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Which Pitcher is the Story?


The story of the past week has been pitching, in a number of facets. But which pitcher was THE story? Let’s take a look at the items up for bid …

* Mariano Rivera blew two consecutive saves after converting his first seven save opportunities and looking as superhuman as ever. And he wasn’t booed, because these saves were a) blown on the road; and b) didn’t come against the Red Sox at home.

* Rafael Soriano, however, was booed, and deservedly so, during and after Tuesday’s 8th inning meltdown. Strong pieces at ESPN New York by Johnette Howard and the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Barbarisi on Soriano’s fragility.

* Phil Hughes went to the DL, tried to throw, his arm was a noodle, and now a mysterious shoulder ailment that may or may not be Thoracic Outlet Syndrome is being discussed as a possible diagnosis. Compression of either the nerves, artery or vein in the clavicle area signify TOS. One of the possible causes of the “repetitive trauma”. The pitching motion classifies as repetitive trauma. In more severe TOS cases, surgery is required. Former Yankee Kenny Rogers had surgery to repair TOS in 2001. He came back and pitched seven more seasons.

* Pedro Feliciano, it was great to meet you. Who is Lance Pendleton?

* Bartolo Colon, who many believed should have been in the rotation anyway based on his performance in Spring Training, replaced Hughes and tossed an 8-inning gem. Even more impressive was the consistency of his velocity: 95 in the early going, and 96 in the later innings. Is he the Yankees best pitcher right now, as Wally Matthews suggests? Maybe.

* Freddy Garcia, who pitches tonight, has a matching WHIP and ERA (0.69), and has allowed just 5 hits in 13 IP thus far.

* AJ Burnett may be the best story of all. He suffered a hard luck loss on Monday because the Yankees’ offense is ineffective against pitchers that a) they’ve never seen before; b) pitch like Mike Mussina in the 86-89 mph range, but change speeds and have movement on their pitches. Despite the team result, he may have pitched his best game of the season. The question, as it always is with Mr. Allan James Burnett, is consistency. Will he breathe out of the correct eyelids in May?

* Ivan Nova proved he may be able to get past five innings. Small sample size, yes. But still …

* And of course, there’s CC Sabathia. He’s the ace, the grinder, and the guy who more often than not, somehow makes the right pitch to wriggle out of jams. An ace isn’t always a dominant strikeout pitcher. The main job, keep the opposition off the scoreboard and give your offense a chance to support you. He did it Thursday, just as he did so many times the previous two seasons.

Of those guys, which story had the greatest impact? My vote is for Hughes, because of the trickle-down effect it’s caused in the rotation. If Colon and Garcia keep this up, they get the Aaron Small / Shawn Chacon Memorial “Surprise MVPs” Award.

Feel free to agree / disagree below, in Comments.

[Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun/AP]

7 comments

1 rbj   ~  Apr 29, 2011 10:45 am

Phil obviously has health issues, so that is most significant. Nova's maturing, A.J. has the capability and is rebounding from a low point.

Colon/Garcia are the most pleasant surprises.

2 Jon DeRosa   ~  Apr 29, 2011 11:01 am

The Hughes situation is the most important. It's a major development of our collective struggle to nail-down where our long-term relationship with the kid is headed.

Garcia and Colon are great stories, but the horizon of our interest level is so limited. The minute they suck, we'll cut all emotional ties.

3 kenboyer made me cry   ~  Apr 29, 2011 11:27 am

Very nice pitching synopsis.

They're all stories worth telling. Who would have thought that starting pitching would not be the most pressing problem early in the season?

I do like Nova's calm body language on the mound, and he seems able to eat up innings and give the team a chance to win.

AJ; didn't we see this scenario last year with his strong start, and post ASB meltdown? Time will tell. His problems seem isolated to above the neck.

Phil might need a good chiropractor...our fragile flower bud has yet to bloom and frankly are we getting impatient?

Bart and Freddie are revelations and if they can stay healthy will be the pitching story of year. Can they handle the pressure of September and beyond?

Soriano has been frustrating, but looking at his stuff and competitive nature, he should turn it around. I think most of his problems are handling the pressures of NY; the press, the fans, the back story of "not wanted by Cashman". When it goes bad, everything is amplified, and who's his friend and mentor here? Soriano needs to take a breath and have a good outing or two.

CC is just rock solid as ever, and important to overall team chemistry. We just love him, and if it all continues, will be on the "all time Yankee greats" list. I just hate when people call him "our horse", because it reminds me of how the horse was treated in Animal Farm.

As for Mariano, he'll tell us when he's no longer effective. Even the gods of Olympus had their human foibles once in a while.

My question, what's up with Joba?

4 The Hawk   ~  Apr 29, 2011 11:43 am

[2] Well-said.

[3] I agree in general. Sabathia is just the best, I mean he is so likable, so good, just about the best signing since ... I can't even think of since when.

5 Crazy8Rick   ~  Apr 29, 2011 1:41 pm

The story has got to be Hughes arm. After losing Andy and tanking on the Cliff Lee signing all the focus was on Yankee starting pitching line up, of which Hughes was the young guns of the Bombers. For him to go on the DL this early in the season with a strong chance that he will be lost for 2011, that's a ball buster. Thank goodness for CC, an improved AJ, and go figure...Colon & Garcia

6 The Hawk   ~  Apr 29, 2011 2:05 pm

I am interested in Nova, as a positive story. I'd like to see him in the rotation the whole year, barring an ongoing disaster.

7 Chyll Will   ~  Apr 29, 2011 3:21 pm

[4] John Hancock?

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