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Yankees have decisions to make on bullpen, backup catcher, bench

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman watches live batting practice during a spring training baseball workout Monday, Feb. 22, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. Credit: AP / Chris O’Meara

TAMPA, Fla. — With the April 4 season opener against the Astros fast approaching, the Yankees still have several decisions to make.

Chief among them is the fifth-starter battle between CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova. But that’s not all that will be on the plate of Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi when the team reconvenes today after yesterday’s organizational day off.

There also are decisions to be made about the bullpen, backup catcher and bench.


The Yankees have committed to only three names in their expected seven-man bullpen: Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances and the loser of the Sabathia-Nova competition.

With Aroldis Chapman suspended for the first 30 games of the season, the Yankees’ super bullpen will have to wait. Until Chapman returns, Miller will close, Betances will set him up and the Sabathia-Nova loser will be the long man. But what about the other four spots?

“It’s open,” Cashman said. “There’s a lot of spots open right now, so there are people here and people probably pitching in other organizations that might be options as well. So we’ll just wait and see how the rest of camp goes.”

Bryan Mitchell and Chasen Shreve appear to have spots, though Cashman and Girardi haven’t committed to either.

Mitchell, the righthander whom the Yankees hope can be this year’s Adam Warren, has pitched to an 0.86 ERA in spring training. Shreve, the lefthander who was solid for five months before cratering in September, has found his form and is unscored upon in six appearances.

That leaves two other spots. As Cashman said, he isn’t limiting his options to the pitchers in Yankees camp. He could add another arm or two late in spring training, or he could do what he has done the last few years: shuttle pitchers up and down from Triple-A on an almost daily basis.

If Cashman stays in-house, the remaining contenders on the 25-man roster are righthanders Luis Cessa, Nick Goody, Branden Pinder, Nick Rumbelow and Kirby Yates and lefthanders Tyler Olson and James Pazos.

The Yankees are intrigued by Cessa, the hard-throwing 23-year-old they obtained from Detroit in the Justin Wilson deal, though he’s more likely to head the Triple-A rotation.

Pinder, Goody, Rumbelow and Pazos were frequent fliers on the shuttle from Scranton/Wilkes- Barre to New York last season. Yates has 57 games of experience with Tampa Bay during the last two seasons and Olson pitched in 11 games for Seattle in 2015.


Cashman said Austin Romine has a leg up on Gary Sanchez with two weeks to go. Romine is hitting .263 and has drawn praise from Girardi for his handling of pitchers.

The Yankees would have liked Sanchez to have had a great camp, but the 23-year-old has one hit in 17 at-bats. The consensus is that he’s pressing.

“The first time you have an opportunity to make a club, I don’t think that’s abnormal,” Girardi said. “I’m sure there’s a lot of excitement in that young man. We really believe he’s going to be a really good player.”


Aaron Hicks and Dustin Ackley are assured spots. The final one comes down to whether the Yankees think Rob Refsnyder can handle third base defensively as the backup and are willing to live with second baseman Starlin Castro as their backup shortstop.

Cashman said he has been pleasantly surprised by Refsnyder. But the fact that the Yankees offered former Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada a minor-league deal before he signed with the Cardinals shows they still are considering a more traditional middle infielder as the 25th man.

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