2014 Spring Training Statistics
|1. Chris Leroux
|2. Yoshinori Tateyama
|3. Matt Daley
|4. Vidal Nuno
|5. Adam Warren
Chris Leroux, RHP
The 6'6" 29-year-old was brought in on a minor league contract and invited to spring as another arm to stockpile the bullpen competition. He was a seventh-round pick of the then-Florida Marlins in 2005, has pitched 401.2 minor league innings, 69.2 in the big leagues and in 2013 totaled 22 for Japan's Yakult Swallows (h/t RiverAveBlues' Mike Axisa) before a shoulder injury derailed his year.
Strikeouts have been his calling card with a fastball, heavy-slider combination, as he put up 8.1 K/9 in the majors (63 total) and 8.4 in the minors (375 total). With just a career 5.56 ERA (3.32 FIP), he's well outperformed expectations this spring.
His nine strikeouts are bested by only Ivan Nova (16 SO, 13.1 IP), David Phelps (11 SO, 13.2 IP) and Masahiro Tanaka (10 SO, 9.1 IP). He's struck out at least one in all six games, recorded two strikeouts in three of them and has allowed a hit in only three of them, even recording a one-inning save on March 8.
Yoshinori Tateyama, RHP
The 28-year-old is just 5'10", 165 pounds, but he's another non-roster invitee known for his strikeout rates who has so far been excellent. His only blemish this spring was a two-hit outing (1 SO, O ER) and one walk to his record.
Opponents are batting just .182 against Tateyama, and he has yet to surrender a run in five games. He had a terrific season in Triple-A last year, posting a 2.83 ERA with 86 strikeouts (10.1 K/9), 14 walks and a 1.153 WHIP in 76.1 innings, but in 61 big league innings he owns just a 5.75 ERA.
Matt Daley, RHP
Daley isn't the biggest surprise because he put together an excellent 2013 across High-A, Double-A and Triple-A (2.02 ERA, 12.5 K/9) and had a strong stint (6.0 IP total) in pinstripes in 2013 (0 ER, 8 SO, 12.0 K/9, 0 BB).
But he still must be considered since he's a non-roster pitcher making a definite impact this spring.
With his six strikeouts in 5.1 innings, his per-nine rate sits at an outstanding 12.4 with two weeks remaining. And with the final one or two bullpen spots up for grabs, he's making a strong case based on his camp and his big league experience (2009-11 with Colorado, 80.1 IP, 80 SO).
Vidal Nuno, LHP
Nuno is easily one of the strongest pitchers this spring, but he's not one of the absolute biggest surprises since he entered camp as one of four names vying for the No. 5 role in the starting rotation.
But thus far he's proven beyond just solid, and he's possibly on his way to cementing a big league role regardless of starting or relieving. The fact that the Yankees are short on lefty arms only helps his cause.
He's made only two starts this spring, but struck out three in each of them, walked one and allowed just one run on a solo shot—which was one of only three hits allowed this spring.
He shined on Sunday, going four innings of one-hit, one-walk ball.
Adam Warren, RHP
Like Nuno, Warren arrived to Tampa as a candidate—albeit a dark-horse one—for the fifth starter, so his success shouldn't be a shock. But he's been also been a pleasant surprise so far; in three starts (8.2 IP), he's struck out nine, walked two and allowed two runs.
The worst it's gotten for Warren was allowing half of his hits (four) and a solo homer on March 5, but even in that outing he struck out two and didn't walk anyone in 2.1 innings.
He won't be the fifth starter, but the strength of his performance, along with Nuno, has only tightened the competition. If nothing else, he's close to convincing the Yankees that they should be more than comfortable fitting him into the bullpen for 2014.
The most important storyline here surrounds the bullpen and centers on Nuno. If the Yankees carry seven arms—and, entering camp, you considered David Robertson, Shawn Kelley, Preston Claiborne, Matt Thornton, Warren and Phelps as the favorites—two spots had remained open.
But Nuno has shown Yanks brass that he deserves a big league role, even if it comes in the bullpen, making spot starts down the line. His spring has not only put more focus on the battle for No. 5, but it's also narrowed the potential availability in the bullpen and added more pressure on the contenders.
If the Yankees slid Nuno into primary relief duty, you have to wonder where that leaves Phelps and Warren—especially if someone like right-hander Dellin Betances continues to excel (9.0 IP, 8 SO, 1.00 ERA), and with a lefty like Fred Lewis pitching well (6.1 IP, 5 SO, 0 ER), in a competition and bullpen picture currently saturated with righties.
And last Saturday, Girardi even tipped his cap to those two, per Chad Jennings of The LoHud Yankees Blog: "Girardi talked this morning about how well the pitching staff has done this spring. Asked for specific guys who have made a strong impression, Girardi mentioned two names: Dellin Betances and Fred Lewis."