Heading into Spring Training, there is still much debate about who will be the fifth starter in the New York Yankees’ rotation. The first four guys are pretty well locked in — CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Masahiro Tanaka and Ivan Nova.
There are some strong candidates in camp to take over that last slot, among them the lefty Vidal Nuno. Nuno had a strong outing in the Yankees’ first exhibition game today against Jameis Winston and the Florida State Seminoles.
Nuno started the game at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa and threw two scoreless innings. He struck out three, walked none, and allowed just one hit — an infield single. Seventeen of the 26 pitches he threw were for strikes.
The other major contenders in camp for a starting job are Michael Pineda, Adam Warren and David Phelps. All have their upsides, and of course Spring Training just started, but Nuno did a great job of coming out of the gate looking good. Part of Nuno’s upside is that he is a finesse pitcher with good control. He has had success against left-handed hitters, an attribute that bodes well for Yankee Stadium pitchers.
Many believe that Michael Pineda is the favorite to win the job if healthy. The Yankees have been forced to wait and see what he can do after acquiring him in 2012. Now 25, Pineda has been out with injury issues since coming over to the Yankees via the Jesus Montero trade. He has yet to play in a big league game in pinstripes.
It would be great to see Pineda get his shot, but in a rotation stocked with righties, it would behoove the Yankees to take a look at another left-hander to join Sabathia. Pineda, Warren and Phelps are all righties. Nuno’s stellar opening performance along with his Bronx-friendly pitching arm give him a leg up on his stiff Spring Training competition.
Competition breeds excellence, and the Yankees are certainly hoping that’s true when it comes to their pitching staff.