The Yanks made it official yesterday, that struggling starter Javier Vazquez will be skipped for his next turn in the rotation. He will continue working on the side, and will actually have two bullpen sessions of “greater intensity” instead of making his start. They won’t make him wait another full 5 days before getting back out on a mound, opting to pitch him Monday at Comerica Park. Had he made his regular turn in the rotation, he would have pitched Wednesday in Detroit. I would imagine that the Yanks are doing this to give Phil Hughes an extra day of rest and bump him back a few days, since Phil is working on innings restrictions for the 2010 season. Andy would wind up getting an extra day as well. But Monday is an interesting choice, it means he would miss the Mets series coming up May 21-23 and would instead face the Twins and Rays. Had he pitched Tuesday, his next two starts would have been facing the Twins and Mets and Hughes would still get his extra day.
Much has been made about the fact that they’re skipping him at Fenway, which feeds into the theories of people who believe the root of Javier’s issues is he ‘can’t pitch on the big stage’. I’m not one of them. He’s pitched poorly on the road this year in Anaheim, Tampa Bay and Oakland as well as struggling at home in New York. He’s also pitched well in New York in the past, going 10-5 with a 3.56 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in the first half of 2004. I think skipping him is primarily about the schedule and Fenway Park, but the intensity of Yanks-Sox series certainly doesn’t help matters for a pitcher who’s struggling like Vazquez is right now.
The ballpark splits don’t back up the idea that Javier should fare better in Comerica Park instead of Fenway . Javier has gone 1-4 with a 4.26 ERA and a 1.526 WHIP in 6 starts at Fenway. In 7 starts in Comerica, his record is 2-5 with a 6.09 ERA and 1.489 WHIP. But Fenway is an unforgiving park for a fly ball pitcher like Javier under the best of circumstances, and these are anything but. The Red Sox lineup may not still be the scary Manny-Ortiz editions, but they’re still packed with dangerous veteran hitters who can shake a slump at a moments notice. Detroit has some tough veteran hitters as well, but Miguel Cabrera is the only one that really scares you. The rest of that lineup is playing way over their heads right now, and is predominantly Right-handed. The sole everyday Lefty batter is the always tough Johnny Damon, and two switch-hitters in Ramon Santiago and Carlos Guillen, both of whom are eminently pitchable. It’s a better match up for Javier then the more balanced Boston lineup, and spacious Comerica Park should help a fly ball pitcher like Vazquez.
But now that the Yanks have made this move, it begs the question ‘What’s their next move if this doesn’t work?’. They’ll need 5 starters for most of the month of May, with no off days for the next 3 turns through the rotation. I have to think he’ll make those 3 starts, and if things don’t improve they probably repeat their course of action with Chien Ming Wang from last year. DL stint, followed by rehab outings and bullpen duty when the rehab clock runs out. At which point Vazquez may very well be begging for a change of scenery, with his contract set to expire at season’s end. Hopefully he snaps out of this funk and we never get to that point.
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