The start of the baseball season is less than a month away. Every weekday until opening day, we'll be counting down, from No. 20 to No. 1, the most important Yankees players for the upcoming 2010 slate. Today, No. 20, reliever Damaso Marte.
No Yankee upped his game in the postseason last year more than Damaso Marte. After posting a scary 9.45 ERA and 1.575 WHIP during an injury-shortened regular season, Marte made eight playoff appearances and recorded an ERA of 0.00 and a WHIP of 0.00. In the World Series, he faced eight batters and struck out five of them. (Those eight batters? Chase Utley twice, Jayson Werth, and Raul Ibanez once each, and Ryan Howard four times.) Those are some crazy, Rivera-like numbers.
Of course, Damaso Marte isn't Mariano Rivera. He's bound to settle somewhere between those two extremes — though, we suppose, so will pretty much every other major-league reliever — and he'll finally become the LOOGY the Yankees thought they acquired from Pittsburgh. There's always been talk about Marte being good enough against righties that he could step into more of a set-up man role, but that doesn't seem likely. In fact, considering how many candidates are auditioning for the fifth spot in the rotation, Marte is one of the few men in the bullpen who, as of today, knows what his role is going to be.
Unless Boone Logan makes the team and steals his job away, Marte is the bullpen's designated lefty, now that Phil Coke is in Detroit. Ross Ohlendorf, whom the Yankees sent to Pittsburgh in the Marte trade, may be poised for a breakout year, and Xavier Nady may have been a bust in New York, but there's hope for Marte yet. October (and November) proved that and then some.