Mailbag: Five- or six-man rotation?
Beat reporter Bryan Hoch answers Yankees fans' questions
It seems like we are in for a very exciting 2008 season, but the Yankees may not allow Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy to go more than 150-175 innings -- which comes out to about five innings per start for three of their five starters. Don't you think that the Yankees should look for inning-eaters with experience and not use or abuse their farm system to fill that gap?
-- Temas S., Brooklyn, N.Y.
We don't know the exact numbers of the innings limits, just that there will be some in place and that, according to team brass, the organization has already set them.
It's definitely worth noting that, if all proceeds according to the Yankees' plans, all three of those pitchers will be entering new territory in 2008. Hughes hit a career-high 146 innings in 2006 between Class A Tampa and Double-A Trenton, and Chamberlain has never thrown more than the 118 2/3 innings he pitched for the University of Nebraska in 2005.
In his first pro season, Kennedy surpassed both of those numbers, pitching 165 1/3 innings at four levels (including 19 in the Bronx) -- the end result proved to be the Yankees' extra level of caution when Kennedy suffered a minor back strain in September, which forced him off the American League Division Series roster.
What does this quick math exercise tell us? In short, the possibility of a six-man rotation -- as floated by manager Joe Girardi during the Winter Meetings -- may not be as far off as some would have you believe. Girardi said the Yankees have no plans to open the season with anything but a five-man rotation, but a potential six-man rotation could really pay its greatest dividends down the stretch, permitting pitchers to take a breather now and then while innings and fatigue compile.
As they did in 2007, the Yankees are still going to have to lean on Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte and -- perhaps to a lesser extent -- Mike Mussina to eat innings and provide a good base environment for the young pitchers to develop. There's a very real possibility that Kennedy could wind up opening the year in Triple-A, with Mussina as the fifth starter, but that will all shake out in the spring.
What happened with reliever Luis Vizcaino? Why isn't he back? Was it more of the Yankees not aggressively pursuing him or did he not want to come back?
-- Jonathan J., New York
It's not as clear-cut as that, but for whatever reason, the Yankees didn't appear to be in a terrible hurry to pursue a deal with Vizcaino -- concerns that were voiced by his agent, Bean Stringfellow, before Vizcaino signed his new deal with the Colorado Rockies. Instead of having to go to two years or more with Vizcaino, the Yankees essentially patched the hole on a one-year basis by signing LaTroy Hawkins.
I am at a loss about why I do not hear anything about right-hander Bartolo Colon. Isn't he a free agent? The guy is still young, can still be effective and might fit into the Yankees' rotation nicely. What am I missing?
-- George M., New York
The general consensus around the big leagues seems to be that Colon is a play on the damaged-goods market right now. If the choice is between throwing some cash at a pitcher such as Colon or watching their younger talent develop, the Yankees seem perfectly willing to go with their young pitching. That Colon has seen his ERA, among other things, balloon since 2005 and has never been particularly effective at Yankee Stadium (5.35 ERA) raise red flags.
Whatever happened with the Hideki Matsui trade talks with the Giants?
-- Josh G., Cumberland, R.I.
The discussions with San Francisco never really progressed to the next level. Once the Giants signed Aaron Rowand to a five-year, $60 million contract, their interest in Matsui waned, and the deal essentially fell off the table. Just to clarify, from what we can tell, the Yankees were never actively shopping Matsui, but the Giants checked to see if he might have been available.
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The scuttlebutt had been that the Giants might part with Noah Lowry or Jonathan Sanchez in a potential deal for Matsui. In signing Rowand instead, they were able to keep those pitchers -- and even more importantly, Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum as well.
What is the scouting report on reliever Jonathan Albaladejo? How much of a chance does he have to make the team out of Spring Training?
-- Garry S., North Bergen, N.J.
Albaladejo will be in the mix for one of the final bullpen slots in Spring Training, and his control could help him. He has a good strikeout-to-walk ratio as a professional, and his 1.88 ERA in 14 games with Washington provides a small sample size to suggest that he could be effective in the Major Leagues. Albaladejo has also pieced together a strong campaign in the Venezuelan Winter League, compiling a 2.42 ERA in 27 appearances.
The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Albaladejo owns a low- to mid-90s fastball and an above-average slider, impressing the Yankees' scouts as early as Double-A. He can also command a changeup and a curveball.
What are the chances of the Yankees trading Mussina, Kei Igawa or Carl Pavano this offseason? Would anyone have interest in these pitchers?
-- Elizabeth C., New York
The chances are not very good. The scouts for the other 29 teams have seen the same things we all have, so it's not as though clubs will part with top talent for pitchers who have struggled.
Of the three you mentioned, Igawa could perhaps draw some cautious interest and might fare better with a National League team, especially if he can learn to pitch lower in the strike zone. As of right now, the Yankees would consider him as a left-handed option out of the bullpen or as a fall-back option for the rotation. Sean Henn is another internal candidate to be a lefty out of the bullpen, and his 2007 troubles aside, the team is still high on him.
Do you think the Yankees might sign Mike Piazza to add depth to their catching and as an occasional designated hitter? He can still hit. I would hate to see him retire after missing much of 2007 due to a freak injury.
-- Robert R., Pleasantville, N.Y.
I would say Piazza's New York legacy will likely stay in Queens. With Jason Giambi and Matsui battling for DH at-bats -- and Johnny Damon somewhere in that mix, as well -- the last thing the Yankees need is another one-dimensional slugger type. Piazza didn't respond well when the A's flirted with bringing him back to catching last year, and Jose Molina is more than a capable backup for Jorge Posada.
Did the Yankees sign Juan Gonzalez to a two-year, $2 million contract?
-- Rafael P., Caguas, Puerto Rico
This is one of those wild Internet rumors that has spread like wildfire. A report which even "quoted" Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was published in El Vocero, one of Puerto Rico's largest newspapers. But the date of publication -- Dec. 28, the "Day of Holy Innocents" -- was a giveaway. The story appears to have been the equivalent of an elaborate April Fool's Day prank.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.