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A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News

Spring decision: Fifth starter

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Misc on Feb 08, 2013 Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

If you consider Clay Rapada to be a strong favorite to reprise his role as the Yankees second lefty, then you might say the Yankees have only one pitching staff decision to make: Pick a fifth starter, but the loser of that competition in the bullpen as a long man. It’s not entirely that simple — health will play a role, someone could pitch his way into the mix — but heading into camp the Yankees seem to have four starters and five relievers (six if you count Rapada) more or less slotted into position.

The situation
The Yankees plan to have CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes as their top four starters, and those spots have been more or less guaranteed ever since Pettitte and Kuroda re-signed early this offseason. What’s left is one spot in the rotation, and the Yankees did not sign a free agent or make a trade to fill it. They have Ivan Nova (who might have the spot locked up if not for a rough second half last year), and they have David Phelps (who was given an opportunity last season and took advantage to put himself into consideration).

The options
Around early December, I really expected the Yankees to sign a veteran starter to either a low-base contract or a minor league deal to compete for that open spot in the rotation, but such a signing never happened, which left the Yankees with only two standout options. 1. Give Nova a second chance. His second half of 2011 made him a borderline Rookie of the Year candidate, and he had a 3.92 ERA in the first half of 2012, but his 7.05 in the second half of last year left him with something to prove this spring. It’s easy to consider this Nova’s job to lose. 2. Give Phelps a bigger role. Enough dominoes fell for Phelps to make the Opening Day roster last year, and he pitched well enough to emerge as a reliable long reliever and occasional spot starter. Now he is the most reliable alternative if Nova doesn’t impress this spring. There are other fringe options — Adam Warren and Brett Marshall in particular — but it seems safe to think of this as a two-man competition.

The fallout
The bulk of the bullpen seems to be in place, but none of those standout options is a true long reliever, and the Yankees will almost certainly want one of those. The pitchers best equipped to handle such a role are probably the two guys competing for the fifth spot in the rotation. One will be a starter, and the other could easily slide into the bullpen. The move would seem to be easier for Phelps because of last year’s bullpen experience. It also stands to reason that, if Nova isn’t the one picked, it could be because he hasn’t pitched very well in camp, which might lead the Yankees to instead option him to Triple-A and give a long relief job to Warren, Marshall or Chase Whitley.

Associated Press photo





21 Responses to “Spring decision: Fifth starter”

  1. blake February 8th, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    I hope they give Phelps a real shot

  2. tucker February 8th, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    Expecting a bounceback year from Nova. His slider gave him a strikeout pitch, but it was his command that abandoned him during the second half. Could have been fatigue. Happens to a lot of starters in their second full year.

  3. blake February 8th, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    The Yanks have 6 legit starters and Marshall is fairly close…..I Iike their pitching….just hope they can score enough

  4. blake February 8th, 2013 at 7:32 pm

    This has nothing to do with the 5th starter spot but I really am optimistic about Hughes this year….the training wheels are off….he’s not fighting for a spot….he finally had a healthy season and developed a workable assortment of pitches….I’m expecting another step forward this season

  5. CompassRosy February 8th, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    speaking of BOR….

    Jason A. Churchill ?@ProspectInsider
    Looks like the M’s and Jon Garland have a deal pending a physical.

  6. Nick in SF February 8th, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    A big year from Phil would be wonderful to see. Here’s hoping you’re right.

  7. Mike_Boston February 8th, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    Snow is falling greater than an inch per 20 minutes at the moment in Boston.

  8. tucker February 8th, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    It’s a money year for Hughes. I hope he spent some time at API again this offseason. He benefitted last year from showing up in much better shape. If he puts together a strong year, he should get a 4- or 5-year deal.

  9. Ys Guy February 8th, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    dont the RS do some send-off thing when the equipment leaves beantown for ST?

  10. RadioKev February 8th, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    blake February 8th, 2013 at 7:32 pm
    This has nothing to do with the 5th starter spot but I really am optimistic about Hughes this year….the training wheels are off….he’s not fighting for a spot….he finally had a healthy season and developed a workable assortment of pitches….I’m expecting another step forward this season

    Same. Contract year aside, I think this is when he really takes the next step. Should be fun to watch.

  11. blake February 8th, 2013 at 8:07 pm

    What will really suck is if Hughes does take that next step and then the Yanks have to let him go because of the budget

  12. Ys Guy February 8th, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    i say let them all have great years this year, cano for mvp, hughes for 20 wins, granderson can hit 50.

    then worry about next year after the parade.

  13. Ys Guy February 8th, 2013 at 8:24 pm

    send andy and mariano out on a float down the canyon.

  14. tomingeorgia February 8th, 2013 at 8:24 pm

    Hear, Hear! That’s the kind of problem I’d like to have.

  15. tucker February 8th, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    Just hope they don’t pass on Hughes because they sign Cano to an 8-year deal — only to find out about the Biogenesis revelation on Cano in 2014.

  16. Nilsson February 8th, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    Every club, who had its players listed in the Biogenesis documents, were contacted and asked for comments on their players; whether the player was directly or indirectly linked to PEDs. This was part of the Miami New Times investigation. This is old news, but it’s an important clue and tie-in to today’s news.

    Yanks willingness to engage Cano on a new deal makes more sense now. There’s a really, really good chance Cano is clean from this Biogenesis crap. Good for him.

  17. tucker February 8th, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    You hope he is clean. Though, the Yanks really need to be smart about Cano before making him ARod 2 — in terms of the contract tying up such a large piece of the payroll. If Hal is willing to relent a little on these payroll goals, then it would be great sign. Though, if 189 remains the order and the Yanks sign Cano, it doesn’t leave a lot of flexibility.

  18. Nilsson February 8th, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    If you want to argue the financial merits of retaining Cano on a mega contract, feel free. No problem there. But adding this Miami crap to his contract debate is lazy thinking.

  19. tucker February 8th, 2013 at 10:00 pm

    For any mega contract, you have to do your due diligence. You have to know your player. The Yanks must of had some level of suspicion about ARod before they signed to the most lucrative contract in the history of the game. To not have some skepticism about ARod prior to signing him, IMO, is lazy thinking.

    Any big-dollar contract from now on, IMO, requires a certain level of investigation and critical thinking. If you are satisfied at the end that the player is legit and all other variables make sense, then by all means, sign him. This is not an era to put your head in the sand.

  20. igotid88 February 9th, 2013 at 4:38 am


  21. blake February 9th, 2013 at 6:49 am

    So how much snow we got in NY?

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