Why, this guy, of course.
When I wrote last night about the inaccuracies of the Yankee stadium subway race, a few readers questioned the post. Although it was labeled whimsy and although it’s the slow days of mid-Spring Training, how dare we have fun. Instead, because the Internet is Serious Business™, we should only focus on serious things such as the Yanks’ dearth of pitchers. In reply, I promised a post with just this title, so here we go.
Later tonight, for the second time this spring Bartolo Colon, all 265 pounds of him, will take the mound for his second attempt at impressing the Yanks. And honestly, I’m legitimately excited. It’s not that Colon is that compelling a storyline by itself, but the game is a Friday night affair against the Red Sox. It’s on the YES Network and the MLB Network, and both Mark Prior and Manny Banuelos will get innings as well. That’s reason to sit through some Colon pitches.
So far, it’s early. We can’t say for sure which Yankee pitchers are getting rotation spots, but we can handicap the race. Through six games, Colon is the only guy competing for a starting rotation job to give up any runs. Yet, outside of two Ivan Nova appearances, no pitcher has more than a pair of innings under his belt. It’s tough to draw any conclusions from the early goings. That said, it certainly seems as though a race is taking shape, and it will inform the way we view Spring Training over the next few weeks.
On Thursday, Freddy Garcia took the hill for his first outing of the spring. As the Yanks had run through their rotation candidates, it seemed as though Garcia was playing the part of the forgotten man. What is happening though is that he’s playing the part of the almost sure thing. The Yankees are going to give Garcia every opportunity to lose a rotation spot, and as long as he’s serviceable, he’ll be the club’s fourth starter.
Garcia knows that too. While speaking with reporters after the game, the right-hander put the onus on him to pitch as though he belongs. “I’m watching,” he said of the rotation race, “but I don’t really think about it because if I lose that spot, that’s my fault. I wish them good luck; hopefully everybody pitches good. But at the end of the day I’ll be the one [to blame] if I lose that spot.”
Meanwhile, as Marc Carig noted, Nova drew some raves as well. He relieved Garcia and threw three scoreless frames. Of his 35 pitches, 22 went for strikes, and although he gave up a hit per inning, he kept Tampa Bay off the board. The Yankees like his composure and like his stuff. Right now, he’s edging ahead of Bartolo Colon for that fifth spot.
Of course, Colon could turn that around tonight with a strong outing. He’ll get three or even four innings to show something, and the Yanks will begin to see what his fastball and stamina looks like as he works deeper into a game. Colon, as we know, hasn’t pitched in the Majors since 2009, and he remains a long shot to make the team.
Ultimately, though, for the Yanks, the decision will have to be one of depth. If the Yanks jettison Colon before Opening Day, he won’t be around to spell anyone in the rotation should someone get hurt or should Nova fail to make it through the lineup three times. After Nova, the depth turns into Sergio Mitre and a bunch of kids with limited AAA experience. If the Yanks tab Colon for the rotation and he falters, all that’s lost is a few games, and then Nova gets his shot. The Yanks have to make their pick their poison before the month is out, and as the innings mount, Colon might have to play catch up to keep himself in the race.