Just when it seemed like the Yankees were over their slump, courtesy of a huge series win against the Toronto Blue Jays and a sweep against the Minnesota Twins, in came Cleveland to spoil the fun yet again. On Sunday afternoon, Cleveland wrapped up a series win, taking 3 of 4 from the Yankees and dropping the team from the Bronx back to second place.
Things don’t get any easier as the A.L. West leading Houston Astros come to town for a three game set before the Yankees are back on the road where, at 32-31, the Yankees are barely above.500. The Yankees are apparently still stuck in their doldrums and it’s not the best way to enter the final six weeks of the 2015 season. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what is causing the Yankees lackluster play, but a big factor has to be exhaustion. At 68-55, the Yankees are 76% of the way through their season.
Dellin Betances, the hard luck loser of Sunday’s game, has thrown the most reliever innings in the A.L. and the second most in MLB (66.0 IP vs. 66.1 IP for the Phillies’ Justin De Fratus). That included 2.1 IP in the extra inning win against the Minnesota Twins. Betances last threw 2.0 innings in May.
Although the Yankees are careful not to throw their relievers in too many back to back games and give them rest, there is no denying that Betances has been driven very hard this season.
On the position player side, Girardi has rested Mark Teixeira for almost a week, ever since he suffered a severe bone bruise while batting. He has also used Brian McCann at DH the past two games to also give the catcher half-days when possible while giving Didi Gregorius and the fragile Jacoby Ellsbury days off also when possible.
With rosters expanding in September, the Yankees may get some roster relief and the potential for an infusion of youth. They can call up some relievers to give Betances (plus Shreve and Wilson) some down time, and it’s likely Rob Refsnyder will come up to spell Drew (or Gregorious with Drew shifting to SS).
Despite CC Sabathia’s recent injury, the Yankees should still stick to their plans for a 6-man rotation even if that means returning Adam Warren, who has been dominant out of the pen in August (0 ERs in 10.2 IP), to the rotation. Bryan Mitchell, who appears ready to come off the 7-day concussion DL, could also be an option.
As much as the bullpen and the veteran infielders need to rest, the same can be said for the Yankees relatively young rotation. With Pineda returning from injury, Nova coming off TJ surgery (not seeming quite right yet) and Tanaka with an injured elbow (admittedly one he is pitching relatively well with), adding an extra day of rest for them should also be part of the September plan.
There’s something to be said for resting a veteran team but, as the Yankees lead has slipped away and the Yankees have looked lackluster while letting it happen, the timing of the moves looks a bit odd. Of course there is still plenty of time left in the season especially with 7.0 games left against the A.L. East leading Blue Jays.
The Yankees strategy of resting players is the right one and hopefully it will pay off in the end.