At the beginning of this season, the New York Yankees’ starting rotation was questionable to say the least. However, despite coming into the season as major question marks, Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda have been absolutely electric. The only real low moment with these two surprises came when Pineda was caught with pine tar for the second time in as many weeks and received an eight-game suspension.
As it turns out, the Yankees will be without Pineda’s services for longer than expected. The 6-foot-7 righty was forced to leave a simulated game on Monday and has since been diagnosed with a Grade 1 strain of his teres major muscle in his back. He will miss at least three weeks.
After Ivan Nova’s season-ending injury, Vidal Nuno was moved from the bullpen to the fifth spot in the rotation. In his last outing against the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday, the 26-year-old allowed three runs on five hits in 4.1 innings pitched. Dellin Betances earned the win with two shutout innings in relief. Nuno essentially pitched well enough to keep the Yankees in the game, but the bullpen stepped up to clinch the victory.
The Yankees will need more of that recipe now that Pineda is going to miss significant time. In his absence, David Phelps will move the starting rotation – meaning the bullpen is losing another arm.
David Robertson’s return from the DL is huge as the Yankees will likely rely heavily on the bullpen during the next three weeks. Preston Claiborne will likely take on a bigger role, or Adam Warren may have outings where he’s on the hill for multiple innings. Either way, the guys in middle relief are going to have to step up.
Nuno and Phelps are like Nova in that both could get shelled. Unfortunately, they lack Nova’s upside. That is, it’s not likely that either will go seven strong without surrendering a run. Still, if they can keep the game close, the Yankees could have a good chance at winning. Much will depend on how well the bullpen performs.