The 2014 New York Yankees bullpen will certainly be a in a bit of a transition. When you have someone like Mariano Rivera retire, it’s going to throw your bullpen in a state of flux. From 1997-2013, you knew who was going to take the ball at the end of the game. Not only has Rivera departed, but Boone Logan and Joba Chamberlain left via free agency this year. So who’s left?
Well, David Robertson is now the guy in the ninth inning. After being an excellent setup man for the past few seasons, he will now be elevated into the closer’s role, no matter what Brian Cashman says. The lack of a signing of Grant Balfour and Fernando Rodney probably means that. (unless he has a trade up his sleeve) Getting the ball to D-Rob will be the tricky part. Shawn Kelley and his excellent 12 K/9 ratio will probably be the guy in the eighth. In addition from the right side, Preston Claiborne will help out. He dominated early on, but seemed to lose steam as the season wore on.
From the left side it will be Matt Thornton and Cesar Cabral. Thornton has been in a bit of a decline for the past couple of seasons and Cabral is a youngster who hasn’t been in the majors for a full season yet, but has pretty good stuff.
Speaking of youngsters, Dellin Betances is out of options and out as a starter. He excelled in Triple-A in his transition to the bullpen, but struggled a bit in September in the majors. This is a big spring training for him. David Phelps could find himself in the ‘pen as well if he doesn’t make the rotation. So could Adam Warren as a long man again.
How about in the minors? Well, there are guys like Matt Daley and Jim Miller who were brought off their couch and onto the mound in September and who are in camp on minor league deals. As far as younger players go, keep an eye on Mark Montgomery. Even if he doesn’t break camp with the team, a good showing in Triple-A and he could find himself in the bullpen. Jose Ramirez could be another guy who finds himself in the bullpen. He’s a starter in the minor leagues, but could project as a reliever at the big league level. From the left side, keep an eye on Fred Lewis, who pitched in the Arizona Fall League and Manny Banuelos, where there are already rumblings of him being put in the bullpen if necessary.
Bullpens change from year to year and the best way to do it is generally young and cheaply. The Yankees are trending that way this year. Billy broke down five options the Yankees could target right now earlier yesterday. There are many relievers who are free agents after this year. Jason Grilli, Jim Johnson, Jesse Crain, Chamberlain, Robertson and Craig Breslow are just a few examples.