LADY AT THE BAT: Pitching Changes On The Horizon For The Yankees

Friday, June 12, 2015

Pitching Changes On The Horizon For The Yankees

Way back in April 1979, the Yankees lost future Hall of Fame closer Goose Gossage to a thumb injury, the result of a locker room altercation with backup catcher Cliff Johnson. Starter Ron Guidry, the ace of their staff,  volunteered to take over  the Goose's role as closer. The Yankees took Guidry up on his offer, but only for two relief appearances in early May, one that resulted in a win and one that was a save. Guidry soon moved to back to the rotation and Ron Davis was handed the closer's role until Gossage returned in July. An interesting  note is that Guidry had recorded a save earlier that April when Goose was still active. Guidry finished the year with just the two saves.  
Soon the Yankees may be facing a somewhat similar decision. Similar, but  still very different. They lost closer Andrew Miller on Wednesday, likely until after the all star break and they have installed Dellin Betances in his place, so a closer is not needed. Certainly, they don't need any ace starter like Pineda or Tanaka to move to the pen. Since 1979, baseball has changed quite a bit. When they lost the Goose, the Yankees lost a guy that often pitched the final two, sometimes three innings of the game. Today, baseball has specialists for the seventh and the eighth innings and therein lies the problem. With Betances no longer the 8th inning specialist, the Yankees must look for someone else to fill the void in the 8th inning, not to mention the 7th inning as well. At this point, the Yankees are looking at lefties Justin Wilson, Chasen Shreve and possibly Jacob Lindgren, plus righty Chris Martin to fill the void. Might the Yankees also consider moving right hander Adam Warren back to the role he filled last season? Given the possible return of Ivan Nova to the rotation after one or maybe two more rehab starts, it seems a natural to return Warren to the 7th or possibly 8th inning spot. Then either Esmil Rogers or Chris Capuano could be DFA'ed. Take your pick which one.
If only it were that easy.
Nobody knows how well Ivan Nova will pitch once he returns from Tommy John surgery, as many pitchers struggle in the first season following the procedure.  Also, Warren has pitched remarkably well in the rotation, especially in recent starts. Warren deserves to stay in the rotation.  But circumstances sometimes dictate what you have to do. At least the Yankees are not facing the decision they were in 1979 when they turned their number one starter into a closer, the duration of which was, fortunately, short. The Yankees do have some decisions to make, and the overall makeup of the bullpen should be of concern to management, so more changes could be in store.
Meanwhile the Yankees open a three game series in Baltimore Friday night. Michael Pineda makes his first start after being skipped in his last turn through the rotation in an effort to limit his total innings for the season. CC Sabathia, the Yankees current leader in innings pitched, will start Saturday and Adam Warren is scheduled to start Sunday. Might be one of the final starts for Warren this season if the Yankees do decide to move him to the pen. Unlike Guidry, Warren is not the ace and he won't be expected to close games either. Still, the need might be too great for Warren in the 7th and/or 8th inning to keep him in the rotation.
When it comes to pitching, that is proof enough that times have really changed.

On Another Note
The draft was held this week, and though it is too early to get a handle on what happened, their number one pick (16th overall) is of interest. His name is, James Kapriellian , a right handed pitcher from UCLA, who seems as if he could be on the fast track through the system. If you want to see what may be ahead for Kapriellian, a look at two of last year's picks might give a clue. Jordan Montgomery, a fourth round pick and Jonathan Holder, a sixth round pick last year, both college pitchers, have progressed to where both are pitching at high class A Tampa. Next year both could be at AA Trenton. Both Montgomery and Holder began the rookie Gulf Coast league before finishing at Staten Island, a short season class A team. Holder was limited to 36.1 innings last year, and Montgomery 19 innings. Both saw such limited action because they each saw plenty of action in their final season of college ball. So I would not expect to see much more than that out of Kapriellian this season. Look out for next year, though.  

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