posted on Mar.02, 2012
I figured today was a good time to write this with New York beginning their Spring Training slate today against USF in Tampa. The Yankees made deals in the off-season to bolster their starting rotation, we know that. Now they have the depth (and quality, now that AJ Burnett is gone), but who will be the top 5? We know CC Sabathia is going to be on the mound at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg when the Yanks open the season on April 6th, but who will be behind him?
The Yankees are high on Hiroki Kuroda, and Joe Girardi has essentially said Kuroda will be the number 2 behind CC. I have expressed on the air my doubts about Kuroda pitching in the AL East, but the veteran should give the Yankees innings. Ivan Nova could be number 2, but he will probably slot in the 3rd spot. Michael Pineda will be 4th, again I have my doubts on him. I think he will be okay, but he is young and quite unproven right now, and is going to be under the microscope in the Bronx. Think about it, Jesus Montero was in the package for Pineda, so he BETTER be good.
The 5th spot is where the questions are. Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes will battle it out. I believe that Garcia should be the 5th starter based on reputation, and the versatility of Phil Hughes. The Yankees are very high on Hughes and still believe he will be a front line starter, but I think his bullpen numbers from last postseason and the 2009 regular season are hard to ignore. Hughes still has not realized his potential, is what the Yankees say. He won 18 games in 2010. [Let me point out he had some of the highest run support of any starting pitcher in baseball that year. 16 games pitched with 6+ runs of support, and he was 0-3 in 3 games with 2 runs or less. And he tanked in the second half. ]
Freddy is a different look than the rest of that rotation, aside from Kuroda. Garcia is going to throw junk and get hitters out with 85-88 mph while the rest of the staff throws in the low to mid 90s, Pineda throws upper 90s. It’s a good look to have against other teams. And Garcia’s stuff just does not translate to the bullpen. Hughes also showed in his stints in the bullpen that the adrenalin fueled him and he was phenomenal in his relief appearances in 2009. He gets that extra bit of giddy-up on his fastball that makes it tougher to hit, whereas in starts that pitch is much more hittable. Another thing to keep in mind is that Hughes has never really developed and USED his changeup in a game. It was used occasionally, but not as much as it should be. But with a 4-seamer, cutter, and curve, he would be an excellent reliever. One thing I noticed last year early on when the velocity disappeared was that he would not use his off-speed pitches. Yes, pitching off your fastball is great, but sometimes you don’t have your best stuff, and need to change your game plan. Why were guys like Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina so good as Yankees? They could change their game plan as they went. Same with CC. Sometimes a starter has to throw more off-speed pitches to get through an outing, like a changeup or curveball or slider. We will see.
The other thing about this is that I am sure the Yankees could find someone who would trade for Freddy Garcia, seeing as there are plenty of arms down on the farm. It will be interesting, but I have a feeling Hughes has to REALLY pitch badly or get hurt for Freddy Garcia to get the job. Should be the highlight of a relatively quiet camp.