Yankees Rotation Issues Trump Everything, Including Didi’s Loss


The composition of the Yankees starting rotation is the can that’s been kicked down the road for six weeks now. Ready or not, in nine days, the season begins and time runs out. Who’s in and who’s out?

The Yankees most immediate issue that needs to be addressed is not finding a replacement for Didi Gregorius. Because when all is said and done, all they need is a sure-handed fielder who will make all the plays a major league shortstop is expected to make. Anything else is gravy.

And the loss of a position player, who is one of eight in a lineup is not the same as a starting pitcher who is one of five and can make or break his team on any given day.

A position player can have a bad day going 0-5 with three strikeouts and make two errors in the field and still be “picked up” by his teammates in the lineup. But there’s no picking up a starting pitcher who is given the ball and manages to give up six earned runs in 3 1/3 innings while walking five over his 100 pitch outing.

The Yankees Feel The Heat

Once you dismiss Masahiro Tanaka, who continues to please everyone but himself by pitching as though he is on a different planet, from the conversation, what do the Yankees have left?

It’s not a new problem, though. It’s only an issue that has yet to be addressed.

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Fortunately, Michael Pineda, as the number two starter, is enjoying a good spring. He has yet to lose in three decisions, and he’s given up only two walks in 11 1/3 innings while striking out 15 batters.

But overall, Pineda remains a mystery as to what the Yankees will get from him start to start. And you can almost hear the whispers in the dugout as Joe Girardi leans over to pitching coach Larry Rothschild, “Hey, tell your guys to be ready for anything today.”

Beyond Pineda lies the abyss of uncertainty and ineffectiveness of Luis Severino, Luis Cessa, and CC Sabathia, who carries a 9.45 ERA into his next start.

And while the Yankees are expected to improve significantly in the runs scored department this year, the question is can they improve enough to match and better the number of runs the starters will up.

Do The Yankees Make A Leap?

In recent weeks, the team has witnessed the emergence of James Kaprielian and Jordan Montgomery as challengers to the trio in question. Montgomery, especially, has excelled closing out a no-hitter with four innings of perfection and striking out eight in yesterday’s start against Tampa.

The 6’6″ southpaw reminds of Sabathia in his younger days and is poised to capture a starting role if, and only if, the Yankees opt to go that way. They’re leaning, but they haven’t committed to the move as yet. Girardi has admitted that he’s “curious” about Montgomery, but the question then becomes, when does his curiosity become satisfied?

With Kaprielian, it boils down to a health issue and whether or not the Yankees believe their star right-hander when he tells them repeatedly, “I’m ready.” To their credit, the team has always erred and acted on the side of caution in these matters. But the bell is about to ring, and the situation seems to call for original thinking and actions on the part of the Yankees.

Where’s The One-Two Punch?

Perhaps, the most glaring problem faced by the team this season is the lack of a one-two punch in the rotation that can put the fear of God in any team coming into facing them for a three-game weekend series.

The Dodgers had Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, the Mets have Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom, the Nationals have Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, and the Yankees have……..who?

Which leads back to the winter long conversation about Jose Quintana and whether or not the Yankees are in the mix to acquire his services from the White Sox for a boatload of prospects.

While Tanaka and Quintana has a nice ring to it, it’s still a testy decision the organization is making on Quintana, and it could very well be one of those damned if you do and damned if you don’t situations.

The Heart Of The Matter For The Yankees

The heart of the matter, though, is how the Yankees (internally) view 2017. Is this season a break-even year in which the team looks ahead to 2018 when Sabathia and Pineda (free agent) are gone and Kaprielian, Montgomery, et.al. take the reins and lead the team to the promised land.

Or, does the organization believe in the hype surrounding the team, seeing 2017 as a year when the Yankees could just sneak in there to make an appearance in the Playoffs, and once they get there, do some damage.

Which is it? There’s no in-between. They’re either all-in or not.