Rasner not going away easily
Vying for relief job, righty impresses Yanks in start vs. Rays
TAMPA, Fla. -- The last few contenders for roster spots in the Yankees' bullpen understand, for the most part, that only a select few can be in New York for Opening Day on March 31. The rest will be ticketed for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, serving as reinforcements.
For contenders like right-hander Darrell Rasner, that's fine. They're just trying to keep the decisions tough for manager Joe Girardi into Spring Training's final week.
"Everybody's got to go out there and do their own thing," Rasner said, "and really not concern themselves with what's going on. We've got to do what we're capable of doing and go by that."
Vying for a long relief job, Rasner turned in his best outing of the spring on Friday, spinning four innings of shutout, two-hit ball in a 2-1 victory over the Rays.
"He threw the ball great," Girardi said. "This is a good hitting club we faced tonight. He threw the ball well, and everyone who came in did a nice job tonight. There were some impressive outings."
While Mariano Rivera, Edwar Ramirez, Brian Bruney and Ross Ohlendorf all threw scoreless innings -- Jose Veras allowed a run in the ninth, but he nailed down the save -- it was Rasner who kept the Rays most off-balance.
Showcasing a sharper curveball, Rasner struck out four and walked one in a 68-pitch outing, starting the night game at Legends Field after Opening Day starter Chien-Ming Wang had worked against the Blue Jays' Class A lineup in a Minor League contest earlier in the day.
"It was a lot better for me," Rasner said. "I was getting ahead of guys, I was aggressive and for the most part, I was down in the zone, where I wanted to be."
Rasner, 27, lost much of last season to a broken right index finger, suffered at Shea Stadium on May 19, when the Mets' Endy Chavez hit a first-inning comebacker. Rasner tried to stay in the game, but he felt his finger snap when he threw a warmup breaking ball, walking off the field on his way to emergency surgery later that night.
Though he appeared months later on rehab with Class A Staten Island, Rasner was not among those recalled in September, when big league rosters expanded to 40 players. Briefly a free agent over the offseason, Rasner decided to re-sign with the Yankees with a non-roster invitation to Spring Training.
His most direct competition would figure to be Jeff Karstens, another young right-hander whose '07 season was similarly snake-bitten -- his injury was a broken leg, suffered in a April 28 start in Boston. Girardi has said that he would prefer to carry a long reliever with some starting experience at the big league level, a pitcher who could spot start as well as eat up four or five innings in a blowout contest.
Though beginning the year with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre by no means rules out a callup later -- something the Yankees learned en masse in the first half of last season -- Rasner believes he's right in the mix to begin the year in the Bronx.
"These are the last few days here in camp, and I'm still here," Rasner said. "I have a chance and I'm going to leave it all out there. Every day is important, especially this last week. I've got to compete."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.