Health will be a concern for (from l. to r.) Nathan Eovaldi, CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka heading into next season.
Joe Girardi acknowledged that starting pitching could be a Yankee weakness next season because of all the question marks his rotation faces, especially with pitchers coming off injuries.
â€œYeah, I think thereâ€™s a concern because of health, when you think about (Masahiro) Tanaka coming off an injury, (Nathan) Eovaldi coming off an injury, CC (Sabathia) with a knee heâ€™s had to deal with. Michael Pineda, that was the most innings (160.2) heâ€™s thrown after a substantial period of time.
â€œThere is some concern. We had a lot of concerns last year and the guys did OK for us. You can go into spring training with five starters that are locked in and you can still have concerns. Youâ€™d better have depth.â€
Yankee starters were tied for 18th in the majors in rotation ERA last season (4.25) and got a total of 927 innings from starters, 21st in the big leagues. The Chicago White Soxâ€™s rotation led the majors in innings pitched, recording 1,011.
The Yanks may have a burgeoning star in Luis Severino, but, like the rest of the rotation, thereâ€™s a question mark about him: Since 2016 will be his first full season, how much of his workload will have to be managed? Ask Matt Harvey about innings limits.
Girardi remains hopeful, though. He said he saw Tanaka at the Stadium before the pitcher returned to his native Japan and added, â€œHe was doing well. His rehab was going well.â€
Sabathia expressed optimism about the rotation and said heâ€™s planning to wear a brace on his balky right knee full-time next season.
â€œItâ€™s just up to us to work hard and get on the right track,â€ Sabathia said.
The knee brace helped Sabathia a great deal at the end of last season, Girardi said, because, â€œIt kept him from extending too far… I think thatâ€™s when heâ€™d get the shooting pain and heâ€™d have to favor it.
Without the departed Adam Warren and Justin Wilson as bullpen options, Girardi also acknowledged that his relief corps has changed significantly. â€œSome guys will have to step up,â€ Girardi said. â€œWe still have our eighth and ninth inning guys.
â€œWeâ€™ll figure it out.â€
Without Wilson, the Yankees need a lefty option and Girardi says James Pazos, who had a brief stint last season, is â€œdefinitely in the mix.â€
Girardi made it clear the Yanks have higher expectations for Chase Headley than what the third baseman delivered in 2015. Headley batted .259 with a .324 on-base percentage and .369 slugging percentage in 156 games and added 11 home runs and 62 RBI. He particularly struggled on defense, making 23 errors, by far a career worst.
â€œOffensively, he did pretty well,â€ Girardi said. â€œHe had his struggles defensively and we expect him to get back on track. Heâ€™ll work at it, just like he did last year, and we just got to get him back on track.â€
New Yankee Starlin Castro is a converted shortstop who has played only 38 games at second base in his career, so Girardi expects a â€œlittle bit of a learning curve, just because of some of this (defensive) shifts.â€ But the manager believes Castro will be fine.
â€œThe one thing that weâ€™ve talked about â€” shortstops have played on that side of the diamond, which helps, â€œGirardi said. â€œI watched a lot of video of him playing second. He seems fairly natural over there.â€
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