The most peculiar aspect of the Yankees’ rotation battle this spring is that no candidate stands out. The contestants are either flawed veterans — Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon — or unproven youngsters — Ivan Nova, David Phelps, Andrew Brackman, etc. This leaves the Yankees with some tough decisions. One of them, though, might be made already.
This morning SI’s Jon Heyman reported that Garcia “has a leg up” on the No. 4 starer job. That would mean he’s a leg up on everyone, since he’d have to fall into the No. 5 spot before falling out of the race completely. When the Yankees signed Garcia, I assumed he’d win one of those spots out of spring training. He’s an experienced veteran who pitched serviceably last year, even with diminished stuff. Even though he came to camp on a minor league deal, I was confident of seeing him pitch in pinstripes this April.
While Garcia might already have an assumed spot in the rotation, apparently the Yanks are being a bit more tight-lipped about the last spot. Heyman calls the the competition “wide open,” but I think the Yanks have a good idea of what they’re doing there. They have a few young guys, but perhaps none quite as ready for the bigs as Ivan Nova. Brackman and Phelps would be nice options, but I can’t see either of them, in their limited experiences, making the club out of camp. That essentially boils the competition to Nova and Colon, and unless Colon lights up opposing hitters during his spring starts, it’s hard to see anyone but Nova taking the job.
This is really just a reminder of the differences between perception and reality in spring training. Last year the Yankees held a fifth starter competition, but word was that Hughes was the favorite from the start. This year they’re doing something similar, but if you break down the contestants it’s hard to pick anyone other than Garcia and Nova, with Colon having an outside shot because of his veteran status. Maybe these things do motivate players, but they’re easy enough to see through. The Yanks are saying it, but from the looks there’s not much of a competition at all.