If there are two things Joe Torre can't stands from his young relief pitchers it's walks and embarrassing blowouts. I can't say I blame him, but I do worry about the severity of his aversion.
Colter Bean's last outing before he was shipped back out to Scranton saw him pour gas on Kei Igawa's fire at home against the Mariners on May 4. Bean entered the game in the fifth inning with two men on and no outs and simply could not throw a strike. He walked the first two batters he faced on eight pitches, forcing in a run. At that point the Yankees still held an 8-7 lead, but rather than recognize that the kid just didn't have it that night, Joe Torre left Bean out there to give up an RBI single and a two-RBI double. Bean threw a total of four of his 17 pitches for strikes and left with the Yankees trailing 10-8. Luis Vizcaino would allow both of Bean's remaining runners to score along with two more of his own to push the score to 14-8 in a game the Yankees eventually lost 15-11. The next day Bean was optioned back to Scranton in favor of Darrell Rasner, who was needed in the rotation. Obviously there's no defense for Bean's performance in that game, and someone had to go to make room for Rasner, but Torre has a habit of allowing one bad outing like that count for more than it should with young players. Those four batters could easily have buried Bean the way Andy Phillips four strikeouts buried him in early 2005, erasing all the good he'd done in spring training and in his three other scoreless regular season innings (and of course his stellar seven-year minor league career).
Yesterday, Sean Henn followed Bean down to Scranton. After beating out Ron Villone for the second lefty job in the pen, Henn had been fantastic in his first seven outings on the year, allowing just nine base runners and one earned run in 10 2/3 innings. Included in that total was one lonely walk. In his next eight games, Henn had walked nine in 6 2/3 innings and compiled a 7.50 ERA. The final straw came last week at home against Texas. The Yankees and Rangers were tied 1-1 after four innings, but Chien-Ming Wang gave up three in the fifth and combined with Vizcaino (there's that man again) to put up another three-spot in the seventh. Suddenly the Yankees were down 7-1 in a game that had been close. Vizcaino gave up another run in the eighth and Henn was called in with two on and one out to face lefty Brad Wilkerson. Wilkerson singled, Mark Teixeira doubled, and a walk and a Victor Diaz homer later the Yankees were down 14-2. Henn hadn't pitched since then and got his tickets to triple-A yesterday when the out-clause on Villone's contract came due.
Again, Henn's performance was indefensible and he and Bean both had options that men such as Vizcaino don't. One can't really get on Torre or Cashman for farming out these struggling young pitchers (well, Henn was struggling, Bean was squeezed out by a more important need), but I do worry about their willingness, or lack thereof, to recall them should Bean and Henn perform well in the minors and veterans such as Vizcaino continue, or in the case of Villone (who had a 1.90 ERA with 21 hits and 27 Ks in 23 2/3 innings for Scraton) start, to struggle.
As for Vizcaino, his game log splits look a lot like Henn's but worse:
The only thing that doesn't make sense is the strikeout rate, which was bad when he was good and good now that he's bad.
Incidentally, Kyle Farnsworth had one bad outing in the second week of the season in Minnesota (1 out, 4 Runs), but since then he's posted a 3.00 ERA in 12 games, allowing 14 base runners in 12 innings and striking out seven. Not great, but good enough for middle relief. If you limit it to his last 11 outings, that ERA drops to 2.45 with 12 base runners in 11 innings, all 7 Ks, and just one homer.