Eppler confirms Esmil Rogers is coming to Spring Training as a starter

Call me Esmil. (Presswire)
Call me Esmil. (Presswire)

This isn’t surprising: assistant GM Billy Eppler has confirmed right-hander Esmil Rogers will report to Spring Training stretched out and prepared to work as a starting pitcher. “I don’t know, I think you just walk into it with an open mind and just see. I think you just let it all play out. You usually don’t have to end up making the call. Situations and the players will make the call for you,” said Eppler to Chad Jennings.

Rogers, 29, worked as a starter in winter ball this offseason, allowing six runs in 11.2 innings (4.63 ERA) while striking out 18 and walking four. He has a 5.50 ERA (4.72 FIP) in 225.2 career innings as a starter at the MLB level, though most of that damage came when he was stuck pitching for the Rockies in Coors Field from 2019-12 (6.24 ERA and 4.87 FIP in 114 innings). Still, his track record as a big league starter isn’t very good.

Rogers did make one fine spot start for the Yankees last season (one run in five innings) and there’s really no reason not to bring him to camp as a starter. New York has a lot of injury risk in their rotation and it’s better to have Rogers stretched out and ready to go just in case. He can always slide back into the bullpen if need be. At best, I think Esmil is the team’s seventh starter behind the regular five and Adam Warren.

Eppler also reiterated Warren is coming to camp as a starter as well. David Phelps was scheduled to come to camp as a starter before he was traded to the Marlins in the Martin Prado/Nathan Eovaldi swap. Minor league righty Bryan Mitchell is another rotation candidate and the Yankees recently signed veteran righties Scott Baker and Kyle Davies to add some extra rotation depth.

Severino could help in 2015, but Yankees shouldn’t count on him making an immediate impact

(Trenton Thunder)
(Trenton Thunder)

At this point it goes without saying the Yankees have some major injury risks in their rotation heading into next season. We’ve been talking about it all winter. CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, and Masahiro Tanaka were all hurt for significant periods of time last year and Ivan Nova is still on the mend from Tommy John surgery. There’s no way to feel comfortable with this group from a health standpoint.

Of course, the Yankees did actually deal with a ton of rotation injuries last year, and they were still able to cobble together a decent staff. At one point five of the six best starters in the organization (Sabathia, Pineda, Tanaka, Nova, David Phelps) were all on the disabled list, yet Brian Cashman & Co. dug up a Chris Capuano here, found a Brandon McCarthy there, and made it work. Even with the injuries, the rotation had the fourth highest fWAR in baseball (14.9). It helps that no one can hit anymore.

As with Shane Greene last summer, the Yankees will inevitably have to dip into their minor league pitching reserves at some point this summer, and it appears Bryan Mitchell is first in line for a call-up after making his MLB debut last year. Chances are the team will need more than one fill-in starter though. That’s just baseball. Getting through a season using only five or six starters never happens these days. Add in the Tanaka, Sabathia, and Pineda injury risk and the Yankees are even more likely than most to need extra starters.

New York’s top prospect heading into the 2015 season is soon-to-be 21-year-old right-hander Luis Severino, who is the team’s best right-handed pitching prospect since pre-2008 Joba Chamberlain. In their midseason updates, Baseball America and MLB.com ranked Severino as the 34th and 62nd best prospect in baseball, respectively, and he’s only climbed further up those rankings since. You will find no argument that he is one of the top pitching prospects in all the land.

The Yankees have very clearly put Severino on the fast track — he made 14 starts for Low-A Charleston, four for High-A Tampa, and six for Double-A Trenton in 2014 — and there’s little reason to think they’ll slow him down now. I don’t expect him to start the season with Triple-A Scranton but he’ll be there soon enough, likely by May or at the latest June. Once he’s there, it’s only a matter of time before he gets the call to the show. The Yankees usually don’t let their top pitching prospects spend much time in Triple-A. It’s just a quick stop on the way to MLB.

There is a very clear path for Severino to join the big league team at some point in 2015, likely around midseason after a last little bit of token fine-tuning in the minors. His performance speaks for itself — he had a 2.46 ERA (2.40 FIP) at those three levels last year — but we can’t forget there is more to prospecting that stats. Severino himself admitted he needs to improve his command of the outer half of the plate and the consistency of his slider at MLB’s Rookie Development Camp recently. Here, look:

Improving location and the consistency of his breaking ball are real issues Severino has to address and things that can be improved and worked on in the minors, where wins and losses don’t matter. Severino might be able to get by without pitching to both sides of the plate or by hanging a bunch of sliders against minor leaguers, but the big leagues are unforgiving. Execution is more important than potential.

Even if Severino does master the outside corner and learn how to throw his slider where he wants, when he wants, there is still the issue of his workload. Severino threw 44 innings plus some unknown amount in Extended Spring Training in 2013 and then 113.1 total innings in 2015. That puts him on track for what, 150 innings in 2015? Maybe 160 if you really want to push it? Perhaps that will be enough — Greene threw 145 innings last year, but only after that weird April in which he went up-and-down a bunch of times and never really pitched (6.1 total innings in April — but more than likely it only makes Severino a temporary solution until he has to be shut down.

The workload is just something the Yankees and Severino will have to deal with. I hope they have learned from the Joba fiasco in late-2009 and will simply shut young pitchers down when they approach their innings limit rather than try something silly like 35-pitch starts or something like that. (My goodness that was such a mess.) There are innings Severino will be able to contribute to the big league team before the shutdown, but only a finite amount, and the quality of those innings is a total unknown.

A quick search shows 40 instances (featuring 31 different players) of a pitcher age 21 or younger starting at least five games in a season for an AL team since the turn of the century, and, of those 40, only 17 had a league average or better ERA. Just four have done it since 2007. Here’s the list. It’s not often pitchers this young get a somewhat extended shot in MLB, and those who do are rarely more than serviceable. It’s one thing if the Yankees call up Severino in 2015. It’s another if they call him up hoping he makes an impact rather than simply allowing him to get his feet wet.

Believe me, I would love nothing more than to see the Yankees bring up a hotshot pitching prospect and have him dominate this coming season. And with all due respect to Greene, I don’t mean someone like him. Someone like Severino, who is among the best pitching prospects in the game and could be a rotation fixture for years to come. That would be amazing. I don’t see how anyone could realistically expect that though. Severino might get a chance to help the Yankees in 2015, but if it comes in a spot where they need him to make a difference, he’ll be coming up under the wrong circumstances.

Bullpen depth could lead to Adam Warren working as a starter in 2015

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Even after losing David Robertson to free agency and trading away Shawn Kelley (and losing Preston Claiborne on waivers), the Yankees have a ton of upper level bullpen depth at the moment. Andrew Miller replaced Robertson, the just acquired David Carpenter replaces Kelley, and the team also added lefty Justin Wilson in the Francisco Cervelli trade. The Yankees seem to have more relievers than bullpen spots at the moment. Look:

That’s 16 17 pitchers for 14 bullpen spots — seven in MLB and seven in Triple-A — and I still feel like I’m forgetting someone. (Update: Forgot Wilson!) Obviously it isn’t that simple — DePaula, Mitchell, and Whitley could all wind up in the Triple-A Scranton rotation, we have no idea if Pinder and Burawa can get MLBers out consistently, etc. — but the point stands. On paper, the Yankees have a ton of bullpen depth right now.

What the Yankees don’t have is a lot of rotation depth. The rotation right now is Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, and Chris Capuano in whatever order, but both Tanaka (elbow) and Sabathia (knee) have major injury concerns. No pitcher is a lock to make it through Spring Training healthy, though it is especially true for those two. Pineda isn’t exactly known for his durability either.

Because of the rotation concerns, the Yankees told Warren to come to Spring Training as a starter and prepared to compete for a rotation spot. (They told David Phelps the same before he was traded away.) In fact, I bet they told Rogers the same thing. He’s been a starter before, including last season in Triple-A with the Blue Jays (and one spot start with the Yankees), so there’s no reason not to stretch him out. It doesn’t hurt anyone and gives the team options in camp.

Warren did a nice job as a swingman in 2013 and really seemed to find himself in short relief last year, when his velocity ticked up and he missed more bats than ever. He was a starter his entire career before the 2013 season though, and I’m sure that if you asked him, he’d like to be a starter once again. That’s where the money is at, after all. I’m certain he sees the injury questions in the rotation as a big opportunity this coming year.

Warren has made three career big league starts (6.97 ERA and 6.83 FIP) but the numbers are skewed heavily by his disastrous six-run, 2.1- inning MLB debut back in 2012. He made two spot starts in 2013 and both went fine — two runs in three innings while on a strict pitch count in the first, five shutout innings in the second — plus he also made several strong multi-inning relief outings, including five of at least four innings (four runs in 23.1 innings in those five outings).

That really doesn’t tell us a whole lot about what Warren can do as a starter in 2015 though. Those long relief appearances have selection bias — the reason he was in there 4+ innings is because he was getting outs, they wouldn’t have left him in that long if he was getting hammered — and 2013 Adam Warren isn’t the same as 2015 Adam Warren. He has more experience now and is presumably more comfortable in the league. That matters.

Even as a short reliever last year, Warren threw three pitches (four-seamer, slider, changeup) regularly while also throwing some curveballs and cutters, according to Brooks Baseball. He definitely has enough pitches to start, the question is whether his stuff is good enough to turn over a lineup multiple times. The answer could easily be yes, especially now in this no offense era, and that after his success last season he is more willing to attack hitters and better understands how to maximize his arsenal. Like I said, experience matters.

I like Warren most as a short reliever and I can’t say I’m confident he can turn over a lineup multiple times, but there is no harm in seeing what he does as a starter in Spring Training. Remember, this doesn’t have to be a permanent thing either. The team may only need him to start until Ivan Nova returns at midseason, perhaps as early as May. Warren was an important part of the relief crew last year but the Yankees do now have enough bullpen depth to replace him. Moving him into the rotation is much more viable now than it was a year ago.

Nathan Eovaldi’s new old pitch

Changeup grip! (Presswire)
Changeup grip! (Presswire)

Late last week, the Yankees pulled off a surprising trade that bolstered their rotation but weakened their offense. It was surprising not because of what they received — we all knew the Yankees needed rotation help, and the free agent market lacks quality non-elites at this point — but because of what they gave up. Trading Martin Prado seemed unlikely because of his bat and versatility.

The Yankees received the hard-throwing Nathan Eovaldi in the trade and by now you’ve heard that he’s a guy with great stuff and not the results to match. He throws very hard and has a sharp slider, but his strikeout rate is below the league average. The Yankees didn’t acquire a finished product. The 24-year-old Eovaldi is still a project. If he was a finished product, it would have cost a lot more to acquire him.

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of this post, here’s some background info: Eovaldi’s from Houston — he and Nolan Ryan are the only big leaguers to come out of Alvin High School — and was drafted by the Dodgers in the 11th round of the 2008 draft. He had Tommy John surgery as a high school junior, so scouts never really saw him at 100% as a senior. Los Angeles grabbed him, developed him, got him to MLB, then traded him to Miami for Hanley Ramirez. Two and a half years later, he’s a Yankee. That’s the Nate Eovaldi story.

Since the trade last week we’ve learned Eovaldi is basically a 2.5-pitch pitcher, relying heavily on his high-octane four-seamer and slider while mixing in a handful of curveballs. He’s toyed with a cutter, a sinker, and a changeup through the years. Here’s his pitch selection throughout his MLB career, courtesy of Brooks Baseball:

Nathan Eovaldi pitch selection

Eovaldi went back and forth between MLB and Triple-A a few times in 2011 and early in 2012 before being traded to Miami at the deadline. He had been in the Marlins rotation since the trade. As you can see in the graph, Eovaldi’s settled in as that fastball-slider with a few curveballs pitcher the last two seasons after some early-career tinkering. The cutter is completely gone and both the sinker and changeup rarely make an appearance these days.

Because of that, I thought this recent quote from Marlins catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia was particularly interesting. Here’s what Saltalamacchia told Nick Cafardo after Eovaldi was dealt to New York:

“At the end of the year he figured out how to throw a new pitch that is really going to help him. He throws hard and all of his pitches are hard, so this new pitch will help that out because he’s got a fastball rotation with split action.”

A new pitch, huh? This is the time of year — it’s a little early, actually, but close enough — when we hear all about pitchers adding a new pitch and guys being in the best shape of their life and all that. The usual fodder that makes for fun optimistic stories heading into Spring Training. Very rarely do these changes mean anything — Jason Collette kept track of “new pitches” in Spring Training earlier this year, there were a lot of ‘em — but the stories are always out there.

It’s not often we hear about a pitcher adding a new pitch during the season though, and that’s what Saltalamacchia said happened. “At the end of the year (Eovaldi) figured out how to throw a new pitch,” according to his catcher. But, when you look at the pitch selection graph above, there’s no new pitch. That’s discouraging. But wait! Eovaldi spoke to Anthony McCarron after Friday’s trade and said this (emphasis mine):

Now, he says, “I want to throw first-pitch strikes with off-speed stuff, even use it on a 2-1 count or 1-and-2. I’m working on my changeup a lot more this offseason, just mixing it in to my repertoire. Last year, toward the end, it helped me out a lot. I want to keep locating the fastball, then use my slider and curve more and have a better mix.”

Saltalamacchia says it was a new pitch while Eovaldi says it was actually his changeup. Looking at the pitch selection graph above, Eovaldi did throw more changeups at the end of the 2014 season after more or less shelving the pitch during the summer months. In fact, he threw 19 changeups in his final four starts of the season after throwing 19 changeups in his previous 12 starts combined, including zero changeups total in the four starts prior to his final four starts. It seems like the new pitch Saltalamacchia was talking about was actually just an old pitch, the changeup. A new old pitch.

Okay, so great, Eovaldi threw a bunch more changeups late in the season. That doesn’t really mean anything in and of itself. The Marlins were basically out of contention in September and that’s when pitchers tend to tinker, when the games don’t matter. Let’s not focus on the number of changeups Eovaldi threw but instead look at the pitch itself. Here are the pitch details through the years, again courtesy of Brooks Baseball:

% Vel Whiff % GB% Hor. Mvmt Vert. Mvmt Hor. Loc Vert. Loc
2012 6.2% 85.6 9.9% 42.4% -6.86 6.60 0.88 -0.42
2013 1.7% 88.0 3.6% 0.0% -8.01 5.06 0.69 -1.17
2014 (starts 1-29) 2.8% 88.0 5.0% 52.9% -7.64 4.32 0.45 -0.57
2014 (starts 30-33) 6.0% 90.0 21.1% 100.0% -7.75 4.01 -0.90 -1.43
MLB AVG 10.1% 83.2 14.9% 47.8% -1.40 4.50 ? ?

Before we get into the data, I will again point out we are dealing with a very small number of pitches. Like I said, Eovaldi threw 19 total changeups in those last four starts. Anytime you deal with a sample this small, there can be some major weirdness. For example, if Eovaldi’s changeup is suddenly a true talent 21.1% whiff/100.0% ground ball pitch, it would be the best pitch in baseball history. At least one of the best. I’m guessing that’s not really the case.

Alright, so anyway Eovaldi has added a little velocity to his changeup over the years and the horizontal movement has more or less remained steady. (The negative number means it moves away from lefties and in to righties.) The vertical movement can be confusing — the smaller the number, the more the pitch moves downward. (Curveballs are well into the negatives, for example.) So Eovaldi’s changeup actually had about 2.5 more inches of downward movement at the end of 2014 than it did in 2012. He also did a better job of locating the pitch on the outer half to lefties (horizontal location) and down in the zone (vertical location).

I went through the MLB.tv archives hoping we’d be able to see the difference in Eovaldi’s changeups over the years, so here are two GIFs. The one on the left is from July 2012 (Eovaldi’s very first start with the Marlins) and the one on the right is from his second-to-last start of 2014 (his last was on the road and I wanted to use the same camera angle):

Nathan Eovaldi 2012 and 2014 changeups

First off, long live the dead center field camera. Isn’t it great? Secondly, those changeups look different! I mean, kinda. The 2012 changeup (86.5 mph/-6.58 horizontal movement/+7.86 vertical movement) doesn’t do much of anything. It just kind of floats in there. The 2014 changeup (89.7/-10.31/+1.61) has a little action on it. It actually moves down and away from the lefty hitter. The 2012 pitch almost looks like a cutter. These visuals are fun and somewhat useful, just keep in mind this is a totally random sample of two pitches.

Okay, so now what? Eovaldi and his former catcher both acknowledged something was different at the end of this past season, and it seems to be his changeup. PitchFX data confirms Eovaldi didn’t just throw his changeup more often this September, he also threw it harder*, with more downward movement, and with better location down-and-away from lefties. The swing-and-miss and ground ball rates were way, way better in the limited sample as well. That’s what we know.

* A 90 mph changeup is rare but remember Eovaldi throws very hard. His fastball averaged 95.5 mph this past season and routinely touched 97-98 mph. As hard as his changeup is, the pitch still has a lot of velocity separation from his fastball.

What we also know is that Eovaldi has gotten hammered by lefties throughout his career. They hit .293/.330/.438 (.336 wOBA) against him this past season and .288/.350/.421 (.338 wOBA) against him in his career. That can’t continue going forward, at least not if Eovaldi wants to be something more than a mid-rotation pitcher known more for his innings-eating than his effectiveness. Finding a way to combat hitters of the opposite hand is imperative.

Obviously the Yankees envision Eovaldi eventually becoming much more than what he is right now. It’s similar to the Michael Pineda trade — the Yankees are hoping he can stabilize the rotation in the short-term and front it in the long-term. An improved changeup can help Eovaldi neutralize left-handed batters and possibly allow him to take that next step towards the front of the rotation. What he showed in September is promising. We know there’s a good changeup in there somewhere. Turning it into a consistent and reliable weapon will be a point of emphasis going forward.

Capuano a nice depth pickup, but only part of the rotation solution

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
(Jim Rogash/Getty)

The Yankees came into the offseason in a need of at least one starting pitcher — preferably two! — and that was before they used Shane Greene to acquire Didi Gregorius. After that trade they definitely needed two starters. New York acquired one of those starters yesterday by re-signing Chris Capuano to a reasonable one-year contract, and Brian Cashman made it clear Capuano will be in the rotation during a conference call yesterday afternoon.

“He’ll come to Spring Training as a starter. He’s coming in as one of our starters,” said the GM. Capuano joins CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, and Masahiro Tanaka as rotation locks, assuming Sabathia’s knee and Pineda’s shoulder and Tanaka’s elbow make it through camp in one piece. Both David Phelps and Adam Warren are coming to Spring Training as starters, and Cashman also named Bryan Mitchell, Chase Whitley, Jose DePaula, and Esmil Rogers as internal rotation options.

Needless to say, there’s nothing particularly exciting about bringing Capuano back. He’s a boringly serviceable back-end starter who seems to pitch just well enough to keep his team in the game while occasionally throwing a gem. (Over the last four years, Capuano has as many starts with an 85+ Game Score as Zack Greinke and Doug Fister. It seems like once or twice a year he’ll unexpectedly throw a masterpiece.) Is he the fourth starter we were all hoping for? Nah. But does he help? Sure.

And Capuano is nothing more than that, a help. He’s not the answer to the team’s rotation problems all by himself. He’s just a very small part of the solution, a solution that frankly the Yankees might not completely find this winter. There are two top free agent starters still on the board (Max Scherzer and James Shields), no more mid-rotation guys, and then a whole lotta Capuano types and reclamation projects. Unless Hiroki Kuroda decides to continue playing*, those middle of the rotation starters are all gone.

* I get the feeling that if Kuroda does decide to continue playing, there will be one big announcement. “Hiroki Kuroda has decided to pitch in 2015 … and oh by the way the Yankees have signed him for one year and $15M.” Something like that. I don’t think it’ll be a prolonged free agency.

“We are never done or finished, so I will continue to be engaged in the free-agent and trade markets … I think it’s safe to assume we are open to any legitimate possibilities to improve our club,” said Cashman during yesterday’s conference call (via Chad Jennings and George King). “Obviously making sense in the current circumstances that we have … The preference would be to never have to go to the free agent market to get what you need, but that’s just not realistic.”

Since the Yankees seem disinclined to pursue Scherzer — I assume the same is true for Shields, though I won’t rule them out on either pitcher until they sign elsewhere — the only way they’re going to get an impact starter this winter is through trade, which is always possible. The Padres and Mets have arms to spare, the Phillies are still looking to unload Cole Hamels, the Reds could still move Johnny Cueto or Mike Leake, so on and so forth. A trade is pretty much the only way the Yankees will get guys who pass the “better than Capuano” test unless they change course on Scherzer and/or Shields.

The Yankees re-signed Capuano because they need multiple starters and he was among the best of the non-elite remaining on the board. A signing like this was inevitable, even if they had signed Scherzer or Shields first. Capuano should only be part of the rotation fix and not the whole thing. At worst, he’s a stopgap until Ivan Nova is healthy or Luis Severino is deemed ready. At best, he’s 2011 Freddy Garcia. If the Yankees stop here and don’t add anymore pitching, then yeah they have a problem. There’s still a lot of offseason left and Cashman is clearly open to more moves. As long as Capuano is nothing more than one piece of the solution, then he’s a fine depth addition.

David Phelps, Adam Warren will come to Spring Training as starters

Warren in the rotation? As a last resort maybe. (Presswire)
Warren in the rotation? As a last resort maybe. (Presswire)

It’s no secret the Yankees came into the offseason needing rotation help. So, after the end of the regular season, the team told both David Phelps and Adam Warren to report to Spring Training next year ready to compete for a spot in the starting rotation. “We could always collapse them back into the (bullpen), but they were told to be physically ready to take a shot at a rotation spot,” said Brian Cashman to Brendan Kuty last week.

Phelps, 28, has been a true swingman the last three years, bouncing back and forth between the rotation and bullpen on numerous occasions. He’s performed a bit better as a reliever but not overwhelmingly so. It makes perfect sense to bring Phelps to camp ready to start. The 27-year-old Warren did a nice job in long relief in 2013 but really seemed to find a niche in short relief this past season. His velocity ticked up a bit and so did his strikeout rate. I understand bringing him to camp as a starter but I think he’s much more valuable as a one-inning reliever.

Despite their inactivity at the Winter Meetings, I definitely expect the Yankees to add a starter this offseason and probably two starters. They need the depth given the injury concerns in the rotation. It makes perfect sense to have Phelps and Warren prepare for a possible starting role, and while starting Phelps every fifth day is a fine fallback plan, I think putting Warren in the rotation should be a last resort. Hopefully he’s an emergency option and nothing more.

2014 Season Review: Lefty rotation fodder

(Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
(Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

From 2009 through 2012, CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte were the only lefties to start games for the Yankees. That’s a little odd, considering the huge number of random lefties that got spot starts from 2004 through 2008. So odd, in fact, that I made a Sporcle quiz that no one has even the slightest chance of completing.


The Yankees broke that four-year drought in 2013, when David Huff and Vidal Nuno combined for five starts. Heading into 2014, Nuno was in the running for a rotation spot. He understandably lost out to Michael Pineda. But when Ivan Nova went down with an elbow injury, Nuno lined up for the next start. It was his.

And it was a disaster.

You could be charitable and say sure, Nuno had some not terrible starts here and there. For instance, he lasted 6.1 innings in a 1-0 win against the best-record-in-baseball Angels. There were five shutout innings against the Rays in April.

The Yankees did have something of a reason to believe Nuno could help. He pitched well during his brief MLB stint in 2013, which followed a lights-out performance in AAA. In 2012 he cruised through A+ and AA with a 2.54 combined ERA and a 3.82 K/BB ratio. He didn’t have the stuff of an ace, but as a #5 starter it seemed he might cut it.

Cut it he might. Just not in New York. What stood out in his 14 starts was an alarming home run rate. In four of those 14 starts he gave up multiple homers, including three twice. In other words, when he’s off even a bit hitters can take advantage. Out in Arizona, another hitters’ park, he allowed a homer in nine of his 14 starts.

In other words, the Yankees might have given up a useful starter who, at the time of the trade, had five and a half years of team control. Yet they got back Brandon McCarthy, who seemed to find himself while wearing pinstripes. For a team with perpetual sights on contention, the trade was a coup for the Yankees. If they can re-sign McCarthy there will be no reason to ever look back on this one.

For a while it seemed as though the Yankees would forge ahead with a five-righty rotation. But in late July, three weeks after trading Nuno, they acquired Chris Capuano from the Rockies. And so the Yankees traded away a mediocre lefty and picked one up for cash considerations. Given the acquisition of McCarthy, that sounds like a great trade-off.

(Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
(Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

Yet Capuano did play a valuable role down the stretch. Rarely did he dazzle, but he also rarely had a breakdown. (The exception being his 0.1 inning, four-run start against Tampa, which he redeemed in his very next start by pitching six shutout innings against them.) Never did he allow more than four runs in a start, and three times he allowed none. It’s more than anyone expected from a guy who couldn’t hack it on the last-place Red Sox.

Were it not for the huge number of starting pitcher injuries, the Yankees might not have even needed Capuano. They wouldn’t have run Nuno out there for so many starts. But when three fifths of your Opening Day rotation is on the DL by May 15, with two of them done for the year, you have to reach deeply into the pitching well. With a healthy Sabathia (potentially a problem of his own) and a healthy Pineda, chances are David Phelps takes over for Nuno. If Phelps still gets hurt in that scenario, there’s Shane Greene.

All told, the lefty fodder combination of Nuno and Capuano didn’t perform too too badly. They combined to pitch 143.2 innings to a 4.89 ERA, which is essentially what Mike Minor did. Given the unreasonable number of injuries to the staff, they could have done a lot worse.