MIAMI — If he gets into the season opener on Monday, Andrew Miller will be pitching with a broken bone in his hand. And he’s one of the closest things the Yankees have to a sure thing in their suddenly suspect bullpen.
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The good news for the Yankees is that the chip fracture is in the heel of Miller’s right hand, and he throws with his left.
On Saturday, Miller made his first appearance since suffering the injury as the Yankees wrapped up spring training with a 2-1 loss to the Marlins at Marlins Park.
Miller, who will fill in as the closer with Aroldis Chapman suspended for the first 30 days of the season, struck out one and walked one in two-thirds of an inning.
“I survived,” said Miller, who said he received permission from MLB to wear extra padding in his glove but chose not to. “I think it’s just about pitching from here on out.”
Miller said he will see if something can be fashioned inside his glove before his next outing.
With a questionable starting rotation in terms of health and ability to go deep into games, the Yankees need their bullpen to be a strength, as it was last season.
But the suspension of Chapman until May 9 for his violation of MLB’s domestic-violence policy means the Yankees will have to wait to unveil their super/uber/mega trio of Chapman, Miller and Dellin Betances.
Behind the Big Three is a pile of uncertainty. Righthanders Ivan Nova, Luis Cessa, Johnny Barbato and Kirby Yates and lefthander Chasen Shreve join Miller and Betances in the Opening Day bullpen.
“I feel that we have good arms there,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Kirby’s tested. Some of the other guys are untested, and you’ve got to bring them along somewhat slowly if you can. I mean, Shreve was a guy that we had to bring along slowly last year, Dellin was a guy that we brought along slowly, and they’ve had a lot of success. So we’ve got to kind of do the same thing. Sometimes they get thrown into the fire because that’s what happens, but we try to do it slow.”
General manager Brian Cashman gambled when he traded reliable lefty Justin Wilson to the Tigers for starting prospects Cessa and Chad Green the day after including Adam Warren in the deal for second baseman Starlin Castro.
The Warren/Castro deal was a no-brainer, but dealing Wilson was a head-scratcher . . . unless the hard-throwing Cessa turns into a major force in his rookie season.
Cessa, a 23-year-old former Mets prospect (he was traded to Detroit as part of the Yoenis Cespedes deal last July 31), made his first Triple-A appearances last season and was 1-6 with a 6.97 ERA. But the Yankees love his arm and he had a 2.70 ERA in spring training.
Barbato, 23, also has never appeared in a big-league game. He had a 1.64 ERA in 11 appearances in spring training.
Nova, who lost the fifth-starter battle to CC Sabathia despite having a lower spring training ERA, has made seven relief appearances in his six-year career, none since 2013. The Yankees have admitted they have no idea whether he can help them out of the bullpen.
Yates, a former Tampa Bay Ray, was added to the roster as the 25th man on Saturday. He will replace the luckless Bryan Mitchell, who was supposed to replace Warren but suffered a broken toe covering first base on Wednesday and could miss up to three months.
Yates, the younger brother of former Mets pitcher Tyler Yates, has the most relief experience of any of the pitchers other than Miller, Betances and Shreve. The 29-year-old is 1-2 with one save and a 5.27 ERA in 57 games during the last two seasons. He was unscored upon in eight spring training outings.
“We were really pleased with what Yates did,” Girardi said. “He really deserved it.”