A Bullpen Conundrum?Posted: April 25, 2011
Joe Girardi’s bullpen skills are going to be greatly tested in the next couple of days and weeks. I was just as confused as every other Yankee fan when I saw David Robertson trot in from the bullpen to pitch the eighth inning in yesterday’s game. Girardi has made it clear that that is Rafael Soriano’s inning, but as it turns out, Soriano had a stiff back so the skipper had to improvise.
D-Rob was only okay in his chance to shine allowing two hits and getting two outs. But in a 3-2 game and the go-ahead run on base, Girardi elected to go with Mariano Rivera to get a four out save. Mo got out of the eighth, but failed to complete the save and blew his second straight save. Who knows what would have happened if Soriano would have been available for the eighth.
Of course, everything turned out alright as the Yanks won 6-3 in 11, but it does cause something of a problem for the upcoming games. Rivera wound up throwing 33 pitches which even if he wasn’t 41 years young, would be a lot and make him unavailable for tonight. That leaves a probable Rafael Soriano as the closer for tonight.
In an ideal world, AJ Burnett would pitch well enough to go the distance, but with his inconsistency, the chances of that are so very slim. I would say that the best realistic case scenario would be the Yankee offense continuing its hot ways against Philip Humber tonight and crushing him to give AJ a nice cushion which he can use to pitch seven solid innings and then you can bring in Lance Pendleton for the last six outs, preserving the rest of the pen. You will then have So and Mo available and fresh for Tuesday.
I’m not sure how much you can count on that, but it could happen. AJ has been pitching pretty well so far this season and the Yankee offense has averaged just over six runs per game. However, it is not just tonight that I am ‘worried’ about. It is also the next couple of weeks. The Bombers have been lucky enough to have a lot rain outs and scheduled days off in the early-going, but now they continue a streak of sixteen straight days with a game. Their next day off is not until Monday, May 9, two weeks from today.
Girardi, in his three plus years as manager, has done a very good job overall of keeping the bullpen fresh and not overusing any guy(s) in particular. But his starting rotation has been nothing to special in 2011, averaging an MLB worst five and a half innings per start. If this trend continues, he is going to have to keep going to the pen early and with no days off, it is going to be a tall order to keep arms fresh. That means that the starting pitching has to really step it up and pitch much better in the coming weeks.