Two weeks into the season, a few of the good, bad and unknown situations surrounding the Yankees.
Kevin Youkilis has been terrific, and Travis Hafner has been a much need source of power, but of the three productive new guys in the middle, expectations were lowest for Wells. He was coming off two horrible seasons in Los Angeles, and the initial reaction to the trade was one of complete bewilderment. Turns out, the Yankees found a way to make the horrible contract work in their favor, and Wells has taken a simplified approach that’s leading to impressive results. He’s the Yankees best outfielder right now. See also: Youkilis, Hafner and Lyle Overbay
Terrific start on the mound
There is cause for concern, no doubt, but the Yankees seem to be doing their usual overly cautious routine with Pettitte’s back, and the fact he was able to pitch through it — and pitch well — in his previous start seems to be a good sign. What really stands out about Pettitte is how incredibly good he’s been in his first two outings. Just like every aging player, health and durability are going to constant concerns, but whether he can still pitch at 40 years old isn’t really up for debate. See also: CC Sabathia, Dave Robertson, David Phelps and, as of last night, Hiroki Kuroda
Taking advantage of opportunity
Specifically, his throwing. Two inside pitches have forced him to miss time, and that’s left the Yankees infield incredibly thin, and his hitting has been only so-so through 20 at-bats, but Nunez has been legitimately dependable in the field. And it carries more weight because it seems like a continuation of what we saw in spring training. The pressure of the regular season hasn’t undone all of that Nunez seemed to accomplish in March. See also: Francisco Cervelli, Adam Warren and Vidal Nunez (still pitching well in AAA)
Playing his way into a smaller role?
Ichiro and Wells are each past-their-prime outfielders, but Wells is off to a terrific start while Ichiro is hitting below .200. For the time being, it’s a fairly easy call to keep Ichiro as an everyday outfielder – sitting occasionally to give Brennan Boesch at-bats — but what happens when Curtis Granderson comes off the disabled list? Hafner’s not going anywhere against right-handers. Is it better to keep Ichiro in the lineup ahead of Wells? Could there be some sort of four-man outfield rotation? See also: Cody Eppley, Joba Chamberlain and Chris Stewart
Slow start on the mound
Girardi makes practical sense when he says two starts from Hughes, and one bad start from Ivan Nova, are not enough to make an immediate change in the rotation. The Yankees have seen Hughes get off to slow starts in the past, and everyone knows that Nova can be a bit hit-or-miss, but if we’re talking about things that have gone right and wrong in these first two weeks, the back of the rotation certainly fits into the “wrong” category. Both Hughes and Nova will get a chance to turn things around — they’ve only thrown a total of 11.2 innings so far — but the slow start makes the rotation seem especially thin. See also: Nova, Boone Logan and Jayson Nix (who has no real replacement as a utility man, but hasn’t gotten off to a great start aside from the pivotal decision on that triple play).
Still some hurdles to overcome, but Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter could be back at some point next month, which means a lot of fringy roster guys have only a little bit of time to prove they absolutely belong. Boesch wasn’t showing much until last night’s two-hit game improved his numbers and — in theory — his stock, which could important considering he has options and it’s a left-handed outfielder who seems closest to being activated. Right now, it’s Francisco who has the smallest role and the .000 batting average. See also: Boesch, Shawn Kelley and Dellin Betances (knocked around again in AAA).
He wasn’t cleared to swing a bat on Friday, but every indication is that Teixeira is healing without needing season-ending surgery. He might not meet his May 1 goal, but early May does not seem out of the question based on the current progress. Swinging and throwing will be significant steps, so he’s not nearly out of the woods, but he’s avoided the worst-case scenario for this long, and that’s positive. See also: Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera (so far, so good, but hasn’t really been tested yet).
Still a real mystery
Here’s what we know about Pineda: He’s taking all the right steps. He’s progressed from playing catch to throwing bullpens to facing hitters, but we don’t know how hard he’s throwing or how his slider and changeup have been affected by last year’s shoulder surgery. The small snippets of news that we’ve gotten have painted a promising picture, but even this late in his rehab, there’s still a significant amount of unknown data. The Yankees seem encouraged. It remains to be seen whether that actually means anything: See also: Alex Rodriguez, Cesar Cabral and Clay Rapada
Is there enough here to win?
So far, a lot of the veteran moves are paying off. The Wells trade suddenly seems inspired, Youkilis and Hafner have exceeded expectations, Cervelli is outplaying Russell Martin, and the Yankees managed to open significant room on the 40-man while losing only one player (David Aardsma). Then again, it’s still early, and durability is a significant concern with this aging roster. It remains to be seen whether this thin rotation can hold it together through the summer. The bullpen has not been nearly as good as expected. Young guys didn’t show enough in spring training to take advantage of massive opportunities. And, of course, there’s still the long-term viability of guys like Rodriguez and Jeter to wonder about. See also: Joe Girardi, Hal Steinbrenner and the $189 million plan
Associated Press photos