When Joe Girardi was in Florida, his handling of his young pitching staff during a rain delay earned him quite a bit of criticism and potentially a one-way ticket out of his job.
The day was September 12, 2006, and Josh Johnson was on the mound when an 82-minute rain delay hit. Girardi put Johnson back on the mound, but the youngster came down with a case of forearm tightness that night. He would throw just 15 innings in 2007 before losing last year and this to elbow surgery. While Johnson has publicly stated that the rain delay was not the cause of his elbow woes, this incident lingers on Joe Girardi’s record.
Nearly 19 months later, Girardi found himself faced with another young pitcher and another case of rain. The forecast in Kansas City tonight called for rain, lots and lots of rain, and so Joe Girardi opted to keep Kennedy out of the game so as not to burn a Kennedy start and so as to avoid managing through a rain delay.
During the early innings, it seemed like a wise strategy. For once, the weather forecast was right, and rain came down in sheets, blanketing the field in rivulets of water. But onward marched the game. Brian Bruney shut down the Royals; Billy Traber shut down the Royals; and for one inning, Kyle Farnsworth shut down the Royals.
But then disaster struck, and it is here that we have to wonder whether or not to nitpick tonight’s game. With no score in the fifth and the rain visually lightening up, Girardi left Kyle Farnsworth in to pitch a second inning. Kyle Farnsworth is the master of the one-inning appearance. He made a grand total of zero appearances last year of more than an inning, and while he has complained about that, the results tonight bore out Joe Torre’s one-inning handling of Farnsworth.
In this second inning, Farnsworth gave up a home run to John Buck, hitting just over .100 on the season, and then another run on an 0-2 slider to Jose Guillen, hitting .128 at the time. He lost his effectiveness, and he lost his pitching smarts at the same time.
In the sixth inning, Girardi brought in the starter Ian Kennedy for a brief three-inning appearance. Kennedy got into some wind-aided trouble in his first inning of work and gave up two runs. But he settled down after that to restore some faith in his pitching among Yankee fans.
The nitpicking is, of course, moot. The game should have been stopped for rain at some point; the field was a mess, and both teams were struggling through the weather. But had Girardi’s strategy been put to the test, the Yankees pitchers needed to pitch 9 scoreless innings to keep pace with this team’s anemic offense.
I can’t help but question Girardi’s decision tonight. Call it Monday-morning quarterbacking; call it the nature of a baseball blog. For four innings, Girardi’s choice looked like a solid one, but in the fifth, it fell apart. Why leave Farnsworth, a one inning at his best, in for a second inning? Why not go with Ian Kennedy when the game was clearly going on? Missing offense or not, the ghost of Josh Johnson’s elbow loomed large over this game.