Thursday, June 15, 2017


Talk about deja vu all over again.  It was only seven days ago I wrote:

Photo: Getty Images
"...Between expected innings limits and unexpected injuries, we're going to be losing more pitchers in this rotation before this season's over,  you can bank on it."

Read DON'T TANK THE SEASON FOR TANAKA, JOE to get up to speed.

Photo: Getty Images
Thanks to Chris Carter missing an easy head-high throw from Didi Gregorious any hot dog vendor in the stands could've caught in a bun with mustard, relish and kraut, CC Sabathia was forced to pitch an extra 9 pitches Tuesday to close out an extended 4th inning and wound up with a Grade 2 strain of his left hamstring.

If you recall, that was the same injury they said in 2013 had an approximate recovery time of eight weeks when they shut him down for the season.

You may also recall that was the last year he came close to pitching 200 innings. 2013.

He's four years older now so don't go buying into any of his or Joe's: "I'm already feeling better. I could be back sooner." "Maybe, we'll see how he responds to treatment." banter. It's just for show.

Between the million miles on his arm and the million pounds of pounding those knees have endured over nearly two decades of pro ball,  he'll be fortunate to be pitching rehab games in eight weeks, and  luckier still to be all the way back and throwing like he was  before he went down for awhile after that -- if he can recapture the mechanics and feel for it again at all.

Remember, it wasn't a quick or easy process -- mentally or physically -- for him to acquire his newfound talent as an aging junk-baller in the first place.

With just seven weeks to go until the trade deadline, there are some cold hard facts the Yankees' fan base and front office must confront head-on and accept as fait accompli.

Photo: Getty Images
First,  it's my opinion that he big guy is unemployable anywhere else. His niche as a steady innings-eater on this team as currently constituted has value though. And while he'd never be part of any playoff rotation if the Yankees got that far in this, his final season, the team must resist any temptation to rush him back any  sooner than necessary lest they risk losing the remaining innings he may have left in him for the second half stretch run.

Second, while the farm is filled with all sorts of tantalizing possibilities for fill-ins, none of them can reasonably be expected walk onto the big stage this season and gobble innings the rest of the way like  CC has been because, quite frankly, it's been his huge salary that's kept him on the mound whenever he's gotten into trouble, been shelled early, relinquished leads or hasn't had his stuff and been roughed up inning after inning. Nor can a farmhand be reasonably expected to  seize the front of the rotation and become the ace the team has clearly lacked.

Photo: Getty Images
Severino's been a nice surprise; even a possible solid  #2 at this point. But an ace who's only pitched beyond the 7th twice? Don't even go there.

Photo: Getty Images
Third, Tanaka to date has still declined to see a specialist, undergo an MRI or even concede he's feeling any differently than, say, before his elbow is was hanging on by a partially torn UCL, willpower and a magic 8-ball.  And Monday's 6.2-inning no-decision vs. the Angels didn't prove anything definitive as he remains 1-5 with a 10.13 ERA in seven starts against opponents with winning percentages of .500-plus compared to 4-1 with a 2.88 ERA in six starts against sub-.500 clubs. (Thanks to Mike Mazzeo at the Daily News for those chilling numbers.) Now it seems he can only pitch on at least six days rest. (Remember in Japan he only pitched once a week and has said he prefers higher pitch counts and more rest days.) He remains a starter in name only until evidence suggests otherwise and may actually be moving the team toward a six-starter rotation by default if he can no longer go on five days rest.

Fourth and finally, there's now a huge CC-sized hole in the rotation that used to belong to a guy who isn't what he used to be and will be lucky to  resume being what he's become when he eventually returns.

Photo: Getty Images
Meanwhile, the losses mount and  opportunities to run away from the division keep slipping away because the bullpen that was supposed to be the bulwark against the team's thin rotation and short starts is "pretty fried," said Joe before Thursday night's LA series finale -- and just a few hours later it flared up in the frying pan and burned yet another winnable Yankee win and series to a cinder...

Welcome to the Bigs, Ronald Herrera.

It's been awhile since anyone talked about keeping pace with that remarkable 1998 Yankee season that started 1-4 like this one. We're nine games off the pace, in case you were curious. And longer still since anyone's even talked about finishing with the best record in MLB. We're not even in the top five anymore.

Now everyone's just satisfied to be having fun watching a younger version of the Yankees having fun themselves, playing ball like they really enjoy the game as they hover in first place while the rest of the division reels and struggles to recover from all manner of unexpected blows.

In fact, it's been a fun season all the way around so far -- for a rebuilding year.

For it to be anything more than that, though, it's going to take some serious prospecting, prospects, cash and commitment on the part of Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner. Because unless they decide to take a full-on Judge-sized swing at giving this rotation what it sorely lacks to go for it all in this very winnable there-for-the-taking MLB season, the fun ends promptly after the 9th inning of game 162.

Two more quality arms and this team can start its new  dynasty right now. One's  a waste of time. This team needs to invest in at least two because  for all intents and purposes we're two starters down now,  have no tangible reason to believe either  is going to actually be any healthier  or more effective going forward (and very real concerns the opposite may be true) and, as I wrote last week, we're still likely to lose at least one more before it's all over to injury or innings limits.

And you need three quality starters to go all the way. This team's got one.

Photo: New York Daily News
If you're one of the great worriers about playing poker with the team's future to win a championship now, get over it. Hicks has made Clint Frazier 150 percent expendable. That's one nice juicy trade chip we can lose right there. And he's not even  the best outfield prospect we've got.

Truth be told, there's a bunch of others who are so blocked from the show by the talent now in our farm system  or in the Bronx it's a crime against humanity not to trade them. And we can always sell off those quality arms for prospects ourselves if our farm gets lucky down the road.

But opportunities like this don't present themselves often. Admit it. Wouldn't a world championship parade this year be fun? All we have to do is buy a couple of tickets. It's what world champions do. Or we can just watch our rotation fall short like we expected it to from the beginning with no realistic plan or expectations for better pitching next year.

That's no way to start a dynasty and way too much deja vu for me.

--Barry Millman
BYB Writer
Follow me on Twitter: @nyyankeefanfore

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