One day later and already the Yankees are changing the plans.
Tyler Kepner first broke the news early this morning that the Yankees were considering changing their weekend pitching plans. A few hours later, George A. King III reported in The Post that Joba would start on Sunday and then get a few extra days off this week.
According to King — and remember, this is an unconfirmed report from everyone’s favorite tabloid — the Yankees were concerned that by throwing Chad Gaudin and Sergio Mitre in back-to-back games, they would be left short-handed in the pen and with only Alfredo Aceves as a long-relief option. Mitre will get the ball on Saturday; Joba will pitch Sunday; and then Joba probably won’t start again until the Texas series at the end of the month. The Yanks may very well give him eight or nine days between starts.
Some fans will be up in the arms over this news, but I have no problem with it. The Yanks don’t short-hand themselves right now, and by stretching out Joba’s rest, they can better line up their rotation. In the end, it’s all about the innings, and a column by Joel Sherman drives home that point today. He writes:
Let’s consider this from a different perspective. In 2007, Chamberlain was progressing wonderfully as a starter in his first pro season. Without interference, he would have thrown 120 minor league innings, positioning him for roughly 160 innings between the minors and majors last year and roughly 200 this year. But the big club needed a reliever, and Chamberlain was instrumental in getting the 2007 Yankees to the playoffs.
That ignited a debate about his true role while retarding his normal progression, because he was never returning to the minors. But the Yankees have a prescribed innings total for each prospect and this is the time of year throughout their system that they are giving extra day’ rest or limiting innings as, for example, they have just done with Ivan Nova at Triple-A. Few notice because it is happening in minor league towns. But Chamberlain is still going through his build-up phase in New York.
Of course it is tough to give Chamberlain more rest or fewer innings in a playoff race. But, I believe it would be negligent to flush all precaution. It is a tough tightrope, but a necessary one to walk.
Sherman makes a similar point in a blog post as well. He says that the Yanks’ “Win-Now” attitude in 2007 cost Joba innings this year. It is, supposedly, a lesson in balancing patience and planning for the future with the demands and allure of a World Series title.
There is only one problem with Sherman’s charge: It’s not quite accurate. A look back at Joba’s innings tells a slightly different story. In 2005, at the age of 19, he threw 118.2 innings, and the next season, he threw a hair under 90 innings. At that point, the Yankees would have wanted him to throw around 120 in 2007, and between three Minor League stops, a stint in the Bronx bullpen and 3.2 postseason innings, he reached 116 innings.
As the Yankees have done with Andrew Brackman this year, so they did with Joba in 2007. Whether it was going to be in Scranton or the Bronx, Joba would have moved to the bullpen at around the time he did. In the end, he still reached his 2007 innings.
With 2007 in the books, the Yanks’ goal for 2008 was to bring Joba up to around 150 innings. When he went down with a shoulder injury in August, however, those plans were scraped. Joba returned to the bullpen in September, and the Yanks, for reasons unexplained, never had him start again. He finished 2008 with just 100.1 innings, and here we are in 2009 with the Yanks shooting for around 160 innings for Joba.
Despite this history, Sherman’s point still stands: The Yankees are wise to keep a close eye on Joba. Next year, he should be at a cap of 180 innings, and that will be enough to end this constant obsession-slash-controversy over Joba. He is and remains a starting pitcher.