How Will Joe Girardi Spell Relief?

Manager pushes wrong buttons in loss

By Josh Alper
|  Thursday, May 28, 2009  |  Updated 10:10 AM EDT
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Maybe Girardi will call his own number next time around.

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The first thing on any list of concerns about the Yankees has to be the bullpen. The chief concern is about the talent level, to be sure, but there should also be some doubt about the way that Joe Girardi handles the guys he does have at his disposal.

Earlier this season he seemed to wedded to situational match ups that left the pen short on arms because everyone was facing one or two batters each. And then he became totally blind to situations, leaving Phil Coke or Jose Veras in games with bad matchups and getting beaten that way. Some of these choices are forced upon him, but other times Girardi seems to be operating without much rhyme or reason.

Tuesday night in Texas was one of those times. After Joba Chamberlain flamed out early, Girardi seemed to have an obvious choice about what pitcher to use next. Chien-Ming Wang is back on the roster because there was a chance of Chamberlain either struggling or failing to make his start, so putting him in the game was the obvious choice.

Was there a chance Wang would get bashed around by a strong Rangers lineup? Absolutely, but if Wang's going to be clogging up a roster spot then he has to actually be used in games as a long reliever. There will likely be rough patches, but the Yankees will need another starter at some point this season and need to know if Wang can fill that role.

Instead, Girardi chose Alfredo Aceves, who had pitched the ninth in Monday's blowout win. Aceves pitched two innings and won't be able to pitch on Wednesday. Aceves has shown enough to be an option in high-leverage situations, but Girardi chose to use him in two straight games in low risk situations. That means you're left with Brett Tomko and Veras when games are tight, and that doesn't inspire much confidence.

This isn't second-guessing because Aceves picked up the loss. He was a less risky choice than Wang, and chances are the result would have been a loss either way. The point is that Girardi made his life more difficult tonight and potentially in the future by making the wrong choice on Monday night.

If Girardi's uncomfortable with the idea of Wang pitching in winnable games, give him the mop-up inning. If he isn't, Wang has to pitch long relief. Guesswork will be necessary in the near future, but Girardi can't keep making things more difficult on his own.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.

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