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Shane might be green but deserves to start

7/8/2014

CLEVELAND -- Maybe it's just his cautious nature with the media, or maybe it's because in the Yankees' hierarchy, the wheels of decision-making turn slowly and must navigate a lot of turns before the manager is allowed to give a definitive answer.

But whatever it is, I can't wait to hear Joe Girardi's reasoning if it turns out Shane Greene does not get another start based on his performance Monday night in the Yankees' 5-3 win over the Indians at Progressive Field.

In his first major league start, Greene -- whose only previous big league experience had been an utterly forgettable one-third of an inning against the Red Sox back in April -- held the Indians hitless for 4 2/3 innings and gave the Yankees six solid innings, allowing just two runs on four hits, walking none and striking out two. Staked to a 5-0 lead after three innings, Greene kept things under control long enough that Girardi had to use only two members of his overworked bullpen, David Huff and Dellin Betances, neither of whom had pitched in two days and were well-rested.

Still, Girardi was typically vague and noncommittal when asked if Greene had shown enough to earn at least one more start in the Yankees' injury-depleted and constantly changing rotation.

"That’s obviously going to be a topic of discussion," Girardi said. "We haven’t made any decisions about what we’re doing moving forward, but we’ll figure it out here pretty quick.”

With Masahiro Tanaka pitching like a legitimate Rookie of the Year and Cy Young candidate, Hiroki Kuroda back to pitching like a No. 2, David Phelps coming off a good start against the Twins on Saturday and the newly acquired Brandon McCarthy preparing to replace Vidal Nuno on Wednesday night, Girardi's decision is as simple as removing the struggling Chase Whitley and returning him to the bullpen, where he can be useful in long relief, and replacing him with Greene.

But for whatever reason, the manager would not commit to that Monday night.

“We’ve said all along this kid has a lot of talent," said Girardi of Greene, whose fastball was clocked as high as 96 mph. "I don’t think he tried to do too much, and I think that’s pretty impressive, too. You didn’t see him overthrow at all. He changed speed on his fastball, as well. He did an outstanding job.”

But asked again if Greene was now in his rotation, Girardi slipped back to vague answers.

"We got to talk about what we want to do moving forward here," Girardi said. "Obviously, we got to make a move tomorrow as well, so those are things we got to talk about. But he pitched really well."

In one sense, you can't really blame the manager, having already been fooled, and ultimately burned, by the early success of Whitley and even Nuno only to see them both inevitably return to their level. Phelps, too, has been inconsistent, throwing a gem like he did on Saturday -- seven innings of three-hit, one-run ball -- but he's also capable of being lit up for six runs in five innings, as he had two starts back.

So there is some natural trepidation to dream too deeply on a 25-year-old kid with all of 6 1/3 major league innings on his résumé. Then again, until -- or unless -- general manager Brian Cashman makes a trade for a big league-ready starter, what alternative does Girardi really have? The Yankees considered moving Adam Warren from his niche in the bullpen back to the rotation, but the process of lengthening him coupled with his value in middle relief proved to be too much of a deterrent.

So despite the manager's reluctance, the odds are that after some organizational discussions with Cashman, assistant GM Billy Eppler, pitching coach Larry Rothschild and others, Greene will be given another shot to show what he can do.

Greene's no dummy. Asked whether he thought he had pitched well enough to merit another start, he quickly answered, "That's not up to me."

But he's also aggressive, which was evident not only in his pitching -- of his 88 pitches, he threw 56 strikes, including first-pitch strikes to 14 of the 22 batters he faced -- but in his attitude toward his work.

"I kept telling myself I’d rather give up a home run than a walk," he said. "And I did that -- just tried to get ahead and make them hit my pitch.”

It won't always be this easy, of course -- it's not every night the Yankees offense stakes its starter to a big early lead, and Greene was helped immensely when, after hitting Asdrubal Cabrera with a pitch with one out in the first inning, the baserunner was promptly erased by a perfect Francisco Cervelli throw on the steal attempt. Greene retired the next 12 hitters, until Nick Swisher greeted his old teammates with a two-out home run in the fifth. The Indians added another run on a bloop single by Cabrera in the sixth.

"It's a dream come true, no question about it," said Greene, who mentioned that his parents would have to fight one another for possession of the game ball, which sat in his locker as a souvenir.

Considering the way he pitched -- and how little starting pitching the Yankees actually have -- that ball should have company, and soon.

Question: Do you think Shane Greene did enough to earn himself another start?