Thursday was an eventful day for the Yankees, as they made more roster cuts and inched closer to having their Opening Day Roster set. As of now, there's only one decision left to be made (who will be the backup catcher), but the Yankees are going to hold off until the last minute with that one.
Gregorio Petit will be the utility infielder
When Brendan Ryan strained his calf yesterday, seemingly while doing nothing, Brian Cashman got on the phones and worked out a deal with the Astros in no time at all. Petit had hit well with them all spring (.310/.375/.414), but they had an infield logjam and he was determined to be the odd man out. It was possible that the Yankees could fill Ryan's spot with Rob Refsnyder or Nick Noonan, but they decided that Refsnyder needed more reps at second base down in Triple-A, and in a lineup full of lefties, Cashman preferred right-handed Petit over lefty Noonan. Jose Pirela couldn't be considered because he will likely start the season the disabled list as he continues to recover a concussion that he got a few weeks back. Ryan might be out as long as May, so it will be interesting to see if Petit plays well enough to steal Ryan's job permanently.
Esmil Rogers will be the Yankees' lone long man
Chase Whitley was optioned to Scranton yesterday, which means that Chasen Shreve and Chris Martin have officially made the team. Shreve will be the Yankees' third lefty in the pen, and Rogers will be the only long man. That strikes me as not enough backup, considering the fact that half of the rotation could hit the disabled list at any moment. However, Cashman made a point of saying that they see Whitley as a Major League pitcher being sent to Triple-A, and that they want him to stretch out and if the opportunity arises and he continues to pitch well, then he could be called up to help later. Maybe they expect Chris Capuano to be healthy soon and see him fitting into that role too.
They've also decided to keep Andrew Bailey in Tampa to work through the final steps of his recovery from shoulder surgery in 2013. The Yankees had already said they wouldn't consider anyone in the bullpen who hadn't pitched in back-to-back games, and Bailey didn't have time to make that happen. Cashman said that if he continues to pitch as he did during spring training, and shows the ability to go back-to-back, then they could be an option for the bullpen soon.
The Yankees are going to make the decision on the backup catcher as late as they can. Yankees play their last game of spring training on Saturday, and Joe Girardi envisions that they might not decide who will backup Brian McCann until sometime that night. Neither Austin Romine nor John Ryan Murphy has looked particularly impressive this spring, but Murphy has slightly outhit Romine. Naturally, Cashman kept quiet as to whether they were trying to trade Romine. Since Romine is out of options, but Murphy isn't, they could send Murphy down in order to keep them both.
Also of note, Slade Heathcott is supposedly going to open the season in Triple-A now. That wasn't the plan heading into spring training, but he showed up healthy for the first time in a few seasons, and he hit .355/.459/.581 in 31 at bats. It's nice to see him show flashes of the potential he once had.