Saturday, March 20, 2010

Catching Up With The Other 4 Guys In The Starting Rotation

With all the hoopla surrounding the Joba-Phil-Ace 3-way dance for the last spot in the rotation, it seems as though the other 4 members of that rotation have fallen a bit on the wayside.  In all fairness to these guys, that shouldn't have happened, since it's most likely these 4 that will have a bigger impact on the Yankees' success this season than whoever ends up in the 5th spot.  So in case you've forgotten who the other starters are and how their Spring Trainings have gone, here's a quick update.

- CC Sabathia, after a slow start in his first couple of ST outing, has hit his stride and is now working on refining his off-speed control as he stares down the barrel of his Opening Day start against Josh Beckett and the Red Sox.  So far he has shown no signs of fatigue from his heavy workload last season and the Yankees have taken no precautions with him in terms of limiting his innings or pitches as he gears up for the start of the season.  Sabathia has also inspired a revolution of sorts amongst his teammates on the staff as there has been an outbreak of guys experimenting with changeups this spring.  After a dominant, 8-K performance yesterday against the Tigers, all signs point to CC hitting the ground running on April 4.

- A.J. Burnett came into ST with questions about how he would perform this year after last year's up-and-down campaign.  The questions were especially loud regarding how he would adjust to losing Jose Molina and if he could make it work with Jorge Posada.  Any notions of there being tension between A.J. and Jorge were quickly squashed by all those around them and by all accounts they have worked through their differences and are on the same page with the approach they want to take when A.J. is on the mound this year.  A.J. is the first of the group of guys who has spent the better part of Spring Training working on adding a changeup, mainly at the expense of his other pitches.  His numbers in his outings so far don't tell the story, as Jorge and Dave Eiland have had positive things to say about what he's done on the mound.

- Andy Pettitte, the grizzled veteran of the group, seems to have finally adjusted to life without HGH (as far as you know), and is being handled age-appropriately by the team after he was part of the 3-man rotation to end 2009.  Pettitte's workload has been reduced to just enough to let him get himself ready for the season.  He made his official Spring Training debut on Tuesday and it was exactly what you would expect from a veteran like Pettite: 4 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K against the Phillies' regulars.  At this stage in his career, there isn't anything Andy has to work on and outside of injuries there isn't anything fans have to worry about with him; Andy knows what he's doing.

- After folks like myself expressed much trepidation at the trade that brought him back to the Bronx, Javy Vazquez has been good enough to put me at ease and make me a believer in the thought that he is a changed man and different pitcher than he was in 2004.  Vazquez hasn't been lights out this spring, giving up some homers, but that's to be expected when he is spending the majority of his time sharpening his off-speed pitches that he has learned to utilize better.  The true test won't be until the regular season starts, and the truest test won't be until he has to pitch a game in prime time against the Sox or Angels or make a critical postseason start, but for now Vazquez looks ready to settle into his role as the 4th starter and contribute to what has a chance to be the best 1-4 rotation in baseball.

So there you have it.  I'm sure reading some of those names and realizing that these guys have actually been pitching comes as a shock to some, but I swear it's the truth.  These are the guys that are expected to anchor the rotation this year, and if they all pitch up to their capability it might not matter who the 5th starter is.