Girardi confident in staff despite Yankees' rotation shuffle
And right now, that's really all manager Joe Girardi knows for sure about his Yankees' rotation, as Ivan Nova's injury and Michael Pineda's 10-game suspension have thrown the other two spots in the starting five into flux.
Saturday will see Vidal Nuno, who for now is taking Nova's place in the No. 3 spot, make his second start of the season and first "official" start in place of Nova. The Yankees' doubleheader with the Cubs last week forced Nuno to make a spot start Sunday against Tampa Bay, and he responded by giving the Yankees 69 pitches and five scoreless innings in his first appearance in 12 days.
Nuno is excited now that he knows he's going to get the ball every fifth day -- at least for now -- and for a guy who is 1-1 with a 1.64 ERA in four career Major League starts, the next few weeks could go a long way towards solidifying him as a solid option for the rest of the year and beyond.
"I think it's a big stretch for him and our club, trying to solidify that role," Girardi said of Nuno Friday. "He's a strike thrower that can change speeds and can throw any pitch at any time; it doesn't matter the count, he'll throw any pitch, and he'll move the ball around."
Beyond numbers, Nuno also has one other thing going for him -- he keeps games short.
"That's the other thing that I think he does really well, is that he works very quickly," Girardi said. "Players enjoy playing behind that."
After Monday's off day, CC Sabathia will go on regular rest Tuesday, and David Phelps will make a spot start Wednesday against Seattle. That slotting not only gives everyone else an extra day's rest, but also fills in the sixth day of Michael Pineda's suspension -- allowing Pineda to return as soon as eligible (on May 5) and still keep the rotation on schedule.
Pineda is allowed to be with the team prior to games, so he can still do bullpen or side sessions to keep his arm ready, but because Phelps will be needed in his stead and likely won't pitch at all in relief in the interim, it still leaves a theoretical eight-man bullpen feeling a little short.
"You have to protect your pitching staff, and that's what we felt we had to do," Girardi said of the alignment. "Obviously you like to have your normal roster, but right now you can't because of some of the things we're going through, and not knowing exactly how many pitches a couple of your starters are going to give you, you have to have a little extra pitching."
All that said, it's nothing new, and just something the Yankees will have to deal with until Pineda returns.
"It's a little bit difficult, but I think the off day Monday helps, and it's not something we're not accustomed to doing," the skipper said. "You have to do it from time to time as a manager and you just find ways to get through it; sometimes you just say 'this is the way we have to do things today' and you get through it. As long as there aren't surprises during those days and you know what you have, it's usually not too bad."