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Joe Girardi's conundrum: Who will pitch Sunday?

Yankees have several options despite the crunch from Wednesday's doubleheader
06/21/2013 2:20 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Phil Hughes could start Sunday's game vs. Tampa Bay on three days rest.(AP)
Come Sunday morning, Yankees manager Joe Girardi will have a tough decision to make: who will start the series finale against Tampa Bay?

Earlier this week, Hiroki Kuroda would have been in line to make that start, but because he was pushed back to Game 1 of Wednesday’s doubleheader, both he and Phil Hughes would be going on just three days’ rest if they started on Sunday.

Girardi may or may not announce his starter any time before 1 p.m. on Sunday, but here’s a look at five potential options the Yankees could investigate.

Kuroda on three days’ rest
While it’s not necessarily optimal for the veteran righty to go on short rest, Kuroda has statistics on his side, especially in day games (3-0, 2.57 ERA under the sun this season). Here’s the conundrum, though: the Yankees have an off day Monday, so if he is held back, he’d be going on five days rest on Tuesday vs. Texas and then regular rest next Sunday afternoon in Baltimore; if he goes Sunday, he’s on short rest for the first time this season and is lined up to make his next start Friday night or Saturday night in Baltimore, a scenario that puts him on the weaker side of both the day/night and home/road splits.

Hughes on three days’ rest
After a tough outing Tuesday, Hughes’ mental state may appreciate not going on three days’ rest. The conundrum here: Hughes is better on the road and allowed two runs in six innings in his lone start in Baltimore this year, so if he takes one for the team Sunday, he’d be in line for that Saturday night start at Camden Yards instead of one against Texas earlier next week – and, because of the day off, the Yankees could use their entire bullpen behind Hughes if he struggles Sunday.

That said, the Yankees could have Hughes throw even just a few innings before giving way to Adam Warren and the bullpen for the remainder of the game.

Adam Warren
In a variant of the above sentence, Warren, who pitched three innings in relief of Hughes on Wednesday, could be called upon to make his first start of the season as part of a “Johnny Wholestaff” approach; with the off-day Monday, the Yankees could utilize their entire bullpen to go on Sunday, with Warren throwing three or four innings (or more, if pitch count and performance dictate) and the remainder to fill in the blanks behind him, depending on how much they get used Friday and Saturday.

Brett Marshall
Before we get into Marshall as an option, note that the upside of either him or the final option set, is that they could have four starters go on an extra day’s rest next week and push Hughes back to Saturday in Baltimore, a move that optimizes Hughes’ splits and allows Girardi to use him out of the bullpen this weekend (or on Tuesday) if need be before he makes his next start.

Marshall, who allowed five runs in 5.2 innings in his Major League debut earlier this year, is Sunday’s scheduled starter in Scranton, where he is 2-6 with a 6.94 ERA so far this season. The numbers may not show it, but he has pitched well in his last two starts, and is both lined up and on the 40-man roster. The only downside there is that to activate him or anyone else, a corresponding 25-man roster move would have to be made.

A non-roster option
While the same 25-man shuffle above would be required, the Yankees do have an open spot on the 40-man roster and could utilize it to bring in a one-day fill-in.

Chris Bootcheck is currently in limbo after being designated for assignment Tuesday, and if he clears waivers, he could be held onto in that scenario to make a spot start on Sunday; other options currently at Scranton include lefty David Huff or righty Caleb Cotham, who as of now are scheduled to pitch Friday night and Saturday morning respectively, lefty Francisco Rondon, who was on the 40-man as a starter earlier this year and last pitched three innings on Tuesday, or even righty Chase Whitley, who has pitched multiple innings out of the RailRiders’ bullpen in nine of his last 10 appearances.

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