Off-season Issues: The Bullpen

The Yankees have once again had a dominant off-season, trading for Curtis Granderson and Javier Vazquez while signing Nick Johnson.  There are still a few holes remaining that need to be filled before the 2010 season starts.

Today let’s focus on the bullpen.

Last season, Phil Hughes became arguably the most important man in the bullpen not named Mariano Rivera.  Damaso Marte, who I ripped on repeatedly, became the Graham Lloyd of 2009, making me eat my words by dominating everyone he faced in the playoffs.  David Robertson was possibly the biggest surprise, finishing among the league leaders in K/9 (strikouts per every 9 innings) and of course, Mo was Mo.

Thankfully I was completely wrong about Marte

The Yanks have told Hughes and Joba Chamberlain to each prepare like they will be starters this year, which likely means that who performs the best this Spring Training may earn themselves the 5th spot in the rotation.  Sergio Mitre and Chad Gaudin will be in the mix for the rotation as well.  Robertson will be back, along with Marte.

Brian Cashman does not seem to be inclined to sign another arm for the pen (for the reason why, Google “Kyle Farnsworth”).  This means that the aforementioned names will make up the pen, along with some young arms.

Mark Melancon struggled last year during his stints in the big apple, but he has put up great numbers in the minor leagues.  If he can make the jump from AAA to the majors and not become a AAAA pitcher, then the Yankees will have an extremely dominant pen.

I need to get back on my pedestal and reiterate something that I have mentioned anytime I write down his name:  Joba Chamberlain needs to be in the bullpen.  The Yankees have their next closer in Chamberlain and this season will be the perfect one to get him into the bullpen.  They have four solid starters, and three guys (Hughes, Mitre, and Gaudin) who could capably handle the 5th spot in the rotation.

Joba needs be pumping his fist in relief appearances, not starts

At the beginning of the 2009 season, although earning a starting role, Chamberlain was the backup plan if Mo went down with a prolonged injury.  Chamberlain lost a few mph on his fastball as a starter, but as a reliever in the World Series, his fastball was up around 95-97mph.  If you miss the catcher’s target, you better have a fastball fast enough to throw by batters.  Joba needs to be at that speed considering his lack of strike-throwing.  If he proves to be a solid setup man, the combination of Joba and Mo could possibly be even more effective than 2009’s Metallica combo.  That is Hughes and Rivera.  Hughes would enter the game to Metallica’s “All Nightmare Long” while Rivera comes out of the pen to “Enter Sandman”.

Get it? Metallica Combo?....Yeah I am clever

Don’t expect any signings by the Yanks in regards to the bullpen.  The Bombers will rely on in-house options.  Other than left field, the bullpen will be the most interesting storyline to watch this spring training.


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