A few weeks ago, I took a look at the state of the Yankees’ pitching. Based on all of the injuries and fill-ins, I think it’s time for another look. Let’s start with the rotation, which is the most pressing need. I’ll post about the bullpen later.
Right now, the Yankees have 3 healthy starters that should be kept in the rotation in Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, and Joba Chamberlain. Darrell Rasner and Sidney Ponson currently comprise the 4 and 5 spot in the rotation. They are the two that I’d like to focus on first.
Rasner has not been the same pitcher that he was since he threw 8 innings against the Royals back on June 6. Since then, he has been hit hard in his starts and has not gone more than 5 innings, leading to extensive use of the bullpen. This could be attributed to the fact that he was playing a lower tier of ball clubs while he was dominating, and the sudden rise in competition has affected his performance. His command has also been a problem of late. He has been nibbling corners and not getting calls, leading to higher pitch counts, less effectiveness, and more trouble.
Sidney Ponson was plucked up after the Rangers released him due to behaviour concerns. He has been far from brilliant. Though he wriggled out of many jams while facing the Mets in his first start with the Yanks and managed to not give up a run, he displayed his normal self in his last start against his former club, getting tattooed for 7 earned runs in 5 innings. Ouch. Ponson gives up far more than a hit per inning (66.2 IP, 85 H)and has a scary K/BB ratio (30/23). That is not going to help keep the team in the game, regardless of how good you can be at working out of trouble…and Ponson ain’t.
So what do the Yankees do? They auditioned Dan Giese, who pitched brilliantly against the Reds, yet unsuccessfully against the Mets. He has since turned to long relief, where he seems to have found his niche. He’ll stay there. Of the healthy starters on their 40-man roster, their options lie in Kei Igawa, Ian Kennedy, Jeff Karstens, and Chase Wright.
Joe Girardi has already said that Ian Kennedy will have to earn his way back onto the roster, and his first start in AAA did not go brilliantly, though he only went 2 innings before the game was suspended. He’ll have to be stretched out a bit more and prove to be effective before he gets another call.
Kei Igawa? Um…moving on.
Jeff Karstens may be scary since he has a penchant for being a fly ball pitcher, but he has been dealing down in AAA. Karstens was originally going to be on the Yankees 25-man roster for Opening Day, but a groin pull hampered those plans. Lately though, Karstens has been dealing, not allowing more than 3 earned runs in his past 6 starts. Maybe the Yankees will discuss him as a potential replacement for Ponson, though Ponson is scheduled to start against the Rays in their upcoming series.
Then there is Chase Wright, who has pitched well in AA this year. However, he has also been hit by the injury bug. He didn’t have much in his last start either, so I don’t think he’s going to get a call.
This leads us to who is healthy in AAA but not on the 40-man roster. The only man that fits this description is Dan McCutchen. Since moving up from AA, McCutchen has hit a couple of bumps, but has worked through the growing pains. He has also thrown 2 complete games shutouts since he has moved up. I think that the Yankees want to give him a bit more time before they think of giving him the call, which is a good idea. You don’t want a kid to come up, get hit hard, and ruin him mentally. The Yankees are probably going to be extra careful when it comes to kids with brilliant stuff moving up after the lack of greatness that Kennedy and Hughes have shown this year.
What should the Yankees do, then? Well, they should DFA Ponson for a start. His season has been a fluke, and when he faces difficult competition, he is not going to get out of jams, especially with his stats. To replace him, they should play the hot hand and call up Jeff Karstens. Karstens isn’t brilliant, but he probably stands a better chance of keeping them in the game and he has MLB experience, an obvious plus.
If Rasner continues to struggle or Karstens flops, the Yankees would probably start to seriously consider bringing McCutchen up. Alan Horne has been battling injuries all season long and is back on the minor league DL, as is Jeff Marquez. Maybe Dan Giese will get another shot. Who knows? The Yankees will need to find another solution; that much is certain. They might make a trade (something I’m not very keen on doing, including for C.C. Sabathia). Phil Hughes won’t be back until August at least and Wang might be gone for the season. If they want to taste some action in October in a farewell to Yankee Stadium, they are going to need some better options in the rotation. It is time that they made a move. The competition in the East hasn’t been this tough for the Yankees in quite some time, so they are going to need the offense to wake up and good pitching to make it through the remainder of the season.