From Joel Sherman:
The Yankees are likely to have the home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs, and with that comes the right to pick a first-round series in which they have multiple off-days that allow them to go with three starters. With the extra off-days they need no more than a seven-man bullpen. Thus, they can have 15 position players or six extra men on the bench.
The locks are Gardner, Jerry Hairston and Jose Molina. That leaves three open slots to pick among Francisco Cervelli, Ramiro Pena, Eric Hinske, Shelly Duncan and Guzman. Do the Yanks feel they need a lefty power bat (Hinske), a righty power bat (Duncan), a second extra infielder who can run a bit (Pena), a third catcher (Cervelli) that would allow them to more liberally run for Jorge Posada and Jose Molina or a pure speed guy (Guzman).
I think the Yankees will take 11 pitchers, with CC, AJ, Pettitte, Joba, Mariano, Hughes, Coke, Marte, Robertson, Bruney, and Aceves making the cut. Considering that Shelley Duncan and Frankie Cervelli have been given minimal playing time recently, I would guess that neither is a legitimate option for a roster spot. That leaves two spots for Hinske, Pena, and Guzman, with Hinske almost certain to make the team as the lone power threat off the bench. Essentially, we are left with a choice between a second utility player (Pena) and a second base stealing threat (Guzman). Joe over at RAB addressed this issue yesterday:
A speed threat on the bench is a luxury in October, and one the Yankees can certainly afford. But can they spare two spots to speedsters? It seems as though Melky Cabrera is the starting center fielder, with Gardner coming in every once in a while, rather than any kind of set platoon. He’s one guy who can pinch run in close and late situations. Do the Yankees need another?
Right now, the odds are against Guzman making the roster, but things can change between now and October 7. If Melky starts to falter and Gardner starts more in center, perhaps the Yankees will think it worthy to have a speeders for whom they can pick spots. If Gardner’s starting, the Yanks obviously can’t use him to pinch run for Posada or Matsui in a difficult spot. The presence of Guzman would afford them that luxury. I guess it will come down to how the team plays down the stretch, and how the Yankees think they can best use their extra position player.
I have to disagree with Joe, in that I do not believe that this has anything to do with Gardner. Whoever is the 25th man will be the last person off the bench, used after Gardner. The question is, would you prefer that last guy be a versatile player or a base stealer? I would prefer Guzman, as I see no instance where Pena’s defense will come into play. His versatility is essentially meaningless, because it is unlikely that he would be needed to replace Cano, Jeter, or Rodriguez. Rather, he too would be used as a pinch-runner for Posada, Matsui, Swisher, or Damon. Considering that it is significantly more likely that the player being replaced is an outfielder rather than an infielder, Guzman would likely be the right choice regardless of his advantage in terms of speed. The fact that he is significantly faster than Pena is just icing on the cake.
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