Do you know why the Yankees are successful this year? It's their much improve bullpen.
On the start of the year, the Yankees envisioned their bullpen to heavily depend on their good old reliable closer Mariano Rivera. The question is who will set-up Rivera. On Opening Day, Brian Bruney, Jose Veras and lefty Damaso Marte were sharing set-up duty. Neither of the three set-up pitchers made an impact this season. All of sudden, Mariano Rivera is left alone in the bullpen with no back-up help.
Fortunately for the Yankees they added a new batch of youngsters eager to show their stuff in the league. Enter the likes of Mark Melancon, David Robertson, Alfredo Aceves, and lefty Phil Coke. Alfredo Aceves and Dave Robertson, who began the year in the minors, are multi-purpose relievers. Aceves can go long or work an inning; Robertson can go for a strikeout or work multiple innings. Coke began the season as the second lefty in the bullpen, but Marte got hurt. Phil Coke suddenly become their "only" lefty specialist.
But the most major impact to the Yankess bullpen this year is the insertion of Phil Hughes. Hughes opened the year in Triple-A, came up to start when Chien-Ming Wang struggled and went to the bullpen when Wang returned. By the time a rotation spot opened up again with Wang on the disabled list, Hughes had almost accidentally established himself as the eighth-inning alternative. The Yankees have found their set-up guy in Hughes. Phil Hughes amazingly fit in nicely as their set-up man.
And when the Yankees advanced to the ALDS, they have found and added another arm in their powerful bullpen: Joba Chamberlain.
Because of the increase innings that Joba had this season, his arm started to wear off at the end of the season. To keep any further damage and avoid any long term injury to their prize asset, the Yankees coaching staff place Joba in the bullpen. Girardi said that since the ALDS is a short series, he will only need 3 starting pitchers (Sabathia, Burnett, and Pettitte). Joba has no spot in the rotation. Joba went back to the bullpen and provided some spark like he used to do last season. Chamberlain has come out firing 95 mph fastballs right away -- something he wasn't able to do in the first inning as a starter.
Things become easy for the Yankees starting rotation knowing that the bullpen will back them up. In this year ALDS, None of the starters--Sabathia, Burnett and Pettitte--finished the seventh inning. Sabathia threw 113 pitches, Burnett 95 pitches, and Pettitte just 81 pitches.
Indeed the Yankees bullpen has come along way this season!
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