Three Burning Questions (Pt. 2)
by Cary Greene
June 2, 2022
The reasonable conclusion is that no, they are not. The team is getting very good starting pitching and while the bullpen has absolutely taken a number of recent hits, this will create opportunities for existing players like Clarke Schmidt, Ron Marinaccio, Manny Bañuelos, David McKay, and perhaps others to fill the injury related needs of the ball club.
Today we’ll look at the next burning question on many Yankee fan’s minds. Is the bullpen imploding?
Chad Green is lost for the season due to TJS. Aroldis Chapman is on the injured list and may no longer be capable of closing. Jonathan Loaisiga is also shut down presently. There is no doubt the Yankee bullpen is struggling to absorb the losses of three of its key, high-leverage relievers.
This offseason, Brian Cashman very quietly stockpiled a number of experienced relievers/starters on the cheap. Combined with a few notable Yankee pitching prospects, the Yankee bullpen is far from being in bad shape, in fact, it’s actually fair to say that the Yankees are absolutely loaded in the pitching depth department.
The short answer is that the Yankee bullpen is still in excellent shape and it’s truly not imploding at all. In fact, it’s still one of the better bullpens in baseball.
The real issues presently are kind of those same old repeating problems. Brain Cashman and Aaron Boone are bumbling a bit presently. They’re not an ideal team. Brain Cashman constructs the roster. Part of the issue is that he’s handcuffing his manager by not providing consistently outstanding options - why are absolutely at his disposal to give.
This isn’t me baselessly complaining. For example, Scranton righty Shelby Miller - is killing it for the RailRiders presently and is their closer. He could easily become a huge piece in the Yankee bullpen. Miller has been lights out so far this season, with a 1.89 ERA in 19 innings and 23 strikeouts, he is an experienced pitcher who could be an option for the Yankee bullpen.
Scranton lefty J.P. Sears, who Cashman demoted, has become a true ace for Scranton. Sears looked extremely good prior to the Yankees demoting him.
He’s got an .083 ERA in Scranton so if ever there were a pitcher who could help immediately and also who exists right under Brian Cashman’s nose, it’s Sears. The Yankees appear to be content to keep Sears stretched out as a starter and that’s fine, but there are other starters who are stretched out who could cover for Sears, who could absolutely help the Yankee bullpen. More on them in a moment.
The other part of the problem involves how and when Yankee manager Aaron Boone uses his pitchers. Boone needs to be better in this department. This past Sunday he brought the inexperienced Ron Marinaccio into a pressure packed situation with the game on the line. Certainly better options were available.
For example, Boone brought Clarke Schmidt in after Marinaccio and he sailed through an eventless eighth inning. With an off day on Monday, should Boone have simply asked Schmidt to pitch two innings instead of just one? Absolutely he should have done that! But, he didn’t and it wound up allowing the Rays to split the series. Everyone knows Schmidt isn’t just a single-inning reliever. He can easily handle multiple innings. Schmidt’s ERA is now 0.64 on the year. He’s been pretty phenomenal.
Considering that Jonathan Loaisiga hasn’t been effective this season, replacing him shouldn’t really be that difficult. He’s been pretty bad in high leverage situations and I would have to think that between Wandy Peralta, Clarke Schmidt and Miguel Castro, that the Yankees can compensate.
Aaron Boone needs to also start utilizing both Manny Bañuelos and David McKay as they could each become valuable bridge relievers. Once the Yankees can get the game to Clay Holmes, they should be pretty well set at least for the time being.
The big question is who’s going to emerge as the Yankees closer by the end of the year. The candidates are Holmes, Aroldis Chapman, and perhaps, Zack Britton – barring any trades of course.
Regarding Zack Britton, who underwent Tommy John surgery on Sept. 8, 2021, he is an x-factor. Sometimes relievers can make it back much quicker than starters can because they don’t need to be built up as much. The version of surgery they have also comes into play and Britton’s Tommy John surgery was of the more minor variety. He could possibly return by late July or early September, and if he can be effective, that would help the back end of the Yankee bullpen massively.
Another x-factor that might help the Yankee bullpen sometime soon is Domingo German, who’s missed 48 games to date with right shoulder impingement syndrome. The Yankees might need to use him out of the bullpen when he returns, considering how good their starting pitching has been.
German is set to soon begin a rehab assignment in the Yankees minor league system and considering he still has one option remaining, the Yankees could opt to either stretch him out as a starter to provide insurance or, they could bring him up once he’s able and simply work him into the bullpen.
Believe it or not, there are a few other options in the Yankee system who could probably help sooner than later if needed. Hayden Wesneski is stretched out and he’s sporting a 2.23 ERA for the RailRiders so he provides rotation depth. Wesneski is exactly the type of depth piece that makes it possible to promote J.P Sears to the Yankee bullpen now, rather than wait.
Another piece that could help the Yankee bullpen as soon as now is former 2016 10th round Draft-pick Trevor Lane, now a Scranton Reliever, is also looking exceptionally good this year out of the RailRiders bullpen. He has a 1.65 ERA over 16.1 innings with 22 strikeouts.
All told, the bullpen should still be a strength for the 2022 Yankees.