The Shift Begins

If you were wondering why Joba pitched two innnings in a blowout, the Yankees announced after the game that it was because he is starting the transition to a starting pitcher.  Smartly, the Yankees are going to do this in the majors and not waste any of Joba’s innings in the minors.  My question is, how will this process work?  

Girardi seemed to give some hints in his remarks after the game.  He said that the process was similar to spring training and usually pitchers threw about 35 pitches in their first start of the spring.  But, when pressed to compare Joba’s transition to the typical four-week schedule a starter would go through in spring, he refused to commit to that timeframe.  

So, Joba is going to get stretched out and do it over at least four weeks and probably more.  I would suspect looking at the calendar that this means he moves to the rotation around July 1st which means there would be just under half the season left ont he schedule.  Let’s assume Joba throws about 30 innings getting ready and that means he has around 90 left in the tank and that would put him at an average of 6 per start over the second half.

Of course there are a couple of questions that need to be answered.  First and foremost, who takes over the 8th inning as Joba moves to this new role?  I have a feeling that it will be the 2008 version of Joba and his name is going to be either Melancon or Cox.  Cox has made it to AAA and Melancon is in AA.  Of the two, Melancon is the better prospect and he has been mentioned as a closer of the future, so it wouldn’t shock me to see him setting up Rivera as soon as August.  Cox closed for the University of Texas when they won the CWS, so he has handled pressure before. 

The other big questions are how will the Yankees get Joba the work he needs and who’s spot does he take in the rotation?  Considering the state of the rotation, I am not too worried about the latter question, that will work itself out, but the first is hard to figure out.  If Joba needs to pitch three innnings on a certain day would the Yankees lift a starter who is cruising along with a very low pitch count?  How do you guarantee that he will even get in his work?  It is going to be an interesting experiment and I don’t know what the answers are, but the Yankees are doing the right thing for the future.  Joba belongs in the rotation and we will see that become a reality soon.