David Robertson going down with an early season groin injury has shed light on a very scary reality for the New York Yankees. The Bronx Bombers bullpen may be a much bigger problem than originally anticipated, and could be the thing that ultimately prevents the team from playing October baseball.
Even with a healthy Robertson there are plenty of questions surrounding the team’s relief corps. Can Robertson make the transition to the ninth inning? Is Shawn Kelley good enough to fill Robertson’s old shoes, and handle setup man duties? Will Matt Thornton or Vidal Nuno be able to get out tough left handed batters out of the pen?
There are simply just too many unanswered questions about the group for Yankee fans to feel comfortable late in games. And when Robertson’s services are unavailable, the bullpen situation gets even scarier.
Kelley proved he was a nice bullpen piece last season. But, even the most optimistic of Yankee fans would not argue that he has the stuff of a major league closer. But, when Robertson is unable to pitch the team has no choice but to turn to Kelley to finish off games.
We saw an example of this on Wednesday night when the Yankees brought Kelley into a tie game in the ninth inning against the Baltimore Orioles. He gave up two runs in the inning, as his team went on to lose 5-4.
And with Kelley moving to the ninth, the Yankees are left to piece together the seventh and eighth innings with the likes of Nuno, Dylan Betances and Cesar Cabral.
Sure, there is also David Phelps and Adam Warren, who have done a good job out of the pen so far this season. But, it is almost a guarantee that at least one of the team’s starting five will miss time with an injury this year, causing one of the two long relievers to be drafted into the rotation, and no longer be a relief option.
The team’s lack of bullpen depth is a major issue. The Yankees will likely need to add at least one veteran reliever this season if they plan on being a playoff contender.
One quick solution would be to deal catcher Francisco Cervelli, who was drawing interest from teams around the league during his terrific spring training.
The Texas Rangers also have a need at catcher now, with Geovany Soto out with a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee. Veteran right hander Jason Frasor would be a nice addition to a Yankee bullpen filled with young unproven arms.
The Yankees’ minor league catching options should be able to do a serviceable job filling the team’s backup catcher position. The same cannot be said about the team’s internal options to fill key bullpen roles.
Yankee fans knew that someday they would have to deal with the reality of not having Mariano Rivera close games for the team. And now that day has finally come, and the team is forced to scrap together a back end of the bullpen just like everyone else.