It seems each year, Yankee fans are worried about one huge factor, pitching! Whether it be due to injury or “lack of depth”, the Yankees’ pitching staff seems to be their Achilles heel. Not the case this year. Heading into this season, the Yankees have a problem that is a very good problem. They cannot figure out their pitching rotation. They have so many talented arms. The major competition though is for the final spot in the starting rotation. Currently this battle is between David Phelps and Michael Pineda. Pineda has been a pleasant surprise since he is recovering from an injury he suffered at the beginning of last year while Phelps has been an under-the-radar surprise.
Phelps was considered as more of a long reliever last year until late in the year when the Yankees rotation was once again hurting and they needed someone to step up. Phelps showed his versatility and helped the Yankees still compete for a playoff spot last season. Some games he would start and some he came out of the bullpen. With a strong season under his belt, Phelps hopes to make a bigger impact this season.
Phelps has been consistent this spring, but his best outing was Thursday night at JetBlue Park against the arch rival Boston Red Sox. He held the Sox scoreless until the sixth where he gave up a two-run double to Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia. This game was televised on ESPN nationally. As I watched Phelps pitch, I noticed something different about him. He was attacking hitters more and getting ahead in the counts with a strong, controlled fastball. It was reported that Phelps made a slight mechanical adjustment to improve his fastball command earlier in the week. It obviously showed Thursday night.
Manager Joe Girardi still does not know when he will finalize the starting rotation as he said, “I don’t know if we’ll decide it by the end of the weekend or if we’ll wait a little bit longer.” So who should Joe Girardi choose for the fifth spot in the rotation? Should the Yanks have a six-man rotation?
For now, the Yankees should name Michael Pineda the fifth starter in the rotation. I know after giving all the praise to Phelps earlier, you would think he would be the right choice, but I think otherwise. Yes, Phelps is improving his craft and pitching mechanics, but he is still developing. It is really nice that he has starting experience just in case Pineda or someone else goes down with an injury or just needs a day off. Pineda though, is already an established starting pitcher after what he did with the Seattle Mariners a couple of years ago. His stuff can be “filthy” at times almost unhittable. If Phelps continues to progress and show vast improvement who knows? He could possibly make Joe Girardi have to use a six-man rotation.