As Joni Mitchell once famously stated, “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.” For the New York Yankees, that quote relates to the team’s injury situation all too well this spring.
First, it was Alex Rodriguez, going down with a torn hip labrum that required surgery in January. Star players Curtis Granderson (forearm) and Mark Teixeira (wrist) sustained serious injuries not long after Grapefruit League games began. Now, the Yankees face another obstacle: replacing left-handed relief specialist Clay Rapada, who likely will not be ready for Opening Day due to brusitis in his left shoulder.
To replace the side-winding Rapada with another left-hander may be more difficult than fans think. There is no obvious solution ready to go within the organization. Rule V selection Cesar Cabral is still over a month away from making a push to return to game action, and left-handed pitcher Josh Spence seems likely to be relegated to Triple-A depth. The only other potential option to fill the void left by Rapada would be Vidal Nuno, who has been exceptional throughout the spring. However, Nuno has just one start above Double-A, an outing which saw him get bombed against the Pawtucket Red Sox in the International League playoffs.
The Yankees could elect to forego keeping a second left-hander, instead electing to choose from a variety of effective right-handed options to fill the last slot in the bullpen. If this happens, the two options that immediately come to mind are Cody Eppley and Shawn Kelley. Eppley, 27, spent last year shuttling back and forth between Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and the New York Yankees bullpen. Kelley, 28, was acquired at the beginning of spring training from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Abe Almonte. Jim Miller, a veteran who spent last season with the Oakland A’s, may also be an option but does not currently have a spot on the team’s 40-man roster.
If Rapada is not ready for Opening Day, as is expected to be the case, it seems likely that the Yankees would be more inclined to go with an experienced option such as Eppley or Kelley over the unproven Nuno. Neither has looked particularly great this spring, but it seems unlikely that the Yankees would hand out a 40-man roster spot for such a short-term assignment. In this case, it seems likely the Yankees would go with Eppley, who was a proven commodity and overly effective against right-handed hitters during the 2012 season.
Follow Dan on Twitter at @danpfeiffer74 for the latest from New York Yankees Spring Training.