'Pen woes have Girardi shaking things up
Skipper mixing and matching with inconsistent relief corps
NEW YORK -- The simple act of calling to the bullpen has become a game of chance too often for Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who is no longer sure what he will get once he picks up the phone.
New York's thrilling come-from-behind 10-9 victory on Friday overshadowed some major issues with the relief staff, as Mark Melancon and Jose Veras were on the mound to watch six Angels runs score.
The Yankees have baseball's second-highest staff ERA at 5.93 entering Saturday's game, and the bullpen issues have been a contributing reason. Girardi said that the Yankees declined to call up any of their Minor League options, believing that his current staff could figure out a way to make it work.
"It's really got to be these guys that have to do it," Girardi said. "You can't just throw them all away -- that's not something that you can do. They have to sort it out. We have to encourage them and try to get them going -- that's our job."
Two major concerns have been Veras and Edwar Ramirez, both of whom were contributors last season when the Yankees' bullpen was largely viewed as a strength.
Veras allowed three runs on two hits in one-third of an inning on Friday and holds a 7.94 ERA, while Ramirez pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings but has been spotty with a 5.40 ERA. That hasn't made it easy for Girardi to play the relief guessing game.
"It's part of the job," he said. "You go through situations like that as a manager. Obviously, it's easier when you know you can call on them and it's lights out, but it's just something you have to fight through. No one said this was going to be easy, and we know that they can pitch much better."
Girardi said that given the struggles, he could entertain the option of pitching some of the lesser-seen faces in the bullpen, especially as the Yankees wait for setup man Brian Bruney to come back from a flexor strain in his right elbow.
Dave Robertson has pitched just twice for New York and not since April 25 at Boston, though Girardi had him warming up in the bullpen on Friday. Girardi said that he has also seen good things from Jonathan Albaladejo and Phil Coke, though their performance has fluctuated.
"The way to get them on track is to keep putting them out there," Girardi said. "Keep talking to them and keep building them up. They've had success here before. They can do this. We will continue to give guys opportunities until it irons itself out."
In other updates, Nick Swisher was not in the Yankees lineup, one day after he was drilled in the right elbow with a first-inning Jered Weaver fastball. Swisher left the game in the third inning and underwent X-rays on the elbow, which were negative, but Girardi said he did not expect to use Swisher on Saturday.
"He's still day-to-day," Girardi said. "I'd be surprised if we could use him today. We'll see how the treatment helps -- it will probably be a lot of ice."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.