New York Yankees pitcher Ivan Nova will have to be replaced in the rotation after landing on the DL.
The Yankees’ likely choice for fifth starter while Nova is out will be David Phelps, the 26-year-old right hander who is the current long relief man who came in after Nova’s unceremonious exit Friday night, throwing four innings of two-hit ball and striking out nine.
In addition to his relief appearances, Phelps has some experience as a starter: he also made 11 starts in 2012 when the rotation ran into deep waters.
On paper, this sounds like a good decision. Phelps is already stretched out from his longer appearances and can ease into the starting rotation without difficulty, despite some shaky games this season and a five-plus ERA, he has 22 strikeouts in 17 innings pitched.
The problem with giving Phelps the starting job is the space it opens for the long relief position.
With the fear of injury constantly casting a shadow over the Yankees, it is important to have an effective pitcher that can come in for four or even five innings to pick up a struggling Sabathia or an injured Nova. While Phelps was doing the job (albeit not perfectly), it would go now to Adam Warren, who will be even farther from perfect than Phelps was.
Warren was a decent pitcher in Triple-A, and barring his disastrous 2012 start in which he gave up six runs in less than three innings, his appearances this year have been no cause for concern, limited as they are. But to move someone who has only pitched 8.3 innings thus far to the role of long man seems like it will be fraught with issues.
Warren, from what I can tell, has two pitches: a fastball that tops out in the low 90s, and a changeup. Those might be okay for one-inning relief appearances when you’re facing a fraction of the lineup, but go around another time or more, and it won’t take long for professional hitters to figure Warren out.
Other options would be to keep Phelps in his current role and bring up former Yankee starter Chien-Ming Wang, who has major league experience, or move Phelps to the rotation and bring up Vidal Nuno, another top pitching prospect from Triple-A who could be moved to the bullpen.
The Yankees and Girardi seem intent on moving up Phelps and Warren however, and I fear they will both be less than stellar in their new roles.