TAMPA, Fla. -- The formula that fueled the Yankees' return to the playoffs revolved around scoring runs early and not permitting them late, with the lineup leading the Majors in first-inning runs and their bullpen guarding a 66-3 record when leading after six innings.
They'll be without at least one closer early in the season and might have lost another one on Wednesday, when a CT scan revealed a chip fracture in Andrew Miller's right wrist, but at some point this summer their "Big Three" will be whole.
If Aroldis Chapman, Miller and Dellin Betances can match -- or exceed -- their previous performances, the Yankees will find themselves dreaming about much more than just a Wild Card.
"We'll see," general manager Brian Cashman said. "I think it would be hard-pressed to repeat what they did, even if on paper people want to say we've improved somehow, some way. Still doesn't mean we're going to match that performance, because it was pretty rare.
"I think if we came back with that same bullpen, even if we repeated that season 100 times -- the odds of us repeating what we did last year, which was so special, would be low."
Maybe so, but no lesser of an authority than Mariano Rivera believes that the Betances-Miller-Chapman sequence just might be better than the Yankees' old World Series-winning formula of Mike Stanton, Jeff Nelson and Rivera.
"These guys are capable to do some great things. But again, you have to want it," Rivera said. "You have the abilities, but do you want it? Do you have what it needs to get there? Only you know that, and you have to show that. It doesn't matter how hard you throw or what kind of reputation you have, you still have to do it day in and day out."
Only three relievers recorded 100 or more strikeouts last season, and the Yankees have dressed them all in pinstripes; they combined for 347 strikeouts in 212 innings. Brian McCann faced Chapman's triple-digit heat while in the National League and he doesn't particularly care to do so again.
"Yeah, you don't see it. You don't," McCann said. "You've got to swing right when the ball is about to get released, and your chances then are slim. He's dominant. He's one of those guys that when he comes into the game, the other team feels like it's over. And we have three of those guys, so we're excited."
Beyond the "Big Three," Chasen Shreve has not allowed a run or a hit this spring and appears to be back to the form he showed for the first 4 1/2 months of the season, and Bryan Mitchell's performance forced his way onto the Opening Day roster.
"I feel like the story has been three guys; I think we're more than that," Miller said earlier this spring. "We have some depth beyond that that will certainly help us contribute. We need them to contribute and we need them to be good. It's in there."
After calling on 31 pitchers last year, Girardi's hope is that the Yankees won't need to lean on their depth as much. In his grand plan, the consistency and performance of those names will get the job done many, many more nights than not.
"I just like the arms that we have down there," Girardi said. "There's a lot more good arms coming, which is obviously helpful. Some of the young kids that we shuffled got a lot of experience last year. But you look at the back end with the three guys, the strikeout ratio to innings, it's very, very high. That's why I like our bullpen a lot."
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.