Girardi confirms Yanks will head into 2015 with co-closers

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

When the 2015 season begins on Monday, the Yankees won’t have a closer. They’ll have two closers. Or they’ll have two half-closers. Something like that. Yesterday, Joe Girardi confirmed the Yankees will start the season with lefty Andrew Miller and righty Dellin Betances as co-closers, something he’s been hinting at since even before Spring Training. The eighth and ninth innings will be based on matchups.

“I really think that if you do it that way, and as long as you’re prepared, it has a chance to be advantageous to you,” said Girardi to Chad Jennings yesterday. “My thought has been more like with a power lefty who strikes out a lot of guys and a power righty, the lineups just might match up where one day he’s the eighth inning guy and then one day he’s the ninth inning guy a little bit better. I think you start managing who you’re going to use (in the ninth) in about the sixth inning, because you try to prepare them.”

This isn’t a situation where the Yankees don’t have a viable closer on the roster. They have two very qualified closer candidates in Miller and Betances — two qualified candidates when Betances is right, that is, and he hasn’t been right this spring — and selecting either one as the traditional closer would have been easy and completely justifiable. Instead, Miller will face the tough lefties regardless of whether they’re due to bat in the eighth or ninth while Betances gets the tough righties.

For what it’s worth, both Miller and Betances have being saying all the right things about the possibility of being used as co-closers since the idea was first broached before Spring Training. Both guys say they don’t care about closing, they just want to win, sometimes the eighth inning can be just as important as the ninth, all that good stuff. Girardi ran the idea by them again earlier this week and both guys are still all for it.

“I’ve talked to both. They’re concerned about winning more than (roles), in the sense of I’m this guy, I’m this guy. That’s the sense I’ve got from them,” added Girardi. “Now, could it iron itself out and you start to do it one way? Yes. But we talked a little bit about it yesterday. I’ll continue to talk about it with my coaches and (pitching coach Larry Rothschild) and his feelings about it as they get a feel, and (bullpen coach) Gary Tuck who’s in the bullpen, what do you think the importance of it is that we actually set a role? But as of right now, we haven’t felt that we have to.”

In theory, co-closers is a great idea. Girardi is meticulous with his bullpen usage, both matchups and workloads, so I have no reason to think he couldn’t pull this off. It’s been done before, most notably by the 2009 Braves with Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez, but it certainly is unconventional and ripe for second guessing. Optimizing reliever usage by putting them in situations where they are most likely to help the team is much better than marrying them to specific innings.

Now, that said, Dellin’s spring performance is a problem we can’t ignore. It doesn’t look like he’s hurt, it looks like his problems are purely mechanical, but Betances has a long history of mechanical issues and he’s yet to sort them out. The Yankees open the season against the Blue Jays and Red Sox, two teams will a ton of very good right-handed hitters, so tossing Dellin out there in the ninth inning with a one-run lead against a bunch of righties isn’t so comforting at this very moment.

Until Betances gets sorted out, David Carpenter might be a safer bet for high-leverage work against right-handed hitters. Girardi told Bryan Hoch he doesn’t consider Chasen Shreve or Justin Wilson to be lefty specialists, though those guys figure to handle the middle innings, not the eighth and ninth. Maybe the co-closer system should be Miller and Carpenter for a little while until Betances is back to where he needs to be. My guess is Dellin will be used alongside Miller as the co-closer until he pitches his way out of the job though.

Open Thread: April 3rd Camp Notes

The Yankees played their final Spring Training game in Florida this afternoon. They lost 8-2 to the Nationals. CC Sabathia allowed three runs in 5.1 innings before hitting his pitch count. All three runs scored in the first inning. He settled in quite nicely after that. Andrew Bailey got two outs and allowed three runs, two of which scored on a three-run homer allowed by Nick Goody.

Everyone was in “let’s swing at everything so we can get out of Tampa” mode on offense. Chase Headley went 2-for-2 with a double while Mark Teixeira, Chris Young, and Brian McCann each went 1-for-2. Teixeira doubled. Brett Gardner, Didi Gregorius, and Garrett Jones all went 0-for-2. Rob Refsnyder and Ramon Flores had two-baggers off the bench. Here is the box score, here are the video highlights, and here are the rest of the day’s notes from Spring Training:

  • Slade Heathcott was named the 2015 James P. Dawson award winner as the best rookie in Spring Training, so congrats to him. Masahiro Tanaka won last year, Vidal Nuno the year before that. In fact, Heathcott is the first position player to win the award since Jon Weber in 2010. Jon Weber!
  • The backup catcher decision is coming tomorrow, according to Joe Girardi. John Ryan Murphy and Austin Romine both caught today, though Murphy started and caught Sabathia. Will Romine still be in the organization 24 hours from now? [Marly Rivera]
  • And finally, Sabathia is taking over Derek Jeter‘s old locker at Yankee Stadium, which is prime real estate because the locker is extra wide and near the exit. “Everybody’s making a big deal about the Derek locker — I mean, I know, it’s important to the fans. But I don’t think we need to designate it ‘the locker,'” said clubhouse manager Rob Cucuzza. [Barbarisi]

Here is tonight’s open thread. This afternoon’s game will be replayed on both YES (10:30pm ET) and MLB Network (6am ET tomorrow). MLB Network is showing the Braves and Orioles live right now and the Cubs and Diamondbacks live later tonight. The Knicks, Nets, and Devils are all in action as well. Talk about whatever. Have at it.

A Haiku for the Rest of MLB [2015 Season Preview]

Does Donnie like Haikus? Of course. (Presswire)
Does Donnie like haikus? Of course. (Presswire)

Opening Day is now only three days away. We’ve spent the last four weeks previewing the Yankees and the upcoming season, and yesterday we broke down the rest of the AL East. Today we’re going to wrap up our 2015 Season Preview series with a quick preview of the other 25 teams in baseball. After all, the Yankees are going to have to try to beat those teams this season too.

If you’ve come here looking for a serious preview post, you’re not going to get it. It’s Friday afternoon, Opening Day is right around the corner, and this year’s preview series is over. Instead, we’re going to have some fun and preview those other 25 teams in Haiku form. I encourage you to tell me how much my haikus suck and to make some of your own — pro tip: use the Haiku Counter to make sure you have the right number of syllables — and leave ‘em in the comments. Enjoy.

Atlanta Braves
Traded their best bats
For a whole bunch of pitchers
They know scoring’s down?

Arizona Diamondbacks
Is Nuno their ace?
The answer just might be yes
Payback for ’01!

Chicago Cubs
Bleachers aren’t ready?
No prob, Bryant won’t notice
He’s in Iowa

Chicago White Sox
D-Rob and Melky
Back together in ChiTown
Growing ugly beards

Cincinnati Reds
Good enough to win?
Nah, not in that division
Can we have Cueto?

Cleveland Indians
Brantley is awesome
Kluber is really great
World Series pick? Eh

Colorado Rockies
Troy’s still a Rockie
Kyle Kendrick, OD SP?
Wait for ski season

Detroit Tigers
Miggy, Price, V-Mart
Lots of stars and real big names
Bullpen still a mess

Houston Astros
I don’t understand
You won “process World Series?”
That doesn’t exist

Kansas City Royals
Pennant last season
Volquez is replacing Shields?
For real? Yeah, for real

Los Angeles Angels
They have that Trout guy
I wish the Yankees had him
It’s Teixeira’s fault!

Los Angeles Dodgers
Kershaw is the best
Donnie Baseball gets his ring?
If not, just blame Puig

Miami Marlins
Paid Giancarlo
They’re going for it again
When’s next fire sale?

Milwaukee Brewers
They all hate Ryan Braun
But not as much as A-Rod
This team is boring

Minnesota Twins
Phil’s still homer prone
Nunez’s helmet still falls off
Just like the old days

New York Mets
Take back New York, huh?
Orange and blue like the Knicks
But with fewer fans

Oakland Athletics
Ballpark is ugly
Beane traded everyone again
What’s a Stephen Vogt?

Philadelphia Phillies
Rebuild? Finally!
Cole will be traded real soon
Then skip to next year

Pittsburgh Pirates
Cervelli pumps fist
McCutchen cut his dreads
A World Series team?

St. Louis Cardinals
Contender again
Such a boringly good team
Gets boring haiku

San Diego Padres
Kemp, Upton, Myers, Shields
But what about Yangervis?
Solarte Partay!

San Francisco Giants
The World Series champs
But it’s an odd number year
So no repeat then

Seattle Mariners
You can have Robbie
You are still stuck with Jack Z.
Yankees win the trade

Texas Rangers
Could this be the year
That Elvis Andrus will hit?
Hah, made myself laugh

Washington Nationals
Awesome rotation!
Future Yankee Bryce Harper
Has nice ring to it

RAB Live Chat

Spring Training Game Thread: Escape from Tampa

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Finally. After six weeks of Spring Training and a month of meaningless yet necessary Grapefruit League games, the Yankees get to leave Tampa later today. They still have one last Grapefruit League game to play first, however. Only nine innings to freedom!

Today’s reason to watch: CC Sabathia is starting and these days he’s a must watch not because he’s a dominant ace, but because we’re looking for signs of improvement. Sabathia’s had a rough spring and I’m not too concerned about the stats. His velocity has been better but his location has been bad. He needs to iron that out. Like, right now. His next start will be Game Three of the regular season.

The poor Nationals had to make the two-hour bus trip across Florida for this afternoon’s game. They have to bus all the way back to Viera after the game, then fly up to Washington for tomorrow’s exhibition game against the Yankees at Nationals Park. Crummy travel day for them. Such is life. Here is the Nats’ lineup and here is the Yanks’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. SS Didi Gregorius
  3. DH Brian McCann
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. RF Garrett Jones
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. CF Chris Young
  8. 2B Gregorio Petit
  9. C John Ryan Murphy
    LHP CC Sabathia

Available Position Players: C Austin Romine, 1B Jonathan Galvez, 2B Rob Refsnyder, SS Nick Noonan, 3B Eric Jagielo, LF Ben Gamel, CF Slade Heathcott, RF Ramon Flores, and DH Stephen Drew will be the second string off the bench. C Eddy Rodriguez and IF Dan Fiorito are the extra players.

Available Pitchers: LHP Chasen Shreve, RHP Andrew Bailey, RHP Branden Pinder, RHP Cesar Vargas, and RHP Nick Goody are all listed as available while LHP Tyler Webb, RHP Nick Rumbelow, RHP Chris Martin, RHP Danny Burawa, and RHP Jose Ramirez are listed as the extra arms.

The last day in Tampa is a nice one. Clear sky and temperatures in the mid-80s with only a little bit of humidity. The weather this spring was pretty great. This afternoon’s game will begin just after 1pm ET and you can watch live on YES and MLB.tv. Apparently this is the MLB.tv Free Game of the Day too, so you don’t need a subscription to watch. The game won’t be blacked out in the Yankees’ home market on MLB.tv. Enjoy the last game from George M. Steinbrenner Field of 2015.

Mailbag: Refsnyder, Harper, Lineup, Farm System, Aiken

Eleven questions and ten answers for you in this week’s mailbag. Use the “For The Mailbag” form in the sidebar to send us anything at any time. Also, the more succinct your question, the better. I find myself steering clear of the wordy ones for whatever reason.

Refsnyder. (Presswire)
Refsnyder. (Presswire)

Frank asks: Rob Refsynder’s bat looks legit, so, in your opinion, how long do the Yanks give him at 2b before he is moved back to the OF?

I’d say at least two more years of regular playing time, more if he makes some real improvement and is moving in the right direction. Refsnyder would lose a lot of his appeal if he has to move to a corner outfield spot. His bat is just ordinary there, not above-average like it would be at second base. He’s just another guy in right or left field. Refsnyder has only been a second baseman for two years, remember. I don’t think the Yankees should pull the plug after only two or three years.

Eric asks: What do you think of all these articles from NY writers about the Mets taking back New York? Not sure what that really means except the casual fan will favor one team or the other given how well they are doing — is it a mindless exercise by tabloid sportswriters?

Yeah, mostly. The media seems more obsessed with it than the players and we’ve been hearing this is the year the Mets take over New York for a few years now. Remember when the Mets swept the Yankees in the Subway Series two years ago and that was supposed to be some kind of statement? Yeah, no. The Mets might have a better record than the Yankees this season, but what does it matter? Aare more people going to walk around New York with Mets hats or something? I really doubt that. If the media (and Mets fans) want to focus on “taking New York” from the Yankees, whatever. Let them. It means nothing.

M. Greene asks: Do you think that a combination of Ramon Flores/Chris Young/Carlos Beltran is stronger than Beltran/AROD in RF and at DH?

Yeah probably, but not substantially so. The Flores/Young duo will be a million times better defensively in right field than Beltran, but I’m not sure they could match Alex Rodriguez offensively right now, as skeptical I am of Alex’s bat at this point of his career. (Yeah, he’s looked good in camp, but let’s see what happens during the regular season.) Young is a guy who can get exposed pretty quickly at the plate if he plays too much, and while Flores has looked impressive in camp, it’s still just Spring Training. I’m not going to pencil him for league average production just yet.

Daniel asks: Thinking ahead a few years, what do you think about the chances the Yankees make necessary preparations to sign Bryce Harper? Bryce has made it clear the Yankees are his favorite non-Nats team, and there will certainly be a need in a couple years for a plays of his caliber and position. It may be another obstacle between the Yankees and 189 but what do we care.

Harper. (Presswire)
Harper. (Presswire)

There should be no “necessary preparations” to sign someone like Harper, who will hit free agency at age 26 following the 2018 season. These are the Yankees. They have the money to sign absolutely anyone. If Harper develops as expected, he’s going to be a superstar and a guy the Yankees should go all out to sign. He might even be the first $400M player in history. (That seems unlikely in only four years, but who knows.) I totally understand wanting to avoid long-term contracts for players over 30, but Harper will be 26. He’s the kind of guy the Yankees can and should go absolutely bonkers to sign. There’s no such thing as bad $/WAR with players of that caliber, whose value to the franchise transcends what they do on the field.

Vinny asks: Joe Girardi will defer to the veterans, but if Chase Headley‘s hot spring continues into the season and Beltran/Mark Teixeira struggles, do you see Joe putting Headley into the 3rd spot in the lineup?

Vinny asks: If A-Rod somehow manages to be the best hitter on the team as the season moves along, do you think Girardi would move him up in the batting order?

Might as well lump Vinny’s questions together. Yes, I definitely see Girardi moving Headley or A-Rod or whoever up in the lineup if they’re producing and the regular middle of the order guys are not. He moved Robinson Cano up and Teixeira down when the time came. He moved Brett Gardner up when he forced the issue. I don’t think he’d hesitate to move A-Rod or Headley up either. The Derek Jeter situation last year was a special case. If a player needs to be moved down in the lineup and there is someone deserving to replace him, Girardi has shown he will make the move.

Dan asks: Do you think that Montreal will ever get a MLB club again? Why or why not?

Yes but not anytime soon. Montreal showed very recently it is not a baseball town, and no, attendance for two dinky little exhibition games each March is not evidence the city will support an MLB franchise year round. The Expos stunk in their final season (2004) but were in the race for much of the summer in 2002 and 2003, yet they averaged less than 13,000 fans per game. Maybe down the line Montreal would make sense. In a decade or three. Right now though, I have no reason to think the city will support a team. They had their chance and didn’t.

Paul asks: With a fair amount of development of the Int’l signings, could the Yankees minor leagues break the top 10 next year?

Absolutely. You can say that about most teams — “if their young low level guys develop, they’ll be a top system” — but I think the Yankees have more growth potential than most other clubs because of last summer’s international spending spree. They don’t figure to graduate any of their top prospects to MLB this season either, guys like Aaron Judge and Luis Severino, so the system won’t take a hit that way. (They might graduate guys like Refsnyder and Jacob Lindgren, who won’t drastically change the farm system ranking.) With some strong pro debuts from last year’s international class as well as continued development from guys like Jorge Mateo, Miguel Andujar, Domingo Acevedo, and Ian Clarkin, the system could take a very big step forward this year.

Miller. (Presswire)
Miller. (Presswire)

Dan asks: Is there any significant downside to having 3 or 4 lefty relievers in a bullpen if those guys are the best that you have?

Nope. The best pitchers are the best pitchers, regardless of what arm they throw with. It looks like the Yankees will have three left-handers in their Opening Day bullpen but at least two of them (Andrew Miller and Justin Wilson) can face both righties and lefties without an issue. Chasen Shreve might be able to do that as well. Now, if you have three lefty specialists in your bullpen, that’s a problem. Not much flexibility there. Though I guess if three of your seven best relievers are lefty specialists, you’ve got much bigger roster issues.

Gus asks: Do you think that if Hal Steinbrenner could get a do-over, he’d have signed Yoan Moncada as to make his narrative appeal more authentic?

I think Steinbrenner and the Yankees would do it over because they realize losing out on such a talented player over such a relatively small amount of money was a really terrible decision. The spin on this has been incredible — everyone in the organization seems to be blaming someone else for missing out on Moncada — and I think it kind of dawned on them that they really screwed up and missed an opportunity. I honestly don’t think Hal cares about sounding authentic (when does he?) or getting ripped in the media. I think he cares about having talented young players and realizes having Moncada would give the team a better chance of achieving his precious goal of getting under the luxury tax threshold in two years.

Gerry asks: With Brady Aiken undergoing TJS, would this put him in play for the Yanks at either 16 or 30 in the upcoming draft (should he decide to declare)? This is definitely the type of talent the Yankees often don’t get a chance to pick up (albeit with the risk involved).

Yes, Aiken should be in the play for the Yankees. They have the draft pool space ($7.885M) to pay him a substantial overslot bonus — Aiken reportedly turned down a last minute $5M offer from the Astros last year, but would he take the same amount from the Yankees, would won’t treat him like garbage? — though they’d have to go cheap elsewhere in the draft. That’s fine though. They could do what the Royals did in 2013, when they took Hunter Dozier eighth overall and the injured Sean Manaea 34th overall. Dozier signed below-slot to give them money for Manaea, though by taking him first and Manaea second, they would have lost much less draft pool space had Manaea decided not to sign. Maybe the Yankees take someone they know they can sign cheap with the 16th pick then roll the dice on Aiken (or Duke RHP Mike Matuella, another top draft prospect who recently had Tommy John surgery) with the 30th pick.

Open Thread: April 2nd Camp Notes

The Yankees played a pair of games this afternoon and half the team beat the Pirates 6-2 at home. Michael Pineda allowed one run on six hits in 5.1 innings, striking out six and walking zero. Dellin Betances still looked out of whack — he walked two in a scoreless inning. Andrew Miller got two outs with one pitch while Austin Romine, Garrett Jones, Chris Young, Rob Refsnyder, and Stephen Drew all had a pair of hits. Alex Rodriguez had a good day at first base, making a pair of nice scoops on throws in the dirt. Here are the video highlights and box score for that game.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Yankees lost 3-2 to the Tigers on the road. Bryan Mitchell was charged with all three runs in five innings. He struck out six. Kyle Davies followed him with three perfect innings. No, really. The Yankees only had five hits as a team, including two each by Slade Heathcott and John Ryan Murphy. Eddy Rodriguez had the other hit. Not much else to see in this one. Here’s the box score and video highlights for that game, and here’s the rest from Spring Training:

  • In case you missed it earlier, the Yankees announced another round of roster cuts that all but confirm Chasen Shreve, Chris Martin, and Gregorio Petit will be on the Opening Day roster. The team hasn’t made anything official though. There are still 32 players in big league camp.
  • Ivan Nova (Tommy John surgery) will throw a 45-pitch bullpen session tomorrow and could begin facing hitters next week. He’ll remain in Tampa to rehab after the team leaves for the regular season. Carlos Beltran was scratched from today’s home game with flu-like symptoms and won’t play tomorrow. Brendan Ryan (calf) will go to New York with the team and return to Tampa when he’s ready to resume working out. [Bryan Hoch, Marly Rivera, Brendan Kuty]
  • Joe Girardi said the staff will discuss the closer situation tomorrow. They might not pick a backup catcher until Saturday. “It’s a decision we probably won’t make until Saturday night,” he said. I take that as they need more time to work out a trade for Romine. [Dan Barbarisi, Rivera]
  • Apparently the Yankees have hired a second bullpen coach. I thought it was a second bullpen catcher at first, but no, it’s a second bullpen coach. Anyway, the new coach is Kyle Arnsberg, son of ex-Yankee Brad Arnsberg. Kyle is only 24! [George King]
  • Petit has reported to the team following last night’s trade and it turns out his dad is a big Yankees fan. This must be a cool experience for them. Slade Heathcott will start the season with Triple-A Scranton following his strong spring. [Chad Jennings]
  • And finally, the Yankees announced Joe Torre will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the season opener Monday afternoon. Neat.

Here is your open thread for the evening. This afternoon’s home game against the Pirates will be replayed on YES at 7pm ET, and MLB Network will show both Red Sox-Twins and Athletics-Giants live tonight. The (hockey) Rangers and Islanders are both playing as well. Talk about those games or anything else right here.