On August 6, the Yankees acquired Chad Gaudin from the Padres for the ever-popular Player To Be Named Later. As post-July 31st moves go, this was a good one. The Yanks got a pitcher arguably better than Sergio Mitre and who has the ability to pitch out of the pen and the rotation.
Since then, Gaudin has appeared in exactly zero games for the Yankees. He last pitched on August 5. It was a 3.1-inning, 85-pitch appearance that wasn’t a good one. He could have relieved Joba last night; in fact, as Joe and I were watching the game from the left field bleachers with no view of the Yankee bullpen, we assumed he would. Yet, when Joe Girardi made his call to the pen, Gaudin was nowhere to be found.
Prior to the game, the Yanks had let slip some of their double secret plans for the weekend rotation and beyond. While Gaudin maintains he doesn’t know what’s happen — “[Girardi] told me I could be used in any number of ways,” he said. “So I guess that means starts, too. I just have to take it day by day.” — the Yankees seem ready to use Gaudin in place of Joba on Sunday while keeping Sergio Mitre in the rotation and using him on Saturday. Al Aceves, our darkhorse candidate for that fifth starter spot, would remain in the bullpen, ostensibly as Mitre’s or Gaudin’s shadow.
So what’s really going on here? All of a sudden, with a 5.5-game lead, the Yankees are starting to get cute with the rotation and with Joba Chamberlain. According to numerous reports from the clubhouse, the Yankees are keeping Joba on a start-by-start, need-to-know basis. They tell him when he will next be pitching and have said only that he won’t be moved to the bullpen at all this year. He will be available come the postseason, but the team will have to get creative.
It all, of course, begins and ends with Joba’s innings limit. Last year, he threw 100.1 innings, and this year, he is already at 121.2 innings pitches. The Yankees know that they can’t really extend him by much more than 50 innings this year without risking injury. That leaves them just 28.1 innings of Joba for the rest of August, September and the playoffs. Even with a strict innings limit, that’s still just four or five starts. We’ll have to see what the team has up its sleeve.
Beyond Joba, though, are the Red Sox. Joe and I speculated earlier on Tuesday night that the Yankees could be trying to line up their rotation for next weekend’s series in Boston. Ideally, CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Joba would face the Red Sox. The only problem with this conspiracy theory is that, because of next Thursday’s off-day, the Yankees already have Joba, A.J. and CC lined up to face the Sox. By inserting Gaudin into the rotation on Saturday and keeping Mitre in his place, they risk upsetting that perfect storm of pitching.
In the end, I’m left a little stumped. The Yankees have options, and they seem willing to deploy them in creative and non-traditional ways. But where that leaves Joba Chamberlain and the Yanks’ 16 victories in his 22 starts is a question I just can’t answer yet. For now, I’ll trust the plan, whatever it may be.