I do not often find myself agreeing with Joe Sheehan, but he is the first salaried writer to take a long look at the Yankees bullpen and discover that it is filled with unheralded yet solid performers:
Other than re-signing 2008 trade acquisition Damaso Marte to a three-year, $12 million deal, the Yankees made the statement, however implicit, that they are committed to their homegrown relievers in 2009. One of the bright spots in the team’s first October-free season since 1994 was the emergence of hurlers such as Edwar Ramirez and Jose Veras, who combined to strike out 126 men in 113 innings with a 3.74 ERA. By the end of the season, Phil Coke and David Robertson were making contributions in low-leverage situations. Add in free-talent pickups like Brian Bruney and Alfredo Aceves, and the Yankees have more than enough effective relievers to go around, whether you’ve heard of them or not.
Staying out of the reliever market is a good idea for the Yankees, who have spent most of the decade trying and failing to recapture the magic that was Mike Stanton and Jeff Nelson in the seventh and eighth innings. The set-up tandem from 1997 through 2000 contributed to three division titles, four playoff appearances, and three World Championships. Joe Torre’s ability to run a bullpen was in no small part predicated on having those two pitchers around; since ’01, Torre has never seemed quite as comfortable with his relief staff….
Other than the signing of Gordon, the Yankees’ excursions into the relief end of the pitching pool available on the market have been a waste of time and money, costing the team cash from its coffers and wins on the field. Now, however, they’re swearing off outside help for the first time in years, and attempting to win using the players on hand. It’s the best plan they’ve had; Ramirez and Marte should be the closest thing to Nelson and Stanton that Yankee fans have seen in a while. Jose Veras can get both righties and lefties out in the seventh inning, and when he’s unavailable, Alfredo Aceves can get ground balls. Phil Coke should make a good second lefty as more of a specialist than Marte is, and that still leaves Robertson for long relief, as well as free-talent pickups Brian Bruney and Dan Giese.
Could not have said it better myself. I think Sheehan underplays Bruney’s role while overplaying Edwar’s, but the point stands. The Yankees have plenty of talent in the bullpen, as well as more than enough depth to cover for ineffectiveness or injury. I wish some other media members would figure that out, so that we could end the Joba debate and stop hearing about how the pen is the Yankees missing link.
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