According to various published reports, Yankee manager Joe Girardi has named Phil Hughes the Yankees’ fifth starter. Hughes emerges from a spring training competition which had included Alfredo Aceves, Sergio Mitre, Chad Gaudin and most notably Joba Chamberlain.
I have always like Hughes as a starter, dating back to his 7 inning no-hitter against Texas a few years back, which ended due to an injury. At the time, I remember thinking “this kid is putting it all together”.
So where does this leave the Yankee rotation and bullpen?
- Phil Hughes - Hughes will get the chance to live up to the potential which made him a hugely touted prospect. He was invaluable in the set up role for Mariano Rivera last season, but this role seems destined for Joba. The official reasoning from the manager: ”We evaluated the whole spring,” Girardi said. “I’m very excited with the improvement in [Hughes'] changeup. To me, that made a big difference in who he is. Our decision is for him to be the fifth starter, and all the other guys are competing to be in the bullpen.” I cant help but think that Hughes’ performance in the postseason (including an unsightly 16.2 ERA in the World Series) helped make the decision to take him out of the bullpen easier.
- Joba Chamberlain -The Joba Rules have apparently been for naught. All the back and forth about limiting innings, and pitch counts…etc didn’t amount to anything. Strange moves by the Yankees in retrospect, but also probably the most prudent. When the Yankees traded for Javy Vazquez this offseason and re-signed Andy Pettite, there was only one open spot in the rotation. Girardi made the spring competition an open one, with all 5 candidates up for the spot. Hughes is the winner, which means Joba is back in the 8th inning role. This is where he has dazzled in the past, and his 1.50 ERA and 79 Ks in 60 IP make him an excellent candidate for this spot. His fastball is faster when he can come out blazing, and that makes his other pitches nasty. Joba could easily become the heir apparent to Mariano, whenever Rivera decides to hang it up.
- Alfredo Aceves -Early returns showed Alfredo Aceves outpacing both Hughes and Chamberlain, but realistically he seems more suited for long relief, and spot starts. He picked up double digit wins out of the pen last season, and has an arm which seems to get ready quickly.
- Sergio Mitre- Should remain a bullpen pitcher and long reliever.
- Chad Gaudin- Was released by the team.
I can’t say I disagree with the Yankees’ decision in the Spring. However, it does make all the Joba Rules nonsense look silly.