Spring Training Game Thread: Warren’s Chance To Clinch A Rotation Spot

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Barring something unforeseen, Adam Warren will be the fifth starter at the start of the season. Brian Cashman basically confirmed it yesterday without actually coming out and saying it. Warren has outpitched Esmil Rogers this spring and it seems none of the other rotation candidates (Bryan Mitchell and Chase Whitley, specifically) were given serious consideration. With a strong performance today, Warren will erase any lingering doubt about his not yet official status as the fifth starter.

Today’s reason to watch: I’m not going to lie, this has the look of one of those uninteresting Spring Training games that will leave you wondering why you’re watching come the third or fourth inning. Warren is pitching and that’s important, plus some interesting non-top prospects are scheduled to play, but that’s about it.

The Yankees are on the road this afternoon, making the two-hour bus trip down to Port Charlotte to play the Rays. Not many regulars made the trip at all. There’s a bunch of bench players masquerading as regulars to meet MLB’s minimum requirement today. Here’s the Rays’ lineup and here’s the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. SS Didi Gregorius
  2. 2B Brendan Ryan
  3. 1B Garrett Jones
  4. CF Chris Young
  5. C John Ryan Murphy
  6. DH Rob Refsnyder
  7. LF Slade Heathcott
  8. RF Ramon Flores
  9. 3B Cole Figueroa
    RHP Adam Warren

Available Position Players: C Eddy Rodriguez, 1B Jonathan Galvez, SS Nick Noonan, LF Ben Gamel, and CF Jake Cave are scheduled to come off the bench. C Kyle Higashioka, C/1B Francisco Arcia, IF Ali Castillo, and OF Michael O’Neill are also on the trip as extra players.

Available Pitchers: RHP Chris Martin, RHP Danny Burawa, and RHP Jose Ramirez will follow Warren. LHP Tyler Webb, RHP Nick Rumbelow, RHP Cesar Vargas, RHP Branden Pinder, and RHP Nick Goody are the extra arms.

It it hot, cloudy, and humid in Port Charlotte, but there’s no rain in the forecast. This afternoon’s game will begin a little after 1pm ET and you can watch on MLB.tv. There is no YES broadcast and MLB Network is showing the game on a delay later, not live. MLB.tv won’t be blacked out in the Yankees’ home market and can watch on Sun Sports if you are in the Rays’ home market. Enjoy the game.

Dellin Betances’ rough spring and reduced velocity are a cause for some concern, but not yet panic

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

For the fourth consecutive appearance, ace righty reliever Dellin Betances allowed a run yesterday afternoon, this one on a home run by the generally powerless Juan Lagares. The homer came on a hanging breaking ball, and while it was Dellin’s second straight day on the mound — his first set of back-to-back games this spring — it continued his recent stretch of tough outings.

Betances has allowed four runs on seven hits and two walks in his 5.1 innings this spring, striking out four. All four strikeouts came his first two outings. He hasn’t struck out any of the last 18 batters he’s faced after going no more than 13 batters between strikeouts in 2014 as best I can tell. Dellin allowed one run on five hits and four walks in 12.1 last spring, striking out eleven, just for reference.

The circumstances this year are much different than last year, however. Betances was trying to impress last spring because he wanted to make the team. He had a strong showing in September 2013 after moving to the bullpen full-time in Triple-A, but Spring Training was his best opportunity to impress the decision-makers. Betances has a roster spot locked up this spring, so he could afford to take it a little easier in March.

Now, that said, Dellin’s struggles appear to go beyond something we could chalk up to a veteran just getting work in. There is no PitchFX in any Grapefruit League park, so while we don’t have an accurate measure of his velocity, it is clearly down a few miles an hour. Joe Girardi acknowledged it the other day, telling Chad Jennings that Betances “wasn’t throwing 97, 98 in Spring Training last year at this time. He wasn’t. And power pitchers usually take a little bit longer to get going.”

While true, PitchFX clocked Betances at 97.1 mph during his first regular season outing last year, on April 1st. First game of the year adrenaline? Maybe. He was at 95.4 mph in his second game and 96.6 mph in his third. Either way, Dellin hasn’t come close to that average fastball velocity this month. His breaking ball hasn’t had the same sharp bite either — it certainly isn’t buckling as many knees — and his overall location has been poor. Betances knows it too and he’s getting frustrated.

“I’m obviously frustrated. I mean, it’s been four outings where every time out, I’ve given up a run. Today I felt better, but you got to make a better pitch than that to Lagares. It’s frustrating, but I’m sure I got four more outings left and I’ll do whatever I can to be better for the season,” said Dellin to Jennings and Brendan Kuty following yesterday’s game. “A lot of those guys know who I am now. Last year, I was unknown. Right now I need to get a few more (mph on my fastball) and maybe attack the zone better.”

Three years ago we went through a similar situation with a pitcher showing reduced velocity, though I think Michael Pineda‘s situation in 2012 was much different than what Betances is going through now. Pineda was having a tough time cracking 90 mph — Jennings spoke to a scout who had Betances at 92-93 mph yesterday, for what it’s worth — and he seemed to be laboring physically. Dellin doesn’t give off that same vibe. It seems like it’s a mechanical issue more than a physical issue, but I’m neither a doctor nor a pitching coach.

Betances of course has a long history of mechanical issues. Very long. Basically his entire career sans 2014. He struggled with extreme control problems in the minors and things didn’t click until he went to the bullpen, and Dellin attributed the regular work to his improved mechanics. That could be part of the problem this spring — he’s thrown roughly 40% of the innings he did last spring with only a week to go in camp. Maybe he hasn’t seen enough game action to get up to speed.

Last season’s workload — 90 innings across 70 appearances — could certainly be a factor, though the innings total itself was not out of the norm for Betances. He threw 89 total innings in 2013, 131.1 innings in 2012, and 129 innings in 2011. That said, he was a starter in 2011 and 2012, and throwing that many innings as a starter is different than doing it as a reliever in so many more appearances. Dellin threw a ton of stressful innings last year. Of course the workload could be a factor.

I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t worried about Betances’ rough spring and his stuff not being as crisp as it was in 2014. Between that, his minor league history, and last year’s workload, I don’t know how some concern doesn’t creep into your mind. But full blown panic? No, not yet. I want to see what happens when Betances gets into the regular season and gets some more innings under his belt. If he’s still throwing low-90s with no feel for his breaking ball say, three weeks into the season, then I’ll be much more concerned than I am right now.

As I wrote in our Season Preview post earlier this week, Betances is unlikely to repeat last season’s overwhelming dominance because basically no one does that two years in a row. That doesn’t mean I expect to him bad though. I still expect him to be an elite reliever, the same way David Robertson never repeated his 2011 performance but remained elite from 2012-14. The good news is the Yankees have a deep bullpen and have the relievers to cover the late innings if Betances’ struggles carry over into the regular season. They can be patient and let him work it out.

But let’s not kid ourselves either. Dellin is a major piece of the 2015 Yankees, a team built to win close games on the back of a shutdown bullpen, a bullpen Betances was expected to anchor. If whatever is ailing him this spring continues deep into the season, it’s going to hurt the team’s chances of contending substantially. This isn’t some generic middle reliever we’re talking about. For now, I am a bit concerned about Betances and hope to see improvement over his final few Spring Training appearances. And if he doesn’t get straightened out a few weeks into the regular season, the Yankees could have a big problem on their hands.

Open Thread: March 25th Camp Notes

The Yankees lost 7-2 to the Mets this afternoon. Masahiro Tanaka had his worst start of the spring, allowing three runs (two earned) on four hits and a walk in 4.2 innings before hitting his pitch limit (60, he threw 59). He struck out seven. Pretty much every reliever who pitched stunk. Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, David Carpenter … all of ‘em. Not a banner day for the relief crew.

Chase Headley once again had a big day at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a double. Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez both went 1-for-3 and Didi Gregorius went 1-for-2 with a double. Brett Gardner and Carlos Beltran both went hitless in three at-bats. Headley drove in the first run and Nick Noonan drove in the other with a ninth inning single. That pretty much sums up the day offensively. Here’s the box score, here are the video highlights, and here’s the rest from Tampa:

  • Tanaka confirmed he is working on a two-seamer this spring and plans to use it this year more than his four-seamer, which was his least effective pitch in 2014. I like the idea. Tanaka’s not a guy with overpowering velocity, he succeeds by keeping hitters off balance with his offspeed stuff, and the two-seamer gives him something with a little wrinkle to stay off the barrel of the bat. [Bryan Hoch, Dan Barbarisi]
  • Jacoby Ellsbury (oblique) took dry swings and played catch. He continues to progress well. It’s unclear when Jose Pirela (concussion) will play again, but Joe Girardi hopes he can play before the end of camp. Chris Capuano (quad) is playing catch while sitting in a chair. CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, Chasen Shreve, Bryan Mitchell, and Jacob Lindgren all threw bullpen sessions. [Hoch, Mark Didtler, Chad Jennings]
  • Brian Cashman all but confirmed Adam Warren will be the fifth starter, calling him the “Secretariat” of the race. “If we had to make a decision today, it’d obviously be Warren,” he added. Cashman wouldn’t confirm Tanaka will start Opening Day, though he did say A-Rod has shown enough this spring to be the everyday DH. [Mark Feinsand, Barbarisi]
  • And finally, know how Yankees recreated that scene from The Sandlot? Well apparently the players filmed a whole bunch of movie scenes that will be released throughout the season. They’re the new Foul Territory. Hell yeah. [Barbarisi]

This is your open thread for the night. If you want to see Tanaka’s outing for yourself, this afternoon’s game will be replayed on YES at 10pm ET. MLB Network is covering the Yankees as part of their “30 Clubs and 30 Days” series tonight, so you can watch that at 7pm ET. They’ll show the White Sox and Royals live after that. The Knicks and Nets are both playing tonight as well, so have at it.

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Minor League Notes: Complex Upgrades, Spring Training Notes, Releases, Suspensions, Pace of Play

Yankees Player Development
(Photo via Brendan Kuty)

The Major League portion of Spring Training has been going on for weeks now, but things on the minor league side are just starting to ramp up. Chad Jennings has the Yankees’ minor league workout groups, if you’re interested. As a reminder, those are not regular season level assignments, only Spring Training workout groups. Many (most?) of the players will open the season at a different level than their workout group. Here are some more miscellaneous minor league notes.

Yankees made upgrades to Tampa complex

At the behest of new farm system head Gary Denbo, the Yankees have made a bunch of upgrades to their minor league complex in Tampa, according to Kevin Kernan. They’re mostly very small changes — new dugouts were built, speakers were installed to play music during workouts, players are no longer required to wear high socks, visitors can now walk freely around the complex — but they do all add up.

“Adding a simple thing like speakers and music for the players it makes things more relaxed for the players and we know players perform better when they are relaxed,” said Denbo to Kernan. “It’s time to put them in the position where they have everything they need to have success. That’s what we’re doing. We’re encouraging players families to come out and watch, too. It’s nice having your family around and we are just trying to make it more comfortable for them.”

The Yankees made more significant changes to the Tampa complex last year — the player development staff got its own dedicated statistical analyst and a new office building with a cafeteria for players was built — but these more recent changes are on a smaller scale designed to make players feel more comfortable and professional. Not coincidentally, Josh Norris says the atmosphere around minor league camp is greatly improved. Between these upgrades and Captain’s Camp, Denbo’s done a lot of good in his short time at the helm.

Notes from minor league camp

Minor league Spring Training games started not too long ago, and last week Norris roamed the back fields in Tampa and passed along some pitching notes. RHP Ty Hensley sat 89-92 and touched 93 in his outing with a hard curveball in the mid-to-upper-80s. The most important thing is he’s back pitching after his offseason ordeal. Meanwhile, RHP Gabe Encinas topped out at 95 mph as he continues to work his way back from Tommy John surgery, RHP Domingo Acevedo was sitting 94-96 mph with a few 97s, and RHP Rookie Davis was 93-95 mph with some 97s and low-to-mid-70s curveball. Norris also posted video of Hensley, Acevedo, and Jorge Mateo. Acevedo is just massive. He’s listed at 6-foot-7 and 190 lbs. but that looks like it shorts him about 50 pounds.

Yankees release 16 minor leaguers

According to Matt Eddy, the Yankees released 14 minor leaguers last week. Here’s the list: IF Jake Anderson, RHP Cristofer Cabrera, RHP Dayton Dawe, UTIL Anderson Feliz, 1B Mat Gamel, 1B R.J. Johnson, 1B Bubba Jones, OF Daniel Lopez, LHP Hector Martinez, LHP Abel Mora, RHP Alex Polanco, RHP David Rodriguez, RHP Hayden Sharp, and UTIL Casey Stevenson. Also, RHP Jordan Cote and RHP Brett Gerritse announced they have been released on Twitter, and C Trent Garrison announced his retirement on Twitter. Garrison was in big league camp this year and Gamel was signed earlier this month. Cote is probably the most notable prospect among the released minor leaguers — he was New York’s third round pick in 2011 and was a classic projectable high school pitcher who didn’t develop as hoped.

Two Dominican Summer League prospects suspended for PEDs

RHP Brayan Alcantara and RH Moises Cedeno have each been suspended 72 games after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug, report Bob Nightengale and Brendan Kuty. Alcantara tested positive for Stanozolol, whatever the hell that is. Both Alcantara and Cedeno pitched in the Dominican Summer League last year. The 21-year-old Alcantara had a 4.21 ERA with 28 strikeouts and nine walks in 25.2 innings, and the 19-year-old Cedeno had a 3.23 ERA with 59 strikeouts and 20 walks in 53 innings.

New pace of play rules implemented

As expected, new pace of play rules have been officially implemented in the minor leagues, MiLB announced. They mirror the new MLB pace of play rules — batters have to keep one foot in the box, strict two minutes and 25 second breaks between half-innings — plus a new 20-second pitch clock being installed at Double-A and Triple-A. The pitcher has to begin his windup within 20 seconds or an automatic ball will be called.

“Minor League Baseball is excited to implement the pace of game initiatives at the Triple-A and Double-A levels of our organization,” said MiLB president Pat O’Conner in a statement. “We feel the emphasis on pace will lead to more fan enjoyment and better play on the field and is another example of the cooperative relationship between our leagues and Major League Baseball in the advancement of player development.”

April will be used a grace period so players can adjust. The penalties start in May. The pitch clock in Double-A and Triple-A does not necessarily mean a pitch clock is coming to MLB next year. The league is testing it out at the highest level of the minors though, and if it works as intended and the players don’t make too big of a stink, expect MLB to push to add them at the big league level. I’m not a fan of a big ugly clock on the field of play at all, but I guess it’s inevitable.

David Carpenter and Justin Wilson, the New Middle Relief Duo [2015 Season Preview]

The Yankees overhauled the middle of their bullpen with a series of small trades this offseason. Righty David Carpenter and lefty Justin Wilson were brought in at the expense of Manny Banuelos and Francisco Cervelli to help bridge the gap between starting pitcher and the Dellin Betances/Andrew Miller combination at the end of games. As with most Yankees relievers, Carpenter and Wilson are power arms with a history of striking guys out.

Joe Girardi has yet to name a closer but that doesn’t really matter for Carpenter and Wilson. I mean, yeah, there’s the off chance once of these two will be given the ninth inning, but that’s so very unlikely. Carpenter and Wilson were brought to the New York for the middle innings — the sixth and seventh, mostly — and with the Yankees figuring to be a low-scoring team, the duo will be asked to get plenty of important outs in 2015.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Carpenter: A Better Version Of Shawn Kelley

The Yankees acquired Carpenter (and Chasen Shreve) from the Braves only four days after sending Kelley to the Padres for minor league righty Johnny Barbato. The timing probably isn’t a coincidence. The Yankees likely had the Carpenter deal lined up before pulling the trigger on the Kelley trade. The four days between trades probably had more to do with the New Year’s holiday than anything. (Kelley was traded on December 29th, Carpenter on January 1st.)

Kelley gave the Yankees two serviceable years after being acquired from the Mariners for the negligible price of Abe Almonte right at the start of Spring Training 2013. Based on the last two years, the 29-year-old Carpenter is an upgrade over Kelley. Check it out:

IP ERA FIP K% BB% GB% RHB wOBA LHB wOBA
Kelley 105.0 4.46 3.33 30.9% 9.6% 33.3% .310 .298
Carpenter 126.2 2.63 2.88 27.4% 7.0% 37.9% .265 .284

Kelley has the edge in strikeout rate but Carpenter has the edge everywhere else, and it’s not like his strikeout rate is bad either. It’s well above the league average for relievers (22.2% in 2014). They’re both fastball/slider pitchers, though Carpenter throws quite a bit harder. His four-seamer averaged 95.5 mph in 2014. Kelley’s averaged 92.1 mph. Carpenter is also learning a splitter this spring that has apparently impressed some scouts.

The on-field upgrade the Yankees made by going from Kelley to Carpenter to obvious. It doesn’t stop there though. Carpenter is ten months younger, will earn $1.335M less than Kelley in 2015, and is under team control through 2017 rather than only 2015 like Kelley. Carpenter’s been much healthier over the years too. His only career DL trip is 15 days for a biceps strain last June. Kelley is a two-time Tommy John surgery guy who missed a month with back trouble last year.

Carpenter is going to step right into Kelley’s old role this season, that versatile middle innings righty who can serve as a setup man or even close on occasion if necessary. Since it looks like Adam Warren is destined for the fifth starter’s spot, Carpenter will be Girardi’s number two righty reliever behind Betances to start the season, the same way Kelley was his number two righty reliever behind David Robertson at the start of last season.

Simply put, Carpenter is a high strikeout reliever with big velocity and a relatively small platoon split. He’s an upgrade over Kelley both on the field and contractually, and it’s easy to see how he fits in and helps the bullpen.

Wilson: Don’t Call Him A Specialist

Like most relievers before him, the 27-year-old Wilson was a middling starting pitching prospect in the minors who moved to the bullpen full-time in the big leagues. He had instant success with the Pirates two years ago, and while his 2014 season wasn’t as good as his 2013 season, Wilson still missed bats and kept the ball on the ground. Here are his two full MLB seasons:

IP ERA FIP K% BB% GB% RHB wOBA LHB wOBA
2013 73.2 2.08 3.41 20.0% 9.5% 53.0% .258 .233
2014 60.0 4.20 3.62 23.8% 11.7% 51.3% .279 .306
2013-14 133.2 3.03 3.50 21.8% 10.5% 52.2% .268 .268

Wilson throws very hard, especially for a left-hander. His four-seamer averaged 96.4 mph last summer, second highest among the 38 southpaw relievers who threw at least 40 innings. Only the inhuman Aroldis Chapman had a higher average fastball velocity among lefties (101.2!). Wilson also throws cutters and sinkers as well as a few curveballs, but he tends to live off the four-seamer and cutter. When you throw that hard and only pitch one inning at a time, you can afford to throw almost nothing but heaters.

Wilson's good side. (Presswire)
Wilson’s good side. (Presswire)

The cutter allows Wilson to keep right-handed batters in check and he throws so hard that lefties have a hard time keeping up with him, hence the non-LOOGY-esque platoon split the last two seasons. Strikes are a bit of a problem though. Wilson has always had a higher walk rate than you’d like, even when he was a starter in the minors, and that’s his biggest drawback. He’s a middle reliever who walks people, which makes like him like countless others. He’s also a middle reliever who throws with his left arm and averages over 96 mph with his fastball, making him like very few others.

A few years ago the Yankees took a similarly live armed lefty with control problems in Boone Logan and turned him into a reliable, over-hated middle innings lefty. The control problems never really went away, but the Yankees maximized his strikeout ability — Logan’s strikeout rate from 2010-13: 22.5%, 24.9%, 28.5%, 31.5% — to help compensate. I’m guessing that’s what they’re hoping to do with Wilson, who throws harder than Logan but doesn’t have his wipeout slider.

Wilson is not someone Girardi will have to shelter from right-handed hitters in the middle innings, though his walk issues make him a less than desirable option for consistent high-leverage work. That won’t be his role though. Betances and Miller will handle those spots, Carpenter too. Wilson is a pure sixth and seventh inning type who can miss bats and throw full innings. He’s the pitcher Matt Thornton was expected to be last year, only eleven years younger. Heck, maybe he’s Matt Thornton circa 2006 and about to hit his peak.

Spring Training Game Thread: Tanaka, Take Three

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees have not officially announced anything yet, but all signs point to Masahiro Tanaka being this year’s Opening Day starter. CC Sabathia is starting Saturday, so he wouldn’t be able to start Game 1 without pitching on short rest at some point, either in his final Grapefruit League start or Opening Day. That ain’t happening. Tanaka will get an extra day of rest before his final spring and then another extra day of rest before Opening Day.

Anyway, Tanaka will be on the mound this afternoon for his second to last Spring Training start. He’s looked excellent in his previous two starts, allowing just two hits in 5.2 scoreless innings, striking out five and getting eleven ground ball outs compared to just one in the air. His fastball has shown its usual velocity, his splitter is falling off the table, and his slider is breaking like it did last year. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think his elbow is 100% healthy. Kinda like the doctors said it was last September. Amazing!

Today’s reason to watch: Tanaka, obviously. Also Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Justin Wilson are all scheduled to pitch for the second straight day, the first time each guy is pitching back-to-back days in camp. They’re only going to face a batter or two each though, not throw a full inning. Andrew Bailey is also scheduled to make his third spring appearance. I don’t think he’s an Opening Day roster candidate, but if he’s healthy, we’ll see him in the bullpen at some point during the regular season.

The Mets took the long cross-state bus ride from Port St. Lucie to Tampa this afternoon. They sent a decent number of regulars — here’s their lineup — but not ex-Yankee Curtis Granderson. For shame. I’ve still got nothing but love for the Grandyman. Here is Joe Girardi‘s starting lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. DH Alex Rodriguez
  6. LF Garrett Jones
  7. 2B Stephen Drew
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. C John Ryan Murphy
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

Available Position Players: C Eddy Rodriguez, 1B Greg Bird, 2B Rob Refsnyder, SS Brendan Ryan, 3B Cole Figueroa, LF Jonathan Galvez, CF Slade Heathcott, and RF Ramon Flores will be the second string off the bench. C/1B Francisco Arcia, C Kyle Higashioka, and IF Nick Noonan are the extra players.

Available Pitchers: RHP Chase Whitley, LHP Justin Wilson, LHP Andrew Miller, RHP Dellin Betances, RHP David Carpenter, and RHP Andrew Bailey are all scheduled to pitch. My guess is Wilson, Miller, Betances, Carpenter, and Bailey face their hitters, then Whitley pitches the rest of the game to stay stretched out. Just a guess though. RHP Nick Rumbelow, RHP Alex Smith, RHP Chris Smith, and RHP Nick Goody are the extra arms.

It’s cloudy in Tampa this afternoon but there’s no rain in the forecast. Temperatures in the mid-80s with just enough humidity to make your legs stick to the stadium seats. This afternoon’s game is scheduled to begin at 1:05pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and both MLB Network and MLB.tv nationally. There is no SNY broadcast and the MLB Network broadcast will be blacked out in both teams’ home market. MLB.tv won’t be blacked out though. Enjoy the game.

Yankees’ strongest Opening Day bullpen includes Jacob Lindgren

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

At some point in the next ten days or so, Joe Girardi and his staff are going to finalize their pitching staff by selecting a fifth starter and the last two relievers. They might also pick a closer but that’s not the most important thing in the world since they have multiple candidates for the job. Adam Warren is the heavy favorite to be the fifth starter yet there hasn’t been any hint as to who might be selected to fill out the bullpen.

The Yankees have plenty of relievers in camp, both 40-man roster and non-40-man roster players, and they’ve already eliminated some players from the bullpen competition by sending them down to minor league camp. Jose Ramirez, Branden Pinder, Jose DePaula, and Danny Burawa were among the bullpen candidates sent down already. Jared Burton is hurt (lat strain) and out of the running as well. Here’s how the remaining bullpen candidates have performed this spring:

  • RHP Andrew Bailey: 2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K in only two games as he works his way back from major shoulder surgery.
  • RHP Scott Baker: 8.1 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 7 K in three games.
  • RHP Kyle Davies: 7 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 2 K in five games.
  • LHP Jacob Lindgren: 6.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 9 K in seven games.
  • RHP Chris Martin: 6.1 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 8 K in seven games.
  • RHP Bryan Mitchell: 7.1 IP, 12 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 4 BB, 6 K in three games.
  • RHP Nick Rumbelow: 6.2 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 12 K in six games.
  • LHP Chasen Shreve: 8 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 10 K in eight games.
  • RHP Chase Whitley: 10 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 4 K in four games.

The Yankees have taken a long look at Shreve this spring and have been using him against right-handed hitters to see if he can get them out — 26 of the 37 batters he’s faced during Grapefruit League play have been righties. Seven of the 26 have reached base. Shreve’s last few outings have been rough though, and while making a roster decision based on Spring Training performance is sorta foolish, teams still do it and Shreve potentially pitched his way to Triple-A.

Davies was never a serious MLB roster candidate and the Yankees have indicated they would like Mitchell to open the year in Triple-A to continue working on things, specifically his command. Same with Rumbelow. Bailey has a lot of rust to shake off and not much Spring Training time left to shake it off. Martin started out well — Girardi mentioned him by name a week or two ago when asked who had impressed him — but he’s allowed at least one hit in each Grapefruit League outing and always seems to be in trouble.

That leaves three bullpen candidates: Baker, Lindgren, and Whitley. Whitley has been fantastic in camp with the caveat that Baseball Reference’s opponent quality stat says he’s been facing Triple-A caliber hitters. Still, when you toss up that many zeros in camp, people notice. And the fact Whitley was in the big leagues last year helps his case.  Baker got destroyed in his first spring outing (three runs on six hits in one inning) but has been excellent since. He’s been facing better than Triple-A caliber competition. The Yankees are likely to use one of last two bullpen spots on a long man (maybe two!) and right now I think we have to say Whitley has a leg up on Baker.

The last remaining name is the most interesting one. Lindgren has dominated in camp — his 19 outs are broken into nine strikeouts, eight ground outs, and two fly outs — yet he’s faced Double-A caliber competition. Lindgren manhandled Single-A and Double-A hitters during his pro debut last summer and it’s no surprise he’s doing it again this spring. His slider is lethal. He’s basically Andrew Miller minus about nine inches of height. The dominant showing this month has only reinforced what many felt coming into Spring Training: Lindgren is one of the seven best relievers in the organization right now.

The Yankees drafted Lindgren, who was a reliever at Mississippi State, with their top pick (55th overall) last year because they expected him to get to MLB in a hurry. There was talk they were going to call him up last year until they decided 79.2 high leverage innings were enough. Teams don’t draft college relievers in the first or second round only to leave them in the minors for two or three years. They pick them high because they can get to the big leagues quickly, and by all accounts Lindgren is as MLB ready as a one-inning reliever can be.

There are no roster space issues — the Yankees have 39 players on the 40-man roster right now and can clear another spot by placing Ivan Nova on the 60-day DL and potentially another when Austin Romine is moved — and manipulating service time with a reliever shouldn’t be a high priority. And let’s be real here, there’s also a “there are only so many bullets in that arm” factor too. Lindgren is a slider heavy reliever and may eventually blow out his arm because that’s what slider heavy relievers do. The Yankees should want to get as much as possible out of him before that happens.

At this point in time, I think the best Opening Day roster is one with Lindgren in the bullpen, even if he’s only working low-leverage middle innings at first to gain experience. This isn’t based on his spring performance either, I felt he could get MLB hitters out last summer. The Yankees have the luxury of a great bullpen, allowing Girardi to break Lindgren in slowly, like he did with Dellin Betances early last year and David Robertson years ago. And if Lindgren doesn’t perform well, so be it, they can send him down. That’s part of the development process. Robertson went up and down a whole bunch of times early in his career too.

No bullpen candidate other than Whitley has really stood out in Spring Training, making Lindgren impossible to ignore. If the Yankees had a bunch of guys performing great in camp, this would be a much more difficult decision. That is not the case though. Lindgren was basically MLB ready at the time of the draft last year and he’s done nothing to dispute that since turning pro. He’s one of the seven best relievers in the organization, so if the Yankees want to field the strongest possible bullpen heading into the season, Lindgren belongs on the Opening Day roster.