As I’m sure you’re already aware, the Yankees 2012 spring training isn’t exactly one that will be filled with drama. The 5th Starter is one of the few unsettled questions on the team and the two guys battling for the spot (Phil Hughes and “Sweaty” Freddy Garcia) aren’t exactly getting kicked off the team if they lose the competition; the long man spot in the bullpen is the consolation prize.
From a Yankee management perspective (folks who are looking at the team from both a win now and long term basis), I would think that the 5th starter spot is Phil Hughes’ to lose. Hughes is inching toward what will presumably be his prime years while Garcia’s career could end after this season. Although Garcia had a fine 2011 campaign (3.62 ERA), he missed time with a bizarre finger injury I still don’t understand how he incurred (kitchen accident?) and I don’t think anyone expects Garcia to turn in a sub 4 ERA in 2012. Of course, there is plenty of reason to doubt the often injured Phil Hughes, who’s 2011 was a total disaster. We’ve seen the potential, but the results have often not been there. Nevertheless, the Yankees have hung on to him for years, resisting trades and giving him every opportunity, so I don’t see why that would stop now.
From the Yankees perspective, I would think that maximizing Hughes value long term is the way to go, but if you’re a “win now” fan and you prefer Garcia to get the ball every fifth day, I see your point. You know you’re what going to get from Garcia (6 IP of 2 or 3 run ball), and I agree that such a performance gives the Yankees a good chance to win any time The Sweaty One takes the ball. Still, unless Hughes has an utterly horrible spring, look for him to be the fifth starter – and if it doesn’t work out, Garcia will be waiting in the pen to take over.