Update: Branden Pinder placed on 15-day DL with torn UCL

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Saturday: Pinder does indeed have a torn UCL, reports Brendan Kuty. Yuck. Pinder has not yet decided whether to have Tommy John surgery, but yeah. Pretty much a formality at this point. Sucks.

Friday: The Yankees have placed right-hander Branden Pinder on the 15-day DL with a right elbow strain, the team announced. The move is retroactive to yesterday. Fellow righty Nick Goody was called up from Triple-A Scranton to fill the roster spot.

Pinder, 27, was the team’s main shuttle reliever last season and he figured to fill the same role this year. He’s appeared in one game with the Yankees so far, allowing two runs on three hits and a walk in one inning. Pinder started the season in Triple-A before being called up a last week.

The Yankees lost Nick Rumbelow to Tommy John surgery not too long ago, so they’re now down two of their main shuttle arms. A strain is, by definition, a tear in the ligament, though the Yankees did not say anything about the severity of Pinder’s injury. He may only need rest before returning to the mound.

Goody, 24, has been alarmingly home run prone in game action this year. Between Triple-A and Spring Training, he’s given up eight dingers in only 16.1 innings. Zoinks. Goody last pitched for the RailRiders on Wednesday, so he’s good to go tonight for an inning or two.

I wonder if the Goody call-up is only temporary. Luis Cessa, who was in the Opening Day bullpen, started and threw 57 pitches for Triple-A Scranton yesterday, so he’ll be out of commission for a few days. I wonder if the Yankees will call-up Cessa and send down Goody once he’s available. We’ll see.

Yankees call up Tyler Olson, option Luis Cessa to Triple-A

Olson. (Presswire)
Olson. (Presswire)

We have our first bullpen shuttle move of the season. Early today the Yankees announced they have called up left-hander Tyler Olson from Triple-A Scranton. Righty Luis Cessa was optioned down to clear a roster spot. Olson’s already on the 40-man roster, so no other move had to be made.

The Mariners are coming to town for a three-game series this weekend, and my guess is the Yankees want the extra lefty in the bullpen for matchup purposes. Seattle has six left-handed hitters in their regular lineup: Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, Adam Lind, Seth Smith, Nori Aoki, and Leonys Martin. So yeah, the extra lefty makes sense.

Olson, 26, came over from the Dodgers with Ronald Torreyes in a minor trade over the winter. He was actually drafted and developed by the Mariners, so he’s going to face his former team this series. Olson has a 5.40 ERA (6.36 FIP) in 13.1 career big league innings, all with Seattle last season. He made their Opening Day roster out of camp.

The Yankees had Olson working as a starter with the RailRiders — he threw four innings and 69 pitches on Monday — so he’s pretty well stretched out if they need some length. Olson’s skill set is that of a pure left-on-left guy, however. He’s got a funky delivery, a mid-to-upper-80s fastball, and a sweepy breaking ball. Classic LOOGY stuff.

Cessa, 23, pitched well in Spring Training and won a spot in the Opening Day bullpen. He has made just one appearance (two innings) in the first eight games of the season, however. I imagine Cessa will go to Triple-A and work as a starter. He’s a starter by trade, after all. The Yankees picked him up in the Justin Wilson trade.

With Cessa optioned out, Ivan Nova is the only long man in the bullpen for the time being. Well, I guess they could run Olson out there for 3-4 innings if necessary, but hopefully it never comes to that.

Reds return Rule 5 Draft pick Jake Cave to Yankees

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Earlier today the Reds returned Rule 5 Draft pick and outfielder Jake Cave to the Yankees, the team announced. New York’s other Rule 5 Draft loss, lefty Evan Rutckyj, was returned by the Braves last month. So the Yankees got both their players back and picked up an extra $50,000 in the process. Not bad.

Cave, 23, hit .255/.349/.364 in Spring Training with the Reds this year. He started very well, going 8-for-23 (.347) in his first nine Cactus League games, before crashing and going 6-for-32 (.188) the rest of the way. I thought Cave had a pretty good chance to make the Reds anyway given their dearth of outfielders, but I guess not.

Last season Cave hit .276/.337/.356 (102 wRC+) with 25 doubles, two homers, and 17 steals in 134 games at mostly Double-A Trenton, but also some at Triple-A Scranton. The Yankees say they’ve assigned Cave to the Thunder. He’s already cleared waivers and all that, so he is no longer on the 40-man roster.

The Yankees have both Ben Gamel and Slade Heathcott at Triple-A Scranton, plus Mason Williams is on his way back from shoulder surgery, so their left-handed hitting outfielder depth chart is pretty stacked. It’s going to be tough — but not impossible — for Cave to break through and have an impact for the Yankees.

Yankees trade Carlos Corporan to Rays for cash

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Earlier today the Yankees traded catcher Carlos Corporan to the Rays for cash, the team announced. It’s only the second trade ever between the two AL East rivals. The other trade was the Nick Green for cash blockbuster back in 2006. Remember the Nick Green game? Good times.

Corporan, 32, had a unique opt-out clause in his contract. Once the Yankees determined they were not going to add him to the 40-man roster, they had to email the other 29 teams and give them the chance to add Corporan to their 40-man. Apparently no one bit; Corporan was traded as a non-40-man player.

The Yankees signed Corporan over the winter and it appeared that, at the very least, he would be a veteran safety net behind Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez in the backup catcher competition. Joe Girardi largely dismissed Corporan as a backup catcher candidate this spring and the job eventually went to Romine.

With Corporan gone, either Sebastian Valle or Eddy Rodriguez will back up Sanchez at Triple-A Scranton. Valle spent all of last season at Double-A with the Pirates. E-Rod bounced between Double-A and Triple-A with the Yankees. Either way, Sanchez is the starter for the RailRiders. No doubt about it.

Latest roster cuts leave four pitchers for final two bullpen spots

Cessa. (Presswire)
Cessa. (Presswire)

Earlier this morning the Yankees announced they have optioned left-hander Tyler Olson and right-handers Branden Pinder and Nick Goody to Triple-A Scranton. Pinder is the only moderate surprise. Olson started camp well but scuffled of late, and Goody served up three homers in the span of 24 hours earlier this week, so yeah.

Today’s cuts leave four candidates for the Yankees’ final two bullpen spots: righties Johnny Barbato, Luis Cessa, Anthony Swarzak, and Kirby Yates. Two of them will join Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, Chasen Shreve, Ivan Nova, and Bryan Mitchell in the Opening Day bullpen. (Mitchell was told he made the team yesterday.) Here’s a quick pros and cons list:

  • Barbato: Great camp (pro), out-pitch curveball (pro), zero MLB experience (con).
  • Cessa: Very good camp (pro), can go multiple innings (pro), zero MLB experience (con).
  • Swarzak: Mediocre camp (con), blah stuff (con), can go multiple innings (pro).
  • Yates: Very good camp (pro), big league experience (pro), historically homer prone (con).

That about covers it. Earlier this week I said I expected Barbato and Yates to get the final two bullpen spots and I’m sticking to that right now. I don’t think Swarzak has much of a chance to make the roster, though Cessa definitely does. The question is do the Yankees want him in their MLB bullpen, or stretched out in Triple-A ready to start?

Either way, these last two bullpen spots are shuttle spots, meaning fresh relievers will be cycled in and out as necessary all year. Barbato and Yates may start the season in the bullpen, but the odds of them sticking through the end of April are small, nevermind sticking through the end of the season. That’s the plan. That’s the way the roster has been built.

Yesterday afternoon Joe Girardi said he hopes all the final roster decisions are made by tomorrow, and at this point I have to think the Yankees know who they’re taking north in the bullpen. They have a game this afternoon and two split squad games tomorrow, but realistically, what could happen in those games to change their mind? Outside of injury, probably nothing. Not unless Swarzak shows up throwing 100 or something.

Following today’s moves, the Yankees are down to 34 players in big league camp. It’s really 31 players though because Mason Williams (shoulder), Greg Bird (shoulder), and Aroldis Chapman (suspension) aren’t Opening Day roster candidates. Earlier today Girardi announced Ronald Torreyes has won the final bench spot, so the backup catcher’s job — Austin Romine has that all but locked up — and the two bullpen spots are the only remaining unsettled roster spots.

Yankees option Rob Refsnyder to Triple-A, final bench spot remains unsettled

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees have optioned infielder Rob Refsnyder to Triple-A Scranton, the team announced today. He seemed to have the inside track for the final bench spot for most of the spring, but some recent defensive problems — Refsnyder took ground balls to the face in back-to-back games this weekend — and a sneaky lack of production at the plate (.649 OPS) pushed him off the Opening Day roster.

With Refsnyder out, the competition for the final bench spot comes down to Pete Kozma and Ronald Torreyes. Kozma’s the known quantity. He’s been around for a few years and is firmly established as a no-hit/all-glove utility man. Kozma is the new version of Brendan Ryan, basically. Torreyes has some offensive skills, specifically his contact ability, and he can play all over the infield well enough. My money’s on Kozma getting the job.

I’ll be interested to see whether the Yankees continue to give Refsnyder time at third base in Triple-A. There’s no reason not to, right? He looked fine at the hot corner earlier this spring, though that was mostly because he was making routine plays. Refsnyder has looked worse and worse in the field as the spring has progressed. It’s become clear he’s not a big league caliber third baseman at this point.

For now, Refsnyder’s only real path to meaningful playing time with the Yankees is injury. If either Starlin Castro or Didi Gregorius get hurt, Refsnyder would be the obvious candidate to come up and play second base in the interim. We’ll see. I’m not sure where Refsnyder fits long-term and that has been the case since the Castro trade. A utility role is his best (only?) chance to stay with the Yankees going forward.

Yankees option Gary Sanchez to Triple-A, clearing the way for Austin Romine to be the backup catcher

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Earlier tonight, the Yankees optioned catcher Gary Sanchez to Triple-A Scranton, the team announced. That clears the way for Austin Romine to open the regular season as the backup catcher. The team hasn’t confirmed the job is Romine’s — there’s still a week and a half in Spring Training and things can change — but right now it’s shaping up that way.

Sanchez, 23, is arguably the best catching prospect in baseball, and he’s coming off a season in which he hit .276/.336/.503 (137 wRC+) with 25 home runs in 119 total minor league games. He’s had a brutal showing in Grapefruit League play (1-for-21), and Joe Girardi recently said he thought Sanchez was pressing.

By sending Sanchez down, he’ll be able to play everyday with Triple-A Scranton and work on his defense. His bat is pretty close to MLB ready. As an added bonus, 35 days in the minors will delay Sanchez’s free agency another year. That’s not insignificant. Five weeks in 2016 equals control of Sanchez’s age 29 season in 2022. Could be huge.

Romine, 27, has been decent in camp, going 6-for-22 (.273) with four doubles. He’s a career .201/.244/.278 (41 wRC+) hitter in 183 big league plate appearances, most coming in 2013. Romine’s a defense first catcher who was designated for assignment last spring. Now he’s in line to make the Opening Day roster. What a world.

Keep in mind that just because Romine figures to be the backup catcher at the start of the season, it doesn’t mean he’ll hold the job all year. Sanchez could force the issue with his bat at some point. In fact, I would be surprised if Sanchez didn’t finish the season as the backup catcher. The Yankees are just holding off on giving him the job.

Romine is out of options, meaning he can’t go to the minors without first passing through waivers. And since he’s already been outrighted off the 40-man roster once before, he’ll be able to elect free agency if he clears waivers. Whenever the time comes to give Sanchez the job, Romine’s stint in the organization will likely come to an end.