In losing two of three games in Boston over the weeekend, the Yankees eked a grand total of just 12 innings from starters Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes and CC Sabathia. That placed an inordinate amount of work in the hands of the bullpen. Even with Monday's scheduled day off and Tuesday's rainout, they wound up requiring a roster reshuffle to remain fully armed.
Heading to the disabled list is Luis Ayala, due to a strained latissimus dorsi. The 33-year-old righty closed out Saturday's win with two scoreless innings, and has now tossed five frames on the year in his three appearances. Ayala is nobody special, a retread who's pitched for five different teams and passed through eight organizations (!) over the past four seasons while compiling a 5.59 ERA in 120.2 major league innings. The problem is that he himself is a patch for the pen, a non-roster invite who made the team only when Pedro Feliciano began the year on the disabled list.
The bigger news is that Feliciano is no closer to returning. Already sidelined by a rotator cuff strain, the 34-year-old southpaw suffered a setback during Tuesday's throwing session — merely a game of catch, his first throwing activity in two weeks, not to mention the first step in a progression that runs from catch to long-toss to bullpen sessions to game activity to back-to-back appearances before he would theoretically return to the 25-man oster — and is now headed for a second MRI, which is never good news. Basically, he's the new Damaso Marte, a pitcher who was an expensive bauble in the first place, and one who seems destined to spend more of his pinstriped tenure in the trainer's room and/or the doctor's office than on the mound, because his rubber arm is no longer as resilient as advertised.
Rather than recall 24-year-old lefty Steve Garrison from Trenton simply for the sake of adding another southpaw to the bullpen, the Yankees have opted to bring up Hector Noesi, at least according to ESPN Deportes' Enrique Rojas. Here's what Stephani Bee had to say about the 24-year-old righty last week at the PB:
Manny Bañuelos may have superb command, but Noesi’s is even better; he only issued 28 walks in 160 1/3 innings last year. The right-hander has pinpoint accuracy and doesn’t give away much of the zone. He attacks hitters with a barrage of fastballs, curves, and changeups. His heater sits in the low 90s, but he’s capable of cranking it to 96. He’s able to conserve his velocity and can reach back for more deep into games. He doesn’t have as great of command of his changeup, but it’s his second-best pitch and does feature some run and tail.
The other pitches in Noesi’s arsenal, a curveball and a slider, don’t scrape average ratings just yet. He has an easy, repeatable delivery that should keep him from developing any major shoulder problems. Despite the lack of overpowering velocity, he can still pull down strikeouts on a regular basis because of his ability to paint the corners. Noesi’s stellar command will carry him to the majors, and if any trouble arises in the Yankees’ rotation, he should be the first to answer the S.O.S. He gets the edge over Brackman because of his more polished offerings and previous exposure at Triple-A.
Though Noesi won’t be a frontline starter, he has the makings of a fourth or fifth guy. He’ll need to develop a true third pitch for him to thrive as a starter, but he probably won’t be embarrassed if he is thrown in the majors for a few starts this year.
Don't expect Noesi to start, even given the current struggles of Phil Hughes. With rain having scrubbed both of Freddy Garcia's scheduled turns, he's got first dibs if the Yankees wanted to push Hughes back from his scheduled Thursday turn or skip him altogether; palookas Carlos Silva and Kevin Millwood are lurking in the weeds as well. Indeed, it's quite possible that Noesi's stay will only be short enough to cover for the fact that Garrison started for Trenton last night, while Andrew Brackman started for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and neither will be available for the next few days. Noesi's got more Triple-A experience than Brackman, but not by much; we're talking four starts and 23.2 innings (including one five-inning start this season) versus Brackman's five-inning debut.
Meanwhile, the one reliever in the Yankee chain who could eventually figure into the puzzle — and who has everybody's curiosity piqued —is Mark Prior. The 30-year-old comeback kid has two hitless, scoreless innings under his belt at High-A Tampa, compiled in back-to-back games over the weekend. Reportedly, his fastball reached 91 MPH and averaged around 90, with his secondary pitches also seeing use. While the Yankees will certainly want to see if Prior can provide help at the big league level before the opt-out date in his minor league contract arrives in late June, the cold early season weather is going to keep him in Florida for the foreseeable future. It's tough enough keeping pitchers healthy in the best of times, and these are not the best of times for the Yankees' staff.