As Mike Axisa outlined yesterday over at RAB (UPDATE: Chad Jennings confirms), the combination of Saturday’s doubleheader and the relative struggles of Phil Hughes and success of Ivan Nova has made it likely that the Yankees will go to a 6 man rotation for the next week. This is likely a one time deal, as the Yankees could have gone to a 6 man rotation when Hughes first returned if they were amenable to the idea. However, I think it might make sense for the club to stick with 6 starters for the entirety of August, and then shift back to a normal rotation. I think this plan has a number of advantages:
1) Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia have pitched incredibly well, but both are health risks who need to be babied. This season, more than any other in recent memory, depends on the Yankees getting to October with their current roster intact. Colon is at 109 IP, which is already his most since 2005, and Garcia is on pace to exceed last season’s 157 IP, which was his largest total since 2006. The Yanks need both of these guys pitching well in October, so giving them some extra rest would be prudent.
2) Similarly, while I originally considered going to a 6 man rotation with CC Sabathia remaining on regular rest, it would be a logistical nightmare and CC might benefit from some rest as well. CC is on pace to pass his career high of 253 IP, set in 2008, so it might make sense to save some of those bullets for October. While costing CC a start might hurt the Yankees slightly in the standings, an exhausted CC Sabathia would impact them far more.
3) It allows the Yankees to continue to evaluate Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes at the MLB level. The last spot in the Yankees playoff rotation is up for grabs, and I think it is too soon to simply declare Hughes to be broken and just stick him in the bullpen or AAA. This would give the Yankees 4-5 starts to figure out whether Hughes or Nova is a better fit for a postseason start, or if both should take a back seat to AJ Burnett.
The plan is limited to August because, as friend of the blog Steve H. mentioned, pitchers are creatures of habit and it makes sense to have them back on routine for the postseason. If the pitchers show some discomfort with the idea and it impacts their performance, or if one of the younger arms falters, the team could just pull the plug on the experiment and go back to a normal rotation. Here’s how August would break down (Note that Hughes cannot be pulled this time through the rotation due to the double header and that there is a double header at the end of the month that would require 6 pitchers, so this plan only truly impacts the middle 3 turns through the rotation):
Mon, 8/1 at White Sox Sabathia
Tue, 8/2 at White Sox Hughes
Wed, 8/3 at White Sox Burnett
Thu, 8/4 at White Sox Nova
Fri, 8/5 at Red Sox Colon
Sat, 8/6 at Red Sox Sabathia
Sun, 8/7 at Red Sox Garcia
Tue, 8/9 Angels Hughes
Wed, 8/10 Angels Burnett
Thu, 8/11 Angels Nova
Fri, 8/12 Rays Colon
Sat, 8/13 Rays Sabathia
Sun, 8/14 Rays Garcia
Mon, 8/15 at Royals Hughes
Tue, 8/16 at Royals Burnett
Wed, 8/17 at Royals Nova
Thu, 8/18 at Twins Colon
Fri, 8/19 at Twins Sabathia
Sat, 8/20 at Twins Garcia
Sun, 8/21 at Twins Hughes
Tue, 8/23 Athletics Burnett
Wed, 8/24 Athletics Nova
Thu, 8/25 Athletics Colon
Fri, 8/26 at Orioles Sabathia
Sat, 8/27 at Orioles Garcia
Sat, 8/27 at Orioles Hughes
Sun, 8/28 at Orioles Burnett
Mon, 8/29 at Orioles Nova
Tue, 8/30 at Red Sox Colon
Wed, 8/31 at Red Sox Sabathia
(Return to normal rotation)
Thu, 9/1 at Red Sox Garcia
Fri, 9/2 Blue Jays Burnett
Sat, 9/3 Blue Jays Nova/Hughes
Sun, 9/4 Blue Jays Colon
Mon, 9/5 Orioles Sabathia
Interestingly, this would set up the Yankees’ top 3 pitchers to make all 9 starts against their top AL East rivals, while giving the older guys and CC a bit of a breather and allowing the club to evaluate their younger arms at the back of the rotation. I am all for it.
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