With Billy Traber being added to the 40-man roster, it is evident that Girardi and the Yanks are getting closer to settling on a bullpen to start the season. So who are the likely candidates?
Well, in short, none of the pitchers have done that much to distinguish themselves just looking at the statistics. The leaders would have to be of course Traber (0.00 ERA, 5 Ks, in 4 IP), Ross Ohlendorf (1.93, 3 Ks, 4.2 IP), and Scott Patterson (0.00, 4 Ks, 4.1 IP).
Chris Britton has also not pitched terribly and Albaladejo, Ramirez, Bruney, Henn, and Phillips have all racked up a good number of strikeouts.
But as I’ve mentioned before, spring training stats are pretty meaningless. So if we assume that the pitching staff has 12 and 9 of those are set (Wang, Pettitte, Mussina, Hughes, Kennedy, Chamberlain, Rivera, Farnsworth, Hawkins), that leaves the Yankees with 3 open spots. It’s a shame they don’t have more really, as I think just about every name I’ve mentioned so far has a good deal of upside.
Word is, Girardi wants a lefty and a long-man. If that’s the case, it would seem that Traber and Karstens are likely selections, though Karstens hasn’t pitched particularly well.
If the Yankees are going to use Chamberlain as a traditional 8th inning guy, keeping a long-man makes sense. However, if the Yankees plan on preparing Joba to be a starter, where he will often have 2-3 inning stints, keeping a guy like Karstens on board seems somewhat unnecessary, especially given the amount of quality arms the Yanks have in camp.
It appears that both Traber and Henn have pitched well enough that one of them will be kept as the token lefty. Traber has looked better, but Henn is out of options, so there is always the chance they let Henn start the season with Traber waiting in the wings in Triple-A.
I think the two favorites to make the bullpen at this point would be Bruney and Ohlendorf. Bruney hasn’t pitched that well but his contract is guaranteed and with his new found work ethic, you’d think the Yankees would give him every chance to succeed. Ohlendorf has the highest ceiling of any reliever, a young guy with a high-90s sinker. If I had to pick one player to become a shutdown 8th inning guy in the future, it would be him.
After that, the next two names that stand out are Albaladejo and Patterson. Albaladejo has received more innings than any other middle reliever, so obviously he’s being given every opportunity. His 8 Ks in 6 IP is promising, though he’s been hit pretty hard. As for Patterson, he has simply dominated at every level he’s been in the past year, yet he hasn’t received much press.
As of right now I don’t see any of the other options breaking camp with the Yankees but it’s great to have so many good arms in the system. If you told me the Yankees had to have Britton and Ramirez as the final two guys in their bullpen, I’d be fine with that. And yet, as of today, I don’t think they’re even amongst the top 4 candidates. If you’re a Yankees fan, you’ve got to be confident that by mid-season, the Yankees will find the right combination.