It’s time for the Yankees to put Severino’s development before big league roster needs


Right now, Luis Severino is not a Major League starting pitcher. I’m not just saying that because he was optioned to Triple-A yesterday. He’s not a Major League caliber starting pitcher. Following yesterday’s seven-run, 3.2-inning disaster, Severino is sitting on a 7.19 ERA (4.71 FIP) in 51.1 innings in 2016. Opponents are hitting .304/.349/.528 against him. He’s basically turned everyone into Carlos Beltran (.300/.341/.540). You don’t get to stay in the show with those numbers.

The Yankees were counting on Severino to be a big part of their rotation this season and man, he’s been a huge letdown. The team is 0-9 in his nine starts this season. 0-9! Had Severino been slightly less awful and the team gone 4-5 in his nine starts instead of 0-9, the Yankees would be a half-game back of the second wildcard spot. It’s not fair to pin the club’s current spot in the standings on one player, but let’s not kid ourselves here. Severino’s hurt their postseason odds.

“I think all players hit bumps, whether you’re young or old,” said Joe Girardi to Chad Jennings yesterday. “But one thing I think part of our focus has to be is helping those kids get through those bumps, because you don’t get here unless you’re talented enough. You don’t just come from nowhere and all of a sudden stay here. But you got to help them get through the ups and downs.”

Severino was deservedly demoted to Triple-A after yesterday’s game, just like he was demoted to Triple-A prior to his previous start as well. Nathan Eovaldi‘s elbow injury opened a rotation spot and prompted the Yankees to bring Severino back. What changed for Luis? Nothing. He wasn’t suddenly more Major League ready just because Eovaldi got hurt. The Yankees said they were sending him down so he could focus on his changeup, and he didn’t get a chance to do that. That’s why this happened:

Tuesday vs. Red Sox: Two changeups
Sunday vs. Rays: Four changeups

Severino still didn’t use his changeup yesterday even though the Rays had four lefty hitters in the lineup. Why would we expect anything different? Last week Severino admitted he’s lost confidence in the changeup — “I’m not throwing it a lot because I don’t have the same confidence I had two years ago. I have to figure it out and come back. It’s difficult to be a starter with two pitches, so I have to work,” he said to Mark Feinsand — and he didn’t get a chance to work on it since that last start.

The Yankees didn’t give Severino yesterday’s start because he deserved it. They gave it to him almost out of necessity. Eovaldi got hurt and they were in a bit of a bind, so Severino got the ball. The Yankees had other options, namely Chad Green and Luis Cessa, but they went with Severino and he again gave them no chance to win. Even if you think the team has zero chance at the postseason, his performance doesn’t meet the minimum acceptable standard of production to stay in MLB.

Had yesterday’s start been a one-time blip, it would be a different story. But is a problem that has been repeated. And no, right now I’m not talking about Severino’s performance. I’m talking about the team’s decision to use him to fill a big league need when he wasn’t ready for it. Remember, they called Severino up to fill Aroldis Chapman‘s roster spot after the trade a few weeks ago. Why? Because that was his day to start in Triple-A and he was available for long relief.

That’s not a good reason to call a highly touted young pitcher up. Not in this case. The Yankees optioned Severino to Triple-A a few weeks back because he very clearly had some things to work on, and even with his improved slider, there are some problems here. Severino should have stayed in Triple-A to continue refining his secondary pitches, but no, he was called up to replace Chapman and then to replace Eovaldi. Not the best moves, those were.

Don’t forget the Yankees were extremely aggressive with Severino. He spent one full season in the minors. One. Severino pitched a half-season of rookie ball in 2013, threw a full season in the minors in 2014, then threw a half-season in the minors in 2015 before being called up. Severino threw 256.1 minor league innings before being called up, so I guess it’s not much of a surprise he’s not close to a finished product right now.

Last season Severino had success during his eleven big league starts, but the red flags were there. There was a big disconnect between his ERA (2.89) and FIP (4.37 FIP) because he was exceptionally good at stranding runners (87.0%). Severino allowed 21 runs in 62.1 innings last year and 12 of them came on homers. He stranded almost everyone else and that just wasn’t going to continue. No one is that good at stranding runners. (The highest strand rate of the last 30 years is 86.6% by 2000 Pedro Martinez, who had arguably the greatest pitching season in history.)

Even pitching coach Larry Rothschild admitted Severino’s success last year was something of a mirage. “Last year, he came up when he was on a pretty good roll, which makes a difference. But he got away with some pitches because hitters hadn’t seen him and he executed pitches to a degree — not a lot different, but I think a little bit better,” said Rothschild to Brendan Kuty last month. Those warning signs from last year are showing up in Severino’s performance this year.

The Yankees sent Severino back to Triple-A last night and I hope they keep him there through the end of the season and even the playoffs. At this point he’s only going to make three Triple-A starts before rosters expand on September 1st, but forget about that. Let him pitch in the Triple-A postseason — the RailRiders have the best record in all of Triple-A (76-45) and should clinch a playoff spot soon — and keep working on things in games that don’t mean anything.

“My confidence is good,” said Severino to Jennings after being sent down yesterday. “I have to work more. Work on my changeup, work on my fastball command, and it will be good … It’s been tough, but a lot of players have been through this and you just have to keep working.”

Some of the club’s top hitting prospects are starting to reach the big leagues and that’s awfully exciting. There are a few more on the way too. The Yankees don’t have the upper level pitching to match the bats though and that’s something they’ll have to work on going forward. Severino is, by frickin’ far, their best young starting pitcher, and they have to make his development a priority. Using him like an up-and-down arm to plug roster holes doesn’t help that cause.

Severino has made some progress with his slider, and now he needs to do the same with his changeup


Two nights ago Luis Severino returned to the rotation with a thud, not a bang. The Red Sox roughed him up for five runs on seven hits (five extra-base hits) in 4.1 innings. He struck out three and didn’t walk anyone, so … yay? The Yankees didn’t exactly set Severino up for success by starting him against MLB’s best offense in Fenway Park, but what’s done is done.

Severino earned Tuesday’s start with three strong relief outings, particularly his 4.1 inning masterpiece against the Mets last week. Overall, he allowed one run with ten strikeouts in 8.1 innings out of the bullpen. That’s after a successful ten-start stint with Triple-A Scranton. Chad Green getting smacked around by the Mets certainly played a role in the team’s decision to start Severino as well.

The Yankees sent Severino down weeks ago with a specific goal in mind: improve his secondary stuff. Both the quality of his pitches and his location. I think we’ve seen progress with his slider. First and foremost, he’s actually locating it down in the zone now. Here are his slider locations in 2016 (click for larger):

Luis Severino sliders

Severino has done a much better job burying the slider down and away to righties since being recalled, and a better job keeping it down in the zone in general. Earlier this season he was throwing cement mixers that just spun up in the zone and got hammered. At least now he’s burying them, and, as a result, the swing-and-miss rate on his slider jumped from 11.1% earlier this year to 13.9% since being recalled. (It was 8.9% last year.)

The progress Severino has made with his slider — both in terms of location and swing-and-miss rate — is promising, though it’s clear there’s still some work to be done here. The league average swing-and-miss rate on sliders is 15.2%, after all. That’s okay though! He’s a 22-year-old kid who is still developing. Severino apparently made some real progress with his slider while in Triple-A and that’s good to see.

Now, that all said, the slider is just one piece of the puzzle. The Yankees sent Severino down to work on his secondary pitches. Not secondary pitch. The changeup was supposed to be a point of emphasis too, and so far, we’ve rarely seen it since Severino was called back up. He threw 85 pitches the other night against the Red Sox, and two were changeups. Two! It’s not like he didn’t have an opportunity to throw it either; the BoSox had six lefty hitters in the lineup.

Severino has thrown six changeups out of 207 total pitches since being called back up, or 2.9%. It was 14.6% changeups last year and 14.6% changeups before being sent down earlier this year. I can understand not throwing changeups out of the bullpen, but what’s the reason for Tuesday night? Severino was throwing to Gary Sanchez, who caught him a ton in the minors, so I can’t imagine not trusting the catcher was a reason.

“I’m not throwing it a lot because I don’t have the same confidence I had two years ago,” said Severino to Chad Jennings yesterday. Tuesday night Severino was out there as a two-pitch pitcher. He threw 43 fastballs, 40 sliders, and two changeups. That’s better than being a one-pitch pitcher like he was earlier this season, but it’s still not good enough. It leads to things like this:

First time through the lineup: 2-for-9 (two singles)
Second and third time through: 5-for-11 (four doubles, one triple)

Once the lineup turned over and hitters got a second look at him, the Red Sox were over all Severino. Those doubles (and triple) were not softly hit. They were rockets off the wall and down the line. The swings were mighty comfortable, and part of that is the Red Sox just being really good at hitting, for sure. Part of it is also Severino having nothing else in his bag of tricks. Once they saw the fastball and slider, hitters had nothing else to worry about.

Throwing bad changeups is one thing. Not throwing the changeup is another. It suggests Severino is not comfortable using it at this point, which is weird, because all throughout his time in the minors we heard it was his top secondary pitch. From Baseball America in 2014 (subs. req’d):

While Severino’s mid-80s slider was his top secondary pitch before he signed, he has developed a solid changeup since signing, and it’s presently the better of the two. His slider still flashes plus but remains inconsistent.

And now from Baseball America in 2015 (subs. req’d):

He couples the fastball with a changeup that features plenty of late fade. He’s confident enough to double and triple up on the pitch at times and use it to get strikeouts against both lefthanders and righthanders.

Yeah, we didn’t see that the other night. To be fair, we’re talking about one start. A pitcher not using his changeup in relief is not uncommon at all. We need some more information before we can say anything definitive about Severino’s changeup usage, or lack thereof. It was just really discouraging to see him shy away from the pitch entirely the other night, especially since he actually got a whiff with one of the two changeups he did throw.

Luis Severino changeup

One thing has become increasingly clear this season: Severino is not the instant ace we all wanted to believe he was coming into the season. His secondary pitches need work, and to his credit, he went to the minors and improved his slider. Did he improve his changeup as well? We don’t know. Severino hasn’t thrown it since coming back, but he’ll need it to be successful. Almost every starter does.

The Yankees could have kept running Severino out there every fifth day — it’s not like they’re in the postseason race — but they opted to send him to Triple-A yesterday, which is for the best in my opinion. The team really rushed him up the minor league ladder and a lot of the things Severino is working on now are things he should have worked on in the minors, before his MLB debut. This year the Yankees have been forced to send him down to play catch up.

There’s a fine line between letting a guy go through developmental growing pains and letting him get blasted every fifth day, destroying his confidence. I think Severino is really at risk of the former. Hopefully things are different the rest of the year, and we see the same improvement with the changeup as we’ve seen with the slider whenever he comes back up. Severino’s a very important piece of the long-term picture and getting him right has to be Priority No. 1 the rest of 2016.

Starter or reliever? It doesn’t matter, it’s just good to see Severino have success again


Last night, for the first time this season, we got to see the dominant version of Luis Severino. I’m talking about the guy who tore through the league last season, not the guy who got hammered in seven starts earlier this season. Severino came out of the bullpen and held the Mets to one run on one hit and one walk in 4.1 innings, striking out five.

The seventh inning was standout moment for Severino. The Yankees were nursing a three-run lead and the Mets managed to load the bases with no outs on a walk, a bunt single, and an error. It was a dumb rally, but Severino was letting dumb rallies like that get out of hand earlier this season. Last night he was able to bear down and escape the jam while keeping the damage to a minimum (one run).

“Today was the best I’ve seen him,” said Joe Girardi to Chad Jennings after last night’s game. “We were really pleased with what we saw, and (pitching coach Larry Rothschild) actually worked with him before the game on it a little bit. He did an outstanding job. His slider – as we’ve obviously talked about – has been better, but I thought his fastball command was better, and he even threw a few changeups. Obviously I think that can get better too. But tonight, what I’ve seen, was the best I’ve seen him.”

Last night’s appearance was Severino’s third since coming off the DL, all of which have been in relief. He’s allowed one run on one hit and three walks in 8.1 total innings while striking out ten. That’s really good, but it’s 8.1 innings, so we can’t get too excited. Still, when Severino dominates like that last night and Chad Green can’t complete four innings, it’s easy to understand why folks want Luis back in the rotation.

As far as I’m concerned, Severino’s role doesn’t really matter right now. As long as he pitches multiple innings and gets to experience some success after his dreadful start to the season, I couldn’t care less whether he was starting or relieving. It’s not like the Yankees are in the thick of a playoff race, you know? There are a few things I consider more important than Severino’s role.

1. He’s keeping his slider down. The single biggest problem with Severino earlier this season was his command of his offspeed pitches, or lack there of. Especially with his slider. He threw way too many cement mixers that spun up in the zone and caught too much of the plate. The Yankees optioned Severino to Triple-A a few weeks ago specifically to work on this, and, well, look at his slider locations last night, via Brooks Baseball:

Luis Severino pitches

Almost all the red dots are down in the zone, exactly where you want the slider. If it’s too far down in the zone and the hitter takes it for a ball, that’s okay! That’s better than leaving it up and watching it go for extra bases. There are good misses and there are bad misses. Missing in the dirt is better than missing in the zone. Severino’s slider location has been better in general since being called up a week or two ago. Last night it was outstanding. Best it’s been all season.

2. He’s still using his changeup. This is an important one to me, and you know what? It’s not happening. Severino threw one changeup out of 60 pitches last night. One. He’s thrown two changeups total out of 112 total pitches in his three relief appearances since coming back up. Severino hasn’t thrown the changeup in relief because he hasn’t needed it. That’s true of most relievers.

Earlier this season Severino averaged about 14.6% changeups as a starter — it was 14.6% last year as well — and I’d like to see him get back to that rate now. That changeup is an important pitch. Severino needs a third pitch to have success long-term as a starter and right now he’s dominating as a fastball/slider guy out of the bullpen. You don’t want the development of his changeup to stall out. That would be bad. Luis is still developing as a young pitcher and he needs to throw that changeup to build a reliable third pitch.

3. He’s turning the lineup over multiple times. This is difficult to do in relief but Severino was able to do it last night. He faced 16 batters yesterday, so seven Mets got to see him twice. That’s pretty important. It’s relatively easy to air it out and empty the bag of tricks when you know you’re only going to face a hitter once. Going through a lineup two or three times is a different animal, and if Severino’s going to hack it as a starter, he has to learn to do that. (That also plays a role in the development of his changeup.)

4. He’s building confidence. These days we can track slider location and changeup usage rates and all that stuff. There’s no real way to measure confidence though, and it’s pretty important. Severino got hit around very hard earlier this season. A 7.46 ERA with a .327/.373/.547 opponent’s batting line is terrible, and that’s what Severino did for seven starts to open 2016. That’s brutal.


Luis is only human and I have a hard time thinking his confidence didn’t suffer when he was taking a pounding every fifth day back in April and May. How could it not? Last night Severino looked very confident and it was evident during that seventh inning jam. He attacked hitters with the bases loaded — Jay Bruce, James Loney, and Michael Conforto saw nine total pitches with the bases loaded, and eight were strikes — and challenged them with fastballs. It was no nonsense pitching.

“He looked like he had his confidence back. He looked like he had his swag back,” said Austin Romine after the game. Severino did indeed look more confidence last night than he did earlier this season and that’s great. He needs to build back some confidence and I’m guessing the stint in Triple-A helped. Being a Major League Baseball player is hard enough as it is. Imagine trying to do it when your confidence is shot.

I thought it was smart by the Yankees to bring Severino back as a reliever just because it’s a little easier to have success in that role even though he’d never really done it before. Things went so poorly earlier this season that Severino just needed to experience some level of success in MLB in any role just to remind himself that yes, I can do this. We can see the confidence growing with each outing.

* * *

It’s very easy to make too much out of one game and I’m guessing there will be plenty of calls to put Severino in the rotation after last night. I get it. I do. But like I said before, I honestly don’t care whether Severino starts or relieves in the short-term. (Yes, he should definitely start long-term.) As long as his slider location improves, he continues to use his changeup, and he gets a chance to turn a lineup over once or twice, then the Yankees are putting Severino in position to further his development, and that’s the most important thing.

Guest Post: Adam Warren: The Once and Future Yankee

The following is a guest post from longtime reader Tarik Shah, who wrote about new old Yankee Adam Warren. Tarik previously wrote a guest post about the Yankee fandom in his family.


Ever since the departure of Robinson Cano to the Pacific Northwest, the Yankees have gotten cute trying to fill the gaping hole in their middle infield. First, in 2014, the ghost of Brian Roberts was given a shot, which predictably required the Yankees to acquire Martin Prado midseason. Prado performed admirably (147 wRC+ in 37 games), but it was not to be, as he was included in the trade that brought Nathan Eovaldi to the Bronx.

The 2015 season brought the great Stephen Drew experiment. The experiment, I believe, wasn’t to discover whether Stephen Drew could be a capable second baseman, but whether he could consistently hit a home run at the exact moment when the front office, coaches, and fans had exhausted their patience with his subpar play, thereby securing more playing time. By that metric at least, the experiment was a success.

Ultimately, this past offseason Brian Cashman made a risky move in acquiring the talented but enigmatic Starlin Castro from the Cubs. The new Yankee second baseman’s play thus far has been uninspiring. Castro accumulated 0.2 fWAR through his first 96 games. For reference, the much pilloried Stephen Drew accumulated 0.2 fWAR in 132 games. Of course, the cost to acquire this thus far unimpressive infielder is the subject of today’s article, Adam Warren. As has been widely reported, Mr. Warren is set to return to the Bronx as part of the trade that will send Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs.

When Warren was traded away, many fans were concerned as Warren had pitched well as a Yankee (2015: 3.29 ERA/3.59 FIP/3.89 xFIP in 131.1 IP). In particular, he occupied the often referenced, but rarely filled, Ramiro Mendoza slot. Such a player would be valuable to a team that had trouble in the back-end of its bullpen and rotation, so when the back-end of the Yankees bullpen and rotation stumbled, Warren’s loss was acutely felt.

However, casual fans, or those who only follow the Bombers, might be surprised to find out that Adam Warren has not performed well this year. In fact, his performance had been so poor, the Cubs recently demoted him to AAA (2016: 5.91 ERA/5.83 FIP/5.23 xFIP in 35 IP).

K% BB% HR/9
2015 19.5 7.3 0.69
2016 17.8 12.5 1.80

Giving up more walks, hits, home runs, and striking out fewer batters is no recipe for success. So what has changed for Warren, and what might he be able to tweak upon return to Yankee Stadium? The first thing that jumps out at you when looking at his batted ball profile is that he’s giving up more fly balls, and of those, more are going for home runs. The league average HR/FB is around 10%, so hopefully Warren can benefit from some regression to the mean. Even so, Warren’s xFIP sits at 5.23, which is not that far off from his 5.83 FIP. So, regression there will only help so much.

2015 22.8 45.2 32.0 8.3
2016 16.3 43.3 40.4 16.7

Warren has also not been as proficient at stranding runners this year, as he has throughout his career. His LOB% this year sits at 64.7% whereas it’s 75.8% for his career. Perhaps this too is an area where Warren can benefit from some regression.

As far as his pitch selection is concerned, so far in 2016 it seems that the only thing that Warren has changed is that he’s scaled back on sliders and curveballs, while going to his changeup more often. Unfortunately, this doesn’t help us explain why Warren has been struggling, as his change up has actually been worth 2.47 runs per 100 pitches.

2015 44.8 29.0 11.1 15.1
2016 44.9 25.5 7.5 22.1
Career 45.5 27.3 10.3 16.9

Has the velocity of his pitches decreased or changed significantly? It seems not. In fact, if you were to look at any number of Warren’s metrics you’d find that there has not been much of difference between what he did last year, and what he’s done this year, save for the results.

2015 92.5 87.2 79.4 84.3
2016 92.8 87.4 79.9 84.5

Unfortunately, this comes to an incredibly foreseeable and unsatisfying ending. Adam Warren has thrown 35 poor innings this year, not a very significant sample size. Reliever performance is volatile and subject to the effects of small sample sizes.

As far as can be told from the information available, Adam Warren the Cub is not much different from Adam Warren the Yankee, and yet, Adam Warren the Cub has not performed well. Brian Cashman knows this, and is hoping that with a little help from the cruel goddess of reliever volatility, Adam Warren can once again pitch like the Yankees version of Adam Warren.

Chad Green and optimizing the pitching staff around the All-Star break

(Denis Poroy/Getty)
(Denis Poroy/Getty)

Later tonight, rookie right-hander Chad Green will make his second straight start and third overall for the Yankees. His first start back in May — his MLB debut — didn’t go so well. Over the weekend Green rebounded to hold the Padres to one run on three hits in six innings of work. He fanned eight. That start combined with Nathan Eovaldi‘s recent struggles earned Green another start.

Tonight will be Green’s last start for a while simply because the All-Star break is next week. The Yankees will be off from Monday through Thursday, then they figure to go with their veterans arms right out of the gate to start the second half. That leaves Green somewhere in rotation limbo, which stinks for him because he wants to pitch, but it also presents an opportunity for the Yankees to maximize their pitching staff in the short-term.

In a nutshell, the Yankees can take advantage of the All-Star break by sending Green to Triple-A and calling up an extra reliever. It’s pretty simply, really. Green starts tonight, goes down tomorrow in favor of a fresh reliever, then comes back up sometime after the break. Here’s why it works.

1. Green won’t actually miss a start. As I said the other day, Green should get an extended look in the rotation because he’s pitched well in Triple-A, he pitched well Sunday, and he added a new pitch (cutter) in recent weeks. The guy did everything he had to do to earn a longer look. Green has a chance to be part of the rotation long-term — an ace? no, but a mid-to-back-end guy? sure — and the Yankees should give him a chance to show he belongs.

The ten-day rule — once a player is sent down, he has to wait ten days before being called back up (unless there’s an injury) — complicates things but it is not a deal-breaker. The Yankees could send Green down tomorrow and bring him back in ten days to make a start without any problem. Here’s a rough pitching schedule:

Friday, July 8th: Green starts @ Indians
Saturday, July 9th: CC Sabathia starts @ Indians (Green sent down, day one of ten)
Sunday, July 10th: Masahiro Tanaka starts @ Indians (day two of ten for Green)
Monday, July 11th: All-Star break (day three of ten)
Tuesday, July 12th: All-Star break (day four of ten)
Wednesday, July 13th: All-Star break (day five of ten)
Thursday, July 14th: All-Star break (day six of ten)
Friday, July 15th: Sabathia starts vs. Red Sox (day seven of ten)
Saturday, July 16th: Tanaka starts vs. Red Sox (day eight of ten)
Sunday, July 17th: Michael Pineda starts vs. Red Sox (day nine of ten)
Monday, July 18th: Nova starts vs. Orioles (day ten of ten)
Tuesday, July 19th: Green returns to start vs. Orioles

See? Nice and easy. The Yankees have the option of starting their four veterans in any order from the 15th to the 18th — I assume they’ll want to give Tanaka an extra day, so he probably won’t start the 15th — before bringing Green back to start the fifth game of the second half. Eovaldi could also be a factor here too. He could start in place of Nova or start on the 19th with Green’s return waiting one extra day until the 20th.

Point is, the Yankees have some options with how they can line up their rotation after the All-Star break. Every team does. The break is a chance to step back, catch your breath, and get your pitching in order. Everyone gets a nice breather. The All-Star break gives the Yankees the opportunity to send Green down and have him make his next start while dancing around the ten-day rule.

2. An eighth reliever is better than an unavailable starter. Once Green starts tonight, he’s won’t be able to pitch for a few days. That’s just the way it goes. Sending Green down allows the Yankees to bring up an extra reliever, who for all we know may not even be used this weekend. You never know though. Blowouts and extra innings happen. You’d rather have the extra reliever and not need him than need him and not have him.

Keep in mind this extends beyond the weekend. The Yankees would be able to carry this eighth reliever until Green returns after the All-Star break. The extra reliever would be available for two games this weekend plus another four games to start the second half. The high-scoring Red Sox are coming to the Bronx next weekend too. They can score runs in a hurry and having the extra arm could come in handy. Same with the first game of the Orioles series.

3. Who could the Yankees call up to temporarily replace Green? Almost anyone. Kirby Yates and Nick Goody are eligible to be recalled because their ten days will be up. There’s also Johnny Barbato, and heck, even Luis Severino. I wouldn’t count on Severino though. The only guy they couldn’t call up is Luis Cessa, who was just sent down Tuesday. Otherwise pretty much everyone is fair game. Finding a spare reliever for a few days won’t be a problem.

4. What does Green do in the meantime? Good question with a good-ish answer: he gets to play in the Triple-A All-Star Game. Would Green rather be on the MLB roster collecting service time and big league salary? Of course. But this is the life of a rookie with a few days in a show. You go up and down a few times until you’ve established yourself as one of the 25 best players in the organization.

Green was indeed selected to the Triple-A All-Star Game along with RailRiders teammates Aaron Judge, Ben Gamel, and Gary Sanchez. The All-Star Game is Wednesday in Charlotte, so Green lines up perfectly to pitch that day. In fact, he should start for the International League. He still leads the league in ERA (1.54) and FIP (2.17), after all. The temporary demotion gives Green the opportunity to pitch in the Triple-A All-Star Game, which would double as a tune-up appearance to help him stay sharp before coming back in a few days.

* * *

I don’t know about you, but this seems like a completely obvious move to me. So obvious that I don’t expect it to happen. The Yankees have had chances to pull similar roster maneuvers in recent years but declined to do so. I do think there’s something to be said for keeping Green on the roster through the All-Star break to let him know he is a big league player. Positive reinforcement like that can do wonders for a player’s confidence. (Scott Boras just ripped the Brewers for making a move like this with Zach Davies.)

In the cold and heartless “baseball players are robots, not human beings with thoughts and emotions” world, sending Green down for a spare reliever following tonight’s start is a perfectly sensible move. Being demoted is never fun, especially when it’s undeserved, but it does happen. The weirdness of the All-Star break and Green’s flexibility (read: ability to be sent to the minors without going through waivers) give the Yankees the option of beefing up their bullpen these next few games without having the young righty miss a start.

Sticking Eovaldi in the bullpen is a fine short-term move that creates some long-term questions


Although he did not appear in the game, Nathan Eovaldi was in the bullpen yesterday afternoon and available in relief in needed. It was Eovaldi’s normal throw day between starts and the bullpen was short-handed after being worked hard over the weekend, so to the bullpen he went. Teams do stuff like this all the time.

Prior to yesterday’s game Joe Girardi said the Yankees plan to keep Eovaldi in the bullpen through Sunday, the end of the first half. Chad Green, who pitched so well Sunday, is going to make Eovaldi’s next start Friday. That’s pretty cool. The Yankees will reevaluate their rotation situation during the All-Star break next week.

“I envision Nathan as a starter. This is not something we are saying is long-term,” said Girardi to George King yesterday. “We kind of have a need right now … Right now the plans are for him to help us in the bullpen. I know he wants to start and he will start again. If I had (Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances today), he probably would have started (Friday).”

In the short-term, moving Eovaldi to the bullpen makes total sense. Not only is there a need right now, but he’s also been historically awful recently, allowing 31 runs and 57 baserunners — including 12 (!) home runs — in his last seven starts and 30.1 innings. You can’t keep running that guy out there. You just can’t. Eovaldi had a 3.71 ERA (3.58 FIP) through his ten first starts and now has a 5.54 ERA (5.14 FIP) through 16 starts.

What about the long-term? Well that’s a little more up in the air. Girardi said he still views Eovaldi as starter and I do too. At some point the performance needs to improve though. He’s been so bad of late that I kinda sorta expected him to land on the DL following his start Friday. This seems like something that goes beyond a mechanical flaw or general suckiness. An injury would have not surprised me at all. So, where do the Yankees and Eovaldi from here?

It’s not Eovaldi or Green. It’s Eovaldi or Nova.

Green is going to make Eovaldi’s start Friday, but this shouldn’t be an “Eovaldi or Green” situation. This should be an “Eovaldi or Ivan Nova” situation. Nova, despite his fine start Saturday, has been pretty bad of late too, pitching to a 5.06 ERA (4.81 FIP) in 74.2 innings. That’s after he put up a 5.07 ERA (4.87 FIP) in 94 innings last year. His performance has not improved as he’s gotten further away from Tommy John surgery.

Remember, Nova is a goner after the season. He’s going to be a free agent this winter, and while we can’t completely rule out the Yankees re-signing him, I think it would be surprise. Eovaldi has another year of team control remaining before free agency. The guy who is going to be around longer should be the priority here. Eovaldi has a chance to help the Yankees win next season. Nova doesn’t. Whenever Eovaldi is ready to rejoin the rotation, be it after the break or later in the season, Nova should not stand in his way.

What if Eovaldi dominates in relief?


Good question, me. Most pitchers see their stuff tick up in the bullpen because they’re able to cut it loose for an inning. Pitchers have to pace themselves as a starter and hold a little something back for the second and third time through the lineup. Eovaldi is averaging a career high 98.0 mph with his fastball this season. Averaging. What’s he going to throw as a reliever? 106? Golly.

Should Eovaldi dominate in the bullpen, it would create something of a Catch-22. There would be the temptation to put him back in the rotation because he’s pitching well and would be more valuable there. At the same time, when a guy dominates in the bullpen, it’s really easy to just keep him there and stick with what works. What’s the right move? We can’t answer that without seeing Eovaldi in action in relief first.

In the short-term, reliever Eovaldi could shore up the middle innings hole that has hampered the Yankees all season. In the long-term, reliever Eovaldi could step into the end-game mix with Miller a trade candidate and Aroldis Chapman coming up on free agency (if he isn’t traded first). There is always room for another good reliever. Always always always.

* * *

Like I said, I still see Eovaldi as a starting pitcher, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t interested to see what he does in relief. He could very well end up throwing the fastest pitch in baseball history. That’s not hyperbole. This guy threw a pitch 102.5 mph last season while working as a starter. Eovaldi could be another Betances as a reliever.

For now let’s just worry about getting through the rest of the week. The Yankees have six games to go before the All-Star break, then everyone can catch their breath and figure out where things stand. Girardi made it sound like the team wants to get Eovaldi back into the rotation at some point, and these things usually have a way of working themselves out. Hopefully we see him in relief a few times before that just to see what he can do.

Chad Green is worth a longer look in the Yankees’ rotation

(Denis Poroy/Getty)
(Denis Poroy/Getty)

Thanks to CC Sabathia‘s balky knee, rookie right-hander Chad Green was called up to make a spot start for the Yankees over the weekend. The team didn’t want Sabathia hitting and running the bases in San Diego, so they called up Green and pushed everyone else in the rotation back a day. They like to use a spot sixth starter whenever possible and Sunday was a perfect time to do it.

Green rewarded the club’s faith in him by holding the Padres to one run on three hits and no walks in six innings. He struck out eight and generated a healthy eleven swings and misses out of 75 total pitches. Green could have remained in the game to pitch the seventh, but his lineup spot led off the inning, so Joe Girardi opted to pinch-hit and try to create some more offense with his team up only 2-1. Makes sense. Blame the NL, I guess.

Sunday’s start went far better than Green’s first start with the Yankees, when the Diamondbacks hammered him for six runs (four earned) in four innings back in May. That was his MLB debut and he looked jittery at times, which is understandable. He’s not the first guy to struggle his big league debut. Green shook that rough debut off, pitched well Sunday, and earned himself another start Friday.

“Compared to my last start, it was different. From the first inning on, it just felt like another game. As soon as I got the first pitch out of the way, I felt a lot better after that,” said Green to Randy Miller. Joe Girardi declined to say whether Green is in the rotation for good yesterday — “Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves,” he said to Chad Jennings — but he’s going to start again Friday and clearly the opportunity exists to stick a while. There are plenty of reasons to keep Green in the rotation too.

1. He dominated in Triple-A. This is sort of a prerequisite for a call-up. Unless it’s an emergency situation, you have to pitch well in Triple-A to earn a promotion, and Green did exactly that. He currently leads all qualified International League pitchers in both ERA (1.54) and FIP (2.17), and by decent margins too. Wade LeBlanc is second in both categories (1.71 ERA and 2.47 FIP). Being great in the minors doesn’t guarantee big league success or even a big league roster spot, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Green took care of business in Triple-A. He made the Yankees take notice.

(Denis Poroy/Getty)
(Denis Poroy/Getty)

2. He’s added a cutter. During his debut against the D’Backs, Green struggled against Arizona’s left-handed hitters because he doesn’t have much of a changeup. He was out there with his fastball and slider only. On Sunday, he showed off a new cutter that he picked up in Triple-A to help combat batters of the opposite hand.

“From my last outing, I added a cutter. I’ve been working on that the past couple of weeks. I think that made a big difference, being able to throw that for strikes,” he said to Miller. Green threw 17 cutters (12 for strikes) on Sunday after throwing zero cutters in his first start. (He threw zero in his first start because he didn’t have the cutter at the time.)

How about that? Green came up, realized he needed something to better handle lefties, then added a cutter. Player development in action. Green has shown the ability to make adjustments and take to instruction in a relatively short amount of time. That’s a reason to keep him around. To keep learning and to continue his development.

3. It’s time to start thinking about the future. This is the big one. By all accounts Green is big league ready. He has good stuff, his command is solid, and he did what he had to do in Triple-A. The Yankees exist in a perpetual state of “what’s best for me right now,” but that’s going to have to change at some point reasonably soon, preferably before the trade deadline in a few weeks.

Not counting Green, the Yankees have five starters in their rotation eligible to become free agents at some point in the next two years. They’ve been trying to acquire a young starter controllable beyond next year for that reason, and you know what? They may have done that with Green. Unless he starts getting hammered every fifth day, the Yankees owe it to themselves to run him out there and see what they have. Green might be able to help them win now. More importantly, he might be able to help him win in the future.

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Friday’s start is going to be a really good test for Green. He’s going to face the first place Indians, a team with a good offense and a ton of quality left-handed batters. The only lefties in San Diego’s lineup Sunday were Yangervis Solarte, Alex Dickerson, and Ryan friggin’ Schimpf. The Indians figure to have Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, Francisco Lindor, and Lonnie Chisenhall in their lineup Friday, among others. Those guys are all quality hitters.

The All-Star break is coming up next week, so the Yankees can let Green make this start Friday, then take a step back next week and reevaluate their rotation options. Nathan Eovaldi is in the bullpen right now, Ivan Nova has not been good most of the year, and who knows what Michael Pineda will do from one start to the next. Even if Cleveland works him over Friday, there are still reasons to keep Green in the rotation going forward. He’s put himself in position to earn a longer look for a team in desperate need of young building blocks.