There's been no announcement, but Joel Sherman thinks the Yankees have essentially set their rotation:
- In the next few days, Joe Girardi will make it official that Phil Hughes is the Yankees’ fifth starter.
There are still meetings this week, still final statements that could be offered, still an injury that can change minds and needs. But this was a competition in the faintest of ways. As I reported in early February, the Yankees brass was going to enter spring privately viewing Hughes as the clear fifth starter frontrunner.
The reality is that no one else could win the job. Hughes could only lose it. And strangely, he sealed the win Monday when, of all things, he lost by surrendering three homers, including a walk-off shot by Philadelphia’s Wilson Valdez.
They envision Hughes as a No. 3 starter or better depending on his ability to keep the aggressiveness he showed last year out of the bullpen while honing what, until this point, had been an unappetizing changeup. Thus, Yankee officials were elated Monday despite the poor overall line by how far Hughes’ changeup had advanced, both in its deception and his trust in deploying it.
The homers they saw more as a function of the wind and Hughes’ still gaining arm strength. His fastball was mainly 89-91 mph, and the Yanks anticipate several mph more over the next few weeks. If that comes along with the changeup, the Yanks really may have a No. 3 starter in the No. 5 spot in 2010. But, just as vital, they also may have a No. 3 starter in the No. 3 spot in 2011 should Andy Pettitte retire and Javier Vazquez leave as a free agent.
I've maintained from the beginning that the Yankees themselves should know a lot more about Hughes and Chamberlain than we do, and that I wouldn't second-guess their eventual decision. So I won't.
Still, Pinto asks a good question ... "I’m not sure how they are going to handle Hughes inning limitations. That’s why I thought Joba would get fifth starter status, and Hughes would move back and forth from pen to rotation based on injuries."
Hughes threw 80 innings in 2008, 112 in 2009, and ... 200 in 2010?
I don't think so. The Yankees, reasonably enough, seem to have concluded that Hughes is the fifth-best starter in their organization. I suspect that they already have a reasonable plan to limit him to something like 160 innings this season. I just don't know what that plan is.