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Restructuring the Yankees bullpen

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The domination of Dellin & Miller can only hide the shakiness of the rest of the group for so long.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees currently boast one of the best bullpens in baseball. They rank eighth in ERA- at 76 (3.04 ERA) and fourth in FIP- at 80 (3.27 FIP). They strike out a remarkably high percentage of batters and usually do so without issuing too many walks, either. So at first glance, it wouldn't seem like the relief corps should be much of a problem.

However, the group is extremely top-heavy at the moment thanks to its unhittable late-game duo of Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller. In 50 2/3 combined innings, they've pitched to a 0.36 ERA, a 0.691 WHIP, and an absurd 14.6 K/9. Any mistakes have been few and far between, as almost every Yankee lead has been secured once the Twin Terminators entered the game. Simply put, they have been everything the Yankees could have hoped for and more during the season's first two months.

The bullpen situation gets dicey after Miller and Betances though. In April, pretty much everyone was pitching well, and respectable columns were even written about their sheer dominance. May did not go as swimmingly for them, and now it feels like Joe Girardi's walking on eggshells anytime he has to turn to someone other than Miller and Betances. Now, Chris Capuano is moving to the bullpen with Masahiro Tanaka returning to the rotation, so someone is highly likely to be axed prior to Wednesday afternoon's game. How should the Yankees organize their bullpen behind Miller and Betances?

Lefty Chasen Shreve has been the Yankees' secret weapon out of the 'pen for most of this year. Acquired in the off-season's Manny Banuelos trade, Shreve has far outperformed his fellow acquisition David Carpenter, most notably catching analysts' eyes during his tremendous 3 1/3 frames of scoreless ball in the 19-inning marathon against the Red Sox. In 17 games and 21 2/3 innings to date, he has a 2.49 ERA, 3.14 FIP, and a pitiful .182/.253/.329 triple slash against. Although he's a lefty, righties have actually fared even worse with him on the mound. The 24-year-old was a fine relief prospect out of the Atlanta system and at this point, he should really be Girardi's go-to guy when it's either too early for Miller or Betances or if they need a day off. He's definitely earned a shot.

After Shreve, Justin Wilson and Jacob Lindgren should be next in terms of trust. Although Wilson's performance has been inconsistent so far due to his control, he's still had his share of moments, like when he faced the scalding hot Bryce Harper with runners on and the game already on the line in D.C. and induced a pivotal double play. His 3.04 FIP suggests that he's certainly a better pitcher than he's demonstrated so far, and giving up on him already would be short-sighted. Somewhat similarly, the rookie Lindgren has had varying success in his very brief three-game stint. He was basically a big league-ready arm as soon as he was drafted last year, and his slider is just jaw-dropping. I could see a situation where the Yankees would send him down on Wednesday because he has options and it would help them avoid cutting ties entirely with one of the other relievers, but the Yankees' highest potential bullpen has to be one with the "Strikeout Factory."

Teams typically carry a 12-man pitching staff, and the five starters plus the aforementioned five relievers leaves only two spots for the three remaining arms: Capuano, David Carpenter, and Esmil Rogers. At this point, I am completely done with the Esmil Rogers Experience. The man has pitched in the majors since 2009 and despite occasional flashes of talent, he's never been able to put together for an extended stretch of time, whether it was in New York, Toronto, or Colorado. His career 129 ERA- (5.50 ERA) and 109 FIP- (4.46 FIP) are basically right in line with his performance this year in long relief. What's the sense in gambling on him anymore? He'll be 30 in August and Girardi seems too tempted to use occasionally use him in short relief. It's time to cut ties with him, as so many organizations have done previously.

As frustrating as I find Capuano, I must grudgingly agree that someone is going to have to pitch long relief in case a starter gets hurt or has a bad game, or spot-start if someone suddenly comes down with the flu. Capuano is not really even a passable #5 starter at this point, but in a pinch, I'd much rather have the veteran lefty on the mound than Rogers. He's also making $5 million, so he's less likely to get cut down than Rogers anyway. I could get behind an argument that has Bryan Mitchell, the Yankees' closest starting prospect to the majors, coming up to take Capuano's spot, but I have a hunch that they would rather keep him stretched out and making starts. That's fine.

Carpenter has been the biggest disappointment of the Yankees' off-season bullpen acquisitions, and I've made no secret of the end of my patience with him. He was excellent for the Braves in 2013 but noticeably slipped in 2014, and given the natural volatility of relievers, it probably should not be a complete shock that the near-30-year-old has been such a bust. With Chris Martin on the mend, I really wouldn't mind promoting him and launching Carpenter out of the DFA cannon. It's hard to imagine relief prospects Branden Pinder or Nick Rumbelow faring much worse, either. As it stands though, I have a feeling the Yankees will keep him around to try to salvage decency from him. If that's the case, then he must be used in low-leverage situations. None of this nonsense.

Some of these bullpen tweaks are minor, but in the long run, they could really help save the Yankees' bacon with the game on the line. The bridge to Mo is now the bridge to "Betandrew," and while Girardi is terrific at preserving relief arms, other relievers will have to step up unless the Yankees want their best pitchers to be exhausted by September. The talent is there--it's just a matter of organizing it with more efficiency.