Anthony McCarron, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Giancarlo Stanton's whiffs and the bullpen's surprising struggles are grabbing much of the attention for the Yankees' .500 start to the season as they enter a rivalry showdown Tuesday night in Boston.
But another facet of the club may morph into the trouble area that occupies the Yanks' braintrust throughout the 2018 season -- the starting rotation. Or, perhaps more accurately, the starters not named Luis Severino.
The Yankees came into the season with questions about rotation depth. Some wondered why they didn't add a frontline starter over the winter, especially in a market that contained bargains.
Now, CC Sabathia already landed on the disabled list because of a hip issue. Sonny Gray still has to prove himself in pinstripes after his half-season in 2017 and it's difficult to say for sure what Jordan Montgomery is, despite a nice rookie season. Masahiro Tanaka has looked sharp so far using his slider-splitter combo, but he endured rough patches last year, meaning he carried his own questions into 2018.
"It'll eventually force them to do something," one rival talent evaluator said of the rotation. He also suggested that the Yankees have plenty of depth in their organization to use in a potential trade for a starter later in the season.
Montgomery certainly wasn't impressive Sunday, when he lasted just 4.1 innings after the offense gave him a 5-0 lead in the first inning. He allowed four runs and a career-worst 10 hits in a game the Yanks eventually lost to Baltimore, 8-7. Montgomery blamed poor fastball command.
In fairness, the group has mostly performed so far and maybe branding the rotation a potential pitfall is as much of a nod to how much talent the roster has, overall, as anything else.
After all, Montgomery was the first starter to allow more than three runs in a game. It's only the second time since 1908 that a Yankee rotation has started the season with nine straight starts of three runs or fewer. The 1952 Yanks did it, too, and they went on to win the World Series.
This year's club is 10thin the majors in rotation ERA (3.19) entering Tuesday night, 13th in innings pitched by starters (53.2) and ninth in opponent OPS (.662).
And it has an ace, Severino, who is one of the best pitchers in baseball. He's one of 10 American League hurlers to start the season 2-0 and opponents were batting only .140 against him after two outings -- sixth-best in the majors.
The lone worry about Severino might be the jump in innings he made in 2017 -- he threw 193.1 frames, 42 more than he did in 2016 between the majors and minors. But one rival executive downplayed any concern about the increase, saying, "He's so physical. He's just a monster. I probably would not (worry)."
Even if Severino's supporting case falters, the Yanks may have answers. They have highly-touted pitchers such as Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield working in the minors and one could take a spot. Or either one could be a chip in a trade for a pitcher as the season progresses.
The Yankees also are loaded with position-player prospects who could serve the same chip role. The Yanks held on to some of their payroll space over the winter, perhaps specifically to address the rotation this summer.
It may come to that, regardless of how many runs the Yankees' vaunted offense scores. You know, once Stanton gets his swing together, along with the struggling Gary Sanchez.
Whatever the case, the Yankee rotation is something to watch. Maybe any worry will turn into nothing. Or maybe the condition of the rotation turns into everything in a season pumped full of big expectations.