Despite throwing a successful 75-pitch outing against Minor Leaguers on Sunday, Andy Pettitte’s prospects in the early going this season look bleak. The Yankees pitching depth, it seems, will be tested early.
According to reports out of New York, Pettitte’s back did not respond well at all to the weekend outing, and the Yanks believe he could be out for as long as two months. To make matters worse in the eyes of fans, the Yankees plan to replace Pettitte with the much-maligned Kei Igawa who, just a few hours ago, was named the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Opening Day starter.
The Yankees all of a sudden find themselves with a little bit of a pitching problem. While Chien-Ming Wang will retain his place at the front of the rotation, the four pitchers behind him are anything but a given. Mike Mussina will slot into the second starter position, but he’s coming off the worst season of his career and had a shaky Spring Training. Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy, two youngsters who may struggle at times, will follow Mussina, and Igawa will pick up the rear.
When word of Pettitte’s injury came down, I, like many of you, probably turned your thoughts to the ace in the hole the Yanks seem to carry in their bullpen. Wouldn’t Joba Chamberlain be a much better choice than Kei Igawa? Right now, the Yankees seem unwilling to move Chamberlain out of the pen. They fear that he’ll be used too much too soon and will reach his innings cap before the Yanks need to call on him in October.
While the rained out Opening Day and subsequent 7:05 p.m. rescheduling of the game took some of the damper out of the festivities that surround the start of the season, this news casts a veritable pall over what is usually a joyous time of year. This time, Roger Clemens won’t ride to the rescue. All of a sudden, the Yanks are left with a hole, and Johan Santana sure looked good in his Mets debut.
But the Yanks have overcome adversity before, and they still have the makings of a championship team. Maybe Kei Igawa can step. Maybe he can pitch effectively. That is, after all, why they play the games. And, oh yeah, Happy April Fools Day.