Yankees

Green Lantern: Yankees 'Pen Needs Transplant STAT

Paging Dr. Cashman, Forget About Starters; Work On Relievers
Joba Chamberlain

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By Jeff Capellini, CBSNewYork

There are millions of Yankees fans eyeing the waters below the tri-state area bridges because GM Brian Cashman has yet to pull off a significant trade for a starting pitcher.

Once again, this type of behavior, be it Twitter talk or callers to sports radio, further shows the insanity a good percentage of the Bronx Bombers fan base suffers from.

For the 9,875,342nd time, and with gusto, the Yankees really don’t need a starting pitcher; they need bullpen help.

Sure, I’m of the belief that nothing is guaranteed in this world. A team can never have enough starting pitching, but c’mon now folks. If the Yankees can’t win it all with CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and either Phil Hughes or Javier Vazquez making all the starts in either a five- or seven-game series, then they simply do not deserve to win a championship.

Just look at the starting rotation’s overall numbers:

The Yankees are 51-25 with a 3.90 ERA. To put those stats in perspective know this: everyone raves about the Rays’ starting staff, but Tampa Bay’s starter ERA is 3.88 and it has five less wins. Overall, the Yankees are fourth in the AL in starter ERA, with two of the teams — No. 1 Seattle and No. 2 Oakland having absolutely no chance of making the playoffs.

Opponents are hitting just .250 against the New York rotation, again fourth in the AL. Texas (.246) and Tampa (.249) are better, but it’s basically a wash. The Yankees can only play the Rangers in the first round because the Rays are in their division, and since Texas will probably have the next best division champ record when all is said and done, the Yankees might not have to see either until the ALCS.

Are the Rangers ready to get to the World Series? They certainly have a ton of hitting and a good staff, but the jury is still out on what they’ll do collectively under the bright lights of meaningful October baseball, in the Bronx no less.

I understand the angst the fans feel every fifth day with Sergio Mitre taking the ball. Trust me, I do. But Pettitte will be back sooner rather than later and, historically speaking now, there’s simply no one better in postseason play. Mitre was forced into the rotation during parts of last season and the Yankees still did what needed to be done.

Hughes hasn’t been great since he was skipped back in the third week of June, going 2-2 with a 6.52 ERA in five starts. But you have to remember every inning Hughes has thrown since the start of July has added to a career-high total. Maybe he’s going through a bit of a dead arm period. The Yankees need him, but they should be applauded for being cautious with the big right-hander whenever they get the opportunity. Hughes has given up seven homers in his last 29 innings. Again, fatigue may be preventing him from keeping the ball down.

Vazquez keeps teasing everyone. Is he really this good? It’s hard to argue he’s not. Since June 1, Vazquez is 5-2 with a 3.10 ERA in 10 starts, failing to go at least seven innings just three times and in those outings he did go at least five frames.

If I were a betting man I could see the Yankees’ top three in the playoffs as Sabathia, Pettitte and Vazquez, with enigmatic A.J. Burnett possible depending on which side of the bed he got up on in September. Hughes would then become the real Joba Chamberlain.

But more on that later.

Where the Yankees fall way short is in the bullpen. Their 4.08 ERA is in the bottom half of the league and with Damaso Marte hurt, Chan-Ho Park an utter disaster, Chamberlain a gasoline can, Boone Logan untested, David Robertson up and down and up again and the combination of Chad Gaudin and any number of kids from Scranton-Wilkes Barre not exactly reminding anyone of Jeff Nelson, Mike Stanton and Graeme Lloyd, there is a very real fear out there.

Cashman should be spending this week leading up to the deadline trying to figure out a way to fix this mess and fix it fast. The Yankees’ starters will give them six or seven innings. Sabathia is the ultimate ace. But someone has to step up to get the ball to Mariano Rivera, and Joe Girardi cannot under any circumstances start giving his 40-year-old closer the ball in the eighth inning unless we’re well into the postseason.

Relievers are hard to find. They really are. Mostly because the really good ones don’t make a lot of money and are very difficult to pry from anyone, contender or also-ran.

Yet this is Cashman’s mission.

Everyone keeps waiting for Joba to be Joba again. It may never happen. The guy has a 6.00 ERA and often looks like Park out there. And if, God forbid, Park is called upon down the stretch or in the playoffs there will be a collective groan heard in the farthest reaches of outer space.

Marte reportedly has the same type of shoulder ailment that plagued him last year. He recovered and came back huge in the postseason, but you simply cannot count on that again. Is Logan ready to get big outs against both lefties and righties? There’s no questioning his velocity, but he walks way too many batters to feel any confidence.

Right now, as scary is it sounds, Robertson is the Yankees’ best reliever not named Mo. And don’t count on Alfredo Aceves. He’s been on the disabled list since May 12 and his balky back is a setback waiting to happen.

So, Yankees fans, the moral of the story is to forget about missing out on Cliff Lee and Dan Haren. Don’t give Roy Oswalt another thought.

Cashman, get relievers. Beg, borrow and steal if you have to.

There has to be some GM somewhere who owes you a favor or two.

Email Jeff and following him on Twitter at @GreenLanternJet