A good mix of veterans and young arms give the New York Yankee pitching staff a chance to be a strong suit for the team in its chase of No. 28.
Three veteran starters return from the 2009 team to give the Yankees a lot of experience. And another veteran, Javier Vazquez (pictured above) was obtained in a trade with Atlanta to further reinforce the staff.
With CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte joined by Vazquez, there are four starters who averaged over 200 innings each last year.
Joba Chamberlain will compete for the fifth starting slot and should be favored to get it.
Phil Hughes will have innings limitations this year and will probably return to his set up role of 2009.
And of course, Mariano Rivera, returns at age 40 as the best closer in baseball.
CC Sabathia's first year as a Yankee in 2009 was an unqualified success. He led the team in innings pitched with 230; wins with 19 and strikeouts with 197.
His ERA+ was a great 127 and his WHIP was 1.148.
CC will be the rock of the staff again this year and expectations that he will exceed his 19-8 record of 2009 are not unrealistic.
AJ Burnett's first year in pinstripes could best be described as a roller coaster. To become what every Yankee fan expects, Burnett must become more consistent.
In 2009 Burnett finished with a record of 13-9 and threw 207 innings. He struck out 195. But his ERA+ was only 106, not as good as it should be.
He quarreled all season with Jorge Posada, not publicly, but so obviously that when everything was on the line in the World Series, Girardi weakened the offense to let Burnett pitch to Jose Molina.
With the chance to pitch to Francisco Cervelli, with whom he worked very well in limited starts last year, expect more consistency and several more wins out of AJ.
Andy Pettitte will turn 38 in June. He survived the '09 season without any significant arm problems. He got some help down the stretch when the Yankees were so far ahead Girardi could give him some extra rest.
And Andy did more than anyone could have expected of him in the postseason, clinching every series.
Andy was 14-8 last year with an ERA of 4.16 and he pitched 194.2 innings.
If Pettitte can repeat that performance he will be one of the key reasons the Yankees have a chance to repeat.
Javier Vazquez came back to the Yankees after five seasons away. And he has been proclaimed as the best fourth starter on any team and that he has solidified the starting rotation.
Last season Vazquez went 15-8 with Atlanta and ate innings finishing with 219.1. What was even more incredible about this is that he was given extra rest on numerous occasions last year by Bobby Cox and still threw this much.
Vazquez struck out 238 last year while walking only 44 and giving up only 20 home runs.
But reality has to be taken into account. He is now back in the American League and more importantly in the AL East, the toughest bracket in baseball.
In two of his four prior seasons in the American League, Javy had an ERA+ under 100.
Yankee fans should be careful what to expect, but he is durable and should go out there every five days, give or take a few.
Almost every Yankee fan has said a word of thanks. There are no more rules.
Joba Chamberlain will come to camp with no innings limits this year and will compete for a starting slot.
As successful as Phil Hughes was in the bullpen, and considering that Hughes will have innings limits, Joba is the best bet to be the fifth starter.
And if they leave the Kid alone and let him pitch, he can still be great.
The main thing to remember about Joba is he is still only 24 and he had some very impressive starts last year.
He finished 9-6 with an ERA+ of only 90 and a WHIP of 1.544. But if they let him go out there every fifth day and run up 100+ innings per start, he will be much better. Expect at least 15 wins out of Joba this year.
Consider one stat. Just one.
In 2009 Mariano Rivera's ERA+ was 243. Please read that carefully. TWO FORTY THREE!
That is simply unbelievable.
Mariano Rivera just turned 40. How long can he pitch? Anybody's guess. In the post season celebrations Mo talked about pitching five more years. Why not?
There has never been a better closer and serious arguments can be made that he is the Most Valuable Player of the last fifteen years for the Yankees.
Phil Hughes will compete for a starting slot. But expect Hughes in the bullpen as the bridge to Mariano.
If the Yankees can get the ball to Mo, the game is usually over.
Hughes will not be 24 years old until June and has a great future.
And he had a great 2009.
Hughes came up from Scranton to take Chien Ming-Wang's slot in the rotation and did very well. When Wang came back to try again, Hughes went to the pen and at first it seemed as though Girardi forget he was out there.
But when Joe took a look at the roster one day and gave Hughes a chance he was lights out in relief. Hughes finished 8-3 and had an ERA+ of 140 and a WHIP of 1.116. He also struck out 96 in only 86 innings.
Hughes will eventually be a very important starter for the Yankees. But expect him in relief again this year.
Alfredo Aceves was one of the most versatile pitchers for the Yankees last year.
Aceves finished with a 10-1 record, better than many year long starters in the league. He pitched a total of 84 innings and had an ERA+ of 121 and a WHIP of 1.167.
Aceves can give Girardi long relief, can spot start and can also come into clutch situations and get one or two key outs.
Damaso Marte is the third oldest pitcher likely to make the staff. And he will certainly make the staff.
Marte is the only lefty certain of a spot in the bullpen. Marte pitched in only 21 games and had only 13.1 innings last year because he was injured and on the DL from Apr. 25 through Aug. 21 last year. That is four months he missed.
But Marte will be very critical to the Yankees this year as he will have to take up much of the load that Phil Coke took on last season.
Marte must improve his ERA and his WHIP because there are only two other southpaws on the 40 man roster to consider for the pen—Wilkin De La Rosa who has never pitched above Double A and Boone Logan who did not do much in the NL last season.
Young David Robertson filled every role he was asked to fill last year.
If Girardi wanted Robertson to pitch long relief he did that.
If Girardi needed someone to face a tough left-handed hitter in a clutch spot, David did that.
Robertson is only 25 years old, but he pitched like a savvy vet last year.
In 43.2 innings, Robertson struck out 63 hitters. He had an ERA+ of 130 and a WHIP of 1.351.
Robertson will be a strong element in the pen from Opening Day this year.
At age 25 Mark Melancon is another of the Yankees' Young Guns.
When he first came up early last season he seemed to show a flash of brilliance and then the team seemed confused as to how to use him.
Melancon pitched in 16.1 innings and had a good ERA+ of 111.
Melancon is still developing and can give valuable help out of the pen in 2010.
This big hoss is 27 years old. He is still working to perfect his mechanics. But there were times last year he was very good.
In an early game in Boston, Girardi may have messed with the pitcher's mind when he let Albaladejo get a key out and then throw one pitch to the next hitter.
Then in the middle of the at-bat, Girardi came and jerked the kid. It was as though Joe was showing the kid up in front of 37,000 Boston fans and a national TV audience.
Albaladejo was never really the same after that game. But he has great stuff and if he can find his mechanics, he could get the final spot in the pen.
Chad Gaudin came over in a mid-season trade with the Padres. He went 2-0 with the Yankees and had an ERA+ of 125 in the Bronx in 42 innings.
But his season long stats were more pedestrian with a 6-10 record and an ERA+ of 83 and a WHIP of 1.507.
But Gaudin can give the Yankees versatility. He could make the team to serve in long relief or to spot start.
The other pitcher who will be given a chance to make the team is Sergio Mitre who was 3-3 and pitched a total of 51.2 innings in 2009. He had a bad ERA+ of only 63 and a WHIP of 1.626, but he is versatile as a starter or in long relief.
During the four months that Damaso Mitre was on the DL, the Yankees only lefty in the pen was Phil Coke.
Coke was dealt to Detroit in the deal that brought Curtis Granderson to New York.
Coke was engimatic last season, pitching 60 innings in relief and tallying 49 Ks. But he had a less than average 95 ERA+. But his WHIP was a very good 1.067.
So it was hard to tell what you would get out of Coke. But this year, one thing is for certain, the Yankees will get nothing out of him.
He may be sorely missed, especially if Marte cannot shake the injury bug.
The New York Yankees have a great deal of pitching talent.
CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Andy Pettitte and Javy Vazquez will compare with most AL top four starters.
No one is better right now than Mariano RIvera.
They also have several question marks.
Will Javy Vazquez' success translate to the AL East and can he win consistently there?
Is Joba ready to shake the rules and be a front-line starter who can give the team 180+ innings and win 15 or so?
Will Andy Pettitte at age 38 hold up?
Can Mo go on forever?
But the biggest question mark may be What Will Joe Do?
Joe Girardi has shown a propensity to over manage. He sometimes thinks he has to make the team work, instead of just letting the guys play.
If Joe can relax now that he has his first managerial ring, maybe the talent will show through and the Yankee staff will dominate.
This writer's opinion is that CC Sabathia will win more than 20, AJ Burnett will get 18.
But you cannot expect 15 wins out of Vazquez and reasonable expectations are that Andy will not match his 14 wins of last year.
But Joba can get 15 wins for you.
And the bullpen can be worth 20 wins.
So the Yankee pitching may not be dominant. But if the offense does what it should, the pitching is good enough to make the playoffs.