Projecting the Yankees’ Opening Day roster
The roster that the Yankees will carry into the regular season is coming into focus this week, thanks to Michael Pineda being named as the fifth starter. That announcement also knocked down a few of the dominoes in the bullpen, where David Phelps and Adam Warren can expect to claim spots on the Opening Day roster.
Joe Girardi remarked this week that the Yankees have been spending about 95 percent of their time in meetings talking about three or four guys. It is a good problem to have, the manager said.
“It’s hard and you make a choice, and you don’t always say that’s what it will be like in July and that’s your final choice,” Girardi said. “But they’re hard decisions because you know how much the players want to be here and you care for the guys. It’s just tough.”
There are a few close calls left to make, but we can take an UNOFFICIAL crack at how it might shake out:
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Derek Jeter SS
Carlos Beltran RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Brian McCann C
Alfonso Soriano DH
Kelly Johnson 3B
Brian Roberts 2B
Brett Gardner LF
There’s not too much to talk about here, unless you want to move some of these names around. We’ll assume, as the Yankees are doing, that Ellsbury is going to be ready to play on April 1 in Houston. If so, this is pretty much the lineup that you would have put on paper in February. Girardi has talked about the force of having Ellsbury and Gardner back-to-back as the one and nine hitters, but I think it’s possible Gardner could hit higher than ninth. For now, let’s go the safe route on that.
Francisco Cervelli C
Dean Anna IF
Eduardo Nunez IF
Ichiro Suzuki OF
Brendan Ryan would have been in this mix, but the Yankees don’t expect him to begin the season with them. It’s hard to see how he could, given that he has eight at-bats and hasn’t played since March 4. Cervelli and Ichiro are locks - although a last-minute trade could always shake things up. You would think that Nunez has to grab one of the backup infield spots, even though Girardi said Wednesday that he hasn’t decided either infield spot.
It’s down to Anna and non-roster invitee Yangervis Solarte for the final spot, and that’s where it gets tricky. Solarte has had a terrific spring (.459!), he’s a switch-hitter and has shown that he can play second, third, shortstop and even a little outfield if they needed it. What’s the problem? He’s not on the 40-man roster and Anna is.
This could come down to the end of camp, but right now, we’ll hand it to Anna.
CC Sabathia LHP
Hiroki Kuroda RHP
Ivan Nova RHP
Masahiro Tanaka RHP
Michael Pineda RHP
Lock these in. Done deal. Moving along…
David Robertson RHP (closer)
Shawn Kelley RHP
Matt Thornton LHP
David Phelps RHP
Adam Warren RHP
Dellin Betances RHP
Cesar Cabral LHP
There’s room for debate here, and you can be sure that the Yankees are still talking about it, too. But by parsing the comments made this week from those in positions to reveal anything, this seems to be the way that the wind is blowing. Robertson, Kelley and Thornton were locks from Day 1, and it sounds like the Yankees want to keep both Phelps and Warren on the big league roster as relievers rather than having one of them go down to Triple-A to start.
I expected Preston Claiborne to be on the big league roster, but he gave up six runs without getting an out on Wednesday, and Girardi said that his stuff just hasn’t looked as crisp as last season. That sounds like a reason to begin the year at Triple-A. On the flip side, Betances has been electric this spring (0.79 ERA in 11 1/3 innings), and he’s throwing strikes (10 strikeouts, four walks). You can always find room for a 6-foot-8 guy who’s throwing gas in the mid-90s.
The last spot is arguably the biggest question remaining, but for right now, we’ll go with Cabral. He has not allowed a run in eight innings and just happens to be on the 40-man roster. General manager Brian Cashman said Wednesday that the Yankees would prefer to have a second left-hander in the bullpen; Nuno also fits that description, but it sounds like the Yankees want him to focus more on a long relief role. Fred Lewis has also stuck around and pieced together a nice spring in his first big league camp, but he has only pitched 1 1/3 career innings at Triple-A.
Girardi has been saying that it is all about carrying the best 12 pitchers, so it’s possible that the Yankees will decide not to carry a second lefty. If so, their remaining choices include Danny Burawa, Matt Daley, Jim Miller, and Yoshinori Tateyama — all of whom got some time on the mound on Wednesday in Dunedin, which you can be certain was not by accident.
What’s your take? Dig into the comment box below.