Welcome back Andy. New York loves you, and I would love to see you win with us…but you put us in a tough spot. We already have enough quality starters to fill a five-man rotation. Simply put, your presence makes things very difficult.
However, your signing opens the door to an unconventional strategy no American baseball team has used before:
Use a six-man rotation.
Here is a list of the Yankees’ potential starters listed by, in my opinion, likeliness to make the rotation. Let me know if you disagree:
Traditionally, Major League clubs use five starting pitchers, meaning two of the aforementioned will be relegated to long-reliever (most team’s first pitcher cut) or the minor leagues.
Here’s why a six-man rotation would benefit the Yankees:
1) Extra Rest
With such emphasis on pitch count and pitcher conditioning, you give all starters an extra day off, thus decreasing the chance of injury. You can argue the extra day off leads to an increased chance of stiffness and muscle tears, but pitchers can always add an extra throw day to their workout.
You have more options when assembling a potential playoff rotation. The extra man also increases competition between hurlers, which may be what the Yankees need to put them over the hump come late in the season.
Also, Joe Girardi can certainly feel better about using a starter on three-days rest in the postseason because of the decreased innings pitched in the regular season. Again, this would conflict with pitchers’ routines, and going from six-days rest to three-days rest is a lot to ask. However, I still feel the greater positive lies in a six-man rotation. Professional pitchers can adjust.
3) Pitcher Confidence
You don’t have to relegate (most likely) Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia to long reliever roles, assuming they even make the team. A six-man rotation would avoid another hit to Phil Hughes’ dwindling confidence, who I believe would be the final starter in a six-man army.
This concept is not uncharted territory for the Bombers – the Yankees experimented with a six-man rotation toward the end of last year. A six-man rotation is the Japanese standard, so the Yankees can use those teams as a model. Potential starter Hiroki Kuroda pitched in Japan from 1997-2007. I couldn’t find validation online, but if the Hiroshima Toyo Carp used six starters during those years, it would bring Kuroda back to his roots.
Here’s where Yankees pitchers stand with two weeks left in spring training:
CC Sabathia – Ace of the staff, huge contract. He has a spot.
Ivan Nova – His 16-4 record was the best among Yankees pitchers in 2011. Is he the Yankees’ next ace? Until he shows he’s not… three left.
Michael Pineda – You can argue the Yankees can play the seniority card and have Pineda start in the minors, but that wouldn’t go over well with the fan base. Assuming he doesn’t blow up in the last weeks of spring training, he’ll have a spot in the rotation.
Hiroki Kuroda – I’m wondering if the Yankees are wishing they hadn’t signed Kuroda now that Pettitte is returning. Personally, I wasn’t crazy over the signing to begin with. He’ll be 37, he’s coming to the offensively-driven American League, and gave up 24 home runs last year – only eight to LCF or RCF according to Baseball-Reference. Important because Yankee Stadium is more concave than Dodger Stadium (Yankee Stadium vs. Dodger Stadium), and plays even smaller than its dimensions indicate. I still think he’ll make the rotation.
Andy Pettitte – He’ll make the rotation. The Yankees would not sign their good friend to embarrass him with a trip to the minors. He may start there to get his confidence and strength back, but he’ll be in the rotation by May 1st.
Phil Hughes – Hughes has been a bit of a bust since his highly anticipated debut April 2007. He’s shown flares of greatness, but has been hurt often, and has yet proven he can be more than a fourth or fifth starter. If Hughes doesn’t make the rotation, the Yankees may put him back in the bullpen, a role he thrived in 2009. Hey Diamondbacks, how about Phil Hughes for Ian Kennedy, straight up?
Freddy Garcia – Garcia seems to hold the shortest stick. He’s old, has no sentimental value to the organization, and was nothing short of ghastly down the stretch. He re-signed in December to a one-year deal, but the Yankees won’t be afraid to eat the contract if need be. I see Garcia as an long reliever/emergency starter come opening day no matter which way you form the rotation.
Dear Mr. Girardi,
I have no problem with a six-man rotation. I’m old, and along with Kuroda and Sabathia, extra rest would certainly help. I’m not crazy about something that goes against my career routine, but I’ll get over it. I know I’ll make the team, but it’ll be nice knowing I’m not destroying Phil Hughes’ confidence by doing so.
Thanks for taking me back. I’m sorry for throwing a total monkey wrench into your system.
Your former teammate and current fifth starter,