Putting together a truly complete pitching staff is a hard thing to do for any major league team, even the Yankees. Hell, getting five men together to form a rotation is hard enough. Luckily, the Yankees seem to have more than five guys who could be in a rotation. In fact, the Yankees’ fifth best and sixth best starters might be the third or fourth best starters on other teams.
Of course, I’m talking about Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes. The one who doesn’t fill the fifth starter role will likely be in the bullpen (even if I don’t want it to happen, but I’m assuming my “wish” won’t come true). It’s safe to assume that the non-starter will be the last brick in the “Bridge to Mowhere”, and be the designated-eighth-inning-set-up-whatever man.
That leaves five more roles to be filled in the bullpen (assuming a 12 man pitching staff and a 13 man “lineup”). Who will fill what roles? Let’s discuss, shall we?
Long Men/Spot Starters:
There are legitimately three guys who could fill this role, and if you wanna get frisky, four (Jophil Chamberhughes could do long relief to get more innings. Wouldn’t that be a mind blower?). The three are Alfredo Aceves, Sergio Mitre, and Chad Gaudin. Something tells me that the Yankees won’t keep all three of these guys around. Aceves’ spot is basically guaranteed. So, that leaves Gaudin and Mitre. The latter has pitched relatively well in Spring Training but it’s unlikely he can succeed in the bullpen. Maybe Mitre is better than he showed in 2009, but I have a feeling that his time with the Yankees is running thin. Chad Gaudin’s ability to occasionally miss bats may play better in relief. Of course, this means Sergio Mitre would be exposed. He’s out of options and, despite my doubts, he’d likely be claimed on waivers. Perhaps, though, the Yankees could work out a trade with some team (probably an NL one).
Now we’ve got 9 pitching spots filled (five starters, Chamberhughes, Ace, Gaudin) so that leaves three more, and the choices are obvious.
The lefty will be Damaso Marte. He appears to be fully healthy and ready to contribute as the great lefty reliever the Yankees thought they were getting in 2008. I’m not saying he’s going to be as lights out as he as in the ALCS and WS, but he’ll be a lot closer to the 130 ERA+ guy he’s been for his career than he will be to the mediocre pitcher he’s been in his time with the Yankees.
Chan Ho Park is another guy who could pitch multiple innings/spot starts out of the bullpen, but could also do well in a one-inning reliever role. The latter role is likely what he’s going to do, though he and Chad Gaudin could flip places and no one would really notice.
Lastly, we come to my favorite Yankee reliever (non-Mo division): David Robertson. I absolutely love this kid. Maybe I’m way too high on him, but I think this dude is certainly the real deal. His two pitch combo is absolutely perfect for a short reliever and it doesn’t hurt that his curveball is just devastating. While everyone thinks that either Chamberlain or Hughes should be “groomed” as the “heir” to Mariano, I think it’s Robertson who should be getting that treatment. I’ll re-state it: I’m really high on this guy and we obviously need to see him keep it up for a full season, but I think this is one guy in whom we can believe.
So, that’s it, 12 men to lead the Yankees on the mound. Here they are, listed by (my projected) role:
SP1: CC Sabathia
SP2: A.J. Burnett
SP3: Andy Pettitte
SP4: Javier Vazquez
SP5: Jophil Chamberhughes
LRP: Alfredo Aceves
LRP: Chad Gaudin
MRP: Chan Ho Park
MRP: David Robertson
LOOGY: Damaso Marte
SU: Jophil Chamberhughes
CL: Mariano Rivera