With the recent setback to Alfredo Aceves in his rehab from a back issue, we’ve learned that hard throwing Romulo Sanchez has been shifted to the bullpen, foreshadowing a recall to the Major Leagues.
I like this plan a lot. Romulo doesn’t have much of a ceiling as a starter and even if he did, there likely isn’t going to be room for him in the next year or so. Also, Sanchez just turned 26 in April, so while he’s got time, he’s not as young as other pitchers in the system and it may be time to convert him to a full time reliever so the Yankees can get some value out of him.
I think Romulo can make a successful transition to the bullpen for a few reasons. First is his arm. Everything we hear about Romulo is that he throws incredibly hard and that was proved during his appearance with the Yankees earlier in the season. His fastball averaged 95.6 MPH in his 3.2 inning stint in Boston. This obviously means he’s got strikeout stuff. Relief pitchers are most effective when they can keep runners off base and keep inherited runners from scoring. The best way to do this? Strikeouts. With a fastball that fast, and a changeup to compliment it (his CH in Boston went 84.4 MPH, a great differential), Sanchez could rack up the Ks in the Yankee pen.
The other reason he can fit well into the bullpen is that he is able to fill a dual role. Because of his impressive stuff, Sanchez can likely be just fine as a one inning-come in and blow ‘em away reliever. But, because of his past in the minors as a starter (43 MiL starts), he can also go multiple innings which is obviously very valuable. Without Aceves and Mitre, who was actually effective, the Yankees have had spotty multi-inning relief this season. If Sanchez is effective, he could plug a big hole and start the second-half bullpen resurgence that we’ve all come to expect from the Yankees in recent years.
Of course, Sanchez doesn’t come without one big question mark: control. His career BB/9 in the minors is 4.0, but in the last two seasons he’s walked 4.6 per nine and 5.2 per nine. This looks to be his weak point. If he can harness his control, the Yankees could have a very effective reliever. If not, well, he can be sent back down and perhaps Jonathan Albaladejo can get another shot.
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