Unless one counts the Japanese media following Hideki Irabu around in the late 1990's, there really hasn't been as microscopic look at what should transpire with the New York Yankees fifth starter spot. Oh sure there was the 2003 battle between Jose Contreras and Jeff Weaver of recent memory, but never anything with as much juice as this. Additionally when the fifth spot in the rotation is stirring up all of the commotion in Spring Training, that can only be a good sign moving forward.
Of course the Yankees could have easily gone with Alfredo Aceves or Sergio Mitre with this lineup and bullpen and penciled in 10-12 wins for either one. And in the same breath in the short term the Yankees could have loaded up the bridge to Mo with more tolls than New Jersey by putting both Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain in late inning setup roles.
Yet an organization that has hungered to develop its own cheap effective starting pitching for years is taking an approach that they believe will help them in the short term and down the road. What the Yankees are effectivley doing is grooming the replacements for their last two prized homegrown products of the last 15 years, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera.
The Yankees view Hughes' ceiling as a potential number three in the near term and while Joe Girardi was non-commital about the eighth inning role, why else keep Joba Chamberlain in the bullpen if not to learn from the great Mariano Rivera?
I do like the fact that Joe Girardi has the confidence in all of his relievers in just about any spot and certainly the Yankees have some hard throwers with big time strikeout stuff like David Robertson and Mark Melancon. However I have to wonder if you're not grooming Chamberlain for the closer spot, why aren't you sending him back down to Triple-A to start and work out the kinks? One would think that after all the yo-yo-ing and 'Joba Rules' that a guy who has shown some glimpses of potential and is still in his early 20's would get another crack to prove himself with the training wheels off even if that process has to start at Triple-A this season. That is unless of course the organization has him projected as a closer.
There are a couple of other reasons the Yankees need Hughes and Chamberlain to succeed and their names are Roy Halladay and Johan Santana. The Yankees passed up two blockbuster deals involving these two, not wanting to go 'That 80's Show' route of potentially trading the next Doug Drabek and Jose Rijo.
So going forward the Yankees rotation is set for 2010, enjoy the ride kids.