Ian Kennedy starts for the Yankees tonight. Joba Chamberlain is scheduled to throw 50 to 55 pitches tomorrow night. These two facts are not unrelated.
Chamberlain’s pitch counts will increase by ten-to-15 pitches with each outing, and Joe Girardi has acknowledged that Joba’s next appearance after tomorrow night’s game (or Friday night’s, if tomorrow night’s starter, Andy Pettitte, works too deep into tomorrow’s game) might have to be a start, as Joba could be up to 70 pitches for that outing. While Girardi hasn’t ruled out using a six-man rotation during this transition period, eventually Joba’s arrival in the rotation will mean someone already in the rotation will have to leave it.
Looking at the names of the five Yankee starters, Darrell Rasner would seem like the odd man out, but he’s been the Yankees’ best starter in May, posting a 1.80 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP in four starts. Looking that the numbers, Kennedy and his 7.27 ERA is the obvious choice to get the boot, but unlike Andy Pettitte or Mike Mussina, Ian Kennedy is expected to be a part of the Yankees’ future success, and thus any strides he makes toward that success need to be encouraged and built upon.
Kennedy has a much higher innings limit this season than either Chamberlain or the injured Phil Hughes, and thus his short outings in April and missed turns in May could already have sufficiently limited his innings for the season. That means the Yankees don’t need to move Kennedy into the bullpen to protect his arm the way they did Chamberlain both last and this year. What’s more, Kennedy’s brief demotion to Scranton proved that he’s already too good for the minor leagues. That is to say that, if Kennedy can pitch like he did at the end of last season, there’s no good reason for the Yankees to take him out of the rotation.
Kennedy already has one plus in his column, as his last start, also against these Orioles, saw him turn in a strong six innings while allowing just one run. Still, Kennedy will have to repeat the feat tonight while decreasing his walks (he issued four in that last start) in order to have much hope of holding on to his rotation spot. If he does that, he’ll make Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman’s lives difficult, but in a very good way, and could shift the pressure to Old Man Mussina.
Behind Kennedy tonight, Wilson Betemit gets the start at first base while Melky Cabrera gets the night off and the Damatsambi rotates around to fill the gaps. They’ll all face lefty Brian Burres, who out-duelled Kennedy last Thursday in the Bronx with 7 2/3 innings of one-run ball before Jason Johnson came on and blew the game. This will be Burres’s third start of the season against the Bombers. He’s allowed just that one run in 13 1/3 innings across his previous two starts against the Yanks, throwing 5 2/3 shutout innings against them at Camden Yards on April 19.