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With CC Sabathia Hurt, Thank Goodness for Hiroki Kuroda

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How strange it seems that if the playoffs opened today, Hiroki Kuroda would be the Game 1 starter. Yes, CC Sabathia says he's going to be back from the disabled list after the minimum possible stay, and there is apparently no structural damage to his arm, but as a cancer guy I can tell you firsthand that sometimes a doctor says, "Yeah, you have discomfort, but it probably doesn't mean anything. At worst we'll just watch it. One in a million times, it turns out to be something." A few days later, you find out you've won the wrong kind of lottery.

I've been there twice, and I'm hoping that does me in terms of moments of extreme luck, but with pitchers, once you start unwrapping surprise packages wrapped in pain, you never know where you will end up.

I was lukewarm the signing of Kuroda back over the winter, not because it was a risk, but rather because he was a 37-year-old control guy coming over from the National League and I would almost always rather see youth served. When a 37-year-old fades, he leaves you with nothing except memories, whereas if you tried to trade (say) Phil Hughes today, disappointment or not he would still bring back something.

At that time, it seemed as if the Yankees were well-stocked with young pitching of various stripes, any one of whom seemed like they might be ready to make substantial contributions in 2012. I was, if not totally wrong, then mostly wrong. Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos are no fun anymore. D.J. Mitchell is out of the organization. Adam Warren was annihilated in his one trial, and while that shouldn't mean very much, his minor league numbers are unimpressive, decent, but of the fifth-starter variety. Not much is going on at Double-A-Brett Marshall's road ERA of 3.49 is by no means bad, but makes one nervous about his surviving outside of Trenton.

The other hand consists of Warren, still viable as something-he wasn't so bad that his career should come to a screeching halt after one start (or two, like this guy)-and David Phelps, who will start tonight. Like Warren, Phelps is a pitcher who has a good fastball but whose secondary stuff probably makes him more suited for relieving. Then again, you never know-the same could have been said about Ivan Nova.

The Yankees have had a miserable year in terms of developing pitchers, and with the recent season-ending injury to Mason Williams, you might say that the minor-league season has not been one for the yearbooks. It's difficult to think of so snakebit a season, in which a team started with two pitchers in the Baseball America preseason top 100 and will finish the year with neither of them anywhere near it.

Sometimes what appears to be a roadblock to youth is a necessary expedient. Other times it is what you first thought it was. Kuroda may well prove to be the difference in the race given the strange shape of Yankees' pitching this year. Well, thank goodness for Kuroda, I guess, and we'll see what other improvisations will be necessary come October, or if Sabathia will come back on time or in top form.