Monday, May 5, 2008


WHAT a difference three days make. The ups and downs of a Major League Baseball season were never more apparent than this weekend.

The New York Yankees, swept by the Detroit Tigers, bounced back to win all three games against the Seattle Mariners.

And just when it seemed that the Tigers had finally hit top form, they go and lose 3-0 in Minnesota, surrendering a 6-0 first-inning lead in the final game of the series.

Nothing, it seems, goes according to plan in baseball. The Yankees’ starting rotation was supposed to be built around two whizz-kids; two stars of the future.

Yet here we are little more than a month into the season and Phil Hughes (21) and Ian Kennedy (23) are both out of the rotation with no likelihood of a quick return.

Just four days after placing Hughes on the disabled list with a stress fracture of a rib, the Yanks sent Kennedy down to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the hope that he can regain his confidence and command. Neither managed to win a game in 11 starts between them.

General manager Brian Cashman’s gamble on youth over experience – he voted against trading one or both to the Twins for Johan Santana – has failed to pay off. So far.

Whether it will do so in the long term is extremely doubtful. Hughes may be able to use injury as an excuse, although there was no mention of it during his early season struggles.

Kennedy axed after five starts with an ERA of 8.37

Kennedy, a younger model of Mike Mussina, relies on location rather than velocity. And the signs are that the promise he showed last season has caused Cashman and the Yankees to overrate him. He leaves with an ERA of 8.37.

A few weeks ago, it seemed likely that Mussina would be the first man ditched from the rotation. Now he is the No. 3 starter.

Darrell Rasner managed to succeed where both Hughes and Kennedy failed, winning his first start and conceding just two runs against Seattle. A six-run bottom of the third aided his cause.

Now it's likely that Japanese misfit Kei Igawa will become the fifth starter and get another chance to justify the five-year deal, worth $20 million, the Yanks gave him in December 2006.

Should Igawa fail again, Cashman and co can only hope and pray that either Hughes or Kennedy is deemed ready to return.

The only other alternatives are to switch Joba Chamberlain from reliever to starter or pursue a trade. And there are not too many pitchers (with any ability) on the market at the moment.

After a first month full of doom and gloom, the good news for the Yankees is that the top of the order is finally starting to hit – and that they can put a big inning together without either A-Rod or Jorge Posada in the line-up.

All they need now is for Jason Giambi and Robinson Cano to find some form and the pitchers should at least have a few runs to play with.

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