Opening Day rotation order taking shape

2012 Season Preview: Regression Candidates
Sorry, folks, but you're here a little early
(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

There are few things in baseball more talked about and less important than the order of the Opening Day rotation. Everyone wants to know who the number two starter behind CC Sabathia will be, but ultimately it doesn’t matter in April. It matters in October. Seniority and salaries and stuff like that has more to do with determining the Opening Day rotation order than expected production, which is why A.J. Burnett got the ball in the second game of 2011.

We all know Sabathia is going to start Opening Day for the fourth time as a Yankee and the ninth time overall in 2012, but that all-important number two starter spot is still a mystery. It could be Ivan Nova, who was the number two come playoff time last season. It could also be new import Michael Pineda, who the Yankees have touted as a future ace assuming he figures out a usable changeup. Hiroki Kuroda has a strong case as well as a veteran arm coming off four very good seasons with the Dodgers. He was their Opening Day starter in 2009, and his $10M price tag doesn’t hurt his chances. Heck, you can even make an argument for Freddy Garcia. He pitched well last year, gives some Grade-A veteran presents, and has a trio of Opening Day starts to his credit (Mariners, 2001-2003).

Based on the current Spring Training rotation order, it looks as though Kuroda will get the ball after Sabathia to open the season while Nova following as the number three. CC pitches today against the Pirates, Kuroda tomorrow against the Rays, and then Nova on Thursday against the Blue Jays. According to Chad Jennings, Joe Girardi said the order will remain the same the next time through the rotation as well, taking us into mid-March. At that point the starters will have increased their workload to four innings or so, making it a bit more difficult to rearrange things just for the heck of it. Pineda and either Garcia or Phil Hughes will follow as the four and five in some order.

The Yankees start the season with three games in Tampa and three games in Baltimore before their first scheduled day off, so they will need all five starters right out of the chute. If they really want to get cute, they can use a six-man rotation the first time through the rotation, allowing Sabathia to start the home opener after that first off-day. I don’t like it and really hope they don’t do it, but the Yankees did employ a six-man rotation for way too long last season. It wouldn’t be a complete surprise if they did it again. Maybe I’m just paranoid.

Anyway, it appears as though Kuroda and Nova will follow Sabathia in the rotation to open the season. I had a feeling things would line up this way after the Pineda and Kuroda pickups; the Yankees have talked about easing the former into things, and frankly I think the latter is going to be the club’s best pitcher not named Sabathia in 2012. Like I said though, the order of the rotation on Opening Day means very little. Weather and off days and injuries will change things drastically during the course of the 162-game schedule, but come late-September and early-October, that’s when this stuff will really start to matter.

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2012 Season Preview: Regression Candidates
Sorry, folks, but you're here a little early
  • PinedaColada

    Just give me some more Pineda and I’m good . Shit the season can’t come soon enough

    • Jeff

      ditto.. it’s early, very early, but his changeup looked decent yesterday.

    • Mike HC

      Agreed. These early spring training games are not getting it done.

  • Steve (different one)

    If the Yankees were to use the 6 man rotation once through, just to ease everyone into the season, before putting say, Garcia, in the bullpen, why would that be bad? I can’t come up with any reason why it would be.

    • Dan

      I dont hate the idea, but I think that the reasoning is that you want your best pitcher taking the ball as often as possible. Skipping CC allows a lesser pitcher to take innings from him.
      It would also give him 6 full days off between starts and that can screw with a guy’s rhythm.

      • steve (different one)

        Extra rest is either going to happen between starts anyway. Either between starts 1 and 2, or between starts 2 and 3, since there is an off-day and they have 5 viable starters in their rotation.

        This way would be 2 extra extra days of rest, but I don’t know if CC is really “in a rythm” yet, the first week of April.

        I’m not really arguing FOR this idea, I couldn’t care less. I was just trying to figure where the word “paranoid” was coming from. Are people really afraid they will employ a 6 man rotation for the entire season starting in April? That’s not going to happen.

    • Jesse

      I thought the last time they tried that 6-man rotation deal it was supposed to be only one time through.

    • Gonzo

      Taking starts away from CC sounds like a good reason.

      • steve (different one)

        Sure, if that would happen.

        But knocking your #1 starter back one start shouldn’t change the number of starts he would get. He should still get 32. No one is suggesting SKIPPING Sabathia.

        • Gonzo

          Oh, so your saying keep CC on a 5 man rotation rest schedule and then pushing back everyone else accordingly?

          • steve (different one)

            I think Mike was saying was saying instead of pitching game 1 and 6, CC would pitch game 1 and 7 and stay on regular rest for the rest of the season. Shouldn’t affect his ability to get those 32 starts.

  • Urban

    The only thing I’m sure of as it relates to rotation order is Pineda is the one guy I’m sure won’t be the number two at the start.

    • Jim Is Bored

      I’m actually curious as to why you think that? Is it based on last year, or his 2 ip performance yesterday? Or something else?

      • Urban

        I’m referring to where the Yankees will slot him out of spring training. Expectations are already high on Pineda, so they won’t increase expectations by immediately putting him in the #2 position. It’s mostly symbolic, so there’s more to be lost than gained by having him in the #2 position right away. They’ll probably go with Kuroda, since he’s the veteran and coming off a fine year, or Nova, since he was pretty much their #2 down the stretch.

        • Jim Is Bored

          Gotcha. I can’t say I agree 100% as far as what the Yanks are gonna do, but your reasoning makes sense to me.

  • JD

    Hughes is throwing batting practice.

    • steve (different one)

      is this game on TV?

      • Jesse

        Nope, just the GameDay thing on MLB.com and GameDay audio.

  • Dick Gozinya

    Hughes just got his ass knocked around. Might be early, but I was really hoping he would come out and dazzle.

  • Tim

    CC has gotten more than 32 starts each season in NY. With good health he should again.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    These Pittsburgh radio announcers have me longing for John and Suzyn. It sounds like they’re announcing from bed.

  • Cris Pengiucci

    I’ll be in NY April 11 – 15. Gonna try to make a game (weather and ticket price permitting). From a purely selfish postion, Home Openner with CC would be great. Even if we see the Saturday game, Seeing Kuroda or Nova pitch (if they stick with a 5-man rotation) would be fine with me as well.

  • Midland TX

    Tangentially related to the starting rotation, and to the game today–it’s an updated timeline of Pittsburgh Pirate logos:

    https://p.twimg.com/Am7TQ6WCAAE95Kp.jpg

    • Monterowasdinero

      Terrific stuff. AJ may have better control with the patch.

    • Jesse

      Got a nice laugh out of that one.

  • JohnC

    HUghes velocity was 91-93 which is good. Location was not there though. But first ST start, not gonna panic.

  • Dan

    Sabathia
    Kuroda
    Nova
    Pineda
    Hughes

    Garcia to the pen.

    • Spiff

      Sabathia
      Kuroda
      Nova
      Pineda
      Garcia

      is how I’d like to see it to start the season. Sandwiching Garcia in between two pitchers like Pineda and Sabathia should give opposing teams a nice change of pace. But yours is more likely to happen.

  • Mykey

    Just pitch CC everyday. Then let your 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th inning guys handle the rest.

    • SevenAces

      You forgot about the 2nd inning guy.

      • Mykey

        Right, I forget who has that job. Scott Proctor?

        • Havok9120

          Nah, he pitches everyday, moving up an inning every day between 3rd-8th.

  • Gonzo

    So was Hughes throwing batting practice today or did he impress with the 93 mph “ball jumping out of his hand” day?

    Probably non-consequential anyways.