Apr
12

An in-house rotation fix

By

First it was Obi-Wang. Then it was Joba Chamberlain down in the minors. Now it’s Mike Mussina, the supposed rock of stability that always seems to be one little tremor away from a landslide. Hamstring injuries have run rampant through the Yanks organization in 2007, and they’ve been on the rise in all of baseball the last couple of years. Maybe guys are slacking off during pregame stretching, maybe their muscles are deteriorating from PED use, maybe they’re all just fluke injuries. No matter what’s causing them, the Yanks have to deal with ‘em.

Looking at the schedule, I figure the rotation shakes out like this:

Thursday: off
Friday: Igawa
Saturday: Pavano
Sunday: Pettitte
Monday: off
Tuesday: Rasner
Wednesday: Igawa
Thurday: Pavano
Friday: Pettitte
Saturday: TBD

That TBD guy is what I’m here to talk about.

First off, I don’t think there’s a chance Moose returns for that Saturday start. Hamstring injuries always seem to take longer to heal than originally expected, so a 10 day recovery timetable seems a bit too optimistic. I don’t think Wang and Karstens will be ready, seeing how both need one or two rehab starts in the minors at the very least. I doubt Cashman panics and trades for a starter, so obviously the Yanks are going to have to dip into the minor leagues to cover this start. The cool part is that this time it won’t be a Kris Wilson or an Aaron Small riding in to the save the day, it’ll be an actual young, talented arm. F’in amazing, ain’t it?

Triple-A Scranton’s rotation lines up like so (yes, they really don’t have an off-day between now and then):

Thursday: Phil Hughes
Saturday: Ross Ohlendorf
Sunday: Mighty Matt
Monday: Steven Jackson
Tuesday: Tyler Clippard
Wednesday: Phil Hughes
Thurday: Ross Ohlendorf
Friday: Mighty Matt
Saturday: Tyler Clippard

So it looks like the beloved Tyler Clippard lines up perfectly to take the ball that day, but he’s not exactly a great option. He’s been so-so in his 2 starts this year (don’t give me that “his defense made errors behind him last night” crap – being able to bear down and battle through those situations is what separates the great from the merely adequete) and I highly doubt he’s ready to jump to the bigs and have his first start be at Fenway park. I see him as an emergency option only for that game.

Chase Wright has been the Double-A equivalent of Felix Hernandez, dominating hitters in his 2 starts. He’s old for his level (24), and the jump from AA to the bigs can be disasterous (see Henn, Sean circa 2005). Trenton doesn’t have an off day between now and then either, so he lines up to make the start on regular rest. But would you want him facing the Red Sox in Fenway for his first game? No way, I don’t even see him being much more than a sometimes decent middle reliever down the road.

So let’s stop beating around the bush: they should let Phil Hughes start. Yes, start him on short rest. Yes, start him against the all powerful Red Sox in Fenway Park in his first ever big league action. I know it sounds crazy, but such is life. He was good in his first AAA start, and looking at the way his career has shaped up to his point, he’s only going to get better with time. By his third Triple-A start next week, he could be throwing those 1 H, 0 BB, 10 K outings we became accustomed to last year, and there’s no point in wasting that in Triple-A (much like the Phillies realized last year after Cole Hamels went 23 IP, 10 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 36 K in AAA).

One start on short rest won’t kill the kid, it’s not like he’s going to throw 110 pitches the start before anyway. And besides, he’s 20 years old, his arm could handle it. Experience is the key to life, and there really wouldn’t be anything better for his confidence to know that the Yankees believe he’s ready to start his ML career on such a big stage. He makes the start and the Yanks see what they have. If he struggles it’s no biggie. It’s better to get past the training wheels in April than August.

Can you think of a better option? (doing a rain dance doesn’t count)

Photo via Baseball America.

Categories : Pitching
  • Yankee Fan in Chicago

    If we’re going to bring St. Phil up — and I agree we should — then perhaps we ought to skip his start tonight, put him on plane to Oakland, and have him start a game over the weekend, maybe Sunday, which would put him in line for a 2nd start at the Fens.

    This way, he doesn’t get thrown in cold into the fire of Fenway a la Melky 2 years ago, but gets a tuneup in (a) a severe pitchers’ ballpark (I see Minky and Jete tracking down a ton of popups in the vast foul territory of the Colisseum) against (b) one of the weakest hitting teams in the AL

    PhilPhilPhilPhilPhilPhilPhilPhilPhil!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph P.

    As I said earlier today, have him start tonight in Scranton. That lines him up for Tuesday against Cleveland and then Sunday in Boston.

  • Yankee Fan in Chicago

    Why not let him get some confidence going tho Joseph by facing a crappy lineup in a pitchers’ park, rather than tough Tribe and Sawx teams?

  • http://jeteupthemiddle.blogspot.com Jeteupthemiddle

    I believe that Saturday was the goal date for Wang’s return.

    I realize that he will need a rehab start, but I think they are still anticipating Wang to go.

  • b/c

    No, No, No, this is why we have Rasner!!

    Let Hughes get half a season in AAA and bring him up at the break.

    Do not rush him.

  • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph P.

    While I do see a degree of logic in letting him pitch half a season in AAA, I don’t think he’ll learn much there. If he gets beat up at first from MLB competition, he’s going to learn from it.

    This point will be highlighted if he cruises through his five innings tonight. He looked solid last time out, and although you can’t judge a guy by one start, if he’s dominant tonight, I’d argue that he has little, if anything, left to learn in the minors.

  • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben

    Felix Hernandez born April 8, 1986.
    Phil Hughes born June 24, 1986.

    How much more could Hughes really have to “learn” at the Minor League level anyway?

  • http://riveraveblues.com Mike A.

    Felix is a once in a generation talent though, you can’t really compare anyone to him.

    It’s nice to say the Yanks have the best pitching prospect in baseball, but at some point they have to…you know…let him pitch.

  • Malcard89

    hold it! isnt everyone forgetting phil hughes still needs to master a changeup? he’ll get pummelled mercilessly if he gets called up now!

  • atticas

    The point of letting Hughes pitch half the season in AAA is that they do not want to make him pitch more than 140 innings this season, so they can baby him in AAA and bring him up to pitch the rest of those innings in the bigs for the second half, including possibly the post season. A young pitching prospect shouldn’t increase his workload by more than 30 innings from one year to the next. The guy from Baseball America’s prospect handbook was on Michael Kay recently, and was comparing the stuff Hughes has to Mark Prior, saying they don’t want to put him in a similar fate as Prior’s, where he was overworked in his stellar 2003 season, and hasn’t been able to recover since.

  • http://riveraveblues.com Mike A.

    Prior’s hurt yet again too, but I blame Dusty for that. He absolutely ran him into the ground, leaving him out there for 130 pitches just about every start.

    And besides, Prior’s 2 most serious injuries were flukes: the line drive that hit him in the elbow, and the collision on the basepaths with Marcus Giles that separated his shoulder.

    Anywho, the point is that Hughes can help this team. They really don’t have any better options.

    Oh, and I completely screwed up the AAA rotation schedule, I skipped over Steven Jackson the second time around. Hughes would really be starting on 2 days rest, so they’d have to finagle his schedule a bit.

  • atticas

    Very good points about Prior. I’m just concerned about the long run, although you’re probably right. I’d personally love to see him come up and come up for that game. We’ll see though, but it’s fun to think about.

  • yankz

    Hughes isn’t pitching so well right now. 4 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 0 K (!), 7-4 GB-FB ratio.