Friday, August 21, 2009

More Marte Machinations

Prior to Tuesday's game, Joe Girardi said there was a possibility Damaso Marte could be activated for tonight's game. This took me by surprise, since the news came just three days after the Yankees announced Marte, whose rehab assignment had expired, was being excused indefinitely for "personal reasons". I speculated at that point that the timing was somewhat dubious. Because of their rotation shuffling with Sergio Mitre and Chad Gaudin, the Yankees didn't really have a roster spot to open for Marte. This latest possibility of Marte being activated tonight is even more suspect, almost as if the "personal reasons", which haven't been expounded upon by any media, were concocted to buy the Yankees some time to make a move.

This morning on RAB, Joe Pawlikowski wondered if a Marte return would mean the Yankees would carry a 13 man pitching staff until rosters expand on September 1st. In my eyes, such a move would be a big mistake.

As a matter of principle, I'm totally opposed to the 13 man pitching staff. I don't even like a 12 man pitching staff, but I concede that it's pretty much a necessity in today's game. But given the Yankees current roster construction and upcoming schedule, moving to a 13 man staff right now would be a very poor strategical move.

Joe rightly points out that if the Yankees do bring Marte back as part of 13 man staff, the only possible roster move would be to demote Ramiro Pena, which would have his ten day minimum minor league stay expiring conveniently on September 1st. However, demoting Pena would leave Jerry Hairston Jr. as the lone utility player on a three man bench. While Hairston is certainly capable of the job, this would make him the only back-up at 3B, SS, 2B, CF, and potentially even LF. With Brett Gardner still on the DL, Hideki Matsui's knees potentially being day-to-day, and A-Rod still being promised a day of rest weekly, I'm just not comfortable carrying that inflexible of a bench for ten days. This roster alignment nearly burned the Yanks just over two weeks ago.

More than the needs of the bench, the Yankees schedule and rotation make a 13 man pitching staff completely unnecessary right now. With the off days yesterday and Monday, the Yanks rotation is set for the next week, with a fifth starter not needed again until Saturday that 29th. As such, both Mitre and Gaudin are in the pen until the Yankees announce who will get the nod for that game, leaving them with a virtual eight man pen already. Furthermore, the bullpen is well-rested at present. In addition to the off days, a complete game from A.J. Burnett on Monday, eight innings of work from CC Sabathia on Tuesday, and Alfredo Aceves eating up half of the 4.2 innings the Yanks needed out of the pen Wednesday, the Yankee relievers should be ready to go. With Andy Pettitte, Burnett, and Sabathia slated to start this weekend the Yanks could get lucky and not have to tax their bullpen too much anyway.

Further, Girardi's bullpen usage patterns, particularly in big games like these next three will be, makes carrying an extra pitcher completely useless. In Mariano Rivera, Phil Hughes, Phil Coke, and Alfredo Aceves, Girardi has four relievers he trusts implicitly. In the rising David Robertson and the apparently rejuvenated Brian Bruney, he has two more relievers he can confidently deploy. Ditto for Gaudin once he has another day or two of rest. Activating Marte tonight would leave him no better than seventh in the bullpen pecking order. That, combined with his spotty track record this year and underwhelming rehab assignment, means he'd see nothing more than extended mop-up work. And it was exactly that sort of outing that started his downward spiral to begin with.

Lastly, Marte is currently on the 60 day DL, meaning someone would have to go from the 40 man roster in order to activate him. While Anthony Claggett and Juan Miranda, and maybe even Edwar Ramirez could be cut, I don't see any particular advantage in losing any of them just to add Marte. If the Yankees insist upon adding Marte for tonight's game, then Sergio Mitre should be the guy to go. DFA'ing Mitre would open the necessary spots on both the 40 and 25 man rosters, leave the bench the flexibility it needs at present, and not hamper the bullpen in any way.

In the end, we're really discussing a move that would affect the 24th or 25th spot on the roster. Chances are whatever is done won't have a major impact anyway. But I'll be tremendously disappointed and will feel that the Yanks have put themselves at a competitive disadvantage (however slight), if they go to a 13 man pitching staff for the rest of August.

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