When former left-handed specialist Boone Logan left the Yankees for the Colorado Rockies and $16 million dollars, general manager Brian Cashman signed veteran Matt Thornton to slide into Logan’s role. While Thornton has managed to stay healthy, his performance on the mound has been less than stellar thus far. In four games, he has pitched 2 1/3 innings, with an 11.50 ERA. Half of the batters he has faced have hit safely. Granted, these are only spring training statistics, but the Yankees don’t seem alarmed.
Thornton, a former 1st round pick by the Seattle Mariners way back in 1998, was a starter-turned-reliever in the minor leagues, eventually making his big league debut in 2004 with the franchise. In 2006, he was traded to the White Sox for Joe Borchard, where the lefty’s career would take off. The burgeoning big man became one of the better relief men in the American League, earning an All-Star berth in 2010. After a midseason trade to the other (Red) Sox, he helped Boston win their third World Series in ten years. Basically, the 37-year-old has an extensive and proven track record. The Yanks are assuming he can straighten his pitching out.
Other southpaw pitchers on the roster include Vidal Nuno and Cesar Cabral. The latter player has pitched very well: 8 games, 8 innings pitched, no runs surrendered. However, the situations he has pitched in haven’t been high pressure ones. Nuno has been decent, with a 1.50 ERA in 6 IP, but he is projected as more of a starter, or long reliever. Even now, he is a dark horse to beat out Michael Pineda for the fifth starting spot. It is unlikely that skipper Joe Girardi wants to convert Nuno into a reliever, especially after seeing what happened with Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes. But hey, Thornton only started one game in his MLB career after years of starting in the minors: anything is possible. As of now, though, it looks like Matt Thornton’s specialist spot is his to lose.