Yanks use open roster spot for relief help

Yanks use open roster spot for relief help

NEW YORK -- As the Yankees' starters have struggled, manager Joe Girardi has had to consistently dip into his bullpen. And so when left fielder Brett Gardner went on the disabled list on Wednesday night with a right elbow strain, the club opted for more relief help instead of subbing in a position player.

The Yankees called up right-handed reliever Cody Eppley from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, giving the club an eight-man bullpen and a 13-man pitching staff.

"I was surprised to get the call," said Eppley, who was claimed off waivers by the Yankees on April 5, after the Rangers designated him for assignment. "To get the chance to come up here and get to play with this club this early in the season, I was definitely excited. I'm happy to be here in this clubhouse with all these guys. It's a blessing."

Of course, there is a good reason for Eppley's promotion. The Yankees received only three quality starts in their first 11 games. Heading into Thursday, New York starters were 27th out of the 30 Major League teams with a 4-5 record and a 5.97 ERA. Only Colorado, Minnesota and Boston were behind them.

Conversely, the Yankees' bullpen had a Major League-best 1.99 ERA but had already thrown 40 2/3 innings. That's one reason the club had split its first 12 games, but it needed to bolster the bullpen.

Ivan Nova, CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda had recorded the three quality starts, and Nova had two of the four wins. Even he ran out of gas in his last start, against the Angels on Sunday, when he allowed four runs on eight hits in six innings and was credited with the win.

There was a good reason for that, too, Girardi admitted on Thursday. Nova was pitching that night with a touch of the flu that has been making its way around the Yankees' clubhouse.

"He's better now," Girardi said about the right-handed Nova, who's slated to start against the Red Sox on Friday in a game celebrating the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park. "It's been going around the clubhouse. [Mark Teixeira] has had it. We've had a lot of guys with head colds. Some of it's probably allergies as well. There's a lot of stuff going on. It started for Nova in Baltimore, actually. That's when he first got sick."