download Tomorrow Never Dies Mark Feinsand’s latest blog piece discusses a topic that has become painfully obvious to all Yankee fans, the trouble Joe Girardi is having finding anyone to get some big outs late in games. He writes:
Anyway, my view is that there are some potentially-able arms in the minors that perhaps deserve a shot sooner than the Yankees were hoping. I think the bullpen will be vastly different 30 days from now. However, guys like Veras are out of options. He’d likely get claimed on waivers, so the Yanks don’t want to send him down. Of course, some might argue that wouldn’t be much of a loss. Melancon, I think, won’t ever spend another day in the minors and eventually will move up the food chain in terms of roles. Brian Bruney being out really hurts, obviously.
I think he nailed it. In the case of Jose Veras, they’re in a bit of a bind. He would likely benefit from a AAA stint where he can put some good outings together and gain some confidence. But he’s out of options, so they either fix him on the big league level or release him. He’s never been a consistent strike-thrower, so he’s ideally used in low leverage situations backed up by guys who are better (similar to Edwar). But with Bruney out, Veras has been thrust into a more prominent role for which he is ill-suited. I think Veras’ role will get reduced once Bruney comes back to where he gets buried in the pen, and/or has a very short leash. The problem Girardi’s been having lately is the guys he’s replacing Veras with haven’t been much better. So he keeps running him out there.
Mike A over at RAB thinks Girardi’s been falling into Torre-like habits, but I don’t think that’s the case. While he’s right that Marte has been buried (with a 15.19 ERA rightfully so) Girardi has actually done a good job of spreading the workload around among his relievers. The top 6 relievers have between 8-12 IP, and one of them is Bruney who’s been on the DL stuck at 8 innings. Had he been healthy, it would be spread around even more with Bruney picking up a few innings. Marte’s getting buried means he’s going to be used the way he’s been most effective for his career, against Lefties and that’s it. As bad as he’s been this year, he’s still held lefty hitters to a .222 BAA.
Getting length out of the starters is also key to using your bullpen guys in their best roles. That’s been improving lately, with Wang being on the DL and the rest of the rotation giving us length on most days. Another thing that’s contributing to this to a lesser extent is Girardi learning his new starters CC and AJ on the fly. He hasn’t found a feel yet for when to pull these guys and when not to, leading to big innings when the bullpen comes in to messy situations, which they generally make messier. I think he will figure this out, but that’s what April is for.
I’m hopeful that Bruney’s return and Melancon getting settled in to the bigs will provide that bridge to Mariano were all looking for. Eventually you’d like to see the winning formula be Melancon-7th, Bruney-8th and Mo for the 9th. Everything falls into place after that, now Veras or Edwar are only asked to get a few outs here and there, in spots where they have a good matchup. Or they can start an inning clean and be backed up by the more reliable guys. But again, Bruney is the key. If he comes back and gives you quality, that takes the pressure off the rest of the staff and lets you line things up the way you want to and pick your spots with the rest. Even if Melancon isn’t ready yet, Bruney alone can have a huge impact. You can use him as early as the 7th, so now you’d only need to find a few outs most nights from the starters to Bruney.
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