In the beginning of the month I took a look at the possible playoff roster, but now with the Yankees clinching the playoffs, East, and best record let’s take another look to see what has changed.
Let’s start by looking position to position and evaluating who is a lock, who won’t be needed and who is on the bubble.
Catchers: Jorge Posada and Jose Molina are locks unless there is a late season injury. In that case the Yankees could carry Francisco Cervelli on the roster. Otherwise Cervelli will just be a spectator. Posada will start nearly every game anyways (That’s 2 roster spots).
Infielders: At first base Mark Teixeira, at second base Robinson Cano, at short Derek Jeter, and at the hot corner Alex Rodriguez. As long as Jerry Hairston’s wrist injury doesn’t get aggravated, he’s also a lock. Manager Joe Girardi likes Ramiro Pena’s speed and defense so he could be another infielder, but he could be a little too green for the playoffs so for right now let’s keep him on the bubble (7 spots).
Outfielders: Johnny Damon will start in left, Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner will share center field, and they’re is Nick Swisher in right. Throw in Hideki Matsui as the DH and Eric Hinske as the pinch hitter and fifth outfielder and that is six more roster spots. There is a chance that Girardi takes Freddy Guzman, but that would be strictly for his speed and with Gardner already in the fold he’s stuck on the bubble (13 spots).
Starting rotation: CC Sabathia is obviously the top starter followed by some combination of Andy Pettitte and AJ Burnett. Right now it does seem like Pettitte could be the no. 2, but Girardi is going to keep that in his pocket for now. Burnett’s and Pettitte’s splits seem to indicate that Burnett could be better off pitching at home in the second game.
As it stands the Yankees have the choice in the ALDS between a five game series in seven days or eight depending on what they think will give them the biggest advantage. That makes Joba Chamberlain the forth starter or spot starter if needed. I doubt that they would use Joba out of the bullpen unless the circumstances got drastic (17 spots).
Middle relief: Once again this is the toughest spot and the one where Girardi has the most options. Mariano Rivera, Phil Hughes, Alfredo Aceves, Phil Coke, and Damaso Marte are sure things. Even if the Yankees decided not to take any of the position players on the bubble, Pena and Guzman, that would still leave them with enough roster space to carry just three more relievers (22 spots). So let’s go through the possible options.
David Robertson has the best chance of any of them at making the roster. Actually, I would have considered him a lock if it weren’t than the fact that he’s been sidelined for a couple of weeks with a sore elbow. He’s been out since September 5 but he should be pitching tonight. If he can stay healthy and pitch at least three more games and look at least halfway decent he’ll be on the roster.
Finally there is Sergio Mitre, Brian Bruney, and Chad Gaudin. Mitre and Gaudin are strong candidates for long relief, but Joba can fill that role too so it is unlikely, especially in the first round, that the Yankees will take both of them. Mitre has pitched better of late, but Gaudin has been pretty good since coming from San Diego. If I’m right and only one of them goes expect it to be Gaudin and not Mitre.
Bruney was expected to play a big part in the Yankees bullpen this season. He had an issue with his elbow and hasn’t been the same since. Girardi has tried like hell, even possibly at the expense of some games, to get him enough appearances to right himself, but it hasn’t paid off. He’s likely to be left off the roster and if he does make it’ll probably just be as a mop-up guy.
I once tossed around the idea that Jonathan Albaladejo could make it, but looking at the guys likely to go that’s one big long shot.
So with 22 spots that are locks or near locks that leaves Girardi room to play with three more spots. Let’s look again at players on the bubble:
Right now I still believe that Robertson will be healthy enough to play so let’s put the roster number at 23. So we’ve got five players for two more spots. With Robertson that is 10 pitchers and the Yankees are likely to want to play it on the safe side, you don’t want to get caught without enough pitchers, so for that reason we’ll add Gaudin to the roster as well.
With just one final spot that really leaves it up to your preference. 11 pitchers seems like enough for the ALDS so I’d imagine Girardi will go with a position player. In that case it comes down to Pena for his defense or Guzman for his speed.
Late in games the Yankees aren’t going to take out any of their infielders except maybe Jeter. Resting Arod will probably always be on their minds too. An outfield of Melky, Gardner, and Damon isn’t bad either, but if Gardner is starting Guzman would still give you speed off the bench. Pena isn’t exactly a snail though, but with only 33 career steals in the minors Guzman gives you a much better chance at stealing a critical run.
Personally I would go with Pena. So that makes my final three roster spots at Robertson, Gaudin, and Pena. Do you agree?