In some ways, this isn’t a huge problem for the 2012 Yankees. Yes, you’d much prefer to have Garcia sporting the sub-4.00 ERA he pitched to in 2011, but he’s the team’s fifth starter at the moment, and with Andy Pettitte and (hopefully) Michael Pineda joining the active roster at some point, the Yankees aren’t likely to have to endure Garcia for long.
On the other hand, David Phelps has been pitching well in long relief in his first taste of the big leagues. Though it’s still a small sample, Phelps has pitched 12.1 innings so far (compared to 12.0 for Garcia), allowing four earned runs with 11 strikeouts to 3 walks in that span. Phelps won the long relief role thanks to a strong Spring Training performance and, so far, he’s proven to be pretty reliable weapon when the Yankees need to turn to the bullpen early. In fact, yesterday was the second time Phelps has pitched over two innings in relief of Garcia already this year, and the Yankees wound up winning both of those games. Considering the visible difference between the quality of the two’s performance, it’s hardly surprising that some fans are already wondering if the Yankees shouldn’t let Phelps take Garcia’s place in the rotation as they wait for the return of Andy Pettitte sometime in early May (knock on wood).
First of all, let me say that I don’t think the Yankees will do this, or even give it serious thought for that matter. They’ve stated numerous times how much they like Garcia as a picher and as a clubhouse guy, they went out of their way to get him re-signed about as early as they possibly could have in the offseason, and, more generally, they just aren’t prone to the sort of quick change this move would represent. Indeed, even though the Yankees could use the scheduled off day this coming Thursday to skip Garcia’s start in the next turn through the rotation, pitching coach Larry Rothschild yesterday indicated to reporters that they probably wouldn’t do that.
That said, if it were my decision I’d very seriously consider giving Phelps a chance to show what he’s capable of doing right now as a major league starter. Of course, I’m not much of a believer in Garcia in the first place, and I pointed out over the offseason how the underlying components to his 2011 season heavily suggested that he was do for regression this year. Even if that weren’t the case, however, with Pettitte set to return soon, Garcia isn’t long for the rotation anyway. Between the limited upside and commitment to Garcia, there’s no real reason to think beyond the short term where Garcia is concerned, so if Phelps is likely to give you better outings, you might as well just let him take the starts. Heck, with Phil Hughes scuffling as well, Phelps may emerge as the team’s early season fourth starter and may function as a rotation option even after Pettitte debuts.