Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Picture Starts To Clear Up As Arms Return To The Roster

(Sorry, Ivan.  I thought you were going to stick around.  Courtesy of Charles Wenzelberg/NY Post)

Bartolo Colon is scheduled to start this afternoon's game against the Mets, taking back the rotation spot that had been held by Brien Gordon over the last couple outings.  Phil Hughes is probably only another week or 2 away from joining him back in the rotation, leaving the Yankees with a decision to make on who keeps the 5th rotation spot and who gets bumped.  Joel Sherman of The Post helped shed a little light on where the Yankees are leaning when it comes to that decision:

"...the Yankees are leaning strongly toward sending Nova to Triple-A to reinsert Hughes, I have learned....

The lingering fear remains about Colon and Garcia making it through a season physically, and, really, Hughes is now in the same category. By putting Nova at Triple-A along with Hector Noesi (who is to be demoted today to make room for Colon) and Adam Warren, the Yankees would have adequate protection for the inevitable breakdown; with Nova the obvious first choice for a return."

On the one hand, this decision makes sense.  Colon certainly has proven he is worthy of a spot, and Freddy Garcia has also exceeded expectations.  And with the commitment the Yankees have made to Hughes (and with memories of the mishandling of Joba still not dissolved), it goes without saying that he will be in the rotation and not shuttled back to the bullpen.  With Colon and Garcia being as cheap as they are, pitching as well as they are, and being the biggest health question marks, there's no reason for the Yankees to not continue to roll them out there until they blow up or get hurt again.  And if/when that happens, it's to the team's benefit to have Nova and Noesi already stretched out and ready to step in and fill the gap rather than sitting in the bullpen.

On the other hand, the argument could be made that this decision doesn't exactly fit in with the "best chance to win" philosophy that is supposed to dominate decision making at the Major League level.  Sure, Brien Gordon had solid relief numbers in Triple-A, and we've already covered the return of the Meat Tray.  But are those 2 really better pitchers than Nova and Noesi?  Noesi, save for one disastrous outing, has looked very good working out of the 'pen, and there has always been the thought by some that Nova's stuff could play up out of the pen, helping to eliminate his low K/9 rate he has as a starter.  And with the litany of injuries suffered already by major bullpen guys, isn't it to the team's benefit to have better pitchers filling those gaps in the bullpen?

All in all, I think the Yankees are making the right call here.  I honestly believed it was a foregone conclusion that Gordon would be DFA'd once Colon came back, but if the Yankees are committed to keeping Nova and Noesi stretched out as starters then it makes sense to keep Gordon around for the time being.  I will say, though, that I am going to be a bit more uneasy knowing that if Garcia or Hughes or A.J. has a bad start, we're going to see Mitre and Gordon coming in to put out the fire instead of Nova or Noesi.