Right-Hander Has Been Nothing Short Of Revelation As A Bridge Reliever, And May Earn Starter's Spot Down The Road

By Ernie Palladino
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Chad Green would rather start. And in a year or two or three, he may get his wish.

For now, though, he’s serving as one of the instrumental pieces in the Yankees’ bullpen. His middle relief work is a big reason the Bombers have stayed close to Boston in the AL East chase. But if his career follows the storyline of teammate Luis Severino, his turn as a starter will come sooner than later, and probably produce a rousing success.

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The nicest part about Green’s career is that he didn’t need to go a disastrous 0-8 as a starter, as Severino did last year, to wind up in the bullpen. There was just no room for the 26-year-old, right-handed fireballer in the rotation, what with Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, and then Jordan Montgomery cemented in the top five spots. And then Sonny Gray and Jaime Garcia came along to close off any possibility of Green joining the starters.

Chad Green

Yankees reliever Chad Green pitches in the first inning against the Orioles at Yankee Stadium on June 11, 2017. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

So he went to the bullpen permanently after his only start June 11, a two-inning no-decision, and has produced magnificently. The overall record currently stands at 3-0 with a 1.97 ERA, and 90 strikeouts in 59 1/3 innings. But it was his 2 1/3-inning appearance Monday in Baltimore that caught people’s attention.

Green took over for Montgomery with two out in the fifth inning and the Yanks leading 5-3 after Manny Machado reached on a walk. Green got John Schoop to fly out, and then fanned four over the sixth and seventh before giving way to David Robertson.

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That marked the fourth straight appearance where Green hadn’t given up a run, two short of his two longest scoreless streaks. And his four strikeouts followed a seven-K outing over 2 2/3 innings in the 2-1 loss to Cleveland on Aug. 30.

Those numbers are just as impressive as Severino’s bullpen stats from last season. After going 0-8 as a starter, the then-22-year-old reeled off a 3-0 record with a 0.39 ERA in 11 bullpen appearances, spanning 23 1/3 innings.

Severino sucked up his demotion, did his job in excellent fashion, and got another shot at a starting role in spring training. The results have been fantastic, especially in light of Tanaka’s struggles. Severino (12-6, 3.03) has become the undisputed ace of the staff.

Green would like nothing better than to follow that path. He was primarily a starter in the minors, and he made eight big-league starts for the Yanks last year. He didn’t have near the success he’s having now, however, going 2-4 with a 4.73 ERA, allowing 12 homers in 45 2/3 innings.

Part of that is because he can just go out there and just throw hard for a couple of innings now. Two pitches — fastball and slider — get the job done.

Perhaps next year he’ll get a chance to work in the cutter and curve as a starter. For now, he’s zoomed in on middle relief, a job that will take on even greater importance once the playoffs come around. He can come in at any early juncture, throw a fastball that jumps up as it reaches the plate, and get the game to the later innings so that Tommy Kahnle, Robertson, Dellin Betances, and Aroldis Chapman can take it home.

Of course, the Yankees have to get to the tournament first.

If they don’t, it won’t be because Green balked in his current role.

He’d rather start. But as Severino proved, the best way to get there is to succeed at the job before him.

So far, no problem.

Follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino