Five to one, baby, one to five. No one here gets out alive now. Those lyrics by “The Doors,” could very well apply to the 2015 starting rotation of the New York Yankees and they certainly rang true in 2014. So as pitchers and catchers are now in Tampa, the Yankees will see if they can march out a healthy staff for the grind of 162.
Last year, Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild, did yeoman’s work. Despite 13 different pitchers make a start, New York ranked eighth in the AL with a team ERA of 3.75. Mind you, anyone who paid attention last season will tell you that the offensive woes were the main problem, not the narrative of an injured starting rotation. Not that it was easy patching things together but the Yanks made it work.
Moving to the present, the Yankees are hoping for less patchwork and more power arms. Though maintaining those top five, may require a sixth and finding depth could be a new challenge. Keeping Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia healthy, specifically, may mean that the Yanks could be the guinea pig for the six-man rotation in modern baseball. In theory it could pay off in the long run but with Brandon McCarthy, Shane Greene and David Phelps all pitching elsewhere, it will require some new names and perhaps some new roles.
In theory, the on paper, Opening Day rotation will likely feature Tanaka, Pineda, Sabathia, Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Capuano. According to the Yankees depth chart, Adam Warren and the injured Ivan Nova are next in line. Also vying for the top five or six will be Bryan Mitchell, Esmil Rogers and Chase Whitley.
So what are some of the best and worst case scenarios for the Yanks projected starting five, at this early stage of 2015?
Tanaka – You don’t have to he a “Hiro” Masahiro but it would be nice if he could hold up like “Hirok.” If all is well with Tanaka and he pitches like an absolute witch, it places the Yankees in the conversation for making a playoff run. We’re talking about a guy who was an All-Star and in contention for AL Cy Young and Rookie of the Year voting, before he got hurt in 2014. On the contrary, if Tanaka’s elbow gives out, the Yanks could be without his services through 2016 and without their ace.
Pineda – Stuff wise, velocity wise, the power pitching Pineda gives the Yanks a superb one-two punch atop the rotation. Finally making it on the scene in the Bronx, Pineda proved his worth when healthy. Pitching to a 1.89 ERA, “Big Mike” capped off his season with a ten strikeout outing at Boston. Conversely, the Yanks hope his shoulder and or back don’t get cranky in this Northeast weather and it has been a cold winter.
Sabathia – Big CC is the best CC! I know you’re not supposed to root in this business but it’s hard not to like Sabathia. Maybe he isn’t the ace of five years ago but if healthy, he can be a great leader and give the club a big lift. If Sabathia can reinvent himself to an extent, he’ll lift a huge weight off the workload of the bullpen. On the other hand, if Sabathia’s knee is bulky and he can’t regain his velocity or adjust to said lost velocity, it could be a year of growing pains for CC.
Eovaldi – Speaking of stuff and velocity, that is what made Eovaldi tantalizing to the Yankees. Eovaldi can light up the radar gun and if Rothschild can get him to trust and utilize his secondary pitches, the Yanks could have themselves another young weapon. On the flip side, it takes more than stuff alone and New York is a whole different animal, just ask Javier Vazquez and Jeff Weaver. If Eovaldi gets hit around this year, that new Yankees infield will be well tested.
Capuano – Cappy has the early lead, out of the gate but that could change quickly. Capuano gives the Yanks another crafty veteran lefty and innings eater, who can also pitch to the scoreboard. Conversely, Capuano shows why he was waived by Boston and pitching in the minors for Colorado and the Yankees hand the spot to a youngster like Warren or Mitchell.
Will it all hold up? Well, the Yankees are hoping they’re gonna make it, baby, if we try.