Joe Girardi has announced his rotation for the first four games of the season, and he has indirectly revealed who the fifth starter will be.
CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova will start the first three games of the season against the Astros in Houston from April 1-3. It was well known that Sabathia, who has a 1.59 ERA in spring training after his subpar 2013 campaign, and Kuroda would be No. 1-2 in the rotation, but it was unknown who would pitch the third game.
It was thought by some that after signing a seven-year, $155 million contract in the offseason that Masahiro Tanaka would be the No. 3 starter, but it makes sense that he will begin the season as the No. 4 starter behind Ivan Nova. The Yankees want to ease Tanaka’s transition into the American League as much as possible, and this will only help that process.
Tanaka pitched every seven days for the Rakuten Golden Eagles, but he will now have to adjust to pitching every five days as a result of the five-man rotation that the Yankees and every other MLB team have. He has received some extra rest during spring training, where he has performed well. He has a 3.00 ERA in 15 innings while striking out 16 batters so far.
Having him pitch the fourth game of the season will help him stay on a schedule close to what he is used to from his stellar career in Japan. He will be able to fly ahead of the team to Toronto to be ready for his start on April 4 at Rogers Centre. By pitching the first game of the Toronto series, Tanaka will have an extra day of rest leading up to his third start of the season, based on a day off after the previous series from April 10-13 against the Boston Red Sox. If he has pitched well after his first four or five starts of the season, he will be ready to switch with Nova in the rotation.
An official announcement has not been made about the No. 5 starter, but it is believed to be Michael Pineda. He was the pitcher who had a leg up going into spring training, and Pineda has done nothing lose the position. He has produced a stat line of a 1.20 ERA in 15 innings, 16 strikeouts and only one walk.
He has consistently pitched between 91-93 MPH, not quite the mid 90s he threw when he was a rookie for Seattle, but he could regain that velocity as the season progresses. His fastball has a lot of movement, and his sinker has led to a lot of ground ball outs, which will be important in Yankee Stadium. Pineda also throws a reliable changeup.
“(We will choose) who we think is going to help us the most, and what we think is going to make us the best team,” Girardi said. “How do we put a 12-man pitching staff together that makes us feel the best leaving the gate?”
This reveals that Girardi wants to put pitchers in roles that they can be successful and help the team. Pineda can be a very productive starter for the team especially since he is healthy now and has proven his ability when he was a rookie with the Mariners. David Phelps, who has pitched well during spring training in competing for the No. 5 spot, has also pitched well in the bullpen in past seasons, which is a spot that makes sense for him in 2014.
A rotation of Sabathia, Kuroda, Nova, Tanaka and Pineda has the potential of being a successful one for the Yankees.