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:
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.
The Yankees walloped the Red Sox 8-1 this afternoon in a game that included a seven-minute bee delay in the third inning. A swarm of bees took over left field. Joe Girardi made a Tommy Boy joke during an on-air interview and everyone had a nice laugh at Mark Teixeira‘s expense. It was pretty great. Here’s the video.
Anyway, Michael Pineda was clearly the story the day, holding an admittedly weak Red Sox lineup to four hits in 4.1 scoreless innings before reaching his pitch limit. He struck out five and walked no one, giving him 14 strikeouts and one walk in nine Grapefruit League innings. Forty-five of his 60 pitches were strikes and he was anywhere from 88-94 mph on the YES gun with a filthy slider. Most importantly, everything was free and easy. Pineda wasn’t laboring or overthrowing. Looked very natural, unlike two springs ago.
Brett Gardner (3-for-4), Alfonso Soriano (2-for-4 with a monster homer), Frankie Cervelli (2-for-3 with a triple), and Brian Roberts (2-for-3 with a stolen base) all had pretty great days at the plate. Teixeira went 1-for-2 with two walks while Derek Jeter and Carlos Beltran both went 1-for-4. Beltran doubled. David Robertson struck out two of three batters faced and Shawn Kelley chucked a perfect inning. Pretty solid game all around. Here is the box score, here are the video highlights, and here is the rest from Tampa.
- The Yankees announced their largest round of roster cuts so far: C/1B Francisco Arcia, OF Tyler Austin, RHP Bruce Billings, RHP Robert Coello, RHP Brian Gordon, IF Corban Joseph, RHP Mark Montgomery, C Peter O’Brien, UTIL Jose Pirela, RHP Chase Whitley, and OF Mason Williams were reassigned to minor league camp while OF Ramon Flores was optioned to Triple-A Scranton. Whitley will be stretched out as a starter, which makes sense given Scranton’s rotation needs following the Nik Turley and Jose Ramirez injuries. There are still 46 players in big league camp by my unofficial count. [Chad Jennings]
- Jacoby Ellsbury went through a fairly normal workout today but still felt “something” in his calf. He will not play until Friday at the earliest. Austin (wrist), Brendan Ryan (oblique), and Scott Sizemore (calf) all took batting practice and figure to return to game action in the coming days. David Phelps, CC Sabathia, and Masahiro Tanaka threw their usual between-starts bullpen sessions. [Jack Curry, Jennings]
- Andrew Bailey, who is working his way back from surgery to repair a tore shoulder capsule, is currently making 50 throws from 90 feet on flat ground as part of his rehab. He hopes to stretch it out to 120 feet next week. Bailey is unlikely to return to a big league mound until August or September, according to the team. [Jorge Castillo]
- Tanaka’s next start will be Saturday on the road against the Twins. He will be on one extra day of rest. Hiroki Kuroda will stay behind in Tampa and pitch in a minor league game on normal rest that day. [Bryan Hoch]
Here is your open thread for the night. This afternoon’s game will be replayed on YES tonight (7pm ET) and on MLB Network early tomorrow (7am ET). MLBN will air the Cubs and Rangers live later tonight and all three local hockey clubs are in action as well. Talk about anything and everything here.
In a subscriber-only piece, Ben Badler of Baseball America put together a list of the top 20 prospects from the Dominican and Venezuelan Summer Leagues. It’s not a ranking, just 20 names listed alphabetically. Yankees shortstop prospect Jorge Mateo makes the cut after hitting .287/.378/.450 (145 wRC+) with a team-leading seven homers and a league-leading 49 steals in 64 games last season. The 18-year-old signed for $250k back in January 2012.
“He’s a premium athlete who should be able to stay at shortstop, where he shows very good range, quick feet and a plus arm … He should have good power for a shortstop, with 15-20 home runs a very realistic possibility. Mateo uses the whole field and did a solid job of managing the strike-zone in his debut, though he will have to make adjustments as he moves up the ladder and starts to see better breaking pitches,” wrote Badler while noting Mateo is an 80 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale. The right-handed hitter figures to come stateside and play in the Rookie Gulf Coast League this summer. · (43) ·
I suppose the silver lining of last season’s terrible offense was a strong team defense. The Yankees employed guys like Ichiro Suzuki, Chris Stewart, Lyle Overbay, Luis Cruz, Alberto Gonzalez, Reid Brignac, and Brendan Ryan as regulars at various points of the year, guys who can’t hit but can play some solid defense. The club sported a collective +12.5 UZR and +21 DRS in 2013, rates that are only slightly above-average (13th and 10th in MLB, respectively) on a team-wide scale.
The roster has turned over substantially this past offseason, especially on the position player side. That should greatly improve the lineup, but it will also impact the team defense. Some of the players the Yankees acquired over the winter are very good defenders but others simply are not. Not every player the team added is a two-way threat. Far from it. Let’s look at where the Yankees are vulnerable in the field thanks to subpar defenders.
Last month I detailed how the team’s ground ball heavy pitching staff is not a good mix for their generally shaky infield defense, particularly at the non-first base spots. Mark Teixeira is a stud in the field and I have no reason to think a wrist injury will severely compromise his glovework. Maybe he’ll lose a step or two or some hand-eye coordination with age, but I don’t think the injury will have a huge factor on his defense.
Derek Jeter has moved around well in the field and on the bases this spring following all the leg injuries, but he’s still a negative on defense. We all know that. Brian Roberts has looked surprisingly agile during Grapefruit League play, so maybe he’ll be a positive in the field, at least while he’s healthy. Kelly Johnson comes into the season with only 118 career innings at third base and only 18 innings at first base, where he’s expected to be the starter and backup, respectively. He’s muffed a few hard-hit balls in camp so far, the kind that earned the position the nickname the “hot corner.”
The backup plans aren’t much better. Eduardo Nunez is inconsistent at best and an unmitigated disaster at worst defensively, and Scott Sizemore is coming off back-to-back left ACL surgeries. He hasn’t played enough in camp for us to get an idea of how he’s moving in the field. The various scouting reports indicate Dean Anna is an adequate to solid defender. Teixeira should be fine at first but all of the other infield spots come with defensive questions. I think the Yankees would be pretty happy if the infield graded out as a league average unit come the end of the season.
As of right now, it seems like the plan is to have Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Beltran split right field and DH duties most of the time in 2014. There have been some rumblings Brett Gardner could wind up in right with Soriano in left, but that seems unlikely to happen. The Soriano/Beltran timeshare in right field appears to be the way things are heading.
Aside from one defensive inning in right field during Game Five of the 2003 World Series, Soriano has never played the position. Moving over there at 38 years old may not be an easy transition, and that doesn’t even consider his weak throwing arm. Runners will be going first-to-third on him all day. Beltran was once a top flight defender but he has slowed down considerably with age and injury, to the point where he’s graded out as a below-average defender over the last few years by the various defensive stats. Regardless of whether Soriano or Beltran starts, the Yankees will have a subpar gloveman in right.
It’s not all bad though. First and foremost, right field in Yankee Stadium is pretty small, so there’s isn’t much ground to cover in the first place. Two, with Gardner in left and Jacoby Ellsbury in center, Ellsbury figures to shade towards right to help cover the gaps. Three, Ichiro will almost certainly come off the bench as a defensive replacement for right field whenever the game is close. Even if Ichiro is traded or released or whatever, Zoilo Almonte can do the same job. Whenever they’re in right though, both Soriano and Beltran will be liabilities.
I mentioned this with Soriano in right, but it’s worth pointing out the Yankees have some weak outfield arms in general. Beltran’s is by far the best and might be the team’s best right field arm since Raul Mondesi way back in the day. Ellsbury’s arm is laughably weak and downright Damon-esque while Gardner’s is solid at best. Not particularly strong but accurate. Soriano’s arm is both weak and not accurate while Ichiro’s strong arm plays down because he takes forever to get rid of the ball. Gardner and Ellsbury more than make up for their arms with their range, but don’t expect to see many plays at the plate this summer. Beltran’s the only regular with a quality arm.
Brian McCann‘s Arm
McCann does a lot of things well, specifically hit and frame pitches. He is also said to be very good at blocking balls in the dirt and working with pitchers. The one thing McCann does not do well is throw. Last season he threw out only 24 of 100 attempted base-stealers, below the 27% league average. The year before it was 22%, and in case you’re thinking this might be related to his October 2012 labrum surgery, McCann threw out only 24% of base-stealers from 2006-11. He’s simply not good at shutting down the running game.
In order to compensate for McCann’s arm, the pitcher will have to make sure to pay attention to runners on first base. CC Sabathia should have it the easiest as a left-hander, but runners have been successful in 70% of their stolen base attempts the last three years. Hiroki Kuroda has held runners to a 62% success rate since coming to New York and Ivan Nova has held them to a 63% success rate in his relatively short big league career. Masahiro Tanaka … who in the world knows. Frankie Cervelli has an excellent arm (after some mechanical tinkering last spring) but McCann is going to be the starter because he does so many things well. One of those things is not throwing and it’s something the Yankees will have to deal with this summer. It’s the essence of taking the bad with the good.
* * *
The Yankees have premium defenders at first base and in both left and center fields. The rest of the team will probably be net negative in the field, which is not ideal in an offensive ballpark in a tough division with a sketchy middle relief crew. This club is going to have to out-hit and out-pitch their defensive shortcomings in 2014.
The fifth starter competition takes another step forward this afternoon, as Michael Pineda makes his second Spring Training start and third overall appearance. He was reportedly very impressive in his first outing and slightly less so last time out, though he was hardly bad. Pineda will get stretched out a little bit more this afternoon, probably up to four innings and 60-65 pitches, so it’ll be good to see how he holds up later in games. He was hitting a wall around the 70-pitch mark during his Triple-A stint last summer.
The Red Sox are up from Fort Myers for this afternoon’s game, so I hope you’re ready for some over-analyzed Grapefruit League action. If you can’t beat ‘em on March 18th, when can you? Boston didn’t bring any of their top players, with only Jackie Bradley Jr., Jonny Gomes, Xander Bogaerts, and David Ross coming close to qualifying as regulars. Left-hander Felix Doubront will be on the mound. Here is Joe Girardi‘s starting lineup:
- LF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- RF Carlos Beltran
- 1B Mark Teixeira
- DH Alfonso Soriano
- C Frankie Cervelli
- 2B Brian Roberts
- 3B Kelly Johnson
- CF Ichiro Suzuki
SP Michael Pineda
Available Pitchers: RHP David Robertson, LHP Fred Lewis, RHP Shawn Kelley, RHP Matt Daley, and RHP David Herndon are all scheduled to come out of the bullpen. RHP Jim Miller, RHP Yoshinori Tateyama, RHP Chris Leroux, and RHP Danny Burawa are the extra arms.
Available Position Players: C Austin Romine, 1B Jose Gil, 2B Eduardo Nunez, SS Dean Anna, 3B Zelous Wheeler, LF Yangervis Solarte, CF Adonis Garcia, and RF Zoilo Almonte will be the second string off the bench. C John Ryan Murphy and OF Antoan Richardson are also available.
It’s cloudy and cool in Tampa but there is no rain in the forecast after yesterday’s downpour. Hooray for that. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05pm ET and you can watch live on YES, ESPN, and MLB.tv. Enjoy the game.
As of right now, with a little less than two weeks to go before Opening Day in Houston, the Yankees have not tipped their hand about the fifth starter’s spot. One some days it seems Michael Pineda is the frontrunner, on others it seems to be David Phelps. Then Vidal Nuno chucks four one-hit innings against the Orioles’ mostly-regular lineup to re-enter the conversation. Adam Warren has allowed two runs while striking out nine in 8.2 innings this spring. No one has pitched themselves out of consideration yet.
Having four possible starters for one rotation spot is one of those “good problems” people like to talk about. It’s not really a problem of course, pitching depth is a wonderful thing to have. The baseball gods have taken it upon themselves to remind teams and fans of that the (very) hard way over the last week or so. Look at this recent run of pitching injuries:
- Sunday, March 9th: Kris Medlen of the Braves left his start holding his elbow. After getting a second opinion, he is having his second Tommy John surgery in the last four years this morning.
- Monday, March 10th: Medlen’s teammate Brandon Beachy left his start with what is called biceps tightness. Tests show ligament damage and he is likely headed for his second Tommy John surgery in the last three years.
- Friday, March 14th: Jarrod Parker of the Athletics was scratched from his start with a forearm issue. A visit to Dr. James Andrews revealed a torn ligament. He needs a second Tommy John procedure after having his first in 2009.
- Saturday, March 15th: Diamondbacks’ ace and native New Yorker Patrick Corbin left his start with elbow pain and is currently deciding between Tommy John surgery and rehab, the latter of which never seems to work.
Four the game’s best young pitcher are out for the season and it happened in the span of a week. It doesn’t end there though. Luke Hochevar blew out his elbow two weeks ago. The Padres lost lefty Cory Luebke to his second Tommy John surgery last month and are on the verge of losing prospect Joe Wieland to the same fate. Mike Minor’s shoulder is acting up (the Braves signed Ervin Santana because they had so many injuries), Jon Niese has been dealing with shoulder and elbow problems, Cole Hamels has yet to appear in a game because of a shoulder issue, on and on it goes. Pitchers get hurt, we know this, but this recent rash of injuries around the league has been something else.
Last season the Yankees were the ones hit hard by injuries, though most of them hit the position players. The pitching staff has remained healthy this spring, knock on wood, but that tells us nothing about future durability. CC Sabathia has a ton of innings on his arm, Hiroki Kuroda is approaching 40, Michael Pineda is coming off two lost years following shoulder surgery … it wouldn’t be a surprise if any of those guys missed time in 2014. That and all these pitching injuries around the league are a reminder that the Yankees’ pitching depth — Phelps, Warren, Nuno, etc. — is not really expendable. The Yankees have not gotten through a non-strike season using fewer than eight starters since 1975, so all of those guys figure to be needed at some point this year.
It’s easy for us to starting thinking about a trade whenever the team has an extra something, be it pitchers or catchers or whatever. Heck, just last week I wrote about the possibility of the Yankees trading one of their spare arms to the Braves in the wake of their injuries, thinking it would be one way to improve the infield. Pitching, especially potential starters, have to be treated differently though. You know you’re going to need several extras throughout the season, moreso than any other position, so dealing away a spare arm is always risky. I don’t think we needed all the recent injuries to drive the point home, but it’s pretty clear the Yankees are best off holding onto guys like Phelps, Warren, and Nuno. They will come in handy at some point, probably sooner rather than later.
For the first and hopefully only time this spring, the Yankees were rained out this afternoon. Their game against the Pirates in Bradenton was canceled due to the weather and will not be made up. Scheduled starter Hiroki Kuroda instead threw a five-inning, 75-pitch bullpen session in Tampa, the Yankees announced, so the rotation will remain on schedule. Here is the rest of the day’s news from camp.
- Jacoby Ellsbury (tight calf) hit in the batting cage but Joe Girardi does not expect him to play tomorrow. Brendan Ryan (oblique) and Tyler Austin (wrist) both took batting practice on the field, usually the last step before returning to game action. Scott Sizemore hit on the field as well. He’s been nursing a minor quad issue. [David Lennon, Chad Jennings]
- Some more from Jennings: CC Sabathia is scheduled to start Friday on normal rest and it appears Masahiro Tanaka will pitch Saturday with an extra day of rest, though it’s unclear if he will travel or stay in Tampa to throw a simulated game. Vidal Nuno and Adam Warren are not listed as starters this week and there’s a chance both have made their final spring starts.
- The Yankees who went to Panama arrived back in Tampa a little after midnight last night, so most of the veterans who made the trip were given the day off. [Andrew Marchand]
- And finally, the Yankees open their season in Houston two weeks from
todaytomorrow, and this morning Astros manager Bo Porter announced right-hander Scott Feldman will be their Opening Day starter. Just in case you were wondering.
Here is your open thread for the night. MLB Network was supposed to replay this afternoon’s game at 11pm ET, so I assume they’ll slot in another game instead. The Nets are the only local basketball or hockey team playing, so talk about that game or anything else right here.
5:00pm: Cashman confirmed long-time baseball operations staffer Steve Martone will replace Kuntz, according to Andrew Marchand. Kuntz will take over as the Director of Player Relations for the MLS, so he’ll deal with labor issues and their Collective Bargaining Agreement, stuff like that.
11:30am: Via George King: Will Kuntz, the Yankees’ manager of pro scouting, has left the club for an unknown position with Major League Soccer. “He loves soccer and that’s a huge job,” said Brian Cashman.
Kuntz took over as the head of the pro scouting department when Billy Eppler was promoted to assistant GM during the 2011-12 offseason. The team has not really unearthed any hidden gems like Bartolo Colon or Eric Chavez this last year or two, which may or may not have to do with Kuntz. Who the hell knows. No word on his replacement yet, but the Yankees almost always promote from within. · (59) ·
It wasn’t all that long ago that it felt like a miracle whenever a Yankees’ starter completed six full innings of work. At least it felt like a miracle to me. In fact, from 2006-08, the team’s starters completed six full innings only 284 times out of 486 regular season games, or 58%. Over the last three seasons, that number is 67%. Doesn’t seem like a big difference, but it is one extra start of 6+ innings out of every ten games.
Thankfully things have changed in recent years and I think the reasons are obvious. The Yankees haven’t only added better starters over the last few seasons, but they’ve added more durable starters as well. They’ve been getting not just more innings, but more quality innings, and in turn the workload on the bullpen has been reduced. It makes the entire staff better when the starter can go deep into the game.
This coming season, the Yankees again figure to have a few starters who can be counted on to soak up innings and complete those six innings of every five days. Given the questionable state of the middle of the bullpen, having the starter take the ball deep into the game will be more important to the club in 2014 than it was at any point in the last few years. Who is going to eat up those innings? Let’s preview.
Let’s get this out of the way early: Sabathia was terrible last year. The reasons are whatever the reasons are, but the bottom line is that he ranked 76th with a 4.78 ERA and 72nd with 0.3 bWAR out of 81 qualified starters. Terrible. From 2009-12, even bad Sabathia starts were hardly disasters, usually something like four runs in six innings than six innings in four innings. That wasn’t always the case last summer.
And yet, despite all his struggles, Sabathia still managed to throw 200+ innings for the seventh straight year. Mark Buehrle, James Shields, and Justin Verlander are the only pitchers who can make that claim. Sabathia’s 211 innings were the 16th most in baseball, and he completed six full innings in 24 of his 32 starts. He completed seven full innings 17 times, the 12th most in baseball. CC’s effectiveness is waning but he remains a workhorse of the first order, someone the Yankees can rely on to spare the bullpen every five days. I have very little doubt he will continue to eat innings in 2014.
An oblique strain and a concussion caused Kuroda to miss nearly three full months in 2009, but he’s thrown at least 196 innings in the four seasons since. He’s also thrown at least 200 innings in each of the last three seasons. Kuroda, true to his workhorse form, completed six innings 24 times and seven innings 14 times in his 32 starts last season. Remember when I said the Yankees were not just getting more innings, but more quality innings out of their starters in recent years? That describes Kuroda perfectly.
Both the Yankees and Kuroda have indicated they will look for ways to lighten the load on their top right-hander this summer, mostly because he’s 39 years old and has faded late in each of the last two regular seasons. How will they accomplish that? I have no idea. Maybe they won’t send him out for that one extra inning, maybe they’ll use off-days to give him extra rest, maybe they’ll do that and more. Kuroda may intentionally be turned into a 180-inning starter this year, which is still a ton of innings even if it falls short of the hallowed 200-inning plateau.
After three televised Grapefruit League outings, we still don’t really know what to expect out of Tanaka this coming season. We know the scouting report and all that, but until he gets on a big league mound and pitches every fifth day in the regular season, there’s just no way to know what he can give the Yankees in 2014. He could be great, he could be awful, he could be something in between.
What we do know is that Tanaka was pretty durable during his time with the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan, missing a little bit of time with shoulder inflammation in 2008, 2009, and 2012. Tanaka threw 212 innings last season and has averaged 203.2 innings per season over the last three years, which works out to 7.9 innings per start. That was pitching ever seventh day and not a pace he will maintain in MLB, but it shows Tanaka is used to pitching deep into the game.
The Yankees have indicated they will try to work some extra rest in for Tanaka throughout the season, and may start him in the fourth game of the season rather than the third for that very reason — an off-day means his second start would come with an extra day of rest as the number four starter rather than regular rest as the number three. Can he give the team six or so innings every time out? I hope so, but he have to see how efficient he is first. The club will try to give their new starter some extra rest here and there, but make no mistake, he’s being counting on for lots of high-end innings right away.
It wasn’t until his sixth professional season, when he took a comebacker to the ankle in July 2011, that Nova missed a scheduled start. He was insanely durable throughout his minor league career, and he’s thrown at least 140 innings every season since 2008. Nova did miss three weeks with shoulder inflammation in 2012 and four weeks with triceps inflammation in 2013, so he’s not an ironman, but by and large he’s been an innings guy throughout his career.
The question now is whether Nova can be counted on an innings eater in 2014. It’s not just the two relatively minor arm problems the last two seasons, it’s the unpredictability of his performance as well. He’s been very up and down over the last three seasons, not an uncommon problem for a young starting pitcher. Nova’s a big guy (listed at 6-foot-4 and 225 lbs.) and his delivery seems to be pretty smooth, two traits that portend workhorseishness. Can he make the jump to become a consistent 180+ or even 200+ innings guy this season? I hope so. Nova’s is a pretty important piece of the franchise going forward and taking that next step would be a nice development.
* * *
The Yankees have said Michael Pineda will have an innings limit because, well, duh. Of course he will. The kid threw 171 innings for the Mariners a few years ago but it’s hard to think that number means anything after a major shoulder surgery and two lost years. They have to be careful and build Pineda back up slowly. In no way should he be counted on to chew up innings, even if the bullpen was taxed the night before.
David Phelps (94.1 IP), Adam Warren (77 IP), and Vidal Nuno (45 IP) all threw fewer than a hundred innings in 2013, but none of them are particularly young (Nuno is the youngest at 26) and they all have multiple 100+ inning seasons to their credit (Phelps and Warren have multiple 150+ inning seasons). I think the Yankees would let all three throw upwards of 150 innings this season, maybe more depending on how they’re performing.
Sabathia (performance), Kuroda (age), Tanaka (transition), and Nova (unpredictable) all come into the season with questions but they all have the ability to be top-notch innings guys. This isn’t some far-fetched idea either, we’re asking these guys to do something they did just last year and over the last several years as well (aside from Nova). The benefits of having durable starting pitchers is obvious and the Yankees are in line to have several of them in 2014.
1:52pm: The game has been canceled due to the rain. It’s Spring Training, they’re not making it up. No word on what this does to the upcoming rotation, but I’m sure we’ll find out later today.
1:00pm: The Yankees will look to win their third Spring Training game in the span of 24 hours this afternoon when they make the short trip south to play the Pirates in Bradenton. Hiroki Kuroda gets the start and is scheduled to throw five innings or 75 pitches, whichever comes first. Here are the Yankees and Pirates lineups. The game will not be broadcast live on YES or MLB Network, so it’s MLB.tv or nothing if you live outside the Pittsburgh area. The weather forecast isn’t all that pretty, so there’s a chance they won’t even play. Talk about the game here. · (6) ·