Monday, September 6, 2010

Girardi decisions get tougher down stretch

With his New York Yankees still locked in a tight division race, Joe Girardi's decisions are getting tougher down the stretch.

This weekend provided ample evidence of the hard choices Girardi will have to make in getting his team ready for the playoffs when its postseason position is still not guaranteed. The Yankees manager removed rookie Ivan Nova from Friday's game one out away from a potential victory, to the youngster's obvious disappointment. On Saturday, he gave the hook to Javier Vazquez one out from a possible win, much to the veteran's annoyance and frustration. A rookie is in no position to argue with his manager, but pulling Vazquez was a bit of a surprise and signaled that the manager doesn't have much confidence in the veteran righty, which is largely his fault.

Girardi took a lot of flak in the tabloids for over managing, which I agree he is prone to do, but I can't fault him for either quick hook. With the Tampa Bay Rays only 2.5 games back, Girardi has to make sure he wins all the games he can. He is caught in the classic dilemma of needing to pull out victories for his entire team while soothing the egos and hurt feelings of his players. In those scenarios, a manager has to do what's best for the team and hope the player can live with it or at least not cause a major disruption that distracts the team from its ultimate goal.

The decisions only get tougher for Girardi. Does he pull Phil Hughes for a start when Andy Pettitte is finally ready to rejoin the rotation? It might seem like a better idea to pull the inconsistent AJ Burnett or one of the rookies. But watching yesterday's game, I started to wonder if young Mr. Hughes is feeling the effects of a full season of starting work and whether it would be good to skip him in mid-September and give him a few weeks toward the end of the month to round back into shape. Not knowing which AJ or Javy is going to show up on the mound on any given day, the Yankees need to get Hughes right again before October.

The Yankees manager doesn't tip his hand, but you can be sure these tough choices are keeping him up at night.

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