The State of the Yankees Rotation: Are You an Optimist or a Pessimist?

Phil Hughes #65 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Boston Red Sox during the game on September 13, 2012 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.
Phil Hughes.

The Yankees beat the Red Sox 2–0 at Fenway Park last night to take the three-game series and remain tied with Baltimore atop the American League East. The game’s first run came during one of those infuriating innings in which the Yankees had an opportunity for a big frame and scored just one run, while the other came on a Derek Jeter RBI single — the 3,283rd hit of his career, tying Willie Mays for tenth on the all-time list. Meanwhile, Phil Hughes threw seven and a third shutout innings on a day in which the Yankees’ rotation for the remainder of the year came into focus.

Glass-half-full types had reason to be excited yesterday: Hughes, who’s been so inconsistent, turned in one his best starts of the season in an important game in which he was given very little run support. Earlier in the day, the Yankees announced that Andy Pettitte, he of the record nineteen postseason wins, will return to the rotation and start on Tuesday, replacing David Phelps. Meanwhile, if all goes well, Freddy Garcia — who likely won’t be getting any better at this point in the season — has made his last start for the Yankees. The optimist can have faith that ace CC Sabathia will return to form and that the reliable Hiroki Kuroda might even resemble the pitcher he was for a time in July and August, when he posted a 1.39 ERA over the span of seven starts.

Glass-half-empty types, though, might not be convinced: Hughes last night was facing a Red Sox team that, as much as it would like to play spoiler, is in the home stretch of a disaster of a season. (They also played last night without Dustin Pedroia, whose wife gave birth to their second child.) Pettitte, for all the great things he’s done in his career, and for a solid a season as he was having before going the disabled list, says he doesn’t know whether his stamina will be an issue when he returns, working on roughly a 70-pitch count. (He also admitted on Michael Kay’s radio show that he feels 100 percent but doubts the Yankees would send him to the mound Tuesday if the team had a comfortable lead in the A.L. East.) And as for Garcia, he’s being replaced in the rotation by Ivan Nova, who was pitching terribly before landing on the DL.

Here’s the thing, though, regardless of your outlook: Save for Teixeira’s return to the lineup, these changes to the rotation will be the last real shake-up for this team as it plays out the final weeks of the regular season. And so perhaps reshuffling the rotation will be the spark needed to change the direction of this team. Perhaps the next few weeks will be better than the last few weeks. Perhaps Phil Hughes will throw seven-plus shutout innings more often. Perhaps the optimists will be proven right. Because the glass-half-empty outlook suggests fans might be left simply hoping that certain guys already on the roster, you know, just start to play better than they’ve been playing. And, who knows, maybe that’ll happen. Or maybe the Orioles will cool off and help the Yankees out a bit. But changes are a-comin’. How much they’ll help, if it all, remains to be seen.

The State of the Yankees Rotation