The interesting case of A.J. Burnett is now solved. He has been traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates. While this isn’t what was planned to happen after Burnett signed a five-year 83 million dollar contact in the winter of 2008, his troubles with the Yankees are now behind him.
The next question now is how does the Yankees rotation look as Spring Training starts up? Let’s first take a lot at the possible starters and then how the rotation may shake out.
Starting Candidates: CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda, Phil Hughes, Freddy Garcia, Hiroki Kuroda.
Every one of these pitchers have showed at one point or another that they can compete with the best of them but for some, that may be the only complement that can be given out. In my opinion, the bubble starters are Freddy Garcia, Hiroki Kuroda, and Phil Hughes, but once the Spring Training games start up and the real competition begins, players may shine and they may falter.
My projected starting rotation:
C.C. Sabathia- This shouldn’t come as a surprise at all considering Sabathia was 19-8 on the year with a solid 3.00 ERA and 3 complete games. He was a workhorse for the Yankees team in 2011 and barring injury we could very well see the same from him this season.
Ivan Nova- The kid was just brilliant last regular season, going 16-4 in 165 innings pitched and also posting a solid 3.70 ERA. His effectiveness was key in the Yankees success down the stretch and even though he ended up as the losing pitcher in the clinching game of the ALDS last season, he is a very bright, young talent.
Michael Pineda- Speaking of bright, young talents, Michael Pineda can be a potential gem. The 6-foot-7 right-hander only posted a 9-10 record last year, in his first year in the show but has the makings of being a big apple star. His fastball topped out at 99 MPH last season and only averaged 3 tenths of a mile per hour slower than Justin Verlander’s fastball last season. One Mariners scout told me that he thinks that Pineda can be just as good as his former rotation-mate, Felix Hernandez.
Hiroki Kuroda- The former Japanese league star and Dodgers number 2 starter was signed by the Yankees in January to a one-year ten-million dollar contact and he looks to be an integral part in the rotation this season. The 37 year-old right-hander was only 13-16 with the Dodgers last season but had an ERA of 3.07. In his four seasons in L.A., he averaged a solid ERA of 3.45.
Phil Hughes- The question of the final spot in the rotation is still up for grabs but right now, I see Phil Hughes gaining the 5th spot. That being said, Freddy Garcia can very well take over that fifth position in the starting rotation if Phil Hughes doesn’t perform to what is expected. Hughes had a very tumultuous season last year with the Bombers after going 18-8 in the 2010 season. Last year, Hughes’ troubles were well documented, going 5-5 and being plagued by what was described by doctors as a “dead arm”. He is back in camp though, in extraordinary shape and has added more muscle his body, trying to become more effective than he was last year.
This is the rotation the way I see it, but expect changes to come as the season lurks nearer. As always, it should be a fantastic spring training and start of the regular season.