Spring Training is upon us and the Yankees are looking to make a run at another World Series championship. A team that boasts the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira couldn't have an Achilles heal could they? Many have said that their starting rotation is just that.
With CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes being the only reliable returnees from 2010, this Yankee rotation is far from instilling confidence in the fan-base.
A rotation is only as strong as it's fifth starter. The question still is, who will be that starter for the Yankees on that fifth day?
CC Sabathia is arguably one of the best aces in the game. He is a workhorse who can be counted on to give you a solid seven innings and pave the way for the bullpen.
Since his Cy Young winning season in 2007, Sabathia has been on a tear. He won 19-games that year and led the Indians into the playoffs. In 2008, he and Cliff Lee led a dynamic one-two punch before he was shipped off to the Brewers.
After signing a mega-deal to join the Yankees in 2009, Sabathia has lived up to the hype. He has ate up over 230 innings each season while in pinstripes and won 19 and 21 games respectively.
His four-pitch repertoire boasts a low-to-mid 90's fastball, a nasty curve, slider and a power changeup that keeps hitters on their toes.
He is the anchor of this Yankee rotation. When he takes the rubber, the whole team feels their confidence soar, knowing that Sabathia will keep them in the game.
During times of uncertainty, Sabathia is a sure-thing going into 2011.
In his first year as a full time starter, Hughes did not disappoint. He earned himself a spot on the All-Star team with his 11-2 record and 3.65 ERA before the break.
He came back to earth afterwards, only going 7-6 with a 4.90 ERA. Chalk that up to the wear and tear of your first run as a Major League starter. Even with the innings limit that the Yankee brass put on Hughes, the toll of a long season can really take a lot out of a 24-year-old.
In 2009, Hughes took over as the setup man for Mariano Rivera. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Hughes was a lights-out eighth inning man and was able to pick up and master the infamous cutter that has propelled Rivera to his elite level.
He coupled his fastball and curveball with his new toy and it proved successful. With a stronger emphasis on his changeup—which, according to Hughes, was not utilized enough which in turn led to his second-half struggles—he will be able to have another strong campaign in 2011.
The name A.J. Burnett makes Yankee fans skill crawl after his rather pathetic 2010 showing.
Never known to be a 20-game winner, Burnett has always been a bit of a wild card. His stuff, when on, is nasty. However, when he is off his game—which he was quite a bit last season—Burnett can implode.
Burnett posted a career-worst 5.26 ERA and a 10-15 record—his worst since his second year in the Majors back in 2000 when he went 3-7.
He seemed to lack the short-term memory that all pitchers need. When he made a mistake and let an off-speed pitch hang or his fastball caught too much of the plate, he looked deflated. He carried his mistake over to the next batter he faced and it only compounded his problems.
With a new pitching coach in Larry Rothschild and a clear mind, the Yankees are looking for a complete 360 from Burnett. Rothschild is looking to eliminate some of the movement in Burnett's delivery. Repetition of your delivery is what leads to success. The less movement, the less that can get out of sorts when you are on the mound.
Burnett has the ability to be an elite pitcher and will be entering 2011 looking to prove that 2010 was just a blip on the radar.
The "Supernova" proved last year that he has the stuff to make some noise in the big leagues. In just a short stint in 2010, Nova went 1-2 in seven starts and finished with a 4.50 ERA.
The numbers are misleading though. He was lights-out through his first 30 pitches. Batters were only hitting .219 against him during that span. Once he reached the later innings and his pitch total crept up, it was a whole different story. When his pitch count reached 31-45, those in the batters box had the upper hand hitting .375.
For a young pitcher, this is understandable. Nova lacked the ability to consistently make his pitches throughout the course of the game and wasn't able to get by just throwing his fastball when he was behind in the count.
Learning how to pace yourself and get over the hump is something that Nova will be able to do with experience at the next level. He was only able to get past the fifth inning in one of his starts in 2010. The Yankees need him to step up this season and give them longer outings.
Phil Hughes Yankees
Without a clear-cut leader in the race for the fifth spot in the Yankees rotation, and the battle between Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon just under way, this is a complete judgement call, but a rather obvious one it seems.
Colon has not pitched in the Majors since 2009 and has not resembled the Cy Young pitcher he was back in 2005. Thus, the last spot in the rotation seems to be Freddy Garcia's if he steps up and delivers. I believe he will.
Garcia was far from dominant in 2010, but he still was able to get the job done. In 28 games, he went 12-6 with a 4.64 ERA. Nothing to write home about, but still it was a full season for the 34-year-old veteran after three injury-plagued years from 2007-2009.
He will not blow you away with his fastball, but he is crafty enough to make hitters swing and miss at his pitches. The expectations for Garcia are not unreasonable. Joe Girardi is not looking for the Garcia of 2001, but if he can provide a glimpse of that in his Yankee debut, the job is his.
As the season progresses, change in inevitable. The Yankees are far from shy from making moves during the course of the season. Players can be promoted and trades could be made. The Yankee rotation could very well see some new faces during the summer months.
CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett will still claim their spots in the rotation. Sabathia and Hughes will continue their dominance this season and have the top two rotation spots locked up. Burnett is still a staple for this Yankee rotation, but if he continues to slide, he might not be so comfortable.
The back-end of the rotation on the other-hand could be a work-in-progress for the Yankees. Nova has the potential to create some noise, but the fifth spot in the rotation is still up in the air. There are some names that could easily jump in and hit the ground running.
The "Killer B's" as they are known throughout the Bronx, might be ready for the bigs. Manny Banuelos, Andrew Brackman and Dellin Betances each bring something to the table that has impressed Yankee management.
Baneulos is still young at only 19-years-old, so he is destined to spend more time in the Minors. Brackman had some success in AA last year, going 5-7 with a 3.01 ERA. He has made some head turns this spring and could see his name called in 2011.
Delin Betances has the greatest chance of being added to the Yankee rotation out of the three this season. He boasts a 6'8" frame and dominated in high-A and AA ball going 8-1 with a 2.11 ERA. His height sometimes causes his mechanics to get out of whack, but with work, this can be ironed out.
With a solid spring, it would be hard to keep Betances off the big league roster this season.
If the "Killer B's" aren't quite ready, a trade is always a possibility for the Yankees.
Francisco Liriano and Chris Carpenter are possibilities to put on the pinstripes in 2011. Both would really bolster this Yankee rotation, but at a cost. To bring in such big names the Yankees would have to give up a blue-chip prospect and quite possibly one of the "B's."
Carpenter could be shipped to make room for the massive contract Albert Pujols would require to stay in St. Louis and Liriano is due for a big paycheck soon and the Twins might not be looking to ante up.
Either of these players could be acquired during the course of the season and the Yankees are always looking to make a splash. I would not be surprised if the Yanks management pulls the trigger if a deal for one of these aces is put on the table.
I do believe promoting from within is the best option, but a savvy-veteran could really solidify this shaky Yankee staff.