NEW YORK—Faced with injuries to Joba Chamberlain and Rafael Soriano, the club's primary set-up relievers, the Yankees have leaned heavily on a stable of nondescript relievers to fill the middle innings.
In the process, righthander Kevin Whelan became living proof that one doesn't have to be a top prospect to contribute in the Bronx. The same was true for fellow veteran righties Jeff Marquez, Lance Pendleton and Amauri Sanit.
Life as a Yankees minor leaguer can be frustrating. Succeed and one's path likely is blocked by a current or former all-star. Injuries or a trade to another organization then become the clearest path to big league playing time. It can extract a toll if you let it, said Whelan.
"You learn as you get older (that) you can deal with (the uncertainty of a callup) better than when you were younger," he said. "Everybody talks about what's going on in the big leagues, but as I matured I have learned I can't control roster moves. All I can control is competing and becoming a better pitcher."
Whelan, 27, is the last player remaining from the November 2006 trade that sent Gary Sheffield to the Tigers for a trio of minor league righthanders. The centerpiece of that deal, Humberto Sanchez, pitches in the Mexican League, while Anthony Claggett pitches in the Pirates system.
Whelan's time with the big club proved to be brief—he walked five of the 10 batters he faced—but he's positioned himself for future consideration by notching a 32-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 1.61 ERA over 28 innings as closer for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
The Yankees originally drafted Marquez in 2004 and then packaged him in the deal for Nick Swisher in November '08. They reacquired Marquez on a waiver claim in June, but the 26-year-old now is out of options. New York briefly lost Pendleton, 27, to the Astros in the Rule 5 draft, but they got the 2005 fourth-rounder back at the end of spring training.
The Yankees signed Sanit, a 31-year-old Cuban, in August 2008. He allowed 10 runs in seven innings for New York before landing on the disabled list with a sprained right elbow.
• The Yankees released Sanit to clear 40-man roster space for righthander Brian Gordon, whom they signed after he exercised an opt-out in his contract with the Phillies. Gordon struck out 56 in 55 innings to go with a 1.14 ERA for Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
• New York demoted Whelan when it signed righthander Cory Wade, who like Gordon exercised an opt-out with the Rays. Wade posted a 1.23 ERA and recorded 34 strikeouts in 37 innings for Triple-A Durham.