Late last night in Oakland, the Yankees had the chance to not only win their fourth consecutive game, but also to take the opener of a four-game series in which they were heavily favored to lose the second game against A’s ace Sonny Gray. Although a Brett Lawrie two-run homer off a bad CC Sabathia pitch in the sixth knotted it at 3-3, it was still anyone’s game. With all of Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, and Justin Wilson unavailable though, Joe Girardi decided to see if CC could give him another inning. A quick single and a walk later, he was gone, and into the game came… David Carpenter.
Carpenter’s performance has been maddening in 2015. When the Yankees acquired him and Chasen Shreve in the Manny Banuelos off-season deal, they expected him to give the bullpen a real shot in the arm after pitching very well for the Braves. He recorded a 2.63 ERA, a 10.0 K/9, and a 2.6 BB/9 during his two years in Atlanta, so no need to worry, right? Unfortunately, he has pitched nothing like that guy during his first 20 games as a Yankee, and last night was a vintage example of his struggles. Following a fielder’s choice turned on a bunt, Marcus Semien smashed a grounder too hard through the left side to load the bases, and Ben Zobrist untied the game by walking with the bases loaded. Carpenter really needed a strikeout of Billy Butler, but the Oakland DH lifted it to center for a sacrifice fly, making the score 5-3. That was all for Carpenter and Shreve entered to end the mess on a pop-up.
While the game’s outcome would have been frustrating anyway, Carpenter’s appearance made it all the more irritating. No, the Yankees didn’t have their best arms rested to help, but Carpenter has done very little this year to merit a higher spot on the pecking order. Not a single reliever on the team has a worse DRA than Carpenter’s 4.77 in 18 innings. Pitching rookie Jacob Lindgren would have been a possibility, even though it would have been a tough situation to throw him in for his second career game. However, it’s hard to justify Carpenter’s continued usage over Shreve, who while holding a platoon disadvantage has pitched far better. He has a 4.07 DRA in 19 1/3 frames, striking out almost a batter an inning with a lower walk rate, and after Carpenter’s implosion, Oakland went down in order against him.
At this point, one can only wonder how much longer the Yankees are going to wait around crossing their fingers that the Carpenter of 2013-14 shows up again. Perhaps his poor performance shouldn’t be such a surprise. After a stellar 1.78 ERA, 2.63 DRA, and 6.2 H/9 in 2013, which was by far the best season of his five-year career, he slipped to a 3.54 ERA, 3.93 DRA, and 9.0 H/9 in 2014. He did post similar strikeout and walk totals, but he was far more hittable thanks to his BABIP stabilizing after a career-best .263 in 2013.
Although expecting a fall this precipitous probably would have been too much, it’s difficult to look at his numbers and hope they improve. There’s the aforementioned 4.77 DRA, the 5.00 ERA, the 1.444 WHIP, and pretty much no positive to draw. Hell, it’s not like this is any BABIP-caused weirdness either, as the .281 mark is much better than last year’s .333. The walks and homers are up, the strikeouts are down, and patience is running thin. Remember, this is a 29-year-old who only had 1.7 career WARP and one standout season entering 2015. The other four years have merely been average or subpar.
Ace starter Masahiro Tanaka appears ready to come off the disabled list and enter the rotation on Tuesday or Wednesday night of next week. Reliever Chris Martin, who pitched well in April before going on the DL with elbow tendinitis, is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment in Triple-A on Saturday and could rejoin the team before too long as well. So the Yankees will likely have some roster move decisions to make very soon.
Maybe one of Chris Capuano or Esmil Rogers departs for Tanaka since he would be bumping someone from the rotation into a long relief role, but it doesn’t seem justified for Lindgren to lose his spot. This isn’t an overreaction to his one game pitched, either–He’s just already a big league-caliber arm, and the Yankees knew that it would not take him long to reach that point either when they drafted him with their top pick just last year. He has serious potential that it’s hard to really see out of a guy like Carpenter. It’s difficult to definitively say that Carpenter would be better than one of the other intriguing arms in Triple-A either, like Branden Pinder or Nick Rumbelow.
It’s almost June and Carpenter has offered basically nothing. It already looks like Shreve was a solid enough addition from the Banuelos trade. It’s not too soon at all to cut bait on Carpenter, and his days as a Yankee should be numbered. With such a bevy of talent waiting in the wings, Girardi doesn’t need to be rolling the dice on a comeback for much longer.
(Photo: Kim Klement-USA Today Sports)