Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Yankees - Too Many Rotation Choices?

Yes, yet another post about the Yankees' rotation. But this one has a twist. Whereas the story heading into Spring Training was the dire straits the Yankees were in for not signing Cliff Lee and having Andy Pettitte retire, the spring has unexpectedly taken a new turn for the pinstripers: They have too many rotation choices! Everyone the Yankees have thrown out there has performed well...even excellent so far. The candidates for the fourth and fifth spot in the rotation is now seven deep. How did THAT happen?

Well, for one, the Yankees took two fliers on Freddie Garcia and Bertolo Colon. Both had success in their careers but fell on hard times. Garcia rebounded a bit with the White Sox last year but Colon didn't pitch in the majors at all. Colon has pitched five innings in his starts this spring, has shown a surprisingly zippy fastball and has only given up one run on four hits. He has five strikeouts against one walk. Garcia also has five innings in two starts and hasn't given up a run. He looks sharp and hits his spots with relative ease. In his five innings, Garcia has not given up a run, struck out three, has allowed only three hits and no walks.

Then there is Ivan Nova, the pitcher most assumed would get the fourth spot by default. He's pitched five innings too and he hit a batter, but otherwise has given up three hits, walked none, struck out two and has not given up a run. Sergio Mitre, the pitcher no Yankee fan wants to see in the rotation has also not given up a run in his three appearances. "Meat Tray," as he is unaffectionately called by Yankee fans, has given up five hits with no walks in five scoreless innings.

And then you have the kids. Everyone is raving about Manny Banuelos and Dellon Betances. Betances impressed especially in his first outing. The good news is that he has struck out seven in his 4.2 innings of work. That bad news is the five walks and four hits. Despite all those base runners, he's only allowed two runners to score. Banuelos is being compared to a young Johan Santana. He has pitched three innings while allowing only one hit and one walk while striking out five. He might just be the nastiest pitcher the Yankees have in camp.

Want more? Andrew Brackman missed the early part of the spring with leg muscle problems, but he got into his first game yesterday and pitched a scoreless inning. Manager, Joe Girardi, said yesterday that Brackman's late start did not hurt his chances because there is plenty of time left. More? How about Adam Warren and Steve Garrison, who between them have pitched 8.2 innings and allowed only two runs.

Suddenly, the team that most observers felt were in big trouble because of lack of rotation depth have such riches that they will have to make some hard decisions. These next couple of weeks will go a long way to sorting out what this rotation will ultimately look like. If the Fan was a betting man, the guess here would be that Nova, Colon and Garcia all make the team out of spring training. Nova will be given the fourth slot followed by Colon. Garcia will be the swing man.

The Yankees will most like send all three of the "B's" to Trenton and whoever is throwing the best will be the first call up should something go wrong. Of course, this will be frustrating to those of us that love watching young prospects get their first crack in the majors. But it's probably for the best.

The big thing is that for a team that didn't seem to have a Plan B, they now seem to have Plans C, D, E, F, G, H and I all lined up. A weakness now seems like a strength and the next two weeks could be very instructive on how far the Yankees could go this upcoming season.

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