New York Yankees’ Bullpen: 5 Pitchers Who Are Making a Difference

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New York Yankees Bullpen: 5 Players Who Are Making a Difference

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John Munson-The Star Ledger via USA TODAY Sports

While the New York Yankees always have a highly touted offense, coupled with big name starting pitchers like C.C. Sabathia and Andy Pettitte, it can be easy to forget that behind the starting lineups and rotation is the Yankee bullpen.

This season, with what seems like over half of their original roster on the disabled list, the Yanks have somehow managed to not only stay competitive, but to win, as they are currently in first place in the AL East, one game ahead of the Boston Red Sox.

The team’s success despite the absence of their stars can be attributed to many factors. There is the early impressiveness of Vernon Wells both offensively and defensively, Travis Hafner’s explosive April, and Hiroki Kuroda’s dominant start to the 2013 season.

In addition to all these factors, however, the Yankee bullpen has been backing the team up when they don’t get enough offensive production or when the starters have a rough outing.

The Yankees have a good combination of long relief guys like Shawn Kelley and Adam Warren, as well as effective set-up pitchers like David Robertson and Boone Logan, rounded out by the best closer of all-time.

The team currently holds the second-lowest team ERA in the American League, and they rank in the top 10 in WHIP in the major leagues.

The bullpen is not the best in the majors, but it is hard to deny the relievers' effectiveness this year, especially considering two starting pitchers are currently on the DL. Further proof is the amount of close games the Yanks have won this season: they are 8-3 in games decided by one run.

As the season progresses and moves into the late spring, the team will undoubtedly go through some lulls where the bats die down and Kuroda might even start skidding. It is important that the bullpen stays consistent and balanced if this Yankee team, depleted though it may be, wants to keep on winning.

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5. Preston Claiborne

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Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Preston Claiborne is one of the most recent additions to the Yankee bullpen, and although he has only appeared in six games and pitched eight innings thus far, he has shown nothing but talent in the short time he has been at the major league level.

In his eight innings, Claiborne has not yet given up a run or a walk. He has allowed only seven hits, and he can get his fastball up to the mid-90s.

Claiborne was drafted in 2010, and was impressive enough in the minors to rise so quickly to the major league level that he is the first Yankee from the 2010 draft to join the team.

Manager Joe Girardi has also shown that he’s not afraid to use Claiborne in close games and tight situations. Furthermore, Claiborne can be used for one or two outs, or one or two innings.

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4. Shawn Kelley

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Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Kelley might not seem like an obvious player to be included on the list of effective relief pitchers, but since his inconspicuous start, he has begun to turn his season around.

Although his ERA still sits at an uncomfortably high 5.71, his May ERA is only 2.57, suggesting that he is ready to forget April.

Kelley, if he is on his game, is an asset to the pitching staff. He can go multiple innings and can rack up strikeouts. In 17.1 innings this season, he already has 30 Ks. He can locate his fastball, and his out-pitch, a slider, is very effective when he’s locked in.

It looks as if Kelley is getting better as a Yankee rather than worse; he has allowed just three hits in his last five outings and struck out 15 in that time. If he can stay good and shut down hitters in long relief, it will go a long way.

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3. David Robertson

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Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Robertson’s numbers this season aren’t as stellar as they have been in the past. He had some injury issues this season, missing some games due to a sore hamstring and more recently oblique tightness. But, his slow start has not diminished his importance in the bullpen.

Not every team has a reliable eighth-inning guy, and the Yankees are lucky to have Robertson, who had impressive 2011 and 2012 seasons, and might possibly be the closer of the future after Mariano Rivera’s retirement.

Like Kelley, Roberston is good at inducing strikeouts: his career totals show that he has almost 100 more strikeouts than innings pitched. This year, he has 21 strikeouts after 17.1 innings, and he has also kept his walks to a minimum so far with four.

Roberston’s reliability late in the game, as well as his knack for getting himself and the team out of jams (earning the nickname Houdini) is what makes him invaluable in the bullpen. When he gets fully healthy, he’ll just get better this season.

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2. Adam Warren

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Warren hasn’t pitched in very many games so far this season, but he has pitched well in the eight games in which he has appeared.

In 19.2 innings, Warren has a sparkling 1.37 ERA, and his ability to come in for one inning or four, like he did last week against the Cleveland Indians, makes him a huge asset to the team.

With young pitchers in the rotation like David Phelps and Vidal Nuno, it is important to have young relief pitchers who can come in for multiple innings and not get tired.

Warren has done this since the first series of the season, when he picked up a struggling Kuroda and Cody Eppley and pitched 5.1 innings of one-run ball in a spur-of-the-moment season debut. Though the team lost the game, it showed that Warren could come in for long relief at a moment’s notice, remain calm, and get outs.

Warren’s fastball is good and he locates it well; he can throw it up to about 94 mph, and he also has a changeup, which not many young pitchers can use effectively. If Warren continues the way he has this season and continues to pick up his teammates with multiple innings of relief, the Yankees will be grateful.

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1. Mariano Rivera

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Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Though we are only through the first quarter of the season, Rivera’s final year has already been eventful and impressive. The famous closer has 16 saves in 16 opportunities, and he is just one behind the saves leader.

Rivera is as reliable and effective as any relief pitcher can be. Even though he has given up some hits in the saves he has earned, he has been following them up with his signature broken bat ground balls and strikeouts, courtesy of his trademark cutter.

A good closer can make or break a team, and often it is the missing piece. But not the Yankees. Mariano seems determined to make this year count and with a minimal 1.57 ERA, he is so far he doing everything in his power to lead his team to victories in the ninth.

Let’s just hope he and the Yanks continue their good fortune into the coming weeks and that the bullpen stays strong behind them.

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