Friday, July 3, 2009

The Woes of Brian Bruney

"Bruney's our 8th-inning guy" --Joe Girardi, 1 July 2009

Brian Bruney did not pitch the 8th inning of that game, a Yankee win; nor did he pitch the eighth inning today, also a Yankee win.

Instead, those innings were given to a combination of Phil Coke and Phil Hughes, who, to their credit, have been nearly unhittable of late.

As you might imagine, the media harped on it.

Now, as a fan, the only thing you really care about is your team winning--usually, anyway.

It really shouldn't matter who pitches the 8th inning, as long as the job gets done to a reasonable degree of competency.

So the issue that I'm about to bring up now, is not so much who should be pitching the 8th--heck, if Nick Swisher can pitch a competent 8th I'd be okay with that, too--but how the manager, Joe Girardi, answered questions regarding Bruney.

The way Girardi phrased it tonight was, "Bruney is our 8th inning guy, but we have to get him right."

It sounds like a much, much too PC term for: Bruney's been throwing like crap and I don't trust him to keep a lead right now.

Girardi wouldn't be wrong in thinking this--Bruney has struggled since coming off of the disabled list--but what interested me was when Girardi said "we've had some conversations with Bruney" and then left it at that.

What sort of conversations?

I don't want to read into this too much. It's hard to read into what Girardi says a lot of times, since, like many Yankees, he can say a lot and only say a little. (Mark Teixeira might be the polar opposite of this).

What I do get, however, is a bit of an undercurrent that Girardi does not currently have faith in Bruney to hold a close lead.

It happens.

Pitchers struggle, just as hitters slump.

What we appear to be left with, however, is for the foreseeable future is a bullpen, which, in front of Mo, ranks:

P Hughes
P Coke
A Aceves
D Robertson
B Bruney
B Tomko

That's quite a shaft for your 8th-inning guy, no?

Still, though, the Yankees do need Bruney. The bullpen is that much better when every reliever, and not just two or three, can perform well in any situation, and not just low-leverage ones.

If Bruney's struggles have to do with having lost arm strength while being on the DL--which seems possible--then only time can build it back up. As Girardi said, Bruney has missed, more or less, two months and is basically at a Spring Training level all over again.

This would seem to mean that the Yankees have to be extremely cautious about him--and perhaps, then, credit is due to Girardi for going to the Phils and not putting more stress on Bruney's arm.

Then again, if, for whatever reason, Bruney can't pitch, the Yankees have a real problem on their hands.