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Yankees' starting pitching looks deep

3/19/2014
AP Photo/USA TODAY Sports

Michael Pineda has fired nine scoreless innings for the Yankees this spring.

"He's been the most dominant pitcher on their staff so far," one scout said.

But Pineda is not alone in looking good in the Grapefruit League.

Adam Warren

Adam Warren

#43 RP
New York Yankees

2013 STATS

  • GM34
  • W3

  • L2

  • BB30

  • K64

  • ERA3.39

Vidal Nuno has allowed just one run and three hits in six innings. Adam Warren's line is 8 2/3 innings and two runs. Bringing up the caboose in the fifth-starter competition is David Phelps, with a measly 2.63 ERA.

This is all very encouraging, because with all the "Is CC Sabathia still an ace or not?" talk, it is probably more important that the Yankees have rotation depth than a certified ace.

Teams need anywhere from six to eight starters to complete the approximately 1,000 starter innings over the course of a 162-game season. So the focus on who will be slotted to start the fifth game of the year is a bit overblown when the Yankees may need someone new for the 15th game, the 65th, the 105th and so on.

That doesn't mean the top of the rotation isn't vital. There is little doubt Sabathia's reinvention as more of a finesse pitcher will be key. Hiroki Kuroda must be more like the Cy Young candidate of the first four months of 2013 than the worn-out righty of the final weeks.

But even if those two take a step back from top form, the Yankees' regular-season rotation could move forward because of its possible depth.

Vidal Nuno

Vidal Nuno

#67 SP
New York Yankees

2013 STATS

  • GM5
  • W1

  • L2

  • BB6

  • K9

  • ERA2.25

A year ago at this time, the Yankees' rotation was Sabathia, Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova.

Despite the Yankees' injury-ravaged season, that fivesome stayed healthy for the most part and still the Yankees needed to give nearly 12 percent of their 162 starts to Phelps (12), Nuno (3), Warren (2) and David Huff (2).

This year, the Yankees' rotation should be: Sabathia, Kuroda, Nova, Masahiro Tanaka and Pineda.

The Yankees should have three starters under 27 and some solid reserves. Phelps could start the year as the long man with either Warren and/or Nuno heading the Triple-A rotation, one injury from the big club.

One Yankees insider speculated that Nuno could be the second lefty on the major league club with Warren going to Triple-A to be ready to start or be the long man when the inevitable injury occurs.

David Phelps

David Phelps

#41 SP
New York Yankees

2013 STATS

  • GM22
  • W6

  • L5

  • BB35

  • K79

  • ERA4.98

Warren may be undervalued a bit by some because his debut in 2012 was so awful. Looking overmatched, he allowed six runs in 2 1/3 innings as a spot starter. But in 2013, mostly as a reliever, he went 3-2 with a 3.39 ERA. In his two starts, he was 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA.

Warren has kept up that positive momentum this spring. He doesn't overwhelm anyone, but he has proved to be successful. The same holds true for the 26-year-old Nuno, who had a 2.25 ERA over five major league games and three starts in 2013 before a groin injury halted his season.

A scout said Nuno is able to use a couple of different breaking balls to make up for his lack of velocity.

"He doesn't beat himself," the scout said. "There is not a lot of margin for error, but he doesn't seem to make mistakes."

All the fifth-starter competitors have looked good, while Pineda has looked great. This depth could ultimately be why the Yankees advance to October.