Yes, Aaron Judge is on hold in a quest to hit the historic 62nd home run and is still vying to become that elusive first AL Triple Crown since 2012. The Yankees’ loss to the Orioles in the home finale Sunday afternoon left them three shy of their 100th win.
But the win column is not a priority for manager Aaron Boone and his team with four games remaining in Arlington, Texas against the Rangers. Of course, Judge and the home run record is an individual accomplishment.
The priority now is the Yankees’ bullpen as they head to the postseason with the best-of-five AL Divisional Series opener in the Bronx next Tuesday night. Remember, in the early part of the season, the Yankees bullpen was a major strength along with a lineup that was proficient in hitting home runs and scoring runs.
The adversity, though, for the Yankees and their manager continued this week with a bullpen that is important in a short postseason series and still has many questions to address during those final games in Texas.
Adversity because Aroldis Chapman is not the once premiere relief ace. And the Yankees, without their closer Clay Holmes are looking for answers. They are without Wandy Perlata and Miguel Castro, both, though, expected to be activated soon from the injured list.
But Sunday afternoon in the Bronx, as dismal as the weather was, Ron Marinaccio was removed from the game in the eighth inning with a recurring shin issue that needs attention. He throws strikes, has been reliable, and could be a major loss pending an MRI result.
This is not what the Yankees and their manager needed at this important juncture of the season. A bullpen is vital in a short series and suddenly there is a concern as Boone was using this week to assess his options and deciding who would comprise the postseason roster, a starting rotation, and bullpen roles.
As for Chapman, who recorded the loss after walking in the go-ahead run with the bases loaded in the seventh inning, this has to be a major blow after seeing some progress with command issues this week.
One has to wonder, does Chapman have a role on the postseason roster out of the bullpen?
“I don’t make those decisions,” Chapman said through a translator when asked about his bullpen role. But there is a sense the Yankees will make that final decision in the next few games as Chapman is certain to get more looks against the Rangers.
Boone said, “Didn’t feel he [Chapman] lost the zone.” But give or take a pitch, Chapman was not close on many pitches and has walked 28 in 35⅓ innings which leads to the speculation that his chances of a postseason roster spot are very slim.
Regardless, with injuries to Holmes, uncertainty with Peralta and Castro, Chapman could earn a reprieve as the Yankees need arms down in the pen for a best-of-five series.
Yes, concerns for a Yankees bullpen that continues to find themselves and also includes the all important closer role that Chapman once held.
If Marinaccio is unavailable, that puts more of a burden on the Yankees. He is needed and more so because Chapman continues to be inconsistent, but all along the past few weeks, and after the AL Division title clincher, Boone has been managing these bullpen roles as a test for using a closer by committee.
“We got the tests done previously, and it’s come back clean before,” Marinaccio said about the MRI procedure. “So, I’m hoping it’s the same thing.” They all hope for a positive result.
So, as the last regular season home game played out, as the Yankees said goodbye to the Bronx until next week, the other piece of business is this home run record chase of Aaron Judge that has everyone out of their seats and waiting to witness baseball history.
“It’d be nice to hit it at home and do something special like that for the home fans, but at the end of the day, I’ve got a job to do,” Judge said. “I’ve got to get ready for the postseason.”
He said the home run didn’t happen at Yankee Stadium and emphasized again the milestone could happen in Texas. And all along this ride, Judge has made it known this is not about him and more about the Yankees continued quest to win a World Series.
But the immediate concern is that bullpen. Without that pen at full strength, this could a brief postseason Yankees run
Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com Watch “Sports with Rich” live on Tuesday Nights at 8pm EST on The SLG Network/Youtube with Robert Rizzo Available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify under The SLG Network.