It’s expected that pitching coach Larry Rothschild is on the verge of officially signing a new contract to rejoin Joe Girardi and the Yankees. Rothschild is a familiar face, having spent the past three seasons in charge of the Yankees pitching staff. A familiar pitching coach, though, will likely find an unfamiliar pitching staff when he shows up in spring training.
Considering the basic roles of a 12-man pitching staff, here’s a look at what Rothschild had to work with this season, and what he could be working with next season.
Last season: CC Sabathia
The job was CC Sabathia’s, and he failed to live up to expectations. The worst season of his career was a problem for the Yankees, giving the Yankees an unreliable but still irreplaceable ace.
Next season: CC Sabathia
Chances are, it’s still Sabathia’s job. The Yankees could try to trade for a new ace, but Sabathia’s coming back the job is his for the taking.
NO. 2 STARTER
Last season: Hiroki Kuroda
In his second year with the Yankees, Kuroda thrived. He pitched like a legitimate ace for much of the year before fading down the stretch. On the whole, the No. 2 spot in the rotation was a strength.
Next season: Up for grabs
Kuroda could come back, but a more likely solution seems to be a high positing fee for Masahiro Tanaka or — just maybe — a potent New York debut by Michael Pineda.
Last season: Andy Pettitte
Call him the No. 3 or the No. 4, but there’s a lot to be said for a starter who’s not overwhelming but provides a steady chance to win. Pettitte did exactly that in his final season.
Next season: Is Kuroda coming back?
If the Yankees re-sign Kuroda, he could fall into this role. At his age, it would make sense to limit his innings and not lean on him heavily, but he could still be a steady presence. If not, maybe Pineda or a guy like David Phelps could fall into this sort of role.
Last season: Ivan Nova
Kind of deserves his own category because it defies any other label. Nova is an extreme hit-or-miss starter, and the Yankees saw a little of both last season: Demoted when he struggled; Pitcher of the Month when he thrived.
Next season: Ivan Nova
Unless he’s traded, which seems unlikely, Nova will be back in the rotation. He pitched too well down the stretch to not get another chance. Could be great. Could be replaced by June 1.
Last season: Phil Hughes
Hopes and expectations were so much higher than the very bottom of the rotation, but that’s clearly where Hughes landed. A 5.19 ERA will not be missed.
Next season: Plenty of young guys
I suppose there’s a chance that the Yankees will open with a rotation of Sabathia-Tanaka-Kuroda-Pineda-Nova, but it seems more likely — at some point anyway — they’re going to need at least one of David Phelps, Adam Warren, Vidal Nuno, etc. Manny Banuelos could be a wild card option here.
LONG RELIEVER/SPOT STARTER
Last season: Adam Warren
Following in the footsteps of David Phelps, Warren emerged as a steady multi-inning reliever in his rookie year. It’s not a high-profile job, but Warren did it well throughout the season.
Next season: Plenty of young guys
Pretty much the exact same situation as that fifth starter role. The Yankees have a series of young guys — including Warren — who could emerge as fifth starters, spot starters and long relievers. From Warren to Phelps to Hector Noesi, the Yankees have had success with young guys in this role recently.
Last season: Mariano Rivera
The ninth inning was never up for grabs. For one last season, the Yankees had their Hall of Famer in his familiar role.
Next season: Dave Robertson
There is obviously a chance the Yankees will go after a veteran for this role, but right now, it seems to be Robertson’s job to lose. Regardless of who exactly claims the job, it’s going to be a wildly different experience.
Last season: Dave Robertson
For three years now, Robertson has been one of the very best setup relievers in baseball. His 1.04 WHIP this year was the lowest of his career.
Next season: A new guy
Assuming Robertson moves into the ninth inning, Shawn Kelley is probably the first in line for the eighth. But it’s hard to believe the Yankees will fail to add some sort of more-experienced reliever to bring some late-inning stability.
Last season: Boone Logan
Seemed like a relatively small part of a 2009 trade, but Logan became the Yankees top lefty for four seasons. A 1.18 WHIP this season was the lowest of his career.
Next season: Cesar Cabral?
The Yankees best in-house option seems to be the relatively untested Cabral, who pitched well in September but has faced just 15 major league batters. A free agent signing seems like, if only to compete for the job. Vidal Nuno and David Huff (if he survives the offseason) could also be candidates.
Last season: Joba Chamberlain then Shawn Kelley
Inevitably a few different relievers take a turn in the sixth and seventh innings. Chamberlain was supposed to be the go-to guy in this role; it wound up being the late-spring addition Kelley.
Next season: Shawn Kelley/Preston Claiborne
Assuming an in-house solution, Kelley and Claiborne are the most experienced options for the job, kind of a setup man for the setup man. But this role almost always goes through some changes in the course of the year.
LAST MAN IN THE PEN
Last season: Shawn Kelley then Joba Chamberlain
This role evolves a lot like that middle reliever role. A lot of times it’s a test to find out what a new guy has (Kelley), what a young guy can do (Claiborne) or whether a struggling pitcher can get on track (Chamberlain).
Next season: Dellin Betances
This is exactly the kind of role Betances needs. He’s out of options, and a half season of Triple-A success isn’t nearly enough to thrust him into the eighth inning. But he could very well get a look in low-leverage situations while trying to prove himself at the big league level.
THE CALL-UP WHO MATTERS
Last season: Preston Claiborne
On what was usually a 12-man pitching staff, Claiborne ended up with the 13th-most innings. But there were still stretches when he was a key part of the bullpen, a call-up who exceeded expectations early and struggled late.
Next season: Mark Montgomery/Chase Whitley/Manny Banuelos/Jose Ramirez
The Yankees might be thin on upper-level position players, but they have a handful of upper-level pitchers who carry legitimate reason to believe the could have a significant impact at the big league level. These four — and there are others — have yet to appear in the big leagues, but they could be important next season.
Associated Press photos