Randy Winn. Winn was a veteran brought in during the offseason after the 2009 title run and he would be cut by the Yankees on May 28, two weeks shy of his 36th birthday.

Carter could be in line for a similar mid-season axe. Greg Bird is on his way. Tyler Austin is in Triple A and could replace him whenever the team deems him ready. Rob Refsnyder, someone the Yankees have been allergic to giving at-bats to at times, has started over Carter multiple times in the past week. The writing is on the wall.

But Carter isn’t Winn. Not all that close. Even with the potential for the same fate and similar lack of production, the comparison stops right about there. Here’s why:

1. Winn was coming off a career-worst season: Winn was well below average the year before in San Francisco. Over his age 33 and 34 seasons with the Giants in 2007-08, Winn batted .303/.358/.436 while averaging 12 home runs and 20 stolen bases a year. Then he dipped significantly in 2009, mustering just a .262/.318/.353 mark. His strikeout rate crept up and his walk rate fell with his ISO. He still provided defensive value and 16 stolen bases, thus his 1.8 fWAR and 1.3 bWAR. But he was clearly aging and was becoming a negative in center field, although still able to play the corners.

Sure, Carter struck out 206 times in 2016, but he walked 76 times and, let’s not forget, led the National League in home runs. He’s always been a defensive negative, but he’s also never been a below-average hitter since he received anything resembling full-time work.

Therefore, taking the flyer on the aging Winn may have been foolish to begin with, but there was no reason to doubt Carter’s hitting ability. This year is the outlier with the lack of power.

(Al Bello/Getty Images)
(Al Bello/Getty Images)

2. Winn was brought in for cheap without a starting role in mind: The Yankees paid Winn just $1.1 million in 2010 to come in as their fourth outfielder. That was an $8.6 mil pay cut from 2009, when Winn was a starter. The team had Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher as regulars, and Winn wasn’t going to find himself in regular at-bats barring injury. None of those three were major injury risks. Perhaps Gardner was unseasoned, but the team clearly chose him over Melky Cabrera by trading Melky, so there had to be confidence in him starting his second full season.

Carter took a pay cut over what he could have gotten in arbitration, but he got about market value and $1 million more than last year. He was brought in for potentially many more at-bats and was Bird insurance. At worst, he was a platoon bat. But it was more likely that the team saw him as a major power boost with Bird potentially not being ready for the role. It wasn’t too hard to see him getting regular playing time … like he has.

The way to look at this is: It wasn’t hard to see Carter earning regular at-bats within a few weeks. Whether for Matt Holliday or for Bird, Carter getting into the lineup was easy to see. Winn was harder the see a consistent role other than a bench bat.

3. Winn had no clear replacements when he played himself off the roster and was clearly done: This is a big point. There was no one waiting in the wings to replace Winn. Winn had to put up incredibly poor numbers to be jettisoned. (His .213/.300/.295 line says it all). He not only put up bad numbers but also looked overpowered at the plate. He simply never adjusted to his backup role and was out of baseball after 162 more plate appearances with the Cardinals.

Carter has played poorly, but it’s hard to think that he’s done. Whether it’s the mechanics of his swing or something else entirely, Carter just seems off. His defense isn’t much different from normal. His batting hasn’t been good, but he also has done just enough that, in other circumstances, he could easily stay on as a bench piece. He’s only 30 years old and it’s hard to think he’s done. There’s a reason the Yankees have given him more of a chance than they ever gave Winn.

Carter could very well be more the type of player who the Yankees would cut and then we’d see him playing at his 2012-16 level for the second half (think LaTroy Hawkins in 2008). It’s as much his performance that would lead to an early exit from pinstripes as it is his replacements.

Winn ultimately had a -0.7 bWAR (-0.4 fWAR) and his replacements (Austin Kearns, Colin Curtis, Greg Golson and others) weren’t all that much better. He slightly rebounded in St. Louis in the second half but was still below average and was out of baseball after that season.

Carter isn’t done in baseball, far from it, even if the Yankees release him. But the presence of Bird and Austin, and the potential they bring to the table within the Yankees’ overall youth movement, make Carter expendable over the next few weeks despite having more potential to turn things around than Winn.

Why Chris Carter should be the Yankees starting shortstop

(Newsday)
(Newsday)

The headline drew you in, didn’t it?

The Yankees were almost faced with a situation where someone, either Chris Carter, Austin Romine or Aaron Hicks, was going to have to play second base if they tied it up on Sunday. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see it.

But it could actually be quite logical to start Chris Carter, a guy who is basically confined to first base, at shortstop… and bat him lead off.

No, I’m not crazy. This is an old Earl Weaver trick that can only be used on the road and only with a sufficient roster. Here’s how it works:

1. Carter isn’t actually going to play the field: Basically, you would have Carter lead off the top of the first inning in the lineup card as the shortstop. He’d take his turn at the plate. If you’re having a really good day, he might even get two plate appearances. And then you put Ronald Torreyes or Pete Kozma in as the shortstop for the bottom of the first. The lineup will then be the same as it is normally, just with the nine hitter as the leadoff guy and everyone moved down a spot.

With this scenario, you guarantee that you’ll get a better hitter an at-bat. You probably don’t want to do it with Didi Gregorius because he can actually hit. However, with him out, why not give an AB to Carter (or Aaron Hicks, who works just fine here too) over Torreyes? You can still pinch hit for them later with whoever is left on your bench in case you have a situation like Sunday’s ninth inning.

2. This can cause some clubhouse turmoil: When Weaver would do this back in the mid-1970s, it led to Royle Stillman, a left-handed hitting outfielder, as the team’s shortstop (as well as others). Personally, I love the concept of a lefty shortstop, even if it’s in name only. And Stillman was 3 for 6 in the role. However, Weaver also acknowledged in his book, “Weaver on Strategy,” that his sure-handed shortstop Mark Belanger was annoyed by the move. Sure, it makes perfect baseball sense, but it also is forcing a hitter like Belanger to see that he is an inferior hitter in his manager’s mind. That can really toy with a guy’s mind and may not be worth it from that standpoint.

3. The Yankees would have to re-tool their bench: This move eliminates your best pinch hitter (or one of them) and you lose one of your 13 position players off the bat. Therefore, it really only works if you have more position players on the roster. Weaver only pulled this trick in September with expanded rosters.

But the Yankees actually have an opportunity for that now. They have eight relievers for the time being, until a fifth starter is needed on April 16. That means they can easily afford to send someone down and call up another hitter. This would give the team more flexibility in general, but also enough room to use this ‘Carter at SS’ move.

Heck, it doesn’t even have to be Carter. On the 40-man, you could call up someone like Mason Williams, Rob Refsnyder or Kyle Higashioka and let them be the team’s shortstop in name only. That way, you save Carter for a late-game situation that may never come but could be a more valuable use of his power bat. Carter has never led off a game, as you may have guessed, so you don’t know if he’s even comfortable doing so.

(Getty Images)
A leadoff dinger would be fun. (Getty Images)

4. Lineup considerations: The other thing to consider is that with Matt Holliday at DH, Carter is your only backup first baseman unless you’re willing to have your pitcher hit or use your backup catcher (Romine). Therefore, you’d have to call up a backup first baseman (Refsnyder) or a backup catcher (Higashioka). You could also better do this move with Holliday getting a day off while you play all four of your outfielders with one as your DH. This way, Holliday is your emergency 1B or corner outfielder. Maybe you have Williams up as insurance for the outfield. Either way, this would probably be the optimal idea to pull this off.

I write this post acknowledging that the concept I’m suggesting will probably not be put into place. Beyond the simple thinning of your roster, it would cause a stir in the media. Girardi would be skewered if Carter made an out or Torreyes was forced to bat in a big situation late in the game. That’s the risk of this concept and you have to be someone that doesn’t care about how it will be received in order to actually put it in motion. I don’t blame Girardi if he doesn’t even consider this because really, what other current manager would even think about doing this? Maybe Joe Maddon or Buck Showalter? Buck, being in Baltimore, would be fitting to try it out.

But I will keep on dreaming of a world where some road PA announcer has to belt out, “Leading off, the shortstop, Chris Carter.”

A fifth bench player, not an eighth reliever, may be best use of the extra roster spot until the fifth starter is needed

So many pitching changes. (Presswire)
So many pitching changes. (Presswire)

Once again, the Yankees failed to pick up a win on a first day of the season this year. Yesterday’s loss to the Rays was not only their sixth straight Opening Day loss, it was their eighth loss in the last nine Opening Days. Yikes. Good thing it’s just another game, eh? The Yankees have not won on Opening Day since beating the Tigers back in 2011. Joba Chamberlain and Rafael Soriano set up Mariano Rivera for the save that day.

The Yankees used four relievers in yesterday’s game, leaving four others in the bullpen unused even though Masahiro Tanaka didn’t make it out of the third inning. Today is an off-day, so those guys will get a day to rest before going back to the park for Game Two tomorrow night. They’ll be fresh, if nothing else, and they figure to be very fresh for the first few weeks of the season. The Yankees have three off-days within the first ten days of the season, which they’re using to skip the fifth starter’s spot twice. Smart move.

Rather than carry a fifth starter, the Yankees have opted to carry eight relievers to start the season, which in no way surprises me. They seem to carry an extra reliever whenever they get a chance. Like every other team, the Yankees are terrified of overworking guys early in the season and running out of pitchers in extra innings. I get it. I do. I also think the eighth reliever is wasted roster spot because those scheduled off-days ensure the bullpen won’t be overworked early.

Keep in mind what happened last year. An Opening Day rainout meant the Yankees couldn’t skip their fifth starter, but they still had three off-days within the first 14 days of the season. Because of that, last guy in the bullpen Luis Cessa made just one appearance in the first eleven days of the season. The Yankees eventually decided to send him down to Triple-A Scranton because sitting unused in the big league bullpen was doing him no good.

This year the Yankees have an extra reliever and three off-days within the first ten days of the season, not the first 14 days like last year. More relievers, more off-days early. It sure seems like we’re heading for a “this reliever(s) has to get in a game soon because he needs the work” situation next week, doesn’t it? Joe Girardi is going to lean on his top relievers early thanks to those off-days — which he absolutely should do! — meaning the other relievers will be left idle.

Perhaps the Yankees will run into some extra innings games or get a few more short starts these next two weeks and need the extra relievers. That’s what they’re worried about, right? But, keep in mind both Adam Warren and Bryan Mitchell were stretched out to start during Spring Training, so they can give the Yankees some serious distance these next few weeks. And the Yankees aren’t shy about shuttling relievers in and out either.

Anyway, my point is there may be a better way to use the roster spot vacated by the fifth starter, who won’t be needed until April 16th. The Yankees could carry a fifth bench player instead, which would allow Girardi to do two things a little more often:

  1. Pinch-run in the late innings. The Yankees are getting younger but they’re still on the slow side. If they’re down a run or two in the ninth inning and either Gary Sanchez or Greg Bird reaches base, pinch-running would be a wise move. Right now Aaron Hicks, the only backup outfielder on the roster, is the best pinch-runner option.
  2. Pinch-hit for Torreyes. Inevitably, some big moments are going to find Ronald Torreyes, the fill-in shortstop while Didi Gregorius is sidelined. It happened yesterday and Girardi went to Hicks to pinch-hit against a righty. Chris Carter is available to pinch-hit against a lefty. Pete Kozma then has to take over at short, so they’re burning two players in one move.

The Yankees almost ran out of bench players yesterday. Hicks pinch-hit for Torreyes in the seventh inning, Kozma took over at shortstop, then Carter pinch-hit for Kozma in the ninth. The Yankees were going to be short a middle infielder had they tied the game. Bird told Anthony Rieber he volunteered to play third so Chase Headley could play second, allowing Starlin Castro to slide to short. Austin Romine at second was another option. No. Just … no. Playing dudes out of position on Opening Day would not be fun.

As with the eighth reliever, how often would this fifth bench player be used? That’s the question and the answer could very well be never. Maybe the Yankees keep socking dingers like they did in Spring Training and won’t need pinch-runners, and Torreyes goes all BABIP crazy for a few weeks and there’s no reason to pinch-hit for him. Baseball can be weird like that.

There’s also this: who would be the fifth bench player? Rob Refsnyder is at the front of the call-up line, and he would give the Yankees an extra middle infielder given his ability to play second base. That said, if you’re going to lift anyone for a right-handed pinch-hitter, Carter will get the nod before Refsnyder because that dude hits fungo bat pop-ups that carry over the fence.

The only left-handed hitter on the 40-man roster and not in the big leagues is Mason Williams, and while he’s not someone Girardi figures to use as a pinch-hitter for Torreyes, Hicks sure is. He did it yesterday. Hicks hits for Torreyes, Kozma takes over at short, and the Yankees would still have a capable outfielder on the bench in Williams should, say, Carter pinch-hit for Brett Gardner or Jacoby Ellsbury against a lefty the next inning. That’s not really doable right now.

Either way, eighth reliever or fifth bench player, we are talking about literally the 25th player on the 25-man roster. No team uses the last player on the roster all that often. It just seems like, with all those early season off-days, carrying an extra reliever is a waste. Heck, the Yankees might be able to get away with only six relievers thanks to those off-days. Instead, they’re carrying eight. The extra bench player could be the better use of that roster spot, even if he only plays two or three times before the Yankees need a fifth starter.

Rob Refsnyder Optioned to Triple-A

(Charles Wenzelberg)
(Charles Wenzelberg)

Earlier today, the Yankees announced that Rob Refsnyder had been optioned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The 26-year-old was batting just .209/.314/.349 in 43 at-bats, and was openly put on the trading block three weeks ago. There was some talk that he could have a shot at heading north in a bench role on the heels of the Didi Gregorius injury, but his inability to play shortstop made that a long shot, and his punchless Spring did little to force the team’s hand.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Refsnyder going forward. The Yankees may be looking to clear a 40-man roster spot, and at least one team – the Rays – was interested in Refsnyder’s services. I wouldn’t be shocked if a (tremendously underwhelming) trade was in the near future.

This move also means that Pete Kozma will be the team’s utility infielder to start the season, as confirmed by George A. King III. He’s a career .222/.288/.293 (58 wRC+) hitter that hasn’t played in the Majors since 2015, but he has a fine glove at shortstop (9.7 UZR/150 in 1399 innings at the position) and experience at second and third, to boot. Kozma is an unexciting player at best, though that is true of most utility infielders – and it’s doubtful that he sees all that much playing time, barring another injury, so it makes sense to use a fungible piece in this role.