Sunday, April 1, 2012

Yankees rotation problem solves itself for now

Michael Pineda’s unfortunate arm injury solves the problem of having too many starting pitchers for the New York Yankees, but only temporarily.

Joe Girardi jokingly blamed Phil Hughes for the Yankees being extra-cautious with Pineda and putting him on the disabled list, a reference to last year when Hughes’ fastball mysteriously disappeared and it was later discovered he was suffering from tendinitis that would force him off the mound for months. Concerns were also raised about Pineda’s lack of velocity this spring. But, unlike with Hughes, the Yankees did not wait until the regular season to figure out that there was a medical cause for the unexpected slowdown.  

Some cynics or conspiracy theorists might say that the Yankees put Pineda on the DL in an effort to put off making a decision about their rotation or to give themselves a chance to showcase Freddy Garcia for a possible trade. Since I’m neither a cynic nor conspiracy theorist, I will choose to believe that the Yankees are acting out of genuine concern for the health of a guy who they see as a potential future ace.

Even without the Pineda injury, Hughes had pitched his way into the rotation with his strong spring, as shown by the fact that Girardi named him the #3 starter in the rotation ahead of Ivan Nova and Garcia. But Hughes will have to pitch well in April to make sure he stays there after Andy Pettitte is ready to officially come back to the big leagues. Pettitte’s not coming back to be a reliever and Hughes has the most bullpen experience so he needs to pitch well to ensure he’s not banished to long-man duties. Or the Yankees could keep their youngsters Hughes and Nova in the rotation and try the veteran Garcia in the bullpen, a role that he has never had and likely wouldn’t embrace.

So it looks like Girardi’s difficult decision was only put off for a few more weeks. But it’s a good problem to have.

Thanks to Keith Allison via Wikipedia for the Michael Pineda photo. 

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