It was a decision no one wanted to make, and ultimately it fell to Aaron Boone to tell Ronald Torreyes he was to report to the Yankees Triple-A team until further notice. They call it the business of baseball, but the real culprit is a problem sweeping baseball today.
When the Railriders complete their game against Syracuse on Memorial Day, the team will board a flight to Louisville, Kentucky where Ronald Torreyes will realize it’s now up to him to carry his bags to his hotel room. He will reflect on where he’s been and where he’s going from this point in his career as the unlucky victim of the Yankees “too much depth” problem, but more to the point here, the team’s ever-increasing need to rely on their bullpen.
Ronald Torreyes is a quintessential professional ballplayer who has learned to take one day at a time, just as he takes those rare at-bats he got as the Yankees Super-Sub for the past two seasons. And it seems odd to be using the past tense verb form when speaking about him, but you have to wonder if there will ever be a place for Ronald Torreyes with the Yankees again.
Injuries to players in the Yankees infield, of course, can change everything. But other than that, Miguel Andujar, Didi Gregorius, and Gleyber Torres are cemented in at second, shortstop, and third base. Hot-hitting of late, Neil Walker, now occupies Torreyes’s position as the infield’s Jack-Of-All-Trades and is also the Yankees third-string catcher behind Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine, another position Torreyes used to hold.
All these untouchables add up to what could be a long stretch for Ronald Torreyes between now and September 1 when the rosters expand. The Yankees do not operate as Santa Claus, because otherwise, they would trade Torreyes away to a team where his .340 batting average is needed, and he can play every day, affording him an opportunity to earn some big money down the road.
I have used this space to write about Ronald Torreyes numerous times, as the best tenth man in baseball. And it is with some levity I write this column today. They call it the business of baseball and I get that. Brian Cashman and Aaron Boone are paid to make these tough choices on behalf of the team. And yet, no one – I mean no one – saw this coming. Cashman did, though, and I’m learning not to question what he does, because the man is never wrong, even if Sonny Gray seems bent on proving otherwise.
Ronald Torreyes and Bullpenitis
One stinging thought occurs to me though. It’s that this situation should never have been forced on the Yankees if their starting pitchers didn’t rely on the bullpen so much. The reliance of teams on their bullpen, forcing them to carry 13 instead of 12 pitchers (more than half of the 25-man roster), plagues all of baseball.
It’s not so much the innings and pitch limits that are placed on starting pitchers regularly today, as much as it is the inability of starters to have a bullpen pitcher’s mentality to challenge hitters and throw strikes. Here are a few examples of what I mean from games played Saturday.
Drew Pomeranz – 3.1 innings, 89 pitches, with three walks. His opponent, Braves starter Sean Newcomb, three innings, 88 pitches, and four walks. Ian Kennedy needed 90 pitches to get through five innings against the Rangers. Ditto for Francisco Liriano against the Tigers. And then the one that hits closest to home with Sonny Gray‘s 3.2 innings of work using 86 pitches to give up five earned runs after the Yankees had staked him to a 4-1 lead.
Tally it up. Starting pitchers: 20 innings Bullpen Pitchers: 25 innings
Someone tell me, what’s wrong with this picture? On second thought, everyone already knows what’s wrong. Your pedestrian starting pitchers in both leagues, like those above, are getting away with robbery. And no one (managers and pitching coaches) is putting their foot down telling them in no uncertain terms, “You need to figure out a way of giving me a minimum of six good innings today before you take the next four days off. Because I’ve had it with this bullshit”.
Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Luis Severino, the cream of the cream have all done it. It’s a mental thing, not a physical thing. Because if these guys can throw 90 pitches or more in three innings, why can’t they do the same over six innings? Sorry, me and John Smoltz just don’t get it.
Smoltz, a Hall of Famer, has been pointing out how pitchers are “coddled” for years now. Rest assured, this is not one of those, let’s go back to old days, plea when starters like Sandy Koufax and Warren Spahn regularly threw 300 innings or more.
It’s more that teams need to insist that starting pitchers earn the money they are being paid. At the rate baseball is going, Craig Kimbrel, a closer, is likely to become baseball’s first $100 million relief artist when he reaches free agency. That money, along with other monies devoted to bullpens, will come at the expense of starters who will see their salaries drop accordingly.
And maybe, that’s all we’ll need when these coddled children see it hitting them in the pocketbook. And so on behalf of the Yankees starting staff, Luis Severino excepted, I apologize to Ronald Torreyes. It doesn’t need to be this way.