Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hughesus, and Tigers, and Wangs (Oh My!)

Over the past week, there has been a great deal of debate as to who should fill-in for Chien-Ming Wang while he sorts out his issues in Tampa. While the question itself has now been answered (according to the Hartford Courant, Phil Hughes will be called-up for Tuesday's game against the Tigers), the debate still rages on. In my mind, there were four reasonable possibilities to pick-up the slack - Hughes, Ian Kennedy, Alfredo Aceves, and Kei Igawa.

The case for Hughes:

Phil Hughes has been dominant thus far in Scranton (3-0, 1.86 ERA, 19/3 K/BB in 19.1 IP). He pitched very well in the hitter-friendly Arizona Fall League, was light's out down the stretch for Scranton last season, and looked quite good in his last two starts with the Yankees (2.25 ERA, 10/2 K/BB in 12 IP). In short, he's been nothing but great since returning from a rib injury in late 2008. While Hughes has had his ups and downs throughout his minor league and major league career, particularly in terms of controlling his stuff, he has been riding high for the past several months. Hughes also has the best stuff of the bunch.

The case for Kennedy:

Ian Kennedy has also been fantastic in Scranton thus far (1-0, 2.00 ERA, 21/5 K/BB in 18 IP). In fact, Kennedy has been nothing but great in 121.2 IP at Scranton over the past few years (2.22 ERA, 127/42 K/BB). Kennedy does not have much more to prove in the minors and, between three seasons at USC and 244 IP in the minors, has a great deal of experience pitching against solid competition.

The case for Aceves:

Alfredo Aceves was one of the Yankees best starters down the stretch last season, posting a 2.40 ERA and 1.17 WHIP over 30 IP. While he has been knocked around in Scranton this season, he pitched well at every level in 2008 and pitched against Double-A level talent for several years in the Mexican League.

The case for Igawa:

Kei Igawa will earn $4 million this season... and $4 million in 2010... and $4 million in 2011. While he hasn't shown much with the Yankees, he has been solid for Scranton over the past three years, and pitched well in Japan for seven years.

In the end, I'm not sure where I stand on the issue. In fact, much of my thoughts hinge on how many starts Wang will miss. Hughes is, in my mind, the best of the group, and has earned a couple of starts at the Major League level. However, I do not want to see him make one start, then shuffle back and forth between Scranton and the Bronx. With the Yankees needing a long reliever out of the bullpen, I would also be interested in seeing Aceves or Igawa make a start or two, then settle into that role if and when Wang returns - simply put, I don't see Aceves or Igawa panning out as starters. I believe Kennedy is the most Major League ready of the group, and feel that he would suffer the least from shuffling back and forth, were that the case.

As it stands, I support this decision - I don't really think there was a wrong way for the Yankees to go in this case, though.