Refsnyder, Heathcott, Sanchez all make Wildcard Game roster

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Rosters for the 2015 AL wildcard game were due at 10am ET this morning, and shortly thereafter the Yankees officially announced their 25-man squad for their first postseason game in three years. Here is the Astros’ roster and here is the Yankees’ roster for tonight’s winner-take-all game at Yankee Stadium:

RHP Dellin Betances
LHP Andrew Miller
RHP Bryan Mitchell
RHP Ivan Nova
LHP James Pazos
RHP Luis Severino
RHP Masahiro Tanaka
RHP Adam Warren
LHP Justin Wilson

Brian McCann
John Ryan Murphy
Gary Sanchez

2B/OF Dustin Ackley
1B Greg Bird
SS Didi Gregorius
3B Chase Headley
2B Rob Refsnyder
DH Alex Rodriguez
IF Brendan Ryan

RF Carlos Beltran
CF Jacoby Ellsbury
LF Brett Gardner
OF Slade Heathcott
PR Rico Noel
OF Chris Young

I’m glad the Yankees took only nine pitchers. There’s really no need for more than that. Plus it’s not like the Yankees are swimming with options right now. CC Sabathia is unavailable after checking into rehab and next in line is probably Andrew Bailey, who wasn’t too good during his September cameo.

Both Severino and Nova started Saturday, so they aren’t fully available tonight. Today is their usual between-starts throw day, so they can probably give an inning or two, maybe three if they’re really efficient, but I doubt it would be much more than that. Obviously the plan is Tanaka to Wilson to Betances to Miller. Anything other than that is probably bad news.

Sanchez had only two garbage time at-bats at the end of the regular season, and the fact he is on the roster suggests the Yankees may start Murphy against the left-hander Dallas Keuchel. Murphy starts, McCann takes over once Keuchel is out of the game, and Sanchez is the emergency catcher. Sanchez could also be a pinch-hitter or DH option if A-Rod gets lifted for Noel at some point.

The rest of the roster is pretty self-explanatory. As I said this morning, I think Young will start tonight’s game, likely in place of Gardner. Young has good career numbers against Keuchel and Joe Girardi loves his head-to-head matchups. Gardner figures to come off the bench as soon as Keuchel is out of the game though. With any luck, no one outside the starting lineup and big three relievers will be used.

Workout Day Notes: Eovaldi, Capuano, Shreve, Beltran

Today is an off-day around baseball, but both the Yankees and Astros held a workout at Yankee Stadium this afternoon. Needless to say, CC Sabathia checking into rehab was the big story. Everyone in the organization stood behind him, from Brian Cashman to Joe Girardi to his teammates. “We play for CC now,” said Alex Rodriguez.

While Sabathia’s announcement dominated the workout today, there is some other news and notes to pass along. Here’s the important stuff from today’s workout:

The wildcard game rosters do not have to be made official until 10am ET tomorrow. An official announcement should come around that time.

Building the Wildcard Game Roster: Position Players


The Yankees are in position to clinch a wildcard spot very soon, possibly tonight, so it’s time to start thinking about the wildcard game roster. Earlier today we sorted through the pitching staff, trying to figure out which ten or eleven pitchers the Yankees will carry in the wildcard game. It was easier said than done.

Ten or eleven pitchers — my guess is ten, but you never know — leaves 14-15 position player spots to fill. Joe Girardi will have a decent-sized bench at his disposal, but ideally it won’t come into play too much. The starting lineup will decide the game. As we did with the pitchers, let’s go through the position player group and try to figure out who will be on the wildcard game roster next Tuesday.

The Locks

This is the easy part …

Catcher: Brian McCann, John Ryan Murphy
First Base: Greg Bird
Second Base: ???
Shortstop: Didi Gregorius
Third Base: Chase Headley
Outfield: Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran
Designated Hitter: Alex Rodriguez

That’s nine of the 14-15 position player spots right there and they’re all self-explanatory right? Right. That is eighth-ninths of the starting lineup and the backup catcher. All easy calls. Next.

Second Base

For most of the summer, Stephen Drew and Brendan Ryan platooned at second base. That is no longer the case. Drew has been dealing with some dizziness/concussion issues that may end his season, but even before that Dustin Ackley wrestled the starting job away from him. Ackley got some playing time, hit right away, and he’s continued to play against right-handers.

Meanwhile, Rob Refsnyder has started each of the Yankees’ last four games against left-handed starters, not Ryan. Chances are Refsnyder will start against lefties Wade Miley, Rich Hill, and Wei-Yin Chen the next three days too. Like Ackley, he got a few at-bats, got some hits, and has received more playing time. That Drew/Ryan platoon was together for 140 games or so. The last 16 have gone to Ackley/Refsnyder.

Smackley. (Presswire)
Smackley. (Presswire)

At this point there is no doubt Ackley will be on the wildcard roster. The rest of the guys is where it gets tricky. Refsnyder is starting against lefties, but would the Yankees actually start him in the wildcard game if they face, say, Dallas Keuchel or Scott Kazmir or Cole Hamels? I get the sense Girardi would stick with Ackley in that situation and just roll with his best player.

If Refsnyder’s not going to start the game, then what’s his role? Pinch-hitter against a lefty reliever. That’s all. I guess he could pinch-run too, but there figure to be other guys on the roster to do that. Refsnyder’s not going to come in for defense. Pinch-hitter against a lefty is a big deal though! It could be the difference in the late-innings of a close game. Given the extra bench spots, I think Refsnyder’s in.

With Ackley and Refsnyder on the roster, the Yankees will need to carry a shortstop-capable backup infielder. Neither of those guys can play short. Not even in an emergency. That leaves a spot for Drew or Ryan. In a vacuum, I’d take Drew over Ryan eight days a week and twice on Sundays. But Drew isn’t healthy and we shouldn’t count on him getting healthy before the wildcard game. He’s still dealing with this dizziness/concussion stuff and has been for almost two weeks now. That puts Ryan on the wildcard game roster along with Ackley and Refsnyder.

The Pinch-Runner

Rico Noel will be on the wildcard game roster. I’m sure of it. One of the benefits of shrinking the pitching staff in the postseason is creating an open roster spot for someone just like Noel. A burner who can come off the bench to pinch-run in the late innings of a close game. Look at Rico run:

The kid can fly and his speed can potentially have a huge impact in the wildcard game. The Yankees brought Noel up this month strictly to pinch-run and I fully expect him to be on the postseason roster. Remember, they carried Freddy Guzman on the postseason roster in 2009 for this exact reason. Noel’s on the wildcard roster. I have no doubt about it.

(Since he wasn’t called up until September 1st, Noel will technically have to be an injury replacement. The Yankees have two position player injury spots available thanks to Mark Teixeira and Mason Williams.)

The Backup Outfielder

Noel will be on the wildcard game roster but he’s not really a backup outfielder. He’s a pinch-runner and that’s all. (The scouting reports indicate Noel is a pretty good defender, but the Yankees haven’t used him defensively all that much.) The Yankees will still need to carry a legitimate backup outfielder if for no other reason than to replace Beltran for defense in the late innings. Chris Young, who is the only righty hitting outfielder on the roster, held that job all season and I expect him to be on the wildcard roster. I know he’s stumped lately, but there’s no reason to think the Yankees won’t carry Young in October. In fact, I’m not sure how you can look at the 39-man active roster and saying Young doesn’t belong on the wildcard game roster. He’s in.

The Final Roster Spot

We still have one last roster spot to fill. The nine locks above plus Ackley, Refsnyder, Ryan, Noel, and Young gets us to 14 position players. I suppose the Yankees could carry eleven pitchers, but I doubt it. It was hard enough coming up with ten pitchers worth a spot on the wildcard roster. One last position player makes sense.

There’s no point in carrying three catchers, so Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez are out. The remaining candidates are Jose Pirela and Slade Heathcott, assuming Drew is indeed done for the year. With Refsnyder on the roster, there’s no need for Pirela, another righty hitter. Yeah, Pirela can play the outfield if necessary, but he’s an emergency option out there only. Noel and Ackley are available as emergency outfielders. I also think Pirela would have played more this month if he was a serious wildcard game roster candidate.

Slade. (Presswire)
Slade. (Presswire)

That leaves it between Heathcott and a possibly but not likely healthy Drew. If Drew is not over high dizziness/concussion symptoms by next week, this questioned gets answered for us. In the unlikely event Drew is healthy though, would it make sense to carry another infielder or another outfielder? I think an extra outfielder makes more sense. Between Ackley, Refsnyder, and Ryan, you’ve got the second base starter and two backups. The only backup outfielder is Young considering Noel’s job is pinch-running.

Heathcott gives the Yankees another potential pinch-runner — he’s no Rico, but he’s faster than Young or Refsnyder — and another quality defender, as well as a left-handed bat on the bench. In fact, Drew and Slade are the only possible lefty bats off the bench, and one’s hurt. Besides, if Drew is healthy, it’s Ryan or Heathcott, not Drew or Heathcott. I’d take Heathcott over Ryan.

With Slade on the roster, the Yankees would have two backup infielders even without Drew (or Ryan), and Heathcott at least has a chance to contribute offensively and defensively. I mean, if Drew’s healthy and on the roster, what’s the point of Ryan? What does he offer in a winner-take-all game? I’d expect neither guy to actually play in the game, but, if pressed into action, it’s easy to see Slade having more potential impact than Ryan.

So after all of that, here’s the 25-man wildcard game roster we’ve kinda sorta pieced together today:

Catchers (2) Infielders (7) Outfielders (6) RHP (5) LHP (5)
McCann Bird Gardner Masahiro Tanaka (SP) Andrew Miller
Murphy Ackley Ellsbury Dellin Betances Justin Wilson
Gregorius Beltran Adam Warren Chasen Shreve
Headley Young Andrew Bailey Chris Capuano
A-Rod (DH) Heathcott Nova/Severino/Pineda CC Sabathia
Refsnyder Noel (PR)

Remember, the Yankees can change their 25-man roster prior to the ALDS should they advance, and they’ll have to change it too. They’d need to get more starting pitchers on the roster. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. One thing at a time.

That appears to be the best 25-man roster the Yankees can carry in the wildcard game. Maybe not the most talented, but the most useful given the circumstances. We’re not planning for a best-of-five or best-of-seven series. It’s one game. One stupid little game where anything can happen. Hopefully Girardi won’t have to use anyone beyond the nine starting position players, Beltran’s defensive replacement, Tanaka, and the big three relievers. That’s the best case scenario. If the Yankees need to dip any deeper into their wildcard game roster than that, then, well, just hang on tight.

Sherman: 15 teams showed interest in Slade Heathcott last offseason

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

This past offseason, the Yankees non-tendered outfielder Slade Heathcott only to bring him back on a minor league contract. Declining to tender Heathcott a contract was the only way to get him off the 40-man roster without exposing him to waivers. They were able to drop him from the 40-man roster, keep him off waivers, and bring him back to the organization.

That move is risky, of course. Non-tendering a player makes him a free agent, so any team could have swooped in to sign Heathcott. That’s a risk the Yankees were apparently willing to take. Joel Sherman reports six teams contacted Slade’s agent within minutes of the non-tender. A total of 15 teams showed interest in a matter of days. Half the league wanted him.

Despite all that interest, Heathcott returned to the Yankees because the two sides had a handshake agreement in place before the non-tender. Sherman has the details:

Heathcott’s representatives let the organization know they would sign back under three conditions: 1. Heathcott would get $110,000 for the minor league season rather than the $72,500 for which he would have been in line; 2. Heathcott would get a July 1 out, to leave the organization if he had not been put back on the 40-man roster; 3. He would be allowed to use his own doctors and trainers in the offseason rather than those of the Yankees to try to reverse his history of injuries.

The Yankees added Heathcott to the 40-man roster and called him up in May, following Jacoby Ellsbury‘s knee injury, so that July 1st opt-out date never came into play. Good for Slade for leveraging his impending free agency into a nice raise and the ability to use his own doctors. I wonder if Vicente Campos, who also went the non-tender/re-sign route, got a similar deal.

Heathcott, 24, spent most of the season with Triple-A Scranton and on the big league DL with a quad injury. He hit .267/.315/.343 (90 wRC+) in 64 Triple-A games around the injury and has gone 7-for-18 (.389) in the big leagues, including two home runs. Knee and shoulder injuries limited Heathcott to only 177 games from 2012-14. He was New York’s first round pick (29th overall) back in 2009.

The Yankees have at least one more minor league option year on Heathcott, meaning they can send him up and down as many times as they want in 2016. Mason Williams, Ben Gamel, and Jake Cave are fellow left-handed hitting outfielders slated for Triple-A, so it’ll be interesting to see what the Yankees do with their depth. Using one or two of those guys to plug a different roster hole via trade would make sense.

Heathcott latest young player to come up big for Yankees in 2015


All things considered, last night’s win was the biggest of the season. The Yankees have been losing ground in the postseason race the last few weeks, so much so that the Rangers are as close to catching them for the first wildcard spot as the Yankees are to catching the Blue Jays in the AL East. They’re three games up on Texas and three games back of Toronto.

The Yankees were six outs away from being no-hit and one out away from an ugly 1-0 loss to last night. They instead rallied for a 4-1 win over the Rays, with the biggest blow coming from Slade Heathcott. He hit an opposite field (!) go-ahead three-run homer off Brad Boxberger in his first big league at-bat since May. It was huge. The Yankees need every win they can get right now.

Heathcott is just the latest young player to step up and help the Yankees this season. He’s not alone. Regulars like Didi Gregorius and Nathan Eovaldi have played huge roles after a rocky first few weeks in pinstripes. Others like Luis Severino and Greg Bird were called up in the second half to become regulars. John Ryan Murphy‘s been on the bench all season. And then there are guys like Heathcott, whose time with the team has been brief.

A total of 17 different players have been called up to make their MLB debut with the Yankees this year, and those 17 rookie players have combined for 1.5 WAR. That’s pretty good considering we’re talking about 178 plate appearances and 112 mostly low-leverage innings. The total performance doesn’t knock your socks off, but there are some big individual moments mixed in there that were pretty incredible. Signature moments, if you will.

Heathcott, obviously, hit his huge homer last night. Bird had his two-homer game against the Twins and also that go-ahead homer against the Orioles last week. Mason Williams went deep in his first big league game and had a two-double game against the Marlins. How many stellar defense plays did Ramon Flores make before he was traded away? I remember him saving a few runs in Oakland, like this one.

Severino stands out on the pitching side, clearly. He’s been pretty awesome aside from last Friday’s clunker. Others like Nick Rumbelow and Branden Pinder have chewed up some innings and occasionally gotten big outs when pressed into high-leverage work, and now James Pazos seems to be getting a chance in those situations. Caleb Cotham picked up the win last night and Diego Moreno had that brilliant, bullpen-saving outing in Texas.

It’s not just about the rookies though. Like I said, Gregorius and Eovaldi have become rather big parts of the team, and both are only 25. Chasen Shreve was a trusted high-leverage reliever for much of the summer and he just turned 25 not too long ago as well. Gregorius, Eovaldi, Shreve, Bird, and Severino have played the largest roles among the Yankees’ crop of 25 and under players this season, though they’re far from the only one who’ve contributed.

Make no mistake, the Yankees are still a veteran team who are where they are because of guys like Alex Rodriguez, Brian McCann, Brett Gardner, and Carlos Beltran. The veteran dudes were always going to have to carry this team, and they have so far. The Yankees did make an effort to get younger this offseason, at least in moderation, and right now most of those moves have paid dividends. Heathcott’s homer last night was the latest example.

Games 140 & 141: Let’s Win Two Try To Win One


So yesterday sucked. That was men against boys. Thankfully, they play again today. Two games, in fact. The Yankees and Blue Jays will play a single-admission doubleheader this afternoon — there’s some rain in the forecast tonight and they want to get the second game over with as soon as possible — and if they want to win the division, the Yankees kinda have to sweep today. One win is an absolute must. It’s not a stretch to call this the most important day of the season.

Michael Pineda is on the mound in the first game this afternoon and he started the only game the Yankees have won against the Blue Jays in Yankee Stadium this season. The Yankees are 1-6 against the Jays in the Bronx this year, and the one win was the result of a fluky rally. Not good. Gotta come up big this afternoon. These are two monumental games. Here is Toronto’s lineup and here is New York’s lineup for the first game of the doubleheader:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. DH Alex Rodriguez
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. 1B Greg Bird
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Stephen Drew
    RHP Big Mike

It’s cloudy and on the cool side in New York right now. Like I said, there is rain in the forecast, but not until this evening. It won’t impact this game. The second game? Maybe. We’ll have to see. This game will begin at 1:05pm ET and you can watch on FOX. We’re going to use this thread for both games, by the way. I’ll update this post with the lineups and whatnot prior to the second game. Enjoy the games.

Roster Moves: The Yankees have called up both Slade Heathcott and Gary Sanchez, the team announced. The Triple-A season ended last night. This is Sanchez’s first taste of MLB. Every player on the 40-man roster is now in the big leagues, either on the active roster or the DL. The Yankees have 39 active players right now. They could slide Mark Teixeira to the 60-day DL, call someone up, and carry 40 players on the active roster.

Update (5:59pm): The start time for Game Two will be approximately 6pm ET. There has been some light rain in New York and the heaviest stuff is still a few hours away. Hope for a lead after five innings then lots and lots of rain, everyone. Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup for the second game of the doubleheader:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. DH Brian McCann
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. 1B Dustin Ackley
  7. C John Ryan Murphy
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Brendan Ryan
    RHP Ivan Nova

This game will air on both YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Try to enjoy.

DotF: Finley pitches Pulaski to a win on final day of season

Some notes to pass along:

  • OF Slade Heathcott was not among the first wave of September call-ups nor did he lose his 40-man roster spot. As it turns out, he’s banged up. Donnie Collins says it’s his quad, which landed Slade on the DL for a few months earlier this season. Sucks.
  • To help cover following all the call-ups, RHP Mark Montgomery, RHP Cesar Vargas, RHP Conor Mullee, IF Ali Castillo, IF Cito Culver, IF Rob Segedin, OF Jake Cave, C Kyle Higashioka were all promoted to Triple-A Scranton, reports Chad Jennings.
  • OF Ben Gamel was named the Triple-A International League Rookie of the Year. He was also the only Yankees farmhand to make the league’s end-of-season All-Star Team, so congrats to him.
  • And finally, no Yankees farmhands were selected for the Low-A South Atlantic League end-of-season All-Star Team.

Triple-A Scranton (2-1 win over Rochester)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 0-4, 1 BB, 1 K
  • 2B Ali Castillo: 3-5, 1 2B, 1 SB — at least September call-ups allowed them to upgrade at second for the postseason (kidding/trolling)
  • RF Aaron Judge: 0-4, 3 K
  • LF Slade Heathcott: 0-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 3 K — quad can’t be too bad if he’s running around the outfield
  • SS Gregorio Petit: 2-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K
  • RHP Kyle Davies: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 1 WP, 3/6 GB/FB, 1 E (fielding) — 58 of 90 pitches were strikes (64%)
  • RHP Mark Montgomery: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 0/1 GB/FB — ten pitches, eight strikes
  • RHP Nick Goody: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 0/1 GB/FB — eight pitches, five strikes

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