Starting tonight, auditions will be underway for spots in the soon to be 5-man rotation for the rest of the season. CC is a shoo in, Bartolo and Nova punched their tickets yesterday, so now we're down to 3 men for 2 spots.
In all honesty, Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes probably have to do very little to get the nods over A.J. As long as they manage to get an out or 2 and not allow infinity runs, that should probably lock it up. And with the way the Yankees have set things up for this week (Freddy tonight, CC tomorrow, Phil Wednesday, and A.J. Thursday), it's almost as if they are stacking the deck in Freddy and Phil's favor. Freddy gets to face the lesser lineup in his first game back from the DL, Phil stays on his regular rest to prove that his last outing was a bump in the road and not a sign of regression back to his early-season issues, and A.J. effectively gets thrown to the wolves in facing the best offense in the AL so he can continue his bombshow and put the final nail in his rotation coffin.
That being said, this scenario isn't exactly a slam dunk. Freddy wasn't that great in his Triple-A rehab assignment, and Phil was pretty awful in that last outing against the weaksauce A's lineup. And bad as they are, there are some good professional hitters in the Baltimore lineup that could punish Freddy if he's off, and the Fraud Sawx lineup won't hesitate to do the same to Phil if he's missing his stuff, command, or both on Wednesday. Realistically, Freddy and Phil should be doing battle for the 4th postseason rotation spot over the course of the next month. But with all the chances that Joe has given A.J., and the fact that he and Cash continue to defend A.J. in front of the media, there does exist that minuscule, microscopic chance that a couple of stinker outings from Garcia and Hughes this week could leave the door open for A.J. to get another chance. And for that reason, it's critically important that Garcia and Hughes go out and at least be mediocre.
On a personal fan note, I'm very interested/scared to see how Hughes fairs on Wednesday. Best lineup he's faced, coming off a bad start, nationally televised game. How he pitches could be a big determining factor for how the Yanks plan to use him in the playoffs. Add all that together and I think I smell another AB4AR live blog on Wednesday night.
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