Catching Up: The Bullpen

It doesn't seem like a good sign that this was the only available AP photo of Brian Schlitter. (AP)

For all of the baggage accompanying the Rafael Soriano signing, which Steve handled tactfully here and here, I tend to agree with Brian Cashman's sentiment that there are worse hardships that having to have Soriano on your team. Whatever your opinion might be of giving up the 31st overall pick in the draft, the money involved, Soriano's ability to opt out after either of the first two season of the three-year deal, or the fact that even with Soriano in the fold the team still won't consider moving Joba Chamberlain back into the rotation, it's hard to be upset about the prospects of watching this unit work:

R - Mariano Rivera
R - Rafael Soriano
L - Pedro Feliciano
R - Joba Chamberlain
R - David Robertson
L - Boone Logan

If everyone stays healthy and pitches up to their abilities, a big if, of course, that could be one of the best bullpens in baseball. It might seem like putting the cart before the horse to have a bullpen that's so much deeper and better than your starting rotation, but somebody has to get those outs. The Yankees are a team that could very well win a lot of 9-8 and 11-10 games, and it's nice to think that when the high-powered offense pulls the team out of the holes the rotation digs, the bullpen will lead it to safety rather than push it back in.

There's likely to be a seventh member to that squad, however, and unless the Yankees are willing to use Chamberlain and Robertson for multiple innings with regularity, that seventh man will likely be a long man in the Chad Guadin/Dustin Moseley vein. Thankfully those two are no longer with the team. Less thankfully, Sergio Mitre and Ivan Nova remain penciled into the rotation.

Among the remaining candidates are Romulo Sanchez, the hard throwing former Pirate who is out of options this year, Rule 5 picks Robert Fish and Daniel Turpen, and right-hander Brian Schlitter, whom the Yankees claimed off waivers from the Cubs a couple of weeks ago.

Per the above links, I've written about Sanchez, Fish, and Turpen, before. As for Schlitter, he's a 25-year-old righty with a power pitcher's build and a typical fastball/slider combination with the heater sitting around 93 miles per hour. Drafted out of the College of Charleston by the Phillies in the middle rounds of the 2007 draft, he was flipped to the Cubs for LOOGY Scott Eyre in August 2008 while enjoying his best minor league season in the High-A Florida State League. Schlitter had unspectacular, but generally solid seasons at Double-A in 2009 and Triple-A in 2010 and made his major league debut with the Cubs in late June of last year. After two solid outings against the hapless Pirates, he was roughed up by actual major league teams in his next five outings and returned to Triple-A. A pure reliever who has never started a professional game, Schlitter doesn't fit the long-man profile, and that admittedly minuscule major league sample doesn't recommend him for a role in which he might be required to turn a lineup over now and again. It seems reasonable to assume that the Yankees picked up Schlitter on the recommendation of new pitching coach Larry Rothschild, who came over from the Cubs earlier this offseason, but even if Rothschild thinks he has seen something in the right-hander, those coaching recommendations typically aren't worth . . . gee there was a pun around here somewhere . . . Well, let's just say Schlitter looks more like organizational depth than a likely member of the Opening Day roster.

I'll take a more in-depth look at the candidates for that final bullpen slot when I do my annual breakdown of the Yankees Spring Training attendees in a few weeks (yes, Pitchers and Catchers in 24 days!).

In other pitching news, the Yankees came to terms with the last of their arbitration-eligible players on Tuesday. Having previously dumped the arb-eligible Gaudin and Moseley and re-upped Mitre, who will mercifully be a free agent after the coming season, for $900,000 with another $200,000 in potential bonuses, the Yankees gave one-year contracts to Boone Logan ($1.2 million), Joba Chamberlain ($1.4 million), and Phil Hughes ($2.7 million). That's all chump change for the Yankees and hardly worth a second thought, but for those curious, Logan was arbitration-eligible for the second time and signed one of the cheapest settlements among second-year arb-eligible players. Among those who will make more than Logan in 2011 are Sean Burnett, Carlos Villanueva, and Robinson Tejada. For Chamberlain, who like Hughes was arb-eligible for the first time, his 2011 salary matches those of Joel Hanrahan and Clay Hensley. Hughes, meanwhile, will make less than fellow first-year arb-eligible players John Lannan, Dallas Braden, and Mike Pelfrey.

Finally, non-roster invitee Luis Vizcaino broke his ankle in winter ball and will be out for three to for months, which I imagine completely quashes his attempt at a comeback after sitting out the 2010 season. That's no loss to the Yankees. In fact, given how much of a long shot Vizcaino was to make the team to start with, the only real impact his injury is likely to have is that it will give some spring training innings to a (hopefully) more deserving pitcher.

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