The Yankees shook up the roster over the weekend series while they took three out of four from the Twins. Gone are the struggling Vidal Nuno and clubhouse favorite Alfonso Soriano. In are veteran righty Brandon McCarthy and long reliever Bruce Billings. Soon, rookie Shane Greene will be up to start tonight's game against the Indians while another bullpen arm goes down. The Yankees' roster is going to be in flux over the next few days as they adjust to the changes, so how does that affect their minor leaguers?
First off, the Yankees will make a roster move later today to get Greene onto the team, though he is already on the 40-man roster. Either of Jim Miller or Billings could go back to Scranton, as neither is a crucial part of the bullpen at all and Chase Whitley will be available in long relief the next few days since McCarthy is taking Whitley's previously scheduled Wednesday start. If I had to guess among the two, I'd say Miller goes simply because Billings was literally just added to the 40-man roster yesterday and Miller also pitched in Sunday's game. (Miller also gave up a long homer to Trevor Plouffe because of course he did.)
The Yankees' next course of action won't occur until after Greene makes his start tonight. If he pitches well against the Indians, they could be tempted to keep Greene in the rotation so that he could start on Saturday against the Orioles in Baltimore. However, if Greene gets knocked around or the Yankees are simply planning on swapping him out immediately after the start, then Whitley could take the hill Saturday instead.
At some point soon, they will also have to add another outfielder to their bench to take Soriano's place. Right now, their only reserve outfielders with Carlos Beltran restricted to DH duty are Kelly Johnson and Zelous Wheeler, who has played just 16 career minor league games in the outfield. Both are, of course, primarily infielders, so that's not really going to cut it. The most obvious outfield candidate for a call-up is switch-hitter Zoilo Almonte, who has been with the Yankees as a fifth outfielder at various points over the past couple seasons. He's on the 40-man roster already, he's been to the majors before, and despite inexplicable struggles from the right side (.179/.247/.254 in 73 plate appearances against lefties in Scranton this year), he's mostly been fine in Triple-A: .272/.320/.467 with 13 homers and a 116 wRC+ in 64 games.
However, there's another player in Scranton who some Yankees fans have been calling for all season. This guy:
Jose Pirela has been playing quite well this year for the RailRiders, batting .318/.359/.445 with 25 extra-base hits, a 123 wRC+, and though he's exclusively a righty, he does not have nearly as harsh platoon splits as Almonte. He was mostly an infielder until Rob Refsnyder's arrival at second base in Triple-A. (Refsnyder's status is another matter entirely since it pretty much exclusively depends upon Brian Roberts' performance, and Roberts has been doing well lately, so deserving or not, it would seem unlikely that the Yankees promote him. No, Refsnyder should not be considered for right field since he hasn't played there since college and they've worked very hard at making him a second baseman.) Unfortunately, there's a reason Pirela was moved to the outfield beyond Refsnyder--evaluators do not like Pirela's defense. Pirela has started the past week or so in right field, and that cannot be a coincidence given the Yankees' ultimate decision to cut Soriano. The Yankees might want to see a little bit more of him out there. A combination of these factors plus the fact that he is not on the 40-man roster would seem like Almonte is the favorite to receive the recall.
It's a little frustrating since it would be nice to see Pirela get a chance especially after such a hot month, but I can't be too upset about since unlike Zoilo, he doesn't have much experience in the outfield. Teams generally don't like their bench outfielders to be wild cards on defense. Frankly, their overall offensive performances in Scranton aren't too much different anyway.
Regardless, expect to see some intriguing roster decisions over the next week as the Yankees prepare to conclude the first half and go into the All-Star Break on a high note.