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So Who Goes to the Pen?

Posted By Brendan Sennott On Sep 5 2011 @ 9:27 pm In New York Yankees | 1 Comment

The Yankees beat the Orioles in a sloppy Labor Day affair at Yankee Stadium 11-10.  A win is a win as they say and the Bombers have now won 5 straight.  They are 2.5 games up on the Red Sox for first place in the American League East.  The magic number to clinch a playoff spot is down to 14. 

Jesus Montero has burst onto the scene hitting his first 2 big league homers while Jorge Posada is not getting anymore important at bats.  Alex Rodriguez is back in the lineup and everyone is mostly healthy.  It is all good in the Yankee Universe as they stroll toward the playoffs.  The biggest question on the minds of anyone who follows the Pinstripers is when will Joe Girardi shrink the starting rotation from 6 members to 5?   He was supposed to Sunday, but changed his mind and stated they will go one more turn with 6. 

As I have mentioned before, I don’t think this Yankee club has what it takes to win the World Series.  However, I know which rotation gives them the best chance of doing so.

I have thought long and hard these last few weeks about which starter the Yankees should take out of the rotation and move to the bullpen.  Yes, AJ Burnett is the obvious choice at 9-11 with a 5.25 ERA and 1 win in his last 10 starts.  The problem is he has never pitched in relief.  Besides, Burnett pitched his guts out the other night at Fenway, allowing just 2 runs while earning a no decision against the loaded Red Sox lineup.   He has also seeingly improved his mechanics with pitching coach Larry Rothschild.

Phil Hughes has been equally putrid at 4-5 with a 6.75 ERA.  Hughes seems like a good alternative to move to the pen.  He has experience pitching in relief, and was a key component as a setup man during the 2009 World Championship run.  The problem with doing that is it may turn into a Joba Chamberlain type situation by jerking him around from starter to reliever constantly, thereby stunting his development.  Hughes is still just 25 years old and the Yankees should focus on getting him to maintain his velocity as a starter in his offseason workouts.   A relief stint will add innings to his arm that aren’t necessary to the success of this team.

Bartolo Colon is the Yankee pitcher who should be shifted to the bullpen.  After all, he started the season there. Colon has just 2 wins in his last 10 starts.  He has thrown 145 innings this season.  It is the most he has thrown in the big leagues since 2005. Colon may be getting a tad fatigued and pitching in relief may help him maintain his power stuff.  His low 90’s fastball may hit mid 90’s in 1 inning spurts making the pitch all the more effective. The stat that gives me the most credence to make this move is Colon’s 123 strikeouts over 145 innings.  Strikeouts are key in the playoffs with men on base and Colon’s 2-seam fastball may be a great pitch to freeze batters during a critical at bat.   The Yankees only need 4 starters in the post season.

They are best served using C.C. Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Freddy Garcia and Burnett when need be.  Hughes should be shut down until spring training and kept off the postseason roster. Colon will slide in nicely into the pen giving Joe Girardi another power arm behind Rivera, Robertson, Soriano and Logan.  Will it be enough to win 11 games?  I don’t know, but from a pitching standpoint it gives them their best shot.

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