Chaos reigned supreme in the Yankees starting rotation in 2014, with Masahiro Tanaka, C.C. Sabathia, Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova all missing extended periods of time due to injury. This year Bombers fans hope for a little more consistency with their starting five, allowing as few starts as possible for stop-gap guys like Adam Warren and Chase Whitley. Let’s dive into what the Yankees' starting rotation will look like to begin the 2015 season.
The door was left open for Tanaka to become the team’s ace and he seized the opportunity. Tanaka began his 2014 campaign as the number four starter behind Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda (who left for Japan during the offseason) and Nova, but quickly jumped up to number one on merit and injuries to the rest of the staff. Tanaka was 12-3 before he suffered an elbow injury that many believed would force him to undergo Tommy John surgery. But he was able to rehab and avoid that surgery that would have taken at least a year to recover from. Tanaka came back to pitch two games in September, winning one and losing the other. He finished 2014 at 13-5 with a 2.77 ERA. He had a good spring but his velocity is down, which is slightly alarming. Tanaka has Cy Young Award potential if he can stay on the mound the entire year.
“Frustrating” is a good way to describe Pineda’s career in pinstripes so far. The Yankees acquired him from the Mariners before the 2012 season, but due to various injuries Pineda didn’t throw a pitch for the Bombers until 2014. Pineda went 5-5 with an astonishing 1.89 ERA in 2014, but an injury suffered while throwing in practice sidelined him from late April to mid-August. You might recall Pineda making two starts against the Red Sox in early April, pitching with huge patches of what was discovered to be pine tar on his neck and wrist. He was ejected early in the second game and was suspended 10 games for the infraction. Pineda has had a strong Spring Training and if he stays healthy he will be an important part of the Yankees rotation this year.
This season will end a streak of six consecutive Opening Day starts for Sabathia, but it is not without reason. Sabathia has obviously been regressing; he was 14-13 with a 4.78 ERA (far above his 3.63 career ERA) in 2013, then went 3-4 with a 5.28 ERA before being shut down for the season in July with a knee injury. Sabathia put on weight going into camp hoping to find his old form again, but he was rocked during his Spring Training starts. Yankees brass hope the 34-year-old veteran can still be serviceable this year and next, as that is the duration of his now-onerous contract (the Yankees will surely exercise their 2017 buyout option and save $20 million).
The Yankees made a deal with the Marlins this past winter for their number four starter. Eovaldi is coming off a 6-14 record in his first full season in the big leagues. His ERA was 4.37 but his FIP was a full point lower, suggesting if he had better luck with his defense behind him he would’ve performed better last year. His strikeout numbers are low for a guy who can hurl his fastball at 94 mph but his HR/9inn ratio is exceptional. Eovaldi has done well in Spring Training, so this small gamble might pay off.
Chris Capuano/Ivan Nova
Chris Capuano, a career journeyman, is the number five starter for now. Capuano appeared in 12 games for the Yankees last year, compiling a 2-3 record with a 4.25 ERA, which was in line with his career numbers (76-87, 4.28 ERA). He is expected to stay in this spot until Ivan Nova is fully recovered from Tommy John surgery in May or June. Nova has shown glimmers of promise with the Yankees, going 40-22 with a 4.20 ERA so far in his career, but last year he was dreadful, going 2-2 with an atrocious 8.27 ERA before being shut down in May to undergo Tommy John surgery.