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Spring decision: Fifth starter

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Misc on Feb 13, 2012 Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

During this last week leading into spring, let’s take a look at some of the decisions facing the Yankees. And why not start with the big one?

No spring training decision looms larger than what to do at the back of the rotation. CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda have the big contracts and the past success to suggest they’re locked into rotation spots (clearly Sabathia’s the Opening Day starter), and the Yankees obviously didn’t trade Jesus Montero with plans of acquiring a Triple-A pitcher, and they certainly didn’t witness Ivan Nova’s breakout season with plans of moving him to the bullpen. There is still some development to be done with Pineda, and Nova’s all-but-locked-in status is based on a little more than two months in the big leagues, but for now, logic dictates that Sabathia, Kuroda, Pineda and Nova are heavy front runners for four spots.

That leaves Phil Hughes, Freddy Garcia and A.J. Burnett. Three very different cases for one available spot.

Phil Hughes
Best-case scenario is that Hughes forces the Yankees’ hand with a terrific spring training, then cements his spot with a living-up-to-expectations regular season. Hughes is still just 25 years old, less than two years older than Dellin Betances. Injuries have been a problem, and Hughes has yet to find consistency at the big league level, but there’s still time for him to become a long-term fixture in the rotation. He changed his training program this winter and is apparently in much better shape than he was last spring. Big picture: Having Hughes win a spot in the rotatoin may be what’s best for the Yankees future.

Freddy Garcia
Signed to a minor league contract at this time last year, Garcia earned a $4-million deal after pitching to a 3.62 ERA last season. Short-term, Garcia might be the safest choice. He is what he is: Not overwhelming or overpowering, but experienced and effective. Even with a step back from last season, Garcia would still be a solid fifth starter. And there’s always the chance he’ll repeat last year’s results and pitch more like a No. 3. Short-term: Having Garcia in the rotation and Hughes in the bullpen could improve every facet of the pitching staff.

A.J. Burnett
At this point, there’s a solid chance Burnett won’t actually be a part of this conversation by the time pitchers and catchers report to spring training. After two disappointing seasons — when the lows were about as low as you can get — Burnett seems to be on his way out. The Yankees would like to dump part of his contract and use the money to sign a hitter or two. If they can’t pull off a trade, though, Burnett will remain in the picture. His early-season results have been pretty good the past two years, so don’t rule out a strong spring that forces the Yankees to at least consider Burnett in the fifth spot.

Associated Press photo

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44 Responses to “Spring decision: Fifth starter”

  1. blake February 13th, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    Top 6 deals of the offseason according to Clubhouse confidential.

    1. Matt Moore extension
    2. Pineda/Montero deal (for both teams)
    3. The reds moves (Latos, Marshall, Madson).
    4. Kuroda.
    5. Beltran
    6. Clint Barmes

  2. Bret The Hitman February 13th, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    Hughes is really predictable. He needs to be in Petco.

  3. blake February 13th, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    “Best-case scenario is that Hughes forces the Yankees’ hand with a terrific spring training, then cements his spot with a living-up-to-expectations regular season. ”

    Yup by far….hopefully this happens.

  4. Joe from Long Island February 13th, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    bret – hi. i’m not ready to sell short on phil. this is his year to get it done, and i think he will. that’s what i’m hoping for.

  5. MTU February 13th, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    I’m with Blake and Joe all the way.

    :)

  6. Bret The Hitman February 13th, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    Joe,

    But Hughes is not a power pitcher and he has a limited arsenal. It’s a horrible combination. He can rear back with that fierce glare on his face but when the ball flies out of the hand, hitter x, y, z is ready to crush it. A for effort but he’s not as talented as advertised. Years ago I saw him get bombed by the Orioles and I knew then that he was no ace, no future Moose or Roger Clemens. Those comparisons seem kind of absurd now – like when fans were calling Jose Tabata the next Manny. It’s all propaganda.

  7. DONNYBROOK February 13th, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    - BEST CASE SCENARIO -

    (1) HUGHES HAS OUTSTANDING SPRING

    (2) HUGHES TRADE VALUE INCREASES ACCORDINGLY

    (3) FREDDY GARCIA HAS OUTSTANDING SPRING

    (4) HUGHES IS TRADED STRAIGHT UP FOR ALEX GORDON

  8. MTU February 13th, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    Bret-

    How the heck did Mr. Propaganda win 18 games one season.

    Magic to go with the propaganda ?

    I think you’re giving up on him too soon but that just my take.

  9. Best To Ever Do It February 13th, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    To be fair he did get a lot of run support that yr.

  10. Jerkface February 13th, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    And one of his wins was in relief, but Hughes has 1 thing most starters don’t have: A fastball that generates swings and misses and suppresses home runs. Its his lack of an acceptable second pitch & third pitch that is holding him back.

  11. MTU February 13th, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    He won EIGHTEEN games.

    Surely he is good enough to be a #5 starter.

  12. MTU February 13th, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    JF-

    That’s gonna change. And soon.

  13. blake February 13th, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    I still think Hughes can be a really good pitcher….he needs to find a secondary pitch that he can get swings and misses and generate weak contact with…..that and staying healthy is all that’s holding him back.

    They don’t need him to be an ace….they need him to stay healthy and give himself something to build on this year. Very important season for him and I’m really excited to see how him looks in a couple of weeks.

  14. blake February 13th, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    Buster_ESPN Buster Olney
    @
    @DickieV Damon has told the Yankees he wants to work it out; still think Ibanez their first choice. VU had its shot… but Davis crazy good.
    1 hour ago

    If Damon really wants it to work out then they should be able to….a lot probably depends on Johnny and him taking the money they offer and accepting the role….

  15. Joe from Long Island February 13th, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    he’s twenty-five, for pete’s sake. what, we were all finished products at twenty-five?

    heck, he’s more of a proven commodity than cespedes….. :)

  16. Nick in SF February 13th, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    When he won 18 games, he was good enough to be better than a 5th starter, but last year he wasn’t good enough to win 18 games.

    On a semi-related subject, I think the psychological impact of the number of wins a pitcher earns in a season goes up as the number gets closer to 20. It doesn’t make much of an impact when you hear Pitcher x won 7 games vs. 6 games, but the difference seems bigger from 14 wins to 15 wins, and bigger still from 17 wins to 18 wins.

    That 18th win that Phil vultured had an oversized impact on how we look at that season now.

  17. LGY February 13th, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    Unfortunately, even if Hughes figures it out in Pinstripes over the next two years his future as a Yankee will very likely be a casualty of the new CBA.

    The best case scenario at this point is to try to resurrect his trade value and move him for prospects or another player in their pre arb years.

  18. blake February 13th, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    “Unfortunately, even if Hughes figures it out in Pinstripes over the next two years his future as a Yankee will very likely be a casualty of the new CBA. ”

    very true….if he really pitches well over the next two seasons then you’d think the Yankees would try to keep him….but with the budget and with younger and cheaper options likely knocking on the door you just never know…..

  19. Carlo February 13th, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    Am I the only one confused by the Nova comment about two months in the big leagues?

  20. trisha - true pinstriped blue February 13th, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    Been out all day and I did a quick news check and didn’t see anything that said AJ has been traded. So I am thinking that the AJ bandwagon can continue to roll for at least a little while longer! Believe me, it’s almost effortless pulling it at this point! :)

    Question about Madison Square Garden tickets – would you sit in Section 1, Row 2, Seat !, or would that be a horrible seat? Remember that I can’t sit too high, though I would guess that the highest rows there aren’t very high up. If that’s a horrible seat, view-wise, what would you consider decent seats. Or in the alternative, what seats would you avoid?

    Thanks to anyone who has any thoughts on this.

    http://www.ticketsnow.com/Inve.....ID=1220728

  21. luis February 13th, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    Hi guys,

    The best case scenario is for Hughes to take that number 5 spot, for that to happen he needs to improve on his curveball and get a decent third pitch, IMO this is his break or die moment, because with the B’s knocking at the door, things are going to get dicey for him afterwards.

    If Hughes makes it, i wonder what will happen with the chief ( long relief??).

    What happens with Burnett if he isn’t traded???, do you cut or trade Garcia??

  22. Joe from Long Island February 13th, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    blake and lgy – it depends. it really does. it depends on just how much phil improves (we all hope he does), and if over the next two years he gives signs of reproducibly being that good. it also depends on how well – or not – banuelos, betances, pineda, etc, do. not to mention the ever-popular injury possibility for one and all.

    there’s just too many variables to try to predict. yeah, they could deal him. or, if he pulls a cliff lee and wins a cy young, they may not.

    or, we could all be vaporized if a meteorite hits the north american continent, and none of it will matter.

  23. luis February 13th, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    Hi Trisha!!,

    I haven’t been to Madison Square Garden in a while, but the closer to the court the better

  24. blake February 13th, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    Joe,

    yea….it’s very difficult to predict….lots can happen between now and then so the best thing to hope for right now is simply that he pitches well…

  25. blake February 13th, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    “If Hughes makes it, i wonder what will happen with the chief ( long relief??). ”

    yea I think you have to make him a swing man in the pen….which I’m not sure is the best idea or fair to him…but it is what it is….they could trade him I guess if they were confident that Phelps or Warren could provide acceptable injury insurance….but ideally you’d like to keep Freddy around.

  26. blake February 13th, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    JimBowdenESPNxm JIM BOWDEN
    Billy Owens Dir Plyr personnel of the A’s told us @mlbnetworkradio that Cespedes best player comparable would be Hunter, Cameron or Maybin
    3 hours ago

    JIM BOWDEN
    JimBowdenESPNxm JIM BOWDEN
    Billy Owens A’s Dir Plyr Personnel told us @XM 89 that Cespedes profiles in their opinion to CF rather than on the corner but can play all 3
    3 hours ago

    JIM BOWDEN
    JimBowdenESPNxm JIM BOWDEN
    Kevin Long..Yanks hitting coach projects Jesus Montero @.260 to .280 with 20- 35 HR…will make some All Star Teams because of bat aloneXM89
    4 hours ago

  27. luis February 13th, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    Blake,

    I agree, is not fair, but i think at this point in his career he would be fine with it, i mean i would rather be playing baseball than watching it on the TV set. I think he’ll do a wonderful job as the swing man.

    I am more intrigued and scared if Burnett doesn’t get traded, with the contract he has, he will get a roster spot, so they basically have to cut or trade Garcia, which i think it would be really unfair and demoralizing as a whole for both the team, Garcia and even Burnett.

  28. trisha - true pinstriped blue February 13th, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    luis, I haven’t been there either, but I’m wondering if that seat is blocked from seeing a lot of the game. And it’s not a cheap seat so I don’t want to buy it and end up not being able to see. That’s why I asked, hoping that someone who has been to MSG would be able to tell me – or someone who goes to basektball games and would figure out that particular seat.

    :)

  29. luis February 13th, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    JIM BOWDEN
    JimBowdenESPNxm JIM BOWDEN
    Kevin Long..Yanks hitting coach projects Jesus Montero @.260 to .280 with 20- 35 HR…will make some All Star Teams because of bat aloneXM89
    4 hours ago

    =======================

    Yikes!!!!, please don’t remind me

  30. blake February 13th, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    “I am more intrigued and scared if Burnett doesn’t get traded”

    I’d be shocked if he’s not traded at this point….when trade talks become this public and it’s this clear a team is trying to move a player they almost always do….it would be a big distraction if AJ were in camp now and wouldn’t be fair to him either.

  31. luis February 13th, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    Trisha,

    Had a look to the MSG plan, and if i read it correctly, section 01 doesn’t look that good, If i were you, i would look for a seat where you can see both hoops. In the end is a matter of taste i guess……;)

  32. pat February 13th, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    Jesus Montero @.260 to .280 with 20- 35 HR…

    I would have expected more average and less power because of Safeco.

  33. luis February 13th, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    pat,

    Still impresive numbers if he stays at the catcher position

  34. Yank 97 February 13th, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    “Kevin Long..Yanks hitting coach projects Jesus Montero @.260 to .280 with 20- 35 HR…will make some All Star Teams because of bat aloneXM89″

    Sigh

  35. luis February 13th, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    Still i think those are modest proyections if they are compairing him with Cabrera though

  36. luis February 13th, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    Projections, sorry

  37. Carlo February 13th, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    Trisha – those are sucker seats at the Garden. Scalpers mark them up because they are club seats but they are the worst club seats and are often somewhat obstructed in the corners, where section 1 is. Much better off with a 100 or 200 level ticket in between the baskets for less $…..I would buy the pair in 106 for $221 each. Then again, I wouldn’t pay $220 for a knicks/nets game unless it came with numerous other perks, but that’s just me.

  38. Joe from Long Island February 13th, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    interesting thing i saw on mlbtr – the astros have hired a “director of decision sciences”.

    i guess that’s the new name for sabermetrics. the game sure has changed from the days when you just rubbed some dirt on whatever hurt, and relied on bird dogs to let you know about phenoms in the backwoods.

    i wonder if this guy comes to work in a suit?

  39. Carlo February 13th, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    U guys do realize that Long has no incentive to say anything other than what he views as best case for Montero, right?

  40. Tar February 13th, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    “i wonder if this guy comes to work in a suit?”

    Nah… probably works out of his mom’s basement. :D

  41. pat February 13th, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    “I am more intrigued and scared if Burnett doesn’t get traded”

    If this goes through, this might be the least stealth trade of Cashman’s career.

  42. trisha - true pinstriped blue February 13th, 2012 at 10:00 pm

    luis and Carlo, thanks!

    Carlo, I kind of figured that seat might have a not-so-great view and that’s why I asked. At this point I’m just jazzed to be able to see Jeremy Lin so the truth is that I don’t really care about who the competition is, though maybe I should because the game will be that more exciting – or something. I guess the “bonus” in seeing a Nets game is getting to see Frankenstein Humphries in person.

    :)

  43. Jerkface February 13th, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    great article on Kuroda: http://bit.ly/xwwiol

    Last year, his fourth year in the major leagues, Kuroda was having his finest season when he met with Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti in mid-July. Kuroda had gotten little run support and had a 6-11 record (from May 12 through July 27, Kuroda went 1-10 with a stellar 3.38 ERA), but as the trade deadline approached, he drew interest from several teams, particularly the Yankees and Red Sox.

    Colletti told Kuroda how much he liked and respected him. He’d signed Kuroda three-and-a-half years earlier and admired how well the pitcher adapted to the major leagues. “He takes everything so seriously,” Colletti told me over the phone recently. “He has tremendous focus, even to a greater extent than most players.” The general manager told Kuroda, “I want to give you a chance to experience a pennant race again,” all the while understanding that being traded is not considered an honor in Japan.

    Which brings us back to the meeting with Colletti. Kuroda thought about accepting a trade but he valued the commitment the Dodgers made to him when they signed him to a 1-year deal that spring. Would the champagne taste as sweet if he won a championship with a team that he didn’t start with in spring training? For Kuroda, the answer was no. A sense of loyalty—or ningen-kankei, the Japanese term for human relations—far outweighed the lure of moving to a contender. He stayed with the Dodgers.

    “I wanted that feeling to remain important to me,” Kuroda told Hernandez last summer. “I think your self-identity is defined by certain decisions you make. If you go back on them, you lose a sense of who you are.”

    The more I learned about Kuroda, the more I saw how narrow my thinking was last summer. Colletti called Kuroda’s decision to stay with the Dodgers “honorable” and I agree. When the season was over, Kuroda was expected to return to Japan and end his career with the Carp.

    “I was surprised that he didn’t go back,” says Dylan Hernandez. “On the last day of the season he was crying in the clubhouse and I thought ‘this is it.’” Takashi Yamakawa, a Japanese baseball writer for Kyodo News said that Kuroda “changed his mind after deep consideration. Kuroda is not young in his spirit. He is an adult.”

    The chance to pitch for Yankees meant not only pitching for a contender but pitching for the most famous team in the world. It is the challenge of playing for a perennial favorite, something that Kuroda has never experienced. “My feeling is that he made an exception for the Yankees,” said Hernandez. “They are the best, most visible team in the world. You just don’t say no.”

    Super great article.

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