Saturday, April 25, 2009

Another Rebuilding Job

The word is not good.

Brian Bruney has been placed on the DL Saturday because of his injured right elbow and relief prospect Mark Melancon has been added to the 40-man roster and called up, lohud.com's Peter Abraham is reporting.

Also Angel Berroa was added to the 40-man roster and called up to replace Cody Ransom (quad). No word yet on who has been designated for assignment, but it is believed right-hander reliever Humberto Sanchez will be cut. He was obtained from the Tigers in the Gary Sheffield trade and the Yankees hoped he would become a big part of their bullpen, but injuries have derailed Sanchez's career.

The doctors must not have liked what they saw on Bruney's MRI, meaning the injury likely is significant. This is an awful break for Bruney, who appeared to have figured out what it takes to pitch in the majors was emerging and as a top-flight set-up. Hopefully, the injury isn't too serious and he'll be able to return this year, but it looks like he's going miss a long stretch regardless. The Yankees would not have called up Melancon otherwise. Updates on Bruney's status as that information becomes available.

They Yankees believe Melancon eventually could become the successor to Mariano Rivera (if he ever retires), but they wanted Melancon to get at least another half year at Triple A Scranton before adding him to the 40-man and calling him up.

Still Melancon, a power pitcher, has been impressive at Scranton and might be ready for the majors right now. In six appearance, he's 2-0 with a 0.00 in 10-1/3 innings. He's allowed four hits and three walks, while striking out 17. Last season, he pitched at Class A Tampa, Double A Trenton and Scranton, combining to post an 8-1 record with a 2.27 ERA in 41 appearances. But make no mistake, Melancon is being called up to pitch right away.

It's a tough blow for the Yankees' bullpen and it is coming at a bad time, though still plenty early enough in the season. The pen, clearly the shakiest aspect of the team, was starting to jell and show signs it could be an effective unit. Bruney's injury will force Joe Girardi to rebuild the pen yet again.

For now, expect Jose Veras to become the eighth-inning guy with Jonathan Albaladejo and Phil Coke splitting the outs in the sixth and seventh. Melancon will be worked in slowly, but as long as he shows he can get outs, his progression up the bullpen pecking order will be rapid. Eventually he could become the guy to pitch the eighth.

And lest anyone (ie Dave) suggest it, Joba Chamberlain WILL NOT be moved back into the bullpen unless Melancon falls flat and the other three prove less than entirely reliable. The Yankees are committed to finding out what Joba is as a starter, despite Dave's pronouncements that this a failed experiment.

Of course, for this series against the Sox, all this means the Yankees will have a serious disadvantage and will need good length from both A.J. Burnett today and Andy Pettitte Sunday to survive.

Hold you breath Yankee fans. We're in for a bumpy ride.

UPDATE 2:50 p.m.: Ransom has been placed on the 60-day DL, clearing one spot on the 40-man. Sanchez was released, clearing the other spot. Meanwhile the news on Bruney is better. He has a strained flexor mass, a muscle injury. Take a big sigh of relief Yankee fans because it's not a ligament injury. This means Bruney will be shut down for a week before beginning to rehab and rebuild the arm. No word yet on how long the Yankees expect Bruney will be out, but two to four weeks seems reasonable if the arm responds, maybe a little longer. Looks like this will not be a long-term situation, and could become a positive if Bruney returns at 100 percent and Melancon fulfills his potential.

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