This is when life after Mariano Rivera really ends. The closer role is expected to be filled by David Robertson, but everything is up for grabs in the Yankees' bullpen as spring training begins.
There will be more than enough relievers in camp for the Yankees this spring, but being able to find the right guys will be no easy challenge. As of right now, only Robertson, Shawn Kelley, Matt Thornton, and likely Preston Claiborne have secured jobs in the bullpen for this season.
Like I said before, Robertson is almost certainly going to be the closer. At least that's what comments from Hal Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi have suggested.
Kelley is the front-running, for the time being, to be Robertson's 8th inning setup man. He proved to be a valuable arm for the Yankees last season after finally working his way back from two Tommy John surgeries. If he can handle the 8th like he handled the 6th and 7th innings last season, then he won't have any problem being the setup man.
Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances have a chance to play important roles in the Bronx this summer.
If Betances is able to control his pitches, and be the pitcher that he was projected to be, the Yankees can finally get everything out of him that they have been hoping for. And who know's, he might be abel to work himself into the setup man role by the end of the season.
As for Banuelos, though he projects to be a middle-of-the-rotation start in the majors some day, there is actually a chance that he can make the Yankees' Opening Day roster as the second lefty out of the bullpen. If the Yankees really like what they see from him, and his arm returns to normal after the Tommy John, they could say "what the hell, let's him him to Houston with us."
I'm not really a fan of this plan, in particaular. I would prefer that they start him in Triple-A and let him work his way back as the starter he could be one day. If he doesn't work out as a starter again, then you can make the decision to move him to the bullpen, just as they did with Betances.
Jose Campos and Cesar Cabral are two more young guys that can play important roles in the big league bullpen this year.
I would think that the runner-up for the fifth rotation spot will be moved into the bullpen as the long-reliever. Or the Yankees could just pencil in Adam Warren for this job because he pitched pretty well in long-relief last season. Maybe even Vidal Nuno, too, if the Yankees liked him as much as I did when be debuted last year.
Matt Daley, Chris Leroux and Mark Montgomery are three non-roster players that could have a chance to make the 25-man roster. Montgomery came close to winning a bullpen job last spring, but an injury killed that chance.
Because there are s many spot open for the taking, the bullpen competition will be one of the more interesting to watch this spring.
Gavin Ewbank is the Lead Writer of Yanks Beat Blog, and you can follow him on Twitter (HERE).