Injured reliever David Robertson is expected to be activated by the New York Yankees on Friday, according to various reports of remarks made by manager Joe Girardi. That is good news for the Yankees, of course, but Robertson's absence for the last month has not hurt the Yankees as much as might have been anticipated.
The Yankees are currently red-hot, having won five straight and eight of their last nine to move into first place in the American League East. Without Robertson and Mariano Rivera, out for the year after knee surgery, the Yankee bullpen has been better than anyone could have hoped. New York has the second-best bullpen ERA (2.75) in the American League entering Wednesday's action.
Robertson, of course, was given the first chance to close after Rivera was injured. He had one save and one blown save before heading to the disabled list with an oblique injury.
With both Rivera and Robertson down Rafael Soriano became the closer by default, and the former Atlanta Braves and Tampa Bay Rays closer has shown that he is both comfortable in the role and still has the explosive stuff to get the job done. He has 10 saves in 11 opportunities to go with a 2.01 ERA, and his work means Robertson will go back into the eighth-inning role when he returns. Robertson made the AL All-Star team a season ago as the primary setup man for Rivera.
Soriano, though, has not been the only reason for the bullpen's success. Left-hander Boone Logan (2.57 ERA in 30 games) is thriving in an expanded role and has yet to surrender a run this month. Veteran right-hander Cory Wade is pitching to a 2.63 ERA and opponents are hitting only .206 against him. Side-arming specialist Clay Rapada and Cory Eppley have also gotten key outs. Rapada, a lefty specialist, is holding left-handed hitters to a .163 batting average. Rookie David Phelps has also gotten some key outs and has an ERA of 2.94.
There is, however, one other thing that has helped the bullpen. Yankees relievers have pitched the fewest innings of any bullpen in the American League this season, 163.2. That means limited exposure, and it is often over-exposure and over-use that dooms bullpens.
The resurgent Yankee starting pitchers have been going deep into games, and that obviously helps the bullpen. Robertson's return will make that core of relievers even better.