David Phelps throws 31-pitch simulated game, could be activated soon

As expected, David Phelps faced hitters in a simulated game yesterday for the first time since going down with elbow inflammation last month. He threw 31 pitches and felt fine. “I feel like I made some good pitches. I was just nice to be out there with some adrenaline flowing. It feels good enough to get guys out right now,” he said to Brian Heyman.

The Yankees will see how Phelps feels in the coming days before deciding on the next step, and it’s entirely possible he will be activated off the disabled list before throwing another simulated game. The team already announced he will return as a reliever — at this point of the season I’m not sure there’s enough time to get him all the way stretched out to start anyway — and I’m sure he’ll jump right into some kind of quasi-high-leverage role similar to what Adam Warren is doing right now.

2015 Schedule Released: Yankees open at home against Blue Jays

MLB released the 2015 regular season schedule this afternoon, and the Yankees will open next season at home against the Blue Jays on Monday, April 6th. The season begins with the ESPN Sunday Night game on April 5th — the league says details about that game are forthcoming — then all 30 teams play on Monday. There are no more staggered starts like this season, when the Yankees and Astros opened on a Tuesday and were literally the last teams to play their first game of 2014.

The team’s full schedule can be seen right here. After the season-opening three-game series with Toronto — the two teams are off on Tuesday, the annual “just in case it rains on Opening Day” off-day — the Yankees will play three games against the Red Sox before heading out on a ten-game road trip through Baltimore, Tampa, and Detroit. As always, April is heavy with intra-division play against AL East rivals. Here are some more schedule details:

  • Subway Series: Rather than the usual four-game home-and-home series, the Subway Series will be split up next season. The Yankees and Mets will play three games at Yankee Stadium from April 24-26 (Friday to Sunday), then another three games at Citi Field from September 18-20 (also Friday to Sunday).
  • 2009 World Series Rematch: The Yankees will play three games against the Phillies in Yankee Stadium from June 22-24. That’s Monday through Wednesday. The two teams will not play in Philadelphia next summer.
  • Interleague Play: The NL East is up for interleague play next year, hence the six games against the Mets. In addition to the Mets and Phillies series, the Yankees will travel to Washington (May 19-20) and Atlanta (August 28-30), and play a four-game home-and-home series with the Marlins (June 15-18). Giancarlo Stanton is coming to the Bronx, people. The Nationals will also be at Yankee Stadium from June 9-10.
  • West Coast: The Yankees only have two West Coast trips next year. They go to Oakland (May 28-31) and Seattle (June 1-3), then Houston (June 25-28) and Anaheim (June 29-July 1). Houston isn’t on the West Coast, but it’s a stop on the way. The Yankees are done with the West Coast before the All-Star break.
  • All-Star Game: The All-Star Game will be played on Tuesday, July 14th next year. The game is at The Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. The Homerun Derby will be Monday the 13th and the Futures Game will be Sunday the 12th.
  • End of the Season: As usual, the Yankees will close the season out with a bunch of games against AL East clubs. They’ll play four games at home against the Red Sox (Sept. 28-Oct. 1) and then three on the road in Baltimore (Oct. 2-4) to close out the year. Twenty-six of their final 33 games will be played within the division.

Joel Sherman says MLB wanted to avoided opening the season in March, which is why the first games will be played on April 5th and 6th. That means the regular season ends in early-October, like the good ol’ days. That last series against the Orioles could wind up being pretty important.

Betances and Robertson give Yankees modern day Rivera and Wetteland

(Hannah Foslien/Getty)
(Hannah Foslien/Getty)

Just about all summer, Joe Girardi and the Yankees have enjoyed arguably the most dominant setup man/closer tandem in baseball in Dellin Betances and David Robertson. The team has scaled back on Betances’ workload in recent weeks but for the most of the season he was a multi-inning monster who would regularly bridge the gap from starter to closer all by himself. Robertson has been dynamite in his first season as closer, making the transition to the post-Mariano Rivera era relatively painless.

The Yankees had a similarly dominant late-game duo the last few years thanks to the Robertson and Rivera, though Robertson has always been a true one-inning reliever, not a four or five or six out guy. The multi-inning reliever is a dying breed, especially when it comes to late-inning guys. The last time the Yankees had a duo like Betances and Robertson, meaning an overwhelming multi-inning setup man and a shutdown closer, was way back to 1996, when Rivera was setting up John Wetteland.

There are more than a few similarities between the 1996 duo and the 2014 duo. Betances, like Rivera, was scuffling along for much of his early-20s, trying to make it work as a starting pitcher before moving into the bullpen full-time. They both opened the season in an undefined middle relief role before pitching their way into some more responsibility — Rivera threw 15 straight hitless innings at one point from mid-April through early-May in 1996, which is a great way to earn the manager’s trust — and eventually a no-doubt high-leverage role. Robertson has a knack for making things interesting but gets the job done more often than not, similar to Wetteland.

Statistically, there isn’t much of a comparison. Betances and Robertson have been quite a bit more effective this year than Rivera and Wetteland in 1996, at least on a rate basis. Wetteland and (mostly) Rivera did throw a ton of innings back in the day, a workload Betances and Robertson won’t sniff this year:

Innings WHIP ERA FIP K% BB% K/BB
2014 Betances & Robertson 137.1 0.84 1.97 1.84 39.4% 7.6% 5.18
1996 Rivera & Wetteland 171.1 1.06 2.36 2.57 28.8% 8.0% 3.43

Rivera and Wetteland also excelled in the postseason in 1996, combining to allow only four runs in 26.2 innings (1.35 ERA) during the team’s march to the World Series title. Wetteland saved four games in five days en route to being named World Series MVP. Hopefully Betances and Robertson get a chance to strut their stuff in the postseason next month, but eh. Things aren’t looking too hot right now.

The similarities don’t stop there either. Betances (26) and Robertson (29) are the same age right now that Rivera and Wetteland were back in 1996, respectively. That’s sorta freaky. Robertson is also due to become a free agent this offseason just like Wetteland became a free agent following the 1996 season. The Yankees let him walk and installed Rivera as their closer. The team is going to face a similar decision this winter — do they let Robertson go and hand the ninth inning reigns over to Dellin?

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with re-signing Robertson and keeping one of the game’s most dominant late-game bullpen pairs together for another few seasons. In fact I would prefer it. I don’t mean that as a slight on Betances either. I think he’d be able to close no problem just like I thought Robertson would have no trouble closing this year, but there is no such thing as having too many great relievers. The game has changed a lot in the last two decades. Deep bullpens are imperative these days because no one scores runs anymore and every game is close.

Eighteen years ago, the Yankees had an advantage over every team they played thanks to Rivera and Wetteland. Rivera’s ability to go multiple innings — he went two full innings in 35 of 61 appearances and three full innings eight times — combined with Wetteland’s ninth inning reliability effective made it a six-inning game for New York. Girardi has had the same luxury this year thanks to Betances and Robertson. Both guys are having phenomenal seasons and they’ve been essential in keeping the Yankees in the race this summer.

Fan Confidence Poll: September 8th, 2014

Record Last Week: 3-3 (20 RS, 19 RA)
Season Record: 73-68 (555 RS, 581 RA, 67-74 pythag. record) 9.5 GB in ALE, 4.5 GB of WC
Opponents This Week: Mon. OFF, vs. Rays (three games, Tues. to Thurs.), @ Orioles (four games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?

Sunday Night Open Thread

For whatever reason the folks at MLBAM decided to chop this afternoon’s Derek Jeter retirement ceremony into eight (!) different videos, and I’m not embedding all of them here. That’s too many. Jeter’s predictably perfect speech is above (full text) and you can see all the ceremony videos right here. (Andy Pettitte was not in town because of a prior family engagement.) The Yankees pulled out all the stops, even bringing in astronauts and Michael Jordan. Astronauts! I didn’t hear it myself, but apparently one of the broadcast microphones picked up Jordan saying “I heard you’re getting married?” to Jeter, so that’s a thing. Leave it to Jeter to keep an engagement secret. Anyway, the ceremony was way cool. What a great afternoon.

Here is your open thread for the rest of the night. The ESPN Sunday Night Game is a good one, the Giants at the Tigers (Hudson vs. Lobstein). The late NFL game is the Colts and Broncos. Hooray football. Talk about those games, the Jeter ceremony, this afternoon’s loss, or anything else right here.