The New York Yankees entered the offseason knowing there would be a changing of the guard in respects to the closer position as Mariano Rivera shut the door on a historic career. David Robertson has been heavily endorsed by the organization as the man for the job, but now the team has a new void to fill in the setup role.
Matt Thornton and Shawn Kelley appear to be the most sensible candidates for the eighth inning job, but neither player has stood out thus far in Spring Training. Thornton has surrendered seven hits and three runs in just 2.1 innings pitched over a span of four games. Kelley has appeared in five spring games, going for 4.1 innings while giving up three hits, one run and striking out five. Kelley’s numbers aren’t horrific, but many Yankee prospects are out-performing him.
Joe Girardi stated early this week that he will begin sorting out the final bullpen slots but is reluctant to take more than just a couple of lefties. Unfortunately for him, the lefty pitchers are the most outstanding relievers for the Yankees this spring. Cesar Cabral is stating his case for a spot after giving up no runs over seven innings pitched while striking out eight. Vidal Nuno and Fred Lewis have put together similar performances with each player striking out at least five over six innings pitched.
The young guns for the Yankees are stepping up early in spring but will have to really shine in the final weeks before the season begins in order to crack the Opening Day roster. Kelley could lock up the setup role by keeping his numbers consistent in the coming weeks, but Thornton’s stock is certainly plummeting with his recent struggles.
Players like Cabral and Nuno might not be able to earn the confidence of the coaching staff for an Opening Day job, but finishing the spring on a high note could increase their chances for an early season call-up if the mainstays of the Yankees’ bullpen carry their spring struggles into the regular season.