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Ducks in a Row

Posted By Cliff Corcoran On March 29, 2005 @ 8:37 am In Bronx Banter | Comments Disabled

According to the Associated Press [1], Joe Torre has set the Yankee rotation. Of course there was no mystery about which five pitchers would comprise the rotation, and Randy Johnson had already been named the Opening Night (what is this Broadway?) starter, but with three off days in the first two weeks, the Yankees have decided to skip their fifth starter until April 15. The question was, who is the fifth starter? The answer: Jaret Wright.

Here’s how the Yankee rotation is expected to shake out over the first two weeks:

4/3 v Bos: Johnson (Opening Night)
4/4 off day
4/5 v Bos: Pavano
4/6 v Bos: Mussina
4/7 off day
4/8 v Bal: Brown
4/9 v Bal: Johnson
4/10 v Bal: Pavano
4/11 @ Bos: Mussina (Fenway Opener)
4/12 off day
4/13 @ Bos: Brown
4/14 @ Bos: Johnson
4/15 @ Bal: Wright

Which would set the order from there forward as: Johnson, Wright, Pavano, Mussina, Brown.

That doesn’t make perfect sense, as Pavano and Mussina could pitch in turn on 4/15 and 4/16, which would make Wright’s first start Sunday 4/17 and the rotation Johnson, Pavano, Mussina, Wright, Brown. But it doesn’t really matter, though it would be nice to keep Moose on schedule, as he’s so dern particular about those things.

Of course, if the Yanks really wanted to stick it to the Sox, they could skip Brown in the Fenway series in favor of Carl Pavano (provided Pavano pitches better than Brown the first time through, of course):

4/3 v Bos: Johnson (Opening Night)
4/4 off day
4/5 v Bos: Pavano
4/6 v Bos: Mussina
4/7 off day
4/8 v Bal: Brown
4/9 v Bal: Johnson
4/10 v Bal: Pavano
4/11 @ Bos: Mussina (Fenway Opener)
4/12 off day
4/13 @ Bos: Johnson
4/14 @ Bos: Pavano
4/15 @ Bal: Wright

Which would make the rotation moving forward: Johnson, Pavano, Wright, Mussina, Brown, with everyone much closer to schedule. But why would the Yankees want to do anything that made sense?

It doesn’t matter much, though. As long as everyone stays healthy, I actually feel pretty good about this rotation. They’ve all looked pretty good this spring. Kevin Brown has an ugly spring ERA (5.96), but his strike outs are way up (21 in 22 2/3 IP against 8 walks), which is an excellent sign as his K-rate took a header last year (from something around 8.10 per 9 IP over his five years in LA to 5.66 in 2004). Wright has a tidy 1.06 ERA and is 3-0 in his four spring starts. Pavano has been excellent: 1.89 ERA, 19 IP, 19 H, 4 R, 2 HR, 2 BB, 13 K. Johnson has been fine (3.38 ERA, 15 K in 16 IP), and I trust him to turn it on when the regular season begins.

If there’s any concern it’s that Mike Mussina is still giving up too many hits and getting too few strike outs (19 IP, 26 H, 8 K), resulting in a 4.74 spring ERA. He has being stingy with his walks (just 3) and homers (1), which is a good sign, and word is he’s rounding in to shape as spring training draws to a close. Still, 2004 was the first time since 1996 that Mussina gave up significantly more hits than innings pitched, and his K-rate last year was his lowest since 1995. These are things to keep an eye on as the season progresses. Mussina is 36 and had his first real arm trouble last year, dropping below 200 innings in a non-strike year for the first time since his junior season of 1993. I’m a big fan of Mussina’s and he’s obviously crucial to the Yankees run at their eighth-straight division title, but these are not good signs.


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[1] Associated Press: http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=2024374

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