Girardi: Yankees' pitching depth being tested

Rash of injuries a concern, but manager believes team can fight through it
05/13/2014 12:31 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

When CC Sabathia was placed on the disabled list Sunday because of swelling in his knee, the New York Yankees officially had more members of their Opening Day rotation on the sidelines than in pinstripes.

It may seem like a dire situation, especially with one of those injured starters guaranteed not to be coming back this year, but Yankees manager Joe Girardi said it's simply something the team has to deal with, because it happens to everyone eventually, and that they'll have to continue to find depth anywhere they can.

"Our surplus of starting pitching isn't such a surplus anymore. We've had to dig pretty deep here because of the injuries and losing 60 percent of our rotation," the skipper noted. "Our depth is being tested. All teams are going to go through it, and we have to find a way to get through it until guys come back."

One of the side effects of the rotation shuffle has been that the "long man" in the bullpen has become of tantamount importance. Vidal Nuno and David Phelps, who started the year with that role as part of their scope, are already in the rotation to replace Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda, and with Sabathia out, Alfredo Aceves -- who has pitched all 7 1/3 of his major-league innings behind CC's last two starts -- is the likely candidate to start Thursday against the Mets.

But that's not a guarantee, says Girardi, because prior to the series opener, Girardi said an overworked bullpen meant Aceves may be needed in relief earlier in the Subway Series.

"It could be (Aceves) Thursday, but he'll be in the bullpen today because we've used the relievers a lot, so it could be someone else," Girardi said on Monday. "Maybe we'll get some distance out of our starters the next three days and we won't have to use Ace, but we can't abuse (the bullpen) so Ace has to go to down there."

Girardi did get some distance out of Hiroki Kuroda Monday night -- six innings, to be exact -- but in the seventh, there was Aceves, who threw 18 pitches over 2/3 of an inning but was "still in the mix" for Thursday's start, according to the skipper's postgame press conference.

If he isn't the starter Thursday, the Yankees do have options; Shane Greene is on the 40-man roster, Bruce Billings is eligible to come off the disabled list on Tuesday, and general manager Brian Cashman mentioned Chase Whitley as an option during a radio interview Monday. Any of them could be the guy but one person for sure isn't: Adam Warren, who battled Phelps, Nuno, and Michael Pineda for a rotation spot this spring.

"With the job Adam Warren has been doing in our bullpen, he's not stretched out, so you lose him as an option," Girardi said. "If we need a starter, I'll let the guys upstairs make that decision. They will look at all possibilities and make a decision. That's what we do: we look at possibilities, we make a decision and do the best we can."

If there is any good news, it's that the Yankees hopefully won't be without Sabathia and Pineda much longer. CC was pitching through discomfort as is, and while GM Brian Cashman said that Sabathia requested a consultation with Dr. James Andrews about his knee, the fact that an MRI revealed only fluid -- and not, say, another tear of his meniscus -- gives hope that he may only miss a few more days than the guaranteed 15.

"He's going to see Dr. Andrews for a second opinion, which he's allowed to do. But as of right now there are no further tests," Girardi said. "He has the swelling on the knee, and the fluid in there that is probably causing the discomfort, and I think the first course of action is get that under control. Once they do, they'll start rehabbing."

As for Pineda, the righty began playing catch over the weekend and will move back to 90 feet on Tuesday, and he knows that while he won't be ready when eligible to return in the middle of next week, he also hopes it won't be much longer than that.

"I haven't started throwing really hard yet, just regular throwing, but I feel good," Pineda said Monday. "It's been nice and easy, just to get my arm loose, but everything feels good."

Even if Phelps, Aceves, or anyone else has to make several more starts, though, Girardi is going to make the best of it, because really, there's no other choice.

"You just have to find a way and people have to step up. … I don't really get down about it. I've been taught from a young age by my parents that you just keep going; I witnessed my mother do that all the time, because she was a cancer patient. There's no reason to worry about what's behind you, so you just keep going and find a way to face it."

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