After Phil Hughes' good but not great 6-inning, 2-run outing yesterday that involved giving up 9 hits to a Mariner lineup that would struggle in the Pacific Regionals of the LLWS, and with the consistently decent but not good A.J. Burnett pitching on Friday, I think whatever plans the Yankees have or may have are going to be finalized after they get a look at 2 of their other questions marks on Saturday. Those 2 question marks are Bartolo Colon and (in all likelihood) Ivan Nova, who will pitch in a double-header against the Baltimore Orioles. Their performances in those games on the heels of whatever A.J. offers up on Friday can and, in my opinion, will determine which plan the Yankees choose to execute in the final day before the trade deadline.
Right now the Yankee postseason rotation would be CC #1 and then .... The group of Burnett, Colon, Hughes, and Garcia are all capable of going out and performing admirably in a postseason game, but are all also capable of going out and laying an egg. Combined, they are a solid group of guys who I'd feel comfortable using in a Game 3 or 4, but no one stands out head and shoulders above the other right now in terms of being a viable #2 candidate. A.J. is the baseball equivalent of a Magic 8 Ball, Colon could very well be worn out and injured again by the time the playoffs roll around, Phil still doesn't have his velocity or command fully back and may not find it this season, and Garcia has already shown that his mish-mash of offspeed slop doesn't play well against good offensive teams. It's easy to see why all those conditions add up to the Yankees being interested in targeting a starter.
Joe started to open a Pandora's Box of opportunities yesterday during his presser when he made this statement in regards to there being a competition between Hughes and Nova for the 5th rotation spot:
“There could be. I’m not going to say that there will be, but we want our guys to compete all the time. We want guys to throw the ball well and earn their spots every time. As far as saying there’s a competition for Phil Hughes’ next start, I’m not saying that.”
You can take that as typical manager speak, but to me that signifies Joe and the Yankees tipping their hand a bit. There are already plenty of rumors going around about the Yankees' involvement in several starting pitching trade targets (Ubaldo, Kuroda, Danks, and for the life of me Carlos Zambrano), and they already lost one yesterday in Edwin Jackson. There are no real solid indicators that the Yankees are serious about adding any of these guys, but if they were truly comfortable with their rotation situation right now I don't think we'd be hearing about a maybe/maybe not rotation competition. This weekend is the chance for that comfort to be re-established or for the discomfort be confirmed and the justification for trading for another starting pitcher be provided. So here's how I see it.
If Burnett, Bart, and Nova come out and pitch well, I think Cash and the front office will be OK moving forward with what they have in the rotation and just figure out how they want to stack the guys come playoff time. They'll focus their energies on trying to find a few 'under-the-radar' guys like they did last year to fortify the bench and bullpen, and move into August knowing that they'll be further strengthened by the returns of Sour Puss and The Horse. If those 3, especially Colon, come out and stink up the joint, I think we'll see the Yanks switch their attention to the rotation and probably go after Kuroda on Sunday if he's still available.
The future of some guys' jobs and some prospects' futures in the organization are going to be on the line in the 48 hours coming up on Friday and Saturday. It's my hope that the starters do their jobs and the Yanks hold pat on giving up top prospects in what would be an act of desperation. But for now, all we can do is wait and see what happens.