Yankee Fans Shouldn't Panic If Michael Pineda Is Sent to the Minors
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It doesn't matter how often fans are told that trades really can't be evaluated for several years.
If Michael Pineda begins the 2012 season in the bullpen (please, not that) or down on the farm, fans and media will proclaim that the Seattle Mariners knew something when they traded the best young pitcher this side of Clayton Kershaw to the Yankees for Jesus Montero.
The Yankees apparently are considering a starting rotation that includes Freddy Garcia and has Pineda and Ivan Nova battling for the fifth spot.
That seems wrong on so many fronts. Although Pineda finished 9-10 with the Mariners last year because of a decline during the second half of the season, he is a potentially dominant pitcher who would anchor the Yankees staff for years to come.
Nova was 16-4, and it is hard to imagine the Yankees sending him to the bullpen or to the minors.
Yet that is exactly what we are hearing out of New York, where manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman would rather have Garcia's experience in the rotation with CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Phil Hughes, leaving Nova and Pineda to battle for the fifth spot.
What happens when Andy Pettitte returns?
The Yankees will deal with that scenario when it happens.
Left to our own devices, Garcia would be the odd man out.
We would even trade Kuroda before messing with the potentially fragile psyche of Pineda and Nova.
But here is what we do know: The Yankees value age and experience over youth, which may account for their mishandling of Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy and Hughes.
Let's take a look who may be the odd man out of the Yankees rotation:
From Super Nova to Falling Star
Ivan Nova could be demoted to the minors
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How many pitchers can you name who went 16-4 with an ERA of 3.70 and WHIP of 1.33 that are on the verge of losing their spot in the rotation?
The Yankees are giving some thought to whether Nova should begin the 2012 season in the bullpen, where all young Yankee arms go to die, or in the minors.
No one should expect the 25-year-old righty to repeat his success from last year. But he deserves his place at the back end of the rotation, if not in the No. 3 slot, until further notice.
He hasn't had a great spring, but the Yankees owe it to Nova to pitch his way out of the rotation at this point, not have to prove he belongs. That really doesn't send a positive message to the Yankees' prized arms down on the farm.
And have they given any thought to how Nova will respond to an undeserved demotion?
The Yankees Should Even Consider Demoting Michael Pineda
Mixchael Pineda in his phenom days
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Demoting Michael Pineda might be like closing the corral after the horses are out.
He struggled during the second half of last season with the Mariners. And if he were with a pennant contender, he might have spent the entire 2011 season in the minors, perhaps developing the changeup or off-speed pitch he needs to complement that overpowering fastball.
But sending Pineda to Triple-A now might mess with his head and hurt the Yankees long-term.
It makes sense, given the glut the Yankees now have in starting pitching. Pineda would likely be recalled before midseason when Freddy Garcia gets injured or Hiroki Kuroda gets hammered in his first season in the American League.
The question is, how would Pineda deal with being sent to the minors?
If Montero, who had one hit in eight at-bats in the Mariners first two games of the season against the Oakland A's in Japan, starts putting up big numbers, will Pineda feel even more pressure?
It doesn't matter what Joe Girardi or Brian Cashman say in defense of the trade that brought Pineda to New York, the young pitcher might be devastated by a demotion to the bullpen or minors.
The Yankees need to show the faith in him that they did when they made the trade.
Freddy Is Ready
Freddy Garcia gives the Yankees a proven arm
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Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon were like two grumpy old men who bolstered the back end of the Yankees rotation last season.
Only Garcia remains, and according to recent reports, he has solidified a spot in the Yankees rotation.
After battling injuries from 2007-09 Garcia has put together two solid seasons, one with the Chicago White Sox and last season with the Yankees. He is 24-14 over the last two seasons and had a decent 3.62 ERA in 2011.
But is it worth jeopardizing the Yankees future by giving Garcia a rotation spot at the start of 2011?
Do Ivan Nova or Michael Pineda take a step or two backward because the Yankees value experience over youth?
As of this moment, it appears that Garcia will join CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Phil Hughes and either Ivan Nova or Michael Pineda in the starting rotation.
It just seems a little penny wise and pound foolish to us. Let Garcia work out of the bullpen early on, and if Pineda and/or Nova struggle, then send them down to the minors in all good conscience and move Freddy back to the rotation.
He is 35, and while reluctant to work in relief, he has the knowledge and experience to perform well until his turn comes.
The same can't be said of the young pitchers.
Time to Break Open a 6-Pack
Make everybody and no one happy by using a six-man rotation
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We know all the reasons why a six-man rotation won't work.
There aren't enough games early in the season to keep everyone sharp, and weather postponements will make it even more difficult for the starters to maintain their effectiveness.
But would a six-pack be all that bad?
First, it will save the arms of Hiroki Kuroda and Freddy Garcia, who aren't exactly youngsters in the pitching fraternity.
It would enable the Yankees to forget about the Joba Rules as they apply to Phil Hughes, Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova. Let them pitch deep into games knowing they are getting an extra day off.
The only starter who doesn't miss a turn is CC Sabathia. He is your workhorse and appears to thrive the more he pitches.
By the same token, Sabathia is 31 and has thrown 230 or more innings for the past five seasons. He might benefit from an extra day of rest on occasion.
Remember, the Yankees are all about the postseason and fresh arms will be at a premium.
What happens when Andy Pettitte returns?
By then, it will either be a great problem to have or a godsend.
The bottom line, however, is that there is always strength in numbers. And the Yankees could do worse than play all of their chips to win the arms race.