New York Yankees: Andy Pettitte Injury Adds to Pitching Concerns

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New York Yankees: Andy Pettitte Injury Adds to Pitching Concerns
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With the recent injury to Andy Pettitte, who is expected to be out of the Yankees starting rotation for up to five weeks, it has put the Yankees into a bind regarding their staff.

Pettitte will miss five to six starts, with Sergio Mitre pitching in Andy's spot in the rotation. Mitre did not fare well last year in a similar role when he started nine games, generating a 3-3 record and 7.16 ERA with a 1.750 WHIP.

But that was the first year after Tommy John surgery, normally not a banner season for pitchers coming back from it. He also pitched pretty well in spring training, and many people thought he could win the fifth spot in the rotation.

He also did not pitch that badly in his two spot starts this year, going 0-1, 3.86 ERA and 1.286 WHIP. The Yankees would sign on the dotted line right now for those ERA and WHIP numbers over six starts.

As he is a journeyman, we are well aware that is not likely the case for Mitre, but we will be happy if it is.

But that is the Yankees M.O.

It is what they do to replace an injured pitcher in their rotation. They bring in a veteran scrub from their bullpen or from AAA to go in and crap out.

Since Joe Girardi has been manager, this is what the Yankees have done. They have run out Chad Gaudin, Dan Giese, Sidney Ponson, and Darrell Rasner for many, many starts. Ponson and Rasner actually were full-fledged members of that 2008 rotation, making 20 and 15 starts, respectively.

It seems like Girardi (and GM Brian Cashman) have been mind-altered from the Ian Kennedy-Phil Hughes 2008 experiment.

So it probably will not be any young pitcher from their system. The Yankees like to bring these young guys along slowly at the beginning of the season. There will be two spots open next year in their rotation, and after they sign a free agent pitcher, the open spot will be filled from within.

So no Ivan Nova yet and no Zach McAllister , two system developed pitchers currently at Triple A Scranton. If a young guy is called upon, it would likely be Nova.

He had a brief call up earlier this season, performed well, and he is on the Yankees 40 man roster, so no additional move needs to be made. McAllister has had a rocky road in his first season in Triple A, and is not yet on the 40 man roster, but does need to be added this winter.

It is also not the Yankees style to trade prospects for starting pitcher help in mid-season. As with Johan Santana and CC Sabathia a few years ago, the Yankees passed on Santana, ending up signing Sabathia as a free agent the following winter.

The Cliff Lee almost deal was a special case because Lee is such a great pitcher and those guys rarely are available. Also, attempting to keep him from an American League rival such as Texas or Minnesota would shift the balance of power seriously towards the Yankees in any potential playoff scenario. 

They also would have had an opportunity to show Lee how great being a Yankee is, and in seeing this, Lee could possibly take less money to stay.

So, bringing up young starters and trading for solid veterans who are going to be free agents are really never on the Yankee docket.

So Mitre is the guy right now.

I am interested in seeing how effective Mitre can be and would give him a few starts. But the Yankees have to be worried on how many innings Mitre can give them, so they do not burn out the bullpen every one of his starts.

Mitre, who is throwing tonight for Triple A Scranton, has not gone more than three innings in any of his rehab starts.

Beside Pettitte, the Yankees also have another worry in Phil Hughes' inning limitations. Projected to be about 180, Hughes is now at 101 innings pitched. That would give him 12 more starts with about six innings per start or 10 starts of about seven innings per.

That still leaves four to five more starts on the table from that spot.

A third concern is the status of A.J. Burnett. Not the tantrum with cuts on his hand AJ, but the bad-pitching A.J. Burnett. Before he was removed from Saturday's game, Burnett had allowed four hits and four runs in two innings including another home run.

Burnett's lack of quality starts cannot be blamed on Dave Eiland anymore. Burnett can not be trusted to pitch big games.

Pettitte is out, Hughes has limitations, Burnett is not good and the bullpen, besides Mariano Rivera, never makes anyone feel confident.

They will not go with the young guy, will not trade for a potential free agent pitcher and instead will go with the journeyman.  

I love to go with young guys and say forget about the journeymen guys and minor league talent like Nova and McAllister right now.

Bring up David Phelps and have him start Saturday.

While most people have not thought of Phelps as a "top of the rotation" starter-type, all he does is get guys out via weakly hit balls and, now, with strikeouts. He is absolutely dominating this season with an overall ERA of 2.04 in 17 starts in Double-A and Triple-A.  Interestingly, his ERA is the same 2.04 at both levels.  Extremely consistent.

Like Pettitte, Phelps also threw yesterday, striking out 10 in six innings, while allowing a single run.

He is 7-1 overall this year with a 1.000 WHIP and .216 batting average against. Phelps issues very few walks, too.

He is an ultimate strike throwing machine with four quality pitches. He has a newly developed cutter, and nice change and good spike curve ball.

I asked him at Trenton about his recent surge in strikeouts and he said he scrapped his regular curve for more of a spiked one which has more downward break on the pitch. When prompted if it was difficult to control, Phelps says he harnessed the command of the pitch by throwing it a lot in early spring games.

There are two situations working against Phelps.

First, he is not yet on the 40 man roster, and does not need to be until NEXT off season. Second, he has only made three starts at Triple A Scranton and is not the highest arm on the pecking order.

But in three starts (17.2 IP) with 19 strikeouts and ZERO walks issued so far, he is the best young pitcher right now at Triple A. He also has tremendous poise on the mound, and I have never seen him flustered in any of his starts.

40 man roster space is vastly overrated as most fringe guys never make it with the big league team. Several spots can be made available rather easily.

A smart team would go with their best pitchers, not based upon other factors. If the Yankees go with the youth movement, Phelps should be the guy.

But before they do that we will have to endure a few Mitre performances.

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