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Hartnett: Yankees’ Rotation Catching Fire In June

Nova, Hughes, Kuroda Solidifying Yankees' Rotational Strength
(Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images) | (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images) | (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

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‘Hart of the Order’
By Sean Hartnett
» More Columns

One of the biggest myths floated around in the early portion of 2012 was that the New York Yankees lacked rotational depth.

Once Andy Pettitte announced his return, everyone expected him to be the white knight riding into battle to save their season.  Widespread belief among baseball analysts was that Joe Girardi could only rely upon CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte.

Well, that theory has been shattered before the All-Star break as the Yankees’ entire rotation has caught fire in June.

The Yankees have hit their high-water mark as they’re now 15 games over .500.  Their three-game sweep over the Washington Nationals has added to a scorching nine-game win streak in which they’ve swept their last three opponents.

On June 18, the Yankees are standing tall as AL East leaders and are separating themselves from the chasing pack.  A large credit goes to their rotation.

Funny, I remember plenty of ‘Doubting Thomases’ coming out of the woodwork to declare the Yankees’ playoff hopes dead in May.

Everyone panicked when $10 million dollar signing Hiroki Kuroda had a couple of rough outings in early April and mid-May.  They were quick to brand him with the label of another overpaid National League starter who couldn’t cut it in the American League.

Since he entered the major leagues in 2008, Kuroda has been as dependable as they come.

Now, Kuroda has found that same consistency in pinstripes.  He’s gotten stronger as the season has gone on and Kuroda is now best among Yankee starters in ERA at 3.43.  In June, Kuroda is 2-0 with a ERA of 1.80 and a WHIP of 1.05.  Kuroda has only given up 4 walks in three June starts and struck out 19 batters.

So much for that theory of a two-man deep rotation?  It’s not just Kuroda who has turned his season around.  The same can be said about Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes.

Ivan Nova had a horrendous start to 2012 as his ERA was approaching 6.00 in mid-May.  It appeared that Nova was headed for a dreadful sophomore slump.  His boastful comments wasn’t helping things either.

“If you ask me, ‘Who’s the best pitcher in the world?  I say me,” Nova proclaimed in April.

His ERA has now dipped to a respectable 4.32 as Nova’s been the Yankees’ hottest pitcher in June.  Through 3 June starts, Nova is 3-0 with a 0.79 ERA and a WHIP of 0.84.  He’s struck out 15 batters and only surrendered 3 walks this month.

Many were writing Phil Hughes off as a ‘career bust.’  Hughes was widely-considered as an under-achiever who would never make good on his career’s early promise.

Yet, in his last three starts, Hughes has been exceptionally sound.  He has even limited his tendency to give up the long-ball.  Hughes is a perfect 3-0 in June with in ERA of 1.69 and a WHIP of 1.08.

Pettitte has complimented a deep rotation that is finding its stride, rather than needing to save the day.  Each of the Yankees’ starters have shouldered their share of the burden rather than placing it on Pettitte and Sabathia as many expected.

Sabathia and Pettitte will no doubt continue to be the pillars of strength the Yankees’ rotation is built upon, but the supporting cast around them have solidified Girardi’s arsenal of starters.

Will the Yankees’ rotation continue to be a positive and deliver the AL Eastern crown?  Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.