Monday, August 13, 2012

NY YANKEES: Starting Rotation a Cause for Concern

 In a season full of injuries to key players the Yankees have been able to weather the storm so far and still sit atop the American League East at 67-46 with a six game lead over the Tampa Rays. With injuries to Mariano Rivera, Brett Gardner, Nick Swisher, Alex Rodriquez, and Andy Pettitte they have had Raphael Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki, Raul Ibanez, Jayson Nix, and Freddy Garcia step in and do and adequate job. But this latest injury has me concered and everyone from fans to the Yankee brass should be concerned as well.
     On Saturday the Yankees placed left-hander CC Sabathia on the 15 day disabled list with soreness in his left elbow. The only person that's not concerned is Sabathia himself. CC fought with manager Joe Giradi to not be shut down and said if it was up to him (Sabathia) he wouldn't be going on the DL. He scheduled to come off the DL on August 24th. In an interview with Chris Toman of Sabathia stated, "That's the day I'm pitching, for sure," Sabathia said emphatically, referring to what will be his next start against the Indians, providing there are no setbacks. "Right now, the thing to do is rest it, keep getting treatment and see how it feels in a couple of days." "I know there's nothing structurally wrong with my arm," SabathiCa said. "Everybody pitches with a little pain." Sabathia told the team he felt stiffness in his elbow and had a limited range of motion.
     After a start against Seattle where he pitched a complete game Sabathia had an MRI but it didn't reveal anything. Then after his last start in Detroit where he went 6 2/3 giving up 3 runs on 8 hits the stiffness came back but CC decided to pitch through it. This season Sabathia is 12-3 with an ERA of 3.56 with 140 strike outs in 141.2 innings.
     Innings. That's what has me concerned. Since becoming a Yankee in 2009 Sabathia has thrown an average of 234 innings per season not including the 140 plus so far this season. Over his 12 year career he has pitched 2506.0 innings. I know he's the ace of the staff and has always been a work horse but I'm worried that the 32 year old lefty is being relied upon to carry the load a little too much. With a fairly secure lead in the standings and a strong bullpen maybe when Sabathia comes back Giradi should pull CC out a game a little earlier to save him down the stretch so he can be strong in October.
     Speaking of October. Think about it. Is this the rotation you see for October and the next few years ? Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, Ivan Nova, Hiroki Kuroda, and Phil Hughes. From what I see even with a healthy CC there a questions regarding this starting rotation going into October as well as the future.
     Let's hope that Sabathia is right when he says he's not worried about any serious problem with his arm. I hate to say it Yankees fans but if he goes down you can figure on a "one and done" in the playoffs.
      A 40 year old Andy Pettitte is expected to come off the DL from a broken ankle some time in September. We all hope to get back the Andy we've come to know and love but will we ? He's 40 and he didn't pitch at all last season. Even if he pitches well in his return does he plan on coming back again next season ? Do the Yankees even offer him a deal for 2013 ?
      Ivan Nova (11-6, 4.70 ERA) who's pitched okay but has been a little up and down this season. He's only 25 years old so he's in the plans for now as well as the future.
      In my earlier blogs I've been a little rough on Hiroki Kuroda but I must admit he has pitched better than I expected. He's 10-8 with an ERA of 3.24 and has suffered from a lack of run support to say the least. He could easily be at least 13-5. He signed a one year deal for $ 10 million. He's 37 years of age. What's his future with the club ?
      Which brings me to Phil Hughes. Hughes is 11-9 with a 4.10 ERA. It's possible that come October he could be moved to the bullpen. It seems like Hughes has been here forever but he is only 26. I keep waiting for his break out season where he figures it out and finally becomes an above average pitcher. I'm wondering if that's ever going to happen. Are the Yankees wondering that too ? What do they do with him this off season ? Trade him ? For what ? Another pitcher of the same caliber because that's probably all they can get for him. So why bother.
      They have Freddy Garcia and they just picked up right hander Derek Lowe off the scrap heap. Lowe was released by the Indians where he was 8-10 with a 5.52 ERA in 21 starts. We know these two guys are just here for an emergency and not the future.
       After this season what are the future plans for the starting rotation ? I just checked out the list of pitchers who will be free agents at the end of the season and to be honest with you there are only three guys on that list worth mentioning. Jake Westbrook who will be 35 in September and James Shields who will be 31 in December. Zack Greinke will be 29 in October but rumor has it he's a head case. Do they Yankees make a deal for him ?
       I guess we'll worry about the future some other time but for now this starting rotation needs to stay healthy for the remainder of the season and hopefully it can get us to the promise land come October.

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