The Yankees have a problem. A good problem.
For all of their offensive struggles and lack of right-handed bats, one area where the Yankees have not come up short this season is in their starting rotation. CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes are all established major leaguers who have pitched well (for the most part), and David Phelps has shown enough in the past year and a half to prove that he is a legitimate starter. But with Ivan Nova now healthy and having turned in an outstanding complete game effort in Friday’s 3-2 walkoff win over the Baltimore Orioles, the rotation is beginning to get overcrowded. Factor in that Michael Pineda continues to make strides on his rehab assignment, and that gives the Yankees seven quality starters to fit into five spots.
It was announced today that Phelps is being placed on the 15-day disabled list with “a slight forearm strain,” which certainly seems like a convenient way to buy some time before a decision needs to be made.
“Phelpsie has a real slight forearm strain,” Joe Girardi said. “Not the ligament, just so everyone knows. The red flags always go up. We decided to shut him down, and he’ll start throwing in 10 days, is what we anticipate.”
Girardi stressed that they are being careful with Phelps and that this is not a serious injury. With their current abundance of starting pitching, it seems wise to err on the side of caution and see what happens in the next two weeks. Inevitably, someone may have to get the short end of the stick, but these things also tend to have ways of working themselves out.
“He had an MRI yesterday and was evaluated by the doctor last night,” Girardi said of Phelps. “We just felt it was in our best interest. There were discussions of just skipping him a start, but instead just putting him on the DL – seeing that we have the all-star break on our side – to make sure he’s healthy.”
• Eduardo Nunez has been added to the 25-man roster to take Phelps’ place. That gets the Yankees back to having four players on the bench after playing shorthanded for the past few weeks. Nunez hasn’t played with the Yankees since May 5. “He had a good day yesterday, and as I said, I didn’t think he would take as long because he had a full spring training and played the first month of the season,” Girardi said.
• Nunez was all smiles in the clubhouse this morning. He had been getting regular at-bats before injuring his oblique, and the Yankees have had a revolving door at shortstop ever since. “I feel good,” he said. “Back to normal, thank God.”
• Nunez will start at short today, and Girardi said that he expects him to be his everyday shortstop until Derek Jeter returns. “The one thing that Nunie hasn’t had is he hasn’t played a bunch of days in a row,” Girardi said. “Don’t be surprised if I give him a day off here and there in the next week or so, just because he’s not probably equipped to play the next nine days in a row.”
• Speaking of Jeter, he is scheduled to begin his rehab assignment today with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He is slated to play at least five innings at shortstop, and should be back before the end of the month, barring any setbacks. “I think so,” Girardi said when asked if there is still concern about how Jeter’s injured ankle will respond. “Anytime you’ve been out that long, there’s still some concern. The good thing is it’s healed, and he went a lot further this time, in a sense. He was running and he was playing in a simulated game, so I feel pretty good about the injury being healed. But we have to see how long it takes him to get into everyday playing shape.”
• Nunez was asked if he feels the need to produce and prove his worth quickly with Jeter on his way back. “I want him back,” he said. “We need him.”
• With Phelps out, the rotation will for the next few days will be: Pettitte today, Kuroda on Sunday, Hughes on Monday, CC on Tuesday and Nova on Wednesday.
• Aside from being a very hot July morning, today is also “Selection Saturday” (I may or may not have made that term up). The MLB all-star teams will be announced today, and while Robinson Cano and Mariano Rivera look like sure-fire selections, Girardi was asked if he expects any other Yankees to get the nod. “I hope so,” he said. “I think we’ve had some guys have pretty good years. You look at Gardy, I think he’s played extremely well. I think David Robertson has played well. Kuroda has pitched well, so you’ll have to wait and see. I know there’s always a lot of deserving members, and it seems like one guy always gets short-changed a little bit. That’s just the way it is.”
Associated Press photos