Dave Pinto brought up an interesting point when discussing John Harper’s article (more on that later) about Hughes allowing Joba to move back to the bullpen:
John Harper is the latest to bring up Joba back to the pen again, this time, because Phil Hughes might be ready to start in the majors. Why not move Phil to the pen, instead? Given that the Yankees seem to need a long man once everytime through the rotation, so why not give Hughes that job? That way, he can work his way into the majors, spot start for injuries, and if Bruney can’t pitch for a while, he can be a two-inning setup man.
This idea is a non-starter (no pun intended), mainly because the Yankees need to get Phil up to about 150 innings this season. There is almost no way he does that if he spends four months spot starting and pitching out of the bullpen. The most you can get out of a role like that is about 130 innings (take a look at Ramiro Mendoza’s seasons from 1997-1999). However, I wonder why those calling for Joba to go to the pen do not do the same with Hughes. In fact, Phil makes a lot more sense as a reliever than Joba does, as he only has two legitimate above average pitches (although we are hearing great things about the cutter). I could see Phil ending up in the pen if he continues to have consistent injury issues.
Regarding Harper’s article, I really do not want to rehash the whole Joba debate. However, I did want to highlight one thing that really struck me as silly:
At some point it’s hard to see how the Yankees deny the obvious, that they need Chamberlain back there to have any hope of winning a championship. Maybe starting tonight, Hughes can help convince them.
Really? They cannot win a championship with this bullpen? How anyone makes such a determination after 19 games, particularly considering a group that looked like a strength going into the season, is beyond me. With a healthy Brian Bruney throwing the 8th, the Yankees should be able to find a few consistent performers out of the large number of options that they have to toss the middle relief innings.
Mr. Harper, I suggest you go look at the numbers for the 1999 WS champion Yankees. The bullpen prior to Mo had one pitcher with an ERA under 4, Jason Grimsley (3.60). They got decent production out of some no-name type guys and used Mariano liberally. You do not need a shut down 8th inning guy “to have any hope of winning a championship.” You just need to limit the exposure of your bullpen by getting length from your starters, and hit on a few solid performers. The Yankees have the personnel to accomplish both.
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