Via George King –
Can a bullpen session in late August be considered crucial? When it involves Andy Pettitte’s cranky left groin the answer is a very loud yes.
If Pettitte passes a bullpen test tomorrow in Chicago, the Yankees can start planning on when the veteran lefty will return from the disabled list. If the groin doesn’t allow Pettitte to push off the rubber? How about a dark October?
“I think it will be a good indication,” manager Joe Girardi said of what Pettitte is able to do in the 20- to 25-pitch session. “If he is able to push off [it will be good]. If not, that would be a pretty big setback.”
Try a killer setback.
The Yankees’ rotation is led by AL Cy Young favorite CC Sabathia and has serious questions throughout the next four slots.
Phil Hughes, last night’s starter and loser against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, is 15-6 with a 4.12 ERA but is working on an innings limit believed to be in the 170-175 range. He is at 144 1/3.
A.J. Burnett (9-11, 4.80) has been up and down all year. Dustin Moseley is 4-2 filling in for Pettitte, but the right-hander survives on location instead of velocity, and pitchers like him have to be sharp or they get hit.
Ivan Nova, who will start in the struggling Javier Vazquez’s spot Sunday against the White Sox, will make his second big league start. Nova was very good Monday night in a 3-2 loss to the Blue Jays, but relying on a neophyte down the stretch is risky business.
The current state of the Yankees’ rotation has many baseball executives believing the Yankees will make a play for Dodger Hiroki Kuroda, who is on trade waivers that expire today.
“The way he has been throwing lately he is better than A.J. Burnett,” an NL talent evaluator said of the 35-year-old Kuroda, who is 8-11 with a 3.48 ERA and owed about $2.5 million for the remainder of the season.
As this all starts to shake out, it’s appearing as if Brian Cashman made some critical mistakes with his starting pitching plans this year – counting on the following:
1. Andy Pettitte to avoid injury all season, at his age.
2. A.J. Burnett to pitch like he’s being paid to – meaning like a quality “3rd starter” in a rotation.
3. Javier Vazquez to pitch like he did in 2009 rather than like he did in 2004.
4. Phil Hughes being able to step up and pass Burnett and/or Vazquez in the rotation pecking order, should the need arise, and be a horse in the rotation.
Now, I know that some may say that no one could have predicted Pettitte’s injury, or should have, even with his age, because he’s been a durable pitcher. And, some may say that Cashman wasn’t counting on Vazquez and Hughes to do anything more than what anyone would get from your 4th and 5th starters – and that the combination of their stats meets those expectations.
O.K., if you want to play those cards, I will allow them. However, the matter on A.J. Burnett stands. After having Burnett in house for a year, and seeing what he was all about, the Yankees should have acquired a front-end starting pitcher, either before the season or during this one, to push Burnett into the back-end of the rotation and have another “stud” on the front-end to pair with Sabathia.
Pettitte, before he got hurt, was pitching like that “stud” and it was a blessing – but, now, as King notes, it’s cross your fingers time to see if he can get back to that.