What Will the Bullpen Look Like without Bruney?

Hard throwing right handed pitcher Brian Bruney was traded to the Washington Nationals today in exchange for Washington’s first pick in the upcoming Rule V Draft. With the exit of Phil Hughes from the bullpen into the rotation, the Yankee bullpen appears to have some holes. This is something with which I disagree.

Starting at the top is the one and only Mariano Rivera. Do I really need to go on? No, I don’t; keep reading.

For the set up role, the Yankees have two main options: the left-handed Damaso Marte and the right-handed David Robertson. For the first time in his short Yankee career, Damaso Marte looks to be healthy for an entire year. Marte showed everyone that he is the man the Yankees thought they were trading for when they got him in 2008. A healthy Damaso is a successful Damaso. In 2010, hopefully he’ll be healthy all year and he can perform at the high level at which he’s performed for his entire career.

Robertson took very big steps in 2009 to become an option that Joe Girardi trusted. I expect these steps to continue. Robertson’s got a great two pitch combination that is perfect for the bullpen and if he improves his control just a teensy weensy little bit, he could be one of the top relievers in all of baseball.

So, if I had to put the 2010 bullpen together right now, I think it would look like this:
–Marte (L)
–Coke (L)

The late inning relievers–Rivera, Robertson, Marte–look to be very strong. If Phil Coke can just manage to keep the home runs down, he’ll be a very effective lefty. Girardi, however, should definitely be cautious when dealing with Coke and right handed batters. His splits last year weren’t fantastic and Coke should stick to left handeded batters.

Alfredo Aceves and Chad Gaudin are both relievers who have incredibly valuable ability to pitch multiple innings. In a baseball world modeled after Tony LaRussa/match-up style, it’s nice to see guys who don’t need to be replaced after just one inning. Another option to consider is Ian Kennedy. He’s clearly above the heads of AAA players and there likely won’t be a spot for him in the rotation. In the bullpen, he can get consistent Major League work and bring his arm back up to strength after missing most of 2009.

Mark Melancon is one of the top relief pitching prospects in the Yankee organization. He returned mixed results to the big league club in ’09. The 3.86 ERA was nice, but he had major control issues, allowing 5.51 BB/9. He didn’t give up any homers in his 16.1 innings and a 4.44 FIP is something upon which to build. I see 2010 Melancon in a situation much like the 2008 and early 2009 version(s) of David Robertson. He’ll get action in low leverage situations until he proves he’s ready for bigger and better things.

Without Brian Bruney, the Yankees will still be more than okay in the bullpen. As it’s been for the last two years, it should be a strength for the Yankees in 2010.

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