Going into spring training this year, the Yankees made moves to considerably improve their starting rotation. After all, the Yankees have had no emergencies in the closer position for the last decade and a half since that have future Hall of Fame shoo-in, Mariano Rivera.
The Yanks also found a consistent setup pitcher in David Robertson, who is the most likely candidate to succeed Rivera when he retires.
It has been the starting rotation that has left the coaching staff and the fans scratching their heads in concern for the past few years. CC Sabathia is exempt from this concern as he has been pretty much as solid as you can ask for as an ace.
However, with pitchers like A.J. Burnett drastically falling short during the season which didn't equal the amount the organization shelled out for him, something had to give in the Bronx.
The moves of bringing in Hiroki Kuroda, trading away Burnett and trading for Michael Pineda seemed like steals. Then came spring training when the pitching looked solid and balanced. Even potential worry spots, Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes, looked strong.
The news that former Yankee great Andy Pettitte was making a comeback in the Bronx was celebrated by fans. All of a sudden, the Yankees were overloaded with a solid rotation and tough decisions would have to be made on who would fill what spots.
Just when fans thought they didn't have to have concerns with the rotation, things started to fall apart.
Pineda injured his shoulder, which he is having season-ending surgery for tomorrow, Hughes has been chaotic and in disarray on the mound and Garcia was pulled back to the bullpen after his ERA for the season grew to 12.51 on Saturday. Garcia's spot will be replaced by the impressive reliever David Phelps.
Even Sabathia has seemed a little off this season. However, after Sunday's great outing he seems back to his normal ace-self. Ivan Nova has been the most consistent starter with a 5.18 ERA and a 3-0 record.
The always-stellar Yankees offense can't win a World Series on its own. There needs to be a balance.
The Yankees fanbase and even the team itself seems to be holding out on the return of Pettitte to calm the waters in the starting rotation. Not only will Pettitte's pitching skills be needed, but his leadership, experience and what he can teach other pitchers will be valued even higher.
Even before Garcia's flop, the thinking was Pettitte might be ready to re-join the Yanks in time to take his first turn on May 10. But the way things are trending for the Yanks' pitchers now -- both here and in the minors -- that date feels like a long way away. Hiroki Kuroda has made a halting adjustment to the American League. Michael Pineda is getting his season-ending shoulder surgery done Tuesday, and the Triple A prospects the Yanks hoped might come on as fast as Ivan Nova did last year have either been erratic (Dellin Betances) or they've gotten hurt (Manny Banuelos, on the DL with a bad back).
The fact that their best-looking option to boost their faltering starting pitching is replacing a 37-year-old starter with one who's about to turn 40 in June and sat out a year makes you wonder: Will time show there's too much hope and expectations being invested in Pettitte being some cure-all, too?
Pettitte is set to make an extended start today in Clearwater at the Phillies complex. His return is much anticipated in the Bronx and it seems like the tentative return date of May 10th will likely be pushed up. Sometimes experience is the key to success and this is what the Yankees are banking on.
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