In Yankees manager Aaron Boone’s mind, a great bullpen needs more than three strong options. It needs more than four or five, even. Eventually, those players would be worn out from overuse.
“We’ve had everyone down there pitch significant innings for us and really, across the board, deliver and do the job really well,” Boone said. “If you’re going to have a really good bullpen, ultimately, the depth down there plays a really big role.”
Depth has led the Yankees’ bullpen to stellar results so far, as it has a 2.03 ERA, the best mark in the Majors. New York’s relief corps is also fourth in innings pitched (84 1/3), a testament to how much they’ve been relied upon, and first in WHIP (0.95), a testament to how they’ve handled the sizable workload.
There’s more to this successful relief recipe than depth, though. Diversity within the bullpen, by way of varied arm slots and pitch offerings, has been critical. The ability to pick from a group that includes right-hander Darren O’Day (a submariner), left-hander Lucas Luetge (a softer, more spin-friendly guy) and southpaw Aroldis Chapman (a triple-digit-clocking fireballer) makes it difficult for hitters to settle in.
“The variety of arms has kind of become in vogue here in the last few years,” O’Day said. “We have all kinds of super-computers and nerds in the background that spit out these sheets of which one of these arm angles and pitch characteristics are going to work against certain hitters.”
O’Day’s “nerds” comment was a bit tongue-in-cheek, but the results have been there for the Yankees. Through the first three games of the series in Cleveland, the bullpen has allowed two hits and three walks while striking out seven in 9 1/3 innings.
No reliever -- or bullpen -- is perfect. But the Yankees’ array of options is a real strength. Oh, and that’s with two-time All-Star Zack Britton (left elbow surgery) still sidelined for at least a month.
• Boone said right-hander Deivi García is “lining up” to start for the Yankees on Monday against the Orioles, but that the decision is not final yet. The 21-year-old García made six starts for New York in his debut season in 2020, going 3-2 with a 4.98 ERA. He isn’t on the active roster and has yet to pitch this year.
• After starting his Yankees tenure in a 3-for-25 slump, Rougned Odor has hit a home run and collected four RBIs in his past two games. Friday’s homer was accentuated by a quick and crisp bat flip that Boone gave an “80 grade” on the scouting scale.
“Just the way he stuck it there,” Boone said. “That was pretty special.”
• Right-hander Clarke Schmidt, who is on the 60-day injured list with a right elbow strain, has resumed throwing.
“Each time has gone well, so hopefully, he’s on his way to start to build back up,” Boone said of Schmidt, New York's No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline. “Obviously, it’ll be a while, because he’s starting from scratch essentially again, but he’s doing well.”