The schedule seems to have worked in the Yankees favor. The off-day today allows them to not only skip the struggling Javy Vazquez’s turn in the rotation, but also allows them to line up their three best to face Boston over the weekend. The extra rest can’t hurt Vazquez, who has allowed 32 hits and has walked 15 during 23 innings in his five starts. It really doesn’t matter who the Yankees face this weekend; Vazquez likely would have been skipped regardless.
Yet when they fly to Detroit on Monday for a four-game set, they’ll face quite a test. While Hughes and Sabathia will pitch the final two games of the series, the first two games don’t look too pretty. Vazquez will get his chance in the opener, and odds are Sergio Mitre will take the ball on Tuesday. That’s not set in stone, though it appears unlikely that Pettitte will make the start. The only other option is Ivan Nova, and I think that for one start the Yanks would rather use someone already on the major league roster.
Brian Cashman seems optimistic that Pettitte will only need a short rest. “Right now the DL is not something that’s being considered,” he said. A DL trip would keep Pettitte out until May 21, which would cause him to miss two to three starts. It’s still a possibility — you can never be sure with arm injuries — but Cashman’s confidence makes it sound like we’ll have one showing of the Sergio Mitre Experience before a Pettitte return.
If Pettitte does miss time, though, Javy Vazquez’s recovery becomes much more important. Sabathia, Burnett, and Hughes have three of five days covered. They’ve combined for 16 starts, pitching 108.1 innings (more than 6.2 IP per start) and have allowed just 29 runs, 26 earned (2.16 ERA). After that, though, the Yanks have two questionable spots. They can fill them temporarily, but to fill them on a long-term basis would present quite a problem.
Sergio Mitre has pitched well in relief so far, but as he showed on Wednesday he might not have a starter’s endurance right now. Ty Wigginton’s home run came on a second straight sinker up in the zone, and that’s not going to get the job done. The Yankees have few other options for Tuesday, so either he or Aceves will have to do. A recovery by Vazquez, though, could help mask Pettitte’s absence, either short- or long-term.
Joe Girardi was encouraged by Vazquez’s bullpen on Tuesday, though I doubt he’d say otherwise, even if he wasn’t impressed. As Marc Carig describes it:
Vazquez hit his spots during the 20-minute session, in which pitching coach Dave Eiland worked to tweak small details about Vazquez’s motion. Much of the work focused on ensuring that Vazquez’s body was going in the right direction while delivering pitches.
Anything to get his fastball going will get the job done. Even if it comes across at 89-90, he’ll be much better off if he can locate it. One of his biggest problems so far has been that he’s missed the mitt by plenty with his fastballs. If he hits those spots he can probably pitch like the No. 3, No. 4 pitcher the Yanks thought they were acquiring.
Right now the Yankees face their biggest test of the season. While they have their best for the next series, they have two big question marks coming up early next week. Vazquez is the key to this. If he rounds back into form the Yankees can weather Pettitte’s absence should it be an extended one. If not, they will have some problems in May.