There may be no more under-rated or under-appreciated aspect of a baseball team than the bullpen. While few relievers get the glory that they deserve, a collective bullpen as a whole can single- handedly lead to a team's success or demise. Therefore, with the 2009 major league baseball season now under way, I feel it is undoubtedly appropriate to give my assessment of the this year's Yankee bullpen.
There may be no better closer in the history of baseball than Mariano Rivera. He's getting up there in age now, but he's still as good, if not better than any other closer in the game. Mariano features a hard and accurate four-seam fastball, complemented by the most devastating cutter in baseball history. In fact, Rivera's cutter is so dominant that many switch hitters choose to face Rivera right-handed, because his cutter breaks in so tight on left handed batters that most have very little chance at hitting it. Rivera's repertoire is rounded out with a two-seam fastball, which breaks in the opposite direction of his cutter.
Brian Bruney is the young, hefty fire-baller in the New York Yankees' bullpen. Brian relies heavily on his four-seam fastball in relief, and has shown the guile and toughness needed to succeed in New York. You can expect Brian to be among the better eighth inning relievers in baseball this year.
Damaso Marte was acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates last year in the trade that sent Xavier Nady to the Yankees in exchange for Jose Tabata and other minor leaguers. This left-handed veteran has closing experience, and has the stuff to fill that role if needed. Marte had a decent year for the Yankees last year, and will look to build upon his success in the 2009 season.
This little known lanky right hander appears so thin that few would believe he is a professional baseball player. While Edwar does not posses a dominant fastball, he more than compensates for it with one of the best change-ups in the game today. Furthermore, despite his lack of velocity, Edwar racks up strikeouts at a prolific rate, a sign that Ramirez may be closer material in the future if the opportunity may arise. I expect to see phenomenal numbers from Ramirez this season.
Jose Veras emerged onto the baseball scene last year with a flaming fastball that approaches 100 mph. Jose combines his blazing four-seam fastball with a drooping curveball that leaves hitters guessing at all times. Jose should be a major contributor for the Yankees this season.
While Phil Coke is essentially filling the role of lefty specialist for the New York Yankees this season, this young lefty has the talent to succeed in any pitching role. Phil Coke rose through the ranks as a starter in the minors, and likely would have been starting this season if the Yankees had not acquired Sabathia and Burnett. Coke has struggled early in the 2009 season, but in the end I believe Phil's great talent will prevail, and his numbers will greatly improve.
This young righty was acquired by the Yankees last year, and he beat Dan Giese out in spring training for the final spot in the Yankees bullpen. However, I label Jonathan the extended reliever, namely because he has no prior experience being a true long reliever. In spite of this dilemma, though, Albaladejo is a talented young pitcher he will surely add some solid depth to the Yankees bullpen.
When everything goes wrong, who are you gonna call? Nope, not the ghostbusters, it's Nick Swisher. Last night, in a 15 to 3 blowout against the Tampa Bay Rays, Joe Girardi called upon super-utility man Nick Swisher to close up the game. However, not even Mr. Girardi could have foreseen the results. In the end, Swisher was arguably the most effective Yankee pitcher of the game, ending his one inning of work without allowing a run and even striking out one batter. It is too early to say whether or not Girardi will consider using Swisher in relief again, but in the most desperate of situations, we now know exactly who the Yankees will call upon.