The New York Yankees almost survived spring training without a major injury, the variable most critics hold against the team at all times. But a Wednesday matchup with the Braves changed things in a hurry and has New York scrambling to piece together April and beyond to compensate for Andrew Miller and Bryan Mitchell.
The news could have been worse. Though Miller fractured a bone in his wrist in his non throwing arm, he plans to pitch through it anyway, leaving him as the closer for April while Aroldis Chapman serves a 30 game suspension. Without last year’s closer, the Yankees “Big Three” to close out games would have been a “Big One” and it would have been the only pitcher without closer experience.
Instead Miller is staying on board, his effectiveness to be determined.
For Mitchell, it’s a different story. While trying to make a play at first, Mitchell broke a toe and will miss at least three months, leaving him sidelined until July and realistically after the All Star Break.
Mitchell was supposed to replace Adam Warren after a sub 1 ERA this spring and the ability to throw multiple innings in relief. Instead, the Yankees, well equipped as any team, will have to replace Mitchell as well.
Johnny Barbato and, because of the Mitchell injury, Luis Cessa, have made the team. Cessa was originally going to provide starting pitching depth in AAA. Instead, Cessa will likely have the first opportunity to replace Mitchell’s role of replacing Warren’s role of being the swing man in the middle relief innings.
In April, it will be Miller closing, Betances setting up and Barbato potentially taking the other late inning relief role. Nova and Cessa should be able to eat a lot of innings and compliment Chasen Shreve, who will be the lefty out of the bullpen until Chapman allows Miller to be the primary left handed reliever instead.
For the Yankees, the one thing the franchise has been able to produce consistently has been relievers. Nick Goody, Anthony Swarzek, Kirby Yates (who will likely be on the Opening Day roster), Jacob Lindgren and Nick Rumbelow will likely be the first ones called up in the case of ineffectiveness or injury. And as long as Miller stays effective and Betances and Chapman are eventually healthy joining him, the Yankees should be able to weather the April and early May storm.