Tonight the Yankees secured a spot in the playoffs for the 12th consecutive year. In celebration, I now list (because I know the world awaits) my predictions for the team’s 2006 playoff roster.
With two weeks to prepare (I know it’s really just 10 games, but the “two week” thing will help with an alliteration later, so bear with me), Torre has tough decisions to make. But I've seen him assemble 11 other post-season rosters, so I'm familiar with his preferences. I'd bet I'm wrong about no more than one of these picks.
- Wilson is not my first choice for a first-base backup (Andy Philips is), but he also plays outfield, and he can serve as the team’s third catcher (which Torre will deem important).
- If Sheffield is not on the post-season roster, it will be either because he hits dreadfully in his forthcoming on-the-job rehab, or because the Yankees have already decided they’re done with him.
- Cairo’s experience nudges him ahead of Nick Green as backup infielder. The latter does have two games of post-season experience (with the Braves), but never had an at-bat.
- There’s no way Williams’ experienced bat and post-season records are left off Torre’s roster. Williams will likely be relegated to pinch-hitting, but he’ll be there.
- The Yankees will boast their strongest post-season bench since 1997.
- Wright’s fortitude and scrappiness have earned him the role of fourth starter.
- Rasner is 3-0 with a 2.04 ERA in four games with the Yankees. Two more similar September appearances, and the lack of any obvious alternatives, will make him a dependable option for long reliever.
Torre has tended to use players who were in the midst of hot streaks, so a solid final fortnight (there it is!) could get one or two of these players promoted to the post-season:
Nick Green—The fill-in as a fill-in when Cairo was disabled. Since the latter returned from his injury, Green has still been the primary utility infielder; does that mean Torre is hunting a Green October?
Andy Phillips—An excellent choice as a late-inning defensive replacement at first base. Unfortunately for him, Wilson can fill the same role (though not as adeptly).
Jeff Karstens—He’s green. (Not Nick
green ... just, you know, rookie
green.) But a 4.11 ERA is not shabby for an emergency starter, and he could be a valuable asset as a long reliever. He’ll play in October only if Rasner doesn’t.
Octavio Dotel—As of now, there’s no chance he’ll be playing in any more meaningful games in 2006. But if he suddenly becomes unhittable, Torre may reconsider. (He’s unhittable now, but that’s because he pitches mostly balls.)
Jose Veras—He’s young and inexperienced, but has allowed only two earned runs in nine appearances.
Aaron Guiel—He’s helped the team since being picked up a few months ago, but he’ll see October only if Sheffield’s bat is broken (that’s a euphemism), or if another outfielder gets hurt.