Last season the Yankees came into camp with CC Sabathia and a bunch of question marks in the rotation. This year it at least seems more settled, but that doesn’t mean the rotation isn’t without questions. So here it is, six starters and six questions:
CAN CC MAINTAIN HIS WEIGHT? CC showed up to camp slimmer last season, but he wasn’t able to maintain that through the season and there were questions of whether it contributed to his poor performance down the stretch. In his final nine starts he had a 4.30 ERA and of course he had a 6.23 ERA in two playoff starts, walking eight batters in 8.2 innings.
Sabathia has one again shown up to camp skinnier this preseason, but now we are left to wonder if he will be able to maintain that. For what it’s worth, he has vowed that he will keep up with his routine all season.
CAN KURODA ADAPT TO THE BRONX? Hiroki Kuroda had it made in Los Angeles, pitching in a spacious park while facing the poor Giants, Padres, and Diamondback offenses often. Now he has to deal with the more intense New York media while facing the Red Sox, Rays, and Blue Jays more often in a much smaller ball park.
Kuroda told reporters that he came here because he wanted to win a championship and said he is fully aware of the hitters in the AL East. Now we just have to see if he can handle it.
WHO IS THE REAL PINEDA? Michael Pineda made a huge splash starting off last season with a 2.58 ERA, a 8.83 K/9 and a 2.83 BB/9 in his first 17 starts. After that, he had a 5.71 ERA, a 9.57 K/9 and a 3.0 BB/9 in 11 starts. Which is the real Pineda? Was it just the wear of pitching in his first major league season or is it a sign he was overachieving in the first half?
A big determining factor in this could be in Pineda’s changeup. He was primarily a two pitch pitcher last season, but is working with pitching coach Larry Rothschild on developing his change. Perhaps if a lack of a third pitch contributed to his struggles down the stretch than adding the pitch could help him return to his earlier form.
WAS NOVA A FLUKE? Ivan Nova was a great surprise last season, especially toward the end of season putting up a 3.09 ERA in 12 his last 12 starts, but he was never expected to exceed this well and his pedestrian K/9 of 5.3 and 4.01 FIP suggests that he might have been getting lucky.
His healthy groundball percentage of 52.7 last season gets overlooked and partially makes up for the low K/9. He also developed a slider midway through the year last season that ended up being his best pitch. Also, while he was never expected to be a big prospect, scouts always praised his exceptional poise which could be something that has helped him make the jump to the majors that most minor leaguers can’t handle.
IS HUGHES A BUST? Phil Hughes‘ 18-8 record in 2010 tricked everyone into ignoring his 5.07 ERA in his final 16 starts that year. Last season was a disaster as he only made 14 starts, putting up a 5.79 ERA and now it seems like a lifetime ago since there were any positive results.
Nobody benefited more than Hughes in the Burnett trade though as he has a real shot to make the rotation now. Hughes also reportedly lost about 20 pounds this offseason as he intensified his workouts. Can his re-dedication to conditioning save his career?
WHO WILL BE THE NO. 5 STARTER? At this point Freddy Garcia may have the least question marks of any pitcher of the six, what you see is what you get and he’s the No. 5 in the rotation than the Yankees are in good shape. However, that doesn’t mean he’s a lock to get the final spot. The reason is because Hughes’ success effects the club in the longterm, not just in 2012 so they may prefer to go with Hughes as the No. 5 instead.
Garcia told Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com that he has no regrets re-signing with the Yankees and in all honesty it would be amazing if all six starters made it to April with no injuries and 100 percent ready to go. Even if the “loser” of this group heads to the bullpen to start it might be sooner rather than later before the sixth becomes the fifth.