Poll: Chris Capuano’s imminent return gives Yankees lots of options

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

In his third minor league rehab start last night, left-hander Chris Capuano allowed two runs on seven hits and no walks in six innings with Triple-A Scranton. He stretched out to 76 pitches, which is the most important thing, not the results. Capuano is basically going through Spring Training right now, working to gain a feel for his pitches and delivery. Outs aren’t the priority.

Joe Girardi told reporters earlier this week the Yankees “shouldn’t really need to see much more than that,” referring to Capuano throwing six innings in his third rehab starter. “It’s possible (he could be activated for his next start), yeah,” added Girardi. By no means is Capuano some kind of rotation savior, but he’s a perfectly serviceable big league pitcher, and pitching depth is never a bad thing. His return may not have a big impact but it is welcome.

When the time comes the Yankees will have to decide how exactly to use Capuano and where to slot him into the pitching staff. I suspect they’ll use his first outing back as a way to give everyone else in the rotation an extra day. One of spot sixth starter things the Yankees have been talking about since before Spring Training. After that though, Capuano’s return gives the team plenty of options.

Option No. 1: Capuano to the rotation, Whitley to the bullpen, Pinder to Triple-A

Branden Pinder came up when Chris Martin hit the DL a few days ago and he feels like nothing more than a placeholder. He could go back to Triple-A pretty easily to clear a spot for Capuano. Chase Whitley has made three starts for the Yankees this year — one good, one bad, one great — but is a reliever by trade, and his long-term future likely lies in the bullpen. Plus his ability to go multiple innings could help lighten the load on the team’s other bullpeners. This would be the simple and straightforward “Whitley and Pinder are lower than Capuano on the pitching totem pole, so they get bumped down a notch” move.

Option No. 2: Capuano to the rotation, Pinder in the bullpen, Whitley to Triple-A

A few weeks ago Girardi kinda sorta admitted the plan all along was to stash Whitley in Triple-A early this season so he could come up every so often to make spot starts, giving the rest of the rotation rest. Masahiro Tanaka‘s injury then forced Whitley into the rotation full-time. With Capuano set the return, the Yankees could simply go right back to that original plan and send Whitley down so they can bring him up periodically when the other starters could use an extra day. Pinder would stick around as the last reliever in the bullpen in that case.

Option No. 3: Capuano to the rotation, Warren to the bullpen, Pinder to Triple-A

Through six starts, Adam Warren has looked very much like a reliever miscast as a starter. He hasn’t been bad per se — a 4.65 ERA and 4.31 FIP from your sixth starter is fine in moderation — but his effectiveness drops off considerably once the lineup turns over and his velocity isn’t close to what it was last year. He also seems to tire out around the 80-pitch mark. Warren went from 23.5 K% and 7.4 BB% as a reliever last year to 12.0 K% and 9.8 BB% as a starter this year. See what I mean? It all points to reliever.

With Capuano coming back, the Yankees have the option of sticking Warren back in the bullpen and leaving Whitley in the rotation until either Tanaka or Ivan Nova comes back in a few weeks. Warren would be able to step right back into that “trusted third reliever” role behind Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller, giving Girardi a third option for high-leverage spots. The role Warren filled last year, basically. And since he’s stretched out, he could go two or three innings at a time if necessary. That’s valuable.

Option No. 4: Capuano to the bullpen, Pinder to Triple-A

This option seems unlikely, especially since Brian Cashman just told Lou DiPietro that “when I signed (Capuano), I signed him to be part of the rotation” the other day. Capuano does have bullpen experience though, including just last year with the Red Sox, when he had a 4.55 ERA (4.05 FIP) in 31.2 innings before being released. Rather than rearrange the rotation, the Yankees could simply stick Capuano in the bullpen and use him … somehow. I’m not sure what role he would fill (long man? lefty specialist? one-inning reliever?) but that would sort itself out in time. Always does. Option No. 4 is the most unlikely option. I don’t think it’s completely off the table though.

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The Yankees are going to have to make a decision once Capuano is ready to be added to the roster, which figures to be just a few days away now. This won’t be a particularly impactful decision — whatever option they choose could be reversed pretty easily — but it is a decision nonetheless. I think the Yankees will go with Option No. 2 and send Whitley down so he can again serve as the sixth starter. Whether that is a best option is another matter. What do you think the Yankees should do when Capuano returns?

What should the Yankees do when Capuano returns?

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Injury Updates: Tanaka, Nova, Capuano, Ryan, Lail

Same. (Brian Blanco/Getty)
Same. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

The Yankees and Rays continue their four-game series with the second game at Tropicana Field later tonight. Until then, here are some updates on injured Yankees, courtesy of Chad Jennings, George King, and Bryan Hoch.

  • Masahiro Tanaka (wrist, forearm) threw a 30-pitch bullpen session as scheduled this afternoon. It was his first time throwing off a mound since landing on the DL two weeks ago. Tanaka threw all of his pitches and everything went well. The Yankees are going to see how he feels tomorrow before determining the next step.
  • Ivan Nova (elbow) threw 33 pitches in an Extended Spring Training game earlier today. Joe Girardi and Larry Rothschild were among those in attendance at the team’s complex in Tampa. “I was a little bit excited. It felt like I was doing too much. I guess I was trying to impress the manager and the pitching coach. I don’t know why,” said Nova, who will pitch in another ExST game on Monday.
  • Chris Capuano (quad) is scheduled to throw six innings and 90 pitches for Triple-A Scranton tonight. It’ll be his third and maybe last minor league rehab game. “We shouldn’t really need to see much more than that,” said Girardi. “We’ll make that determination on how he feels, but it’s possible (he could be activated for his next start), yeah.”
  • Brendan Ryan (calf, hamstring) was able to take batting practice yesterday. There’s still no firm timetable for a rehab assignment, let alone a return from the DL. Ryan started the season on the DL with a calf injury before pulling his hamstring a few days ago.
  • Brady Lail, who was hit in the head by a line drive in last night’s Double-A Trenton game, said he is fine on Twitter. Seems like he escaped with no major injuries, which is a minor miracle. Great news. That was scary.

Yankees have rotation help on the way with Nova not far behind Capuano on rehab trail

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Last night, left-hander Chris Capuano threw 72 pitches across 4.2 innings for Triple-A Scranton in his second minor league rehab start as he works his way back from a spring quad injury. Earlier this week Joe Girardi told George King they “would like to get (Capuano) to 90 pitches and see where we are at” before activating him off the DL, so Capuano figures to make at least one more rehab start before joining the Yankees.

Ivan Nova also continued his rehab from Tommy John surgery yesterday, throwing two innings in an Extended Spring Training game. Girardi told reporters everything went fine and Nova remains on track to join the team sometime in June. He could throw in another ExST game or two before beginning an official 30-day minor league rehab stint. Nova’s rehab has gone extremely well to date. No issues whatsoever.

Between Capuano and Nova, the Yankees have a pair of starting pitchers on the rehab trail and not too far from factoring into the MLB pitching staff. That doesn’t even include Masahiro Tanaka, who resumed throwing yesterday. It seems like Capuano will return first with Nova and Tanaka returning around the same time in a few weeks. Obviously lots can go wrong between now and then, but at least things are going well now.

Fitting them back onto the staff is a classic “worry about it when the time comes” situation. Chase Whitley has pitched well in his two starts yet we saw last year how quickly that can unravel. Adam Warren has pitched well enough in his first stint as a full-time starter but the numbers confirm what our eyes seem to be telling us — going through the lineup the second and third time has been a bit of a problem. Who knows what the rotation will look like in a week or two.

“It just gives us a lot more depth, which I think is really important during the course of a long season,” said Girardi to Vince Mercogliano yesterday, referring to Capuano and Nova moving closer to a return. The rotation has been fine overall, with the non-Michael Pineda starters typically doing just enough to keep the Yankees in the game. Capuano and Nova may or may not improve things, but at least they’ll give the Yankees options, something they’re running short on at the moment.

Game 23: Start of the Road Trip

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)
(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

As I mentioned earlier, the Yankees are about to begin a very road-heavy portion of their schedule. Fifteen of the team’s next 19 games are on the road, starting with tonight’s series opener against the Red Sox. Only four home games between now and May 22nd. Geez.

Of course, tonight is the start of a Yankees-Red Sox series, and that adds another layer of chaos to things. These games are rarely easy, pretty stressful, and they usually take four hours too. Wednesday’s loss notwithstanding, the Yankees have been playing pretty well of late, so it would be nice to start this extended stretch of road games off on the right foot. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. 1B Mark Teixeira
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. RF Carlos Beltran
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. DH Garrett Jones
  8. 2B Stephen Drew
  9. SS Didi Gregorius
    LHP CC Sabathia

It’s on the cold side up in Boston but the sky is clear. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin at 7:10pm ET and can be seen on YES locally and MLB Network nationally, depending on where you live. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Chris Capuano (quad) is scheduled to throw four innings and 60 pitches for High-A Tampa tomorrow. It’ll be his first official minor league rehab outing, starting his 30-day clock. Capuano might only be two weeks away from joining the rotation if he’s already up to 60 pitches though. Good news.

Injury Updates: Nova, Pirela, Capuano, Ryan

Pirela. (Brian Blanco/Getty)
Pirela. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

The Yankees and Tigers will play the third game of their four-game series a little later tonight. Until then, here are some injury updates via Marly Rivera, George King, Chad Jennings, and the Associated Press.

  • Ivan Nova (elbow) threw two innings of live batting practice yesterday. He threw 20 pitches, sat down for a few minutes, then threw 15 more pitches. Nova is scheduled to pitch in a simulated game on Friday, which will be his first game action of any sort since having Tommy John surgery last April. He’s on track to return in June.
  • Jose Pirela (concussion) went 1-for-3 with a hit-by-pitch in an Extended Spring Training game on Monday, which was his first game action since getting hurt. He played third base and stayed in the game after getting plunked. Pirela is scheduled to play seven innings at second base today.
  • Chris Capuano (quad) is scheduled to throw two innings in an Extended Spring Training game today. It’ll be his first game action since getting hurt in Spring Training. Capuano is looking at a mid-May return at the moment.
  • Brendan Ryan (calf) was able to field ground balls and take batting practice yesterday. I believe that is the first time he’s done any sort of baseball activity since getting hurt in Spring Training.

Injury Updates: Gardner, Nova, Capuano, Pirela, Ryan

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

The Yankees and Rays continue their series later tonight, so, until then, there are some updates on various injured Yankees courtesy of Chad Jennings, Bryan Hoch, and the Associated Press:

  • Brett Gardner (wrist) was going to stay in last night’s game to hit after pinch-running, if necessary. “I was prepared if my spot came up in the ninth to get a normal at-bat and get up there and swing the bat,” he said. Gardner came through several rounds of batting practice just fine and should return to the lineup today.
  • Ivan Nova (Tommy John surgery) threw 20 pitches in his second live batting practice session yesterday. “I’m getting closer. Feels awesome,” he said. Nova expects to throw batting practice two more times next week before getting back into games. Joe Girardi said they’re shooting for May 1st for Nova’s first minor league rehab start.
  • Chris Capuano (quad) threw live batting practice Thursday and will do so again tomorrow. Girardi said Nova and Capuano are “pretty close” with regards to their timetable, but Capuano is “slightly ahead.”
  • Jose Pirela (concussion) is going through all drills and hit against Capuano on Thursday. He’ll play in an Extended Spring Training game on Monday. Girardi was noncommittal when asked if Pirela will join the big league team once healthy.
  • Brendan Ryan (calf) “might” go to Tampa next week to begin going through baseball workouts. It depends how he feels in the coming days.

Chris Capuano faces hitters for first time as he works his way back from quad strain

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Forgotten left-hander Chris Capuano faced hitters for the first time yesterday as he works his way back from a Grade II right quad strain suffered early in Spring Training, reports George King. He threw a round of live batting practice at the team’s complex in Tampa.

Capuano, 36, injured his quad covering first base in his second start of the spring, so he basically has to go through an entire Spring Training before rejoining the Yankees. Fill-in fifth starter Adam Warren is scheduled to start tonight’s game, and it seems like he will make at least four more starts given Capuano’s timetable.

Although Capuano was signed to be the fifth starter, I don’t think he’s guaranteed a rotation spot when he returns if everyone is healthy and Warren is pitching well. Capuano could slide into a relief role and give the Yankees some bullpen stability after they cycled through four pitchers for the final spot in the last week alone.

By no means is Capuano a staff savior or anything, but pitching depth is never a bad thing and he can help the Yankees in some capacity. Perhaps they will speed up his timetable and bring him back as a reliever before he’s fully stretched out, say after three tune-up games or something. We’ll see.