The Yankees were dealt a big blow to their starting rotation last night with the news that Michael Pineda would not only miss the one start he was suppose to because of the 10-game pine tar suspension, but that he’ll likely miss a handful of starts over the next 3-4 weeks because of a Grade 1 strain in the teres major muscle in his back.
Pineda suffered the injury while throwing a simulated game down on Tampa, trying to stay loose before his suspension.
It was originally diagnosed as just a tight lat, but an MRI later in the day showed the Grade 1 strain, and while the Yankees were waiting for Pineda to see team doctor Chris Ahmad, they announced that he’ll be shutdown for 10 days, and should be out a minimum of 3-4 weeks as he rebuilds strength.
For those of you that are wondering, the teres major muscle is located in the back, just under the shoulder and rotator cuff, and while it’s not actually a part of those things, I’d have to imagine that the Yankees are going to play this very cautiously, as they won’t want Pineda to reinjure the surgically repaired shoulder, and miss any more time than he has to.
It’s also worth noting that Los Angeles Dodgers starting Clayton Kershaw suffered the same injury right before the season, and he just pitched in his first rehab game the other day.
This was obviously not great news for the Yankees, who also announced on Tuesday that Ivan Nova had a successful Tommy John surgery, starting the 12-18 month rehab process.
The Bombers had come into the season with the starting rotation being possibly their biggest strength, and now it’s starting to look like a major concern.
So what we’re looking at here is a starting rotation that now features both Vidal Nuno and David Phelps – and we’re not even out of April yet.
Nuno and Phelps were two of the pitchers that battled with Pineda for the fifth starting spot this spring. Both of them pitched well enough to earn the gig, but we all knew going in that it would be Pineda’s job to lose if he was healthy. Well, now he’s not healthy and the Yankees have to deal with that.
Nuno has already made two starts this season – the first in the double header against the Chicago Cubs, and the second this past weekend filling in for the injured Nova – and he looked good in the first outing, a little less so in the second against the Los Angeles Angels.
The Yankees have been using Nuno on a pitch-limit because of the fact that he’s only been working out of the bullpen up to this point, so it’ll take him a few more start to get stretched out. He’s got the stuff to mess with hitters and keep them off-balances by changing speeds, but how he changes up the second and third time through the order will be the big thing for me.
Phelps, meanwhile, made a handful for the Yankees last season and was below decent (4.93 ERA in 65.2 innings) until getting hurt, himself. However, he has not been very good this season out of the bullpen, allowing seven runs and three homeruns in just 11.2 innings. Maybe given the chance to start, he’ll pitch a little better, but I wouldn’t hold my breath on that at this point.
Phelps, by the way, gets the start tonight for the Yankees when they play the Mariners for the second of three games this week at Yankee Stadium.
When looking at whom else the Yankees might be able to bring in to start games, there is no immediate help in the minors that, at the moment, would suggest they’re a better solution than Phelps or Nuno.
The Yankees do have Alferdo Aceves stashed in Triple-A for a time like this, but even though he’s put up good numbers through his first couple of starts (1.98 ERA in 13.2 innings), it’s small sample-size, and he hasn’t been good in the big leagues for a couple of years.
With Nova down for the rest or the year, I’d be in favor of having Brian Cashman make some moves to get what he can, whether be on the free market or in free-agency. MLBDailyDish’s Chris Cotillo recently reported that the Yankees have yet to show any interest in Scott Baker, who has a 2.81 ERA with 26 strikeouts and 10 walks in five starts for the Texas Rangers’ Triple-A team. Baker can opt out of his contract if not in the majors by May 31st.
I would think that the Ranges will call him up at some point if he really is throwing the ball well in Triple-A, but if they don’t and he opts out, he’ll be someone worth going after.
Finding a starter on the trade market this early in the season might become an issue for the Yankees, especially since they don’t have much to offer that would overwhelm anybody to the point of making them pull the trigger on a deal.
When Pineda was suspended after the news of Nova’s upcoming Tommy John, I was thankful that that he would only be out for a short time, because the Yankees could not afford to lose him for anymore than a start or two. Now two has turned into about five, and the Yankees don’t have anywhere else reliable enough to turn to other then Nuno and Phelps.
I think they’ll be able to do the job for the time being, but regardless, the Yankees’ rotation is in trouble with the loss of another talented starting pitcher.