New York Yankees: Big battles and big decisions for the Yankees

William Parlee

Tomorrow is the first day of spring, and for the New York Yankees, spring training games are waning; there are only eleven games left to play before players and staff head north to Yankee Stadium. The players may be itching to get the regular season going but some are itching more than others. Why? Because some will be cut as the Yankees face crunch time to firm up the 26 man roster. There are still battles for those last spots.

This may be the last games of spring training, but it’s also a time that both the players and the front office is busy as can be. Housing to be arranged and cars to be shipped for the big move north. But for manager Aaron Boone, coaches, and the front office, they still have some big decisions to be made, and they won’t be able to wait until the last moment.

The New York Yankees know pretty much what the opening day lineup will be. They know who their starting pitcher will be, and they know who all the position players will be. But the question of who will fill the fifth spot in the starting rotation is still unanswered. Who will be added to the bullpen is yet to be determined and who will sit beside Brett Gardner and Kyle Higashioka as reserves on the bench are still unknown.

The battle to anchor the pitching rotation:

RHP Domingo Germán (0.00 ERA 9 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 13 K)
RHP Deivi García (2.25 ERA in 8 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 10 K)
RHP Michael King (4.00 ERA in 9 IP, 6 H, 5 BB, 6 K)
RHP Jhoulys Chacín (5.40 ERA in 6 2/3 IP, 8 H, 3 BB, 7 K)

All of these starting pitchers want that last spot in the starting rotation. New York Yankee manager Aaron Boone has said that he will carry 13 pitchers and 13 players at the start of the season. That means with the first four starters pretty well nailed down, one of the above will be the fifth starter. This decision may be the easiest for the Yankee brasse to make because, at this point, it seems to be a no-brainer. Domingo German is the clear leader in this category. It is very likely the Deivi Garcia will start his season in May at Scranton Wilkes/Barre. That being said, it is also as likely that all of these pitchers will spend some time at Yankee Stadium during the season.

The battle to gain a home in the bullpen:

LHP Lucas Luetge (spring stats: 0.00 ERA in 6 1/3 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 13 K)
RHP Nick Nelson (0.00 ERA in 6 1/3 IP, 4 H, 0 BB, 6 K)
RHP Kyle Barraclough (1.80 ERA in 5 IP, 2 H, 7 BB, 7 K)
RHP Nick Goody (1.93 ERA in 4 2/3 IP, 2 H, 3 BB, 3 K)
LHP Tyler Lyons (2.08 ERA in 4 1/3 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 7 K)

These are the relievers that have a chance to be added to a bullpen that will include: Aroldis Chapman, Chad Green, Jonathan Loaisiga, Luis Cessa, Justin Wilson, and Darren O’Day. This will be a much more difficult decision to be made by management. All five of these relievers are good in their own way. Actually, I should change the word good for excellent. It seems obvious, with an ERA of zero and 13 strikeouts per nine, that the Yankees will select Lucas Luetge. Beyond that It’s anyone’s guess. At this point, to me, it seems to be very close between Tyler Lyons and Nick Nelson.

Like the starters, Matt Blake and manager Boone will have to watch the innings pitched this season as the staff adjusts to a 162 game season after a short 60 season this past year. All of these pitchers will be used during the season, and some of the relievers like Jonathan Loaisiga, Deivi Garcia, and Clarke Schmidt will be used in various roles. There is still an outside chance that Jonathan Loaisiga could snag that fifth starter spot due to his excellent spring.

The battle to sit on the bench:

This is probably the biggest battle yet to be resolved. Who will sit on the bench? There is no question that Brett Gardner will be the backup outfielder who can play at all outfield positions and Kyle Higashioka, who will be the backup catcher for Gary Sanchez.

Chris Gittens (3 for 8, .375, 1HR, 5 RBIs) first base

Jay Bruce (6 for 23, .261, 2HR, 3 RBIs) first base & outfield

Mike Tauchman (5 for 21, .238, 2HR, 3 RBIs) outfield

Mike Ford (3 for 19, .158, 0HR, 2 RBIs)  first base

Derek Dietrich (2 for 18, .111, 1HR, 3 RBIs) utility

Thairo Estrada (3 for 18, .167, 1RBI) second base

Tyler Wade (3 for 21 .143, 2DBL, 1 RBI) utility

The New York Yankees would like to keep all these players around, but to fill out the 26 man roster, they will only be able to keep two to add to the bench. Mike Tauchman may not be the best player on this list, but he is one of the most versatile, and considering he is out of minor-league options, the Yankees will likely want to keep him around or trade him in the coming days.  With Chris Gittens playing like he is, my guess is Mike Ford will start in the minors again, and Gittens will be Luke Voit’s backup. If Tauchman is traded, Jay Bruce will be the next man up.

The Yankees may have been weeding out these players by creative moves. The Yankees have shown they can have Brett Gardner play in right field. This may not spell well for Tauchman and Bruce. LeMahieu can play all three bases. Gio Urshela had a successful try-out at short, lessening the need for Tyler Wade. At this point, Dietrich and Ford look like they will be on the outside looking in. Sometime within the next six or seven exhibition games, this will likely be all sorted out and the Yankees will announce their 26 man roster for opening day at Yankee Stadium.

Yesterday was the last day off for the Yankees in this spring training. Today the Yankees will host the Philadelphia Phillies at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida. Ex-Yankee Ivan Nova will start for the Phillies. At the time of this writing, the Yankees have not announced their starter for the 6:35 pm non-televised game.