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Yankees Notes: ALDS bullpen taking shape

Wandy Peralta and Clay Holmes are in good shape to officially rejoin the team on Tuesday.

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New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox
Welcome back, Wandy.
Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The Yankees hosted their final pre-ALDS workout on Monday, and before they took the field, manager Aaron Boone addressed the media and provided some general updates on the team. While obviously not nearly as compelling as actual game action, there have been storylines to watch as the team prepared to host the Guardians in Game 1 on Tuesday.

The status of the bullpen has been a little unclear, particularly with Ron Marinaccio’s injury and the combination of Aroldis Chapman’s dismal play and abandonment. Clay Holmes had a shoulder strain near the end of the season and did not pitch after September 26th. Wandy Peralta hit the IL with a lower back strain on September 22nd, and the team elected to have the lefty work out in Somerset rather than bring him back for the final series in Texas. The Yankees were optimistic that both relievers could return in time for the Division Series, and based on reports, it looks like that will come to fruition:

This is all good news. Peralta was the Yankees bullpen’s best southpaw in 2022, and his mix of changeups, sinkers, and sliders worked nicely to keep hitters off balance to the tune of a 2.72 ERA, 2.86 FIP, and 1.047 WHIP in 56 games (56.1 innings). Boone is comfortable using Peralta in almost any game situation, and he will likely be called upon to get some big outs in high-leverage scenarios.

Peralta’s game total was second among the relief corps only to Holmes, who turned in an All-Star first half before a second half that can best be described as turbulent. He gave up at least one run in half of his final 20 outings and spent time on the IL with back spasms as well. Still, while Holmes should not be used as the exclusive closer, he did show flashes of groundball expertise in September, so he’s certainly worth rostering (even if his rehab workout today might mean sitting in Game 1). The Yankees will play without a traditional closer and instead hand any potential leads in the ninth to whoever makes the most sense for the hitters coming up, whether it’s Holmes, Peralta, Jonathan Loáisiga, Scott Effross, or Lou Trivino.

As also noted in that tweet above, expect Domingo Germán and Jameson Taillon to both be on the ALDS roster in the bullpen, too. Although they were starters for most of the season, Gerrit Cole, Nestor Cortes, and Luis Severino are the only confirmed Yankees in line to get Division Series starts. Due to the scheduling, they can bring Cole back on normal rest for a possible Game 4, and while Cortes would have to be on short rest with the bullpen behind him for Game 5, that’s a separate question that only needs to be handled if this series goes the distance. For now, Germán and Taillon will work out of the ‘pen, and there’s even a possibility that Taillon enters the closing mix as well.

Taillon has never made a relief appearance in his career, as all 143 of his outings have been starts. But as Mike Mussina demonstrated in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, the moment sometimes just finds you for your bullpen debut and you can step up anyway. Although there’s an outside chance that Taillon is called upon for a late-series start, in the meantime, he may get some outs in relief.

The Yankees have said that they’ll carry 12 pitchers on the ALDS roster, so here’s how the staff looks as of now:

  1. Gerrit Cole (SP)
  2. Nestor Cortes (SP)
  3. Luis Severino (SP)
  4. Jonathan Loáisiga
  5. Clay Holmes
  6. Wandy Peralta
  7. Scott Effross
  8. Lou Trivino
  9. Lucas Luetge
  10. Jameson Taillon
  11. Domingo Germán
  12. TBD

Barring any unexpected ailments, only one bullpen spot is up for grabs. The Yankees will pick from Clarke Schmidt, Greg Weissert, Miguel Castro, and Albert Abreu. Since the latter two pitchers only just returned from injury for the series in Texas and didn’t exactly dominate, the best bet is probably Schmidt over the rookie Weissert. The Yankees may be fairly tempted by Weissert’s whirly slider as a sneaky weapon in relief (or even by Castro’s dynamite stuff, despite the rust), but Schmidt has been with the team for more of the year and was mostly solid after moving back to the ‘pen from the rotation in early September.

Ideally, the game doesn’t come down to the last man in the roster on the mound, but as the Guardians’ 15-inning marathon against the Rays demonstrated, the playoffs can occasionally work in mysterious ways. Rosters are due by tomorrow for the start of Division Series play, so we will know the Yankees’ full squad soon.