TAMPA, Fla. -- Every year, in every spring training camp, every major league manager says the same two things: "You can never have too much pitching,'' and "Things have a way of working themselves out.''
Translated, they mean that you can virtually bank on the fact that at least one of your pitchers will get hurt in camp, and what looked like an abundance of arms in the middle of February will turn out to be just enough, or less, by early April.
But what if the unthinkable happened in one of those camps one of these years? What if everyone pitched well, no one got hurt, and a manager found himself with six, or even seven, healthy arms for just five starting slots?
Well, for the New York Yankees, it would be a relief. And in some ways, a headache.
Because if all six starting-rotation candidates -- seven if you include Bryan Mitchell -- survive the spring unscathed, manager Joe Girardi will have some tough calls to make.
On the surface, the toughest might seem to be whether to keep CC Sabathia or Ivan Nova as his fifth starter. But there is also another headache that Girardi must relieve: Who will play the part of Adam Warren this year? You know, the guy who can both start and relieve, and won't get freaked out by being asked to do either, or both, often on short notice?
Sending Warren to the Chicago Cubs for Starlin Castro was undoubtedly a good move -- it filled a glaring need for the Yankees at second base without costing them a prospect or an outwardly vital part of their roster -- but it also stripped them of a uniquely versatile performer, both physically and emotionally.
For one thing, the resilience of Warren's arm allowed him to make multiple appearances per week. For another, the placidity of his demeanor allowed him to accept the uncertainty of his role with uncommon poise.
And right now, it is almost impossible to say if the Yankees have anyone who can do both, if need be.
Sabathia, of course, has never pitched out of the bullpen, and expecting him to be able to warm up in a hurry, pitch effectively in an inherited pressure situation and then do it again a couple of days later, or even the next day, might be too much to expect at his age (36 in July) and this stage of his career. Plus, as a former American League Cy Young Award winner and one of the league's elite pitchers for a long time, he may bristle at such a role.
Nova has made a handful of relief appearances, but he thinks of himself, rightfully, as a starter, and no one knows how he would handle being asked to assume a swing role. Same goes for Mitchell. And aside from the Big 3 at the back end of the Yankees' bullpen -- Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances -- there are a lot of unknown arms, and personalities, among the relief candidates.
"You've got to have the right makeup to do that job,'' pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. "I think Adam's personality suited that and he got more and more comfortable with it. He was easygoing and he didn't let things bother him. I don't think you can take a guy without that kind of makeup and fit him in that kind of role. It's going to be hard to do.''
Asked if he thought there was anyone on the staff who could possibly slip into that slot, Rothschild said, "It's hard to tell right now. I won't know, really, until we get later in the spring.''
"Oh, I think any number [of] our young guys could do it,'' Girardi said, without offering up a name.
Rothschild pointed out that Mitchell assumed that role on a limited basis late last year, but admitted he doesn't know enough about a lot of his new pitchers this spring to make an accurate judgment. "We'll have to see,'' he said.
The odds are, of course, that this will not be a problem because the Yankees will wind up not having an excess of starting arms. Masahiro Tanaka, coming off elbow cleanout surgery, is a step behind some of the others, and no one can say for sure if he will be ready for Opening Day. There are question marks of various sizes attached to each of the others as well, and as Girardi mentioned, there are four off days in April to insure that the pitchers who come out of this camp healthy will get plenty of rest. If Tanaka does start the April 4 opener, he would be able to make his first four starts of the regular season on five days' rest.
"It's almost like having a six-man rotation,'' Girardi said. "And as we know, these things have a way of working themselves out.''
And you can never have too much pitching. Until, of course, you do, and have to make a decision that any manager would love to make.