Monday, March 21, 2011

AB4AR 2011 Season Preview: What We Know & What We Don't Know (The Rotation)

(Who else will be in this picture come March 31?)

Next up in the AB4AR "Know/Don't Know" series is the rotation, the group on the roster with the most questions and unknowns surrounding it.  But hey, at least 60% of the rotation is already set.  Right?

/looks around for nods of agreement 

CC Sabathia

What We Know: He came into camp this year in better shape.

Whether it was 25 pounds, 20 pounds, or 5 pounds, there's no doubting that CC put more emphasis on physical fitness this offseason after his knee surgery.  He's the rotation's horse, he knows it, and he's trying to do everything he can to stay whole and stay healthy in 2011. 

What We Don't Know: If the Yankees have a plan for him to limit his work this year.

It might not be a bad idea considering the workload Carsten has accumulated over the last 4 seasons and the fact that he is coming off surgery.  A rough pitch/innings count early in the season or in games where the Yankees are way ahead would be a good idea to keep him fresh and ready for the stretch run and the postseason.  But then again, these are the Yankees and nothing is more important than winning, and CC on the mound always gives them a better chance of winning. 

A.J. Burnett

What We Know: He's the #2 starter.

Joe made it official this weekend.  Misguided or not, he has faith in A.J. after what he's seen so far in ST and he's showing confidence in A.J.'s ability to rebound from his horrific 2010 by coming out early and announcing him as the starter behind CC.  

What We Don't Know: Will his offseason work with Larry Rothschild will fix him?

A.J. has talked and worked with Rothschild almost since he was announced as the new Yankee pitching coach, and the results so far have been positive.  A.J.'s new mechanics and where he's standing on the mound seem to be working, and his changeup is developing into a reliable pitch.  But when the tough times come, how will A.J. handle them?  Can he keep repeating his delivery mechanics after he throws a few bad pitches?  Can he shake it off and re-focus on the next batter?  Because that's what's going to make the difference for him between success and failure in 2011. 

Phil Hughes

What We Know: The kid gloves come off this year.

No innings limitations, no lower spot in the order, no excuses.  After an All-Star 2010, Phil is going to be counted on to be the anchor of the rotation that Andy Pettitte had been the past few seasons.  He will fill an extremely important role as the 3rd starter in the rotation, expected to provide stability and high-quality innings between the sketchy A.J. and potentially shaky back end. 

What We Don't Know: How much will he use the changeup in 2011?

People raved about it in camp last year, and then it disappeared once the regular season started.  By the time we got to the end of the year, when he needed it, he didn't have it.  Hughes has put more time into improving the changeup this spring as well, but the true test is whether or not he can add it to his repertoire and implement it effectively in games. 

4th Starter

What We Know: The team needs one.


What We Don't Know: Who it will be.

The early leader in the clubhouse is Ivan Nova after his sterling 6-inning performance last week.  But he still hasn't locked it down and will probably need another solid start to give Joe enough confidence to declare the job his. 

5th Starter

What We Know: See 4th Starter.

What We Know: Ditto.

Favorite- Freddy Garcia, shaky recent outings aside.  Backup- Bartolo Colon, who the team seems pretty happy with.  Darkhorse(s)- Andrew Brackman, Manny Banuelos.  There's almost no chance either one of them will get the job, but they have been impressive and the Yankees could be forced to scramble if either Garcia or Colon gets hurt in the last couple weeks.

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