To open this spring the New York Yankees had plenty of questions surrounding their rotation and a four-man race for those last two coveted spots took center stage in Yankee camp. Ivan Nova, Sergio Mitre, Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia had to prove their worth, otherwise they could be sent packing.
As of today, Nova has clinched his spot as the No. 4 starter behind Phil Hughes, who today was also announced as the No. 3 starter. Nova pitched a six inning no-hit gem in his last outing against a Baltimore Oriole lineup full of starters. He has shown maturity and poise on the rubber this spring and has brought some reassurance back to the Bronx.
The fifth spot in the rotation has always seemed like a two horse race. Garcia and Colon were the two with the most on the line. It was either make the team, or go home. For Mitre, he has shown that he can big a long-man in the bullpen and a spot starter at times. He always had a back up plan. Colon and Garcia did not have this luxury.
With Garcia's struggles as of late, has the fifth spot in the rotation already been won by Colon?
In his last two starts, Garcia has really dropped the ball. Against the Twins, he only lasted 2.2 innings and gave up four runs on six hits. He couldn't locate his fastball which led to a heavy reliance on off-speed pitches that were marginally effective at best.
Today against the Jays he improved from his last start, but stumbled at times. In the fourth inning he was roughed up for three runs. In the sixth, an error by Eduardo Nunez didn't help Garcia's cause as he would later allow that run to score on a massive two-run blast by David Cooper.
Bartolo Colon on the other hand, has impressed the Yankee staff this spring. They aren't looking for the Cy Young winner he once was with the Angels, but a something even remotely close to that would be quite intriguing. He might not have the velocity he once had, but he has gained movement on his pitches.
Colon has had his rocky inning, but he bounced back immediately. That type of resilience only helps his case. Garcia has been unable to show the ability to bounce back from rocking outings. In the game that Bartolo did struggle against the Pirates, he still finished the game only allowing two runs through four innings while striking out seven and did not issue a free pass.
When the Yankees lost Pettitte to retirement and Lee to the Phillies, it seemed that 2011 would be a struggle for the Bronx Bombers. Bringing in Colon and Garcia didn't do much in the minds of Yankee fans to fill the massive hole at the back-end of the rotation.
As this rotation battle comes closer and closer to an end, Colon continues to distance himself from the pack. Maybe this fragrance isn't so bad?