Rogers & Capuano: The Long Men [2015 Season Review]

We were spoiled by Adam Warren two years ago. Warren, who at that point had just one start’s worth of MLB experience, stepped into the long man role in 2013 and gave the Yankees a 3.39 ERA (4.32 FIP) in 77 innings. By long man standards, that’s as good as it gets. The long man is typically the last guy in the bullpen, there out of necessity rather than luxury.

The Yankees had two different long men at two different times this year. Well, they actually had more than two long relievers — Warren filled the role himself for a little while — but they had two main guys and neither was very good. That’s usually how this long man thing goes. Esmil Rogers started the season as the long reliever before giving way to Chris Capuano. The Yankees ended up cutting both. Multiple times too.

Rogers. (Presswire)
Rogers. (Presswire)

Call Me Esmil

Remember back in Spring Training when Rogers was considered a rotation candidate? Good times. He actually competed with Warren for the fifth starter’s spot after Capuano hurt his quad covering first base. Rogers pitched decently in camp — he had a 2.35 ERA with 16 strikeouts and four walks in 15.1 innings — but was never a serious rotation candidate, so come Opening Day, he was in the bullpen.

The Yankees were still easing their starters into things in April, so Rogers saw a lot of work early in the season. He struck out the only batter he faced on Opening Day, then, three days later, he allowed one run in 2.1 innings against the Blue Jays. An Edwin Encarnacion solo homer was the only base-runner Rogers allowed. He threw 35 pitches that night.

The next night was that ugly 19-inning marathon loss to the Red Sox. The Yankees ran out of pitchers in the 15th inning, so even though Rogers threw those 35 pitches the night before, Joe Girardi had no choice but to turn to him again. Rogers ended up taking the loss after throwing 81 pitches (!) in 4.2 innings. He allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits and a walk while striking out four. Rogers took the loss but deserves respect for his effort those two days.

Girardi gave Rogers a week off after throwing 35 and 81 pitches on back-to-back days, and for a while he pitched really well. He allowed one run on four hits and three walks in nine innings across his next four outings, striking out ten. That includes 2.2 scoreless innings on April 28th, when the rest of the bullpen was taxed. Girardi used Rogers to get the ball from Chase Whitley to Chris Martin, who recorded the save.

Rogers threw 15.1 innings in April, the sixth most on the team behind the five starters. He was pretty effective too (2.35 ERA and 3.53 FIP), at least by long man standards. Then it all came crashing down in May. Rogers allowed 15 runs on 21 hits and ten walks in 15.2 innings in May, including seven runs in three innings against the Rangers on May 23rd. He then allowed nine runs in two innings in his first two appearances of May.

At one point Rogers allowed 17 runs (14 earned) on 16 hits and four walks in seven innings across five appearances. The Yankees were starting to get healthy in early-June, which means they needed roster spots, so Rogers was cut loose. He was designated for assignment on June 15th, accepted an assignment to Triple-A Scranton a few days later, and made two starts with the RailRiders before being brought back to the big leagues a few weeks later.

Rogers never did pitch in his second stint with the Yankees this summer. The team needed a just in case arm and he sat in the bullpen for three days before being dropped from the roster and sent back to Triple-A. Rogers made five more starts with Triple-A Scranton before working out a deal with the Hanwha Eagles in Korea. The Yankees released him in early August so he could head to Asia.

All told, Rogers pitched to a 6.27 ERA (4.68 FIP) in 33 innings across 18 appearances for the Yankees this year. He had a 3.38 ERA (2.67 FIP) in seven starts and 34.2 innings for Triple-A Scranton as well. The Hanwha Eagles? Rogers had a 3.09 ERA in ten starts and 75.2 innings after leaving for Korea. He struck out 60, walked 20, and threw three complete-game shutouts with Hanwha.

The Yankees always liked Rogers because he throws hard, has a decent slider, and has a resilient arm capable of handling big workloads. For a while this past season he was useful, but the wheels fell off and Rogers didn’t finish the season in the organization. He’s a free agent right now and Yakyu Baka recently passed along a report saying the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan — Masahiro Tanaka‘s former team — are interested in signing Esmil.

Capuano. (Presswire)
Capuano. (Presswire)

Capuano, Again and Again and Again and Again

It is truly amazing how Capuano kept resurfacing this season. The Yankees signed him for rotation depth, then he got hurt in camp, and once he returned he was so bad in three starts (eleven runs in 12.2 innings) the team moved him into the bullpen, where he effectively replaced Rogers as the long man.

Capuano didn’t pitch any better in long relief — 7.24 ERA (4.89 FIP) in 27.1 innings across 18 appearances — and he did make one spot start against the Rangers, which was a disaster. He allowed five runs on three hits and five walks in two-thirds of an inning. Somehow that was only the team’s second worst start of the year. (Capuano can thank Nathan Eovaldi‘s disaster in Miami for that.)

Fun fact: the Yankees won that game by 16 runs (box score).

When it was all said and done, Capuano finished the season with a 7.97 ERA (5.03 FIP) in 40.2 innings spread across four starts and those 18 relief appearances. He also made six starts with Triple-A Scranton. Obviously Capuano was awful, but his transactions log is remarkable. The Yankees designated Capuano for assignment four times (!) this summer, but ended up bring him back each time. Here’s the list of moves:

May 17th: Activated off 15-day DL (quad injury in Spring Training)
July 29th: Designated for assignment (outrighted to Triple-A Scranton on July 31st)
August 12th: Called up
August 15th: Designated for assignment (outrighted on August 17th)
August 18th: Called up
August 22nd: Designated for assignment
August 24th: Yankees re-sign and add Capuano to 25-man roster after he elects free agency
August 26th: Designated for assignment (outrighted August 28th)
September 7th: Called up

So from July 29th through September 7th, a span of 41 days, Capuano was designated for assignment and re-added to the roster four times. He spent 23 days on the active roster during that stretch and appeared in only two games, throwing two innings on August 20th and another two innings on August 25th.

It’s not a good thing when your season is more notable for the number of times you were designated for assignment rather than, you know, your pitching. Capuano, like Rogers, was not good this past season and he’s now a free agent. He turned 37 in August and chances are he’ll have to settle for a minor league contract this offseason, if he finds an offer at all. The end for complementary players is rarely pretty.

Yanks release Esmil Rogers so he could pursue opportunity in Korea

Call me Esmil. (Presswire)
Call me Esmil. (Presswire)

It’s not the big trade we’re all waiting for, but the Yankees did make a minor move this afternoon. The team granted Esmil Rogers his release from Triple-A Scranton so he could sign with the Hanwha Eagles in Korea. The Yankees will receive an undisclosed amount of cash for letting Rogers go.

Rogers, 29, had a 6.27 ERA (4.62 FIP) in 33 innings for the Yankees earlier this year. He was dropped from the 40-man roster and sent to Triple-A Scranton, where he worked as a starter and hung around as a depth arm the team never did need. Rogers has a 5.59 ERA (4.45 FIP) in 454 career big league innings, most with the Rockies.

The Yankees don’t have a starter for tomorrow’s game thanks to Michael Pineda‘s injury, and Rogers did line up perfectly to pitch that day, but obviously he’s not an option now. Esmil deserves props for soaking up all those innings in the 19-inning game earlier this year. Otherwise the Yankees loved his stuff a little too much.

2015 Midseason Review: The New-Look Bullpen With An Even Newer-Look

The Yankees put a lot of time and effort (and resources) into improving their bullpen this past offseason, and, of course, halfway through the season three-sevenths of the relief crew has changed. The bullpen to start the season is never ever the one that finishes the season. Changes are inevitable and the Yankees went through several in the first half of the 2015 campaign.

Miller. (Presswire)
Miller. (Presswire)

The Not Co-Closers

Even before Spring Training started, Joe Girardi floated the idea of using Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances as co-closers. Miller would face the tough lefties regardless of whether they batted in the eighth or ninth while Betances got the tough righties in those innings. It was a wonderful plan that made perfect sense … until Dellin showed up to Tampa unable to throw strikes. That threw a big wrench into the works.

Betances walked six batters in 9.1 innings during Grapefruit League play and looked worse than that. He couldn’t locate his fastball to save his life and his breaking ball was flat. Given his history of being, well, let’s say enigmatic in the minors, there was definitely a reason to be concerned. The Yankees were built to win close games on the back of a dominant bullpen, with Betances being the centerpiece. Suddenly that centerpiece didn’t look so reliable.

Thankfully, Dellin was able to right the ship a few appearances into the regular season, and while he hasn’t been as overwhelming as last year, he has still been one of the three or four best relievers in the game. Heck, if you’re a disciple of fWAR, he has been the best reliever in baseball by almost half-a-win. Betances earned himself another trip to the All-Star Game and even picked up a few saves when Miller hit the DL with a forearm problem.

Miller, meanwhile, has stepped into the closer’s role smoothly and been overpowering, racking up strikeouts and getting grounders. He’s a lefty, yeah, but that doesn’t matter. Righties are hitting .082/.212/.165 (.189 wOBA) against him. The four-week DL stint stunk, but Miller returned last week and looks fine aside from some obvious rust. Maybe more than one minor league rehab outing would have been a good idea.

Betances and Miller have anchored the bullpen — they are turning those late-inning leads into wins as planned, the Yankees have a .949 winning percentage when leading after seven innings compared to the .883 league average — and their numbers are straight out of a video game. I know strikeouts are up and pitching dominates today’s MLB, but geez, look at this:

Betances 47.0 1.53 1.69 42.5% 10.5% 48.2% 0.38
Miller 29.1 1.53 2.29 39.5% 9.2% 54.4% 0.61
Combined 76.1 1.53 1.69 41.3% 10.0% 50.7% 0.47

They’ve allowed 30 hits combined in 76.1 innings. They have a combined .194 BABIP, which is extraordinarily low, though Betances and Miller have two of the 20 best soft contact rates in baseball, and soft contact leads to lower than usual BABIPs. Maybe it won’t be that low all season, but their true talent BABIP is likely sub-.250.

Even with their higher than you’d like walk rates, Betances and Miller are putting just 0.79 runners on base per inning combined. When hitters have been lucky enough to put the ball in play against these guys, it has usually been on the ground, and the odds of it falling in for a hit are low. Aside from Dellin’s little hiccup at the start of the season, these two have been exactly what the Yankees hoped they would be this year. They’re dominating in the late innings and are critical pieces of the team’s success.

The Flop

As the Yankees overhauled their bullpen this offseason, the only notable right-hander they brought in was David Carpenter. He was supposed to be the third wheel behind Betances and Miller, handling seventh inning duties and filling in in the eighth or ninth when necessary. Carpenter had a lot of success with the Braves from 2013-14 (2.63 ERA and 2.88 FIP) and he fit the Yankees’ mold as a hard-throwing strikeout guy. It just didn’t work is planned.

More like Crapenter amirite? (Presswire)
More like Crapenter amirite? (Presswire)

The first real sign that hey, Carpenter might not work out came in Baltimore in the ninth game of the season. He started the sixth inning with a one-run lead, immediately gave up the game-tying home run, then put two more runners on base before being yanked in the eventual loss. A few weeks later Joe Girardi asked Carpenter to protect a six-run lead with three outs to go against the Blue Jays, and the inning went homer, ground ball, fly ball, walk, ground-rule double, single before Miller had to come in.

Carpenter allowed eight runs on ten hits and three walks in a span of 6.2 innings in mid-May, which pushed him into “last guy out of the bullpen” territory. Girardi gave Carpenter plenty of opportunities to right the ship — he appeared in eleven of 22 games (4.32 ERA and a .353/.410/.618 batting line against) before being designated for assignment on June 3rd. He was later traded to the Nationals for an iffy Double-A prospect.

The end result was a 4.82 ERA (5.27 FIP) in 18.2 innings with strikeout (13.4%) and walk (8.5%) rates that were way too close together. Carpenter has a lower ERA with the Nationals (1.50) but he still isn’t missing bats (16.0%), which is the real problem. This is a guy who struck out 27.4% of batters faced during his two years in Atlanta. Relievers, man. They go poof without warning all the time.

The Guy Who Doesn’t Belong Here

Carpenter’s ineffectiveness created a need for a second right-handed reliever behind Betances. Eventually, after a parade of call-ups, the Yankees settled on the guy who held that job so effectively last season: Adam Warren. Warren had been very good as a starter during the first few weeks of the season (3.59 ERA and 4.12 FIP), but Ivan Nova had come back from Tommy John surgery and CC Sabathia wasn’t going to lose his rotation spot, so back to the bullpen he went. Life ain’t fair.

Warren has thrown six innings in six relief appearances since moving to the bullpen, including 2.2 innings in his very first appearance. Girardi has used Warren like he used him last year, as a handyman capable of pitching in tight games and entering mid-inning. Warren had a little bump in the road last weekend in Boston (0.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 0 K) but it happens. Even good relievers have bad days. Now that his time as a starter has come to an end (at least this year, most likely), Warren has joined non-LOOGYs Chasen Shreve and Justin Wilson to form the bridge to Dellin and Miller.

The Long Mans

Every bullpen needs a long man, and for most of this season that long man was Esmil Rogers. And gosh, was he not good (6.27 ERA and 4.62 FIP). Rogers deserves major props for gutting through 4.2 innings in the 19-inning game against the Red Sox — he threw 81 pitches that night after throwing 35 the night before, dude bit the bullet — but he allowed 24 runs (!) and 41 base-runners (!!!) in his last 16.2 innings with the team. Egads. Rogers was dropped from both the 25-man and 40-man rosters in mid-June and is currently in Triple-A.

Chris Capuano has since taken over as the long man after coming to camp as the fifth starter. He hurt his quad, missed two months, allowed eleven runs and 22 base-runners in 12.2 innings in his first three starts back, then was moved to the bullpen. Warren basically Wally Pipp’d him. Capuano hasn’t pitched a whole lot since taking over as the long man — that’s a good thing, really — throwing just 15.2 innings across ten appearances in the team’s last 38 games. He has a 3.45 ERA (3.59 FIP) since moving to the bullpen. If you’re expected the long man to be better than that, I suggest recalibrating expectations.

Mitchell. (Presswire)
Mitchell. (Presswire)

The Revolving Door

A total of 27 different pitchers have appeared in at least one game for the Yankees already this season. 27! It was 33 all of last year and 24 all of 2013. The Yankees used 27+ pitchers once from 2009-13 (28 in 2011) and they’ve already used 27 at the All-Star break this season. And the craziest thing is that most of the team’s core pitchers have stayed healthy, with Miller’s forearm and Masahiro Tanaka‘s wrist/forearm the only exceptions.

There is no way I’m going to recap 20-something pitchers here, especially since several only threw a handful of innings (if that). So instead let’s hit on the most notable arms to come through that revolving door, listed alphabetically:

  • Jacob Lindgren: Lindgren, the team’s top draft pick last summer, was called up in late-May and posted a 5.14 ERA (8.08 FIP) in seven innings. It turned out Lindgren had been pitching with a bone spur in his elbow, so he had surgery in late-June and will miss most of the rest of the season. Disappointing!
  • Chris Martin: Martin was not only on the Opening Day roster, but Girardi showed a lot of faith in his early on as well. He even picked up a save when Betances and Miller were unavailable one night. Martin’s elbow started barking in early-May, which landed him on the DL. He hasn’t been the same since. Martin has a 5.63 ERA (2.76 FIP) in 16 innings and is currently in Triple-A.
  • Bryan Mitchell: Mitchell has been up and down a few times but has finally seemed to stick in a short relief role. He has a 2.89 ERA (2.11 FIP) with nine strikeouts in 9.1 innings. PitchFX says he’s averaging 96.6 mph with his fastball and 92.6 mph with his cutter. That’ll do. Mitchell seems to be carving out a role as a middle innings flamethrower but could wind up in Triple-A if the club acquires an arm.
  • Chase Whitley: Poor Ace Whitley. The Yankees sent him to Triple-A this year so he could be available as their spot sixth starter, then he got the call when Tanaka landed on the DL. In his fourth start with the team, Whitely blew out his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery. For shame. He had a 4.19 ERA (4.53 FIP) in 19.1 innings before getting hurt.

The Yankees cycled through almost their entire Triple-A bullpen at one point as they looked for someone to emerge as a reliable righty reliever. Well, not really. A lot of those guys were called up simply because the team needed a fresh arm at some point. The Yankees opted to keep Lindgren over Carpenter, and now it looks like Mitchell will be given an opportunity to stick around in the second half. Rogers, Carpenter, and Martin were all on the Opening Day roster and have since been replaced by Capuano, Mitchell, and Warren. So it goes.

Yanks call up Taylor Dugas, outright Esmil Rogers; Carlos Beltran day-to-day for time being


The Yankees have called up outfielder Taylor Dugas from Double-A Trenton, the team announced. Esmil Rogers has been outrighted back to Triple-A Scranton, which clears both a 25-man and 40-man roster spot for Dugas. The Yankees are back to a normal seven-man bullpen and a four-man bench.

Dugas was called up simply because the Yankees couldn’t call up Ramon Flores — he was sent down eight days ago and players have to wait ten days to be called back up unless someone is placed on the DL, and Carlos Beltran has not been placed on the DL after leaving last night’s game with a ribcage issue. He is day-to-day for now and will undergo tests when the team gets back to New York.

So far this season Beltran is hitting .260/.309/.430 (102 wRC+) with seven homers, which isn’t all that good for a DH masquerading as an outfielder. To be fair, Beltran has been much better of late, hitting .299/.346/.494 (132 wRC+) since May 1st. The Yankees will miss him in the lineup. No doubt. Good thing he’s only day-to-day and it isn’t something more serious.

Dugas, 25, was New York’s eighth round pick in 2012, and he’s hitting only .198/.316/.235 (67 wRC+) in 54 games with Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton this year. He hit .299/.399/.390 (126 wRC+) at the same two levels last year. Dugas is a left-handed hitting bat control guy with a good eye at the plate (career 13.6 BB% and 11.7 K%) and strong defense in all three outfield spots.

The Yankees are currently without Jacoby Ellsbury (knee), Slade Heathcott (quad), and Mason Williams (shoulder), though Ellsbury is currently on a minor league rehab assignment and Williams is eligible to be activated off the DL on Saturday. Gregorio Petit is still in his ten-day window like Flores and the only other healthy position player on the 40-man roster is Gary Sanchez.

Dugas got the call because he’s only needed for a few days and won’t clog up the 40-man roster. The Yankees don’t have to worry too much about sending him through waivers when they need another 40-man spot down the road. Harsh, but hey, Dugas gets access to quality health care for life now. Spending a day in the bigs comes with some great perks.

Rogers was called back up from Triple-A Scranton over the weekend because the bullpen needed a fresh arm. He didn’t get into a game and as far as I know he didn’t even warm up in the bullpen.

Game 76: Pineda, Yankees going for series win over Astros


I have made the executive decision to downgrade Michael Pineda from Big Mike to Midsize Mike, at least temporarily. Pineda didn’t just get hammered last time out (eight runs in 3.1 innings), he has a 6.10 ERA in his last seven starts and 38.1 innings overall. That dates back to the 16-strikeout game. Pineda has a shiny 2.89 FIP this year. That’s awesome! He also has a 4.25 ERA (93 ERA+). That’s not awesome.

The Yankees need to get Pineda back on track and soon — preferably starting today against the Astros — because I don’t think they can get to the postseason if they’re stuck with Midsize Mike the rest of the season. One thing at a time though. Get the win today, take the four-game series from the Astros, and hope Pineda starts earning back the Big Mike moniker. Here is Houston’s lineup and here is New York’s lineup:

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

There are thunderstorms in Houston today, so the Minute Maid Park roof will be closed once again. This afternoon’s series finale will begin just after 2pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and, depending where you live, MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.

Roster Move: Guess what? Esmil Rogers is back! He has been called up from Triple-A Scranton and Gregorio Petit was sent down, so the Yankees have a seven-man bullpen and a three-man bench right now. Today was Esmil’s day to start for the RailRiders, so he’s good for a lot of innings if necessary. Slade Heathcott was transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot for Rogers.

Injury Update: Jacoby Ellsbury (knee) hit and ran the bases again today. He’ll head to Tampa tomorrow and will begin playing in minor league rehab games this week, the Yankees say.

Game 63: Tanaka Takes Miami

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

The Yankees are in Miami for the start of a four-game home-and-home series with the Marlins. Two games at Marlins Park, then two games at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees have never played a regular season game in Marlins Park, though they did play two exhibition games there prior to the park’s opening in 2012. So, technically, the Yankees played the first two games at Marlins Park.

Anyway, Masahiro Tanaka will be on the mound this evening making his third start off the DL. His first two were identical in that he allowed one run in seven innings each time, though he only fanned six Nationals last time out after striking out nine Mariners six days earlier. Slacker. Tanaka’s been really great this season (2.48 ERA and 2.61 FIP) so please oh please just stay healthy. Please please please. Here is Miami’s lineup and here is New York’s lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. C Brian McCann
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. RF Garrett Jones
  6. 2B Stephen Drew
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. CF Mason Williams
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

It’s hot and humid with very few clouds in Miami this evening. I’m not sure if the Marlins Park roof will be open tonight — they could close it because of the heat. We’ll find out soon enough, I guess. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:10pm ET and can be seen on WPIX, not YES. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Jacoby Ellsbury (knee) took batting practice for the first time today but still has some discomfort. “It’s been pretty good but still not where it needs to be. There is a little feeling he needs to get rid of. I wouldn’t call it pain,” said Joe Girardi to reporters over the weekend … Ivan Nova (elbow) will make one more Triple-A rehab start … Carlos Beltran has a minor hamstring injury and is available tonight if necessary.

Roster Update: Esmil Rogers has accepted his outright assignment to Triple-A Scranton, so he’s still in the organization as a non-40-man roster player.

All-Star Voting Update: Mike Trout and the Royals are still on pace to start for the AL All-Star Team according to the voting update released by MLB today. No Yankees are close to starting. Alex Rodriguez is probably the closest and he dropped to fifth among DHs.

Yankees outright Esmil Rogers off 40-man roster


10:58pm: Chad Jennings says Rogers has already cleared waivers, which means the move has been in the works for a while. It’s now up to Esmil whether he wants to report to Triple-A or elect free agency.

10:48pm: Following tonight’s game, the Yankees outrighted Esmil Rogers off the 40-man roster, the team announced. Joe Girardi said they’re hopeful he will clear waivers and accept the assignment to Triple-A Scranton so he can work on some things and stay with the organization.

Rogers, 29, has a 6.27 ERA (4.65 FIP) in 33 innings this season. He allowed four runs (one earned) in two innings tonight, though, to be fair, his defense didn’t help him out much. Still, just two of Esmil’s last eleven appearances have been scoreless. Two of eleven! That’s bad.

Chris Capuano will take over as the long man now, I assume. Prior to tonight’s game we heard the recently acquired Sergio Santos was a candidate to be added to the roster this weekend, and I guess he’ll join the team and replace Rogers tomorrow.