Yankees bullpen carousel will make September interesting

USA TODAY Sports

In addition to the major league roster, plenty of worthy candidates are currently at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, but that will change soon.

Currently sitting 5.5 games behind the Oakland Athletics for the second wild card spot and in the process of getting key veterans back from injury, the New York Yankees seem poised to make a serious run for a playoff spot in the last month and a half of the season. In addition to the arms in their major league bullpen, the team also possesses a few talented pitchers at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre who will possibly make an impact before the end of the season.

The team's first move came on Thursday, when they optioned Dellin Betances to Triple-A and purchased the contract of lefty David Huff.

Huff, who was claimed off waivers in May, went 1-6 with a 3.84 ERA as a starter with Scranton, and was rewarded with his second major-league promotion of the season.

He will be used both as a long man and lefty specialist, according to Yankees manager Joe Girardi.

Right-hander Chris Bootcheck, who has appeared in one major league inning with the Yankees this season, has been solid all season for Scranton, posting a 9-6 record and 3.67 ERA in 21 starts since signing a minor league deal in February.

While the statistics signify that Bootcheck is worthy of a call-up, his status as a non-40-man roster player might mean that the Yankees will be hesitant to call him up. According to a source, Bootcheck has an opt-out clause in his contract with that expires at midnight EST tonight, meaning that he can become a free agent and pursue opportunities elsewhere if he decides to leave the organization.

Left-hander Mike Zagurski also had an opt-out clause in his deal with the Yankees, and decided to exercise it and become a free agent, according to a source. After struggling in six games with the Pirates at the beginning of the year, Zagurski pitched well for Scranton, and has a combined 6-3 record and 2.66 ERA in 47.1 innings with Triple-A Indianapolis and Scranton-Wilkes/Barre on the year. He had interest from many teams before signing with the Yankees, so he may be in line for a major league deal somewhere now that he is on the open market again.

Another name to watch is right-hander David Herndon, who has recently been promoted to Triple-A as part of his rehab from Tommy John surgery, according to his agent Joshua Kusnick. After opting for free agency in pursuit of a major league contract, Herndon signed a split contract for $750K with $50K in incentives, which amounts to the largest contract for any minor league free agent last offseason.

Kusnick expects Herndon to be added to the major league roster at the end of the month, meaning that he will join the bullpen once rosters are expanded on September 1st. If Herndon is not placed on the 40-man roster by the end of the year, he will become a free agent at the end of the season. He is arbitration eligible with thirteen more days of major league service time due to his status as a Super Two player.

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