Mark Teixeira is scheduled to come off the disabled list on Sunday. David Robertson will be able to rejoin the team on Tuesday. Both will have their jobs waiting for them when they return to the lineup. However, what about the players who were keeping their seats warm while they healed?
First base was an adventure throughout Teixeira’s time on the DL. While Kelly Johnson was the primary player manning the position, several other Yankees with limited or no experience also took a shot there including backup catcher Francisco Cervelli and right fielder Carlos Beltran. Mark Teixeira’s outstanding defense will be a sight for sore eyes after weeks of defensive ineptitude at the position. The move will likely shift Kelly Johnson back to third base where the young upstart Yangervis Solarte had been excelling. The Yankees should be hesitant to remove Solarte’s bat from the lineup. The rookie is leading the AL in batting (.373), on-base percentage (.448), slugging percentage (.569), doubles (seven) and hits (19). It remains to be seen how long Solarte can keep up his current pace at the plate, but the Yankees need to ride this wave of success as far as it will go. Of course, one of the best assets of Solarate is his versility in the field. He can play all over the infield and the corner outfield spots. Perhaps Solarate can morph into a modern-day Randy Velarde and simply play everyday at a different position and still produce.
David Robertson will take over the closer duties when he returns despite Shawn Kelley‘s perfect 4-for-4 in save opportunities. Kelley will likely move into the eighth inning role and extend the Yankee bullpen by moving everyone down a peg on the ladder. Prior to Friday night’s bullpen blowup, the Yankees featured one of the toughest ‘pens in the majors. They had rattled off seventeen consecutive scoreless innings coming into that game, receiving major contributions from Adam Warren, David Phelps and Matt Thornton.
While playing time will be reduced for several Yankees with the return of Teixeira and Robertson, it will be eliminated for two Yankees as they will be removed from the 25-man roster to make room for the two stars. On the hot seat for Teixeira’s return on Sunday are Scott Sizemore and Dean Anna. Both players can play multiple positions and have shown flashes at the plate. Sizemore has more experience but Anna may have more upside. Both players have a minor league option remaining, but Sizemore has an opt-out clause if he is sent back down or not on the major league roster on May 1. I tend to think they send Anna to Triple-A to play everyday and stay sharp while they see if Sizemore can help them at the major league level. Sizemore has shown he can play both infield corners and it will open the door for Solarte to be the main backup for Derek Jeter as well. In the bullpen, the two major contenders for a trip to Scranton are Sunday’s starter Vidal Nuno and the recently called up Matt Daley. Nuno figures to throw about 75 pitches Sunday which would make him unavailable until about Thursday. That would leave the Yankees with a short ‘pen for the series with the Red Sox. Daley, however, may only be an insurance arm in the bullpen for the weekend after a week that included a doubleheader on Wednesday and meltdown on Friday.
Whatever the Yankees do, they need to make sure they have the best players on the field that will help them win the most games. This team has been a lot of fun to root for thanks to contributions from unlikely sources that are easy for fans to get excited about. A rookie who spends six years in the minors before making the majors and then goes on to crush the baseball like Solarte has done makes for a great story. Scrappy underdog players, like Anna, Solarte and Nuno, that were overlooked and lack the physical talent of others but nonetheless produce and help the team win make for terrific stories. However, GM Brian Cashman needs to make sure that the ending to the story of 2014 Yankees is a parade.