Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Help On The Way for Yanks

The injuries that ravaged the Yankees pitching staff early in the season, leading to 11 different starting pitchers in the first 2 months of the season, are starting to heal. After adding Clemens, the starting staff stabilized with four veterans consistently pitching each turn through the rotation. Starting stability led to better bullpen performance, in turn more wins, outside of the one disastrous road trip through Colorado, San Francisco, and Baltimore.

While improved, the Yankees pitching are not exactly the Padres, and additional reinforcements are necessary, welcome, and on the way. Injured within a four-day span as April turned to May, Phil Hughes and Jeff Karstens also began the march back to the Bronx in the same week, each making rehab starts last week. Later this week both make the second of what should be three or four rehab starts.

Everyone in NY anxiously awaits Hughes’ return. The ballyhooed prospects legend only grew after leaving in the midst of a no-hitter with the hamstring injury. Hughes provided a glimpse of the Yankees future, raising expectations for his return. Assuming no further setbacks, Hughes will start in Trenton next, then Scranton, before presumably joining the Yanks the last week of July, stepping right into the fifth spot in the rotation. Besides helping the team down the stretch, the baseball world wants to see for themselves what all the scouts have raved about.

Less celebrated, Karstens return will add depth to a bullpen with numerous weak links. Throw aside the whole lefty advantage, Mike Myers, Ron Villone, and Sean Henn, define unreliable. Torre hardly ever goes to them in a close game, even against lefties, and none can provide the innings of a long man, alas Aaron Sele out in Queens. At worst, Karstens can eat innings to save the back of the bullpen when a starter lasts less than five innings, or a game goes into extra innings. An underrated, but valuable asset, just ask the Yankee relievers that pitched every game earlier this season, then look at their stats.

With the season hanging in the balance, at the very least Karstens and Hughes returning allows the Yankees to start planning for next year. At best, it adds depth to the pitching staff in preparation for a miracle run. Either way, I am psyched to see Phil Hughes, baseballs top pitching prospect, take the hill again.


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