The New York Yankees have two spots open in the rotation. But all of the starters in competition are giving the team a good dilemma.
Prior to Spring Training, New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi stated the main competition in camp would be the final two spots in a rotation that contains ace Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda.
But as the starters go through their second go-round in the rotation competition, the Yankees have a problem that every camp wished they had: all of their starters in the battle are shutting down the opposition.
Luis Cessa, Luis Severino, Bryan Mitchell, Adam Warren and Chad Green all pitched well in the first go-around, and prior to Cessa’s second start against the Boston Red Sox, the starters pitched 10 scoreless innings.
“The first time through everyone has been good and that’s what you want to see,’’ Girardi said to the New York Post on Tuesday prior to the Yankees split-squad. “Hopefully their off-speed [pitches] will become sharper and they will get through lineups where they will have to face them twice to get a better evaluation of them using all their pitches. The first time through they all did their job.’’
It appears as though Girardi’s decision isn’t going to be easy.
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While Warren is an effective starter, his bullpen versatility could end up hurting his chances at a spot in the starting rotation. Whether the Yankees place Warren in the rotation or the bullpen, he’s going to have a set role in 2016. Not having a set role with the Chicago Cubs is what led to his ineffectiveness prior to being traded back to the Yankees.
Severino is in a slightly different boat than Warren. If Severino doesn’t make the rotation, the Yankees plan on starting him in Triple-A. Severino recently brought back his changeup after he predominantly threw the fastball and slider in 2016 — making him a two-pitch pitcher, which led to his struggles as a starter. If the changeup he brought back is here to stay, the 23-year old could bring the rotation to incredible heights.
Green, in order to have an out-pitch as a starter, began throwing a cutter in the middle of his season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In outings when Green used his cutter 18 percent of the time, he had a 2.86 ERA while striking out 29 batters in 22 innings. In starts when Green used his cutter less than 18 percent of the time, he pitched to a 5.86 ERA, according to Christian Kouroupakis of ESNY.
In his first start of the Spring, Green pitched two scoreless innings while allowing just one hit. While he mixed his fastball, slider and sinker, the difference maker was the cutter.
Mitchell is once again attempting to enter the starting rotation after a freak accident crushed his chances last Spring. Mitchell was named the fifth starter in the rotation last season, but he suffered a toe injury the final week of Spring Training. Despite the injury and a brief stint in the Yankees bullpen in the wake of his return, Mitchell has re-entered the rotation competition with a vengeance.
In his first two starts of the spring, he has won both games and hasn’t allowed a single hit. Mitchell is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in five innings of work including three strikeouts.
Cessa had experience pitching in the Yankees rotation late last season, going 4-4 with a 4.35 ERA in 70.1 IP. Cessa had a “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” start to Spring Training; in his first outing he allowed no runs in two innings, but allowed two runs on three hits in his second outing. In order for Cessa to have success as a starter, he has to rely on his fastball since his changeup doesn’t rack up as many strikeouts as the average pitcher’s changeup.
There are only four weeks left of Spring Training, and as of now, the winner of the competition is anyone’s guess but it looks like it’s time to buckle your seatbelts, Yankees’ fans. Because for the rest of Spring Training, you’re going to be in for a wild ride.