Rotation lined up as Spring Training winds down

Number four in the rotation, number one in our hearts. (Mike Carlson/Getty)

Number four in the rotation, number one in our hearts. (Mike Carlson/Getty)

One thing I’ve come to understand over the years is the order of the starting rotation at the beginning of the season means very little. It’s all symbolism. The Opening Day start usually goes to a veteran who has been with the team a while, not necessarily the best pitcher. Being designated as the staff ace and actually pitching like an ace are two different things. Scheduled off-days and rain-outs throw a wrench into the rotation after a few weeks and the order gets all mixed up anyway. It’s fun to talk about, but the importance is small.

Spring Training ends in less than two weeks — the final Grapefruit League game is next Saturday — and the Yankees have started to line up their rotation for Opening Day and the start of the regular season. I’m sure it has actually been plotted out and planned for a few weeks now, but now that we can see the light at the end of the Spring Training tunnel, the plan is a little more concrete. Courtesy of Chad Jennings, here is the rotation through the weekend according to Joe Girardi:

Wednesday: Ivan Nova
Thursday: David Phelps
Friday: CC Sabathia
Saturday: Masahiro Tanaka
Hiroki Kuroda in a minor league game
Sunday: Michael Pineda

With Vidal Nuno and Adam Warren nowhere to be found, it’s likely both have already made their final starts of the spring. That makes sense, they always seemed to be the distant third and fourth contenders for the final rotation spot. Girardi confirmed Warren will make the team in some capacity a few weeks ago, so he’s headed to the bullpen. Nuno could very well wind up in Triple-A as the sixth starter.

Michael Pineda has been fantastic this spring with the obvious caveats: he’s coming off major shoulder surgery, it’s mid-March, he isn’t stretched out all the way, he hasn’t faced the greatest lineups, etc. Everything we’ve seen so far is encouraging and even though Girardi stopped short of anointing him the fifth starter — “The other guys are throwing pretty well too. We’ve got to figure out what’s best for our team as a whole,” he said to Bryan Hoch yesterday — it sure seems like Pineda is the favorite to start the season in the rotation, relegating David Phelps to the bullpen. So, with that in mind, here’s how next week’s rotation lines up:

  • Monday, March 24th: OFF DAY (Nova throws a simulated or minor league game)
  • Tuesday, March 25th vs. Phillies: Phelps on regular rest
  • Wednesday, March 26th @ Blue Jays: Sabathia on regular rest
  • Thursday, March 27th @ Pirates: Kuroda on regular rest
  • Friday, March 28th vs. Marlins: Tanaka with one extra day of rest
  • Saturday, March 29th vs. Marlins: Nova on regular rest, Pineda???
  • Sunday, March 30th: OFF DAY

According to Jennings, Girardi “hinted that someone will pitch at the complex” during the Monday’s scheduled off-day. Nova lines up perfectly for that day, so he seems to be the guy. Phelps, Sabathia, and Kuroda follow with their final Grapefruit League starts on regular rest, then Tanaka goes with one extra day. The team has said they are planning to give him the extra day here and there. It’s also worth noting that regardless of whether he starts Thursday or Friday (or Saturday or Sunday for that matter), Tanaka will have faced only one AL club this winter (the Twins this coming Saturday). I doubt this was a coincidence. The Yankees kept him hidden from the direct competition while still getting him innings against MLB caliber hitters. Clever.

Anyway, following Tanaka’s start, Nova closes out the Grapefruit League schedule on regular rest next Saturday. What happens with Pineda at that point is anyone’s guess. He could come out of the bullpen to replace Nova, he could throw a simulated game, or he could start a minor league game. The Yankees have options. Pineda will be working on one extra day of rest Saturday and it’s good to give him that little break following his surgery and long rehab. They have to take it easy on him and not work him too hard, too soon.

With that all laid out, here’s how the rotation lines up the following week:

  • Monday, March 31st: OFF DAY
  • Tuesday, April 1st @ Astros: Sabathia with one extra day of rest
  • Wednesday, April 2nd @ Astros: Kuroda with one extra day of rest
  • Thursday, April 3rd @ Astros: Nova on regular rest
  • Friday, April 4th @ Blue Jays: Tanaka with two extra days of rest
  • Saturday, April 5th @ Blue Jays: Pineda with two extra days of rest

Nova’s the only guy who wouldn’t make his first start of the season with extra rest and since he’s young and healthy (and not coming over from Japan), he probably needs the extra rest the least. Pineda could throw a simulated game or pitch in a minor league game on Sunday the 30th instead of Saturday the 29th, allowing him to make that first regular season start on one extra day of rest rather than two. There is such a thing as too much rest, remember. He can get out of rhythm or something like that. Tanaka is used to starting with six days of rest, so the two extra days should be no big deal to him.

The Yankees have indicated Tanaka will start the fourth game of the season rather than the third for two specific reasons. One, they want to split him and Kuroda up since they have very similar styles as fastball/splitter/slider pitchers. (It’s not just a racial thing, you know.) Two, they want to give Tanaka extra rest when they can, and by starting him in the fourth game, he’ll be able to make his third start of the season with an extra day of rest. If he starts the third game of the season, he’d have to make both his second and third starts with normal rest. Anything to help the transition.

Sabathia was pretty terrible last season but he’s getting the nod on Opening Day for past performance. The guy was pretty awesome from 2009-12. Like I said before, the Opening Day start is a novelty more than anything. It doesn’t have any kind of real value to the team. The Game One starter for a postseason series, now that actually matters. Opening Day? Nah, not worth getting upset over. The rotation is all lined up for the start of the season and everyone who needs an extra day or two of rest will get it, and that’s it the most important thing.


  1. Darren says:

    Didn’t Kei Igawa start an opener (or home opener)?

  2. Evan says:

    So lines up for Kuroda to start the home opener. Kind of fitting as has been their best pitcher the last 2 years.

  3. Eddardo Nuney says:

    If CC pitches to a 4.7 ERA again he’s going to get himself run out of town. That was a Burnett and Hughes like season giving up homer after homer and he’s a LHP in YS, he should be able to do better than that.

    I think the staff ace is Nova right now. He proved down the stretch last year what he can do, with his sinking fastball to induce GBs and his curve to get the SO.

    Hiroki was the staff ace for the first half of last year. They need to manage his innings better this year so he doesn’t fall off a cliff in September. And with the pitching depth they have they should be able to do it.

    Tanaka and Pineda have high potential but are either unproven in MLB or coming off injury. This could be the best staff in baseball if CC pitches up to his contract and these two don’t have any major set backs. And if someone goes down they can just insert Dave Phelps and not miss a beat.

  4. TWTR says:

    It’s all noise at this point. The exciting thing is that unlike almost forever, we have three young starters with significant upside. That has the potential to make this season more compelling, at least for me, than any season since Jeter, Bernie, etc. were kids.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

      Very true, although my excitement level goes like this:


      • I'm One says:

        Add in 3 or 4 additional young starters that should be #5s or better in Phelps, Warren Nuno and hopefully Banuelos (really hoping he regains his feel in AAA this season and develops into a #3 or better beginning in 2015). Exciting (or at least interesting) times for young Yankee starters.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

          It’s also entirely possible you add a few more names to that list by the end of the season. Shane Greene has looked very impressive thus far in ST. Very interested in what steps forward guys like Mitchell, Severino, and DePaula take.

          • Yankee$ (Formerly Pseudoyanks) says:

            …and don’t forget two “new” first rounders in the lower levels for good measure (Hensley and Clarkin)

            • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

              Absolutely. I was just thinking more who could place themselves in a position to help in 2015. Granted, Severino and DePaula are extreme stretches in that department.

      • Cool Lester Smooth says:

        Yup, although I might actually reverse Tanaka and Pineda, if Mike pulls off another start like yesterday.

    • 4 if Banuelos takes a step forward. He obviously still has a long way to go though.

  5. Old Kinderhook says:

    Consider this my vote for a 6-man rotation. Tanaka, Kuroda & Pineda all seem like they would benefit from extra rest between starts. Nuno seems to be able to pitch effectively on an irregular schedule. Why does this seem so controversial?

    • Eddardo Nuney says:

      I’d be in favor of 6 man. I think it’d be Phelps over Nuno though. They’d never do it because Girardi does things by the binder and CC wouldn’t like it. But if CC pitches like he did last year then what he wants matters less and less.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

      Vote against six-man rotations. How often do they truly practically work out for long?

      There are other ways to skin this cat.

      • mitch says:

        Agreed. It’s not a good idea. You don’t want Phelps making 17% of the starts when they could be pitched by much better guys. Limit the workload with lower pitch counts.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

          Excellent point. You’re thinning out the talent pool.

          I don’t think Phelps is the greatest example, as I do think he’s a perfectly capable fifth starter on a good team, but you’re still thinning out the pool. Nuno becomes the next guy up, then what? Hello, Bruce Billings?

          You can limit innings. You can “Strasburg” Pineda if everything goes roses. There’s other ways to manage this.

          • mitch says:

            I wasn’t trying to knock Phelps. i like him. I agree he’s a capable 5, but I don’t want him making 25 starts if they can just as easily be distributed to 5 better pitchers.

            If you limit pitch count, you’re making up the difference with bullpen innings which are almost definitely going to be higher quality than starter-Phelps innings. Ironically, a lot of those extra bullpen innings will probably come from Phelps anyway.

          • Cool Lester Smooth says:

            Yeah, I think Pineda should be Strasburged, not Jobaed.

    • OB/GYN Kenobi says:

      Yes because 5 effective starting pitchers are so easy to find, let’s go with 6!


      Also, it has pretty serious downstream effects on roster construction.

      Just not a good or smart thing, sorry.

      • TWTR says:

        Starters are used to pitching every five days. When they get too much rest, they lose command. I would actually prefer a four man rotation to a six man rotation, but to do that, it would have to start in the minor leagues.

    • ALZ says:

      6-man rotation means that you just end up having one man less out of bullpen, and your 6th best pitcher gets more innings. I’d rather have CC/Kuroda/Pineda/Tanaka/Nova go more times, and just pull them earlier in game if they wearing down.

  6. Jorge Steinbrenner says:


    You forgot Phil Hughes. Somehow, he still winds up making the rotation.


  7. emac2 says:

    The opening day start because he used to be good? That’s disgraceful.

    If the team can’t play to win because certain players egos are too fragile they need to sign different players.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

      Technically, every player in baseball “used to be good.” No one’s played a game yet.

      Mike Trout earns in a demotion to AAA this year. I’m calling it right now. BOOM.

      • emac2 says:

        You think every player has played well at some point in their career?

        Just because they haven’t played for a few months doesn’t mean you can ignore last year. Pretending the cc issue is about spring training is dishonest or uninformed.

        • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead says:

          Every major league player has played well at some point in their career. I’m fairly confident this is indisputable fact.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

          Hey, you all who think “the cc issue is about spring training!” emac2 thinks you’re dishonest and uninformed.

          What… one really thinks that? You all think he’s oversimplifying and generalilzing what everyone else thinks? Oh, OK.


    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead says:

      What in the world? Who said anything about CC having a fragile ego?

      • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

        Those who have never managed manage with the most iron-ing-est fist possible.

        • emac2 says:

          Have you ever managed even one employee?

          • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

            I currently manage six. At my highest, I managed seven across three programs and two locations, plus a separate successful grant-funded initiative. I wrote the hiring manual for the program I work for, plus several grants which have brought tens of thousands of dollars into the agency.

            But enough about me. Let’s get back to the topic at hand, which is how you’re not smart enough to handle anything left of complete black-and-white thinking on the internet, like, ever.

      • emac2 says:

        Why would you start the pitcher with a new body and who needs to learn a new way to win with diminished stuff in the opener?

        He should be held back if anything.

        I’m tired of players starting for any reason other than winning and things like cc in the opener and jeter at the top of the lineup is a play for ratings instead of winning.

        • Mike Axisa says:

          Starting Sabathia on Opening Day and batting Jeter second are not even remotely on the same planet. Opening Day is one game, arguably the least important game of the regular season.

          • emac2 says:

            They are both illustrations of the point I am making which just happens to be that you either play to win or you don’t.

            The first game is just as important as the last and if you don’t play that way you’re going to lose and deserve it.

            • Steve (different one) says:

              But pitchers can’t pitch every day. Your argument makes no sense.

              • emac2 says:

                Are you so stupid as to think that starting your best players every day means using your number one starter in every game? Your best player on Tuesday is never the starter from Mondays game.

                • The Great Gonzo says:

                  Soooooo, you should play every day to win. Got it.

                  But… the first game is no more or less important than the second game, and you should try to win that one. Opening Day Starter is LITERALLY the least important aspect of managing a major league pitching rotation. High socks or baggies may be more important.

            • lightSABR says:

              So, you’re saying that CC shouldn’t be in the rotation at all? You realize he can’t be sent to the minors, right? So you think he should be turned into a reliever or cut?

              • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

                Opening Day is worth two wins, don’t you know?

                If you let CC start on Opening Day, you are showing him that it’s OK to have diminished velocity and weight loss and to try hard but still struggle. You’re not giving him something to strive for. Fucking entitlement culture.

                Send him down to Single-A and have him walk to the stadium every day. He’ll bust out a gyroball by day five.

                Also, it doesn’t matter how much a player has done for your team, or how he’s preservered in the past. The moment they struggle, you shoot them in the leg. It’s what the St. Louis Cardinals do.

              • emac2 says:

                I’m not saying that. I could see him going to extended spring training but am fine with him in the rotation. Defaulting to starting him on opening night is the issue.

        • lightSABR says:

          Why do you care so much about a meaningless honor like opening day starter? If he has another terrible year and the Yankees still start him first in the playoffs, then we can talk.

          Of course, they won’t do that. (Not least because if CC has a terrible year, we probably won’t be in the playoffs.)

          • emac2 says:

            I care about the compilation of moves like this over the course of the season that lead to extra losses in the standings and losses in player development.

            • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

              That’s a bunch of words strung together.

            • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead says:

              This is not an extra loss. Even if CC is terrible forever, he’s going to lose game 3 or 4 or wherever you think he should be slotted. If your argument is opening day means he’ll have more starts than anyone else over the course of the year, you have the beginnings of a point, even if I disagree with it.

              • emac2 says:

                This isn’t true at the beginning of the season when all of the rotations are aligned. Cc can either face a number one starter in the first game or a 3 or 4 starter.

                I think he would probably beat a 3 but I’m not confident he beats a 1.

                Looking at this decision using season starts as a measuring stick doesn’t give you the relevant information.

                • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead says:

                  …dear god.


                • Ed says:

                  Too many levels of bad here, but, it’s the Astros. Their opening day starter is Scott Feldman. A guy that Baseball References values at 5.2 total wins over 9 seasons.

                  If you’re seriously worried that it’s too tough of a matchup for CC, then wow…

                  • emac2 says:

                    How good is their number 3 starter?

                    If you aren’t worried about cc I don’t think you’ve been watching.

                    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead says:

                      Ask yourself: “If 10 other people are disagreeing with me, what are the odds that I’m the one who’s correct, especially if I have no evidence for anything I’ve said”?

                      Then leave.

                    • emac2 says:


                      I feel really sorry for you if the only way you know something is true is by polling your obviously challenged friends.

                      People tend to hang out with people they understand which probably causes you even more confusion.

            • Cool Lester Smooth says:

              and what is the difference between CC starting against the Astros on Opening Day and CC starting Game 5?

        • Steve (different one) says:

          Also, don’t you think Tanaka would draw higher “ratings” than CC?

        • Steve (different one) says:

          The point about Jeter is valid.

          The point about CC is not. What does the “opener” have to do with anything? There are 162 games. That means, if no one got hurt, 3 guys would get 32 starts and 2 would get 33 starts. The order will get mixed up at some point during the season. Therefore, the order at the start of the season doesn’t really matter.

          • emac2 says:

            The point is playing to win every game by using the best players available.

            Excuses like it all works out in the end or that a rotation is a rotation is sort of nonsensical and ignores basic principals of both math and competition.

            • Mike Axisa says:

              There is no difference between starting him in Game One or Game Two of the season.

              • emac2 says:

                We’ll just have to disagree on this one. I don’t think this alone is tragic but it’s part of a losing pattern and mindset that just creates more obstacles for the team to overcome.

                • Jorge Steinbrenner says:


                • Mike Axisa says:

                  So instead of overcoming that obstacle on Opening Day, they should try to overcome it in the second or third game instead? You said every game is equally important, how is there a difference in which day he starts?

                  • emac2 says:

                    Wow. That’s disappointing from you.

                    In the opener we face the other teams number one starter which for most teams roughly means the one with the best era. Each starter down the rotation in theory allows more runs per start.

                    If cc starts the 3rd game of the season against the other teams third starter you should be able to assume that he can allow more runs and still win.

                    • The Great Gonzo says:

                      Except this years Opening Day starter is Scott Feldman. Make your argument in October when it is valid. Right now they’re the ramblings of a madman.

                    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead says:

                      More like Cy Feldman.

                • lightSABR says:

                  Signing Ichiro was the kind of dumb, not playing to win move you’re talking about. So is batting Jeter at the top of the order if his bat doesn’t deserve it. Those are both things that actually matter.

                  Starting CC at the front of the rotation instead of the back doesn’t actually matter because he’s going to get the same number of starts either way. It’s just a gesture – a vote of confidence for a very talented pitcher who works hard and means a lot for the team’s success.

                  • emac2 says:

                    Math fail.

                    • The Great Gonzo says:

                      You’re being a dick

                    • lightSABR says:

                      What math? I haven’t used any, but you certainly haven’t given me yours.

                      If you want me to take you seriously, give me an actual probability analysis telling me what the mean and variance are for the expected wins of the team over its first few times through the rotation, and how those numbers are affected by the rotation order. I strongly suspect that the rotation order has a negligible impact, but you’re the genius who tells people they suck at math. Prove me wrong.

                    • emac2 says:

                      The starts don’t even out. That’s an assumption that requires that the manager never adjusts the rotation when given the chance.

            • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

              So when does starting CC mean less? I’m dying to know the answer to this.

              • emac2 says:

                Can you rephrase the question?

                Or is that a riddle?

                • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

                  Answer the fucking question. You know what it means.

                  You claim starting him on Opening Day is detrimental. Tell me what other day you start him where it’s less detrimental.

                • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead says:

                  By your own words, you play to win each game. That means that you have to win game 2 as well. And game 3. And game 4. CC is going to start one of those. How does it matter that it’s not game 1?

                  • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

                    Obviously, you send him to Extended Spring Training with Gil Patterson until he’s learned how to pitch like an ace again and replace him with David Phelps in the rotation. That’s a winning move.

                    I’m giving you all of emac’s replies in advance here.

                  • emac2 says:

                    See above…or below….

                    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead says:

                      If we were up against Scott Sizemore in game 1, I’d say you had a point.

        • Preston says:

          Sabathia is one year removed from being a top 5-10 starter in the game. You’re putting too much value into last year. The Yankees are right to rely on history. All three of the major projection systems have CC providing more value than Kuroda, Nova and certainly Pineda and Phelps next season. Tanaka has some systems that like him more, but they don’t have any MLB stats for him, so I think even the people who made those lofty projections for him would tell you to take them with a grain of salt.

          • emac2 says:

            Last year, combined with spring training, his new body and his 90 mph fastball is much more important than his results for the year before last.

            • handtius says:

              Since when do spring training results matter, unless you’re competing for a spot on the team? Many a great players are, or were, horrible in spring. Look at Tex for example. His first year on the Yankees, he was horrible in spring and in April and ended the year hitting .292/.383/.565. CC has also always be one to start slow. And, as everyone above has stated, your argument has no merit. CC has to pitch eventually. Whether it’s opening day or day 4, it doesn’t matter. Every pitcher, if healthy and with no innings limit, will get 32-33 starts, CC included.

              • emac2 says:

                Spring training doesn’t matter. It simply shows that he’s the same pitcher he was last year.

                The fact that a few clowns taking a break from their favorite porn site disagree is about as valuable as the work they they do while trolling.

            • Preston says:

              You say this like it’s fact, you have no idea. Neither do the Yankees. But their position on the matter is perfectly valid and probably the safest choice. Nobody denies that CC has some question marks. But acting like he’s a useless guy they should be afraid to have in the rotation is way extreme.

    • Steve (different one) says:

      Did you actually read the article? Not sure what this has to do with “playing to win”. It is called a “rotation” for a reason. Everyone gets a turn! The order becomes irrelevant very quickly due to all the reasons listed in the article.

    • Dalek Jeter says:

      That was quite the adventure. I can’t think of anything else to add except that literally everybody else in this thread is right, and you are wrong emac2. It’s one game. IF CC is as bad as he was last season it makes absolutely no difference if he pitches game 1, game 3, or game 5. You argued at one point that he’d have a better chance against a number 3, but Mike mentioned just the other day that Sabathia was something like 87th out of 104 qualified pitchers in bWAR last season, so if he’s that bad again it’s not going to make much difference when he pitches. However if you go beyond last season (shocking concept I know) you’ll see he was a legit top 5 pitcher in baseball for a number of consecutive years so you bank on him returning to that form.

      • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead says:

        Yeah I find it’s rare that literally no one is on the side of the crazy. That’s like, ultimate crazy.

    • BFDeal says:

      If it weren’t for my horse, I wouldn’t have spent that year in college.

  8. Mike HC says:

    I would have went with Kuroda over CC but I can see why the yanks wouldnt want to dangle that low hanging fruit in front of the ny media.

  9. Hawkeye says:

    Jorge and Jim- nice double team- I’d give you the decision on points!

  10. Macho Man "Randy Levine" says:

    This thread turned to shit. All it takes is one nutjob with a crazy-ass opinion to make it that way.

    So, thanks a lot, Jorge Steinbrenner!


  11. I would definitely go with Sidney Ponson on opening day. He would match up better with Scott Feldman.

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