Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Tough Spot

Chien-Ming Wang's shoulder strain and bursitis has the Yankees in a tough spot.

They got a little good news in that with a little rest and rehab, Wang should be able to return in about a month.

Now Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi have to figure out what to do with that spot in the rotation.

On the surface, the solution would seem simple. Move Phil Hughes back into the rotation. Or Alfredo Aceves. Or Brett Tomko. Hughes clearly being the best option of the three.

Unfortunately, things are not that simple, especially in the case of Hughes.

Let's set aside the issue of weakening a bullpen that is finally pitching brilliantly. The Yankees would be able to get by for a month if they took one of those guys out. That's not the issue.

The issue is health, particularly Hughes'.

None of these guys are stretched out and likely wouldn't be able to go more than three innings right now.

That's important considering the initial diagnosis on Wang and with the All-Star break a week away, that spot in the rotation will come up just once in the next two weeks.

That means by the time Hughes, Aceves or Tomko get stretched out, they'd get to make two-to-four full starts before returning the pen -- assuming Wang's recovery goes as planned.

Meanwhile, the pen would be stressed in the three or four starts in would take those guys to get stretched out.

And that's dangerous to these guys' health, especially in Hughes' case. He's only 22 and statistical analysis tells us that even at that age, his arm is still developing and maturing. Moving Hughes back and forth between the bullpen and rotation increases the risks of him sustaining and injury. And given his potential, the Yankees are going to be overly protective.

If Wang was done for the season, that would be a different story. Then it would be a no-brainer to move Hughes to the rotation. He would be there for the remaining three months of the season and would be a better option than anything else the Yankees could find, even on the trade market.

So what are the Yankees options?

Well with Ian Kennedy out because of an aneurysm in his shoulder, it seems, right now, there are two -- an one will make Yankees fans scream.

  • Option 1) Sergio Mitre. Mitre is at Triple A Scranton and just completed a 50-game suspension for using PEDs. In five starts there, he's 2-1 with a 3.26 REA and 1.05 WHIP in 30-1/3 innings. He's struck out 23 and walked just three. He lost his last outing on July 2, allowing three runs on six hits in 5-1/3 innings. He also has some major league experience with the Cubs and Marlins going 10-23 with a 4.94 ERA. His best season was in 2007 with the Marlins, going 5-8 with a 4.65 ERA.


  • Option 2) Sitting Yankee fans? Kei Igawa. He's 6-3 with 3.80 ERA at Scranton. Of course, he's allowed 14 homers, which tells you he's still pitching up in the strike zone and would get absolutely killed at Yankee Stadium.
Prospect George Kontos is on the DL and Ivan Nova was just promoted to Triple A. I also find it unlikely the Yankees will dip down to Double A to find a pitcher. The last time they did that? Well, raise your hands if you remember Chase Wright.

The Yankees don't have great options here, but the safe money says the Yankees go with Mitre and hope they find another Aaron Small.

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