Everybody’s talking about pitching these days. Jorge Posada went on the FAN this week and voiced his belief that the Yanks could use another starter. Meanwhile, at yesterday’s Curtis Granderson press conference, the Yanks’ beat writers quickly turned the focus to pitching.
What came out of it were a few sensational stories. ESPN 1050 AM spent Thursday alleging that Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi both said that one of Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes would be in the starting rotation while the other would set up for Mariano Rivera. It sent Yankee fans into the usual bullpen-inspired Eighth Inning frenzy. Who will get exiled to pen and who will stay in the rotation?
After a few RAB readers e-mailed us, I consulted and reviewed the Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman media sessions. Neither of the two said anything close to what ESPN Radio spent the afternoon reporting, and while the team may not be committed to having both Joba and Phil starting all year, that is simply a function of innings limits than anything else. Listening between the lines made me believe that the Yanks are definitely eying Ben Sheets as a possible starter, but the team will give Phil and Joba every chance to excel as starters.
So what did the Yankee brain trust say? Well, Joe Girardi was at the mic first, and after the cursory Curtis Granderson statements, the focus turned to pitching. Does he want to see the team bring in another starter? “I don’t think you can ever have too much starting pitching. I really don’t,” he said. “Especially with the age of some of our starters, you don’t necessarily want to feel like you have to push them too far, and that was one of the things we were able to do.”
The next question was a loaded one. Could Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain both handle a 32-start workload next year? “I think Joba is more prepared than Phil because Phil didn’t throw 150 innings last year,” Girardi said. “It will be much more difficult to throw him in 32 starts.”
This statement from Girardi was one that made people think Phil would be ticketed to the pen. Of course, that doesn’t make sense if the Yanks want him to reach 150 innings. He certainly won’t get there pitching in relief.
In fact, the next question specifically asked if Hughes would move to pen, and Girardi denied it. This is where I think the Yanks’ interest in Ben Sheets started to show. “I’m not saying that,” Girardi said of a bullpen role for Phil. “That’s something that we’ll have to discuss and see how that fourth starting pitcher is, if he’s someone who can give you 32 starts.”
Ben Sheets, by the way, hasn’t made 32 starts since 2004. In his last season pitching in the Majors — 2008 — he took the hill 31 times. He would be the perfect complement for Phil Hughes and an innings limit.
In the end, the Yanks were mum with their plans. They had to be simply because they don’t have that pitcher — whether its Sheets or Justin Duchscherer or someone else — locked up. All we know is that Joba Chamberlain, as Brian Cashman said, has no innings limit while Phil Hughes does. One of them could wind up in the pen but only if the Yanks enjoy a surplus of pitching. Despite what the radio may tell us, it’s far to early to pigeonhole one of the live young arms for the Eighth Inning. Let’s wait until at least the end of March for that.