CC Sabathia is the only Yankees starter to pitch through the seventh inning this season, and he’s done it only once. The Yankees have had four starts last more than six innings, and they’ve had five starts last fewer than five innings. The rotation hasn’t given the Yankees much distance, and that’s meant more work for the bullpen.
Joba Chamberlain has already pitched 10 times. So has Mariano Rivera. An unusual number of off days and a couple of rain outs have let Joe Girardi lean heavily on his top four relievers, but the schedule won’t always be so generous.
“They’re getting their days off, that’s the big thing,” Girardi said. “Eventually when we start playing every day, guys are just going to have to sit. That’s the bottom line. We’re going to have to spread it around, and one of the big keys there is getting some more distance out of our starters, which we have not been able to do early in the year. Hopefully that changes.”
The raw numbers suggest Chamberlain and Rivera are on pace for more than 100 appearances, but in this case, the numbers are deceiving. The Yankees are 22 days into the season. Through the first 22 days last year, Chamberlain pitched nine times (he actually pitched nine times in the first 20 days). According to Baseball Reference, Chamberlain threw 167 pitches through the first 22 days last season. He’s thrown 162 this year.
Because of the days off, the relievers workload is not especially extreme. It’s just not sustainable.
Girardi proved last season that he pays close attention to the workload of his relievers. He actually took heat for being so cautious late last season, and to call him reckless this year seems a little over-the-top. Chamberlain actually laughed out loud at the idea that he’s been overworked and might not be fresh at this point.
“There are very few times where we have this kind of break up as far as many games and then a day off,” he said. “You take advantage of it when you can.”
Right now the Yankees can take advantage, and they have taken advantage.
But the Yankees are scheduled to play the next 17 days in a row. There will be no built-in rest for the next few weeks. The Yankees will need their starters to provide that sort of relief.
Associated Press photo