The issue isn't trying to protect Joba Chamberlain's 23-year-old arm by limiting his innings. The Verducci Effect is a legitimate cause for concern. The issue is how the Yankees are trying to accomplish it.
Joba (8-4, 4.34 ERA) allowed seven runs on nine hits and three walks in four innings, including a five-run, 44-pitch fourth inning, and a Yankees comeback fell short in a 10-9 loss to the Rangers at Yankees Stadium Tuesday. New York's lead over Boston in the AL East was trimmed to six games.
That makes four straight poor starts for Joba since the Yankees began their plan of spacing out Joba's starts in attempt to limit his innings and have him available as a starter for the postseason.
The plan isn't working out so well.
He's allowed 19 runs on 27 hits and 15 walks over 20 innings, while striking out 17. That's on the heels of a three dominant starts coming out of the All-Star break, when he was able to get into a rhythm and carry that over from start to start.
But since the Yankees began starting Joba irregularly, he has had trouble with his command, struggled to put hitters away and has been rocked.
The plan, while it will limit Joba's innings, isn't helping him on the field and something needs to change. Maybe in three or four years, Joba will be able to handle pitching on longer rest, but he is still a kid and maturing. He still has a lot to learn, including how to handle time between starts.
But right now he can't do it, and the shame of it Tuesday was that after jumping out to a 4-0 lead on a two-run double by Hideki Matsui and a two-run homer by Jorge Posada in the first inning, the Yankees should have had an easy win.
But Joba just didn't have it, giving back two in the second before that disastrous five-run fourth. Still, when Robinson Cano homered in the bottom half, the score was 7-5. Some good relief pitching and the Yankees would have been in good shape.
But Chad Gaudin was no better than Joba, allowing three runs in 3-2/3 innings on three walks and seven hits, including homers by Nelson Cruz and Michael Young.
That proved all the more frustrating when the Yankees scored four runs in the ninth, and appeared to be in position to pull out the dramatic victory with runners on first and second and no one out after Cano's two-run single.
Joe Giradi then called on Nick Swisher to bunt. Unfortunately, Swisher failed to get the bunt down, popping up for the first out.
Girardi made the right call with the wrong person.
The proper play there is to bunt and move the runners to second and third, where the tying run can score on a fly out. Of course Melky Cabrera would have been walked to set up the force at home or double play, but that would also have brought the red-hot Derek Jeter to bat.
The problem is Swisher is not the right person to have bunt.
Look, I agree in theory at every major league should be able to bunt. It's the fundamentals.
The thing you have to remember about Swisher is that he grew up in the Oakland A's system, playing Moneyball-brand baseball, which absolutely does not believe in giving away outs with sacrifice bunts. As a result, it's likely Swisher never, ever learned how to lay down a bunt.
The mistake Girardi made was not in calling for the bunt, but in not calling on a pinch hitter to do it. If he wanted to keep Swish in the game, Girardi should have let him swing away.
And after Swisher's failure, Melky hit a line drive to short that was turned into a double play when pinch runner Jerry Hairston Jr. was beaten to the bag after first taking a step to third, putting a cap on the heart breaking loss.
But Joba's ineffectiveness is the primary reason the Yankees lost.
He is scheduled to start again Sunday on normal rest. My advice to the Yankees is to keep him on regular rest and when he gets to about 150 innings pitched for the season in about four starts, move him to the bullpen for the rest of the season.
I realize that means he might not be able to start in the playoffs, but here's the reality about the postseason: you don't need four good starters to make it to and win the World Series. It can be done with two -- as the 2003 Arizona Diamondbacks (Curt Schilling, Randy Johnson) proved -- and the Yankees have three very strong ones in CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte.
They can get through the three playoff starts the fourth starter would make with Gaudin. Heck, they won in 1996 with an utterly ineffective Kenny Rogers.
Stop messing with Joba's routine and just let him pitch.
Runners In Scoring Position
Since A-Rod's Return May 8
Vs. Red Sox
Wednesday vs. Rangers, 7:05 p.m., YES, ESPN2
Derek Holland (7-7, 4.72) vs. Pettitte (10-6, 4.25)
Pettitte got the win despite not pitching well in Boston Friday. Look for him to bounce back with a big effort to get the Yankees back on track.