Fifth starter competition resumes for Yankees here in early-May

Stephen Dunn

After losing the fifth starter competition in Spring Training, both David Phelps and Vidal Nuno have another chance to prove they belong in the rotation.

Like most teams, the Yankees held a competition for the fifth starter spot during Spring Training. Michael Pineda was able to beat out David Phelps, Adam Warren, and Vidal Nuno as the team's fifth starter, and it appeared, in addition to CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Masahiro Tanaka, and Ivan Nova, that the Yankees would have a very formidable rotation. Unfortunately, injuries have happened to Nova and Pineda, and with the former out the rest of the year, the Yankees will need one of the losers of the original fifth starter competition to emerge as a viable rotation option the rest of the way.

One of the losers of the original fifth starter competition, Adam Warren, is presumably out of the running of this new fifth starter competition, considering he has settled in as an important late-inning option out the bullpen. Joe Girardi pretty much conformed as much, saying he views Warren as "our seventh-inning guy, and also a guy who I can use for more than three outs." Makes sense. Warren has done a very good job (1.40 ERA, 2.75 FIP) so far pitching important innings out of the bullpen.

That leaves Phelps and Nuno, both of whom are in the rotation, with Pineda (and Nova) currently on the disabled list, to battle out for the fifth spot. Phelps made his first start of the season on Monday and he did very well, holding the Angels to just one run on three hits, one walk, and three strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings and 87 pitches of work.

Nuno, on the other hand, hasn't had quite such luck. Following five scoreless innings in Tampa, Nuno has allowed three runs in 4 1/3 innings (72 pitches) against the Angels and four runs in 4 2/3 innings (80 pitches) against the Rays in each of his last two starts, respectively, while laboring towards the end in each of his starts. Nuno will get another shot to prove he still belongs in the rotation tonight against the Angels.

Phelps and Nuno aren't the only ones vying for rotation spots now and when Pineda returns, though. There's also Alfredo Aceves, who pitched 5 1/3 excellent innings in relief of an ineffective Sabathia last Sunday. Aceves, who hasn't been a reliable big league pitcher since 2011, is hardly an ideal option to fill a rotation spot, but desperate times can call for desperate measures. If Aceves can continue to pitch well in long-relief, he could find himself in the rotation before too long.

Coming into the season, the Yankees' starting rotation was supposed to be one of, if not the, team's biggest strengths. With Nova out for the rest of the year and Pineda out until at least June, however, the Yankees will have to scrap together what they have to fill out the rotation. But, when Pineda does eventually come back (assuming there are no setbacks with his recovery), they'll have to figure out who'll stay in the rotation as the team's fifth starter going forward. Even though guys like Phelps and Nuno lost the fifth starter competition during Spring Training, they now have new life to prove they belong in the rotation.

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