Poll: The Fifth Starter

Looking Ahead To The April Schedule
Un-Occupy Yankee Stadium
(Garcia via AP; Burnett and Hughes via Reuters)

Over the last few days I’ve explained why A.J. Burnett, Freddy Garcia, and Phil Hughes each deserves to be the Yankees’ fifth starter to open the season while Joe countered with a reason for the team to essentially get rid of each player. Once upon a time all three guys were in the rotation no questions asked (like, three weeks ago), but right now two of three will be on the outside looking in come Opening Day, barring something unforeseen. That’s pretty neat.

Before we jump into the actual poll, let’s quickly go back and summarize each player’s case…

Burnett (case for, case against)
The healthiest of the bunch, A.J. has started each of the last two seasons well before completely tanking in the second half. The Yankees could take advantage of another potentially strong start by boosting his trade value a bit, since we know they’re trying to get rid of him. There are also some reasons to believe he might have gotten a little unlucky last year.

Garcia (case for, case against)
Crafty and sweaty, Garcia straight-up outpitched both Burnett and Hughes last year, and didn’t do anything to lose his job over the winter. He doesn’t have much bullpen experience, and his … ahem … extreme finesse approach would be a nice change of pace in a rotation fronted by four hard-throwers.

Hughes (case for, case against)
It boils down to youth and upside for St. Philip of Hughes, who is still just 25 and theoretically has his best years ahead of him. We know Burnett and Garcia definitely do not. An offseason of rest and a more serious conditioning program should have Hughes more prepared in Spring Training, and there’s no lingering dead arm/innings jump to worry about.

* * *

This whole fifth starter thing is just a weird situation. I want Hughes to get the job but I expect them to give it to Burnett, all while Garcia is the one that actually deserves it based on merit. Anyway, let’s get to the poll…

Who should be the fifth starter when the season starts?
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Looking Ahead To The April Schedule
Un-Occupy Yankee Stadium
  • oscar

    Garcia to start the season at #5
    Hughes starts at Scranton and the first to get called up when the eventual injury pops up.
    AJ traded for another bad contract (a hitter)

    • Eric

      I don’t think the Yankees will be able to trade AJ, which means they will probably trade Hughes. If nobody gets traded, I fully expect Garcia to be the fifth starter with Hughes in Scranton and AJ in the bullpen. Then when the first injury happens, AJ and Hughes will both be considered for a spot in the rotation.

      • MannyGeee

        not ideal, but i thin this is the most logical scenario (performance in the spring aside)

    • Twains Yankee

      I like this but I doubt a trade is possible. I would Bullpen AJ and see how that works. Pitchers will get hurt and I would not be surprised if Kuroda is a bust

  • MattG

    I absolutely, positively reserve the right to change my mind come spring training. I am NOT on to base decisions on spring training results, but I do think there is a lot to see with regards to how Phil shows up, how Phil and AJ light up the gun, and how AJ is commanding the curve.

    I don’t expect all three will still be here come spring training, much less opening day, either.

    • thenamestsam

      That’s a very good point. I’m usually 100% opposed to spring training competitions, but I think Hughes needs to be evaluated in order to make an effective decision. If he looks good in camp, with his 2010 fastball and hopefully his new (old) curveball then I’d say the job is certainly his, as the other guys certainly don’t have that upside. If he still looks like fat Phil I’d try to trade him for what I could get and give Freddy the job. AJ should be a reliever in my opinion.

  • JonS

    Doesn’t Hughes still have options left?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      He has one left I believe, but sending him to Triple-A won’t help any. Minor league hitters won’t be enough of a challenge for him to actually improve.

      • pat

        And doesn’t he have to pass through waivers to be optioned down because of his service time? I could be wrong…

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

          Yeah, but players never get claimed off optional waivers. Apparently it’s one big gentleman’s agreement. At this time next year he’ll have enough service time to refuse a trip to the minors.

          • pat

            Ah word, ok.

          • Owen Two

            Isn’t that how Boston got Kevin Millar?

            If I’m Cherington, I’d jump at the chance to weaken the Yankees and improve the Red Sox.

            • Rick in Boston

              I believe Millar was being passed through waivers to be sent to Japan.

      • Jon

        Do you think Hughes is gonna be one of those AAAA types who just cant seem to put it all together in the show? As a starter anyways.

        I bet they trade either Hughes or AJ by the start of spring training.

      • Donny

        I completely agree with that assessment with one small caveat: It would help him if he were to go down to the minors with the sole purpose of developing a new pitch. For example, last year, Nova was sent down to the minors to specifically work on fastball command. While I understand this is not the same principle you would send Hughes down on, the brass could get creative with Hughes and have him polish out a splitter. Since he is prone to be more of a fly ball pitcher, this approach could be a smart move.

        This is just one reason why I agree with the stance of starting Freddy, sending Hughes down and letting AJ pitch out of long relief. What we can definitely all agree on is that if AJ doesn’t win the fifth starter’s job, he clearly has a limited role with this team.

        • http://www.bronxbombersreport.com Craig Maduro

          I agree here. I think there is some value in starting Hughes in Triple-A if 1). He doesn’t pout about it (never a given) and 2). He just wears out a change-up. Just get to the point where it is a usable pitch in Major League games. So much easier said than done, but oh well.

        • Havok9120

          Yes, if we send him down I want him throwing his curve and his change the vast majority of the time. I agree with Mike that the biggest issue is the lack of worthy competition, but if there’s a chance we can straighten out his two most regressed pitches, I’d do it.

      • I Live in My Mom’s Basement

        He’s not an inexperienced kid who needs to learn how to pitch to Major League hitters. He’s a Major League veteran who needs to refine his secondary pitches. He can do that anywhere.

        • Havok9120

          Yes, except that the ML games count. I picked Hughes for the rotation in the poll because I really do think he’ll come into camp sharp enough to hack a #5 role on the team. But if all of his secondary pitches look like nothing more than get-me-overs (as they did for much of last year) then he needs to be sent down.

          Getting his secondary pitches crushed half the time he throws them is NOT a good way to improve those secondary pitches. Not when we have an alternative.

      • Steve (different one)

        I hate to use the one case to prove a rule, but the Indians sent down cliff lee in 2007. He was even older and more accomplished than Hughes. Seemed to work out ok.

      • MannyGeee

        but doesnt the option to Scranton just keep his seat warm or provide him some time to tune up some of his ‘stuff’ or something?


  • http://www.cerealblogger.com Russ has a last name

    “I want Hughes to get the job but I expect them to give it to Burnett, all while Garcia is the one that actually deserves it based on merit.”

    Absolutly perfect summary of the situation and likely outcome.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      Yup, that’s what I think. If they don’t make a trade prior to the start of the season, they’ll give the job to AJ for multiple reasons, explaining that he typically has a good start to the season and had some bad luck last year. He’ll turn it around, they’ll say. They’ll try to boost his trade value with a good start. Phil will be the 6th inning guy and Freddy the long man. Something wil lhappen (trade, injury or AJ will crap out again) and Phil will be moved into the rotaion. Unless there’s a long term injury, Freddy will be gone by mid-year.

  • LarryM.,Fl.

    I voted for Hughes. He will be the one to bring the most value back to the team if he succeeds. There is only one way to see this upside. Let him pitch in the fifth spot.

    Sweaty Freddie is long relief.

    AJ is a salary dump and until the magic day a bullpen designate. I like the guy but this is about getting this team right both athletically and financially.

    There is no reason the team should delay Hughes’s progress. Its time for him to sink or swim at 3 million plus.

  • LiterallyFigurative

    I voted for Garcia, because I feel some sort of trade coming for AJ or Hughes. Maybe even both going in seperate deals. Garcia is a nice change of pace to CC and Pineda and Nova, and his crafty style is kind of fun to watch.

    I’m pulling for Hughes, just because he’s been here, and I’m a Hughes fan.

  • jsbrendog

    someone mentioned the ekcersly burnett parallel and i think it could be a good fit. he can go to the bp and be the long man 1 inning 5-6 ining guy and hughes and freddy can fight it out. if hughges looks good ask freddy if he wants to sit around doing nothing or get traded, maybe he says ill sign, send me somewhere, or maybe he says this is my last shot at a riung ill go to the pen.

    • vin

      Except Eckersley averaged 1.5 bb/9 fewer than AJ when he was a starter. There’s nothing more frutstrating than watching a reliever walk batters. AJ’s inconsistent mechanics prevent him from sustaining any sort of success. He used to get away with it in previous years because he had a big fastball, but since it has slowed, he no longer has that to fall back on.

      • raisin

        there is no up-side left in aj, time to admit the mistake and ship it off to the nl west

        • jsbrendog

          i’m glad you don’t work in a front office. or for me.

  • Rainbow Connection

    I HOPE it would be Hughes. It would be great if it were Hughes. I would love for him to kick ass at ST and all season long. That would make me happy. I have no idea what will happen or what the Yankees will decide is best for them.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      I HOPE it will be Hughes too, but i THINK it will be AJ.

    • yankeegirl

      I SECOND THAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • yankeegirl


        • JMK


  • Rich in NJ

    If it’s not Hughes, he has to stay stretched out at AAA.

  • nsalem

    I would not trade any of them. I think they are all valuable arms. If Hughes gets the starting job I think both Garcia and Burnett are professionals and would except the bullpen roles, not cause a problem and contribute. They would also be great insurance when the inevitable injury occurs.

  • http://www.bronxbombersreport.com Craig Maduro

    I’m on board with any option that does not involve Hughes going to the bullpen.

  • Alibaba

    Nova was not a highly touted pitching prospect, but he has done well until now. Joba and Hughes were highly-rated prospects. Look at where they are now. The Yankees are either unlucky or simply bad in developing starting pitching. I hope that the same curse does not befall ManBan.

    • nsalem

      Nova is doing well. They developed IPK and he begat Granderson. The jury is still out on Hughes. It seems like Noesi will start in Seattle this year and he helped bring us 2 young pitchers. It’s a sad story with Chamberlain but there is a good chance he will bring us value in the future. We have plenty in the pipeline including a top 5 lefty sp prospect. Doesn’t sound cursed to me.

  • David

    I voted for Hughes, but I’ve read through the comments and I could see using Hughes like we did Mendoza in the day (and giving the 5th to Garcia). There definitely will be starts missed and Hughes would be perfect for the spot starter/long reliever roll. But to use Hughes as a spot starter you need to keep his arm stretched and ready. If he proves himself to be lights out you move him into the rotation. If its last year’s Phil Hughes he’d be a valuable addition to the bullpen as he was last year.

    • http://www.bronxbombersreport.com Craig Maduro

      That “hybrid” role would be even worse than just sticking him in the set-up mix.

  • noseeum

    I voted for Garcia. Hughes should be formally told he’s next in line and to be ready. Meanwhile, Garcia gets a short leash and AJ is forced to learn how to pitch one inning in relief. That’s his job until further notice.

    One of four things things happens:
    1. Garcia is doing fine while Hughes shows he’s recovered and is ready to reclaim some of his past success, showing increased velocity and bite on his curve. [Many young starters have very bad years after a large increase in workload only to come back stronger. This is very possible!] In this case, trade Garcia for whatever you can get and give Hughes the 5th starter spot.

    2. Garcia is getting shelled and Hughes is doing great out of the bullpen as above – Promote Hughes to starter and demote Garcia to long relief, trade him or cut him. Whatever.

    3. Garcia is getting shelled and Hughes is performing adequately in relief, but it’s becoming increasingly clear he’s now and forever a bullpen guy – AJ, get back there in the 5th starter role! Garcia, you’re outta here.

    4. Garcia is getting shelled and Hughes sucks out of the bullpen – AJ, get back there in the 5th starter role! Garcia, you’re outta here! Hey 29 other teams, I got a young project I can sell you for whatever you got under your couch! Who wants Hughes?

    • David


  • Monterowasdinero

    We need to move some bodies. Get rid of 2 of these guys and money for a bat or two. We need some room for Banuelos/Betances/ Campos.

    Easier said than done but we cannot have these 3 guys come North (actually south to Tampa on opening day).

    I’d keep Garcia.

    • Bavarian Yankee

      Banuelos and Betances probably won’t be called up until September no matter what and Campos is years away. You need pitching depth because pitchers get hurt sooner rather than later.

    • JobaWockeeZ

      Two of these guys? Campos is 19 and has one solid pitch. Betances has walked the world twice and Banuelos is like 21 who is also coming off control issues.

      While I want the kids to get a chance we’ve got a group of high risk pitchers here.

      • Monterowasdinero

        Sometimes I’d just like to give our younger guys a chance. Look what Nova did on an accelerated schedule after all the coddling finally stopped. With the Yanks, it is just so difficult with big salaries above you.

    • http://twitter.com/#!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

      Campos doesn’t factor into this equation at all.

      • Dave M

        LOL..i know..every article about these guys have people mentioning them logjamming Campos! lol its comical that people think a 19yr has a shot in the yankee rotation this or even next season

    • nsalem

      Disagree. It’s a buyers market for DHs and there prices should fall drastically soon. Campos is 19 and years away. Banuelos and Betances are promising but had a difficult time getting through 5 innings at Trenton in under 100 pitches so right now they can’t help and can probably use at least a year in triple A. The two that don’t start can go to the bullpen and can provide great insurance when injuries occur. All three are major league arms and there are scenarios where they all can contribute. Would rather have AJ in the bullpen then the typical end of BP guys we have been carrying over the last few years.

  • JobaWockeeZ

    It’ll be Hughes. Thankfully.

  • Bavarian Yankee

    I voted for Hughes just because he’s under team control for another 3(?) years and I still think he can be a #3 type starter if he gets his things together.

    • vin

      He’s under team control for only two more years. Which is why they should make every effort to see what they’ve got in him as soon as possible.

      The rest of the rotation is good enough to handle Phil taking some lumps for 2-3 months. It’s really just a personnel issue. How do you deal with the high priced and newly signed vets?

  • MelHallsBattingGlove

    for what its worth, yesterday when asked about who would slot in behind CC on francessa show, the second name cashman mentioned was hughes. burnett and garcia were almost an afterthought. Could be to boost up his trade value, but cash seemed very confident about hughes pitching well

  • Toki

    A vote for Hughes is nothing but a sentimental vote. He’s not that fresh new thing on the BA covers anymore. He’s a 25 year old who’s shown nothing outside of a good start to 2010. He’s not one of the best 5 starters this team has and shouldn’t be thrown out there every 5 days.

    Garcia is the answer and let AJ and Hughes bid there time in the pen til an injury or ineffectivness happens.

    • MelHallsBattingGlove

      looking at it objectively it is really hard to say that it should be hughes. At one point do we stop looking at his “potential” and start looking at him for what he is? More importantly when do the yankees? Perhaps, they will give him one last shot this spring, but i am not holding my breath that we will even see %50 of that potential filled

      • http://www.bronxbombersreport.com Craig Maduro

        Maybe half of us need to stop talking about Hughes having all of this potential left. At the same time, the other half of us need to stop acting as if Hughes has already peaked. The dude is 25 and only has 71 starts under his belt.

        At worst, he’s somewhere in between the two. With that said, he deserves another shot to show that he can be a productive starting pitcher.

    • Monterowasdinero

      I like this.

  • Dave M

    You cant say AJ may have had bad luck when the last TWO seasons, he’s been among the worst THREE!!!! pitchers in all of baseball..the guy just plain sucks..

    I’d start Hughes only bc he is young and has upside..however he needs to earn that position. Cant just give it to him. If we cant trade Burnett, even though he sucks, I’d still spot start him. Although I’d rather use Garcia in that role

  • RetroRob

    Who I pick doesn’t really matter. What I want is for Hughes to show up in spring training with his good fastball.

  • gageagainstthemachine

    where’s the fourth option in the poll?

    4) Joe Girardi consults The Binder and institutes a 7 man rotation as long as everyone’s healthy, so as not to step-on anyone’s toes or hurt anyone’s feelings (see end of 2011 season)

    • Monterowasdinero


      “my guys”

  • Ted Nelson

    In terms of “should” I would go with Garcia #5, Burnett bullpen, Hughes AAA.

    I think that this is the best combination short-term and long-term. Short-term I think Garcia has the best shot. If he fails… on to the next one. I’m not totally down on Burnett, but he has a fairly low chance of helping in the rotation. If he can’t be traded I can see him having the most value in the pen. Probably start him as a long-man to keep him somewhat stretched out and go from there. I think Hughes to AAA gives him a chance to re-establish himself in the short- and longer-term. I found his motion to just be atrocious last season, even after “rehab.” Maybe he’s already doing it and maybe I’m wrong, but re-working those mechanics would be priority #1 to me. Maybe even extended spring training. Without any other trade(s) there’s really a limited need for him in the beginning of 2012. Try Garcia, AJ, and if necessary Phelps, Warren, etc. in the rotation while Hughes gets his stuff together.

  • Paco Dooley

    Here is how I see it:

    The case for Freddy – they owe him money, the case against – he is not in the plans for the future and he is likely to regress

    The case for AJ – he can pitch a bunch of innings, and some fair fraction of his starts will be very good. The case against – those bad starts will be very bad.

    The case for Hughes – he is part of the future of this franchise and still has the potential to be one of their 3 best starters moving forward, the case against is obviously that he has been inconsistent and had injuries that have made his production mediocre.

    I vote for Hughes – this team needs to look to the future of the rotation to be a great team moving forward. The last couple of years (last year in particular) they needed bodies to fill the rotation and it would be really nice to be back in the bind they found themselves in last year, where they got amazingly lucky that Bartolo and Freddy saved the season.

  • duderinough

    You can’t move Freddy until later in the season so I would slide him into the five slot and Phil to AAA. AJ can be the long man and maybe move Freddy mid season and bring up Phil or have him ready to go anytime incase of injury.

  • MidlandTX

    I can’t believe all the mentions of injury in this comment thread have been about a hypothetical mid-season injury to Starter 1-4, when Phil Hughes is one of the guys playing Musical Chairs. He has to be my odds-on favorite to start the season on the DL or rehabbing in Extended Spring Training.

    Who wouldn’t believe the most preposterous “phantom DL” injury in light of his history:

    *July 2004 – Phil makes his first start as a future Yankee. He’s shut down with elbow stiffness the next day.
    *August 2004 – Phil breaks his toe running in the hallway of his hotel to answer his cell phone.
    *June 2005 – To the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis.
    *May 2007 – Leaves no-hit bid with strained hamstring.
    *May 2007 – Suffers a grade 3 ankle sprain during rehabilitation. Does anything scream injury prone like getting injured in rehab?
    *May 2008 – Mystery stress fracture to his rib.
    *May 2008 – Is nearsightedness an injury?
    *April 2011 – Dead arm, later called shoulder inflammation.