It was a surprise to hear that Phil Hughes would be pitching tonight. David Huff didn’t exactly earn another start after his Red Sox outing, but Hughes was also bad in relief, perhaps worse. Upon hearing that Hughes would be pitching in this big game tonight, I figured that Joe Girardi‘s theory was to keep Hughes in the rotation, where he was at least decent a handful of times, and the same for Huff in the bullpen.
But now that I’ve had some time to think about it, this isn’t the first time that Girardi has played games with the rotation. A lot Huff’s successful relief outings came in situations where he went the distance behind a failed start.
Girardi is obviously a manager that is mindful of platoon splits, and over his time with the Yankees it’s easy to see that he’ll make a number of moves just to get a slight edge against the opponent. Tonight, the Orioles will set their lineup for the right-handed Phil Hughes. If Hughes struggles at any point, Girardi can easily bring out the left-handed David Huff as the long man, where he’ll lineup to face left-handed hitters like Nick Markakis, Nate McLouth, and Henry Urrutia. Not only is it a change of pace for the Orioles’ lineup, but any platoon advantages they setup will be eliminated.
Without a consistent fifth starter, a long man rotation might be the best bet to get the biggest advantage over their opponent. Fortunately, the Yankees have a couple of off days to work with, particularly Monday. They can skip this spot on the rotation and hope that the cast of long men keeps opposing lineups confused. After similar success against the Blue Jays (twice) and the White Sox, we’ll see if and how well it fairs against a superior offense like the Orioles tonight.