It’s beginning to look a lot like Joba’s going to the pen

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Kat O’Brien sure is full of conflicting information these days, and it all relates back to that ace in the hole from Nebraska that the Yankees hold.

To recap: At the end of last week, Buster Olney heard that Joba would head to the pen. Then, Newsday’s Kat O’Brien reported that sources within the Yankee organization said that Joba is expected to be in the started rotation. The back and forth continued when O’Brien issued a report that, when you think about it, basically supports Olney’s unsourced report and contradicts O’Brien’s own sources.

On Sunday, O’Brien reported that the three Yankee rookies would battle for two rotation spots during Spring Training. She writes:

One of the concerns for the Yankees as they prepare for 2008 – particularly if they don’t reverse course and nab Johan Santana – is keeping a handle on the innings totals of young pitchers Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy.

The plan is for the three to compete for two spots in the starting rotation in spring training, with Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina likely to fill the other three rotation slots. But not one of the young trio was at or near the 200-inning mark in 2007. That means it will require careful watch to keep them in the rotation (if they earn it) without raising their innings an alarming amount.

According to Yanks GM Brian Cashman, all three of the youngsters will have innings caps, and the Yanks will be creative in their efforts at ensuring that these pitchers do not exceed their innings limits. While O’Brien once again reiterates the Yankee party line concerning Joba’s spot in the rotation, isn’t it obvious how this will shake down?

Chamberlain, Kennedy and Hughes will all pitch rather impressively during Spring Training, and Cashman and Girardi will have to make “a tough choice.” With Mike Mussina somehow guaranteed a spot in the rotation, the Yanks will be “forced” to do what’s best for the team, and Joba will head to the bullpen.

Right now, I don’t buy the line that Joba’s ticketed to the rotation. There are too many convenient excuses in place for the Yanks to use in order to move Joba to the pen. And for the first part of the season, that might not be a terrible move.

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Can Mike Mussina be league-average?
  • NC Saint

    With three kids with innings caps and Mike Mussina sadly run down, what is the argument for not going with a six-man rotation?

    • Ben K.

      Good question. The Yanks’ only statement on the six-man rotation has been that they “ruled it out.” They’ve never really explained why. I guess they don’t want to juggle getting Wang and Pettitte their proper rest while making sure that the other four pitchers are getting work on a regular basis.

      • JP

        I wonder if they ruled it out because Moose complained that he didn’t get to pitch every 5th day last year. I remember that being one of the reasons for some of his bad starts.
        Even if true, I still think Joba every 5th day is more important than Moose getting consistent work. It sucks that Joba’s future as a starter might rely on the how effective the other bullpen prospects are next year.

  • Chip

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Mussina actually starts out the season fairly well. I think Hughes and Joba will trade the fifth starter spot on and off so they can keep their innings down towards the beginning on the year. The great thinking behind this is that they can drop Mussina in the second half and pitch all three of these guys (after they have a bit more experience) and not have to worry about inning counts in the playoffs. After all, isn’t that the point?

  • MD

    this is not a big deal…….it used to be SOP for a pitcher to start out in the pen as the long guy prior to being inserted in the starting rotation…only the dearth of talent in the last 15 years has pushed teams away from this……ultimately these 3 guys will be rotation starters, so how they go into April is quite meaningless….if the need to cap innings is now SOP, then bullpen is one option….6 man rotation ties up too many pitchers and requires more bullpen bodies… would need 13 pitchers for a 6 man rotation…..kills the bench…..

  • Grant

    Mussina “some hnow” guaranteed? the guy has a huge contract and a great resume, let’s not throw him under the dump truck (saying is over used but effective, trying ti mix it up). I believe Mussina can have a good year and if not we got youth waiting in the wings, he deserves his spot, IMO.

  • The Scout

    My one concern about Joba in the pen is that he really uses only two pitches there, the fastball and the slider. As a starter, he needs an off-speed pitch, too, and it is hard to keep that sharp just throwing it on the sidelines. So, assuming he does return to the rotation at some point — e.g., when someone gets hurt — he won’t have command over his full repretoire.

  • Mike

    This assumes everyone stays healthy all year. With the histories of Mussina and Pettitte, what are the chances of that?

  • chris fowler

    i agree with starting joba in the pen to keep his innings low. but, my one concern is: if it turns out that he’s the only reliable reliever (again), i can’t see the yankees taking him out of that role. the last thing we want is for him to not reach his limit–hampering his development.

  • mooks

    I don’t see how Kennedy has a real innings cap, between the minors and majors last year, the threw over around 160 innings.

    The rule of the thumb is no more then 30 innings more then the previous rule and not more then 10 times your age, though both of those rules are NOT hard and fast.

    That said, we’re kind of assuming that Mussina pitches real well in spring training, and also, that the Yankees, crazy as this may sound, don’t demote one of the “Holy Trinity” to triple A to get steady work, and polish.

    It could be a crazy and insane to demote Joba to triple A just to work on his change up and curve ball (both of which have awesome potential, maybe even a couple of weeks, to a month, and they’ll be superior to MLB quality).

    There are to many “if’s” and “or’s” and “buts” to think this early that Joba is going to the Pen, and that the Yankees are in any way either lying or changing their plans.

  • Travis G.

    definitely agree with The Scout anf chris. Joba relieving will hurt his and the team’s longterm development: he won’t be able to hone his full arsenal, and he’ll be so good (and compared to Farns, Latroy, etc.) that they wont want to take him out of the pen (limiting him developing his repertoire AND limiting his body to <100 ip – another year gone in an effort to reach the magical 200+ ip ability).

    i also dont like the idea of Moose getting a guaranteed rotation spot. they can definitely go with a 5.5-man rotation. i looked at the first month of the season. Wang and Pettitte would get 6 starts each, Kennedy 5, and Joba, Moose and Hughes 4. if the Trio averages 6 ip/start, they won’t go over their limits.


    The way I see things is that this team as currently constituted is not a playoff team in 2008 – plainn and simple. They are legnths behiind the Angels, Indians, Tigers, and of course the Red Sox.

    If this is the case, then 2008 should be a year to develpop the young talent. Not only limit Jpba, Hughe’s and Kennedy’s innings, but also bring up the young guns for the pen. Use the Red Sox 2006 rebuilding year as an example and bring a long our young guys and possibly trade some veterans if we can – Matsui, Abreu, Damon, Giambi (yeah right).

    If they are not willing to do that then send Hughes to Minnesota foor Johan and put a WS caliber team on the field. With Johan Pettite and Wang eating eatings – they can afford to bring Kennedy and Joba around slowly – limiting their innings and spot starting moose from time to time.

    • Ben K.

      I don’t have time to rebut this right now, but I fail to see how the Yanks — the best team in baseball for four months last year — are worse off than they were when the season ended. I think you’re viewing the Yanks through the prism of a four-game set against the Indians rather than through the lens of a 162-game season. The Yanks are a playoff-caliber team right now, and the potential exists for them to get better. Convince me otherwise through things beyond blanket statements.

    • steve (different one)

      SG at RLYW projects the Yankees as 1 game worse than the Red Sox and 5 games ahead of the rest of the field, who you think the Yankees are “lengths” behind.

      without anything to back up your claims, this is how i read your post and every post you’ve made in the last week:


  • David

    Why is it assumed Mussina will be part of the rotation. Unless he pitches well in the spring, this is not a forgone conclusion.

    • Mike A.

      The Yanks need Moose to be at least league average. As talented as the kids are, they’re going to have their ups and downs, and the Yanks are going to need someone to pick up the slack.

  • E-ROC

    I hope Moose is major league average, but I don’t think he will. I hope think Yanks go with a 6 man rotation. That might not happen either. Hopefully, they’ll stick to their guns and only have Joba pitch the first half of the season in the ‘pen. Somehow, I think they’ll keep him there for whole season. That’s the scary part.

  • jew4jeter

    Starting Joba in the pen is a good move… While Joba is keeping his innings down in the bullpen, they can figure out which of the young arms i.e. Horne, Edwar, Britton, White, Cox, etc. is going to step up. With all of the young talent the Yankees have, at least a couple of those guys is going to prove to be extremely effective in the setup role. Joba will keep stability in the bullpen while the team can evaluate who’s gonna work out…
    BTW, I don’t think Pedro Martinez’s change-up suffered too much, when he started his career as a reliever…
    Also, I would be shocked if the Yankees endure anywhere near the bad luck they had with injuries in the rotation, last year. They are bound to have more consistency in the staff, in ’08. Remember when they had to trot out Clippard, Chase Wright, etc. They dont have nearly the upside and they were not as close to major league ready as the big three…

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  • Yazman

    Ben K., why would the Yanks need any “convenient excuses … to use in order to move Joba to the pen”?

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    It would be a terrible move. He should be beginning his adjustment to being a starter in the major leagues as soon as possible. This is where we will continue to need him more into the future.

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  • ken

    It looks to me as if some of think joba is the only one of the 3 guns that can work out of the bp, why is that? There is not reason to think Hughes, Kennedy even Mussina can’t do the same thing. Have you forgotten the young guys that will be trying to win a spot in the bp? Some of them are very good also. Don’t keep rushing joba to the pen because he was good last year. Let him compete with the others for the starting job, and when he makes it …stay,boystay.