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Putting the Pettitte Cart Before the Horse



By Mike Silva ~ March 27th, 2012. Filed under: New York Yankees.

Andrew Marchand of ESPN NY has consistently been concerned about Michael Pineda‘s velocity this spring. He, along with some other members of the media and blogosphere, have almost comically tracked each Pineda pitch. The thought of sending Pineda down to the minors seemed absurd earlier in spring, but the signing of Andy Pettitte gave the meme a more realistic chance. With the surplus of pitching many writers are trying to figure out the odd man out, and proposing trades and demotions.

Marchand suggested in a blog post earlier today the Yankees should not trade Freddy Garcia, and choose between Michael PinedaIvan Nova and Phil Hughes starting the year at Triple-A. I think trading Garcia is a bad idea, but Marchand’s alternative is even worse.

I really like Freddy Garcia. He is a guy that has built a long career by adjusting to the physical limitations that Father Time has thrown at him. He went from a power pitcher to someone that relies on control and changing of speeds. His career looked over when he tried out for the Mets in 2009, only to revive it in Chicago by the end of that season. He makes Yankees fans nervous each time he takes the mound, but regardless of the amount of base runners he seems to come away with 6 innings/3 runs in every start.

With that said, Garcia is an insurance policy on a team that can win now and develop young arms. CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda are a great 1-2 punch. Ivan Nova has done nothing but compete and win since he was called up in 2010. Why should he get sent down? Because he doesn’t strike out enough batters and that doesn’t pass the mustard with some sabermetric ideology? Phil Hughes deserves a chance to prove he can be a consistent #3 starter in the big leagues. No good will come out of sending Pineda down to Triple-A. He needs to learn how to handle the glare of the Bronx. He needs to learn his craft on a big league mound, not in various Upstate New York outposts. He should be given every opportunity to fail, and then some, before he is sent down. You can lose a kid for good by doing that in this town. You want to destroy the confidence of a 23-year old prospect that cost you Jesus Montero before opening day?

Garcia and Pettitte are not the future. Pineda, Nova and Hughes are. There needs to be a balance between winning and development, and the Yankees are in the perfect position to do just that.

The real culprit behind this discussion isn’t Garcia; it’s the guy that was brought in two weeks ago- Andy Pettitte.

Everyone seems to think it’s a fait accompli that Pettitte will be in the Yankees rotation this year. We saw veterans like Kevin Millwood and Carlos Silva attempt minor league comebacks last year. Each was unsuccessful and later released by the organization. Pettitte, because of his resume, will get a longer look, but the fact remains that he will be 40-years old in June and hasn’t pitched in well over a year. To count him as a certainty is foolish. To mess around with the rotation because of him is insanity.

Unless his health prevents him from coming out of the bullpen, Garcia should stay there all year. He can provide innings when a starter gets hit early. If you have an injury he can be there to step in. Most importantly, he can continue to help mentor young pitchers like Nova and Pineda.

I don’t get the obsession with sending down Nova, Hughes or Pineda. Considering the Yankees Triple-A rotation is already stacked with Banuelos, Betances, Warren, Mitchell and Phelps, there isn’t room for an obligatory stint for anyone else.

Pitching surplus can turn into pitching scarcity very quickly. Ask the Red Sox how their surplus worked out last season. Don’t trade Freddy Garcia. Don’t put him in the starting rotation. Let’s see Andy Pettitte throw a pitch in a simulated game before we sign him up for a quality start every five days in the Bronx. Let’s allow Hughes, Pineda and Nova to pitch themselves into a minor league assignment before we send them on the next bus Upstate.

Let’s all calm down and let this develop in a sensible manner.

Don’t put the cart before the horse.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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5 Responses to Putting the Pettitte Cart Before the Horse

  1. Raul

    The media is pathetic.

    Velocity is probably the single least important part of any pitcher’s success.

    OMG!!! PINEDA ISN’T THROWING 97!!!

    You know who else isn’t throwing 97? Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, CC Sabathia. Neither did Glavine or Maddux or Mussina or Carpenter or Greinke or countless other successful pitchers.

    Give me a break.

  2. Ken Bland

    Raul,

    While your point is true, let’s not lose sight of the fact that Pineda is showing speed slippage (according to Florida radar, fwiw) at an early age. I wouldn’t think many if any of the top names you mentioned did.

    Maybe it’s a mechanical issue that’s a factor, maybe the radar, maybe it doesn’t matter too much. But it is worth keeping an eye on.
    Which is different than overeacting.

    This new school thinking about changing speeds being more important than speed might well be true, but it’s a little overdone. There’s still a lot to be said for a guy who can throw 98 and build a repetoire off that. Maybe Greg Maddux’d disagree, but it seems a pole position trait, and you’d hate to see a 23 year old have peaked in that facet.

    I wonder if Andy Pettitte reads this blog. He might enjoy it. Might is an operative word.

  3. Chuck Johnson

    OK, ladies, let’s stop for a second.

    Regular season ends in October.

    Pitcher has five months off before reporting date.

    He plays catch with his neighbor.

    He does the rubber chicken circuit.

    He climbs Kilimanjaro

    He plays in a couple of PGA pro-ams.

    Somewhere around New Years, he heads to Florida or Arizona or his old college practice field and starts to work out.

    Hopefully, by reporting day he can still fit into his uniform, and starts structured workouts.

    You expect a guy who hasn’t done JACK for five months to throw 98 his first time out?!?!

    Come on.

    Pettitte said the other day after his first pen his arm felt great.

    So why is it he won’t be in game shape until May?

    BECAUSE HE HAS NO LEGS…

    You guys realize pitchers throw with their legs, right?

    If Pineda’s throwing 92 in July, fine, I’ll be worried too.

    But March?

    LOL

  4. Joseph DelGrippo

    Ken: “This new school thinking about changing speeds being more important than speed might well be true…”

    New school? Um, Ken, this changing speeds thing has been around a long, long time.

    Warren Spahn once said, “Hitting is timing, and by changing speeds, pitching is disrupting that timing.” He won 363 games, most of them after 1952 when Spahn lost his big fastball and began moving the ball around and changing speeds.

    If Pineda is throwing “only” 92 by the middle of July, but has won 10 games with an ERA in the three’s, I am totally OK with his velocity.

    Christy Mathewson was another pitcher who changed speeds early in baseball. Whitey Ford another. Catfish Hunter another. Greg Maddux did, too.

    All four of these guys (different types of pitchers from different eras) weren’t overpowering with the fastball but relied on location and changing speeds.

    Seriously. Can’t we all just let these guys pitch? (and stay retired)

  5. Ken Bland

    Joseph,

    Very fair correction. The changing of speeds is very old, but the publicity/public conciousness of it would apply to the time frame of what might be considered new school. Maybe you disagree with that, but at least now I feel like I’ve said what I meant to say.

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