The Yankees tattered bullpen was dealt another blow yesterday. Steve Karsay suffered a herniated disk in his back while running on a treadmill and may require surgery. Karsay's back flared up in July but was easily cured by 5 day's rest.
The Yankees bullpen core of Karsay, Mike Stanton, Ramiro Mendoza, and Mariano Rivera that did the bulk of the relieving last year (no one else relieved more than 18 games) is mighty beleaguered. Stanton and Mendoza are free agents. Rivera, who himself missed a good portion of the season, has an option to come back but may opt for free agency as well. And now Karsay faces surgery.
Meanwhile, the Yankees off-season pitching action is all centered around the starters. They are pursuing former ace starting pitching and current project Mike Hampton, whose contract the Rockies would love to dump. They are considering not picking up starter Andy Pettite's $11.5 M option and instead are pursuing a trade for him. Do those two statements seem to be contradictory? Roger Clemens is a free agent who has expressed an interest in remaining in New York. Mike Mussina is signed at least through 2006, David Wells through 2003 (with an option for 2004), and Jeff Weaver through 2005. El Duque is signed through next year (I can't find his contract info though). Swingman Sterling Hitchcock has another year plus an option on his contract as well.
The Yankees have believed all of the negative press that their rotation received after a first-round loss in the playoffs. Their rotation was seen as old and outmatched. Now, New York seems to be acting on that premise. However, it should be pointed out that the Yankees starters were pressed into extended duty all year because of the short-staffed bullpen. The bullpen now lies in tatters and the Yankees continue to pursue starters without much mention of relief help. This spells another year of also-ran status in the Bronx, I fear.