Once Yankees general manager Brian Cashman announced to reporters on Tuesday afternoon that Andy Pettitte is scheduled to make his major league return on Sunday, the speculation immediately ensued -- which current starter is losing his spot in the rotation?
"I don't want guys approaching this [next] start and saying, 'God, if I don't do well this could be my last start,'" manager Joe Girardi said on Tuesday. "We're gonna make a determination, what we feel is best for the club, and we'll move forward after Sunday."
But the truth is, how guys pitch this week could have an impact on the organization's decision.
The obvious choice to make way for Pettitte is 25-year-old David Phelps, who was just added to the rotation in place of the ineffective Freddy Garcia. Phelps made his first major league start Thursday in Kansas City.
Phelps took the loss against the Royals last week, giving up two runs on six hits in four innings of work. But he has pitched well overall after making the team as a long reliever -- he has a 3.74 ERA in seven outings, covering 21 2/3 innings.
But what if Phelps pitches lights-out in his next start -- which just so happens to be tonight, opposed by Jeff Niemann of the Rays?
Furthermore, what if Phil Hughes -- the other likely candidate to be demoted -- gets bombed on Saturday afternoon against the Mariners?
Hughes has pitched better in his past two starts, but his overall numbers for the season -- 2-4 with a 6.67 ERA -- aren't pretty. And even though the Yankees continue to insist that they envision Hughes as a starter, perhaps he would be of more value in the bullpen, now that Mariano Rivera is gone for the season. After all, Hughes has pitched very well out of the 'pen before.
The easy choice is Phelps. But the decision is more difficult than you might think.
UP NOW: Andrew Marchand's column from Tuesday night, on the Yankees' new closer, David Robertson.
ON DECK: Mark Simon will post his W2W4 (What2Watch4) game preview later this morning.
IN THE HOLE: Andrew Marchand and I will be back at the Stadium on Wednesday afternoon/evening, with full coverage of the second game of this three-game set.
QUESTION OF THE DAY: Who do you think should be replaced by Pettitte in the rotation?