By Sweeny Murti
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Joe Girardi and Larry Rothschild have both said they don’t yet know who will fill out their starting rotation. Less than two weeks until Opening Day (April 6 at TB) and the manager and the pitching coach both want more information. There are nine exhibition games left.
My feeling hasn’t changed after watching nearly four weeks of exhibition games. Freddy Garcia, I believe, will be used in long relief with Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, and Michael Pineda taking the final three rotation spots behind CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda.
Of course, the competition will continue this April as Andy Pettitte readies for his return in May, and the Yankees will have to bounce someone else from the rotation.
Some thoughts on the starting pitchers heading into the home stretch:
*Michael Pineda is pitching out of the fifth slot right now, and despite lacking his high-end velocity, has pitched pretty well this spring. Everyone has been impressed with his improved change-up. “He’s been pretty consistent with it,” Russell Martin said of Pineda’s changeup. “If nobody would have told me he was working on that pitch I would have never known, I would have thought he had it his whole life. I thought he was just a guy that threw hard and had a nasty breaking ball, but he knows how to pitch.”
Martin also believes Pineda’s velocity will show up once the games start for real, the stadiums fill up, and the adrenaline kicks in. “I’m not too concerned with it. If he hit 94 here, he can easily add a couple miles an hour.”
*Phil Hughes has pitched very well this spring, and is satisfied he’s done enough within his power to earn a spot.
“I just wanted to come out and pitch well and I feel like I’ve done that for the most part,” Hughes said after Monday’s minor league outing in which he allowed 6 hits and 2 runs over 6 innings.
“I’ve done everything I can do,” he added. “Whatever direction they want to go in is their call. I feel like right now that I’m doing everything I can to make that decision as hard as possible and that’s all I really wanted to do.”
*Last spring Ivan Nova gave up one home run in 20 innings. This spring he has allowed five home runs in 19 2/3 innings. Nova has grooved some pitches in bad counts this spring. Perhaps that is a product of pitching in games that don’t count, but it bears watching during the season. Nova gave up 13 home runs in 165 1/3 innings in the majors least season.
*Kuroda is a guy who’s going to be fun to watch pitch. He will throw “everything but the kitchen sink,” according to Joe Girardi. His ability to change speeds and locations with a handful of pitches reminds me a little bit of latter-day Mike Mussina.
*CC Sabathia. You know what he’s all about by now, right?
*Pettitte is hoping to be ready by May 1, but if it takes a little longer he’s okay with that. I have been anticipating, like some others, that it might take Pettitte a little longer than a normal spring training of six to seven weeks because of his long layoff. Larry Rotshchild doesn’t believe that’s an issue.
“Taking a year off is a little misleading,” Rothschild said Monday. “He worked during that year and kept himself in good shape. Then he got back after it pretty quickly, even before the new year. It’s not really a year off. I think people think he sat around watched TV, watched football, and watched his son play baseball but he did a whole lot more than that.”
Who gets your vote, Hughes or Pineda? Sound off in the comments below…