Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Joba or Phil: Who starts for the Yanks?

Now that Javier Vazquez has been inserted into that fourth slot in the starting rotation behind CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Andy Pettitte, the key question for the New York Yankees is who gets the fifth spot: Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain. That answer likely won't come until spring training.

"We have great competition for that fifth spot with our youth," Brian Cashman said.

Joe Girardi will have an interesting decision to make. Chamberlain had some success in the rotation in June and July, but things started to fall apart when the Yankees tried to limit his innings by skipping him or limiting him to three innings per start. He ended the season with a 9-6 record and a 4.75 ERA.

The benefit of using Joba in the rotation is that he pitched 157 innings so the Yankees won't feel the need to limit him as much as they did this year. Hughes, on the other hand, only pitched 86 innings so he will be under strict restrictions as the Yanks try to avoid a career-threatening injury to the young pitcher.

Hughes was fantastic in the bullpen, going 8-3 with a 3.03 ERA in 2009. But he struggled so much in the playoffs, posting an 8.53 ERA in nine appearances, that it seems unlikely the Yanks will groom him to be Mariano Rivera's permanent set-up guy and eventual successor. Most likely, they will slide Joba in that spot, knowing that he has the stuff, the make-up for late-inning pressure situations and previous success in that role.
Like Cashman said, it will be a great competition.

Thanks to Giants27 for the photos.

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