The New York Yankees have four solidified starters in their rotation in the arms of C.C Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Masahiro Tanaka and Ivan Nova. All solid starters who have a lot of upside as they enter the 2014 season.
On the other hand, there is a tight and open competition for the last fifth spot between David Phelps and Michael Pineda, and it looks like Pineda might have taken a step closer to joining the rotation without even having to step on the mound.
Phelps was not completely awful in his start against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night, as he allowed only one run in 2.2 innings of work. However, he allowed a total of six base-runners by giving up five hits and walking one. In other words, if it was not a Spring Training game, then Phelps would have had to stay longer in the game and probably would have been tagged for a lot more runs. At the end of the day, allowing over two base runners per inning will definitely get a pitcher in trouble.
And that is where Pineda comes in. He was an All-Star in his rookie year in Seattle, striking out 173 batters in only 171 innings and posted a 3.74 ERA back in 2011. Unfortunately, bad luck has followed Pineda ever since being traded from the Seattle Mariners to the Yankees as multiple injuries have kept him sidelined for the past two seasons.
Things look like they could be different in 2014 as he now enters Spring Training in good shape and feeling 100 percent. He would make a great option to have at the fifth slot in the rotation if he can stay healthy and regain the form he had with the Mariners in 2011. There is no doubt his stuff is more electric than Phelps’, but whether he can finally put it all together and remain healthy in his third season with New York will be the key to him opening the season with the Bronx Bombers or in the minors.
However, it might not even matter if Pineda is half as effective as he was with Seattle. If Phelps continues to have substandard outings in Spring Training, and if Pineda manages nothing else but to stay healthy, then do not be surprised to see Pineda taking the ball for the Yankees every fifth day, at least at the start of the season.