Wednesday, April 1

Yankees Rotation Set, Joba Questions Remain

Just as the Sox shored up their starting rotation sending Clay Buchholz down to Pawtucket this week, the Yankees made a similarly expected move with Phil Hughes. It wasn't much of a spring competition, but any doubts about where Joba will start the season now appear to be answered. The Yankees opening 5 will be, in order of appearance, CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettite, and Joba Chamberlain.

Not bad, but that doesn't mean the questions aren't still swirling around Joba, who had his first encouraging start of the spring only yesterday. Joba went 5 and 1/3, throwing 87 pitches, 53 for strikes.

More important, though, was the increased velocity. Yesterday, he was generally in the 90-96 range, working his way up as the innings went on, but losing his accuracy before getting bounced in the fifth. This is a significant improvement over the majority of the spring, when he has generously been clocked in the high 80's, only occasionally breaking 90. But, scouts watching the game still had their questions about arm strength. Granted it's March, but word was he got noticeably tired after 65-70 pitches. The Yankees are reportedly going to limit him to 140 innings over the season.

The rest of the staff has looked strong throughout the spring. Wang hasn't been his usual efficient self in each start, but there doesn't seem to be too much concern. Pettitte has had his usual outings and will likely be a very strong 4th starter. All in all, the Yankees are optimistic about their rotation, even if some within the organization are still questioning whether Joba belongs in the rotation, rather than the pen. That move might still not be foreclosed, as Hughes had some encouraging spots this spring and looks like he could fill in as a good option in the 5th position.

The question remains, though: with Joba's velocity and arm stregth in question, Wang battling back to form, and injuries still a concern for AJ Burnett (nevermind the aging Pettitte, how does this rotation stack up against the Rays and Sox? Every sports writer in NY seems to have accepted the company line that the Yankees have the premier rotation in the league, but so far I'm just not seeing it. Time will tell.

Further note---Melky has lost his spot in center. That guy just can't buy a break.


Anonymous said...

Gotta say, I didn't know Joba was having trying dialing it up.

If Joba makes 30 starts and they Yanks want to keep him to 140 innings, that math works out to 4.6 innings per start. That's worse the Dice K.

Joe Murph said...

Yeah, the improbable math seems to be an issue to his teammates, too. Posada has sounded a little annoyed, even, at how preciously they're dealing with him, and has been quoted saying that he better not plan on leaving with one out in the middle of the 5th every start.

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