Throughout the 2010 season the Yankees have struggled in various areas. Early in the season the starting pitching, minus Javy Vazquez, was lights out while the offense plodded along. The bullpen had a poor first half. But then everything turned around. The offense went on a tear and the bullpen hunkered down while a few of the starters hit bumps in the road. With both Vazquez and A.J. Burnett struggling, there was concern with the rotation. Would it be strong enough to carry the team through October?
Baseball fans become concerned all the time. We wouldn’t be fans if we didn’t. But the concerns with the Yankees are nothing new. They crop up every season in some form or another, except maybe outliers like 1998. The rotation issue was just one of many the Yanks faced in 2010. And while it’s too soon to declare the issue behind them, things are certainly looking a bit brighter.
A.J. Burnett pitched well last night, putting behind him a second straight shaky August. He gave up three runs in six innings, though they weren’t particularly concerning. Kevin Kouzmanoff hit a Yankee Stadium Special and the other run came on a ground out. On the positive side Burnett struck out eight on the power of his curveball, which generated eight swings and misses. He threw it as often as his four-seamer, a good sign that the curve was working for him. If he can harness it from here on out he’ll be back in the conversation as the No. 2 starter.
The next real test comes on Saturday when Javy Vazquez makes his return to the rotation. It’s tough to expect anything from Vazquez now given what we’ve seen. He did put his rough start behind him and was a key part of the rotation from mid-May through mid-July. Then he hit another stumbling block, this one a bit more noticeable than before. After a rest and two successful long relief appearances he’s back in the rotation. A good start against Toronto would go a long way.
Burnett will never stop being a concern. Nor will Vazquez. We’ve seen their low points, so our minds will keep going back there when they take the mound. But it looks like both might be turning it around. Burnett found his curveball. Javy found (some of) his velocity. If they can put it together for a strong September I think that will dim a lot of the currently prevailing issues with the pitching staff. Combined with Andy Pettitte’s eventual return, the Yankees’ staff isn’t looking so horrible right now.