We’ve spent a lot of time and energy talking about the bullpen this spring. And with three spots realistically up for grabs, it’s been quite an interesting conversation. We know that Mo, Farnsworth, and LaTroy will be making the team, as they have guaranteed deals. It’s also assumed that Joba will break camp in the pen — or at least that’s what he believes right now. That’s four out of the seven, leaving three spots warm for the likes of Darrell Rasner, Jeff Karstens, Ross Ohlendorf, Brian Bruney, Chris Britton, Jon Albaladejo, Edwar Ramirez, Heath Phillips, Billy Traber, Scott Patterson, and (sigh) Sean Henn.
Complicating the issue a bit is Joe Girardi’s desire to see a long man in that bullpen mix. That would indicate Karstens or Rasner, though Ross Ohlendorf was a starter for his entire career until the middle of last year. But if we’re still considering Ohlendorf a one- or two-inning guy, that means we’re now looking at about nine guys for two spots. So things get tougher.
As if that wasn’t enough, it’s pretty much assumed that the team will head into the season with a lefty in the pen. Back in December, we debated the merits of having a lefty in the pen for the sake of having a lefty. We didn’t reach a consensus, but I still believe it wasteful to carry a lefty just because of the arm with which he throws. It’s becoming clear that the Yankees do not share this sentiment.
So that means one spot will be decided among three guys, four if you count Igawa. And that’s a topic I want to revisit. If we’re going to carry a lefty for the sake of carrying a lefty, we might as well discuss it.
Late last week, Billy Traber was added to the 40-man roster, which signaled to many that the spot is all but his. This, though, I have to disagree with. While he very well may get the job out of Spring Training, I’m not sold that he’s the right man for the job.
The thing is, Traber has proved little on the major league level. Yes, he was good against lefties last year in his brief major league stint, but is that enough to justify giving him a spot? And yeah, he’s a former No. 1 pick, but he really hasn’t been the same since he had Tommy John surgery in 2003.
My hope is that he was added to the 40-man so that he can be optioned down to AAA to start the season. This way, we can spend those last two bullpen spots on Patterson and Ohlendorf to see how they can do. Surely, a need in the bullpen will arise as the season progresses.
Then again, I seem to be talking out both sides of my mouth here, as Patterson has no major league experience, and Ohlendorf has just the few innings he tossed last September. Still, I’d rather see Traber, who has had a shot in the majors in each of the last two seasons, start in AAA so we can see what the other guys can do. And if Traber is getting the job done at AAA, then yeah, I’d fully advocate his call-up.
So at this point, let’s just say that I’m not sold at all on Traber as a viable bullpen option out of the gate.