The Yankees are blessed to have The Big Three in their bullpen. In Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances, manager Joe Girardi has three closer-level relievers whom he often employs in the same game.
Unfortunately for Girardi, the rest of the bullpen has been far less impressive. If The Big Three are varsity-level, the other relievers the Yankees have used this year have been something less than JV.
Chapman, Miller and Betances are a combined 9-4 with 22 saves and 165 strikeouts in 94 innings (all stats going into Saturday). So that has worked well.
The other 13 men the Yankees have used out of the bullpen are a combined 7-5 with a 5.27 ERA and one save — by Ivan Nova, who started the season as a reliever before rejoining the rotation when Luis Severino bombed.
Nova, in fact, is the only pitcher other than Miller and Betances who started the season in the bullpen and has stayed on the roster the whole season.
So that hasn’t worked so well.
“They were really pretty good in April and May,” Girardi said earlier this week. “June has been a struggle. For whatever reason, we’ve had difficulty in that area and that’s something that we need to shore up.”
The Yankees hope they’ve found it with the current group (Luis Cessa, Anthony Swarzak, Richard Bleier and Conor Mullee). None are household names except in their own household.
Opening Day relievers Kirby Yates, Chasen Shreve and Johnny Barbato are at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Cessa is back with the big club after two separate stints in the minors. The Yankees have also used Chad Green, Nick Goody, Phil Coke, Tyler Olson and Brandon Pinder.
Yates, a journeyman righthander whose brother Tyler once pitched for the Mets, has made the most appearances of any of the non-Big Three relievers.
Yates’ 30th, and final, appearance came on Tuesday morning in the Bronx in one of the strangest games in recent memory. Yates replaced Chapman in the ninth inning against Texas after a 3:35 rain delay. He was asked to protect a one-run lead, but instead hit three batters and allowed four runs to score as the Yankees lost 9-6 in a game that ended at 2:44 a.m.
If you hit three guys in an inning in Little League, you’re not allowed to pitch anymore. The next day, Yates went sent down.
The contrast between when Girardi uses the have and have-not relievers couldn’t be more stark. Bleier, for example, has made the first nine appearances of his career. The Yankees have lost all nine games.
Goody pitched in 19 games. The Yankees lost 14. Barbato made 11 appearances. The Yankees lost 10 of them, with the win being Barbato’s only big-league victory.
The Yankees are 28-6 when Miller pitches, 26-13 when Betances pitches and 19-4 when Chapman pitches. When all three pitch? They are 13-1, with the loss coming in last Monday/Tuesday’s marathon.
To be fair, the Yankees were hoping righthander Bryan Mitchell would replace Adam Warren and be a junior member of The Big Three.
“We expected Bryan Mitchell to be that guy this year,” Girardi said. “He had a tremendous spring training. It looked like he had figured things out.”
But Mitchell hurt his foot in his final spring training appearance and has only a small chance to return this season.
So the Yankees, the team with possibly the best relief trio in baseball history, will keep looking for help in spots 4-7.
“We have tried different guys,” Girardi said. “We will continue to play with it and try to get better and [look for] guys that can get the job done.”