25Q/25D: Who will be the fifth starter?

February, 17, 2012
2/17/12
8:45
AM ET

AP Photo/David GoldmanFreddy or Phil as the Yankees fifth starter? Let us know what you think.
25 Questions, 25 Days: Day 23

This is a really tough question. My gut is that the Yankees want Phil Hughes to be a starter. So it is his job to lose in my mind. The Yankees won't admit that publicly, but I believe that is what they want privately.

But Hughes has had success in the bullpen and Freddy Garcia barely knows where it is located. So I think this is going to come down to change. Hughes has already changed is body, losing 20 pounds, some say, and he needs to finally develop a change to go along with a revived fastball and a solid curve.

If he shows all that -- which is a lot -- in the spring, I think he wins the fight for the five spot over Garcia.

But statistically there are reasons to believe that the Yankees might set up better with Hughes in the pen and Garcia as the No. 5 starter.

First and foremost Hughes has pitched there before -- and has had success. As you remember, Hughes was great in 2009. As a two-pitch pitcher, his stuff translated to the pen. His WHIP was 0.86 that year, best among relievers. His opponent OPS was .456, which was also the best among all relievers. He struck out 11.4 per nine innings. Only six men came out of the pen and did better.

As ace researcher Katie Sharp points out, over two seasons 81 percent of his pitches have been four-seam fastballs or curves. He will talk a lot about the change in the coming weeks. He will practice it a ton, too. But it remains to be seen how much he will use it in the regular season. He needs three pitches to be a true No. 3-type starter, even if he is potentially a No. 5 with the Yankees.

Garcia’s relief experience? Well, he barely has any. He has made one career relief appearance -- and it was 12 years ago.

Those numbers again: one and 12!

Garcia is good because he is a Baskin-Robbins pitcher. He has a lot of flavors -- five pitches in all. He only threw his fastball 36.5 percent of the time last year, which was 131st out of 150 pitchers who qualified. So Garcia is made to be a starter.

Though the Yankees got him for the cheap price tag of $4 million, it is not like Garcia didn’t earn a spot from last year. He was 12-8 with a 3.62 ERA.

At age 35, he can still be good. Bartolo Colon, Ted Lilly, Chris Carpenter, R.A. Dickey, Tim Hudson and new Yankee Hiroki Kuroda all had 4.00 ERA’s or better last year. So it can be done.

In the end, the Yankees know what Garcia can bring. To me, however, they would rather have Hughes in the rotation. If he shows he is fit, I believe he will be given the job. Can he do it?

What do you think?

Tomorrow: Are we expecting too much from Mariano Rivera?
Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years at the New York Post. Follow Andrew on Twitter »

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?

TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Brett Gardner
BA HR RBI R
.283 14 47 68
OTHER LEADERS
HRM. Teixeira 18
RBIM. Teixeira 50
RB. Gardner 68
OPSB. Gardner .816
WM. Tanaka 12
ERAM. Tanaka 2.51
SOM. Tanaka 135