By Chad Jennings
The Yankees have set their roster for tonight’s game (as a reminder, they can change this if they advance to the division series). They ultimately decided to carry three catchers and two starting pitchers as relievers.
Catchers: Brian McCann, John Ryan Murphy, Gary Sanchez
Infielders: Greg Bird, Dustin Ackley, Rob Refsnyder, Didi Gregorius, Chase Headley, Brendan Ryan
Outfielders: Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Carlos Beltran, Chris Young, Rico Noel, Slade Heathcott
Designated hitter: Alex Rodriguez
Starter: Masahiro Tanaka
Bullpen: Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, Justin Wilson, Adam Warren, Bryan Mitchell, James Pazos, Ivan Nova, Luis Severino
The third catcher: For one game, teams can carry a short pitching staff and an unusual bench. I don’t think there was much doubt Noel would make the roster, and Heathcott brings speed, defense and a solid left-handed bat. The interesting decision was carrying a third catcher, specifically choosing less experienced Sanchez (who has a bigger bat) ahead of Austin Romine (who’s actually caught in the big leagues before).
The three starters: Obviously Tanaka is the only starting pitcher tonight, but the Yankees also have Nova and Severino in the bullpen. Hard to say, though, how many innings they can give after each started a game on Saturday. Probably can’t get more than two or three innings out of them. The true long man tonight might be Warren.
The third right-hander: Not counting Nova and Severino, the bullpen has only three right-handed relievers. Betances (obviously), Warren (of course) and Mitchell (who gave up a home run on Sunday and hasn’t looked good for a while now). I assume Mitchell gets the nod because he can give multiple innings if this game goes into extras. He got the nod over Andrew Bailey, Caleb Cotham, Nick Rumbelow and Branden Pinder.
The third lefty: There was no doubt Miller and Wilson would be in the bullpen, but the Yankees wanted a third lefty. They settled on Pazos ahead of either Chris Capuano or Chasen Shreve. Pazos has pitched well, but he’s actually been much better against righties than lefties. If CC Sabathia were available, I wonder if he would have been the go-to left-on-left option.
The other second baseman: I suppose what’s interesting about this decision is that it isn’t very interesting (or surprising) that Refsnyder is on the roster. Go back three weeks, and I don’t think anyone would have expected Refsnyder to be in the mix. Now there’s a good chance he’ll be not only on the roster but in the lineup.
Who’s at second? I assume it’s Refsnyder, but it could be Ryan and it could be Ackley. Refsnyder has been the regular against lefties the past two weeks, but would Girardi be tempted to go defensive in this game?
Who’s in left? I assume it’s Young, but it certainly could be Gardner (and some would say it should be Gardner). Young, though, has good numbers against Keuchel. Also, if Young is in the lineup, is Gardner the one who sits or is it Ellsbury?
Who’s catching? I assume it’s McCann, but Murphy has been excellent in the second half and would give the Yankees another right-handed hitter against Keuchel (who’s incredible against lefties).
What are the bullpen roles? How quickly will the Yankees go to the Big 3? Could you ask each one to give four outs and let Wilson come into the game to start the sixth? If Tanaka fall apart for some reason, how quickly would Girardi go to either Warren or Severino? What’s Mitchell’s role? Is he here just to eat innings if the Yankees get a huge lead to save the reset of the arms?
What’s the lineup going to look like? If I have to guess, this would be it:
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Chris Young LF
Alex Rodriguez DH
Carlos Beltran RF
Brian McCann C
Chase Headley 3B
Greg Bird 1B
Rob Refsnyder 2B
Didi Gregorius SS