Shawn Kelley, you’re up.
With David Robertson going to the disabled list with a groin strain, the Yankees need a new closer for at least the next two weeks. This is a problem the Yanks didn’t have to worry about for the past 19 years with Mariano Rivera anchoring their bullpen. (The 2012 season being an obvious exception, as Rivera appeared in only nine games after tearing his ACL.)
Following Rivera’s retirement, Robertson took over closer duties. Though the Yankees may have had some reservations about whether or not he could handle the responsibility, Robertson seized the role with an excellent spring training. In three appearances this season, the 28-year-old has allowed one hit in three scoreless innings and notched two saves in two opportunities.
The last time Robertson had an opportunity to pitch as the Yankees’ closer, replacing the injured Rivera, he was out for more than a month with a strained oblique.
Robertson suffered his groin injury during the Yankees’ 6-4 victory over the Blue Jays on Sunday. As reported by ESPN New York’s Wallace Matthews, the right-hander complained of continuing pain on Monday. That led to an MRI exam, which revealed a mild, Grade 1 strain.
Kelley will take over as closer in Robertson’s absence. The right-hander hasn’t given up a run in his three appearances, allowing one hit with two strikeouts in 2.1 innings. But while the Yankees have a replacement closer on hand, Robertson’s injury thins out the team’s bullpen depth.
Adam Warren will likely take over Kelley’s eighth-inning setup role for now. He hasn’t allowed a hit or run in 2.1 innings so far this season. Dellin Betances, once considered a top prospect for the Yanks, probably pitches the seventh inning. That leaves David Phelps — who’s allowed four hits (three of them home runs) and four runs in 3.1 innings — and Vidal Nuno, along with left-hander Matt Thornton, to work those middle innings.
Such uncertainty could put more of a burden on the Yankees starting pitchers to pitch deeper into ballgames. But with CC Sabathia struggling, the 39-year-old Hiroki Kuroda, and Michael Pineda building his stamina back up in his return from shoulder surgery, that’s not reassuring.