The composition of the roster is about to change, and not just from 40 men down to 25. For most of the season the Yankees carried 12 pitchers and 13 position players. With all eight position players entrenched in the lineup, there was no need for a guy to come in and play a few days a week. Teixeira, Cano, Jeter, Rodriguez, Granderson, Swisher, and, when he’s healthy, Gardner, play pretty much every day, while Posada and Cervelli split time behind the plate. The Yanks can then deepen their bullpen, since they don’t require that extra position player — and don’t need to pinch hit for their pitcher.
In the postseason there is absolutely no need for that 12th pitcher. With rest days built in, teams can afford to go shorter with the bullpen and carry only their best arms. Additionally, the rotation pares down to four, maybe even three, pitchers, which opens up a spot right there. Realistically the Yanks could go with 10 pitchers, but chances are they’ll go with 11. That gives them 14 position players. So who gets the extra spot?
The easiest way to do this is to list who’s on the roster for sure.
IF: Posada, Cervelli, Teixeira, Cano, Jeter, Rodriguez
OF: Granderson, Gardner, Swisher
DH: Thames, Berkman
Starters: Sabathia, Pettitte, Hughes, Burnett
Relievers: Rivera, Robertson, Wood, Chamberlain, Logan
That leaves open five spots for the Yankees’ choosing. They’ll want a utility infielder in case of emergency, so that’s Pena or Nuñez. It seems like the Yanks have been favoring Nuñez, but Pena’s been around all season. I’d lean Pena now, but as we’ll see in a moment it will probably be both.
The bullpen will get at least one more arm, and probably two. Ivan Nova has a case for the playoff bullpen, probably a better one than Javier Vazquez. Right now I’m guessing they take both and carry 11 pitchers. Royce Ring has an outside shot because he’s a lefty, but I can’t really envision a scenario in which they bring along a guy who spent the entire season in AAA.
Chad Gaudin could also sneak into Vazquez’s spot, though that doesn’t sound like a great idea. Girardi has given Gaudin every chance this month, which could signal his desire to take him in October. The decision could rest on Vazquez’s start tonight. Unless he gets absolutely bombed I’d absolutely advocate Vazquez over Gaudin.
The final two spots, then, will go to position players. As we saw last year with Freddy Guzman, the Yankees like having that extra runner on the bench. On Sunday night against Boston Joe Girardi twice neglected using Greg Golson to pinch run. I thought he’d make the playoff roster for his speed, but now I’m not so sure. It could be him, it could be Pena or Nuñez. Either way, two of those three will make it. The final spot, despite the strikeout wave, almost certainly goes to Kearns.
This year the Yankees don’t have any tough decisions to make regarding the postseason roster. The only real decisions are the final bullpen spot and the pinch-running spot, and in all cases it’s picking among sub-optimal players. Thankfully, they probably won’t come into play much. Freddy Guzman, after all, made just two appearances in the 2009 postseason, while Gaudin made just one. The important players are already in place.