Ivan Nova was sensational in his first start since undergoing Tommy John surgery, pitching 6.2 shutout innings against the Phillies on Wednesday afternoon. This is exactly what the Yankees were hoping for as their starters have been getting shelled lately, even their top-notch guys Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda.
So with Nova returning, what does that mean for the rest of the Yankees pitching staff? It’s an interesting question, and one that may take a while to answer. The Yankees are currently planning to send out a six-man rotation, but we all saw how that plan blew up in the face of the Mets last month. I wouldn’t anticipate more than a turn or two before the Yankees return to the conventional five-man rotation, assuming all those pitchers stay healthy.
So who would be the odd man out now that Nova has wedged his way back into the rotation? C.C. Sabathia (3-7, 5.65 ERA) would be the prime suspect to get relegated to bullpen duty, but with his onerous contract it would be tough for the Yankees to justify taking him out of the rotation. Joe Girardi has stubbornly told reporters all season that Sabathia isn’t getting sent to the bullpen, and if Sabathia’s performance this season isn’t bad enough to merit getting taken out of the rotation, then nothing he does will. Tanaka isn’t going anywhere and neither is Pineda, so that leaves Nathan Eovaldi and Adam Warren to fight for the fifth spot.
Eovaldi’s win/loss record of 6-2 is extremely misleading, as the Yankees have tallied 7.66 runs of support for Eovaldi in his starts, the second-best amount in baseball. Eovaldi has put up a 4.95 ERA and a 1.572 WHIP this season, and opponents are batting an eye-popping .316 against him, which is the worst mark in the league amongst qualified starters. His 98mph fastball seems impressive, but it doesn’t have any movement to it, and hitters are easily able to square up on a straight fastball. Eovaldi also hasn’t been able to develop his splitter in the Bronx, a pitch which he worked tirelessly over during Spring Training.
Adam Warren has been marginally better, going 5-4 with a 3.62 ERA and a 1.208 WHIP. He hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in a start since May 3. He does tend to get in trouble with his command though, posting a 2.9 BB/9inn ratio. Also, his K/9inn ratio is only 5.8. Warren was a good reliever last year (and spot starter in a pinch), which has led many to suggest that Warren should be returned to the pen.
The solution isn’t an obvious one for the Bombers; we’ll see which direction they want to go in in the coming weeks.