The Yankees pitching staff has become a bit of a mess these past few days. About a week ago, it seemed the rotation might be able to hold together with Vidal Nuno and David Phelps filling in for Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda, but that was before Phelps struggled against the Brewers and Nuno fell apart against the Mets. It was also before CC Sabathia went on the disabled list, and Shawn Kelley went on the disabled list, and the Yankees were forced to dig even deeper into their minor league reserves.
Joe Girardi acknowledged tonight that the Yankees plan to call up Chase Whitley to start Thursday’s Subway Series finale at Citi Field. He will be the eighth starter and 21st pitcher the Yankees have used this season.
“These are the people that we have,” Girardi said. “As I said, there’s not a surplus of pitching laying around. That’s not where we are in today’s game.”
When Nuno needed 37 pitches just to get through the first inning today, Girardi said his first thought was not that he needed to find some sort of alternative. His first thought was that he had no choice but to send Nuno back out for the next inning. The Yankees pitching staff simply isn’t in a position to handle a one-inning start at this point.
“I knew I was going to have to get some more out of him,” Girardi said. “It’s not something that we could go to our bullpen in the second inning. Just physically can’t do it. You can’t ask these guys to continue to do this. It’s not fair to them and their careers, so I knew I had to leave him out there. He got through the second and gave up a couple more runs (later). In the (fourth) inning, he got the double-play ball, and we botched that, and that led to a couple more runs. It looked like he might get through five for us.”
He didn’t. Nuno went just 3.1 innings while becoming the 22nd Yankees pitcher to ever allow at least seven runs on no more than four hits. With Whitley starting in two days, it’s worth wondering if the Yankees might have to make another move to add some pitching for tomorrow’s game. Alfredo Aceves and Preston Claiborne have each gone back-to-back, and Matt Daley just pitched three innings.
Is it worth trying to find some pitching help from the outside?
“That’s not my job,” Girardi said. “That’s Brian (Cashman)’s job. My job is to manage the players he gives me. He’s always searching to make our team better. That’s what we do here. The state of pitching in the big leagues with all the injuries, I don’t think there’s a surplus laying around. It’s tough.”
Remember when the Yankees seemed to have a surplus in spring training? That’s long gone now.
• After further evaluation from Dr. James Andrews, Girardi said there’s no new information regarding CC Sabathia’s sore right knee. The diagnosis remains that Sabathia has fluid in his knee, which needs to be drained. “I know he saw Dr. Andrews,” Girardi said. “I think he agreed with the MRI. It’s basically rest, get it to calm down and see when we can get him out there.”
• Brian McCann was hit in the hand by a foul tip, but he said he’s fine. And he actually had a good day at the plate today. McCann went 3-for-4 with a home run. It was McCann’s first multi-hit game since that 14-inning game against the Rays on May 2 when he went 2-for-7. His only other three-hit game of the season came April 22 in Boston.
• Rough night from Nuno from the very beginning when he hit the first batter and walked the second. “It was one of those days,” Nuno said. “I felt good in the bullpen, and I just thought it would carry into the game. It happened. I was kind of rushing myself, trying to overthrow sometimes. And the offspeed stuff didn’t help today. It was just, I’m just going to (not) think about tonight and I’ll work at it tomorrow.”
• With the depleted rotation, Nuno isn’t just a fill-in guy who could be dropped at a moment’s notice. The Yankees need him to be better. His ERA is up to 6.43. “It’s just doing my part, and my part is thinking strikes,” Nuno said. “The command wasn’t there. Four walks is kind of frustrating, just knowing that’s not my game. Tomorrow, I’ve got four more days til next outing, so keep at what I’ve been doing in my routine and go from there.”
• Weirdly, even after today’s letdown, Nuno is the first pitcher to allow no more than five hits in each of his first eight career starts with the Yankees since Bill Burbach did so in his first 11 starts in 1969. Going just 3.1 innings today probably helped Nuno keep that hit total low.
• The pitching highlight was absolutely Matt Daley, who delivered three hitless innings of long relief. “He did a really good job for us,” Girardi said. “To give us those three innings and help our bullpen and not have to use some other guys, that’s really big. And that’s what we ask of these guys. When they get their opportunity, go out there and shine. And he did a great job tonight.”
• Girardi on Thursday’s starter: “It won’t be Aceves. Our plans are Whitley.”
• Yangervis Solarte hit his third home run of the season and reached base three times, extending his hitting streak to a career-high eight games. During the streak, Solarte is hitting .500 with seven runs and nine RBI. He still leads the Yankees in RBI this season.
• Girardi was ejected for arguing balls and strikes after Kelly Johnson struck out to end the fifth inning. “I got thrown out, and I have no idea why,” Girardi said. “You saw the pitches that inning. Runners in scoring position. Still a lot of at-bats left. All I said was, ‘Come on Jerry, those pitches were on the white line,’ and he tossed me. Now, I’ll tell you, there are days I deserved to get tossed. I will not lie to you. There are days I deserve to get fined. I will not lie to you on that. You’ve seen I get pretty animated and angry. I didn’t say nothing.”
• Just because I’m not sure who else should get it, here’s the final word from McCann, who was asked if the Yankees have the pieces to turn this around: “One hundred percent. Absolutely. I know it’s cliché and I know it’s one of those things, but you’re going to run into stretches where you lose tough ballgames, and you lose seven or eight in a row, and it’s the way this game is. Right now, we’re falling on the wrong side of the one-run games.”
Associated Press photos