(Long Island, N.Y.) Heading into Spring Training, Joe Girardi knew that his starting rotation was going to be a question mark. The Yankee skipper had to put together a quintet without the retired Andy Pettite and Cliff Lee, who took the Phillies’ millions instead.
Both ace CC Sabathia and youngster Phillip Hughes were coming off big seasons in the Bronx, but A.J. Burnett was inconsistent in 2010 and with an unproven Ivan Nova in the mix, there were two spots wide open heading into Tampa. General manager Brian Cashman brought in two veteran arms as a stopgap measure hoping that one would stick for a few starts until he had the opportunity to pull the trigger on a deal for someone long term. But a funny thing happened – no one told the old guys that they were supposed to have a shelf life.
With Bartolo Colon’s complete game shutout at Oakland on Memorial Day, the portly right-hander evened his record at 3-3 with a 3.26 ERA. The 38-year-old has had his fair share of injuries after being one of the most effective pitchers in baseball. In 2005, he won 21 games and also started over 30 games for the eighth consecutive season. But his career was derailed after that and the Yankees know that they are playing with house money.
Thirteen-year veteran Freddy Garcia went through a similar situation and found himself on the outside looking in. Cashman took a flyer on the former Mariners ace and he has rewarded him with a 4-4 mark and 3.34 ERA.
Low risk, high reward signings like this usually end up not working out as well, especially with more than one success story going on at the same time. So the usual veteran fifth starter that takes a few early season poundings only to get handed his release is not the case with these guys.
It’s not a coincidence that the Yankees are leading the American League East by two games and their rotation has held up this well. By having effective starts and pitching deep into games, their bullpen has not been overworked or exposed for a lack of depth.
Rafael Soriano was signed over the winter to be the setup man, but he was mostly ineffective before being placed on the Disabled List. The former Tampa Bay Ray closer gave up 15 hits in 15 innings and walked 15 more batters. He also had a 1-1 record with a high 5.40 ERA before injuring his elbow. Expected to be out until at least late June, Soriano has been a major disappointment so far in pinstripes.
That has put more pressure on Joba Chamberlain, who has rebounded with a 2-0, 3.12 showing throughout his first 25 appearances. The former starter will be counted on to get some important outs before Girardi hands the baseball over to Mariano Rivera to get the save.
But that picture is incomplete without the likes of Colon and Garcia, two names that no one thought we would be speaking about in June.