The Yanks have declared Bartolo Colon fit (ahem) to return from the DL on schedule from his hamstring pull, and he’s scheduled to pitch in this afternoon’s contest facing the Mets. The first shoe to drop came last night, when Joel Sherman tweeted that Hector Noesi appears to be the odd man out.
No surprise there, that was the easy choice. He hasn’t pitched much, as the long man in the Yankee pen with a rotation that has been very solid in delivering length and quality all month. While he’ll be starting in SWB to keep him as a long man option for the MLB club, he lacks a true out pitch, and at times struggles to put batters away. Hector needs more time in AAA to find a formula that will be effective at the MLB level. If the plus breaking pitch never arrives, he may be able to be an effective MLB reliever by cutting and sinking the fastball. Whether he’s a starter or reliever long term, that’s something to be worked out at AAA, not here.
But the real decision comes when Phil Hughes arrives. He’s close, his rehab has gone well and he declared himself ready after his last outing, although Brian Cashman implied he may need one more. Brian may be saying that not solely based on Phil’s readiness, but knowing the roster problem he will be presented with when he has to activate Hughes. They will have 6 starters for 5 rotation slots, and a palate of unpleasant options to remedy that. Forget about sending Phil to the bullpen, the Yanks have already shot down that idea.
For the time being, they’re toying with the idea of a 6 man rotation. It makes some sense temporarily. With the All Star break just 8 days away and no off days in the interim, it’s the same schedule that everyone would be on with a 5 man and an off day. Coming out of the ASB, there are no off days for the first 2 weeks, so you could even continue going with a 6 man for most of the month of July. There’s no doubt their veteran starters (Colon, Garcia) would benefit from extra rest between starts, and with Hughes returning from a persistent dead arm he may benefit as well. But the longer you do this, the more starts you take away from your ace CC Sabathia, which is unacceptable. a 6-man also presents roster problems, carrying an extra pitcher means one less man on the bench. You could also wind up needing to use one of your starters in relief in certain situations, should your bullpen get fried the day before. Getting through a rough part of the schedule and delaying a tough decision is one thing, but you won’t see a 6 man rotation for the rest of the season. The Yanks are hoping this is one decision that takes care of itself, but what if it doesn’t?
Right now, the Yanks are pretty boxed in with roster flexibility relating to their pitchers. Nova is the only one with options, and the rest have done their jobs effectively. You can’t bump most of them from their current roles without miscasting them or losing them to waivers. I’ll go through each of them individually:
Freddy Garcia-Makes no sense in the bullpen for multiple reasons. In terms of stuff, he doesn’t throw hard or have the stuff of a typical reliever. He’s had multiple shoulder injuries and guys like that tend to warm up slowly. As a junkballer, he needs to see what’s working for him that day for a few batters before figuring it out. Not good for relief purposes. He was asked about pitching in relief this spring, and he had no interest in doing so. He either starts, or you cut him. There’s a good likelihood he’d request being released, he’s pitching on a 1 year deal and I’d expect he would like to build his value for a guaranteed deal next season.
Luis Ayala-Journeyman reliever who’s pitched well (1.38 ERA, 1.192 WHIP) for the Yanks this year. With Soriano on the shelf, he’s been the 7th inning man leading to Dave Robertson. Too high in the pecking order to risk losing.
Cory Wade-Pitched well in a tiny sample so far this year, but more interestingly has been used against lefties who are hitless against him thus far. Features a change as his best pitch, which is very tough on lefthanded batters. Has a reverse platoon split for his career. Don’t look now, but the 2nd LOOGY may already be on the roster. Not someone you’d cut to make room for a long man.
Boone Logan-Their sole lefthander, who has looked much better of late. The Yanks will spend most of July scanning the trade market looking for a 2nd LHRP, and will probably come up empty since good ones are very hard to find. Going nowhere.
Sergio Mitre-Here’s the most obvious candidate to make room for Nova. Swap one long man for another, and Nova would represent an upgrade in terms of stuff. But why pick Mitre up when you already have Noesi in the bullpen unless you plan on using him? The Yanks like him, were sorry to see him go and reports were Brian Cashman called the Brewers immediately when he became available. Doesn’t sound like someone they want just for a few weeks.
All of this leads me to believe that Nova gets sent to AAA. It allows him to remain stretched out and continue to develop as a starter, albeit against weaker competition. I think we’d all agree Nova has more upside than Garcia, but this year they’ve pitched roughly the same. If you send Nova to the bullpen, you’ll lose someone else who’s been effective to waivers. If you keep him in the rotation, you might as well cut Freddy Garcia. Nova is the only one who has options, so he’s the odd man out if you want to retain the rest of your assets, which is the smart baseball move.
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