The New York Yankees new bullpen arms have already impressed in significant action during the first week of the season thanks to a faltering rotation.
With the starters failing to go deep into ballgames, new additions have already been called upon in tough situations.
So far, there has been many impressive signs from the current group of Yankee relievers.
Despite the assurances at the back end of the Yankee bullpen, there were many question marks about who would ultimately make the opening day roster. Girardi’s final decisions were left even further complicated by the loss of Bryan Mitchell to a toe injury a few days prior to the beginning of the season.
Almost all of these additions, besides Nova, were virtual unknowns in the minds of the Yankee fan base and even possibly a cause of concern for the chances of playoff success in 2016.
But, early on, there has been little to suggest that middle relief will be a problem for the Yankees, and it could even end up being an area of strength.
So far, only one Yankee starter has lasted more than five innings, and unexpectedly it was CC Sabathia who finally gave the bullpen a rest in Saturday’s 8-4 win against the Tigers.
In the first four games, however, Yankee relievers, not including Betances or Miller, were called upon for 17.1 innings of work.
Over that span, only 1 earned run was allowed (1.04 ERA) by that same group. The most impressive of performances came from Ivan Nova, who went 4 innings in the 16-6 rout of the Astros on Wednesday, and Johnny Barbato who has 5 strikeouts in 2.1 innings.
The departure of Adam Warren was expected to hit the Yankees hard, and Bryan Mitchell was the answer to that.
Mitchell is a versatile pitcher who can pick up spot starts when needed and give length as a middle reliever. During Mitchell’s time on the sideline, the combination of Nova and Barbato could be the answer to replacing the long relief dominance.
Regardless of how well Sabathia pitches, it is doubtful that he will be moved out of the starting rotation. So, this could be Nova’s shot at proving his doubters wrong if he is able to stay healthy and focused in 2016.
Barbato, who spent last year in Trenton and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, will be looking to avoid the “Scranton shuttle” in order to cement a place in the bullpen for years to come.
So far, his command and velocity have been very impressive in his early days as a Yankee.
With the starting rotation hardly reaching its full potential during the first go around, there is no question that the bullpen’s workload will decrease, but the early success of these new Yankee relievers can only serve as an encouraging sign.
The “big 3” at the back of the bullpen will receive almost all of the press, but consistency from pitchers like Johnny Barbato and Luis Cessa is just as important.