The New York Yankees could be facing problems at the back of the pitching rotation

New York Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, James Paxton

Injuries, injuries, injuries, that’s all the New York Yankees have dealt with over the past two years. While they have managed to scrape by and get close to a World Series appearance, they haven’t been able to get over the hump as players continue to miss time, and pitchers struggle with ailments.

Ahead of the 60-game condensed schedule, the MLB and Players Association have come to a conclusion on, the Yankees are ironing out their starting team and active roster, which will be expanded from 26 to 30 players.

With extra players available, the Yankees will be looking at some of their more injury-prone positions, specifically in the outfield, to add reserve options to.

Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake is looking for consistency and continuity in their pitching rotation, something they will be working on this spring training.

“The initial thought is we come in with a five-man [rotation] with five healthy starters,” the first-year pitching coach said on Thursday after a handful of Yankees worked out at Yankee Stadium. “Obviously as we look at some of the matchups and how some of the guys are performing or feeling out of the gate, I think there’s definitely some different routes we can go.”

How are the New York Yankees setting up their roster this summer?

The club’s 30-man roster will likely incorporate 15-18 pitchers, composed of multiple starters and bullpen arms. Thirty-three of their current 58 summer camp players are pitchers, and that includes five of the organization’s top 10 prospects. The expectation is that the Yankees will utilize a five-man rotation, but a four-man group could also be the case.

Ultimately, a smaller pitching rotation will be acceptable during the shortened campaign, as fatigue will be less of an issue. That makes me believe that the Yankees will feature Gerrit Cole, Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and situate a position battle for the last spot.

That fourth spot is the one I’m most concerned about, as Jordan Montgomery and JA Happ or both gunning for starting reps. I wouldn’t rule out Clarke Schmidt or Deivi Garcia making a push as well, but they are more spring training inclusions.

The Yankees could also look to utilize an opener, similar to what they did with Chad Green in 2019. While I believe they will rely mostly on their everyday starters, if fatigue and injury starts to set in, they can lean on Green to take the stress off their starters. Having a bigger staff allows them to have a deeper bullpen, and the Yankees have one of the best groups in the entire league.

“Obviously an opener is something we’ve been using here in the past and we’ve got some really interesting options if we went that route or a bullpen day,” he explained. “So I do think all of those things are on the table starting with a template of a five-day starting rotation and then navigating from there.”

Can J.A. Happ and Jordan Montgomery be trusted?

My primary concern is Montgomery and Happ, who both either struggled or played minimal innings last year. Happ finished 2019 with an abysmal 4.91 ERA, allowing a career-high 34 home runs and 88 earned runs. While his deficiency might be a result of juiced baseballs, the expectation is that he will bounce back after a clear outlier in his career averages.

Of course, there’s no guarantee he will return to form. Montgomery, on the other hand, pitched in 4.0 innings last year, allowing one home run and three runs altogether. This spring training, he pitched in 11.0 innings, allowing four homers and a 4.09 ERA. On paper, he looks nowhere near ready to handle a starting workload, which is why the fourth spot in the rotation is still very much problematic. With Luis Severino and Domingo German set to miss the entire 2020 campaign, the Yankees will be rotating players around to see who emerges as a consistent starter.