The New York Yankees did some heavy lifting on Friday. They made their first cuts of the spring earlier in the day and then waited until the evening to make a few more.
Adam Warren was a casualty, which was a bit of a surprise given his clean three innings this spring and the need for another arm in the bullpen after Zack Britton went down. Plus, Warren brings familiarity and a veteran presence. Perhaps he’ll be stashed in Triple-A, though.
But next came another somewhat eyebrow-raising transaction. The Bombers also reassigned right-hander Addison Russ to minor league camp despite many believing he could have an outside chance of at least getting more reps this spring.
He came over in the trade with the Phillies last year for David Hale and got out of two bases-loaded jams in his two opportunities when called upon over the last couple of weeks. The Yankees didn’t want to see more of him?
Russ’ intrigue comes with his 96 MPH fastball and splitter that has some funky movement. That combo proved to be wildly effective during his time in the Phillies’ system, where he logged a 2.54 ERA and 1.18 WHIP with 81 strikeouts in 56.2 innings at Double-A Reading two years ago.
The Yankees only brought him in for .2 innings this spring, but he delivered in both high-leverage situations. He struck out a batter with the bases loaded and got another to ground out with the bases loaded (that was on Friday!).
Unfortunately for Russ, there are simply too many righties ahead of him in the pecking order. Nick Nelson and Jonathan Loaisiga have turned heads this spring and it seems Luis Cessa, regardless of how he performs, is guaranteed a roster spot.
Throw in the return of Domingo German (he’s been looking filthy) and the potential of a six-man rotation depending on what manager Aaron Boone does, and you could’ve safely assumed this was always Russ’ fate (unless there were more injuries).
Then again, the man does need some more reps since he missed all of 2020 due to the pandemic when the minor league season was canceled. He’s never pitched above Double-A, so it’s probable the Yankees want to see him in action at Scranton before bringing him up for his major league debut.
So now that leaves the open bullpen spot down to a (likely) competition between Luetge, Garcia, Kyle Barraclough, Tyler Lyons, Nick Goody, Brooks Kriske and Michael King.
With just over two weeks remaining, keep an eye on those guys, one of whom could end up being a significant contributor to kick off the 2021 season.