What appeared to be a complete arsenal of starting pitchers heading into the season looks a bit different after three weeks.
If you haven't heard by now, you're likely living under a rock. Michael Pineda, the crowned jewel youngster from the Seattle Mariners, will not be donning the pinstripes in 2012 after doctors discovered a torn labrum in his right shoulder.
Surgery on a pitcher's arm is obviously never a desirable situation to be in. Examples of a few recent pitchers that have undergone surgery on a torn labrum include Kerry Wood, Brandon Webb, Erik Bedard and Ted Lilly, two of whom (Wood and Lilly) actually pitched for the Yankees at one point in their careers. The results are mixed, with Lilly leading the major leagues in ERA at the moment in 2012, Wood and Bedard fluctuating between great and awful (Wood in the 'pen, Bedard in the rotation), and Webb never regaining his stuff.
So will we ever see the 2011 version of Pineda again? Time will tell, as we likely won't see him for another 12 months. In the meantime, the Yankees don't have nearly as much flexibility in their decision making in regards to the rotation as we once thought.
Right now, the Yankee rotation looks like the following: CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, Freddy Garcia. Andy Pettitte is finishing up his minor league stints, pitching five innings yesterday for Double-A Trenton Thunder, and is well on his way to a Bronx return.
At this point, I think it's safe to assume that Ivan Nova won't be making any trips back down to the minors. Thanks to terrific run support and mostly stellar pitching, the Yankees have awarded Nova with 16 consecutive wins.
So, that boils the decision down to Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes, both of whom have struggled early on this season.
Hughes: 4 starts, 16 innings pitched, 24 hits, 18 runs, 14 earned runs, 5 home runs, 6 walks, 17 strikeouts, 7.88 ERA.
Garcia: 3 starts, 12 innings pitched, 20 hits, 14 runs, 13 earned runs, 2 home runs, 3 walks, 8 strikeouts, 9.75 ERA.
I think we can all agree that averaging four innings per start will not cut it. There are only a few plausible situations I can see occurring once Pettitte returns:
1) Garcia to the bullpen as a long reliever while Hughes remains in the rotation.
2) Hughes banished to the bullpen forever while Garcia continues to start games.
3) Garcia DFA'd.
4) If Garcia were to be released and Hughes moved to the bullpen, perhaps an open tryout that would include David Phelps for a rotation spot? Unlikely, but possible.
There's an outside chance the Yankees get desperate down the stretch and make a move at Roy Oswalt, but I wouldn't hold my breath on that and it wouldn't happen until June at the earliest.
What are your thoughts, Pinstripe Alley?