10:54 am May. 15, 2012
Entering the season, no team had the kind of pitching depth the Yankees had.
Roughly a quarter of the way through the season, no team's depth has been tested as much as their has, either.
Gone for the year is Michael Pineda, the big offseason acquisition, with a shoulder injury. Banished to the bullpen is Freddy Garcia, last year's surprise who was utterly ineffective this year. And last night, Ivan Nova limped off the mound with an ankle injury, severity still to be determined.
For almost every other team in baseball, the potential loss of three starters from the Opening Day rotation would be catastrophic. For the Yankees, it merely simplifies things.
With Andy Pettitte back, New York had six starters for five slots: CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Nova, Pettitte, Phil Hughes and David Phelps. Both Hughes and Phelps were considered vulnerable due to a lack of track record, and Phelps was duly demoted to the bullpen to make room for Pettitte in the rotation.
But if Nova misses any time, an already stretched-out Phelps can simply slot in as the fifth starter.
As a one through five, Sabathia, Kuroda, Pettitte, Hughes and Phelps would be the envy of most other teams. (For the Yankees, it is actually Plan D.)
The Yankees even have other options, if any members of their current rotation go down. D.J. Mitchell, currently plying his trade for New York's Triple-A club, is putting up strong numbers, and would be the next replacement. And highly touted prospect Manny Banuelos, out with an injury earlier this year, has been coming on of late.
Navigating the bullpen is a bit trickier, with closer Mariano Rivera out for the year, and replacement closer David Robertson headed for tests today on his ribcage soreness. That sure sounds like an oblique injury, which could put him out of commission for several weeks. But even here, the Yankees are built for survival.
Rafael Soriano, signed to an excessive deal two winters ago, is a very good option to close. Cory Wade and Boone Logan move up a slot each into setup roles. And former late-inning reliever David Aardsma, signed by the Yankees in case they needed another bullpen arm, is nearly back from an injury of his own, with a timetable of roughly the All-Star break in place for his return. (Switch-pitcher Pat Venditte is injured at the moment.)
For all the grief general manager Brian Cashman gets about the health of the pitchers he signs, he has used the team's massive financial advantage to stockpile talent for occasions just like this one.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
Another night, another unlikely hero: Miguel Batista, the 41-year-old who entered Monday night's game against the Brewers with a 5.89 E.R.A. and more walks than strikeouts. Naturally, he pitched seven shutout innings in a 3-1 win. Also naturally, he hurt himself in the process, and he's questionable for his next start. The Mets also announced that the injured Jason Bay has been cleared to begin baseball activities, and he is targeting a late-May return. Mets fans the world over are less than anxious to see Bay come back and resume his late-career fade at the expense of talented rookie Kirk Nieuwenhuis. You can bet, at $16 million per season in 2012 and 2013, that Bay gets that opportunity. Tonight, the 20-15 Mets go for the two-game sweep of Milwaukee, behind Dillon Gee.
Howard Beck had the bombshell in the New York Times, disclosing that the N.B.A. players' union is heading to arbitration over a clause in the collective bargaining agreement. The union wants teams to retain the right to offer more money to its own players, even if those players were acquired on waivers. Normally, this wouldn't matter much, since players acquired via waiver are by definition expendable in someone's eyes. But you know who the Knicks acquired that way? That's right, Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak. A favorable ruling for the players, and the Knicks can retain both. Ruling for the owners, and the Knicks almost certainly will lose Novak.
Game 1 in the Rangers-Devils series went to New York, with Henrik Lundqvist getting the better of Martin Brodeur.
Virginia Commonwealth, the program that shocked everyone by reaching the Final Four in 2011, then came within a basket of beating Indiana and making the Sweet 16 in 2012, is heading to the Atlantic 10, effective immediately. That conference tournament, which will also feature newly acquired Butler, suddenly looks awfully competitive. And it is being held at Brooklyn's Barclay Center. Also: Things just got even tougher for Fordham.