The Yankees' rotation is injury prone. The rotation will (fingers crossed) consist of Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, and Chris Capuano to start out the season, with Ivan Nova on track to rejoin the team in June. Because of the risky nature of the rotation, pitching coach Larry Rothschild has floated the idea of having a six man rotation to start the season off, which would theoretically last until the end of May, a month with only two off-days for the Yankees. Between April 17th and May 17th, they play 30 games in 31 days.
For teams that don't play in Washington DC, finding five starters is hard enough. Knowing the state of affairs, the fact that the Yankees did not take a flyer on someone like Brett Anderson, Justin Masterson, or even Chad Billingsley as a stopgap is a head scratcher. But the past is the past, and if the Yankees want a six-man rotation, they would presumably have to choose between Esmil Rogers, Adam Warren, and Bryan Mitchell to round the rotation out.
Esmil Rogers has logged more major league starts than the other two combined, by a margin of 43 to four. The biggest obstacle facing Rogers is the left-handed batter's box, as lefties have put up an .864 OPS against him throughout his career, according to FanGraphs. He also probably knows he can't get lefties out, averaging 4.91 BB/9 against lefties, compared to 2.32 BB/9 against righties. Then again, most pitchers would not give lefties anything to hit if hitters had an MVP-caliber 1.014 OPS against their changeup. If Rogers wants to start, or secure a spot on the roster for that matter, he will have to develop an out-pitch for lefties.
Adam Warren's 2014 season is both a gift and a curse for his chances to make the rotation in 2015. After pitching to a 2.97 ERA in 78 2/3 innings out of the bullpen, he has the whole "if it ain't broke don't fix it" thing going against him. He also experienced an increase in velocity across the board in 2014. Whether the Yankees think this is due to mechanical changes or simply knowing that he did not have to throw 100 pitches per outing will certainly factor into the decision of what to do with Warren.
One factor that works in his favor is his full arsenal of pitches. Unlike Rogers, Warren throws a changeup, but at times was too reliant upon his change to get lefties out. As hitters adjusted, he had to use his changeup less after May:
Looking at his month-by-month stats, his ERA spiked after May. When watching Warren in spring training, look for his curveball. If he can implement it more, he will not have to rely on his changeup too often and will not have to worry about hitters knowing what pitch is coming.
Bryan Mitchell probably has the highest ceiling out of the three, but is also the least advanced as a pitcher. He has a fastball that can touch the high 90s and a curveball that might be good enough to use against both lefties and righties. FanGraphs' Kiley McDaniel compared him to Baltimore's Chris Tillman, which Yankee fans could definitely get used to. Unfortunately, Mitchell has struggled with command, walking almost four batters per nine innings in the minors last season. The International League, home to the Triple-A Scranton RailRiders, is known to be pitcher-friendly. Yankee Stadium is not, especially to pitchers with command issues. Like Rogers, Mitchell is battling for a spot on the major league roster first and a spot in the rotation second. In order to punch his ticket to the Bronx, he will have to show the ability to limit walks in the Grapefruit League.
The cool thing about spring training is that players get the chance to experiment against MLB caliber talent without worrying about hurting the team. For Esmil Rogers, Adam Warren, and Bryan Mitchell, it is an opportunity to make that final adjustment and take their careers to the next level. If it means saving Masahiro Tanaka's elbow and CC Sabathia's knee while holding the fort down until Ivan Nova's return, all the more reason to be excited. Hopefully at least one of these three pitchers can take some of the pressure off of the other guys and help the Yankees save their energy for a playoff run.