New York Yankee pitcher Sergio Mitre had another not so good start tonight in Toronto, and more debate is likely to ensue over what the Yankees should do with their fifth starter position in the rotation.
What is the big deal?
Mitre is 1-0, 7.50 ERA in his four starts, while the Yankees are 3-1 in those games. Only one of those appearances, an into-the-sixth-inning-, three-earned-run performance in his first start on July 21 was major league starter material.
Or should I say it was the only one which was Yankee fan acceptable.
Again, as the Yankees have won three of Mitre’s four starts, what is the big concern and hand-wringing over a fifth starter spot? Do you really think the Yankees will not make the playoffs with Mitre going the balance of the season?
As I look at the other teams in the playoff chase, plus those other teams in the AL East, there is not a great fifth starter among them. The Boston Red Sox have John Smoltz clogging up at 2-4, 7.12 ERA and the Tampa Bay Rays have Scott Kazmir (6-6, 6.10).
Now that the White Sox traded for Jake Peavy, they have Jose Contreras as their fifth starter, but also have youngsters John Danks and Gavin Floyd in their rotation.
In fact, those teams which have pretty decent, but not great (at least not yet) fifth starters have one thing in common. They are all young hurlers getting their opportunity to pitch in the majors.
They are all young pitchers brought up from AAA in midseason to pitch games for their teams when injuries or ineffectiveness befell other starting pitchers.
For example, the Toronto Blue Jays were decimated by injuries to their starting pitchers over the last two seasons. Shaun Marcum, Dustin McGowan, Gustavo Chacin, and Jesse Litsch all were disabled with various arm ailments. It is always some kind of major arm surgery with the Jays pitchers.
Maybe the Mets medical staff has been giving the Jays medical personnel some pointers.
Tonight’s starter for the Jays was the very effective Mike Rzepczynski, making his fifth start after being recalled from AAA Syracuse. Also, Brett Cecil, a 21-year-old former first-round pick, is also in the rotation. While both have endured some growing pains, they each are performing well.
And both are setting the stage for future success by getting major league pitching experience now instead of later.
That is because young pitchers need to develop in the majors in order to have success in the majors.
Sometimes that trial run has to be performed during a pennant race.
Even the Baltimore Orioles have gone the pitcher promotion route, promoting no less than six young hurlers who have made their major league debuts, including two in a row earlier this week with Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz.
The O’s will be better off for it down the line.
While the Yankees fans and front office fret over Mitre’s last three performances, the front office has only itself to blame. Instead of stocking the AAA team with young pitchers from the system, the Yankees have stocked AAA with a conglomeration of has-beens and castoffs from other organizations.
Names like Mitre, Jason Johnson, Casey Fossum, Josh Towers, and now newly-signed reject Russ Ortiz have (or will) spend time at the Scranton AAA bus stop, hoping to catch the next ticket to the Bronx.
Since Mitre has not blown away the competition (or impressed those patient Yankee fans), writers have suggested Towers, a 32-year-old veteran of two organizations (Toronto and Baltimore) could get the next start in the coveted fifth spot.
Despite Towers winning the International League Pitcher of the Week honors this past week, need I remind anyone that he is a career 45-55, 4.96 ERA pitcher who hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2007. In 2005, he had one decent season as a full-time starter with a 13-12, 3.71 record in 33 starts.
He is not the answer, nor is any other 30-something reject.
Why does everyone want to find the next Aaron Small or the next Shawn Chacon? They were two journeymen pitchers who had career months for the Yankees down the stretch in 2005.
Instead of finding the next Aaron Small, how about finding the next Mel Stottlemyre, who at age 21, helped the Yankees down the stretch in 1964 to the pennant. Stottlemyre went on to become the Yankee ace for the next decade.
In 1950, a young Yankees hurler won nine games late plus one in the World Series.
Whitey Ford also became a Yankee ace over the next 15 seasons.
Aren’t those instances better than having a Josh Towers as your savior?
Now I know that Joba is doing well, and Phil Hughes, Phil Coke, and Alfredo Aceves are performing well in a very effective Yankee bullpen, but there should be even more young pitchers ready to go.
No one could have predicted Ian Kennedy’s aneurysm or Tommy John surgery for George Kontos, but the Yankees would have been better off to push younger pitching prospects such as Zach McAllister or Ivan Nova into the Bronx rotation.
But that would necessitate using up a couple of 40-man roster spots for guys not yet needing to be there, and the Yankees don’t like to do that.
It is few and far between when a pitching staff will have all of its starters make all of their starts. It is virtually impossible in baseball and injuries to a starting rotation are inevitable. Teams need to have six, seven, or even eight starters ready to go in a given season.
It is much more productive for a major league team to have those ready replacements be young pitchers who might have a future with the team rather than a journeyman looking to boost his pension years.
Since the Yankees have no young hurler ready to go, then Mitre is the best bet for the Yankees this year.
Unless they want to go with a "prospect" at Triple A Scranton with a 28-13 overall record at that level named Kei Igawa.