As a result of Chris Capuano straining his right quadriceps a few days ago covering first base there is now an open competition for the No. 5 starter in the rotation. The candidates for the final spot in the rotation include Adam Warren, Esmil Rogers, Chase Whitley and Bryan Mitchell.
Mitchell and Whitley will likely come in third and fourth because they have less experience than the other two. Mitchell allowed four runs on six hits in one inning in his start on March 11. He has a 9.00 in four innings so far in spring training.
He is thought of highly in the organization, but he needs more time to develop at Triple A. The 23-year-old made eight starts and nine appearances last season at Triple-A and had 3.67 ERA with 34 strikeouts and 16 walks. The hard-thrower needs to improve his strikeout to walk ratio, as his walks are far too high. That is a solid ERA and an improvement from the 4.84 ERA he had in 61.1 innings at Double-A last season, but he has not proved himself long enough with the RailRiders yet.
Whitley is a 25-year-old who was drafted by the Yankees in the 15th round in 2010 who made 12 starts and 24 total appearances for the Yankees last season. He pitched well in his first few starts, but he had trouble pitching deep into games and being effective the more appearances he made. He had a 5.23 ERA in 75.2 innings with a very high 1.480 WHIP. He makes more sense in Triple-A or in the bullpen.
Whitley has pitched seven innings (one start and three relief appearances) so far in spring training and has not allowed a run. However, that does not prove very much for him as a starter because he was only primarily facing major leaguers in one of those appearances. What that does prove is that he might be better suited for a role as a relief pitcher since he was also successful in the bullpen in the minors as he had a 3.06 ERA in 67.2 innings at Triple-A in 2013 while making 24 of his 29 appearances in the bullpen.
Either Rogers or Warren could be effective in the two months until Ivan Nova returns but Rogers could get the edge because Warren proved last year that he has the ability to pitch very well in the bullpen. In 2014, Warren had a very good 2.97 ERA in 69 games (78.2 innings) coming in from the bullpen. His 76 strikeouts and 24 walks were both higher and lower than in 2013 and he has said that he has embraced his new role as a reliever (even though he wants to be a starter).
According to Brooks Baseball, in 2014, Warren primarily threw a four-seam fastball (95mph) and slider (87mph), while also mixing in a circle change (86mph) and a knuckle curve (82mph). He fits better as a reliever since he has two primary pitches with the ability to mix in others. He would give the bullpen five potentially very reliable options with him and Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, David Carpenter and Justin Wilson.
Rogers, who is entering his seventh MLB season, has made 43 MLB starts, which is many more than any other possible No. 5 starter. He has a 5.54 career ERA, but that is inflated due to his 3.5 seasons pitching for the Colorado Rockies where he had an ERA above 6.13 in two of those seasons. He knows how to get outs and according to Bryan Hoch, “he has been particularly impressive to manager Joe Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild this spring, as they believe his stuff seems crisper and seems to be more consistent.”
The 29-year-old Rogers has six strikeouts in six innings pitched and hasn’t allowed a run during spring training. He has pitched in four games and two of those have been starts. Rothschld has taught Rogers to be more steady with his glove, and Rogers thinks that his adjustment has helped him. He now holds his glove in front like Masahiro Tanaka. The Yankees should go with the pitcher with the most experience especially since Rogers seems to be improving.