Monday, March 16, 2015


Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner went with a different philosophy this past off-season when it came to prospective starting pitching. They didn't sign any big name, high priced free agents. They decided to trade away Shane Greene and David Phelps and obtained Nathan Eovaldi from the Marlins. They then went with a road less traveled approach by the Yankees and signed multiple inexpensive starting pitching options. They went with the idea that there is strength in numbers and to utilize what they have. Now, with Chris Capuano likely out for Opening Day, this strategy will be tested.

We were all concerned about the rotation as the off-season rolled along. We know of the injury history of Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda. Nathan Eovaldi is going to be pitching in the AL East for the first time and Chris Capuano is a, now injured, well-traveled vet who is the epitome of a number five starter. So with Capuano out, who is the next man up?

The Yankees decided to get Adam Warren and Esmil Rogers stretched out to prepare to be starters if needed, and it looks like that was a good move. Both would fit the mold as number five starters, with Adam Warren having a higher ceiling in my not so always humble opinion. The big issue I have with Warren being in the rotation is that he was dominant out of the bullpen for the Yankees in 2014. Warren threw 78.2 innings over 69 relief appearances finishing with a 2.97 ERA and 76 strikeouts, averaging nearly one per inning. So to lose his arm out of the bullpen, in addition to David Robertson, would be a loss. 

As for Esmil Rogers, he pitched reasonably well for the Yankees in 2014 after being claimed off waivers from the Blue Jays. He started one game and was used primarily to eat innings in games where the Yankees were either up or down quite a bit. So far this spring though, he has thrown the ball very well to the tune of five hits over 6.0 innings, striking out six and not issuing a walk. While it is a small sample size, I do like what he has been able to accomplish so far this spring.

Other less likely options include Chase Whitley, Jose DePaula and Scott Baker. Whitley threw reasonably well during his time in the Bronx in 2014, but as the summer got long, he struggled some. Jose De Paula pitched in the Pacific Coast League for the Giants Triple-A affiliate in 2014 and posted respectable stats, finishing with a 4.21 ERA in the notoriously hitter friendly league. De Paula is a hard throwing lefty, which is appealing, but does not have any big league experience and only has one year at Triple-A. Scott Baker has a 66-52 record over nine seasons and underwent Tommy John surgery in 2012. He pitched for the Rangers in 2014, mostly in relief, and posted a sub-par 5.47 ERA. Baker has struggled this spring allowing four runs on eight hits over four innings.

So if Joe Girardi asked me, “Lucia, what do you suggest I do?” Here’s what I’d tell him as of today. Make Esmil Rogers the fifth starter. He has no minor league options, so give the man a chance. Put Adam Warren in the bullpen where he has thrived. With him, David Carpenter, Justin Wilson, Chasen Shreve, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances as the potential bullpen, all the starters have to do is get through five innings, six being a plus. Keep Chase Whitely and Jose De Paula, along with prospect Bryan Mitchell, in Scranton’s rotation ready to be called upon if needed. Scott Baker could be in Scranton, but definitely not in the Bronx. There it is Joe. I've spoken.

Obviously with a couple weeks left, things can change. The Yankees used 13 different starting pitchers in 2014 so all these guys, plus Ivan Nova and Chris Capuano, and then some could be needed throughout the season. But as far as I’m concerned, go with Esmil Rogers, he’s the next man up!

Dan Lucia
BYB Writer
Twitter: @DManLucia


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