(up to and including March 29)
During Spring Training, the Yankees pitchers went beyond expectations and (in some cases) lived up to the hype, leaving them looking well set for the new season. Here are those who have made the roster:
G=Games, W=Wins, L=Losses, IP=Innings Pitched, ERA=Earned Run Average
CC Sabathia (52) G 5, W 3, L 1, IP 21.0, ERA 1.29
It would have been a brave man indeed that would have predicted that Michael Pineda would have made the roster as a starter, when pitchers and catchers gathered in February. That Pineda has done that but also led the rotation in ERA in the springtime games speaks very well of him and must give huge new hope to a player who has not pitched a major league innings since he left Seattle for New York. The Yankees now seem to have got the best of that trade as Jesus Montero languishes in the Minors but it will be several months before I’m persuaded that Pineda has what it takes to continue in the rotation.
Masahiro Tanaka had the opposite problem. The 25 year-old from Japan carried a huge burden of expectation on his shoulders when he arrived in Tampa. This led to cautious statements from Cashman and Girardi as they sought to deflect some of the attention. Tanaka is, however, living up to his press, so far. Those words “so far” are the key ones because it is likely to be the second half of the regular season before we really understand what he might have to offer. Once the major league hitters get to see his main pitches a second time, we’ll know more – but so far, so good.
CC Sabathia has us feeling more optimistic than he did a year ago. He is much closer to coming to terms with his loss of velocity than he was last year and he now sees his changeup as the pitch which must see him through. We hope it will.
Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova have had rocky springs with some good games and some not so impressive. The pundits say Kuroda is too old and that Nova lacks experience. We’ll see. The chances are that they’ll both make it through. If Tanaka can cut it and Pineda gives us more than we’re daring to hope for, we don’t need to over-rely on them and that feels about right.
Dellin Betances (68) G 10, W 0, L 0, IP 12.1 ERA 0.73
Going into Spring Training, the Yankees had a four-way race for the fifth starter’s spot with David Phelps looking the favourite, Vidal Nuno next best and Michael Pineda and Adam Warren being the outsiders. As it came out, Pineda won the contest, as we have seen. Somewhat surprisingly all the other three have made the final roster which gives the Yankees plenty of pitchers wanting a lot of innings – particularly if the starters do well. This is a nice problem to have but it does leave lots of questions to ask about who pitches where and how they avoid arms getting rusty. Not everyone can be used in long relief (unless the season begins disastrously) and there are a lot of pitchers who are used to a minimum of two or three innings.
Robertson is the heir apparent to Mariano Rivera’s role and will begin as closer. He has had an exemplary spring. Thornton and Kelley are likely to be the 8th innings guys. Thornton has struggled in pre-season and needs to prove himself. Kelley hasn’t always done well but his good appearances have well out-numbered the difficult ones – which is kinda like it was for him last season in the majors. Betances is worth his spot having had a very good time in the Grapefruit League but he will be battling for time with the aforementioned would-be starters.
Part of the problem is that some of those who might have made the team crashed-and-burned quite badly. For example, Preston Claiborne, having started pre-season quite well, got worse and worse as the spring went along, until it didn’t seem that he could get anybody out at all. On the other hand, it is difficult to see what more leftie-reliever Cesar Cabral could have done to make the team. He has the southpaw action and didn’t give up a single run in the warm-up games. It seems hard on a guy who did well when called on at the end of last season too. Nuno and Thornton are now the only lefthanders on the roster so Nuno may well be used in a specialist role. Only time will tell how that will go.
All things considered it looks like an interesting and entertaining season is in prospect for Yankees fans with more than a chance that they will win something or at least progress to the playoffs.
We’ll have our usual surveys to keep you abreast of the trends, the strengths and the weaknesses. Look out for our column…….