It's early into the 2012 campaign, but it isn't difficult to see that with lackluster starting pitching and spotty hitting, the New York Yankees most dependable asset has been their bullpen.
Hiroki Kuroda had another poor performance on Wednesday night, his second of the season, and the Yanks found themselves in a familiar spot. They needed innings from their bullpen in order to stay in the game and New York's relievers got the job done.
Before their series-ending loss to the Minnesota Twins, the Yanks' bullpen was pitching to a 2.25 ERA, good for third best in the MLB. Tack on 4.2 more scoreless innings on to that and the Bombers continue to improve upon what is already an elite bullpen.
Hitting is normally the Yankees' trademark and with the amount of hitters in their lineup, it should be. But even their most reliable source of consistency hasn't been there and in fact, the Bombers got their first RBI of the season from the clean-up spot in their loss to the Twins.
Ivan Nova has been the only one of the Yanks' starters other than C.C. Sabathia to give consistent innings. Those consistent innings weren't even that great as Nova allowed an incredible 10 hits in his first outing of 2012 and followed that up with a four-run on eight hits performance.
However, both starts were six innings or more.
I can't say the same for Kuroda, Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes who have all failed to get past the fifth inning in at least one start this season.
There's no certainty it'll get any better for the starting rotation and manager Joe Girardi will have to continue doing a good job handling the task of not wearing out his bullpen while dealing with shotty starting pitching.
At this pace, the Yankees manager won't be able to save his arms and Girardi's starting pitching will have to step it up, whether it's from who they already have or another source from within.
With Brett Gardner reportedly going to the DL, New York will actually add a 13th arm to their pitching staff in Cody Eppley instead of replacing Gardner with another outfielder. That could tell us what we need to know about the need for more innings out of the Yanks' starting five.
The Yanks have this safety net for now, but at some point the starting five will have to give some length because it can't last forever.