With news that C.C. Sabathia is going on the DL and will miss at least two weeks with fluid in his knee, the Yankees’ rotation is an even bigger concern than it has been.
Just a few weeks ago, no one would have blinked at this news. The starting pitching was the biggest strength on a Yankees team that was waiting for the offense to come around. Sabathia was the least effective starter for the Yanks. But that was not a huge concern, because outside of Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda, the rest of the starters were pitching lights out.
Then Ivan Nova needed Tommy John surgery and is now out for the year. Next, Michael Pineda got suspended and then hurt. News came out yesterday that he will likely need more than the expected 3-4 weeks to recover. Now it’s Sabathia who’s out. That leaves Masahiro Tanaka to lead a staff that includes the struggling Kuroda, and any combination of David Phelps, Vidal Nuno, and anybody else whose arm is currently attached. The pressure is mounting on the Japanese import to be as close to perfect every time out.
It’s no secret that the Yankees don’t have a lot of starting pitching depth. With the plethora of injuries they have endured (Thursday’s starter will likely be the eighth used by the Yankees so far this season), they are going to have to get creative now. Alfredo Aceves and Chase Whitley are two options.
Aceves has pitched 8 innings for the Yankees out of the bullpen recently, striking out eight. His 3.38 ERA is respectable. He has also made three appearances at Triple-A, including two starts. In thirteen-and-two-thirds innings, he struck out fourteen and had a 1.98 ERA for the RailRiders.
Whitley has also been effective for SWB. He’s 3-2 in six starts with a 2.39 ERA and has fanned 32 in twenty-six-and-a-third innings, including an eleven strikeout performance his last time out. Whitley has been in Triple-A for three years and was not regarded very highly in terms of pitching prospects.
But the numbers don’t lie. Each of the last three seasons, his ERA has been 3.25 or less. To me he is the better option to start in Sabathia’s spot. Aceves could stay with the big league club as a middle reliever/long man.
If Whitley is called up, and pitches effectively, that will be a huge positive for the Yankees. That would still however, leave Phelps and Nuno as a very shaky duo at the back end of the rotation. As Michael Axisa of River Avenue Blues points out, neither of the two have broken ninety pitches in a start this season. That means an already questionable bullpen is going to be asked to do a lot more.
With the in-house options not looking promising, the other option would be to try to trade for a starter. This early in the season, no team is looking to deal a quality arm. It seems Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi are going to have to use the guys they have and hope for the best until relief arrives in the form of Pineda and/or Sabathia.