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About that 5th slot ...

My colleague 'jscape' wondered Monday if Phil Hughes has a chance to unseat Joba Chamberlain as the New York Yankees No. 5 starting pitcher coming out of Spring Training.

In a word, no. Not gonna happen. As 'jscape' mentioned, I too have seen this subject broached by a handful of writers. It's hogwash! Probably simple case-building by those who won't let go of the argument that the Yankees are making a mistake by not keeping Chamberlain in the bullpen.

'Jscape' mentioned this spring's stats as an indicator of which young pitcher should be in the rotation. Honestly, those numbers don't mean a thing.

Here are the numbers that matter.

Wins Losses ERA WHIP
Chamberlain 6 3 2.17 1.158
Hughes 5 7 5.15 1.416

Those are the overall career stats compiled by the two in their brief major-league careers. Toss in the fact that Chamberlain was 3-1, 2.76 with 74 strikeouts in 65 innings as a starter last season, and one fact is obvious -- Chamberlain has earned a slot in the Yankee rotation and Hughes has not. No matter what happens in a handful of spring innings.

Fact is, I am as a big a Hughes fan as there is. I think he will be a terrific major-league pitcher. I believe he arrived in the Bronx too soon and had too much expected of him right away. Let's not forget he began last season as the youngest starting pitching in the big leagues.

Hughes will be fine. And he likely will pitch lots of meaningful games in the Bronx this season. Triple A Scranton-Wilkes Barre is the best place for him to start the season, though. Let's not forget that due to injuries Hughes has actually pitched very little the past two seasons (he only logged 34 big-league innings in 2008).

Spending some time in Scranton where he can refine his change up, work on his command and build some confidence will, I believe, end up helping Hughes immensely.

So, what was that about a 'battle' for the 5th slot?