Word is that the Yankees have decided that Phil Hughes will be in the rotation. This is not a shock because Phil Hughes has been considered a special prospect by the Yankees since they drafted him.
The problem is, we still don’t know if the Yankees are right or wrong about him. In 2009 and the first half of 2010, it looked like they were right. In the second half of 2010 and 2011, it looked like they are wrong. Still, it’s worth remembering that he is still only 25 and he has shown flashed of brilliance in his career. This will be the year he either justifies the expectations or dashes them.
Meanwhile, the Yankees officially announced that Hiroki Kuroda will start the second game of the season. Again, not a shock because it doesn’t really mean that much and he is the only other guy officially in the rotation right now.
But, assuming the Hughes news is correct, the Yankees still have three guy for two spots. (Let’s leave Andy Pettitte aside for now because he threw 35 pitches to live hitters today and has a long way to go before he is a rotation candidate.) I think you would have to assume Pineda is in the rotation. All the nonsense about his fastball speed has obscured the fact that he has pitched pretty well this spring. Even if he hadn’t, I think he was in the rotation either way.
That leaves the final spot for either Nova or Garcia. (Again, forget about Pettitte for now). Here are the four different ways I could see this playing out from most likely to least likely.
1- Garcia gets traded and Nova enters the rotation
2- Garcia gets put in the rotation and Nova in the bullpen
3- Nova gets the rotation spot and Garcia is in the bullpen
4- Garcia gets the rotation spot and Nova gets sent to the minors.
I just don’t see the Yankees putting Garcia in the bullpen. He has always been a starter and if he sticks with the team I think he gets the nod. But, I think the most likely scenario is that the Yankees trade him. This will probably depend on Pettitte’s progress, but if the Yankees feel comfortable with Pettitte, then they almost certainly trade Garcia. However, I don’t think they will only trade him for a useful piece in 2012, so we might see Garcia break camp with the Yankees.
So, if I had to guess here is how I see the Yankees breaking camp pitching-wise. A rotation of CC, Kuroda, Hughes, Pineda and Garcia with a bullpen of Rivera, Robertson, Soriano, Logan, Nova, Wade and Cabral.
I think the Yankees break camp with two lefties. Clay Rapada has pitched well this spring as well, but the Yankees will lose Cabral if they don’t bring him north. He has pitched well this spring, so I would guess he gets a shot.
Finally, keep an eye on Adam Warren. I put Corey Wade in my bullpen mix, but he hasn’t pitched well this spring. Warren would normally be part of a stacked rotation in Scranton, but I could see the Yankees bringing him up and using him in relief because of all the other guys down there who could step into the rotation if an injury strikes.
The season actually starts tomorrow in Japan and the Yankees open on April 6th. Meaningful games are on the way!