On the day pitchers and catchers reported to Yankees spring training, no one would have been surprised to learn that Bartolo Colon would be pitching a simulated game on March 15. Probably would have been hurt by then, or auditioning for another team.
The surprise is that, Colon pitched six simulated innings this morning, and the Yankees coaching staff intently watched every pitch.
“I had an opinion on Bartolo, but it was from years ago,” Joe Girardi said. “You kind of wanted to see what was there, because we hadn’t seen him pitch in a while. I don’t remember the last time we saw him pitch in a big-league game. I’ve been pleasantly surprised.”
By no means has Colon won a spot in the Yankees rotation, but he’s shown far more than expected (more than I expected, anyway). His fastball has lost some velocity but gained some movement, and his changeup is still a legitimate pitch. Today he was working on a slider that Girardi said looked pretty good.
Right now, all of the Yankees back-of-the-rotation options are performing pretty well. Freddy Garcia had a rocky start and Ivan Nova had a rocky inning, but otherwise they’ve been good. With two and a half weeks to go, pretty much every possibility is on the table.
As expected a month ago
Nova and Garcia in the rotation, Mitre in the bullpen
Colon pitched in winter ball, and it could be that he’s still ahead of the hitters. If that’s the case, the hitters could catch up in the final two and a half weeks, and the Yankees could decide they’ve been seeing nothing but an illusion.
Nova and Colon in the rotation, Mitre in the bullpen
The worst outing of the four rotation candidates belongs to Garcia, who was pretty bad his last time out. It could be that he’ll continue to slip, Colon will continue to thrive and the Yankees will decide Colon is their best bet of the two veterans.
Veterans and the young guy make the team, Mitre is odd man out
Joel Sherman introduced this possibility today, saying there are some scouts who believe the Yankees will ultimately release Mitre. I’d be surprised if that happened because, 1: Mitre’s pitched pretty well and 2: Girardi seems to like him. That said, Mitre is out of options, so if the Yankees believe both veterans still have something left and want to keep Nova, they won’t have much choice but to get rid of Mitre one way or another.
Nova to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
The only candidate with options is sent to Triple-A
Not saying this is a likely scenario, but it seems more likely today than it seemed a month ago. The only way to keep all four candidates is to ship Nova to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. It would let the Yankees get whatever they can get out of Garcia and Colon, and if/when one of those two gets hurt, Nova would naturally slide into the rotation. Every other decision eliminates a candidate. This one doesn’t.
Associated Press photo of Colon from earlier this spring