With 4 outs remaining from a sweep of Kansas City, the Yankees bullpen faltered for the first time (in terms of giving up a lead) in the 2009 season.
While many questioned Girardi's ability to get the most out of his players and handle the media during the 2008 season, the one thing that was universally agreed upon was he did an outstanding job managing the bullpen. For most of the 2008 season Girardi had to just hand the ball to Kyle Farnsworth in the 8th inning, and whether or not he was the right man for the job, his $6 million dollar salary made him the man for the job according to the Yankee organization. However once Farnsworth was traded in late August for the catcher formely known as Pudge, Girardi had to become more creative with how he handled his bullpen, particularly the 8th inning.
I'm sure once Cashman pulled the trigger on the trade that brought in Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte, the organization felt they had successfully replaced Farnsworth with a brand name to pitch in the 8th. However as we've seen over the past year, you don't need a proven name to get you 3 outs in the 8th inning. This became especially true once Marte begin to struggle in his first month as a Yankee. From his collection of cast-offs and minor league arms, the Yankees saw their young bullpen grow into one of the best in baseball.
However 2009 is a new season, and as history has shown, a once solid bullpen can become shaky overnight. Aside from the beaten the bullpen took in the 8th inning on Opening Day against Baltimore, they have done a nice job. That was until yesterday in Kansas City. Perhaps still learning whether or not he can trust Marte to pitch a complete inning without coughing up a run, Girardi choose to pull Marte after he recorded the first two outs in the 8th inning, and bring in Jose Veras to face Billy Butler. Veras who can be an effective 7th inning reliever, did what he usually does in this spot which was walk Butler on 5 pitches.
And this is the point when Girardi did his best Tony LaRussa impersonation. Could Girardi have left Marte in to face Butler? Yeah sure, but I guess he feared Marte serving one up to Butler so why not bring in the righty (unfortunately this is the point where I usually include some statistics to show that Butler hits lefties far better than righties, but thanks to baseball-reference.com redesigning their webpage, I am behind on learning where everything is). So Veras walks Butler, not a huge surprise seeing as Veras allows the first batter he faces to reach base over 40% of the time. However the curious move was then lifting Veras in favor of lefty Phil Coke.
Now I like Phil Coke, his mid 90s fastball and sweeping slider tends to make up for his so-so control at times. However I really didn't feel his presence was necessary in this spot, since the batter, switch hitting Brayan Pena is equally terrible from both sides of the plate. Toss in the fact that the two hitters following Pena (Callaspo and Buck) were also right handed, and I see no reason to use Coke in that spot. And for the record no, I was not in favor of going to Marinao Rivera in that spot. It's far too early in the season to start asking your 39 year old closer coming off shoulder surgery to record 4 outs, 1 of which being Brayan FREAKING Pena. It's only game 6, so obviously Girardi is still tinkering around with whom he can use in different spots during the game. Although the pen faltered yesterday, it's still nice to know Girardi has so many options at his disposal and doesn't have to hand the ball to Farnsworth because management and payroll says he has to. And even though they lost 6-4 to KC in the final game of the series, the Yankees still took 2 of 3 and now head to Tampa at 3-3 on the season.
Other news & notes from the weekend:
- If you're still worried about CC Sabathia and mysterious heating pad raise your hand?
- You'll see me repeat this many times during the season, more at bats for Nick Swisher, fewer at bats for Melky Cabrera.
- Jeter power meter currently sitting at .346. Believe it or not that's not terrible considering his OBP is currently .286. It's also a dumb idea to read anything into stats based off of 26 at bats (aka as one round of playoff action). For me a player with poor in April stats means next nothing but just a slow start in cold weather, poor stats through May are possibly a reason to become concerned and poor stats through June raise a major red flag. It's a long season, learn to pace yourself.
- Mark Teixeira missed his second straight game over the weekend with what the team is calling tendonitis in the wrist. Teixeira says it's not reason to be concerned and the team is just being extra cautious. I'm sure there are a lot of Yankee fans freaking out over this, mainly due to the fact that the last first baseman we signed to a long deal couldn't stay off the disabled list. I'm sure the Yankees are just being extra careful in this situation seeing as they have 8 years & 180 million dollars invested in Tex, but it's still something I'd keep an eye on early in the season.
- Arod is apparently a head of schedule and could be back by early May. That may be the best news I've heard in weeks.
- Not a whole lot to add on the Royals series other than what I've already mentioned. CC dominated and Andy Pettitte was just as good. Joba wasn't at his best, but I'll sign up for 3 runs over 6 innings from your 5th starter right now. The one encouraging sign was Joba was extremely efficient with his pitches yesterday, throwing 56 of his 88 pitches for strikes. The YES radar gun was showing 92 mph on a lot of his pitches, which while some in the media will interpret incorrectly as his velocity being down, it actually meant Joba was learning to use his 2 seam fastball to garner quick outs against a very impatient offense. That is another step in the process of making Joba Chamberlain a top of the rotation starter for many years to come.
- Tonight starts a 3 game series in Tampa Bay before the Yankees come home on Thursday to their new ballpark for the first time in the 2009 regular season. Important start for Wang tonight, who supposedly has fixed the mechanical issues that lead to the beating he took in Baltimore. Should be a good test against the speedy Rays offense. Wang will oppose former Met (always love to toss that in) Scott Kazmir whose 1-0 in this young season.
Send your questions and comments to email@example.com. Be back later in the week to analyze the Rays series and open up the new ballpark in style.
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Written by Joseph Gallo