On Thursday, the Yankees lost to the Philadelphia Phillies, 7-3, at George M. Steinbrenner Field, as fifth starter candidate Esmil Rogers made his third start and fifth overall appearance of spring training. He now how has a 2.89 ERA in 9.1 innings with 10 hits and nine strikeouts. He had a 0.00 ERA before last night’s game.
Rogers did not exactly help his cause as he allowed three runs on five hits, which included a homer Cody Asche, in 3.1 innings. He threw 44 out of his 64 pitches for strikes and had three strikeouts and one walk. Adam Warren and Rogers are likely about even right now since Warren has a 3.38 ERA in his three starts (8.0 innings), but Rogers’s next two starts will really determine if he is the fifth starter or not.
“All of my career I’m a starter, so I feel comfortable for a start,” Rogers said. “I just want to be here to be part of the team.”
As previously stated, Warren proved last season that he has a lot of value in the bullpen as a result of his 2.97 ERA in his 69 games as a relief pitcher during last year’s campaign. He threw 78.2 innings and had 76 strikeouts and only 24 walks.
However, Girardi has praised Warren for being a four pitch pitcher. Warren has a fastball, change up, curveball and slider in his arsenal and has been a somewhat rare reliever as he uses all of his pitches out of the bullpen instead of primarily throwing two like many relief pitchers.
Even though he throws four pitches and has the ability to start, he is still likely more valuable in the bullpen since the No. 3, 4 and 5 starters might not be able to go very deep into games and he will give the bullpen more depth and effectiveness. Girardi has said that nobody has been eliminated form the competition, which means that Bryan Mitchell, Scott Baker and Chase Whitley still have a chance, which means that these next two weeks will be important in deciding roles. Spring training stats usually don’t matter very much, but they do for the candidates competing to be the No. 5 starter.
Nick Goody, who pitched 15 games in the bullpen last year at Double-A Trenton, allowed a solo homer to Darin Ruf in the eighth. Chasen Shreve, who will either start the season at Triple-A or in the Bronx, allowed three runs (two earned) in the ninth on three hits. This was by far his worst appearance of spring training as the talented lefty had only allowed one run in his previous five games.
It was an offensive struggle for the Yankees as they only had four hits against five Phillies pitchers. Chase Headley continued his productive exhibition season with his second homer and Didi Gregorius hit a single and his average is now a solid .280. If Gregorius can hit .270-.280 with 10-15 homers and 10-15 steals it will be a productive season for him based on all the runs he will save defensively.
Alex Rodriguez went 0-3 and now only has one hit in has last 12 at-bats, which has lowered his average from .455 (5-11) to .261 (6-23). It’s too early to really evaluate him, and it was not realistic for A-Rod to hit at a .455 clip for the rest of spring training, but he needs to show some power and consistency. If he continues his slump it will make sense for him to platoon with Garrett Jones at DH.
On Friday at Joker Marchant Stadium, Warren will make his fourth start of spring training, and Alfredo Simon will get the start for the Detroit Tigers. These final 16 games of spring training will help determine who will be the No. 5 starter, who will be the backup catcher, what Rodriguez’s role will be and who will be the final two members of the bullpen.
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.