How wrong can Joe Girardi be?

March, 29, 2012
3/29/12
10:41
AM ET
The answer is, not very wrong at all, if the question is "Who should get the job as the No. 5 starter in the Yankees rotation?''

And as in most recent Yankee spring trainings, that is the only real question to be settled here, other than will it be Clay Rapada or Cesar Cabral as the ''other'' situational lefty out of the bullpen, and should they go with salted or unsalted sunflower seeds in the dugout this season?

All spring training, myself and my colleagues on the beat have been trying to read the tea leaves, in Brian Cashman's favorite phrase, to figure out who will be awarded this largely unimportant job because, frankly, there is no other issue to be decided. Like a Clearwater motel on spring break week, the Yankees simply have no vacancies.

But this week, things have gotten downright silly. This morning, GAK III of the Post virtually anointed Freddy Garcia the No. 4 starter, with the No. 5 spot coming down to either Michael Pineda or Ivan Nova. Feinsand of the News took a more cautious approach, writing about the "tough decision'' Joe Girardi will have to make over the next few days.

With all due respect to both gentlemen, whom I respect and consider friends, this is much ado about very little.

First of all, Freddy Garcia has been handed nothing yet, and if anything, seems the easiest of the three to relegate to bullpen duty without serious aftershocks. He's a veteran, not prone to being rattled by a change of assignment or scenery, having pitched for six teams over 13 years. He's no prima donna, and will not pout if his precious "routine'' is interrupted. And while he hasn't pitched out of the bullpen much, he has shown himself capable of pitching well in pressure situations. So if anyone can handle being given the short straw, it is Freddy.

And second of all, how ''tough'' a decision can it be when just about any choice Girardi makes can be reversed at any time? He's got six starters and none of them has pitched himself out of contention. So if he goes with, say, Freddy as No. 5 and sends Ivan Nova to the pen and it doesn't work out, he flip-flops them a month from now. You can substitute any names you want into that last sentence and it remains the same story.

Whatever Girardi's decision is - if it is, in fact, his decision in the first place -- it can hardly be very wrong, because it's not even close to permanent. And then, on May 1, Andy Pettitte comes back we have all this fun all over again.

Girardi said yesterday the four pitchers are still being evaluated and that each could still show him something that could tip the scales one way or the other.

This, too, is hogwash, because if the spring numbers really counted for anything, the guy fighting for his spot in the rotation would be CC Sabathia, who with an 0-1 record and 4.50 spring ERA and healthy .298 opponent's batting average against him, might well be locked into the Drive for No. 5 with Nova, who is at 1-2, 6.86 and .280.

But Girardi anointed CC his ace before a pitch was thrown, and rightfully so, and handed the No. 2 spot -- and the start in the April 13 home opener at Yankee Stadium -- to Hiroki Kuroda, who after a shaky start has had a fine spring (2-1, 2.91). Phil Hughes should have nailed down the No. 3 spot with his rebound performance this March (2.03 ERA, .220 OBA).

That leaves Pineda, who the Yankees thought enough of to part with Jesus Montero in order to obtain, Nova, who win 16 games last year, and Freddy, who has 13 years of experience and a lifetime of guile and guts on his resume, battling it out for two jobs.

So no matter which way Girardi goes, how wrong can he really be?

The answer is, not very wrong at all.
Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
Follow Wallace on Twitter »  Chat archive »

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?

TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Masahiro Tanaka
WINS ERA SO IP
12 2.51 135 129
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Ellsbury .282
HRM. Teixeira 17
RBIM. Teixeira 48
RB. Gardner 62
OPSB. Gardner .768
ERAM. Tanaka 2.51
SOM. Tanaka 135