Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Andy's Arrival Sparks Warning From Girardi

Ron Antonelli/New York Daily News
Andy Pettitte officially arrives in Spring Training camp today, and it has apparently sparked some "words of wisdom" from Yankees manager, Joe Girardi. If you read my last post on Andy's call-in to ESPN's The Michael Kay Show, and if you're a Yankee fan with half-a-brain, you know that he will be part of the starting rotation. This leaves the dilemma of who will be in and who will be in the bullpen once Andy makes his 2012 debut, and Girardi has put his pitchers vying for a coveted rotation spot on notice. The following is an excerpt from Mark Feinsand's piece last night in the Daily News:

“If you don’t want somebody to take your job, pitch that way; it’s really simple,” Girardi said. “Let’s say the job was given to you and you were struggling; they’re going to look for someone to give the job to. You have to produce. That’s the world we live in in New York. It’s not like, ‘You’re this guy and we’re going to give you 20 starts no matter what happens.’ We don’t live in that world here.”

Clearly, these remarks are aimed at Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda, Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes. CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda have already been guaranteed their spots in the rotation. So what does it mean for each pitcher individually?

Michael Pineda - He must get some speed back on his fastball. His once mid-high 90's fastball has only reached a speed higher than 92 mph once so far this Spring. It is not Pineda's style to paint corners, an ability that has helped other great pitchers in the past who lost velocity on their fastball (think Mike Mussina). So, he'll need to work in getting his fb above 95, while trying to make improvements on his changeup, a necessary third pitch that he'll need to be a successful strikeout pitch in the AL East.

Ivan Nova - Nova has to forget about blaming his catcher for his woes, and get back to throwing the changeup that made him a success last season. He also has to improve on the command of his fastball. Hitters are getting ahead of him in the count as he continues to miss his spots. With just 4 starts under his belt, Nova has given up 5 runs in two of them (Mar. 3 against Toronto; Mar.18 against Baltimore) and has a combined 11 earned runs and 16 hits in just 12.2 IP. What seemed like a sure thing that Nova would be in the rotation, has now become riddled with doubt.

Freddy Garcia - I guess for Garcia, it will be up to him to maintain the craftiness of his 88 mph fastball. He has what Pineda lacks - the ability to paint corners. If he can come back and repeat his performance from last season, I believe the Yankees will make him a starter. Bad news for the youngsters, especially since Garcia's made it clear to the Yankees that he's not looking to be traded, and intends on competing for a slot.

Phil Hughes - Hughes has actually looked very good this Spring. After a shaky first start against Pittsburgh on March 6, Hughes rebounded greatly in his last two, and pitched to an  ERA of 1.08 when the Yankees beat the Nationals last Friday. Hughes appears to have improved on his pitch mechanics and the velocity of his fastball. He also seems to be using his changeup more as a strikeout pitch, which is reminiscent of his stellar campaign in 2010. If he continues to pitch well, I don't see how the Yankees will justify putting him in the bullpen.

Which leads to my opinion that the 5th spot in the rotation could be a juggling act for Girardi. He's already said that the team has no plans of employing a 6-man rotation, and it wouldn't look good for the Yankees if Pineda, with all the hype surrounding his trade, were to lose his spot to Garcia. Girardi may have to consider the PR aspect of his decision, and opt to make the 5th spot a platoon position. I could be reaching on this, but it is feasible. We'll have to wait and see how it all plays out once Andy takes the mound.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

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