One thing is for sure. Joe Girardi has thrown out the playbook. It's unusual for a guy like Joe who has depended on his binder for so long. But everything seems up in the air this April. It's not clear what the team will look like after Joe sets things, but you'd better be paying attention because the core team is going to be defined in the next few weeks. If you've been paying attention, you've seen the signs.
Aaron Hicks was set to be the Opening Day starter in left field. Now we've all heard about how all three outfielders are not going to shift around, but rather stay in their slots. So why wasn't Brett Gardner, the starting left fielder, set to be in the Opening Day lineup? I don't read minds, but sometimes I can read actions. If I'm reading Girardi right, something is different. I don't know if Joe saw something in Gardner that troubled him. Or if he's just trying to match up with Dallas Keuchel. Or maybe he's trying to send everyone a message, that there are no automatics this year. Either way, the kid who is supposed to subbing the other three outfielders got the Opening Day start.
In any other year, Masahiro Tanaka would have been the Opening Day starter, and Joe would have said so. This year? Tanaka had to earn it. Joe made that perfectly clear, even though he didn't have to go public with it. There's intent here. So was his statement about whether or not Tanaka's next start would be pushed back to give him extra rest. Nope. Regular rest, just like everyone else. "He’s going to have to do it" was Girardi's terse statement on it. Of course, he could change his mind and insert Ivan Nova for a spot start. Would he? "That’s just way too far down the line." Umm .... that's this weekend. Too far down the line? The way I read it, he will be looking at every starter and adjust according to who is performing well. Which means he has no idea how he plans to arrange his rotation until he sees each of them pitch. Could these starters actually have to perform well to keep their spot in the rotation? No more Mr. Nice Guy!
Speaking of Nova, consider this. He is less than two years removed from Tommy John surgery and a pitcher nobody wanted last trade deadline. Yet he had a shot at pushing a $25M pitcher into the bullpen. In any other year, CC Sabathia would have been in the starting rotation. But Joe Girardi said that the better pitcher would get the #5 slot. Let that sink in for a minute. There is no heir apparent for any position on the field or on the roster, it seems. Sabathia is not getting an automatic spot in the rotation. He had to earn it, and earn it he did. I would give a million bucks to be a fly on the wall in that clubhouse to hear what the players are saying or what;s going through their minds.
I could go on about third base, the backup catcher, all of them have been a tryout with Joe setting up backup plans. I have to tell you, I am perfectly happy with Joe's new approach. The thing about it is that when you make everyone earn their spot, you have a very high chance of putting the best team on the field every single game. That would be a nice change. The last few years all of us, including my fellow writers, have bemoaned how we put players on the field that have a great history but are underperforming, log-jamming the road to development for our rookies. I have no idea how far Joe will take this, but you'd better not miss a game the next couple of weeks. I have a sneaking suspicion that how players do in April will determine who the starters are, who the bench guys are, and who is on the block.
--Ike Dimitriadis, BYB Senior Staff Writer
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