Yanks need 'pen to step up with Miller down

Wilson moves into setup role as Betances assumes closer's duties

Yanks need 'pen to step up with Miller down

BALTIMORE -- The Yankees felt as though they could not make a wrong decision between Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller this spring, wielding two legitimate candidates to handle the ninth inning in save opportunities.

Miller was ultimately their choice, and he proved to be an excellent one, converting 17 chances. With Miller now on the disabled list with a left flexor forearm muscle strain, Betances will get a crack at the closer role, but the Yanks' setup mix must absorb a significant hit.

"We've got a few things we're thinking through," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "We'll see if we can withstand losing Miller like we've been able to do with some other injuries, when [Masahiro] Tanaka went down and obviously for the period of time that [Jacoby] Ellsbury's been down."

Manager Joe Girardi said that his immediate plan is to promote left-hander Justin Wilson to handle the eighth inning as the setup man for Betances, who owns two saves this year entering Friday. In his first season with New York, Wilson has handled both lefties (.194/.265/.258) and righties (.195/.340/.268) well.

Wilson escapes 7th

If necessary, Girardi also could lean on using Betances to soak up more than three outs late in games, though that is something he will try to steer away from as Betances has already worked 32 1/3 innings -- more than any other New York reliever.

"Not on a regular basis, but I think you can, depending on the number of days off and how much he's pitched," Girardi said. "Obviously that's something you have to watch; you can't overuse him now that Miller's gone. But there's certain days you can do it."

Girardi's bullpen received a reinforcement Friday as right-hander Chris Martin joined the squad to help absorb the middle innings; Martin posted a 3.55 ERA in 15 appearances after making the Opening Day roster, then hit the disabled list with right elbow tendinitis and pitched four innings at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

"He will help us probably in the later innings, if we feel it's a matchup for a right-hander," Girardi said. "As we've said all along, our lefties get lefties and righties out, and we'll use that, but at some point he'll be in the back end like he was before."

Girardi said the rest of the work will be split among Jacob Lindgren and Chasen Shreve, with Chris Capuano and Esmil Rogers lined up as potential long men. The Yankees also have right-hander Sergio Santos, who started the season with the Dodgers, awaiting a possible callup after appearing this week for Double-A Trenton.

"We need other guys to step up and assert themselves. It's important," Girardi said. "You're playing games that are in your division, and that's the day that you know you can put more space between you and another team. We need guys to step up a little bit."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.