Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Huff, Hill could be replaced quickly in Yankees pen

In a somewhat surprising move, the Yankees allowed left-handed reliever Matt Thornton to be taken off revocable waivers Tuesday, and sent him and his $3.5 million due in 2015 to the Washington Nationals after the teams could not work out a deal.

I’ve been tough on Thornton all season. Some fell in love with his window-dressed 2.55 ERA in his time with the Yankees, but neglected to note he allowed 33 percent of his inherited runners to score. It was very apparent that he did not have manager Joe Girardi’s trust in recent weeks as he was seldom used in high-pressure situations.

The move left David Huff who has a 1.88 ERA (but be careful ERA lovers, he owns a 5.14 FIP) as the lone southpaw in the bullpen, but just for a short time as the Yankees bought the contract of journeyman Rich Hill from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to be the second lefty. It is Hill’s third team this season (which tells you the chances he sticks in the Bronx). Huff will be the first lefty used in left-on-left situations for the time being. He’s allowed just one inherited runner to score this season (eight inherited runners).

Hill made his first appearance in pinstripes during last night’s game and allowed a stolen base by Victor Martinez, whose knees could go up in smoke at any time, and then drilled left-handed hitting Ezequiel Carrera with a pitch. Hill was promptly removed by Girardi. Surely, not a great start.

When the Thornton move was announced, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the move was positive for the Yankees in clearing some more cash for this season as well as 2015. It is clear that they did not feel Thornton was going to be a part of the future.

So who is, and when?

Cashman alluded to two young left-handers players with promise. First in line could be 24-year-old Tyler Webb. Webb is pitching for his third level this season and having success with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (8.2 IP, 2 ER, 13 K & 3 BB). Webb has 81 strikeouts in 57.1 innings across the three levels he’s pitched this season.

The other is the Yankees' first pick of the 2014 First-year Player Draft, Jacob Lindgren. The 22-year-old from Mississippi State University has already reached Double-A after being promoted to Trenton Monday. In 13.1 professional innings, Lindgren has struck out an astounding 30 batters while walking just four. With continued success, it is not inconceivable that Lindgren can crack the roster when they expand in September; maybe sooner.

Depending on what Hill is able to do will certainly dictate when these young guns are brought up to the show. Based on Hill’s recent history, I don’t suspect it will be all that long before we see Webb and who knows, if Lindgren continues to dominate, he could see critical innings before the season is over, especially if Huff can't hold down the fort.

Further, it would not be shocking if one or the other of Webb and Lindgren supplant Huff as the go-to lefty for the Yankees down the stretch considering Huff's elevated FIP courtesy of his extreme walk rate of 5.6 batters per nine innings pitched. The important part here is that the Yankees have options, in-house choices no less, to fill the lefty roles for the near and potentially long-term future at very little cost, but with promising upside.

If I was to guess, both Webb and Lindgren will be up sooner than later and will contribute to the club’s success down the stretch.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor and the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo.



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