Refsnyder, Heathcott, Sanchez all make Wildcard Game roster

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Rosters for the 2015 AL wildcard game were due at 10am ET this morning, and shortly thereafter the Yankees officially announced their 25-man squad for their first postseason game in three years. Here is the Astros’ roster and here is the Yankees’ roster for tonight’s winner-take-all game at Yankee Stadium:

RHP Dellin Betances
LHP Andrew Miller
RHP Bryan Mitchell
RHP Ivan Nova
LHP James Pazos
RHP Luis Severino
RHP Masahiro Tanaka
RHP Adam Warren
LHP Justin Wilson

Brian McCann
John Ryan Murphy
Gary Sanchez

2B/OF Dustin Ackley
1B Greg Bird
SS Didi Gregorius
3B Chase Headley
2B Rob Refsnyder
DH Alex Rodriguez
IF Brendan Ryan

RF Carlos Beltran
CF Jacoby Ellsbury
LF Brett Gardner
OF Slade Heathcott
PR Rico Noel
OF Chris Young

I’m glad the Yankees took only nine pitchers. There’s really no need for more than that. Plus it’s not like the Yankees are swimming with options right now. CC Sabathia is unavailable after checking into rehab and next in line is probably Andrew Bailey, who wasn’t too good during his September cameo.

Both Severino and Nova started Saturday, so they aren’t fully available tonight. Today is their usual between-starts throw day, so they can probably give an inning or two, maybe three if they’re really efficient, but I doubt it would be much more than that. Obviously the plan is Tanaka to Wilson to Betances to Miller. Anything other than that is probably bad news.

Sanchez had only two garbage time at-bats at the end of the regular season, and the fact he is on the roster suggests the Yankees may start Murphy against the left-hander Dallas Keuchel. Murphy starts, McCann takes over once Keuchel is out of the game, and Sanchez is the emergency catcher. Sanchez could also be a pinch-hitter or DH option if A-Rod gets lifted for Noel at some point.

The rest of the roster is pretty self-explanatory. As I said this morning, I think Young will start tonight’s game, likely in place of Gardner. Young has good career numbers against Keuchel and Joe Girardi loves his head-to-head matchups. Gardner figures to come off the bench as soon as Keuchel is out of the game though. With any luck, no one outside the starting lineup and big three relievers will be used.

Ready or not, Yankees will need their young relievers to get big outs the rest of the way

Pazos. (Presswire)
Pazos. (Presswire)

As you know, the Yankees have used their last bullpen spot or two as a revolving door this season, shuttling young relievers in and out as fresh arms were needed. Fifteen different relievers were called up from Triple-A Scranton as part of the shuttle this season, eight of whom were called up and sent down multiple times. Ten of those relievers made their Major League debuts.

On the bright side, that’s a lot of young players getting an opportunity this season. Getting to the big leagues is one heck of an accomplishment. On the other hand, none of those relievers stuck around long enough to make any sort of impression. Branden Pinder leads the group with 26.1 big league innings this year, though that is spread across five separate call-ups. He threw eleven innings in August and no more than 6.1 innings in any other month.

It’s too late in the season now for anyone to get an extended look, but it’s not too late for one or some of these young relievers to make an impact. Despite being 13 pitchers deep, the bullpen is short right now, at least in terms of relievers Joe Girardi actually trusts. Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, and Justin Wilson are still around, but Adam Warren is in the rotation and Chasen Shreve has hit a wall. The Circle of Trust™ is three men deep right now.

Like it or not, Girardi is going to have use some of these young relievers to get important outs in these final 18 games of the season. He tried to do that last night. Things didn’t go too well:

Yankees Blue Jays

That’s a lot of sketchy relief pitchering. On Monday we saw Girardi use Caleb Cotham in the eighth inning of a one-run game with an insurance run standing on third. James Pazos and Cotham tag-teamed the ninth inning against the top of the Blue Jays lineup Sunday. Nick Rumbelow and Bryan Mitchell have both gotten the call in an important-ish situations at various points.

The Yankees do have some veterans in the bullpen, namely Andrew Bailey and Chris Capuano (and I guess Chris Martin), though neither is really suited for higher leverage work. They have experience, sure, but Bailey’s still coming back from major shoulder surgery and Capuano’s nothing more than a long man. The young kids and their power arms are better options right now, in theory. Experience is great, but present talent wins out.

With the starters failing to go longer than six innings on the regular, Girardi and the Yankees will be forced the bridge the gap with these young guys. They can’t use Wilson and Betances for multiple innings each day, not even this late in the season. Someone, be it Pazos or Pinder or Rumbelow or Bailey, is going to have to step up and get some big outs at some point these last 18 games. The Yankees don’t have any other options.

Injury News: Nathan Eovaldi, Brett Gardner, Mark Teixeira

And no one was ever healthy again. (Presswire)
And no one was ever healthy again. (Presswire)

Got a bunch of not particular good injury updates to pass along, which come from Brian Cashman via the plethora of beat reporters. Away we go:

  • It “sounds like” Nathan Eovaldi (elbow) will not be able to return during the regular season, said Cashman. That’s not good. Eovaldi could be in play for the postseason, however. He will be shut down two weeks, then begin a two-week throwing program. The regular season ends three weeks and five days from today.
  • As for replacing Eovaldi in the rotation, Cashman said Adam Warren will be stretched back and will soon make another start. Bryan Mitchell was mentioned as another option. A trade isn’t happening. “I think what you’re seeing is what we’ve got,” said the GM.
  • Brett Gardner has been trying to play through a jammed shoulder recently. He hurt himself crashing into a wall making a catch. Gardner, who is not in tonight’s lineup for the second straight day, received a platelet-rich plasma injection the Yankees hope will calm things down. He is available tonight if necessary.
  • Mark Teixeira (leg) received two injections to help relieve some nerve inflammation around the bone bruise in his shin. He’s still on crutches. Cashman admitted he “(does) wonder” whether Teixeira will be able to return this season. Well, at least the team has a viable fill-in at first base.

Even with no standouts, the revolving door has been an effective last man in the bullpen

Pinder. (Presswire)
Pinder. (Presswire)

As you know, the Yankees have had a revolving door in their bullpen all season, using the last reliever spot or two — sometimes more, they’ve had an eight-man bullpen at times — to shuttle in fresh arms as necessary. Every team does it to some extent, but the Yankees have done it to the extreme this year, and it’s all by design. The plan coming into the season was to use the Triple-A and Double-A depth to constantly bolster the bullpen.

“(We had) from Double-A on up a lot of really interesting power arms from the left and right side that were under control, with options,” said Brian Cashman to Joe Lemire recently. “We talked all winter about where we could be in a situation where we’re really taking a guy every ten days. Call a guy up, max him out, send him back out and get a new guy up. It’s just kind of a revolving door.”

According to Lemire, the Yankees had made 106 transactions — that’s call-ups, send-downs, and designate for assignments — heading into last Tuesday’s game, easily the most in baseball. The other 29 clubs were averaged 67 such transactions this year. That’s kinda crazy, but it was the plan all along. The depth is there, might as well use it, right? No sense in going short-handed for a few days when you have capable pitchers a phone call away.

I count a dozen pitchers who have been on the bullpen shuttle this season, not including Chris Capuano, who always seems to find his way back onto the roster even though the Yankees keep trying to stick him in their Triple-A rotation. Of those 12 pitchers, eight have been called up multiple times. Here are how those eight relievers with multiple call-ups and send-downs have fared this season:

Caleb Cotham 3.2 9.82 7.49 25.0% 0.0% 50.0% 4.91
Nick Goody 3.1 5.40 4.02 20.0% 13.3% 66.7% 0.00
Chris Martin 16.0 5.63 2.81 20.3% 4.1% 54.5% 0.56
Bryan Mitchell 17.2 2.55 3.18 20.3% 6.8% 49.1% 0.51
Diego Moreno 10.1 5.23 4.29 17.8% 6.7% 40.6% 0.87
Branden Pinder 23.1 2.70 5.01 19.0% 10.0% 30.4% 1.54
Jose Ramirez 3.0 15.00 6.79 10.0% 20.0% 38.5% 0.00
Nick Rumbelow 9.2 2.79 3.54 22.5% 7.5% 39.3% 0.93
TOTAL 87.0 4.34 3.91 19.6% 7.7% 42.2% 1.03
3.63 3.74 22.1% 8.5% 45.5% 0.90

Just to be clear, this includes Mitchell’s time as a reliever only. Overall, the eight up-and-down relievers have been below-average at pretty much everything other than limiting walks this year. You can play with the numbers if you want — remove Ramirez because he’s no longer with the organization and it’s a 3.83 ERA (3.84 FIP) in 84 innings, for example — but I don’t see the point in that.

Overall, this group of eight pitchers have collectively performed worse than the league average reliever. They aren’t replacing the league average reliever, however. They’re the last reliever in the bullpen, and the last reliever in the bullpen is generally very bad. The Blue Jays, for example, have gotten a 6.80 ERA (4.37 FIP) in 41.2 innings out of Todd Redmond, Scott Copeland, and Jeff Francis this year. The Royals and Pirates have used Joe Blanton. See what I mean?

By last reliever in the bullpen standards, the revolving door has been serviceable this year. Not great — out of all these guys, the only one who has really stood out and made you think he could an impact pitcher long-term is Mitchell, who is a starter by trade — but serviceable. The advantage is always having a fresh reliever. That’s the whole point of shuttling them in and out, to make sure Joe Girardi always has a fresh arm available.

How do you value something like that? I’m not sure we can put a number on it. Have a fresh “last guy in the bullpen” every night ensures the regular relievers won’t have to pick up any mop-up innings throughout the year, which can happen from time-to-time. Sometimes these guys get exposed — remember Pinder against the heart of the Blue Jays order in extra innings a few weeks ago? — but that happens with every mop-up man.

All things considered, the revolving bullpen door has succeeded at giving Girardi a fresh bullpen arm while providing the team collectively competent innings. These guys haven’t been great by any means — they’ve had their moments, but so does everyone — but the Yankees haven’t needed them to be. Soaking up innings in low-leverage spots is a thankless job. Rather than have one or two guys do it, the Yankees have used eight.

Yankees activate Bryan Mitchell off 7-day concussion DL

(David Banks/Getty)
(David Banks/Getty)

Earlier today, the Yankees announced they have activated right-hander Bryan Mitchell off the 7-day concussion DL. He takes the roster spot of Nick Goody, who was sent down following Wednesday’s game. The Yankees still have a normal seven-man bullpen and four-man bench.

Mitchell, 24, has been out since taking a line drive to the face eleven days ago. He escaped with only a small nasal fracture, which, in the grand scheme of things, was only minor damage. Mitchell could have suffered much more serious facial fractures or eye damage. He got lucky.

The Yankees had Mitchell throw a 30-pitch simulated game Tuesday and everything went well. He healed up so well and so quickly that the team didn’t even bother to send him on a minor league rehab assignment. Mitchell is still stretched out and able to work as a long man and/or spot starter.

The 7-day concussion DL comes with all sorts of protocol. Mitchell had to pass baseline testing and the results had to be approved by MLB before he could be activated. That all happened, obviously. Mitchell’s been pretty good for the Yankees this year (3.86 ERA and 3.26 FIP in 21 innings), so it’s good to get him back so soon after such a scary moment.

Game 125: Game One

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

It’s a new season. The short 38-game sprint begins tonight. The Yankees and Blue Jays are tied atop the AL East with identical 69-55 records, so the best team from this day forward will win the division. Everything that happened in those first 124 games is relatively meaningless. It’ll have no impact on the race from this day forward.

The postseason odds at FanGraphs give the Blue Jays a better chance to win the AL East (54.9% to 44.0%) because the projection systems like their roster better, but to hell with that. The Yankees have that fighting spirit and have been exceeding expectations for about two decades now. This team was supposed to be old and out of the race about eight years ago. It hasn’t happened yet. No reason to think it will now. Here is the Astros’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Chris Young
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. RF Carlos Beltran
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. C John Ryan Murphy
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Brendan Ryan
    RHP Ivan Nova

Another nice day for baseball in New York. The sky is blue, the clouds are poofy, and there’s a nice little breeze to offset the Freddy Garcia-esque mid-80s heat. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch locally on YES and nationally on MLB Network, depending where you live. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: In case you missed it earlier, CC Sabathia (knee) does not need surgery … Bryan Mitchell (face) threw a 30-pitch simulated game with no problems. The Yankees will figure out the next step in a day or two after they see how he feels. Mitchell could pitch in a minor league game next … Dustin Ackley (back) expects to begin a minor league rehab assignment with Double-A Trenton on Thursday.

Game 123: Andy Pettitte Day

Yesterday afternoon the Yankees retired No. 20 and dedicated a plaque in Monument Park in honor of Jorge Posada, and today they’ll do the same for Andy Pettitte. No. 46 is officially coming out of circulation. This weekend honoring two all-time great Yankees continues today with Andy Pettitte Day.

Pettitte is arguably the best starting pitcher in franchise history and I don’t think I know a single person who doesn’t love Andy. He is the franchise’s all-time leader in strikeouts (2,020) and is third in innings (2,796.1), wins (219) and pitching WAR (51.6). Andy is certainly the team’s best starter during the expansion era, if nothing else.

Hall of Famer? I’d say Pettitte is borderline at best. He is a five-time World Series champ and was a rotation stalwart during the most recent Yankees dynasty, but his candidacy will be hurt by his performance-enhancing drug ties. Either way, Andy’s going into Monument Park, and deservedly so. Monument Park was built for guys like Pettitte.

Just like yesterday, fans have been asked to be in their seats by noon for the pregame ceremony, though the actual ceremony probably won’t start until 12:15pm or 12:30pm ET or so. YES will have the whole thing, as always. As for this afternoon’s game, here is Cleveland’s lineup and here is New York’s lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. DH Brian McCann
  5. 1B Greg Bird
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 2B Stephen Drew
  9. C John Ryan Murphy
    LHP CC Sabathia

It’s a bit cloudy in New York today and there is some rain in the forecast, but not much. Nothing that will ruin the ceremony or cause a postponement. The game is scheduled to begin at 1:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy the ceremony and the game.

Injury Updates: Mark Teixeira (leg) did some light running and took batting practice for the first time since the foul ball. It seems unlikely he will play tomorrow … Bryan Mitchell (face) threw a bullpen session. He could make a minor league rehab appearance next, then come off the DL … Alex Rodriguez is healthy. Joe Girardi said he is trying to “refresh” him with two straight days off.

Roster Update: Garrett Jones, who was designated for assignment a few days ago, has been unconditionally released. He’ll probably hook on somewhere and serve as an extra lefty bench bat in September.