If Mike Francesa is correct, the Yankees' starting rotation is about to become even dicier. The Yankees have seemingly felt fine proceeding with their current up-and-down rotation through the trade deadline due to the high prices on premium arms like Johnny Cueto and David Price, but their stance will now be tested. On his WFAN show, Francesa reported that top starter Michael Pineda has "an elbow problem," that "he might be badly hurt," and that he will not pitch tonight against the Rangers.
Additionally, Francesa said that Ivan Nova, pitching his first full month since returning from Tommy John surgery, is "hurting" as well. That report was later contradicted by Mark Feinsand, who tweeted that Nova's health was not a concern and that he would make his next start. So the higher concern goes to Pineda, the Yankees' top starter in the first half. The news only got worse about his elbow:
Source with knowledge of situation says that Michael Pineda will not start tonight because he is suffering from tightness in his forearm— Marly Rivera ~ ESPN (@MarlyRiveraESPN) July 30, 2015
Oh. Well that's just swell! The Yankees went through the whole fun of "forearm tightness" with Nova and Masahiro Tanaka last year, so that's just a lovely sign. As more news slowly leaks out, fans can only hope that it's just mild and nothing that would require an ominous visit to Dr. James Andrews or anything like that. Shortly after Marly Rivera's tweet, Joel Sherman dropped a slightly more encouraging note that perhaps it isn't as bad as feared:
Still working to talk to more people, but told by #Yankees exec Pineda dealing with forearm muscle strain not elbow, not considered serious— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) July 30, 2015
In the interim, the Yankees will reportedly turn to Bryan Mitchell to come up and take Pineda's start tonight. (He was woken up at 2:00 this morning and told to fly to Texas, how fun.) Beyond that? Who knows. Mitchell might stay in the rotation, but the Yankees also still have until 4:00pm EST tomorrow to finish up a trade which may or may not have been in the works. Some beat writers have tossed names around like James Shields, Mike Leake, and Tyson Ross, who likely wouldn't command the Aaron Judge/Luis Severino-led package Price or Cueto would have demanded.
Of course, there's also the simple solution of calling Severino up to take Pineda's spot. The top pitching prospect has simply dominated Triple-A and Double-A batters this year, so this could be a great opportunity to see what he could do at a more challenging level and potentially help the Yankees right now. Adam Warren could also return from the bullpen to take a spot if the Yankees feel comfortable with his innings, as he certainly had success there earlier in 2015.
Regardless of their plans with the pitching prospects, the pressure will now be on the Yankees to make a move of some kind prior to the deadline, whether it's a starter from another team, or a shift of one of their own pitchers to the rotation. Here's hoping Pineda isn't too hurt and there isn't too much chaos. Don't panic.
Pineda has Grade 1 forearm strain. Same as Miller, who missed a month. Being put on DL, but #Yankees feel he will pitch again this yr— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) July 30, 2015
Well, that could be a lot worse, I suppose. Maybe Severino takes that month of starts to finish out his season around his innings limit (he has about 50 left), and then best-case has Pineda returning in September. Also, Mitchell will only be a long reliever tonight since CC Sabathia can start on regular rest. Since he got so little sleep, maybe that's for the best.