Injury Updates: Beltran, Teixeira, Kelley

Got some injury updates leading up to this afternoon’s series opener against the Cardinals, courtesy of the various reporters with the team:

  • Carlos Beltran (elbow) took 15 swings with a fungo bat and everything went well, believe it or not. Didn’t see that coming. He will take swings with a regular bat tomorrow. Good first step, but obviously Beltran is not out of the woods yet.
  • Mark Teixeira (wrist) was scratched from this afternoon’s lineup with stiffness. Joe Girardi said it has been bugging him for a few days but it is considered minor and there are no tests scheduled. They are hopeful Teixeira will play tomorrow.
  • Shawn Kelley (back) played catch at 75 feet today and felt fine. Of course, he played catch last week and felt fine until he woke up with renewed soreness the next day. Kelley will play catch again in the coming days.
email

Shawn Kelley shut down following setback

Shawn Kelley has been shut down after waking up with more stiffness in his back, according to the various reporters with the Yankees. Tests did come back clean, but they have halted his rehab and will proceed slowly.

Kelley was set to play catch this week, pitch in a minor league rehab game within the next few days, then rejoin the team either over the weekend or early next week. Back issues have a way of lingering, so this might be more than a few extra days. Adam Warren and Dellin Betances will remain David Robertson‘s primary setup men for the time being.

Injury Updates: Beltran, Pineda, Kelley

(Leon Halip/Getty)
(Leon Halip/Getty)

Got some injury updates to pass along, courtesy of Chad Jennings and Meredith Marakovits:

  • Carlos Beltran (elbow) received a second cortisone injection and will see Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion on Tuesday. The second opinion was apparently always scheduled, but the second injection indicates the first isn’t helping much. It’s looking more and more likely Beltran is heading for surgery.
  • Michael Pineda (shoulder) threw a 28-pitch bullpen session this afternoon as scheduled, and everything went fine. He will rest the next two days, then throw a 30-40 pitch bullpen session on Wednesday. Big Mike will start facing hitters after that, presumably in live batting practice or a simulated game.
  • Shawn Kelley (back) will play catch on Monday and Tuesday, throw a bullpen session on Wednesday, then make a minor league rehab appearance on Friday. He hopes to be activated off the 15-day DL and rejoin the team next Sunday.

Yanks place Kelley on DL, call up Zoilo Almonte

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

The Yankees have placed Shawn Kelley on the 15-day DL with a “strained lumbar spine,” the team announced. Outfielder Zoilo Almonte was called up from Triple-A Scranton to fill the roster spot. The DL stint is back-dated to last Tuesday, so Kelley is eligible to be activated one week from Wednesday. The Yankees currently have a six-man bullpen (assuming Al Aceves is starting Thursday) and a five-man bench. Weird.

Kelley, 30, missed a few games last week with tightness in his lower back. It apparently went away over the weekend — he warmed up in Sunday’s game but did not pitch — but returned yesterday. He was not available last night. In 16 games and 15.1 innings this season, Kelley has a 3.52 ERA and 2.38 FIP. He has a long history of elbow problems (two Tommy John surgeries) but this is his first back trouble.

Almonte, 24, will give the team some extra outfield depth now that Carlos Beltran has a bone spur in his elbow and Ichiro Suzuki‘s back is sore. The Yankees aren’t going to carry a six-man bullpen forever, and with Chase Whitley in line to be called up on Thursday, Almonte’s stint in pinstripes may be short lived. He has hit .273/.324/.470 (121 wRC+) with six homers in 33 Triple-A games this season.

With Kelly out, Adam Warren will likely take over as David Robertson‘s primary setup man. Dellin Betances also figures to take on some more responsibility as well. The only Triple-A pitchers who are currently on the 40-man roster are Jose Ramirez and Shane Greene, so the Yankees are running out of arms. Hopefully Kelley returns next week and we never hear of his sore back again.

Shawn Kelley day-to-day with continued back tightness

Shawn Kelley was not available for tonight’s day due to lingering tightness in his back, Joe Girardi announced. “He does not have the flexibility to finish his pitches,” said the skipper. No tests are planned at the moment. Kelley did warm up in yesterday’s game, but apparently something is still not right. With David Robertson married to save situations, the bullpen is really short right now.

Shawn Kelley day-to-day with a back problem

Setup man Shawn Kelley is day-to-day with a back issue, Joe Girardi announced. An MRI came back clean. He’s never had any back problems in the past, only a long history of elbow injuries. Kelley threw 34 stressful pitches on Monday and another eleven on Tuesday, though who knows if that contributed to his balky back. Adam Warren pitched the eighth inning on Friday and he’ll take over as setup man for the time being, just as he did when David Robertson was on the DL a few weeks ago.

2014 Season Preview: The Setup Men

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Remember back when the Yankees struggled to find a reliable setup man once Mike Stanton and Jeff Nelson skipped town? They spent a ton of money on guys like Steve Karsay and Kyle Farnsworth over the years — in fairness, both of them had their moments — but it wasn’t until David Robertson emerged three years ago that they had a consistently dominant eighth inning guy ahead of Mariano Rivera.

Mo retired after last season and Robertson will take over ninth inning duties, meaning the setup role is again something of a question. Joe Girardi has indicated he won’t necessarily have a designated eighth inning guy in 2014, instead relying on platoon matchups to get the ball to his new closer. While these things are always subject to change, two veterans who throw with different arms figure to share setup duties at the start of the season.

RHP Shawn Kelley
Kelley was a nice little find for the Yankees a year ago. They acquired him in a minor trade with the Mariners just as Spring Training started and he gave the team 53.1 innings of 4.39 ERA (3.63 FIP) ball. An ugly April and an ugly September were sandwiched around three excellent months as Kelley pitched to a 2.50 ERA (2.42 FIP) in 39.2 innings from May 1st through August 31st. During that time, he struck out 51 of 162 batters faced (31.5%).

The Yankees unlocked the 29-year-old’s strikeout potential with a tried and true formula: get ahead in the count and bury hitters with a wipeout slider. Out of the 125 relievers to throw at least 50 innings last season, Kelley ranked fifth in slider percentage (49.4%) and 16th in first pitch strike percentage (65.6%). Simple, right? Get ahead in the count and go to the slider. That helped him hold right-handed hitters to a .225/.290/.417 (.308 wOBA) batting line with a 32.8% strikeout rate.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Kelley is not without his warts, however. Left-handed hitters knocked him around a bit (.329 wOBA) and, perhaps more importantly, he is very fly ball and homer prone. His 33.1% ground ball rate last summer was the 17th lowest among those 125 relievers with at least 50 innings, and when you give up fly balls, you’re going to give up homers. That’s just the way it is. Kelley allowed eight dingers in his 53.1 innings (1.35 HR/9 and 13.1% HR/FB), and the scary thing is that only two came in Yankee Stadium. His homer rate might go up in 2014.

That propensity to give up the long ball is what scares me most about Kelley pitching high leverage innings. I won’t go as far as saying it will be like watching 2011-13 Phil Hughes, when every pitch feels like he was walking on egg shells, but it won’t be too far off. Kelley earned the opportunity to be the setup man with last year’s performance and because he both pounds the zone and misses a ton of bats, two things that tend to make pitchers very successful. That potential for the ill-timed homer is always going to be in the back of my mind though.

LHP Matt Thornton
Boone Logan gave the Yankees three and a half very nice years — he got way more crap than he deserved and I’m guilty of handing some of it out — and those years earned him a fat three-year contract with the Rockies this offseason. New York signed Thornton to a two-year contract worth $7M to take over as Girardi’s primary left-hander out of the bullpen. He went from the White Sox to the Red Sox last year but was left off Boston’s postseason roster because of a lingering oblique problem.

Thornton, 37, was once one of the very best relievers in baseball, regardless of handedness. He posted a 2.84 ERA (2.50 FIP) with a 29.1% strikeout rate from 2008-11, and he didn’t have much of a platoon split either — lefties had a .247 wOBA while righties had a .267 wOBA. Thornton’s overall effectiveness has slipped in recent years, not coincidentally as his trademark fastball started to lose some juice:

ERA FIP K% HR/FB% FB velocity RHB wOBA LHB wOBA
2010 2.67 2.14 33.9% 6.0% 96.1 .254 .224
2011 3.32 2.62 24.1% 6.5% 95.8 .291 .274
2012 3.46 3.19 19.9% 8.3% 95.0 .302 .291
2013 3.74 4.04 16.0% 9.8% 94.3 .370 .280

Thornton’s game has clearly slipped over the years but he remains a viable matchup left-hander, which is what the Yankees signed him to be. At least that’s what I hope. Asking Thornton to consistently get righties out at this point of his career is not a good idea, not with his fastball shortening up and not even with Yankee Stadium’s left-center field death valley behind him. He’s a straight matchup lefty right now. As long as Girardi uses him properly, he should be fine.

* * *

Both Kelley and Thornton have been in the league a while now and both have experience pitching in the later innings (Thornton moreso), so it makes sense to have them share setup duties based on platoon matchups at the start of the season. The bullpen is ever-changing though, and chances are the setup crew at the start of the year will be different from the setup crew come September (and hopefully October). I’m not hating on Kelley and Thornton when I say that, it’s just that bullpens are known for turnover.