The Yankees starting rotation has no doubt gotten a lot better then what they had last year. With the additions of Hiroki Kuroda, Michael Pineda, and the return of Andy Pettitte, who is out of retirement, the Yankees have a lot of depth for their starting rotation. But with five spots and seven pitchers, someone is going to be disappointed.
1. C.C. Sabathia
C.C. Sabathia has been nothing short of an Ace since he came to New York back in 2009, so its obvious that he has a spot locked up before Spring Training even starts. Sabathia is a work horse and he is the leader of this staff.
2. Hiroki Kuroda
Kuroda is a veteran pitcher the Yankees got in the off season, giving him a 1 year, $10 million deal. Kuroda was said to have a rotation spot locked down early in the Spring, which makes sense. Although Kuroda is going to have to adjust to pitching in a hitter’s ball park as well as face some pretty good tough lineups not only in the AL East, but in the American League in general, he is still a veteran who knows how to pitch and adds experience and knowledge to this Yankees rotation.
3. Phil Hughes
After coming off a pretty bad season last year, Phil Hughes has looked very, very good this Spring Training. In fact, one could argue that out of all the Yankee starters Phil has pitched the best. Its good to see Hughes coming to camp in great shape and throwing the ball so well. Although the Yankees haven’t officially announced it, Hughes has a spot locked down. And judging by his spring starts, it looks like he is ready to have a big year.
4. Ivan Nova
Although Ivan hasn’t had a very good spring, in fact its been a very ugly spring for him, his last two starts have been better. But considering how good Nova was last year, it is hard to imagine him not making the rotation. After all it is only Spring Training and Nova is an important piece of this rotation, not only for this year, but for the future as well.
Now the last spot in the rotation is where things get tricky. Originally, even though Pineda has not had a good spring either, especially with all the concerns of him coming in over weight, not having his velocity, I still believed Pineda would be in the rotation, which would have sent Freddy Garcia to the bullpen.
However the Yankees did say that the loser of the rotation battle would not necessarily go to the bullpen, implying that either Nova or Pineda could have started the year in Triple A. Personally, I would have been fine with Pineda starting the year in Triple A. It would have given him a chance to really just work on his pitches and try to get his velocity back without the pressure of pitching in MLB games with the media constantly on him.
Unfortunately, Pineda said today that he felt some soreness on his right shoulder, which could account for why he gave up 6 runs in 2.2 innings in today’s 13-9 win over the Phillies. Pineda is scheduled to have an MRI tomorrow morning, and hopefully it doesn’t end up being anything serious. But if Pineda is indeed injured, then this opens the door for Garcia to grab that 5th starter role.
If that indeed is the case, then that opens another door for some of the Yankees pitching prospects and gives them a chance to make the team. D.J. Mitchell, David Phelps and Adam Warren have been said to be in the mix for that long man role in the bullpen if Garcia indeed does get a rotation spot.
Of course, once Andy Pettitte is ready to join the rotation, probably sometime in May, someone else is going to get booted out of the rotation. Whoever is pitching the worst is probably going to be the one who gets knocked out.
Another thought to keep in mind is that if Pineda is injured, he is going to come back eventually so then what happens to him? Does he get sent down to the minors? Does fight for a rotation spot?
Either way, too much pitching is a good problem to have, even though it means that Joe Girardi and the Yankees need to make some tough decisions. But the baseball season is a long one, and injuries are bound to happen, and usually these kinds of things figure out themselves. The important thing is that the Yankees are rich and deep in pitching, not just at the major league level but at the minor league level as well. So whatever happens during the season, they will be ready.