Two very significant pitching developments happened for the New York Yankees yesterday with Luis Severino looking like an absolute stud and Michael Pineda returning to make a rehab start for Double-A Trenton. Pineda, who threw 42 pitches, allowed two runs over three innings in the start, but as we know the results of these rehab outings do not mean much. The fact that Pineda came through the outing pain free is the most important part. "I don't feel any pain," said Pineda. "I am happy that I feel pretty good today in my first rehab assignment. I had good command today and the ball was moving pretty good today."
So, even though the Yankees didn't sweep the Toronto Blue Jays yesterday the day wasn't a total loss. What Severino did was pretty incredible when you really think about it. He dominated the best lineup in baseball with basically just his four-seam fastball. His command of his slider and changeup weren't even good, and he still struck out nine over six innings in front of a raucous crowd in Toronto. Severino struck out Edwin Encarnacion -- who has never seen a fastball he doesn't like -- three times and I've never seen him as over-matched against a heater as he was against Severino's.
With Severino replacing Pineda in the rotation seamlessly it certainly doesn't look like he's going anywhere, especially since Brian Cashman said he was here to stay when he was brought up even before he started off so well. Ivan Nova also pitched very well in Toronto and has shown considerable improvement lately in missing bats. Nathan Eovaldi has been good for awhile, so his rotation spot certainly isn't in jeopardy.
This leaves CC Sabathia, who should have been removed from the rotation awhile ago, yet still remains. He's coming off consecutive starts of allowing two runs or fewer in six innings. Two starts ago against Boston he was legitimately good striking out eight hitters, and in Cleveland he was extremely fortunate allowing nine hits and only two runs. If Sabathia hadn't been removed from the rotation after other brutal starts why would he after he has had good results in his last two?
So, that leaves going with a six-man rotation the rest of the way as the only other option. This makes sense since the Yankees want Masahiro Tanaka pitching on five days rest and they want to protect Pineda. They have a stretch of 13 games consecutively in September and then 17 games in a row to end the season extending into October. Also, September call-ups will make it much easier to support a six-man rotation. Pineda probably has another rehab start left, but after that it will be very interesting to see how the Yankees play out their rotation the rest of the way.