In the never-ending quest to add more pitching depth, the Yankees were among several teams on hand to watch Johan Santana throw in Florida yesterday. He's attempting to work his way back from a second shoulder capsule surgery in less than 3 years and the Yanks have been linked to him for months. According to George King, Santana was sitting 77-78 MPH with his velocity and he maxed out at 81. That is a far cry from the upper-80s he was throwing the last time he was on a Major League mound, and while King did say his changeup looked "impressive", I question whether Major League hitters would feel the same when it's coming at them at basically the same speed as his fastball.
The long and short of it is that Santana doesn't look like a viable option to bring aboard as additional Triple-A rotation insurance, at least not until he builds up more arm strength and gets his velocity back into the mid-80s. But he's far from the only rehabbing pitcher the Yankees are targeting right now. They just signed Andrew Bailey to a MiL deal over the weekend. Like Santana, he's coming back from capsule (and labrum) surgery and is looking like a better bet to help in 2015 as opposed to 2014. According to Andy Martino of The Daily News, the Yanks are also keeping tabs on Ryan Madson and Joel Hanrahan, 2 rehabbing relievers who should be ready to pitch sooner than Bailey.
I've kinda sorta advocated for Madson before, and I touched on Hanrahan earlier in the offseason. Both of them made a lot of sense for a team that needed to replace a big chunk of late-game innings and they still do. They're both coming back from Tommy John Surgery, something far less detrimental to pitchers' careers these days than shoulder surgery. Madson's hasn't been as successful as most usually are, as it's taken him 2 years and a few setbacks to regain his form, but it's reportedly been smooth sailing for Hanrahan so far and he could be ready to rejoin a Major League 'pen by this summer.
Whatever the Opening Day bullpen ends up being, chances are very, very good that it isn't going to look the same by the time the summer rolls around. Hell, it might not look the same by the time the calendar turns to May. The Yankees could find themselves in need of a more proven commodity if their stash of young/unheralded arms doesn't get the job done. Madson or Hanrahan could slide nicely into that void.
I could be wrong here, but it feels like the Yankees have made an increased effort in the last few offseasons to seek out rehabbing or recently-recovered-from-injury players to fill out their roster in the spring. We've seen it play out in the bullpen in each of the last 3 offseasons with Bailey this year, David Herndon last year, and David Aardsma 2 years ago. The Aardsma signing didn't amount to much, and it's still too early to rule on Herndon, but it's not a bad low-risk/high-reward tactic to employ when a million bucks or 2 is nothing to your organization. And it's not just pitchers either. Eric Chavez was a bench monster in 2012 after getting hurt in 2011 and Scott Sizemore and Brian Roberts are both in camp this year, each with a pretty good to all but guaranteed chance to make the Opening Day roster. For all they haven't been doing when it comes to preventing injuries, the Yankees have been pretty good about scouting, engaging, and signing players coming back from injury as potential hidden roster gems.
(Photo courtesy of Howard Simmons/NY Daily News)