The Yankees said Saturday that they'll begin the season with Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia in the starting rotation.
Fine, but what will the rotation look like at the end of the year? Or in the middle of the year?
You can say that about any team, but it's more of a pressing issue with the Yankees, who scrambled to regroup after Cliff Lee turned them down in December. They're still scrambling, even though they can feel good about the way some of their starters pitched this spring.
The Yankees actually had three decent options for the final two spots in the rotation, because Nova, Garcia and Bartolo Colon all pitched well at times this spring. So they'll keep all three, moving Colon to the bullpen to start the season.
Manager Joe Girardi said Friday that the Yankees think Colon's rotation, which was in the mid 90s this spring, might actually improve in the shorter stints needed in relief. Once the Yankees decided to keep all three pitchers (and traded Sergio Mitre to the Brewers), Colon became a natural choice for the bullpen, because it was thought that Garcia wouldn't fit there at all, and because there's a question about how many innings Colon will be able to pitch.
On the same day they traded Mitre, the Yankees gave themselves one more option by signing Kevin Millwood to a minor-league contract. Millwood can become a free agent if the Yankees don't bring him to the major leagues by May 1, but that gives the team another month to evaluate Millwood (who will go to Triple-A Scranton), but also to see if what they saw from Garcia and Colon this spring was real.
Colon had a 2.40 ERA in four spring starts. Garcia's ERA was 5.93, but he pitched better than that. The 24-year-old Nova was very good this spring, with a 1.80 ERA in five appearances.
While the Yankees spent all spring working on the back end of the rotation, their success will likely depend more on how the pitchers at the top of the rotation perform. There are questions behind ace CC Sabathia, with A.J. Burnett coming off an awful 2010 season, and Phil Hughes' velocity down significantly this spring (from the low 90s last year, to 87-89 mph this spring).
The other huge question, of course, is whether the Yankees will find a big-time starter to trade for at midseason.
"They'll just go get Felix Hernandez," said one scout who followed the Yankees.
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik maintains that he won't deal Hernandez, but other top starters will likely become available. In just the last couple of years, Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Dan Haren have all been traded.
Chances are, someone like that will be traded this year, too. And that's why it's easy to think the rotation that the Yankees set on Saturday won't be the one you see by the end of the season.