The New York Yankees used a four-game set against the Boston Red Sox in the Bronx to expel some demons of recent postseasons past, clinching a playoff berth that once seemed in peril while surging ahead in the AL East chase.
Now, the focus in New York is on maintaining momentum while integrating returning stars, rather than desperately treading water as more and more important players disappeared.
Giancarlo Stanton’s extended welcome back to the lineup hasn’t gone as well as anticipated, though, creating a midseason cautionary tale for what the Yankees hope to pull off this postseason. Integration into a lineup isn’t always going to be as easy as it was with Harrison Bader. The Yankees are about to experience a midseason roster crunch right at the finish line. It won’t be as simple as it seems.
Both Aroldis Chapman and Zack Britton have come back in recent days, but neither pitcher has gotten an extended chance to work out their kinks; both returns might’ve been acts of charity rather than genuine postseason auditions.
There are still at least five more returning Yankees en route, though, and some of them are supposedly big pieces of the October plan. Here’s our ranking of who’s welcome, and who might encounter the clubhouse door locked in their faces.
5 returning injured Yankees who could return on 2022 MLB Playoff roster
5. Miguel Castro and the Bullpen Mishmash
The Yankees’ bullpen is an exceedingly odd spot. Is anyone supremely confident in any of the current options to serve as closer? Not … really. Clay Holmes has been sitting in the front car of a roller coaster for two months at least. Jonathan Loaisiga is 85% of the way to where he should be, but what if the 15% shows up in a one-run game on the road? Ron Marinaccio, Scott Effross, Lou Trivino and Clarke Schmidt have all been solid Bs lately.
But … is there anyone lurking in the minors who you’d want to use over any of the Yankees’ current options? Not really! There are too many talented arms, but not enough breakout pitchers peaking at the right time and taking charge. While it’s safe to say the unsettled bullpen is concerning, nobody would rather see Chapman or Britton jogging in from the ‘pen on anything other than a trial basis.
Sadly, the same goes for Miguel Castro, who remains in bullpen purgatory and hasn’t been activated from his rehab assignment yet.
When Castro was around during the season’s first half, he was a high-ceiling/equally-low-floor sixth-inning option. If he’s crammed into the bullpen at the expense of Schmidt/Domingo Germán, he wouldn’t serve any purpose not already handled by the man he’d be replacing.
His return could happen — and Chapman/Britton could make the postseason roster, too — but it would probably cause more confusion than joy.