Rapada shut down for 7-10 days with shoulder bursitis

Following this afternoon’s game, Joe Girardi told reporters Clay Rapada has been shut down for 7-10 days with left shoulder bursitis. With Boone Logan sidelined due to elbow problems, both of the Yankees’ lefty relievers are on the shelf due to injury.

Rapada, 31, pitched to a 2.82 ERA (3.20 FIP) in 38.1 innings spread across 70 appearances last season. He’s a true lefty specialist as you know, holding same-side hitters to a .183/.263/.355 (.238 wOBA) batting line with a 28.7 K% and 44.9% ground ball rate last summer. Righties destroyed him, putting up a .303/.425/.424 (.372 wOBA) line in just 40 plate appearances. There’s no chance the Yankees would open the season without a lefty reliever, so if the Logan and Rapada injuries linger, the door will be open for Juan Cedeno and Francisco Rondon.

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Update: Cashman confirms Cervelli doesn’t have an option remaining

February 24th: Cashman misspoke and confirmed to Jack Curry that Cervelli does not have an option remaining. He also indicated the guys who can’t be sent to the minors without passing through waivers (Cervelli and Stewart) have a leg up in the catching competition. That’s not terribly surprising.

February 9th: Via Chad Jennings: Brian Cashman confirmed that Frankie Cervelli has a minor league option remaining. I was under the assumption that he burned his final option last season, but that wasn’t the case. The Yankees will be able to send Cervelli to Triple-A this year without having to pass him through waivers, which is kinda big considering the wide open catching race. The internal options all stink, but it would be nice to keep everyone around just in case.

Cashman also confirmed that Cody Eppley, Eduardo Nunez, and Ivan Nova have an option left as well. Chris Stewart and Clay Rapada do not, but both are expected to make the team anyway. Both Juan Rivera and Matt Diaz can opt out of their minor league contracts if they don’t make the team out of Spring Training while Dan Johnson’s opt-out date is later in the summer. Unlike the Ivan Nova-David Phelps competition for the fifth starter’s spot, the Yankees will only be able to keep the winner of the Rivera-Diaz competition for the right-handed bench bat role. The loser figures to look for a big league job elsewhere.

What Went Right: Cody Eppley & Clay Rapada

If there’s one thing the Yankees do consistently well, it’s mine the scrap heap for useful players. They hit the jackpot with Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, Eric Chavez, et al a year ago, but in 2012 the contributions were a little more subtle. The Bombers added a pair of funky, side-winding relievers during Spring Training, both of whom would up spending the majority of the season on the active roster and contributing more than expected.

(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Cody Eppley
The Yankees claimed Eppley off waivers from the Rangers in early-April, and pretty much the only reason why fans may have recognized his name was because he served up this grand slam to Frankie Cervelli a year ago. The 27-year-old was a nondescript relief prospect, but New York needed to replenish depth after dealing George Kontos for Chris Stewart. It was a typical end-of-camp transaction.

Eppley started the year in Triple-A and was recalled for the first time after Brett Gardner was placed on the DL with his elbow injury. That move was temporary — 13-man pitching staffs are far from ideal, but the Yankees needed bullpen help at the time — as he was sent down roughly a week later. Eppley was recalled for good in early-May, after Mariano Rivera blew out his knee. It was hardly the way the Yankees wanted to give the low-slot right-hander a chance, but that’s the way the cookie crumbled.

After being used primarily as a low-leverage arm in blowout situations, Eppley eventually climbed the bullpen totem pole and saw his fair share of important innings during the summer. He threw 46 innings across 59 appearances for New York this year, missing more bats than I expected (6.26 K/9 and 16.5%) while generating a ton of ground balls (60.3%). As you’d expect given his arm slot, Eppley was death on righties, holding them to a .262 wOBA with a 61.9% ground ball rate.

Although he was left off the ALDS roster, Eppley took Eduardo Nunez‘s ALCS roster spot (Nunez was later re-added when Derek Jeter got hurt) and threw 3.2 scoreless innings against the Tigers while appearing in all four games. He also had a 27-appearance (20.1 innings) stretch from mid-May through mid-July in which he pitched to a 1.77 ERA (3.34 FIP). By no means did Eppley save the bullpen or anything like that, but he produced more than expected and helped the Yankees a bunch after Rivera went down.

(Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Clay Rapada
The Yankees have wasted a ton of money in their never-ending pursuit of left-handed relief, yet they stumbled across a solid southpaw option early in Spring Training. The Orioles had released the 31-year-old Rapada right before the start of camp and that’s when the Bombers pounced, inking him to a minor league contract. He pitched well during the Grapefruit League schedule and won the second lefty reliever job after Cesar Cabral fractured his elbow.

Rapada stayed on the big league roster all season, appearing in 70 games but throwing only 38.1 innings in true LOOGY form. He pitched to a 2.82 ERA (3.20 FIP) overall, but we can’t judge him by his overall results. Rapada was on the roster for one reason and one reason only, and that was to neutralize the other club’s left-handed hitters. He excelled in that role, holding same-side hitters to a .238 wOBA with a 28.7% strikeout rate and a 44.9% strikeout rate thanks to his funky side-arm delivery. Only five lefty relievers were more effective against same-side hitters in terms of wOBA against this year (min. 100 lefties faced).

Rapada retired five of six lefties faced in the postseason, with a walk to Prince Fielder being the lone exception. He set a new (and ultimately irrelevant) franchise record this year by facing exactly one batter in eight consecutive appearances, breaking Mike Myers’ old record of seven straight. After all the money given to Damaso Marte and Pedro Feliciano, it was Rapada who gave the Yankees the type of reliable left-handed relief they’ve been searching for, and he did it while earning close to the league minimum.

What Went Right: Postseason Pitching

Over the next few weeks we’re going to spend some time reviewing the entire 2012 season, which featured another division title and unfortunately another disappointing playoff exit.

(Elsa/Getty)

As we discussed earlier today, the Yankees as a team basically hit like a pitcher in the postseason. They put together a collective .188/.254/.303 batting line in their nine postseason games and scored just two runs in the final three games of the ALCS. It was tough to watch and just flat out pathetic, there’s really no other way to describe it.

The pitching staff, on the other hand, was absolutely stellar up until ALCS Game Four. The starters churned out quality start after quality start, and the bullpen did all it could to preserve leads and keep deficits close. After posting a 3.86 ERA (3.98 FIP) during the regular season, the Yankees received a 2.76 ERA (~3.45 FIP) in 88 postseason innings from the pitching staff.

CC Sabathia
Unfortunately, Sabathia’s season will be remembered for ending on a sour note as the Tigers battered him for six runs on eleven hits (!) in just 3.2 innings in ALCS Game Four. It was an ugly start in a generally ugly postseason showing by the Yankees as whole, but it was also the exception rather than the rule for the pitching staff.

Sabathia, of course, helped get the Yankees to the ALCS with a pair of dominant outings against the Orioles in the ALDS. He allowed two runs in 8.2 innings in Game One against Baltimore, then followed it up by allowing just one run in the decisive Game Five win. All told, Sabathia struck out 19 batters and walked just five in 21.1 playoff innings including the ALCS disaster. He set a new ALDS record with 17.2 innings pitches, nearly two full innings more than the previous record.

Andy Pettitte
A year ago Pettitte was retired back home, but he got the itch to pitch and came back to the Yankees early in the season. He slotted in as their number two starter in the postseason due in large part to the schedule, as the club tried to optimize the amount of rest for each of their starters. Pettitte made two playoff starts, one in each round, and he tossed up a quality start in each. He held the Orioles to three runs in seven innings in ALDS Game Two and the Tigers to two runs in 6.2 innings in ALCS Game One. As per his norm, Andy did allow a lot of baserunners but continually pitched out of jams. For a guy who was out of baseball a year ago, allowing five runs in 13.2 postseason innings is a minor miracle.

(Elsa/Getty)

Hiroki Kuroda
Kuroda was New York’s best starting pitcher from Opening Day through the end of the season, and he turned in a pair of gems in the postseason. Following Sabathia and Pettitte, the first-year Yankee held the Orioles to two runs in 8.1 innings in ALDS Game One before allowing three runs in 7.2 innings in ALCS Game Two. That second start came on three days’ rest, the first time he’d ever done that in his career. Kuroda struck out a season-high eleven in that game, and it would have been eight innings of one-run ball had second base ump Jeff Nelson not blown an obvious out call on Omar Infante at second base. The bullpen allowed two inherited runners to score (charged to Kuroda) after the error. Sixteen innings (really 16.1) of five-run (really three-run) ball from the number three starter? Sign me up for that every day of the week.

Phil Hughes
Like Sabathia, Hughes ended his season on a down note as a stiff back forced him out of ALCS Game Three after just three innings of work. That shouldn’t erase his ALDS effort however, as he held the Orioles to one run in 6.2 innings while striking out eight in Game Four. Hughes only allowed one run in the ALCS start before exiting with the injury as well, so all told his postseason performance featured just two runs in 9.2 inning of work. As far as number four starters go, you can’t do much better.

The Bullpen
Eight of the nine postseason games were very close into the late innings, and the bullpen stepped up in support of the starters in a big way. They allowed just eight runs (seven earned) in 27.1 total innings (2.30 ERA) while walking just four (!), including one intentionally. The late-inning duo of Rafael Soriano and David Robertson allowed just one run in 9.2 combined innings, striking out seven against zero walks and five hits. The lone run was a solo homer off Robertson in ALCS Game Five, when the game was already out of reach. Boone Logan and Clay Rapada combined to retire 11 of 12 left-handed batters faced, with the one exception being a walk by Prince Fielder. David Phelps, who allowed four runs (three earned) in 3.1 total innings, was the only clear negative on a pitching staff who was absolutely dynamite overall in the postseason.

Missing in Action: Clay Rapada

(Leon Halip/Getty Images)

The Yankees will play their 162nd game of the season tonight, a game that could either give them the best record in the AL or contribute towards playing a one-game division tie-breaker against the Orioles tomorrow. The bullpen was used heavily in last night’s extra innings win but not to the point where one of the core relievers should be unavailable tonight. Even after throwing 43 pitches in two innings, I’m sure Rafael Soriano will be out there in the ninth if need be.

Joe Girardi‘s crop of trusted relievers is well-defined at this point, and one reliever who appears to be outside the Circle of Trustâ„¢ is second left-hander Clay Rapada. The funky 31-year-old sidewinder has appeared in 69 games this season, the second most of anyone in the bullpen outside of 80-appearance man and primary lefty Boone Logan. Rapada, however, has been kept on ice lately despite ample matchup opportunities. He’s thrown just one pitch (!) since September 23rd, a one-batter appearance on September 27th. One pitch (resulting in a pop-up) in the team’s last ten games.

From late-August through mid-September, Rapada made ten appearances and faced exactly one batter in nine of them. Of a 12 total men (11 lefties) he faced during that time, five reached base (three hits and two walks). One of those three hits was by the lone right-handed batter. Maybe that shook Girardi’s confidence in him. Rapada replaced Ivan Nova in the third inning of the extra innings comeback win over the Athletics two weeks ago, allowing a run while recording four outs. That’s basically been it, he’s made just two appearances since.

Now I get that Logan was excellent earlier in the season and that he’s earned Girardi’s trust in big spots, but Rapada has actually been more effective against same-side hitters this season. Here’s a quick breakdown of their performances against lefties…

TBF AVG OBP SLG wOBA K% BB% GB%
Rapada 114 0.185 0.265 0.257 0.241 28.1% 9.7% 44.9%
Logan 133 0.230 0.293 0.372 0.294 31.6% 7.5% 37.5%

Not the biggest of sample sizes, but that’s what you get when you’re dealing with lefty relievers. Both guys have done the job well this year, but Rapada has been a bit more effective despite marginally worse strikeout and walk rates. It’s a luxury to have two quality left-handed relievers, especially late in the season when rosters expand and matching up isn’t much of an issue, and the Yankees are one of just two AL playoff teams with that luxury. The Athletics and their duo of Jerry Blevins and Sean Doolittle are the other.

The final game of the season is tonight, so there’s nothing Girardi can do now to shift some of the left-handed matchup workload from Logan to Rapada. Hopefully Rapada won’t be rusty if he gets the call against the Red Sox, but either way both guys will be on the playoff roster and there’s little reason to favor one over the other. Logan has been a little shaky of late but still solid overall, yet Rapada is a bit of an untapped weapon right now. Giving him a little more responsibility shouldn’t be an idea that is completely off the table.