Friday, March 11, 2011

Spring Training Spotlight: New York Yankees

There was a time, just after the 2010 World Series ended, that the New York Yankees believed they were going to be set up for a 2011 World Series run. Now, this happens every year--having the highest payroll in baseball, not to mention more championships than any other professional team in American history, tends to keep expectations high. Andy Pettitte (right), who had gone from one of the Yankee's best young pitchers to one of their most consistent veterans over the course of his 16-year career, was sure to be coming back for a final season in 2011. Add in the fact that Cliff Lee, 2009 American League Cy Young award winner, was about to become a free agent looking for a huge contract, and Yankees fans could nearly taste a (potentially final) title with the Jeter/Rodriguez/Posada combination. But, obviously, things didn't quite work out--Lee signed with the Phillies, and Pettitte decided to call it quits--leaving the Yanks with an obvious hole in their rotation.

Similar to the situation in St. Louis, there are three pitchers with a locked-up spot in the rotation: CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, and Phil Hughes. The fight for the last two spots is certainly an interesting competition, pitting two veterans looking for another chance to prove they can still pitch (Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia) against a career spot starter/long reliever (Sergio Mitre) and a 23-year-old who the Yankees hope will turn out to be a decent starter (Ivan Nova). The 37-year-old Colon (left), who the Yankees signed to a minor-league contract in January, hasn't really had a relevant season since 2005 with the Angels (21-8, 3.48 ERA, and a Cy Young), and hasn't pitched in the majors at all since 2009. Garcia had a decent record with the White Sox last year, going 12-6 but sporting a not-so-nice 4.64 ERA + 1.38 WHIP, and he will be turning 36 this year. So far the two have put up decent numbers, with Garcia throwing 5 shutout innings in his first two starts while Colon has a 3.00 spring ERA (9 innings, 8 hits, 3 runs). As well as the older guys have pitched thus far, it's not as if the other contenders for the rotation spots have given them any wiggle room. Nova and Mitre have both thrown 5 innings in their first two starts, and neither of them has allowed a run OR a walk, combining to strike out 6. Until one (or two) of these pitchers starts to slip, manager Joe Giradi is going to have a tough decision as to who the back end of his rotation will feature come April.

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