Workout Day Notes: Eovaldi, Capuano, Shreve, Beltran

Today is an off-day around baseball, but both the Yankees and Astros held a workout at Yankee Stadium this afternoon. Needless to say, CC Sabathia checking into rehab was the big story. Everyone in the organization stood behind him, from Brian Cashman to Joe Girardi to his teammates. “We play for CC now,” said Alex Rodriguez.

While Sabathia’s announcement dominated the workout today, there is some other news and notes to pass along. Here’s the important stuff from today’s workout:

The wildcard game rosters do not have to be made official until 10am ET tomorrow. An official announcement should come around that time.

Building the Wildcard Game Roster: Pitching Staff


At some point soon, possibly later today, the Yankees will officially clinch their first postseason berth in three seasons. It’s only a wildcard spot, sure, but a wildcard spot is better than nothing. Both the Royals and Giants went to the World Series after being wildcard teams last year, remember.

The wildcard game is considered its own distinct playoff round, which means it gets its own 25-man roster. It’s not a regular season game, so no expanded rosters with September call-ups, but the Yankees would also be able to change their roster prior to the ALDS, should they advance. They can build a roster specifically for the wildcard game.

There have been 12 wildcard teams since the current system was put in place in 2012, and those 12 teams averaged 9.67 pitchers on the roster. Three teams carried eleven pitchers, three carried ten, five carried nine, and one carried eight. There’s no need to carry all the extra starting pitchers, so teams have taken advantage and expanded their benches.

Whoever starts Game 162 for the Yankees on Sunday won’t be on the wildcard roster. There’s no reason to carry him since they won’t be available for the wildcard game on Tuesday. It also wouldn’t make sense to carry the Game 161 starter since he’d be on two days’ rest in the wildcard game. Right now Luis Severino and Michael Pineda are lined up to start Games 161 and 162, respectively, though that can change.

Joe Girardi and the Yankees love to match up with their relievers, so my guess is they end up carrying ten or eleven pitchers in the wildcard game. I’d be surprised if it was any fewer but I suppose it is possible. Which ten or eleven pitchers should the Yankees carry in the wildcard game? Let’s try to figure it out. Later today we’ll tackle the position player side of things.

The Locks

Might as well start with the easy ones to get them out of the way. Masahiro Tanaka will start the wildcard game — he will return from his hamstring injury tonight and start with “no restrictions” (no pitch count, basically), putting him in line for the wildcard game with an extra day of rest — and we know Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, and Justin Wilson will be in the bullpen. That’s four of the ten or eleven spots right there. You can be sure Girardi would prefer not to use anyone other than those four in the wildcard game too.

If Tanaka’s hamstring acts up tonight, my guess is the Yankees would rearrange their weekend rotation and go with either Severino or Pineda in the wildcard game. (Likely Severino given Pineda’s dud last night.) CC Sabathia is starting tomorrow night and would be able to start the wildcard game on regular rest, though I’d be surprised if he got the call. Yes, Sabathia has pitched better of late, and he is the team’s highest paid starter, but the Yankees wouldn’t even run him out there against the Blue Jays in a regular season game. In a winner-take-all wildcard game? It would surprise me to see him out there if better options available (i.e. Severino).


The Safe Bet

Given their need in middle relief and the fact they have four other starters for the postseason rotation, it makes perfect sense for Adam Warren to be on the wildcard game roster and ready for middle innings work. He is currently stretched out to 80+ pitches and lined up to start Friday, which means he’ll be on three days’ rest for the wildcard game. The Yankees could always cut Friday’s start short — say three innings or 50 pitches, something like that — to make sure Warren is fresh for Tuesday. Unless someone gets hurt and Warren has to remain in the postseason rotation, I expect him to be on the wildcard game roster. He’s too good not be in the bullpen for that game. So five of the ten or eleven pitching spots are claimed.

Whither Shreve?

Considering how well he pitched for most of the season, it’s hard to believe Chasen Shreve‘s postseason roster spot is now in question. He’s been that bad in recent weeks. Girardi has already reduced his high-leverage work, so Shreve’s falling out of favor. Once the Yankees clinch, Girardi and the Yankees absolutely should use Shreve as much as possible these last few regular season games to try to get him sorted out, and those last few outings could easily determine his wildcard roster fate. Right now, given his overall body of work, my guess is he’s on the roster.

The Extra Starters

Tanaka is going to start the wildcard game but it would also make sense to carry an extra starter or two in the bullpen, at the very least to serve as a long relief option in case things get crazy in extra innings. As I said, Sabathia would be on full rest for the wildcard game and could serve as the extra starter. Ivan Nova is another candidate — he started Monday and probably won’t start again during the regular season — but I think it’s more likely Nova starts Saturday or Sunday, leaving Severino or Pineda available for the wildcard game. I have a hard time thinking Nova will be on the wildcard game roster, but I guess it’s possible. Do the Yankees need one or two extra starters? I guess that depends how the rest of the roster shakes out. For now I’m thinking Sabathia and another starter will be in the wildcard game bullpen.

The Rest of the Rest

Assuming Warren, Shreve, and two spare starters are on the wild card roster, the Yankees still have two or three pitching spots to fill to get their staff up to ten or eleven. They have no shortage of candidates, that’s for sure. Andrew Bailey, James Pazos, Branden Pinder, Nick Rumbelow, Chris Capuano, Bryan Mitchell, Chris Martin, Caleb Cotham, and Nick Goody are all on the active roster at the moment. Those last two or three arms will come from that group.

Process of elimination: Goody is out because he’s barely pitched in September, making only two appearances. He seems to be at the very bottom of the Triple-A reliever depth chart. Martin is basically one rung higher — he’s made five appearances this month and three lasted one out. He’s out too. Mitchell looked pretty sharp in short relief earlier this season but has not been all that effective since taking the line drive to the face. Can’t afford to risk his wildness in a winner-take-all game. He’s out.


That leaves Bailey, Pazos, Pinder, Rumbelow, Capuano, and Cotham. Bailey is a Proven Veteran™ who Girardi has tried to squeeze into some tight spots of late. Sometimes it’s worked (last Friday against the White Sox), sometimes it hasn’t (last Wednesday in Toronto). Pazos and Capuano are lefties, and I thought it was interesting Capuano was used in a true left-on-left matchup situation Monday night (he struck out both batters). He warmed up again for a similar spot last night, but did not enter the game. Pazos has been okay — lefties are 2-for-7 with a walk against him this month — but not great. The next few days could be telling. If we see Capuano get more lefty specialist work, he’ll probably be the guy.

Out of all the guys on the bullpen shuttle, Pinder has spent the most time on the big league roster this year while both Rumbelow and Cotham seemed to get chances to grab hold of a middle relief spot at various points. Neither really did. Both have shown flashes of being useful. Flashes shouldn’t be enough to get them on the wildcard roster though. Right now, I believe both Bailey and Capuano will make the wildcard roster with the caveat that Capuano could get smacked around in the coming days and lose his spot. In that case I think they’d take Pazos as the emergency lefty specialist.

The mechanics of getting Bailey on the roster are simple. He was in the organization before August 31st, so he’s postseason eligible, but he didn’t get called up until September 1st. That means he has to be an injury replacement. The Yankees have three pitching injury spots to play with: Chase Whitley, Sergio Santos, and Diego Moreno. (The injury replacements have to be pitcher for pitcher, position player for position player. No mixing and matching.) Whitley and Santos had Tommy John surgery while Moreno had bone spurs taken out of his elbow. Bailey replaces one of them. Pazos would get one of the other two spots if he makes the roster.

Nathan Eovaldi (elbow) is in the middle of a throwing program but has already been ruled out for the wildcard game. The hope is he can join the bullpen should the Yankees advance to the ALDS. Probably should have mentioned that earlier. Anyway, so after all of that, here’s my ten-man pitching staff guesstimate for the wildcard game:

Nova (or Severino or Pineda)
Tanaka (starter)


That might be it right there. The Yankees don’t have to carry an 11th pitcher. Ten is plenty — especially since both Sabathia and Nova/Severino/Pineda would be available for super long relief — and is right in line with the previous 12 wild card teams. If they do carry an 11th reliever, I think it would be a righty just to even things out. So … Cotham? Girardi has used him in some big-ish situations of late. Either way, the 11th pitcher’s role on the wildcard roster would be what, 25th inning guy?

The ten-man pitching staff includes Tanaka (the starter) and two extra starters for long relief purposes, giving Girardi a normal seven-man bullpen. For one individual game, that should be plenty. The pitching game plan is pretty simple too, right? Get at least five innings from Tanaka, then turn it over to Wilson, Betances, and Miller. Warren is the next “trusted” reliever. If Girardi has to start dipping into guys like Capuano or Bailey or Shreve, something’s gone wrong.

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.

Game 136: Big Mike on Labor Day


I have to say, I thought this early-September series against the Orioles would be a bit more meaningful than this. Don’t get me wrong, these three games are crazy important for the Yankees, but the O’s are out of it. For a while I thought these two clubs would be battling it out for the division title. (I picked the O’s to win the division!)

The man they call Big Mike is on the mound this afternoon, making his third start off the DL. His first two starts were a mixed bag. The first was rough (five runs in 4.1 innings) but the second was good (one run in six innings). Of course, the last time Pineda faced the O’s in Yankee Stadium, he struck out 16. Let’s hope for a repeat. Here is Baltimore’s lineup and here is New York’s lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. RF Carlos Beltran
  5. LF Chris Young
  6. 1B Greg Bird
  7. C John Ryan Murphy
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Jose Pirela
    RHP Michael Pineda

Just a perfect weather for the Labor Day matinee. It’s nice and sunny in New York with temperatures in the mid-80s. Wonderful day to spend at the ballpark. This afternoon’s game will begin a bit after 1pm ET. You can watch live on YES locally and ESPN nationally. Enjoy the game.

Roster Moves: Chris Capuano is back! The Yankees called up the veteran southpaw prior to today’s game, the team announced. He started for Triple-A Scranton on Friday and probably won’t be available until tomorrow. Maybe not until the next day. Jacob Lindgren (elbow) was called up and transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot. His season is officially over.

Game 127: McCann Returns Home

McCann, once upon a time. (Christian Petersen/Getty)
McCann circa 2009. (Christian Petersen/Getty)

The Yankees are in Atlanta this weekend, which means Brian McCann is back home. Not just to play the team that originally drafted him and developed him into a seven-time All-Star, but back home literally. McCann grew up in the Atlanta suburbs and still lives in the area in the offseason.

“I was a big Braves fan,” said McCann to Dan Martin. “Chipper [Jones], [John Smoltz], [Tom] Glavine. I got to play with some people I looked up to and grew up watching. They all took me under their wing. Chipper taught me how to hit at this level. Smoltz taught me how to call a game. That was a big part of my career.”

McCann ranks third all-time in home runs at Turner Field and, barring a Yankees-Braves World Series matchup this year or next, this will be his last series at the ballpark. The Braves are opening a new stadium in 2017. “I was hoping to get back there. I wanted to go back and play before they knocked down Turner,” added McCann.

I’m sure this will be a special series for McCann, and I have to think the Braves fans will give him a huge ovation, but at the end of the day the Yankees really need to start winning some games. The 5-5 homestand was disappointing because it started with a sweep of the Twins. The Yankees are 11-13 in August and that’s no way to stay in the postseason race.

More than anything, the Yankees need their offense to come to life against the lowly Braves pitching staff this weekend, and that includes McCann, who has popped some homers but has otherwise done little else in the second half. The Braves are very bad. This series is an opportunity to right the ship. Here is Atlanta’s lineup and here is New York’s lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. 1B Greg Bird
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 2B Stephen Drew
  9. RHP Masahiro Tanaka

The internet tells me it is cloudy in Atlanta, but there is no rain in the forecast, so that’s good. It’s not crazy hot either. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin at 7:35pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Mark Teixeira (leg) is still unable to run with maximum effort and will go for more tests to make sure they didn’t miss a small fracture or anything … Ellsbury (hip) still has some swelling but is in the lineup tonight, obviously.

Roster Update: Chris Capuano once again accepted his outright assignment to Triple-A Scranton after being designated for assignment the other day. He’ll presumably join the team’s rotation.

Game 126: Big Mike Returns


This homestand has not been too great for the Yankees. Not terrible, but not great either. They’re 5-4 in the first nine games, which is fine, except the homestand started with a three-game sweep over the Twins. The Yankees then lost three of four to the last place Indians and have split the first two with the Astros. A win today and it’s a good 6-4 homestand. (Again, not great, but good.) A loss and it’s a yucky 5-5 homestand.

The Yankees have played better at home (37-25, +39 run differential) than on the road (32-31, +15) this year, but not this month. They’re 7-8 with a -8 run different at Yankee Stadium in August, so after all that talk about the Yankees having a favorable schedule because they have all these home games in the second half, they haven’t capitalized. Lame. Win today, clinch a winning homestand, then go from there. Here is the Astros’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup, featuring the return of Big Mike:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. RF Carlos Beltran
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. 1B Greg Bird
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. LF Chris Young
  9. 2B Stephen Drew
    RHP Michael Pineda

Nice afternoon for a ballgame in the Bronx. It’s sunny — really, really sunny — with temperatures in the low-80s. Pretty much perfect baseball weather. This afternoon’s game will begin at 1:05pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Roster Moves: Pineda was activated off the DL, obviously. Also, Nick Goody was called up from Triple-A Scranton to give the team a fresh arm. Chris Capuano was designated for assignment and Nick Rumbelow was send down to clear roster spots. Rumbelow can’t be recalled for ten days (unless there’s an injury), so he won’t be among the first wave up call-ups when rosters expand on September 1st.

Injury Update: Jacoby Ellsbury is day-to-day with a sore hip and isn’t available today. He might not be available Friday either. Ellsbury had some swelling last night but has not yet gone for tests … Dustin Ackley (back) will officially begin his rehab assignment with Triple-A Scranton tomorrow … Brendan Ryan is available today after running around in the outfield and pitching two innings last night … Pineda, by the way, will be limited to 80-85 pitches or so.

Yankees place CC Sabathia on 15-day DL, bring back Chris Capuano

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

As expected, the Yankees have placed CC Sabathia on the 15-day DL, the team announced. They’re officially calling it “right knee inflammation.” Chris Capuano was brought back to fill the roster spot and give the team a long man. It’s his fourth stint with the Yankees this year.

“Is it possible that he doesn’t pitch the rest of the year? It’s a possibility,” said Joe Girardi to reporters this afternoon when asked about Sabathia’s status for the rest of the season.

Sabathia, 35, left yesterday’s game with right knee pain and went for an MRI. That’s the same knee he has had surgically repaired three times over the years, including a season-ending clean out procedure last year. He’s had the knee drained at least twice this year and recently received a cortisone shot as well. Sabathia indicated the cortisone shot didn’t help a much while speaking to reporters yesterday.

Capuano, 37, has been on and off the roster for a few weeks now. He has a 6.55 ERA (60 ERA+) and a 4.94 FIP in 33 total innings with New York this year, and was designated for assignment over the weekend. The Yankees used a bunch of relievers after Sabathia left yesterday’s game, so Capuano is there in case they need distance tonight. Hopefully that’s not the case.

Michael Pineda is scheduled to come off the DL on Wednesday, so there’s a pretty good chance Capuano will be designated for assignment yet again in two days. It’s either that or send down Nick Rumbelow or Branden Pinder. That seems unlikely because the ten-day rule means neither would be able to return when rosters expand on September 1st. We’ll see.