First let me say this…
I believe the Yankees will break camp with only one of Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia in their rotation. I believe the starting pitcher competition is basically a head-to-head matchup between those two — the upside of Hughes against the dependability of Garcia. However… I wonder if these past two days have shown us why Joe Girardi has refused to guarantee any spots beyond CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda.
Ivan Nova’s command has been erratic in his first two spring starts, and while it’s far too early to be truly concerned about that — he could get it dialed in by early next week and this will be a moot point — what happens if he’s still this erratic during that first week of April? What happens if, for whatever reason, Nova is still showing a mid-90s fastball and a swing-and-miss slider but reaches the end of spring training having been unable to consistenty find the plate and work ahead in the count?
If Garcia gives the Yankees five more spring starts just like the one he pitched today — steady and effective, just like last season – and Hughes improves his location to go with his improved arm strength, the Yankees might be justified optioning Nova to Triple-A to work on his command while both Hughes and Garcia break camp in the rotation. That would be especially true if one of the Triple-A starters pitches well enough to earn a long-relief job in the big leagues.
I don’t expect that to happen. I expect Nova to get his command sorted out and break camp as a no-brainer for the rotation, but strange things happen in spring training, and every Opening Day roster seems to include a surprise or two.