Commentary

Rain, pain wreak havoc on Yankees

Alfredo Aceves likely headed to DL as day-night doubleheader puts wrench in rotation

Updated: May 11, 2010, 9:19 PM ET
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com

DETROIT -- The New York Yankees didn't lose a game Tuesday night, just another player, and worse than that, the best-laid plans of a manager dealing with a bullpen as thin as Ivan Nova's major-league resume.

First, Girardi had to deal with losing Alfredo Aceves, probably the only reliable right-hander in his bullpen not named Mo or Joba, to a recurring lower back injury.

Then, he had to deal with the loss of a day for his rotation due to the rainout of Tuesday night's scheduled game against the Detroit Tigers, a game for which he had already juggled his rotation so that the troubled Javier Vazquez could make his return to action in a relatively low-pressure situation.

Now, he is looking ahead to what a rescheduled day-night doubleheader on Wednesday does to his pitching plans for the rest of the week.

"Split doubleheaders aren't good for a club, I don't think,'' Girardi said after Tuesday's game was called at about 6:25 p.m. after a full day of heavy rain. "It's just hard on your guys physically, it's hard on your pitching staff and it's hard on your bullpen. And now this messes up Sunday, too.''

Girardi's plan was to throw Vazquez on Tuesday and Phil Hughes on Wednesday against the Tigers, with Vazquez coming back to pitch Sunday's game against the Minnesota Twins at Yankee Stadium.

Now, he has to use both Vazquez and Hughes on Wednesday, which leaves him no starter on regular rest for Sunday. There's always Sergio Mitre, who took the loss in an emergency start on Monday night against the Tigers, but the odds are Mitre might be needed out of the bullpen before then.

Which means that while the players get an unexpected day off, the manager and GM wind up with an unexpected, and unwanted, night of laboring over a roster move.

"I'm not sure what the move is going to be right now,'' Girardi said. "I'll have to talk to [Brian Cashman].''

Right now, Nova, a 23-year-old righty with about 100 innings of Triple-A ball to his credit, is the long man out of the bullpen should either Vazquez or Hughes falter early on Wednesday. And if both of them should falter, and the Yankees need to use a lot of bullpen, well, remember the sight of Jonathan Van Every pitching to Mark Teixeira at Fenway Park on Saturday? Or Nick Swisher pitching against the Tampa Rays in April?

Well, things probably wouldn't get that drastic, but they could get very interesting. "I guess you could use some [relievers] in both games, depending on how they felt and how hard they worked,'' Girardi said. "Or you could mix and match guys to pitch to one batter. We'll just have to see what happens.''

In any event, the Yankees will make at least one roster move on Wednesday to replace Aceves, and could make another if Girardi and Cashman decide they need more pitching. They could return infielder Kevin Russo to Scranton-Wilkes Barre and bring up a pitcher, perhaps Romulo Sanchez, who pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings against the Red Sox in Sunday night's blowout loss, although Girardi said he would be unable to pitch until at least Thursday.

One roster move that was expected to be made Tuesday and then delayed was the addition of first baseman Juan Miranda, a 27-year-old Cuban defector who was hitting .260 with five homers and 15 RBIs in Scranton. The Yankees wanted him to provide a left-handed bat off the bench, but the Aceves developments caused them to delay making the move.

"It's not good for anyone when these things happen,'' Girardi said, referring to the rainout.

He could also have been referring to the problems of Aceves, who will fly back to New York on Wednesday for tests on what he believes is a bulging disk in his lower back and is expected to be placed on the 15-day disabled list. Or the plight of Mariano Rivera, who hasn't pitched since April 30, at first due to some tightness in his left side and for the past few days due to a lack of need for a closer. The rainout extends his absence now to nearly two weeks, the longest inactive streak of his career without being on the DL.

Or the elbow soreness that caused Andy Pettitte to miss a start, resulting in the first reshuffling of his spot in the rotation. Or the loss of Chan Ho Park, the original long man in his bullpen, to a hamstring injury. Or the mystery of Vazquez, whose struggles caused a lot of this mess in the first place.

"This really kind of messes up everything,'' Girardi said.

CLUBHOUSE CHATTER: On the bright side, the rainout relieved Girardi of the burden of juggling days off for his veterans, especially Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter. Now, all three have had a day off this week, allowing Girardi the luxury of using one as a DH in each of the two games on Wednesday. In his Tuesday lineup, Girardi was giving A-Rod a DH day and starting Ramiro Pena at third. ... The Tigers will remain on rotation and throw RHP Rick Porcello against Vazquez in the first game and RHP Jeremy Bonderman against Hughes in the second, as originally planned. ... Girardi said Pettitte is still on schedule to start Saturday's game against the Twins, and was hopeful that Park, who is slated to throw bullpen sessions on Wednesday and Friday, would rejoin the team "shortly thereafter." ... A bit was made in the local media about Tigers closer Jose Valverde's "antics'' after striking out the side to close out Monday's 5-4 Tigers win. Much like Joba Chamberlain, Valverde likes to pump his fist after a strikeout and did an exaggerated high-step off the mound after fanning A-Rod to end the game. "He's been doing that his whole career. It's just who he is,'' said Girardi, who did not seem bothered by the display. "And we factor into his antics. If we score some runs, he doesn't do it.''

Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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