It has been a juggling act for Joe Girardi this season, as he had to fill in holes for three-fifths of his starting rotation due to injuries. Going into the 2014 season, the Yankees starting rotation looked pretty sharp, and a bounce back year from last season’s nightmare seemed to be in the works. We all spoke a little too quickly, as the nightmare seems to continue to haunt the Yankees this season.
In just three short weeks from late-April to mid-May, the Yankees already lost three important starters that could have really carried the club this season. Ivan Nova received crushing news, as he had to undergo Tommy John Surgery, marking his short season come to a close for the year. CC Sabathia has been battling a knee problem, and he will be out for another few weeks until he can begin to start throwing. Michael Pineda, a fond member of the disabled list, has been on there for quite some time and had a recent set back with a muscle problem in his shoulder.
While those injuries were extremely detrimental to the team, there were no excuses. Players were asked to step up, and the replacement pitchers have done a decent job to keep the Yankees not too far behind in the AL East. Pitchers Vidal Nuno and David Phelps had to be pulled from the bullpen, while Chase Whitley had to be called up. These three pitchers have now taken on the starter role for about a month now.
It was a toss up to see how these pitchers would perform. Shockingly, they haven’t done too bad. These three replacements have a combined 4.19 ERA in 119.2 innings. While the average AL starter has a 4.08 ERA this season, you have to give these guys credit.
The underlying problem is that the starters are not giving the bullpen enough length. Their pitch count is already skyrocketed by the 5th or 6th inning, leaving the bullpen to record all of these outs and wearing their arms out. These pitchers are averaging 5.1 innings, which leaves Girardi not that much wiggle room to work with the next game, since he has had to use many pitchers in his bullpen to complete the game the night before.
If the Yankees want their bullpen to remain stable for the rest of the season, things need to change. For starters, the Yankees need to pick up the offense and score enough runs to risk the pitcher going out for an extra inning or two. Also, somehow figuring out how these pitchers can go for another inning than they are used to would be nice. Whitley made progress in his last start, as he gave the Yankees seven solid innings. Either way, something needs to be solved as we get deeper into the season.