You’ve got to admit it ain’t getting better

Down on the Farm
Devil Rays 10, Yanks 8

That Alex Rodriguez; he’s pretty good. But the Yankees just can’t win for him.

In Tampa Bay, the super-human A-Rod continued his hot spring. He went four for five with 2 HR and 3 RBI to raise his inflated numbers even further. He is now batting .400 with a .453 OBP and a 1.053 SLG. That’s off the charts. He has tied the record for most home runs in April and has driven in 34 runs already.

But that’s not the story here. Once again, the story was pitching. The story was yet another poor pitching performance from Kei Igawa and the disappearance of/Joe Torre’s utter reluctance to use Kyle Farnsworth. (Yes, I will point fingers at Joe Torre tonight. Thank for you very much. In fact, our six-hour outage this afternoon was, um, all his fault too. He went to the wrong server in the sixth inning.)

First, let’s talk about Kyle Farnsworth. Krazy Kyle is making $5.6 million this year to be the Yankees’ go-to reliever outside of Mariano River. Sure, he struggled in Minnesota. But does that mean he has to drop off the face of the planet? Night after night, Torre uses Proctor and Bruney and the unimpressive Luis Vizcaino. Farnsworth, meanwhile, has pitched a grand total of 2.0 innings in the last week. The rest of the Yankee bullpen has pitched many, many more.

When the time was right for Farnsworth to come in and hold down a one-run deficit to set up what could have been late-inning heroics for A-Rod yet again, in to the game jogged…Brian Bruney and Luis Vizcaino. Before you could say “not another bad bullpen performance,” the game was out of hand.

But hey, at least Joe Torre’s $5-million man is well rested for whenever it is that our asleep-at-the-wheel manager feels like sticking him into a game. As long as Proctor and Bruney and Vizcaino can still lift their arms above their heads, who cares about the guy with the 99 MPH fastball?

Now, let’s talk Kei Igawa. I don’t have any expectations for Igawa anymore. After tonight’s lackluster effort against the Devil Rays, Igawa is 1-1 with a 7.84 ERA in 20.2 IP. He’s given up 24 hits while walking 9 and striking out 13. Opponents are hitting .279 against him.

And based on what I saw tonight, I don’t think it’s going to be better at all. His pitches are soft, and while Joe Girardi kept insisting they had late movement, my eye saw a hurler throwing from a three-quarters motion on a level plane. In lay terms, that means righties have all the time in the world to pick up the ball, and even lefties won’t be fooled by Kei Igawa’s straight pitches.

While 20 innings isn’t enough to write off a pitcher completely, the Yankees now appear to have two huge holes in their rotation, and this is counting Wang, Mussina and Pettitte as healthy. Maybe I’m wrong; maybe Igawa is just adjusting to a new style of hitting. But Ron Guidry will have to work hard to turn Igawa into a sinkerball pitcher. He’s getting beat on pitches up in the zone, and Igawa made a career in Japan out of pitching up in the zone. That just doesn’t work in the Major Leagues.

When Phil Hughes takes the mound on Thursday, we’ll expect big things from him. But even if he just gives us five or six innings of competitive ball, that’s a better start than what we’ve seen so far from Igawa. As the Yankee starters struggle to make it through five innings, it’s clear that it won’t take much for Phil to stick around.

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Down on the Farm
Devil Rays 10, Yanks 8