Season Review: Miscellaneous Pitchers

As we wrap up our seemingly never-ending review of the 2012 season, it’s time to look back on the last handful of pitchers. These are the guys who spend some time on the big league roster this year but not much, ultimately contributing little in the grand scheme of things.


Adam Warren
After losing the long man competition to David Phelps in Spring Training, the 25-year-old Warren got his big league shot when both CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte hit the DL in late-June. He made a spot start against the White Sox and got absolutely pounded, surrendering six runs on eight hits (two homers, one double, five singles) in 2.1 innings. Warren walked two and struck out one. He spent the rest of the regular season back in Triple-A but did get recalled when rosters expanded in September, though he did not appear in a game.

Chad Qualls
Acquired from the Phillies in early-July, the 34-year-old Qualls appeared in eight games with the Yankees. He allowed five runs and ten hits in 7.1 innings with more walks (three) than strikeouts (two), though he did generate a bunch of ground balls (51.9%). His most notable moment in pinstripes was probably retiring the only two men he faced (Kendrys Morales and Mark Trumbo) on July 13th, keeping the deficit at three and allowing the Yankees to mount a late-innings comeback. The Yankees traded Qualls to the Pirates for Casey McGehee at the deadline.

Justin Thomas
Plucked off waivers from the Red Sox early-May, the 28-year-old Thomas spent the rest of the summer in Triple-A before getting the call when rosters expanded in September. The left-hander appeared in four games, allowing three runs in three innings. To his credit, Thomas did retire six of seven left-handed batters he faced with New York (two strikeouts). The Yankees designated him for assignment to clear room on the roster for David Aardsma late in the season, and Thomas has since moved on as a minor league free agent.

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

D.J. Mitchell
Mitchell, 25, also lost the long man competition to Phelps in camp. He went down to Triple-A for a few weeks before resurfacing when the Yankees needed an arm in early-May and then again in mid-July. He made four appearances total — two in each big league stint — and allow two runs on seven hits in 4.2 innings. Like Qualls, he walked more batters (three) than he struck out (two) but generated a healthy number of grounders (57.9%). Mitchell was traded to the Mariners as part of the Ichiro Suzuki and spent the rest of the year in the minors.

Ryota Igarashi
Igarashi, 33, was claimed off waivers from the Blue Jays in late-May and managed to appear in two games with the Yankees. He allowed one run in one inning against the Mets on June 8th and three runs in two innings against the Blue Jays on August 12th. Both stints in the big leagues were very temporary, as he was sent down right away in favor of a fresh arm. It’s worth noting that Igarashi was a monster down in Triple-A, pitching to a 2.45 ERA (2.11 FIP) with 13.50 K/9 (34.4 K%) in 36.2 innings as the team’s closer. The Yankees dropped him from the 40-man roster in August and he signed a new deal with a team in Japan earlier this offseason.

David Aardsma
The Yankees signed the 30-year-old Aardsma to a one-year, $500k contract in late-February knowing he was unlikely to contribute much this year since he was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. The right-hander suffered a setback in June which delayed his rehab, but he progressed far enough that the team adding him to the active roster in late-September. He appeared in just one game before the end of the season, allowing a solo homer in an inning of work. After the season the Yankees exercised Aardsma’s $500k option for 2013 and will have the former Mariners closer in the bullpen to open next season.

The Morning After: Ichiro!

“Dammit Ichiro, I thought I told you to trim those sideburns!” (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

The Yankees were dealt a pretty big blow when Brett Gardner went down with likely season-ending elbow surgery last week, an injury he initially suffered back in April. They’ve done well without him but the offense has been devoid of speed and the outfield defense suffered in a big way. A replacement outfielder was definitely on the trade deadline shopping list but it wasn’t a necessity.

After fiddling around with Raul Ibanez, Andruw Jones, Jayson Nix, Dewayne Wise, and even Eduardo Nunez earlier in the year, the Yankees addressed the outfield situation yesterday by acquiring Ichiro Suzuki from the Mariners for D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar. Seattle will pay all but $2.25M of his $17M salary. Ichiro will become a free agent after the season, so it’s a straight rental. As has become the tradition following notable news items, here are some scattered thoughts on the trade…

  • Machinations: Apparently Ichiro requested a trade a few weeks ago and the ball got rolling when Mariners president Chuck Armstrong called Randy Levine, which sent shivers down my spine. The trade was perfectly fine, very reasonable, but anytime those above the baseball operations department get involved, I get nervous.
  • Expectations: I don’t expect very much from Ichiro the rest of the way — maybe he gets the batting average up to .300 (and his OBP up to .330) by being platooned properly and he winds up stealing a bunch of bases. Yankee Stadium won’t help him much because he’s a ground ball hitter, not a guy who lifts the ball in the air to the pull side. Perhaps joining a contender bring his bat back to life and maybe his career-low .279 BABIP corrects. Either way his primary value will come on defense, on the bases, and by putting the ball in play. The Yankees have lacked that.
  • Left or Right: Given his throwing arm, it would make sense to put Ichiro in right and shift Nick Swisher to left. Then again, there is more ground to cover in left field in Yankee Stadium. Ichiro hasn’t played left in more than a decade, so that will take an adjustment. I’m not exactly sure which corner would be best for him, but I feel like there is no wrong answer.
  • Durability: One of Ichiro’s underrated skills — and it is a skill — is his durability. He missed a little more than two weeks with an ulcer in 2009 but otherwise has never been on the DL since coming over from Japan. He’s played in 159 games and led the league in at-bats in eight of the last nine seasons. This is a guy who is used to playing the outfield everyday and is more suited to do so than Ibanez, Jones, or anyone on the roster not named Curtis Granderson or Swisher.
  • Marquee Value: Like Derek Jeter, Ichiro is the rare player with legitimate marquee value. He’s going to help sell merchandise, put butts in the seats, and drive up YES Network ratings. That value is generally overstated — he’s not going to pay for himself or anything — but it is real and should not be neglected. He’s going to bring a definite buzz to the team, some of which we saw last night.
  • The Return: With all due respect to Farquhar, Mitchell was the real loss for the Yankees. I always considered him a swingman/long reliever type and the Yankees seemed to feel the same way, but there is value in that as long as he’s cheap. David Phelps pushed Mitchell down the totem pole a bit and the presence of Adam Warren in Triple-A and Brett Marshall in Double-A made him expendable. I would have rather given up Warren — hence my post-draft prospect rankings — but it’s not a huge difference.
  • Pitching Depth: Mitchell was the next-in-line whenever the Yankees needed an arm from Triple-A, so I suppose that duty now falls on the shoulders of Warren.  He was obviously terrible in his big league debut, but one appearance doesn’t define a career. Behind him you have Cory Wade as a call-up option and that’s really it as far as 40-man roster candidates go. The Yankees work the waiver wire and scrap heap as well as anyone, so I bet they pluck an arm of two off waivers for depth in the coming weeks.
  • Roster Spots: The Yankees currently have ten (!) players on the 60-day DL and will need to clear room for these guys at some point. Yesterday’s moves cleared two spots — Mitchell’s and Wise’s — but one went to Ichiro. They have one open spot at the moment and with any luck, it will go to Joba Chamberlain when he’s activated in a week or two. Moving Mitchell helped clear up a logjam of sorts, albeit very slightly.
  • Miscellany: The Yankees replaced the 34-year-old Wise with the 38-year-old Ichiro, let’s stop acting like the roster got lifetimes older … I hope Ichiro goes on to have a monster David Justice-esque second half but the Yankees don’t trick themselves into thinking he’s worth a spot on next year’s team as a stopgap outfielder … how about Farquhar? Dude went from waiver claim and being designated for assignment twice this season to being traded for a future Hall of Famer … I’m still in awe that Brian Cashman and the Yankees in general are able to make all these significant moves completely under-the-radar, there are no leaks whatsoever. This came out of the blue.

The Yankees plugged a relatively small hole with a move that was notable only because it involved a historic player. Ichiro is obviously well past his prime and any thoughts of a revival are wishcasting at its finest. He can still be useful on defense and on the bases, but the Yankees will wisely bat him near the bottom of the lineup. Ichiro’s a fun and entertaining player, and sure hope the Yankees can help get him that World Series ring he surely covets.

Yankees acquire Ichiro Suzuki

(Norm Hall/Getty Images)

Outfield help was just one item on the trade deadline agenda this year, and oh boy did the Yankees address that need. Jack Curry reports that they have acquired Ichiro from the Mariners for right-handers D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar. Joel Sherman says New York will be on the hook for just $2.25M of the remainder of his $17M salary. He’ll be a free agent this winter. Ichiro had ten-and-five no trade protection and had to approve the trade. Both teams have announced the deal and in typical Brian Cashman fashion, it came out of nowhere.

The trade is obviously a reaction to Brett Gardner going down with season-ending elbow surgery. Ichiro provides similar speed and elite defense — plus that cannon arm — but not the same on-base ability. The Yankees are very clearly banking on a change of scenery here, because Suzuki is hitting just .261/.288/.353 this year and .268/.302/.342 over the last two seasons. With any luck, the move to New York and a contending team will rejuvenate him a bit and he hits .450 the rest of the season.

The Yankees value makeup and there is little doubt the 38-year-old Ichiro will fit well in New York. He’s arguably the most popular player in the history of Japan and has lived with the media circus since arriving in the States more than a decade ago. It’s unclear how exactly the Yankees will use him, but I’m guessing he and Derek Jeter will hit one-two in the lineup in some order. They would be wise to limit his exposure to left-handers as well. Shifting Nick Swisher to left to use Ichiro’s arm in right makes sense, but left field has more ground to cover. We’ll see.

New York didn’t give up much in return. Mitchell was an up-and-down arm likely to settle into a swingman role long-term, though he remains under team control for six more years. The presence of David Phelps, Adam Warren, and Brett Marshall made him expendable. Farquhar was claimed off waivers from the Athletics last month and has been designated for assignment twice this year. He’s an inconsequential throw-in. No word on the corresponding 40-man move yet, but I assume either Swisher (groin/hip) will be placed on the DL or Dewayne Wise will be designated for assignment. Ichiro will be in uniform tonight. Welcome to the Bronx.

Yankees recall David Phelps, send D.J. Mitchell to Triple-A

The Yankees recalled David Phelps from Triple-A Empire State following today’s game, the team announced. D.J. Mitchell has been sent down to Triple-A in a corresponding move. Phelps has been dealing of late — 31 strikeouts in his last 21 innings — and was scheduled to start tomorrow, so he’s good for some serious length out of the bullpen. I suppose there’s a chance he’ll start instead of Freddy Garcia tomorrow night, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Midseason Review: Incomplete Grades

During the next few days we’ll take some time to review the first half of the season and look at which Yankees are meeting expectations, exceeding expectations, and falling short of expectations. What else is the All-Star break good for?

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

It takes a total team effort to finish the first half with the best record in baseball, and the Yankees have already used 35 different players this season. Not all of them have made a significant contributions though, mostly because they simply haven’t had a chance to play all that much. I’m talking up-and-down relievers, miscellaneous fill-ins, and those who got injured.

Andy Pettitte
Blame Casey Kotchman. He hit the one-hop ground ball that fractured Pettitte’s left ankle on June 27th and will cause the left-hander to miss no fewer than two months. Prior to the injury, Andy’s return from retirement was a smashing success. He pitched to a 3.22 ERA (3.37 FIP) in 58.2 innings with ungodly peripherals: 9.05 K/9 (25.2 K%), 2.30 BB/9 (6.4 BB%), and 58.3% grounders. The strikeout and ground ball numbers are career bests by not small margins and the walk rate is more than half-a-walk better than his career average.

Obviously there are sample size issues with that, but what’s done is done. Pettitte pitched that well in his nine starts and the Yankees will miss him immensely in the second half. It’s unclear if he’ll come back with that kind of effectiveness — the injury was to his push-off leg — or if he’ll even come back period. Andy could decide that the rehab and getting back into playing shape is just too much. I wouldn’t bet on it, but you never know. It was a fluke injury, it happens, but it still put a major damper on the best story of the season.

(REUTERS/Mike Segar)

Brett Gardner
The Yankees have gotten exactly nine games out of Gardner this year. He didn’t even start two of them, he came off the bench to play defense for exactly one inning each time. Those nine games include 34 plate appearances (.321/.424/.393 with two steals) and 14 defensive chances. That’s it, that’s all they’ve gotten out of Gardner in 2012.

An elbow injury suffered while making a sliding catch against the Twins is the culprit. It was diagnosed as a bone bruise and an elbow strain, and twice Gardner has suffered setbacks after working his way back in minor league rehab games. He’s not expected back until the end of this month at the earliest, over 100 games into the season. The Yankees have done just fine without Gardner in the lineup and in left field, but they sorely lack team speed and the defense can always use an upgrade. His absence has been notable.

D.J. Mitchell & Adam Warren
We figured we would see these two — and David Phelps as well — at some point this season, and it didn’t take all that long. Mitchell made his debut in relief in early-May and has thrown a total of 3.2 innings across two stints and three appearances with the big league club. He’s allowed one run, five hits, and one walk in that time. The Yankees are carrying him as a long reliever right now due to the Pettitte and CC Sabathia injuries, so he has a chance to stick around by simply pitching well and soaking up innings.

Warren’s introduction to the big leagues wasn’t nearly as kind. The White Sox tattooed him for six runs on eight hits and two walks in just 2.1 innings late last month, his only appearance for the team. The Yankees called him up as an emergency replacement for Sabathia and sent him back to Triple-A the next day. You only get one debut and it wasn’t a good one for Warren, but he’ll surely get another chance to help the team at some point.

Chad Qualls, Darnell McDonald & Ryota Igarashi
All three midseason additions, all three having minimum impact thus far. Qualls was acquired from the Phillies in a minor trade less than two weeks ago and has allowed one run in his three appearances so far. He’ll stick around as a sixth or seventh inning matchup guy for the time being. McDonald was claimed off waivers from the Red Sox last week and went hitless in four plate appearances against his former team last weekend. He’ll most likely be remembered for causing Curtis Granderson to drop a routine pop-up on Saturday night. Igarashi has made all of one appearance for the Yankees since being claimed off waivers from the Blue Jays earlier this year, allowing one run in one inning against the Mets. He’ll ride the Triple-A shuttle a few more times in the second half.

Sorting out the Sabathia & Pettitte-less rotation

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

In the span of about five hours yesterday, the Yankees lost their two best starting pitchers to injury. First CC Sabathia was placed on the DL with a left adductor strain, then Andy Pettitte was struck by a batted ball and suffered a fractured left ankle. Brian Cashman said Sabathia could have pitched through his injury if this was the stretch drive or postseason, but they decided to play it safe. Obviously they didn’t have the same choice with Pettitte.

“CC is due back right after the (All-Star break),” said Cashman after yesterday’s game. “Andy, you’re talking about a minimum of six weeks of healing, and as a starter you have to get him going again, so I’ll throw two months in there in Andy’s case. We’ll just have to figure it out and see what happens. I would prefer not to go outside. Obviously if we do go outside, we’ve done that before. This is part of the process. You have to have alternatives. This gives opportunities for people to step up. Just like some guys in the bullpen have allowed us to step up and withstand some injuries — that’s what Boone Logan, Clay Rapada, and [Cody Eppley] have done — we’re going to have to ask for some other guys to do that for the rotation, as well. Let’s play it out and see where it takes us.”

The plan right now calls for Adam Warren to start in Sabathia’s place on Friday — he started for Triple-A Empire State on Sunday and lines up perfectly for tomorrow — and for Freddy Garcia to take Pettitte’s place on Monday. Ryota Igarashi is coming up from Triple-A to take Garcia’s spot in the bullpen, leaving the team without a true long reliever for the time being. In the short-term, the rotation shakes out like this…

  • Thursday, 6/28 vs. White Sox: Ivan Nova
  • Friday, 6/29 vs. White Sox: Warren
  • Saturday, 6/30 vs. White Sox: Hiroki Kuroda
  • Sunday, 7/1 vs. White Sox: Phil Hughes
  • Monday, 7/2 @ Rays: Garcia
  • Tuesday, 7/3 @ Rays: Nova
  • Wednesday, 7/4 @ Rays: Warren
  • Thursday, 7/5: scheduled day off
  • Friday, 7/6 @ Red Sox: Kuroda
  • Saturday, 7/7 @ Red Sox (doubleheader): Hughes and Garcia*
  • Sunday, 7/8 @ Red Sox: Nova

* Garcia will be on regular rest for the July 7th doubleheader thanks to that scheduled day off.

That takes the Yankees right to the All-Star break, after which Sabathia is scheduled to return. Assuming all goes well with CC, he’ll take either Garcia’s or Warren’s spot depending on how each guy performs in their two-start audition. If both guys are performing poorly, the Yankees will also have the option of bringing David Phelps back, who will be five starts into his minor league stint by then and presumably able to throw 95+ pitches. There’s always D.J. Mitchell as well, but he could wind up taking Igarashi’s spot sooner rather than later if the braintrust feels a long man is needed. Given Garcia’s short leash due to his time in the pen and the general unpredictability associated with a young guy like Warren, having a long man would probably be a pretty good idea.

The Yankees don’t rush into panic moves, at least not under Cashman in recent years. They have enough arms to get them to the All-Star break, then they can re-evaluate things once Sabathia returns. If neither Garcia, Warren, Phelps, or Mitchell distinguishes themselves in the rotation, they’ll still have plenty of time to explore the trade market. They could go big (Cole Hamels, Matt Garza or Zack Greinke), go medium (Ryan Dempster or Wandy Dempster), or go small (Jeremy Guthrie or Francisco Liriano). I suppose it depends on Pettitte’s rehab and how Hughes is holding up because frankly, we have reason to doubt his ability to remain effective over the course of a full season.

The Bombers have the makings of a really strong rotation on the DL with Sabathia and Pettitte joining Michael Pineda, so their big league staff has been compromised. The starters have been carrying the team for the last six weeks or so and now the offense is going to have to return the favor a bit, simply because there is no reasonable way to expect anyone to replace the two guys the Yankees lost yesterday. The good news is that they’re in a better position to absorb these losses than at any point in the last like, ten years really. For a while there were no internal options — hence Aaron Small and Shawn Chacon and Sidney Ponson– now there’s several. The Yankees will cycle through them and tread water for a few weeks, at least until Sabathia gets healthy and maybe until the trade deadline.

Aside: Boy, did Manny Banuelos pick a good time to get hurt or what? Same with Dellin Betances. He’s supposed to be getting called up in this situation, not demoted down to Double-A. What a let down.

Opportunity in the bullpen

(Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

We say the same thing every year, that the bullpen at the start of the season will not be the same as the bullpen at the end of the season. Players pitch their way on/off the club, trades happen, injuries occur, all sorts of stuff changes the bullpen dynamic during the course of 162 games. The one constant over the years has been Mariano Rivera, but unfortunately his torn right ACL means his name will be one of those we see in April but not October.

Thankfully, the Yankees are in capable hands with David Robertson and Rafael Soriano in the late innings. Whoever takes Rivera’s roster spot won’t take his role as closer, they’ll instead work middle relief while Cory Wade, Soriano, and Robertson each move up a notch on the totem pole, so to speak. Side-arming righty Cody Eppley currently occupies Mo’s spot on the roster, but he’s far from the team’s only option. As we’ve seen over the last few seasons, the Yankees will cycle through internal options before finding the right mix or going out and making a trade.

Eppley and D.J. Mitchell have already come up from the minors to aid the relief corps this year, but now let’s run down the list of players we could also see in the coming weeks….

Splitter grip. (Debby Wong/US PRESSWIRE)

RHP Kevin Whelan
The last remaining piece of the Gary Sheffield trade, Whelan made his big league debut last season and walked five in 1.2 IP. The 28-year-old was substantially better in Triple-A (3.24 FIP in 52.1 IP) and has continued that success this year. Whelan can miss bats with a low-90s fastball and a mid-80s splitter, but he’s really struggled with his control aside from last season. Middle relief is a good place to stash a guy who can run into trouble with walks.

RHP Chase Whitley
The Yankees bumped Whitley up to Triple-A after a brief return to Double-A to start the season, and he’s pitched extremely well to start the season: 2.43 FIP in 15.2 IP. Using three pitches in relief — 89-91 mph fastball, low-80s slider, changeup — Whitley isn’t a huge strikeout guy and will rely on his defense more than most Yankees relievers. I ranked him as the club’s 30th best prospect before the season because of his likelihood of contributing to the big league team, not necessarily his upside.

LHP Juan Cedeno
The darkhorse, Cedeno signed out of an independent league this offseason and impressed both in Spring Training and while with Triple-A (1.62 FIP in 12.2 IP). The 28-year-old southpaw profiles as more of a specialist than a full-inning reliever, throwing a low-90s fastball with a low-80s slider. Once ranked as the ninth best prospect in the Red Sox’s system (2003), Cedeno has spent time in Korea and missed all of 2010 with some kind of injury. The Yankees already have two left-handed relievers and a third doesn’t make much sense, but Cedeno should be on the big league radar.

RHP Jason Bulger & RHP Adam Miller
Two of the more veteran options on the Triple-A staff, neither Bulger nor Miller figure to get serious consideration for a bullpen job anytime soon. Bulger hasn’t pitched well (5.25 FIP in 13.2 IP) either this year or at all since 2009, and Miller has only appeared in three games after starting the season on the DL. Miller is a former top prospect and could pitch his way onto the radar last this summer, but I can’t imagine either of these guys will get a look anytime soon.

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

RHP Adam Warren & RHP D.J. Mitchell
Unlike the other five guys in this post, Warren and Mitchell are legitimate long relief candidates. We’ve already seen Mitchell in that role and he’s likely to come back up if another multi-inning guy is needed, especially since Warren hasn’t pitched all that well this year (5.46 FIP in 25.2 IP). I do think both guys — and we should lump David Phelps into this group as well — could be effective in short, one-inning bursts, which could be more plausible since Freddy Garcia is currently the long reliever and Andy Pettitte is due back at some point soon. With three guys like that, odds are one of them will prove useful in a middle relief role right away.

* * *

Mitchell is the only player in this post currently on the 40-man roster, though the Yankees still have a number of 60-day DL candidates: Cesar Cabral, Brad Meyers, Austin Romine, and of course, Mo. The 40-man thing isn’t really a problem. Whelan, Whitley, Warren, and Mitchell give the team a couple of decent short-term relief options, plus there’s always the waiver wire and trade market. The important thing is that the Yankees already have these guys in-house and don’t have to scramble to fill out their pitching staff like they did in the mid-aughts.