(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)
It was another poor outing for Phil Hughes yesterday, the poorest and shortest he's had since his 0.2-inning meltdown against the Mariners in May. In his last 3 starts, Hughes has completed just 12.1 innings and has given up 13 R (10 ER) on 19 H in those innings with 8 BB to just 6 K. His leash with Joe has gotten shorter to the point that were it a literal leash it would probably be choking him to death as soon as he took the mound, and his inability to work efficiently and deeply into games is becoming a burden on the bullpen. Hughes needed 71 pitches yesterday to retire just 8 batters.
Combined with the unadulterated putridity that has been CC Sabathia's last 4 starts, suddenly the Yankees are rolling with an even worse rotation than they had a few weeks ago. The group that needed to turn things around in concert with the offense if the Yankees were going to make a serious playoff charge has become an alternating "all or nothing" collection of some of the best and worst pitching we've seen this season. For every great start Hirok or Nova goes out and pitches, Sabathia and Hughes pitch one equally as bad if not worse a day or 2 later.
Normally this would be the time to put CC on the phantom 15-day DL to straighten some things out or move Hughes back to the bullpen, and as recently as Friday the Yankees still had the option of doing that if they so chose. But a pair of injury setbacks to Michael Pineda and David Phelps on Saturday has basically wiped out the entirety of the team's starter reserves and left Joe without any viable replacement options.
Phelps was scratched before he could even make his start on Saturday with what was called right forearm/elbow soreness. He's been working his way back from a forearm strain and there has to be an elevated level of concern with the lingering pain moving to the elbow. Pineda made his start but was taken out after just 2 innings and 29 pitches after complaining of stiffness in his surgically-repaired right shoulder. He's been sent back to New York to be examined by team doctors and concern has to be even higher here than with Phelps, as a discovery of something serious puts his career-long effectiveness moving forward in major jeopardy.
Add to this day of bad luck the fact that Vidal Nuno is still on the Triple-A DL and the Yankees are basically stuck with the 2 crummy pitchers clogging up their rotation. Adam Warren has worked out of the bullpen far too long to be looked to for a starter's workload, and neither Brett Marshall's performance for SWB nor his one outing in the Majors earlier this year makes him look like a realistic option to come up and take a few turns through the rotation. Hughes and Sabathia are going to continue to take their turns in the rotation for the foreseeable future, and with the way they've been pitching that will likely work to the detriment of the team.
The injury/production problems in the lineup have dominated the headlines this year and rightfully so. Anytime you've got $100 million rotting away on the DL it's going to be a major storyline. I guess it was only a matter of time before the rotation got pulled into that circus and right now they're neck deep in it, with no viable backup options and no signs that things are going to be turning around soon for Hughes and CC. The lesson, as always, remains the same. You can never have too much starting pitching.