Yankees have few easy answers for bullpen dilemma before Opening Day

TAMPA — The Yankees are assembling the jigsaw puzzle of finalizing a roster, facing issues familiar to all clubs — namely balancing the assemblage of the best 26-man roster possible while also maintaining organizational depth.

For the most part, they allowed what occurred in front of them to dictate direction. Luis Gil out-pitched everyone in the fifth-starter role — and his upside is arguably also the best. That basically leaves two bullpen slots for Clayton Beeter, Nick Burdie and Dennis Santana.

The Yanks open with seven games in seven days at a time their starters are not fully stretched out. Thus, carrying multiple long men is probably necessary. Luke Weaver will be one. The Yanks intend to see if they could keep Jonathan Loaisiga healthier by often using him for two innings and then giving him a two or three days off. But he is still more traditionally part of their endgame. Thus, another multi-inning type is needed.

Santana has impressed the Yanks from the outset of camp. But Santana does not have an option. Thus, committing to him means, well, really committing to him. For the Yanks will have to remove a reliever when Tommy Kahnle (shoulder) returns, likely around the Cleveland series that begins April 12. If the reliever who is removed is Santana, it likely means losing him on waivers with the pitching needs throughout the game.

Yankees reliever Dennis Santana doesn’t have a minor-league option for the Yankees to use. Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Santana is on a minor league contract and does not have an opt-out until July 1, so the Yankees can send him down and delay a decision. In that scenario, Beeter could be kept for a few weeks before returning to the Triple-A rotation. Burdi also was a non-roster invitee, has been impressive and on Sunday against the Pirates was asked to get four outs as the Yanks have wanted to make sure the oft-injured righty can provide more than an inning.

Burdi has an April 15 opt-out. But he also has options. So if he is put onto the roster and, thus, the 40-man roster, he becomes an optionable player — in a way that Santana cannot — if the Yanks need it.

But you get the idea. There are many moving pieces and — due to 13-pitcher major league roster limits and the scary frequency of injuries — organizations obsess most on maintaining quality pitching alternatives. Teams that need, say, 25 pitchers all season are on the low end and blessed; the Yanks used 30 pitchers last year.

Which brings us to two relievers who are not part of the current roster gymnastics. Scott Effross and Lou Trivino are in the strange land of having gone the full six weeks with their teammates, yet on Monday will say goodbye for a few months. Both had Tommy John surgery and missed last season and are still recovering — Effross’ recovery complicated by needing back surgery in December.

“It is a slight letdown because after spending a whole summer [last year] not around the team that sucks,” Trivino said. “And then getting in here and seeing everyone and being a part of something and then you just get the rug pulled out from under you. But then it’s also knowing where you’re at and not riding the emotional roller coaster. The goal is to meet them and then help them achieve the goal together, which is winning in October.”

Clayton Beeter is under consideration for a final bullpen spot. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

Because they were acquired at the same time, in separate deals at the 2022 trade deadline and have been rehabbing together, Effross and Trivino (and their wives) have become friends. Effross and Trivino fall into a familiar bucket, relievers obtained by Brian Cashman at the deadline. Heck, Cashman did it in 2016 — the only time the Yanks have ever been in-season sellers during Steinbrenner ownership — when Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller were traded, but also, to elevate outside playoff hopes, Tyler Clippard and Adam Warren were obtained.

When the Yanks really did not like their chances last year, they still traded for Kenyan Middleton. And in years in which Cashman has liked his squad there have been in-season moves for relievers such as Kahnle, David Robertson, Zack Britton and, yep, Effross and Trivino.

In the most idealized scenario, Effross and Trivino — who begin on the 60-day IL — will return in summer to keep the Yanks out of the relief trade market. It could be forgotten to time, but Effross was among the MLB’s best relievers in 2022, but never made it to the playoffs and needed Tommy John surgery. Then this past December he needed back surgery. He is playing catch and hoping to graduate to the mound in April.

Scott Effross could help the Yankees bullpen out later this season. for the NY POST

Trivino, who came in the ill-fated Frankie Montas trade, had Tommy John surgery last May, was non-tendered after the season and re-signed. He already has been off the mound several times.

Both did not want to be tied to a timeline, nor did Cashman. As Effross said, “It’s been nice to have a partner in this, someone to celebrate the small victories along the way. But both of us have a mindset of ‘we don’t have to be back by a specific date.’ ”

And one small item is the Yanks know they can have both back next year — Effross is looking at his first arbitration season and Trivino has a team option — while the Yanks have several key relievers such as Clay Holmes, Jonathan Loaisiga and Kahnle in their walk years.

Oh wait, that is for next season’s jigsaw puzzle.

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