Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Yankees Starters Skating on Thin Ice

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Yankees Starters Skating on Thin Ice

Article excerpt

Their prayers were answered -- for two nights anyway.

The Yankees had $155 million reasons to count on Masahiro Tanaka on Wednesday after surrendering a combined 21 runs in two losses to the Mets.

But Chase Whitley?

His 4 2/3 scoreless innings Thursday helped give the Yankees' shattered rotation consecutive shutouts before Friday night's game with the Pittsburgh Pirates was postponed by inclement weather. It will be made up in Sunday's single-admission doubleheader at the Stadium.

The staff needed a lift with 60 percent of its starters on the disabled list and only Tanaka performing to expectations.

But while Whitley's triumphant major-league debut provided a boost, one start will not solve any of the paper-thin staff's problems.

A recent call-up (Whitley), a career minor-leaguer (left-hander Vidal Nuno) and a reliever (David Phelps) somehow have to replace the injured CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda, respectively. The Yankees need all three to succeed.

"Emotions can fluctuate a lot about how a team is playing from day to day, week to week," manager Joe Girardi said Thursday. "We weren't pitching too well. Think about [the Mets] series: You saw a ton of hitting in the first two games, then you didn't see much in the next two games. It can fluctuate a lot."

But many of the rotation's issues defy fluctuation.

Nova is done for the season following Tommy John surgery. Sabathia's degenerative right knee condition is yet another major concern, joining his rocky transition from flamethrower to junkballer. Pineda has not been able to stay on the field since 2011. And Hiroki Kuroda often looks his 39 years.

So the performances of Whitley, Nuno and Phelps will be keys, at least in the near term.

Few options remain beyond them. Dellin Betances and Adam Warren were starters in the minors, but have become integral members of the bullpen. With the meteoric emergence of Betances (1.61 ERA, 39 strikeouts in 22 1/3 innings), Warren could join the rotation if necessary, Fox's Ken Rosenthal reported Friday.

But that would not happen until Shawn Kelley (back) returns from the disabled list.

Betances' future role probably will be closing, not returning to the rotation. …

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