Print and Go Back ESPN.com: SweetSpot [Print without images]

Monday, April 27, 2009
Yanks need A-Rod and Hughes to perform


Tyler Kepner on big changes afoot in the Bronx: So the season comes down to -- as perhaps we have always know it would -- the health of Alex Rodriguez.

Rodriguez is one of the very best players in the majors. Berroa is one of the very worst. It's been nearly five years since he's been a good enough hitter to play shortstop, and with the possible exception of 2003 he's never been a good enough hitter to play third base. We usually downplay the impact of any particular player, but over the course of the season we're talking about about an eight-game difference between the two-headed BerroaRansom Monster. More, probably. The Yankees have plenty of talent on their roster, but they don't have enough talent to make up eight wins.

Then again, maybe they do. Nobody in the American League Central or the West figures to win more than 88 games this season. The Red Sox do, of course. So do the Rays. But if one of those clubs should falter, it won't be at all impossible to grab the Wild Card with 88-90 wins. And I'm sure the Yankees could do that even with Angel Berroa playing 125 games.

More from Kepner:

Wang's being replaced in the bullpen by Phil Hughes. According to Allen Barra, Hughes' ascendance is overdue: Well, yes. But it's only April. Barra -- or "Allen," as I call him -- believes the Yankees should have given Hughes the job already instead of re-signing Andy Pettitte. Most teams, yes. But the Yankees? The Yankees, like the Red Sox, have the luxury of great depth. Let's say you don't re-sign Pettitte or you discover that Joba Chamberlain can't withstand the rigors of throwing 100 pitches every five days. What if you discover both things?

Hughes has gone through some rough times. After an injury cost him three months in 2007, he came back strong that fall, only to suffer through an awful and winless 2008. One can hardly blame the Yankees for wanting to give the kid -- he's still only 22 -- a chance to win some games in Triple-A before throwing him to the American League wolves once again. More to the point, I think the Yankees knew they would need him at some point this season. They probably didn't figure it would happen so soon. But after all he's gone through, maybe now is exactly when he's ready.